Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Cute Christmassy theme with a faintly Thursdayish angle and a visual aspect. ST. NICHOLAS is 6d. [“A right jolly old elf”] that has just as many letters as SANTA CLAUS (bet I wasn’t the only one with that misfire). 29d. [Four things represented visually in this puzzle’s grid] are CANDY CANES, making up most of the grid’s blocks. The crook of the candy canes isolate unchecked letters, but those four squares contain X M A S going clockwise from the top.
Top fill: HALF-COCKED, “END OF STORY,” AD AGENCY, TELENOVELA, HEAR NO EVIL, CHORTLED, FREE RIDE, teeny SMARTCAR, NO-LOOK PASS, and “IT’S A KEEPER.” Ten shiny, fresh entries in a puzzle with another two zippy theme answers and the constraints of the visual angle? That’s impressive.
The lowlights in the fill include … well, SEP and OCT are blah, but the other stuff is feeling passable for a Friday puzzle. I think one of my mom’s ancestors served in the AEF (35d. [Gen. Pershing’s grp. in W.W. I], Allied Expeditionary Forces). Looking that up … yes, my Great-Grandma Belle’s brother James M. Hogan. My great-great-grand-uncle. So while some of you may be grousing at AEF in the grid, I like it.
4.5 stars from me for this well-made holiday card.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Ho Ho Homophones”—Ade’s write-up
¡Feliz Navidad, mis amigos! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your family and friends. I hope you’re doing very well today. One of the gifts under your tree, I hope, was this awesome puzzle, which was delivered down our chimneys by Ms. Donna S. Levin. In it, two of the theme answers contain words which are homophones of the word “Claus,” but Jolly Saint Nick, SANTA CLAUS, makes an appearance at the middle of grid as well (36A: [With 38-Across, fell who dropped by last night]).
- RESERVE CLAUSE (24A: [Sports contract provision abolished in 1975])
- KING CRAB CLAWS (48A: [Alaskan products that must be cracked to be enjoyed])
Not sure if our constructor is reading this or not, but definitely want to let her know, along with everyone on here, that the intersection between “RESERVE CLAUSE” and the long down entry that will be featured later on is one of the better intersections I’ve seen in a puzzle in a long time, with how the two entries relate to each other. Honestly, it’s amazing! (If you don’t know why, you will shortly.)
Also, instead of seeing “joule” in a grid, which has appeared numerous times, how about the foot-pound force, FTLB as an alternative (19A: [Unit of work (abbr.)])? It’s odd-looking fill, but I like it a lot. Intersecting that was a couple of lively downs, the underused SOFT SELL (10D: [Gentle persuasion]) and the even more underused ON THE BEAM (11D: [Proceeding per expectations]). I actually just recently saw (and then recorded) a documentary about the raid at ENTEBBE and the story behind it all (28A: [Ugandan city where a daring hostage rescue occurred]). As a matter-of-fact, those seven-letter stacks in the middle were all cool…even COOLERS, which I don’t think that I’ve ever had in my life before (35A: [Wine-based beverages also called alcopops]). Hold on…if St. Ides Special Brew fruit-flavored beer counts along with wine coolers, then I’ve had a wine cooler before. Or two. Or…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: FREE AGENT (21D: [Athlete who’s not contractually bound to a team]) – For almost 100 years, the RESERVE CLAUSE was a provision in every baseball player’s contract that allowed a team to retain the rights of a player even after his contract had expired. The team could re-sign, trade or release the player, as the ball was completely in the court of the team/owner, and a player couldn’t negotiate with another team until a whole year after that contract expired. In 1969, St. Louis Cardinals player Curt Flood challenged the clause after he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, setting off the chain of events that would eventually lead to the dawn of the FREE AGENT and the era of free agency. Though Flood lost his case, the reserve clause, through the tireless work of Flood, former Major League Baseball Players Association head Marvin Miller, and two other players, pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally, eventually was done away with by arbitrator Peter Seitz in December of 1975. Next to integration, free agency (and the doing away of the reserve clause) may have had the biggest, most important impact on American sports as we know it.
Happy Holidays, everybody!! Thank you so much for your time that you’ve taken out to read all of our blogs, especially on a day like today when I’m sure you’re very busy with other things!
Caleb Madison’s BuzzFeed Christmas Extravaganza — Jim’s review
Well, not so much an extravaganza and this is not so much a review.
We’ve been informed that the themeless that normally appears on Friday will be published sometime this weekend. You’ll want to keep checking for it, because it’s a Paolo Pasco, and it’s worth the wait (I got an advance copy). And it has nothing to do with Christmas if that’s a factor to you.
