Old German duchy name / THU 12-20-12 / Dancer choreographer Michio / Centipede creator / Umpire of Hamlet's fencing match with Laertes / French town in 44 news / Frigg's husband / Cloud producer for short

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Constructor: Ian Livengood and J.A.S.A. Crossword Class

Relative difficulty: Easy



THEME: CHRISTMAS / BONUS (57A: With 63-Across, extra holiday pay ... or what's in 17-, 22-, 34- and 45-Across)— DESCRIPTION

Word of the Day: Michio ITO (20A: Dancer/choreographer Michio) —
Michio Itō (1892-1961) was a Japanese dancer, and choreographer, an associate of William Butler YeatsEzra PoundAngna EntersIsamu NoguchiLouis HorstTed ShawnMartha Graham,Lillian PowellVladimir RosingPauline KonerLester Horton and others. He was interned and eventually deported from the United States after the outbreak of World War II. (wikipedia)
• • •

I have had people—readers of this blog, in fact—get legitimately offended by my use of "XMAS" as shorthand for "CHRISTMAS," so it is with some amount of glee that I solved this puzzle. I'm just imagining dozens of the indignant and easily-offended faithful firing up their AOL accounts to dash off a miffed missive to the heathens at the NYT. Or maybe there are only a couple of cranks in the world who get offended by that kind of stuff and they both just happened to read and email me on the day I used "XMAS.' Who can say? Anyway, I like this puzzle. It was simple and interesting, and the grid is pretty cool. I don't know how many people it took to make this (or how they're getting paid; let's see, $200 divided by ...), but the end result holds up. Nice use of non-theme long answers (both Across and Down), nice big corners in the NE and SW, nice timely puzzle, all with a minimum of gunk. Well, not a minimum. But not an abundance, either.


Theme answers:
  • 17A: Gamer's midday meal? (XBOX LUNCH)
  • 22A: Working hours for director Shyamalan? (M. NIGHT SHIFT) — this is a little clunky
  • 34A: N.Y.C. subway line in one's imagination? (A-TRAIN OF THOUGHT)
  • 45A: Bozo in a big Mercedes? (S CLASS CLOWN)
Got off to a decent start with this one. Wanted EERIE at 1A: Hair-raising but crossword reflexes told me 1D: Old German duchy name was SAXE, so EERIE became SCARY pretty quick. Left the NW in my rearview mirror, with the parting observation, "hmm, CAN'T I / INCOG / ATH is less than great..." Luckily, no other part of the puzzle would be that densely packed with junk. The one problem I had—and it threatened to be a big one—was with the cross-referenced clues at 21A: Villains in the "28-Down" films, e.g. (SICKOS) and 28D: See 21-Across ("SAW"). Never saw any of the "SAW"s, so I don't know if SICKOS is the literal name of the villains or just a generic catchall for the particular type of villains involved. Got SICKOS entirely from crosses, and then when I got over to where "SAW" was supposed to be, I wasn't sure of the "A" or the "W." I wanted "SAW," because it is the only three-letter horror film I can think of, and the "A" fit in the cross, but the "W" was hard to make work. Even when I (finally) got WEE, I didn't get the connection to [Atomic] at first. Then I thought, "oh, they mean [Atom-sized]." And so they did.


Bullets:
  • 13D: Cloud producer, for short (N TEST) — a non-Christmas bonus. I thought "Cloud" was computer-related at first. 
  • 43D: Japanese or Javanese (ASIANS) — the plural here fooled me. Wanted ASIAN, but then gave it up 'cause it wouldn't fit. But then it really was ASIAN. Just with an "S" on the end.
  • 48D: Umpire of Hamlet's fencing match with Laertes (OSRIC) — an oddly useful name to have in your quiver. He makes an appearance in one of my NYT puzzles (I think). Not a high-profile name, but a crossword-useful name, to be sure.
  • 52D: French town in '44 news (ST-LO) — like OSRIC, N-TEST, SAXE, etc. this answer is next-to-autmoatic for a constant solver. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

70 comments:

Evan 12:25 AM  

I'm back, CrossWorld. I thankfully survived my horrible final exams for the semester, and now I'm catching up on all the crosswords I refrained from doing while I wrote five papers in twelve days. I also refrained from playing the XBOX too -- I'm-a beat BioShock one of these days....

Fun and easy outing today. I don't know why A-TRAIN OF THOUGHT took me so damn long -- it was A-TRAIN OF THe mind at first, and I briefly considered A-TRAIN OF THe aGes when I got SMOKING GUN.

