MONDAY, Dec. 24, 2007 - Mark Sherwood

Monday, December 24, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: LINE (52D: Word that can follow the starts of 17-, 27-, 44- and 59-Across)

I'm moving to all-paper solving, in preparation for the tournament. I realized last night that I am probably going to have to go to a thicker lead on my pencils, because I'm breaking lead too often. At any rate, this puzzle was a cinch, with the exception of a strange-ish words you don't hear very often, and one you probably never hear in casual conversation. The theme is satisfactory. Sadly for me, the one part of the puzzle where I had any measure of trouble (wrong entries, erasures, write-overs) was the far SW - where the key to the theme lay. It's the email age, so went I saw 52A: Unretrievable I wrote in SENT. The answer was LOST. I also mysteriously wrote in CPO where NCO was supposed to go (61A: Sgt. e.g.), which is slightly ironic given that I needed CPO back at 27D: TV's "_____ Sharkey" and had to hesitate to think about it: "CEO ... HBO ... ?"

Theme answers:

  • 17A: One who's always up for a good time (party animal)
  • 27A: Background check for a lender (credit report) - this held me up; CREDIT part was easy, but REPORT wouldn't come. My brain just kept going "CHECK? CHECK? CHECK?" Thus, my way in to the NE was blocked. I wish I'd remembered that it was a Monday puzzle, where you don't really need any crosses to get traction anywhere you like. I'm so used to building off of answers I already have that I'm really reluctant to jump to an empty part of the grid. This is why I train ...
  • 44A: Long, long sentence (life in prison)
  • 59A: Light hauler (pick-up truck)

Finished in 4:16 (so solving on paper makes me ... slower?) - in a tournament situation, I could have taken another 40 seconds or so to check my grid for errors or missing letters, because your time is measured by minutes, not seconds, and so people who finish in 4:01 and those who finish in 4:59 (assuming their grids are correct) will have identical scores.

Weirdness:

  • 19A: Coastal inlet (ria) - haven't seen it for a while, but got it easily.
  • 43D: Bit of land in a river (ait) - haven't seen it for a while ... and blanked on it. Completely. Didn't even see the actual answer to this clue til the end. AIT is one of the dumber-looking words in the English language. Does it rhyme with "ATE?" It looks like it would rhyme with the contemporary colloquial contraction of "ALRIGHT" - "AAIGHT!?"
  • 32A: Jay-Z and Timbaland (rappers) - these guys might say "AAIGHT!?" ("AIT!?"). PS Jay-Z can be excellent when he wants to be.
  • 37A: Horizontally (Across) - I really really wish this answer were going Down.
  • 38A: Musical transitions (segues) - I'd have gotten this more quickly if the clue had been simply [Transitions].
  • 41A: Bulls, rams and bucks (hes) - seen it, got it, still not fond of it.
  • 49A: BlackBerry, e.g., in brief (PDA) - also Public Display of Affection.
  • 55A: Husband of Isis (Osiris) - which contains the letters of ISIS. Cool.
  • 63A: Gift recipient (donee) - familiar, but yuck.
  • 8D: Olive stuffing (pimento) - possibly the most interesting word in the grid today.
  • 13D: Marvel mutant superhero (Xman) - I have Never seen this in the singular before. Not in the puzzle anyway.
  • 46D: Brenda Lee's "_____ Around the Christmas Tree" ("Rockin'") - this song will surely be in my head all day.
If ever an Evil Santa should emerge (from the South Pole?), I recommend that his lead reindeer be called SPLICER (42D: Worker with genes or film) and DICER (50D: Kitchen gizmo).

Merry Xmas Eve,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[drawing by Emily Cureton]

34 comments:

NJPhil 9:43 AM  

I really have nothing to add, but '0 COMMENTS' seemd too sad for xmas eve.
Re working on paper:
1: You really can't read your own handwriting, no matter what you've said all your life. Print clearly.
2: It's extremely easy to start writing, skipping cells already filled in, but continue with the complete spelling. Hence, you run out of room, forget whether the clue was plural or not, and leave out the 's'. And totally mess up.

Thanks for the blog, I've found it useful and amusing for the past several months

paul in mn 9:45 AM  

Glad to hear you're working the puzzles on paper in prep for the tournament. Despite the facts that I work in a software consulting profession, I was in college during the advent of e-mail and the internet, and that I in general enjoy geeky math and computer science stuff, I'm still a luddite when it comes to crossword puzzling. I just find there's something very satisfying in the physical act of scratching away (and erasing away) at the puzzle.

I got hung up on CREDIT REPORT as well. Good tip to quickly move on from that on an early week puzzle and catch it later from crossings.

Victor 9:55 AM  

Nice TV story!

I also like paper, with pencil, which allows very light writing of answers that seem probably right but about which I have some uncertainty. That often helps with the crosses, and the light writing doesn't have to be erased if proven wrong, but can be written over heavily. Is this how others do crosswords? Since reading this wonderful blog and comments, I now always start with the downs.

Thanks for the tips!

John 10:24 AM  

Chritmas Eve and no Christmas theme? Creeping Secularism!!!