In the meantime Caleb has given us a mini-sized Christmas puzzle and hinted that another one might follow close behind. They’re cute, but not full-sized replacements if you’re expecting a crunchy themeless. Just think of these as stocking stuffers until the themeless present arrives later on. Hang tight; you can do it. I know you can.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
We get some wacky puns today; the letter change is arbitrary, yet oddly specific. Five phrases end in four-letter ?I?E words. The two ?s switch around and the result is given a new clue:
- [Word game for beginners?], SCRABBLELITE
- [Ordinary little insect?], STANDARDMITE. MITES ARE NOT INSECTS. EMBARRASSING.
- [Radial destroyed during testing?], SACRIFICIALTIRE
- [Fate of one constantly reliving the past?], CIRCULARLIFE
- [Memoirs of an African river explorer?], IWALKTHENILE
Some fun eights: RISKSALL, IDONTSEE, TIAMARIA and MAINGATE. I’ve never heard of the word IMMANENT, so that made that section way hard.
[Sport enjoyed by Henry VIII], TENNIS. Because DIVORCE didn’t fit.
[Female rock guitarist Strauss], NITA. Anyone care to explain why “female” is necessary in the clue. This clue [Vietnam Veterans Memorial designer], LIN doesnt read [Female Vietname Veterans Memorial designer] for example… And [Robbins of “The Shawshank Redemption”], TIM isn’t [Male actor Robbins of “The Shawshank Redemption”]. If it’s because she isn’t famous enough for crosswords, then stick with the semi-forgotten actress Talbot.
[Checkup request], INHALE. We all put SAYAHH here first, yes?
It is really cool when a puzzle combines the visual as part of the the payoff for solving. The XMAS was a great bonus, like finding a second gift in you present.
Thanks Mary Lou and Jeff
I thought this was a surprisingly easy Friday as every long down entry was a gimme except for MISEDUCATE. I also thought that XMAS was neat.
I have been very busy all year and have only been reading your blog and not even the NYT except on rare occasions. Amy, you have educated me far more than you realize.
Cute XMAS puzzle — seemed a little harder than usual for me, but my mind was, um, a little foggy this morning.
Never heard the expression ONTHEBEAM in the CS. Will try to use it at the earliest opportunity.
Happy holidays to one and all at the Fienderie.
NYT: Had a really hard time getting started but took a flier on KGB SPIES, and, when that proved correct, it all [eventually] fell into place.
CS: Very nice.
AV Club Bonus: Not reviewed here [at least, not yet], but WOW! I would give it 5 stars for ingenuity, a make-me-smile revealer, and a lot of interesting fill. “Coyolxauhqui”? I’m not sure anyone but Gorski could pull that off.
Best wishes to all!
Happy Holidays and a four-day weekend to many. Very nice NYT, for me just right in ease or difficulty.
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and best wishes to all.
Gareth – Think anagrams for the last words in the LA theme answers…CIRCULAR LIFE FILE…
My explanation is more precisely accurate. The first and third letters swap; the I and E remain constant.
More precisely accurate? How can that be so when you do not mention that the swapping of the letters is a form of a structured anagram. The combination of pun and anagram is in the grand tradition of puzzling.
I had a positively spectacular Christmas Eve/Day until this evening when I tried to relax w/ the LAT . It was absolutely indecipherable! The theme was convoluted (still don’t understand it!). A myriad of Defs completely missed the meaning of the answer. Gave up after only getting 1/8 of puzzle complete. Def: Grinch who stole Christmas? (8 ltrs); Ans.: WECHSLER
p.s. I hope Santa brings the LAT editors a Thesaurus next Christmas. They desperately need one!!
Other than suggesting a lack of patience on your part, your comments are worse than indecipherable, they are without meaning. The theme was easily revealed by those who commented and the statement “A myriad of Defs completely missed the meaning of the answer” without providing a single example is equivalent to saying I do not like poetry. What clues? Are you normally comfortable with a Friday puzzle? What do you look for in a puzzle? Relax? Fridays are not supposed to be easy
What a lovely puzzle! Didn’t have time to get to it until today. Belated thanks, Jeffrey! Tremendous job.
Lemonade, I greatly enjoyed and appreciated your comment.
Thank you; commentary needs to include comments not pap.
Yet, Sat. LAT was a delightful breeze! Go figure!?
p.s. I LOVE poetry and have published my poems – therefore I am a stickler for accurate meanings and the power of words.