Is M. NIGHT SHIFT another way of describing the predictable twist at the end of every one of Shyamalan's movies?

Anonymous 12:58 AM  

"legitimately offended by my use of "XMAS" as shorthand for CHRISTMAS"?

When this last came up didn't someone definitively show that the Greek letter Chi (the X in XMAS) was used by christians for thousands of years to denote Christ? That XMAS has historical credence well predating the non-existant war on Christmas? What's legitimate about that?

This was the best JASA puzzle of the lot, kind of heartwarming to see the old coots come up with a puzzle that earned its place in the NYTimes without the back story.

Yeah, Michigan and Minnesota sucked, but so do Michigan and Minnesota, so what can one expect?

Joseph B 12:59 AM  

ENOTE is terrible. At least ETAIL is actually used by some business writers. But who has ever said, "Send me an e-note." Not one person, ever.

jae 1:33 AM  

Liked this one.  Zippy theme answers plus... SMOKING GUN, NANU, PATTIE, SICKO-SAW, LAHTI ( she is currently the voice of Kaiser Permanente, at least here in SoCal)... plus the clever BONUS.  

I had this at easy-medium with a mild cringe at TATTED.  No real erasures if you don't count misreads.  

Possible tough crosses: LAHTI/TIC/OSRIC and SAW/WEE.

Nice Thurs. Ian and class! 

chefwen 2:05 AM  

Medium/semi challenging for for me. Did not know SICKOS/SAW, that came with crosses only. Took me a while to catch onto the XMAS theme, when I finally did I felt like a total doofus. Oh well, I'll chalk it up to exhaustion, yeah that's it, need sleep...

jae 3:46 AM  

@Evan -- The reason I went with easy-medium vs, easy was that I had the same TRAIN OF The ages consideration as you did. Took a break, cooked dinner, came back and finished fairly quickly. Sometimes you just need to step away.

r.alphbunker 4:41 AM  

@Joseph B
Totally agree with your ecomplaint. The e prefix appears to be new re prefix. To send another note is to renote and because my first version of this enote was lost I had to reenote it.

Anonymous 5:20 AM  

i like when muslims get upset over someone disrespecting their religion... way more fun than taking cheap shots at the 'x'tians...

Atari Canti Maxis 5:25 AM  

Wanted Zombis before SICKOS (the E dropped off with their skin)
Didn't get the theme at first, just put an X in front of everything, thinking X = XMAS... Because I thought it was an X CLASS car, and X TRAIN (. I knew there was a JZ train, so thought there might be an X TRAIN. And XNIGHT. Meant Xmas eve... Con-fused...but M NIGHT straightened me out.
Yay Ian for working with seniors, keep their minds sharp and creating a lovely puzzle! M e n s c h

Milford 7:08 AM  

Pretty good Thursday, original theme that I discovered fairly early, thanks to the revealer. Please tell me no one is going to complain that a) it's not actually Xmas today, or b) as Rex noted, that Xmas is an offensive term. I've always heard the X=chi=Christ thing as well.

Now, being offended by E-NOTE is a different story. But I had some kind of mental block with the entire NE corner, anyway.

Loved the CUBS clue, plus STIMULANT, IN REAL TIME, and ROXY.

@r.alph - I loved your reenote!

@anon 12:58 - trust me, I'd rather live in a flyover state than live on either coast. Plus, we have all the water.

Z 7:27 AM  

Let me be the fourth to say that E-NOTE is for SICKOS. A short online message would be some kind of instant message so I considered iChat (the "i" prefix is pretty close in ubiquity with "e" and "re"). The NE was a major disaster for me.

As for the whole XMAS thing, I am deeply offended that people are offended by the use of XMAS and that they would dare to suggest there is some kind of War on Christmas. This is akin to the school yard bully accusing the kid he just bopped of hurting his feelings. I'm giving all the offended detention for the rest of the season so the rest of us can enjoy this time with our families in peace.

joho 7:39 AM  

Along with an XBOX and A TRAIN we have more XMAS gifts of SLEDS and DRUMS. Great CHRISTMAS BONUSes!

I thought this was fresh theme idea that gave us a charming, seasonal puzzle.

Thank you, Ian and class!

joho 7:41 AM  

Oh,and @Rex, another great write-up with a the much appreciated John Lennon offering.

