1966 Johnny Rivers hit / TUE 12-25-12 / Create skid marks, perhaps / One with lots of experience / Prison, informally / Combat pilots' missions / Philosopher Kierkegaard / El Prado works
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Constructor: Ellen Leuschner and Victor Fleming
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: 48A: LETTERS TO SANTA — three theme answers contain the letters S, A, N, T, and A in that order, as indicated by the disconnected circled letters
Word of the Day: TO —
preposition1 expressing motion in the direction of (a particular location)2 identifying the person or thing affected3 identifying a particular relationship between one person and another4 indicating that two things are attached5 concerning or likely to concern (something, esp. something abstract)6 governing a phrase expressing someone's reaction to something7 used to introduce the second element in a comparison
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My name is Milo and I'll be your Rex for this crossword. It seems the king himself had a few too many eggnogs last night and needed someone to take his place, and since even Ebenezer Scrooge gives his employees Christmas Day off I decided to cut him some slack. If it's between writing a blog post and being visited in my sleep by three preachy ghosts, I've got no problem dedicating my silent night / holy night to crosswords. Besides, winter break has left me with nothing to procrastinate, so this is a welcome change of pace. On to the crossword!
I didn't mind this puzzle. The theme isn't exactly a humdinger, but the revealer was fresh and the three entries were suitably juicy. The fill was nothing to write home about, but it gave us a POP TART and a GIN RUMMY and a DONE DEAL. Maybe it's the sound of carols or the smell of tree, but I'm feeling in the Christmas spirit, and I'm willing to be generous this holiday season and say that I enjoyed the minutes I spent entering letters in these squares, and thank Ellen and Victor for this fine gift.
If I were to complain, though, I might ask why the "to" in the revealer makes sense when the phrase is being reparsed for this theme. The original "to" is used in Sense 1 (see above) but I can't really imagine which option we're supposed to take on with regard to these circled letters. Maybe Sense 5? The letters which spell SANTA do concern (or are likely to concern) Santa, who is certainly "something abstract." Maybe we're supposed to read it as "letters which combine to Santa" in the same way we might say "summing to 100." But who complains on Christmas? LETTERS TO SANTA is a phrase, while "letters are Santa" and "letters spell Santa" are not, so this is fine.
I might also point out, in this hypothetical scenario in which I were complaining, that non-adjacent circled letters are aesthetically iffy and constructionally lazy. It's possible that I would also note that a more restrictive version of this theme with more theme answers and a kick-ass revealer ran in the Times eight years ago today. But SECRET AGENT MAN and SLAM ON THE BRAKES and SEASONED VETERAN are all solid 15s, so that complaint would be uncalled for.
Oh yeah, that reminds me—
- 20A: 1966 Johnny Rivers hit (SECRET AGENT MAN) — This is my favorite theme answer, and a good example of old pop culture (from the year 29 BM) that is still gettable.
- 25A: Create skid marks, perhaps (SLAM ON THE BRAKES)
- 43A: One with lots of experience (SEASONED VETERAN)
I had a weird solving experience with this one: I started by entering GTOS in the 1D slot, noticed that each theme answer had five circled letters and decided from the S that they would spell SANTA, and then filled in the three theme answers without crosses. I tried to stick SECRET SANTA into the revealer but it wouldn't fit so I went back to Square 1 (literally) and worked from there. I finished only slightly under normal my normal Tuesday time, so this may play more challenging for people who didn't stupidly guess the theme off of one letter, but I've given it a "medium" so as not to offend anyone.Bullets:
- 37A: Prison, informally (STIR) — Is this a thing? Cruciverb shows that this meaning has never been used for the NYT, and only once before in any publication. I've never heard of it, but a quick search checks out. I liked the clue repeat with the subsequent 38A.
- 39D: Combat pilots' missions (SORTIES) — This word always sounds to me like a drunken pronunciation of "sororities," enough that I've never actually committed its actual meaning to memory. The crosses were all solid, though, so it was no big problem.
- 31D: Philosopher Kierkegaard (SOREN) — Embarrassed to say that I blanked on this one, which put that section of the grid at a standstill until I remembered that the 34A: World workers' assn. (ILO) was just three quarters of my name.
- 46A: El Prado works (ARTE) — You have no idea how convenient it is for constructors that romance languages exist. We can just add Es to things and nobody complains. Also—acronyms, European rivers, and Mel Ott. Seriously, we love that guy.