Coin minted until 2001 / THU 12-24-15 / Good investor types, you'd think / Golfer McDowell 2010 US Opoen champion / Early 1990s CBS series about exploits of real-life police officers

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Constructor: Derek Bowman

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (or ... I don't know, Medium, maybe? It's undersized)

THEME: GREEK / PLAYS (8A: With 58-Across, "Antigone" and others, ... or, when reinterpreted, a hint to 17-, 31- and 50-Across) — famous Greeks have their names "played" (?) with, i.e. clued as if they were actually wacky phrases:

Theme answers:
  • HIPPO CRATES (17A: Packing boxes for heavyweights?)
  • ARI, STOP HANES! (31A: Order to Onassis to block a brand of underwear?)
  • DEMOS THE NES (50A: Shows a Sega Genesis rival at an expo?)
Word of the Day: DEMOSTHENES
Demosthenes (/dɪˈmɒs.θənz/; Greek: Δημοσθένης Dēmosthénēs [dɛːmostʰénɛːs]; 384–322 BC) was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BC. Demosthenes learned rhetoric by studying the speeches of previous great orators. He delivered his first judicial speeches at the age of 20, in which he argued effectively to gain from his guardians what was left of his inheritance. For a time, Demosthenes made his living as a professional speech-writer (logographer) and a lawyer, writing speeches for use in private legal suits. (wikipedia)
• • •

I wanted to like this, but it's hard to choke down a puzzle that starts with "TOP COPS" (what in the world...?) (1A: Early 1990s CBS series about the exploits of real-life police officers) crossing TOSHES (come on, now...) and then has grand thematic aspirations but can never quite find its footing. So ... the revealer clue refers to "Antigone" ... which is by Sophocles ... who is, in fact, a *playwright* ... but who is not in the grid. Well, that's OK, I guess we'll get *other* playwrights? And ... we do ... once. We get ARISTOPHANES. But then we also get non-playwrights somehow (HIPPOCRATES, DEMOSTHENES). Meanwhile, the puzzle seems to have wanted another thematic layer, as SAPPHO and PINDAR are both Greek writers whose names can ... if you get really, outrageous ... be clued as wacky phrases. Can you "sap" the Vietnamese soup "pho"? Can you "pin" the entire Daughters of the American Revolution? Maybe. But here, today ... no. Their names just sit there. No wackiness. What happened? There is No Way SAPPHO (16A: Whom Plato called "the tenth Muse") and PINDAR (52A: Noted writer of victory odes) are there coincidentally. And yet, no "?" clues? Bizarre.

Grid feels not very efficiently made. Theme isn't dense, and yet we end up with these ridiculously large (and therefore hard to fill cleanly) corners in the NW and SE. Why not put a corner cheater in there or ... something. Take the pressure off so we don't have to endure "TOP COPS" and TOSHES and ERLE and OCTO and the green paint of ONE ACRE. Or, on the other side of the grid, MTETNA PESETA HARI ORELSE ESSES. Seems like this one should've been sent back with a "nice idea—rebuild grid" note. Also, there is a story behind the de-theming of SAPPHO and PINDAR, I'm sure.

Didn't have that much trouble except in that first big corner. Didn't know LUIS or GRAEME or "TOP COPS," but I did know Hanson's "MMM BOP" (a song now older than every member of the band was when they first recorded it), which helped make the big corner in the SE much easier to handle.

Merry Christmas Eve.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Trombone Tom 12:10 AM  

Unexpectedly easy for a Thursday. Pretty much what @Rex said. I liked the idea and DEMOS THE NES was clever, but the others felt a little strained. Perhaps, as noted, with a little more work this could have been made more challenging. Don't hear much about the Duke of ALBANY, but I grew up in Berkeley, which is a neighboring city, so that name came easily.

kozmikvoid 12:21 AM  

I don't really see the reinterpretation of Greek Plays here. Isn't the reinterpretation already implied by the ? In the theme clues? Either way, this puzzle was completed 2 hours ago and I've already forgotten it. Easy, mundane Thursday...and that's really all the effort this one warrants. I hope somebody found this one enjoyable.

jae 12:40 AM  

Very easy for a Thurs.  Only erasure was Slice before STEAK. 

ALI is a follower of ISLAM??  Better not mention that to....