AnnieD 8:05 AM  

Not sure why the fuss for Xmas....on the podium at the local catholic church is the capital P with the X through the stem....Chi and Rho....as a mongram for Christ....

I struggled with tic...I was thinking tie as in 0-0 at the start of a game.

Certainly a lot of different clues and answers which kept it interesting.

joho 8:12 AM  

You could also add YUL as a homophone and throw in a sweet Peppermint PATTIE.

3 and out.

Tita 8:18 AM  



@joho - thanks for noting the gifts...

Yet another voice against ENOTE...E-ew!

I was an ACLASSCLOWN when living in Germany. When the leasing company called me to say they needed my car back, and had a nice new A-Class ready for me.
I told them no way - A-Class too small - I need a bigger car...

Well, they were trying to give me an "E" Class, but pronouncing it the German way.
They thought I was an ACLASSCLOWN for sure.

Welcome back, @Evan!

Fun XMAS puzzle (there, I've gone over to the dark side...!)
Thanks Ian & JASA.

evil doug 8:47 AM  

Whether or not I buy 'e-note' in general, its presence and 'n-test' dilute the 'bonus letter' theme.

Oh, I'm not offended by 'xmas' itself; I'm offended because people who use it are lazy. It's just five more letters, people....
**************************
Jerry: I wanted to talk to you about Dr. Whatley. I have a suspicion that he's converted to Judaism just for the jokes.

Father: And this offends you as a Jewish person.

Jerry: No, it offends me as a comedian.
**************************

With all the self-flagellation going on in Hollywood---delaying premieres, etc---I'm a little surprised there isn't an uprising here over 'CIA' waterboarding, 'arson' deaths, violent 'X-box' and 'Atari' games, 'Saw' torture, the violent demise of passengers on the 'SST' that crashed on takeoff, 'sub'-machine guns, packing 'heat'(s), murderers laying 'ruin', 'wee' children being slaughtered, and of course 'smoking gun'.

Evil

Susan McConnell 8:56 AM  

We've had this ENOTE complaint before. Other than that (which made me audibly groan), this was a fun, pretty easy Thursday.

David L 9:00 AM  

@AnnieD: I still don't understand TIC. Can you explain?

AnnieD 9:04 AM  

Tic as in Tic Tac Toe....

David L 9:10 AM  

Thanks -- but does that mean if I start a game of tic tac toe by putting down an 'O', that's called a tic?

I may be overthinking this...

Carola 9:15 AM  

Not easy for me to get into - was wishing I had a stronger STIMULANT than tea to get my brain engaged. When 1A couldn't be "eerie," my TRAIN OF THOUGHT seized up, so I fled to the opposite corner. Agree entirely with @Rex's last bullet - those crossword stalwarts from ST LO to the SSTS, along with LAHTI and OSRIC, were Christmas presents that got me the theme, and I was able to work my way up from there. Especially liked finding the goofy S-CLASS CLOWN

Loved seeing how the unlikely looking AUCO.... turned into AU COURANT. Thought I knew NORSE mythology, but needed O_IN to get that one! I didn''t get TIC, either (thanks, @AnnieD). Maybe I need to go back to coffee.

@joho - Very neat YUL gifts!

@Tita - Funny about the German E-class!

Thanks, Ian Livengood and class - a fun one to grapple with.

evil doug 9:15 AM  

Oooh, that reminds me. On Saturday I wrote a Christmas (xmas to you lazy people) letter to our long-time friends, and I mentioned that I appreciated how they would 'take a bullet' for us. My wife suggested I might want to change that since it could unnecessarily detract from the note's effectiveness. She assured me that to do so would not be yielding to the PC Nazis she knows I detest, but rather simply serve to prevent the import of the message from being diluted---so I complied.

Then we go to church Sunday. The pastor---having already acknowledged the horrible scene in Connecticut---offered a sermon that dealt with John the Baptist and his 'brood of vipers' line, saying,

"So John let them have it with both barrels"....

Evil

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

"As for the whole XMAS thing, I am deeply offended that people are offended by the use of XMAS . . ."

I didn't even know this could be a gripe. I take offense at people who are easily offended. XMAS has always just been a shorthand thing for me.

The etymology is interesting. If I had guessed at the timeline, I would have been off by a few hundred years.