Merry Christmas

Orange 10:33 AM  

I have the Pentel Twist-Erase 0.9 mm mechanical pencil, Rex. I chose that because it's what Al Sanders uses (I think). For the kid, I've found that Dixon Ticonderoga yellow pencils are good, whereas RoseArt pencils from Target, personalized pencils, decorated pencils, etc., are all crap—the leads break easily, the ferrule falls off, the eraser falls out of the ferrule or snaps in two.

At puzzler Eric Berlin's blog, assorted puzzlers chatted about their writing utensils of choice. Check it out.

AIT is pronounced like ate. There's also the variant eyot, which I recently encountered in a British crossword but have never seen in an American one. The Thames has aits, apparently.

Anonymous 10:45 AM  

there's a blog for everything:

http://www.pencilrevolution.com/

ArtLvr 10:55 AM  

Happy Xmas (et al) to all, and the puzzle today was a Gift in itself: quick and easy. My only hesitation -- is "kitchen gizmo" going to be ricer or dicer? Looking forward to more of these blogs and responses in 2008...

profphil 11:04 AM  

Dear Rex,

As it is Christmas Eve, I wanted to thank you for all the pleasure you have given me over this past year. This blog has been a gift to me. I had stopped doing the NY Times puzzle except for Sundays for a number of years. However, when I dicovered this blog it drew be back into the world of daily crosswords and also extended my proficiency in them and challenged me into broadening my horizons by attempting to do the Friday puzzle, in addition to Sunday through Thursday.Over the past months my skills have improved to the point of being able to complete a Friday without Googling. I think my New Year's resolution may include attempting Saturday's puzzle. As I am writing this I realize why I so enjoy the Blog: it reminds me of when I was in school and would do the crossword with friends or discuss it with them after finishing them.

Thanks again for this blog.

Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

karmasartre 11:10 AM  

Agree w/ artlvr re. "a Gift". Leaves plenty of time to finish last minute details. Still, an enjoyable Monday puzzle, a good clip of Rex in his office, an ingenious Sartre portrait (where's the one of Karma?) by Ms. Cureton, a Moon so round and bright my pooch got the nighttime shakes, everything I ever needed to know about pencils, an early triple macchiato nonfatio (no need for a bagel as I already ait), a grey but calm sky over Lake Washington, and a few moments, at least, of bliss.

Merry Everything, Happy Forever.

Leon 11:29 AM  

RP - Thanks for the Blog, it is stimulating and making us all better puzzlers.

Liked 35 and 36 across as paired anagrams.

I thought there was a distinct Christmas sub-thema. Rockin around the Christmas tree, Trimming the branches, Berlin's Holiday Inn and the mythical inspiration for the Christmas Tree ritual -Osiris.

Merry Christmas to all !

Rob G. 11:58 AM  

A very nice puzzle for Christmas Eve, I do declare.

I've used the applet and Across Lite before, but I always prefer pencil and paper. I used pens for awhile, but a completed grid looks messy with scratched out/written over letters, (not that I make too many! Or so I'd like you all to believe!) In terms of digital solutions, they're fine, but I often make notes to myself on the puzzle (things to gripe about, tentative answers, etc.) and this is much easier to do on paper.

Happy Holidays, one and all!

PhillySolver 12:31 PM  

First, thanks for the link to the story about your blog.

SECOND, This really was easy and got going so fast and was so sure of myself, I wrote MIMOSA for that drink having the MI start. Oh well, still done in under 5 minutes.

Happy Holidays to all...hope everyone was good and is justly rewarded.

Anonymous 1:18 PM  

I use pen and paper, not because I'm so great, but because I hate the way pencils feel on cheap newsprint. When I'm not timing myself (on the hard Friday and Saturday puzzles, where it's hopeless), I use a white-out correction pen to correct my mistakes, which makes my husband laugh at me. On the easy puzzle days, I just write over my mistakes to save time. Today I had REMAIL instead of RESHIP, and SOON instead of ANON. In spite of that, I finished in six minutes, which is really good for me. This puzzle blog has really helped-I've cut my Monday time by at least two minutes thanks to tips and tricks posted here and in the comments. Maybe one day, I'll be able to match Rex!

Roger von Oech 1:20 PM  

Nice Video, Mike Sharp!

Of what subject are you an assistant professor?

wendy 2:05 PM  

Hey Area Man with Blog,

I'm sure you have moments where you rue the day you decided to become Rex Parker. Having just started my own little blog on an unrelated topic, I know how much time, energy and wits-about-you is needed to do even a half-assed job.

But you don't do a half-assed job. In essence, what you've got here is another form of classroom. You are entertaining, challenging, sometimes infuriating, hilarious, thorough, always there for us, and whether you realize it or not, you've created a true community of puzzlers who look forward to hearing from each other along with you. For those of us who've been at this for awhile, our abilities have increased exponentially.

You're a ... 34D PROFESSOR! If it doesn't kill you first, I hope they give you tenure. Merry Christmas, Michael!

campesite 2:43 PM  

The next news story below yours was (paraphrasing) "Area Man Gets Run Over By A Garbage Truck" and I was briefly worried.
Nice entry today, Rex, and thanks for another lovely picture by Emily.
Happiest of holidays to all.