Clever, liked it more than Rex did.

Z 12:49 AM  

ARISTOPHANES' Lysistrata was used as an inspiration for Chi-Raq, so pretty current for a ~2,500 year old clue.

I'm with Rex, you've got the symmetrical Greeks - get wacky. I've got a brand new Vietnamese Restaurant two blocks from the condo, so I plan to SAP me some PHO before the new year. I liked all the themers well enough, but the reparsing of DEMOSTHENES is an inspired new discovery of the xwordese NES. That one alone makes the puzzle for me.

Music Man 1:42 AM  

Isn't this a little reminiscent of an early reagle theme?

Charles Flaster 2:31 AM  

Very EZ and mostly in agreement with Rex.
Liked cluing for CONCOCT.
Theme was very creative and you need to inspect it again to totally understand--ARI STOP HANES was my fav.
CrosswordEASE--ECO and OCEANS.
Thanks DB

Anonymous 4:29 AM  

I got the feeling of "mailed it in." Maybe even, "This is good enough. Let's choose a day when I'll be on vacation and nobody will know where I am. Hopefully it'll all have blown over by the time I get back." El Sobrante, anyone?


Leapfinger 5:27 AM  

What fun! Not that long ago, we got to GREEKify English words into assorted deities, and today it's English parsification of some ancient Greeks. Today's theme seems to be more restrictive, but either way, I believe, will earn the approval of the Mammas and the PAPpas.

@Rex was spot on about SAPPHO and PINDAR as theme wannabes, and I'll admit that even before reading the blog, I already had jotted down
Dilute the Vietnamese noodle soup: SAP_PHO
Go steady with a member of a patriotic group: PIN_D.A.R.

Who knows? Maybe ORELSEs was also been intended to be the play by EuRIPSedes!

All I know is, it's hard to stop once you start, sooo...
Identify which tourists are American: PEG_AS_US
Central America: MEDUSA
Wish you were still here: ANTI_GONE
Phone and we'll get the door: CALL_I_OPE
(in Buckingham Pallas) She favours Catherine, but...: HE_CATE
Where to park for de money: DE_METER
Good Thursdays with AcrossLite: E-REBUS
Primitive A-hole: UR-ANUS
212-823-9335: PER_SE_PHONE

Also Sprach ARETHUSA: "Splish-splash!"

Had a good time with the solve, despite the TOSHES' egregious ESSES, and either overlooked or missed outright @Rex's other saddleburrs. You might say I had OODLES of writeovers (for OCEANS) but the only other one was SEE_RED, and I could SEE_THE problem having that in cahoots with SEERS. Liked being the SEER* of Ms Galore's sidekick OCTO today; not sure whether OCTO-Kitty is a housepet or a CARPET. (*If I was the SEER -- SEE-ER? -- I s'pose OCTOpussy was the SEEe/ SEEee)

A very Merry Erev Christmas to all who celebrate, and since RENE was the only remotely French fill, Joyeaux Noël to all who would miss their RDA. Nog yourselves out!!

rorosen 5:55 AM  


George Barany 7:24 AM  

Bravo to @Rex for knowing MMMBOP in @Derek Bowman's interesting puzzle; this entry was uninferrable to me. Crossing ?A?TER, which could have been any number of words consistent with its clue, slowed me down just a tad from an otherwise unusually fast (by personal standards) solving time.

I did enjoy the clues for AL_CAPP and for CAMRY very much, which made up for not having heard of either of the TOSHES. I'm going to have to brush up on my Shakespeare, since I prefer to think of ALBANY as the capital of the great state of New York. Can we see less militaristic clues for ARM, please? I wonder what Donald Trump would say about the fill/clues for 20- and 21-Across.

To all he celebrate Xmas, have a merry!

blinker474 7:28 AM  

I liked it a lot. Don't get why the fill is criticized. Any puzzle can be improved with more editing, but every puzzle will have some less than lovely fill; the editing has to stop at some point.

Thank you, Bowman and Shortz for a very entertaining puzzle. Not a Christmas eve theme, but that's OK.