OED

Xmas (n.) "Christmas," 1551, X'temmas, wherein the X is an abbreviation for Christ in Christmas, from first letter of Greek Christos "Christ" (see Christ). The earlier way to abbreviate it was Xp- or Xr-, corresponding to "Chr-," and the form Xres mæsse for "Christmas" appears in the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" (c.1100)."
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

I threw down TWEET for ENOTE. Didn't mind changing it, but yeah, the ugliness is pretty high. All of the abbreviations bothered me more; they bought in bulk for this one.
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Liked SMOKING GUN and IN REAL TIME.
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Threw down CHRISTMAS BONUS just from looking at the clue, but it didn't spoil anything, because it was a subtle revealer. Most are 'in your face'.

jberg 9:45 AM  

Wow, all the outrage about imaginary people who might take offense! No one has yet -- not even ED, who presumably acknowledges the value of leaving out 4 letters when you are constructing a puzzle!

I'm gonna claim that I meant to write in the I in TIC, and that it was there in my mind - but technically I DNF. Other than that, it was fun once I got the theme, although slow to get started what with all the tricky clues.

Merry Christmas and/or Xmas everyone (depending on your beliefs)!

John V 9:47 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
John V 9:49 AM  

Well, certainly not easy for me. I found this one very challenging with many things that only came from crosses: MNIGHT Shyamalan -- which means absolutely nothing to me, FRIGG's husband: huh? OSRIC: my Shakespeare is not good enough to call bad. Wrote in TAC for 67A Starting O, as LAHT_ meant nothing to me and I guessed that X would be TIC so O would be TAC. So, finished with that one, one letter error. Grrrr.

Fun theme! All the "XMAS" stuff is way off my radar so I got RIEN for that conversation.

Clues I liked: Red Wing for GOP, 9A for arson.

Thanks Ian et. al. Good nouvelle Thursday.

jackj 9:51 AM  

The J.A.S.A. group, (Jewish Association for Services for the Aged), in their latest outing goes catholic with a simple but clever theme, using the first letters of 4 punny phrases to spell out X M A S, (with the “M” theme clue producing MNIGHTSHIFT for “Working hours for director Shyamalan?”). (Think Ian had a hand in that one?).

You know the group is becoming comfortable in their constructing when they are confident enough to suffer the slings and arrows of picky solvers by using the dreadful abbreviation ATH, (short for athlete), in order to keep their primo fill of AUCOURANT, XBOXLUNCH and INCOG.

Beyond the clever theme answers and the reveal of CHRISTMAS BONUS, there was a lot to like in the fill, especially SMOKINGGUN, INREALTIME and the clever, sweet cluing of ASH as “Hearth’s content?”

There was a bit of panic when nothing registered for the answer to the brief and nasty clue of “Atomic” and only after running through the alphabet a few times, eliminating possibilities along the way did an “AHA” come with the remembrance that “Atom” has been used in the past for variations of “miniscule” and, ahem, WEE is certainly that.

(A sour note crept in when the W of WEE revealed the other open answer to be SAW, clued as a group of horror flicks featuring the SICKOS of 21 across, films that have been damned as “torture porn” in the past by many reviewers).

But, like clever carnies, Ian and his band of gleeful golden-agers have left us asking for more and we look forward to their next concoction.

A Canuck 10:07 AM  

I can't believe you people are going on about XMAS when there's news of such import, on the level of the achievement of World Peace, currently all over the front pages of reputable newspapers everywhere.

Yes, the RCMP have solved the crime of the millenia, and returned Canada from the brink of disaster back to their rightful place as a global leader. The theft from the Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve (GSMSR), the Fort Knox of Canada, has been solved, the perpetrators brought to justice, and most of the product recovered.

Canada is once again fiscally solvent, and up-scale pancake eaters everywhere are free to dine as they like. You're beating Xmas to death. Typical Americans.

JC66 10:08 AM  

@EVIL

Your point about XMAS & ENOTE diluting the theme is spot on and I respect your right to be offended by the use of XMAS.

However, it seems to me that saying you're offended because people are lazy by using it is disproved by your use of PC for Politically Correct in your next post.






Bob Kerfuffle 10:42 AM  

I hate to be in this position, and maybe I should seek help, but I find it strange, in light of the SAW/SICKOS cross-referencing, that no one has noted a possible connection with 41 A, Centipede creator. If you have any shred of decency, do not follow this link.

Two Ponies 10:50 AM  

I did not find as much joy in this as some of you. I had similar hang ups like @ John V. Who are these people ? Michio? Lahti? Shymalan? I solved the puzzle but I feel like I'm not in on a private joke.