Anonymous 2:48 PM  

was i the only one who got held up on 44A by using LIFEINTHEPEN instead of LIFESENTENCE?

i grew up on X-Men comics, and had no idea that there's a relatively new superhero: X-Man. that's what so great about these puzzles -- learn a little bit new everyday.

happy holidays -- Nunyo

Doc John 2:52 PM  

So I guess I'm the only one to have misspelled ANDERSEN and so ended up with males of the species being HOS.

I should have known that a Monday wouldn't have a 3 letter word I'd never seen (well, not in this context anyway!). I'll blame it on not having slept well last night and leave it at that.

Happy Holidays to all!

Whitey's mom 2:54 PM  

I, too, would like to thank you, RP, for the good blog. I've been doing the NYTimes crossword for 40 years though I didn't start until my 30s. I never hesitated to look stuff up, BI, but since I've been online, I looked everything up. For some reason, I almost never have to Google since I've been reading your blog. You can use that as an endorsement, if you wish. "Reading Rex Parker's blog reduces Googling." Excuse the quotes. Thanks again for your time and Merry Christmas all.

Anonymous 3:16 PM  

correction on my previous post.

i meant, was i the only one who got held up on 44A by using LIFEINTHEPEN instead of LIFEINPRISON?

-- N.

Rikki 4:22 PM  

I join the throng in thanking you, Rex Parker, king of this kingdom. It is indeed, as Wendy pointed out, both a classroom and a community that you have created and it is a pleasure to come here every day. Cheers to you and to my fellow posters. And a fun-filled holiday to all.

[52 cards] the [indoor walkways] with [branches] of [______ Hunter],

Fa la la la la, la la, la la!

Peace in your 'hoods,

Rikki

P.S. Nice Monday puzzle.

jae 4:54 PM  

I second Wendy, Profphil, et. al., thanks Rex for a highly informative and entertaining year!

doc john, I too briefly had HOS.

An enjoyable Monday puzzle. I do Mon-Wed online (acrosslite not the applet -- too much pressure) just to see if I'm getting any faster (sometimes yes sometimes no). Thur-Sun is on paper and the goal is to finish sans google, if they go quickly so much the better. Coming here every day has definitley helped including spelling definitley correctly!

My best to all this holiday season.

Fergus 5:04 PM  

Excellent puzzle.

PICKUP TRUCK
PARTY ANIMAL
CREDIT REPORT
LIFE IN PRISON

the dance of life

dk 6:11 PM  

Rex,

Thank you as well. Here in the mighty midwest it is sunny and bright. So here is wishing you and yours a sunny and snowy xmas.

When I did the puzzles in pencil I used a drafting pencil with a hard lead (forgot the number). Now I do them in pen with a Foray medium point. They are colorful and seem to get most of the words right

Alan 6:23 PM  

TO ALL: HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR.

DONALD 6:36 PM  

Merry Christmas!

billnutt 6:43 PM  

Rex, thank you for doing this blog. Discovering it a few months ago has greatly enhanced my appreciation for the intricacies of crossword construction, and it's a gas to share thoughts, ideas and opinions with everyone here.

In the words of one of my favorite musicians, Lou Reed:

"Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or whatever it is you do."

Peace and love,

Bill Nutt

local man has shoes 9:18 PM  

Fergus,

Between "Party animal" and "Credit report" you left out "Trailer park".

Pencil buffs,

I read no pencil blogs because I know nothing beats a Dixon Ticonderoga number 2.

Rex,

Love the blog and it got me doing the early week puzzles again.

So, how did you feel during the interview? It was easy, wasn't it.

To everyone here,

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Enjoy Eid, etc.

Rick

mac 10:47 PM  

Had an easy time with the puzzle but can't get into the details since my husband put most of the NYT into tomorrow morning's fire..... A very happy Christmas to all of you, and especially to Rex who has added so much to my crossword puzzle experience every day. Merry Christmas to you and your wife and Sahra.

PuzzleGirl 11:01 PM  

Merry Christmas, everyone. Thank you, Rex Parker, for creating this place. I'm so glad I found you all.

Fergus 12:00 AM  

A Trailer Park might be too elegant -- a REST STOP suits the degradation more accurately, as Local Man implied.

livebug 12:22 AM  

I second all those sounds of appreciation above. This blog and the inspiration it has given me to be a less sucky crossworder is one of the highlights of The Year That Was (or will soon be). Thank you, Rex!

xoxo

andrea carla michaels 3:50 AM  

Maybe those who put HOS can think of it as their Xmas eve input!
(In a related note, HOS just became good in Scrabble tournaments, but still left out of white-washed, p.c. dictionary)

Another chance for adding Holiday Spirit would have been to fill in XMAS for XMAN.

I too would like to chime in my thanks for the gift of this blog!
Merry ReXmas!
:)
andrea carla michaels

Anonymous 4:14 PM  

6wl...

Rex-

Any way you can re - establish the link to your interview? Thanks. And thanks for the all the fun this year, here...

- - Robert

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