Roo Monster 7:34 AM  

Hey All !
Surprisingly easy for a ThursPuz. Zipped through this in 15 minutes (fast for me on Thursday). Had some writeovers, and two wrong squares/four wrong answers. ArI/rUIS (guess I should've seen the long, smack in the middle ARI staring at me, huh?) and sINDAR, sAP. Sap-pap, whatever. mast-SPAR, ScOtTIE(?)-SHORTIE, cOO-KOO, and had the W from WON and the T from ITO, so made the end WhaT at first for CREWCUT.

Did enjoy the puz, thought the reparsing of the names was cool (ala my rambling Random Nonsense bits). Kind of odd only 14 across. I guess to stick 31A in without going to 16 across and making it harder to fill. That MMMBOP was a godsend, I'm sure. (And yes, I've heard of Hanson, whatever happened to them?)

So fairly clean grid, we get another (any random letter)STAR. Passable for a WedsPuz, but I think a touch weak for Thursday. Should have switched yesterdays puz with todays. Just sayin.


chefbea 8:33 AM  

Lot of things I didn't know but was fun parsing the themes. Hopefully we'll get a Christmas puzzle tomorrow. Gotta go get my ducks in a row..i.e prep the ducks.

Lobster11 8:36 AM  

Over the last couple of weeks I've found it a bit unnerving how often I've agreed with everything OFL has said -- to the extent I haven't bothered posting myself -- so it feels refreshing to disagree with him today at almost every turn. For one, I thought it was crazy-easy for a Thursday, without a hint of "medium." For another, I think he missed the point by expecting from the revealer that the theme answers would be playwrights; I interpreted the revealer to mean that each themer was a "play" (as in wordplay) on a Greek name -- thus, another play on the word "play." That's pretty clever, I think. I also don't understand his objection to TOSHES: We often see clues comprising two last names, for which the answers are plurals of the shared first name, so I don't see anything wrong with doing it the other way around. And I saw the inclusion of PINDAR and SOPPHO as a feature rather than a bug.

I feel much better now.

NCA President 8:37 AM  

Well, that puzzle was Or Greek. Mostly Greek...with no real holiday anything. This might as well be a June 14th puzzle. Not that I'm one of those "War on Christmas" people (I'm not), but it IS December 24th. I get that the NYT is a worldwide publication and it's not the same December 24th all over the world. Still, weird that THIS puzzle was the one chosen for a Christmas Eve Thursday. It wasn't even a good Thursday puzzle. Just Greek.

Interesting sidebar...I'm currently in rehearsals for King Lear. Just had a stumble through last night, in fact. So, Albany! One of the only good guys in the whole thing and who doesn't (spoiler alert) die. Maybe the Lear reference was a "meta" or further nod to the theme since Antigone is a tragedy too?

I actually thought the puzzle was okay overall in spite of its hatred toward Christmas. But, good golly, ARI STOP HANES is awful. Just so much no.

I think it's well documented how much I despise puns...and this is why. And if I were Rex, my review would read like the one he did a few days ago. The fact that this was in the a's just an automatic fail. Thanks for playing, maybe next time. Go home pun, you're drunk.

I did like the Hanson shout out. Those guys are actually quite talented but suffer from Bubblegum-syndrome (which I just now coined) in that they were never able to grow beyond being three very pretty blond boys who sang MMMBop. Remember the One D discussion a while back? Modern pop music is brutal...and talent is a relatively small part of what makes an artist an artist these days...even back in 1997.

Oh, well...Happy Holidays to everyone! And I hope you, like I, will curl up with a good Greek tragedy tonight, some egg nog, and a little Greek chorus music while you wait for Santa to come or for your spouse to come home from Christmas Eve Mass. (At least the mini-puzzle recognized what day it was.)

Striving to better oft we mar what's well! <-- only quote from Lear I'm familiar with.

mac 8:38 AM  

Nice and easy Thursday. In fact I thought it was a Wednesday. Need to get out of the kitchen!

I had the most trouble with those Toshes, had to run the alphabet because I haven't seen that
cop show. MMMbop was cute.

A very happy Christmas Eve to you.

jberg 8:48 AM  

I don't know what the spectral classes are, but I do know a mnemonic for remembering their order, viz., "Oh Be a Fine Girl,Kiss Me Right Now," which is notably missing a C. Turns out that's one of the limits of a science education that comes from teen-age science fiction reading; the C class was developed later for stars with a carbon atmosphere. You can learn a lot from crosswords!