Nancy 11:39 AM  

'Scary' was a very personal clue for me. i use it to describe many things. so, I started off on a high note I liked the fact that there were no sports questions and more clues in the Arts.
Please tell me what does the red box mean in Rex Parker's grid. Also, the gray boxes???

John V 11:56 AM  

@Nancy, see FAQ 1. Link to FAQ is at top of the page.

evil doug 12:20 PM  

Quite the contrary, JC66--I'm so lazy, I offend myself. QED.

Evil

DigitalDan 12:43 PM  

ENOTE, ETAIL, EMAG, and the like: only in crosswords, never in the real virtual world, so to speak. They gotta go, along with UTE for SUV, RAREE, and OATER. I wanted "TWEET."

Anonymous 1:28 PM  

For those unfamiliar with his work, M. Night Shyamalan was the director of 'Sixth Sense', with Bruce Willis. Looking forward to seeing his last name in a puzzle, but it would probably be in a Fri or Sat, because of the difficulty many might have in spelling it correctly.

RT

Anonymous 1:54 PM  

For awhile I was convinced that XMAS was known as Christmas 63A: BONES. It seemed a fitting term for the "X" in Christmas shorthand. Then I figured out NANE should be NANU and I must say I was a bit disappointed.

Naught Sure 2:06 PM  

@ David L. I don't you're over-thinking the TIC clue. Looking back at prior ways TIC has been clued in the NYT and elsewhere, there is a history for cluing it with reference to an X or O character in Tic Tac Toe. But I can't find anything to support that the character is actually called a TIC if it happens to be entered first on the board, or if it is the first character in a winning series of three. Sometimes a (gloating) winner will say "Tic Tac Toe, three in a row" when drawing a line through the winning series, but that doesn't necessarily mean that any of the three is a TIC (or a TAC or TOE for that matter). The etymology of the name appears to have nothing to do with the characters in a winning combination, but rather is based as far as I can tell on the sound of a pencil hitting a hard surface in another game that slightly resembles Tic Tac Toe.

Given its repeated use in crosswords in this manner, I have to think there is some basis for it. I just can't seem to find any.

ANON B 2:08 PM  

1) I still don't understans why
'Tic" is "starting O, maybe".
Will someone please explain it
in plain English?

2) If I stopped 100 people on
the street how many do you
think would know that SAW
is a series of films?

JFC 2:11 PM  

"I have had people—readers of this blog, in fact—get legitimately offended by my use of "XMAS" as shorthand for "CHRISTMAS," so it is with some amount of glee that I solved this puzzle."

This is one of the most pathetic comments Rex has ever made on a puzzle on so many levels I cannot begin to count them... and I'm a pagan....

JFC

Lewis 2:45 PM  

XMAS and Tic Tac Toe diversions taking away from praise for a solid and fun solve. I always can count on a puzzle with not much junk from Ian.

John V 2:55 PM  

Not to belabor the TIC thread, but as that was my only error in the puz, my two cents: Crossing LAHTI with tIC should have TIC clued in slam-dunk fashion -- which it was not, IMHO. Slam-dunk alternate clues that have been used in the Times puzzle on a Thursday: Twitch, Quirk, ___Tacs(breath mints). Natick fixed

Notsofast 3:22 PM  

I REALLY liked this puzzle. Lots of fun words, and original clueing. Fresh and lively! Having said that... not knowing OSRIC nor LAHTI, I did not get TIC. I think the clue is so obtuse it's just laughable. But except for that NIT, a great job.

retired_chemist 4:13 PM  

@ Bob K - I followed your link. Sicko indeed.

Medium. Didn't see the XMAS until prompted and reprompted by posts here.

Hand up for TWEET instead of E-NOTE and for ACTS instead of OPTS. That screwed up the center for a while. Also for SCOPE before GAMUT. And AFRIN before SINEX.

Agree that Minnesota (in this puzzle, not the state) sucks. GOP was good. Couldn't think of any four letter megalopolis in the Americas but LIMA, so put it in figuring there probably WAS another. But it stayed. Also ST Lô, although I was ready to switch to CAEN rapidement. Pas besoin.


Thanks, Mr. Livengood et al.

Qvart 4:22 PM  

Again, late to the game so I'm not going to say much.

For some reason I had to work at this one more than it sounds like most of you did. Of course, I've been hungover as !@#$ all day so my brain is pretty foggy. But hey, if you wanna dance you gotta pay the band, right?

