Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it, Happy Belated Solstice to the pagan/nature crowd, Happy Very Belated Hanukkah to our Jewish friends, Happy Weird Day Off Work When Stores Are Closed to those not attuned to the whole Christmas thing, and Happy Hump Day to those in non-Xmas countries who are having a regular work week. Two more days till Friday!
Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword
If you’re in NYT-syndication land and you’re reading this around January 29, this puzzle dropped on Christmas Eve like a lost toy falling off Santa’s sleigh. The theme may seem a little weird in late January, but not overly so. A bit from “The 12 Days of Christmas” inspires a theme consisting of a central 15-letter answer and five rings of circled/shaded letters:
- 41a. [One set of gifts in "The 12 Days of Christmas" ... as suggested by the circled squares?], FIVE GOLDEN RINGS. The rings are the golden RULE, the golden MEAN (which I know very little about), “Golden SLUMBERS“ (Beatles song I’d never heard of), the Golden HORN (an estuary that flows into the strait of Bosporus, and which is no more familiar to me than that Beatles tune), and the Golden GATE Bridge.
Uh … okay. There are plenty of “golden __” phrases that are far more familiar than some of these, but they generally don’t have 4 or 8 letters so they can’t be placed into a square “ring.” I didn’t particularly enjoy the theme, but it also had almost no bearing on solving the puzzle.
Things I liked:
- 9d. [Japanese dance-drama], KABUKI.
- 47a. [Rebellious region of the Caucasus], OSSETIA. Know your geopolitics! In case you were wondering about the pronunciation, that T can have a T or an SH sound.
- 10d. [Raised above?], AFORESAID. I also like the words aforementioned and abovementioned, as well as malice aforethought.
- 59a. [Sport not played officially in the Olympics since 1908], LACROSSE. The best part of this story is that in 1904, Canada fielded two lacrosse teams, one white and one Mohawk. One of the players on the latter team was named Man Afraid Soap, which is now my new favorite part of the Olympic lacrosse story.
- 48d. [Hubristic flier of myth], ICARUS.
Could always do without fill like EAU DE, SSRS, SYS, and SRO.
Least familiar word: 50d. [Ancient Mideast language], SYRIAC.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Wrapped Toys” – Dave Sullivan’s review
By the time most of you are reading this, any toys under the tree that were wrapped are now most certainly anything but. Hope you were all good boys and girls this year and Santa brought you everything on your list and even some things you didn’t ask for! As for today’s puzzle, four toys are “wrapped” within longer phrases. And, as a nice touch, these toys are also found elsewhere in the grid.
- [Puppet pair who debuted on NBC in 1948] were KUKLA AND OLLIE. So Fran wasn’t part of the original team?
- [Tiebreaking periods on the diamond] clued EXTRA INNINGS. I think the most natural phrase of the set.
- [Organically based skin care liquid] was HERBAL LOTION. I suppose there is such a thing, but I guess I would just call it hand cream or body lotion. That may just be the guy in me talking.
- [Shreds] was TEARS TO PIECES. I had “in pieces” at first, this phrase reminds me of this.
Nice holiday tie-in today, and I liked the extra “gifts” hiding in ["... and ___ a good night'] for TO ALL (it would be positively Grinch-like of me to rail against that partial today!) and toy company FAO Schwarz. So now I’m off to see what Santa brought me and unwrap some toys myself! That said, I hope the commercialism of this holiday does not interfere with the joys of giving and sharing with friends and family.
Marcia Mathis’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
This appears to be an obligatory Christmas theme. It features SANTA in SANTAANITA, his SLEIGH in the very close in sense SLEIGHRIDE, the reindeer that pull it in REINDEERGAMES and for some reason RUDOLPH, who’s a very peripheral more recent addition, in RUDOLPHBOYSEN. I derived peculiar enjoyment from the presentation of the answer RUDOLPHBOYSEN. I didn’t know him (and I venture that most of you didn’t either), but he was introduced in a very friendly manner, as the RUDOLPH could be intuited from the theme, and the BOYSEN from the clue [Horticulturist with a berry named for him.]. I assume POLAR connecting RUDOLPH to his REINDEER brethren is something of a bonus theme answer? SNOW may be one as well, although it’s the middle of summer here and snow would be a bit of a shock!
I don’t remember seeing [Doo-wop ___] as a clue for ERA? That’s certainly an answer I’ve all but given up hope of seeing or coming up with a novel clue for! It also is preceded by [Hangout featuring doo-wop music] MALTSHOP and has FONZARELLI intersecting it. [Home that may include a tunnel] is also creative for IGLOO. I think all homes should include tunnels! I’m not sure if it’s good or bad that the puzzle begins with PFFT and ends with PSST, so I’ll merely note that it’s interesting! The most surprising abandonment of the breakfast was [Dog bugger] for FLEA. I’m going to assume that “bugger” isn’t a common vulgar interjection in the States and isn’t also used as verb meaning “to have anal sex with”? Because otherwise that really is a strange phrasing.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Sporty Tops”
BASEBALL CAP in the middle of the puzzle, nine two-way rebus squares providing 2 (or sometimes 3) letters embroidered on MLB caps:
- 1a/1d. NY, NAPS crossing YAHTZEE. New York Mets or Yankees.
- 14a/1d. LA, LA LA crossing YAHTZEE. Los Angeles Dodgers.
- 21a/6d. TB, JET crossing QDOBA. Tampa Bay Rays.
- 22a/11d. STL, FROSTED crossing DEAL IN. St. Louis Cardinals.
- 26a/27d. CR, ACA crossing RAMADAN. Colorado Rockies.
- 50a/41d. TC, T-NOTES crossing PACHINKO. Apparently the Minnesota Twins use both the M and the TC, presumably for Twin Cities.
- 63a/58d. KC, KESHA crossing SCAB. Kansas City Royals.
- 63a/65d. SF, KESHA crossing FYI. San Francisco Giants.
- 67a/46d. SD, SANE crossing QR CODE. San Diego Padres.
Interesting theme, challenging for me to make sense out of all the letter combos. Particularly the never-seen-it-before TC. Lively fill includes PACHINKO, QDOBA, QR CODE, the smart ATUL Gawande, YAHTZEE, PLUMB BOB, and FAVELA.
Four stars. Over and out, time for Chinese food and a movie!