Don't have a good time for this one because I got interrupted in the middle of it. Probably about 10 mins in and then another 10 later on.

Qvart - aka the snob - signing off.

PS: ENOTE sucked.

Ellen S 5:18 PM  

@retired chemist, same here for afrin before SINEX, and same reasoning for LIMA. I never for a moment doubted ST LO, but I wonder if it's a real place or only a movie set. Though I've never heard it mentioned in any of the d-Day movies, so ... Anyway, I'm pleased with myself that my mind works like yours, at least for those two clues.

This Jewish Atheist (should that be a lower-case "A"?) really enjoyed the Xmas puzzle prepared by JASA, and thank you @JackJ for spelling out the acronym!!

@Bob Kerfuffle, I never saw the Human Centipede movie, but did see the South Park tribute episode. If you have an iPad, be warned it needs Flash player so you have to go to your computer to watch it. But if you have an iPad and you didn't read the Terms and Conditions, I'm tellin' you, as you will find out, not having a Flash player is the least of your problems!

Lefky 5:18 PM  

DNF due to not knowing tiC or OsriC. Otherwise it was easy. Only slow in the NE where I had "snakes" at first instead of "sickos" (wrong movie) and was trying to think of Spanish for margerine before realizing they meant a different type of spread.

Two Ponies 5:18 PM  

@ JFC, I don't know if your negativity is an attempt at humor or satire but your posts never fail to bum me out.
Just had to get that off my chest.

Anonymous 6:11 PM  

i'm not offended by XMAS but I am offended by the hyphen in easily-offended in the write-up. And you an English professor!

Native Speaker of English 6:18 PM  

@Anonymous, 6:11 PM - Not that Rex needs me to defend him, but the hyphen in "easily-offended" is correct.

Richard Nordquist 6:26 PM  

compound adjective

By Richard Nordquist, About.com Guide

"Four-leaf clovers are not mutant freaks." (Bart Simpson, The Simpsons)

Definition:

Two or more words (such as part-time or high-speed) that act as a single idea to modify a noun (a part-time employee, a high-speed chase).

As a general rule, the words in a compound adjective are hyphenated when they come before a noun (a well-known actor) but not when they come after (The actor is well known).

Also, compound adjectives formed with an adverb ending in -ly (such as rapidly changing) are usually not hyphenated.

X-Man 6:44 PM  

Keep Christ in XMAS !

Sparky 6:53 PM  

Started 24D with LoT so didnt get SINEX or WEE. Atom as for small trips me up. Enjoyed the rest. Filled in the reveal first. Fresh clues for ARSON and ASH. Nice present to all of us. Thanks Ian and the class.

@BobK. The reviews told me to avoid that movie like the plague. I even boycotted the theatre for a while but had to go there to see PINA.

Sparky 6:55 PM  

That's Atom as clue for small. Sigh.

Sparky 6:57 PM  

Glad you are back @Evan. Hope you did splendidly.

Anonymous 7:19 PM  

John Lennon was such an inspiration. I hope he can reincarnate to experience the wonders that will happen in 2012! I imagine a world with no bordered, no war, and love.

Bird 8:53 PM  

Late to the party today as we had meetings all day today, including a working lunch. Ugh.

I still don't fully get the theme. I understand that an X-BOX and a TRAIN and a Benz are bonuses, but how does 22A fit into the scheme of things?

I liked 11D and 25D - very cool answers - and 60A.

14A was a huge WTF for me. I still don't get it.
E-NOTE? TATTED? Really?
Where's the ABBR or VAR hint to 7D?
I thought the SAW villain was a CLOWN?

Re X-MAS: I'm not offended, but use Christmas

People who are easily offended, by anything, should take a chill-pill.

@Bob K. - Okay then. And they made a sequel!

TIC = 0 and TAC = X or vice versa. Who cares?

MetaRex 8:53 PM  

I like the dubious E-NOTE and N-TEST fill better rather than worse given the X-MAS, M. NIGHT, XBOX, A-TRAIN, and S CLASS thematic answers...for me the relatedness upside pulls the two junky fill words up more than the thematic dilution pulls it down. And Rex doesn't complain about it, so I guess great minds are as one on this...

rexwordpuzzle.blogspot.com/2012/12/old-german-duchy-name-thu-12-20-12.html

MetaRex 9:11 PM  

pulls "them" down, I meant to say...

valuecompetition.typepad.com/metarex/2012/12/gday-m-night.html

Bird 10:53 PM  

Wow. Now I get it. And now I understand the X-MAS commotion.

Lame theme. Meh puzzle. Sorry JASA.

sanfranman59 11:57 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:06, 6:14, 0.98, 37%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:06, 8:44, 0.93, 25%, Easy-Medium
Wed 10:27, 11:45, 0.89, 24%, Easy-Medium
Thu 15:17, 17:03, 0.90, 28%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:37, 3:39, 0.99, 39%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:54, 4:59, 0.98, 42%, Medium
Wed 5:39, 6:32, 0.86, 14%, Easy
Thu 8:15, 9:23, 0.88, 23%, Easy-Medium

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

WEE for "atomic" is just awful, and the whole SICKOS / SAW bit is repulsive, especially in a Xmas-themed puzzle. Does anyone actually say NTEST outside of crossword puzzles?

Mike 6:10 AM  

You know what? Fine. We'll stop reading your blog, you sanctimonious asshole.

Spacecraft 10:50 AM  

Thanks @AnnieD for the explanation of the clue for TIC. Still pretty far-fetched to me--but then several of today's clues were so devious as to be almost SICKO.

My take on MNIGHTSHIFT: who takes over as Bond's boss in the off-hours?

This was an engaging puzzle, with an extra dimension to the reveal: not only are the theme answers common phrases preceded by single letters, but--late aha! moment!-- those letters spell out the actual theme! Pretty nifty.

Naturally, the fill pays a price. Don't kow why I don't seem to mind ENOTE, but grit my teeth at NTEST. Those things should be banned--both in real life and the "x-"word grid.

Yeah, lighten up. X is not only the chi-rho symbol for Christ, it's also the symbol for the cross. Who are we kidding, anyway? The retailers' frantic scramble for CHRISTMAS BONUS dollars is absolutely shameless. Bottom line. That's what the holidays are all about. It's the season of giving, all right: they want YOU to give THEM your money. End of discussion.

Thanks to Mr. Livengood and the JASA. And thanks again to the captcha producers, who at last have gotten their act into clear focus.

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

Sorry about those offended ones Rex. Check out Snopes, the X in Xmas is from the Greek letter Chi which is the first letter in Christ. Xmas has been around for a very long time. And, Xian is an old and acceptable form for Christian.

rain forest 2:17 PM  

Time to call a halt to ridiculous comments from those who manufacture indignation of trivial things such as the letters XMAS preceding cute phrases in a well-executed thematic puzzle. Nice revealer as well, which you'd think with the inclusion of CHRISTMAS would appease the knee-jerkers...you'd think.

I found the puzzle more challenging than did most, even though I filled in SMOKINGGUN with no crosses. Couldn't get TIC without all the crossed, and still didn't know what it was. A bit tacky, in my opinion.

I think the crossword students are learning that in many cases iffy fill and crosswordese is unavoidable. I liked this one.

DMGrandma 2:51 PM  

A cute puzzle, and I got all but one letter! The "w" in SAW. Couldn't think of a three letter movie title, and ran the alphabet on atomic to no avail. Still think it was a poor clue for WEE. Can't imagine using it in a sentence. "Look at that cute atomic bairn" "I'll just have an atomic bit of pie." Doesn't work for me.

Never saw the Xmas. Just thought the box, train, nightshift, and clown were gifts, noted each started with a single letter, and accepted the M in square 22 must signify something to someone. The director's first name? Somethings are just out of my range.


Solving in Seattle 2:58 PM  

As I mention every time the "XMAS" discussion occurs in this blog, my grandmother would go mushroom cloud any time someone was so blasphemous as to shorten Christ to an X. Biggie.

I liked this puzzle, but had a hard time in the NE - last section to fall.

My only bitch is that the clue for 7D gave no hint that the ans was shortened.

Stay warm, Syndies.

Dirigonzo 3:49 PM  

I'm with @John V on the TiC/TAC dilemma. My first thought upon reading the Red wing? clue was it might have something to do with Commies (I grew up during the Cold War) so I had an extra chuckle when GOP went in there. Possibly for the same reason I toyed with the idea that the Cause of everything going up might be Abomb, which was ridiculously wrong but still kind of related to the NTEST that appeared nearby.

Musical bonus in the SW corner where PATTIE (Page) and ANITA (Bryant) can be imagined to be singing XMAS carols to provide a soundtrack for the puz.

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