That aside, I'm with everyone here. I enjoyed the outrageous PLAYS on GREEK names, wondered about PINDAR and SAPPHO, and was sort of impressed by the expanded POCs at TOSHES and ESSES.

Now off to pick up my goose and wrap some presents. Have a Merry one, all!

Doug Garr 8:56 AM  

If I finish a Thursday this fast it must be easy, easy, easy. I've had more trouble with Tuesdays than this one. I was just filling in the low-hanging fruit here and there and everywhere and when I got ARISTOPHANES it went pretty quickly.

Z 8:58 AM  

@Roo Monster - Hanson is doing quite well. I don't follow them, but the last time they were in the area the Freep did a nice write-up on their career. Wikipedia says they've been recording on their own label for a long time now. No more ubiquitous ear worm hits, and for that I think we are all grateful, but enough fans to keep putting out albums and touring.

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

Maybe SAPPHO could be clued as "One of Warren's sideline adorers"?

GILL I. 9:37 AM  

Loved this puzzle. I've loved all of them this week.
Like @LaLeapster the only thing that held me up was oodles for OCEANS and my decisive time was Ides instead of DDAY.
Like @Lobster11, I too thought this was a "play" on GREEK words. Fantasy takes over my mind as I can't get the image of HIPPOs dancing in Fantasia. Or ARI holding up a pair of HANES "No Ride up Briefs" and trying to decide what his size is. DEMOS THE NES conjures up an image of "But wait, there's more." Ms SAPPHO from Lesbos smiling up at CRISTO while PINDAR quotes to her: "Learn what you are and be such."
This put me in a good mood...Must get ready now to pick up my other good half. To you, I say Merry Christmas, and happy anything you want. Be nice to someone today!

Teedmn 9:38 AM  

This was an interesting switch-up for a Thursday, Classical Greek rather than rebus-tricky. I got caught in a couple of spots, cOO before KOO, acreage plopped down at 13A before I had any crosses, which led me to put in raStaS at 1D until I remembered the inane show TOSH 2.0 and a SHORTIE time later had fixed all that.

Best error of the day was at 18D. I wasn't even solving for speed today so I have no excuse for missing the many hints which should have revealed my error, but no, I had a DNF there. I had the ARISTO at 31A and the AL at 18D. Ignoring what the 17A answer should have shown me, I continued 31A to read ARISTOtle. With a T in 18D, I happily entered ALCOTT, having already forgotten that the clue called for a contemporary of Steinbeck, which neither Louisa May nor her father Amos was by a long shot! I also ignored the "a" ending of Bonita in the clue for 28A, which would have pointed out the need for a matching ending on ISLA, not ISLo. And then there's the StAR sail support, I mean, come on. I can't even blame it on too much alcohol, too little sleep or too much figgy pudding. At least I eventually saw ARISTOPHANES so it was ALCoPt in the end.

So thanks, Derek Bowman, for a HARI Thursday. And @Leapfinger for the E-REBUS,

Happy holidays, all.

Andrew Heinegg 9:42 AM  

I don't often disagree with the blogmaster but, I must do so here. My only objection to this was the day of the week it was run. It felt like maybe a Tuesday. I thought the Greek literature pun theme was cute particularly with the reference to Aristotle Onassis in 31a. I confess I am a bit taken aback by the John Steinbeck quote about Al Capp being possibly the best writer in the world today. I suppose I could agree with that statement if I was a Trump supporter. Capp made no bones about using his strip to skewer anything political that strayed away from very far to the right. Capp would be apoplectic over the world now.

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

Fun and more challenging than some. Brought up high school memory...

Euripedes, you mendedes!

Happy holidays!

Tita 10:11 AM  

I loved the theme... I suppose I agree with Rex's criticisms, but it was fun to guess each themer.
I had to do a few seconds of mental gymnastics at the revealer, (which I avoided till near the end), because, like Rex, I was thinking they would all be playwrights like good old ARISTOPHANES, but then I got the play on words.

NW was almost a dnf...a sizable plot could be TWO, SIX, OR TEN ACRE... I have a threeACRE plot myself.

Liked yesterday's way better...just loved it, but too busy with a houseful of French folks to post!

Thanks, DB.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Chuck McGregor 10:12 AM  

@ NCA President: Laughed out loud that you "spoiler alerted" something in a Shakespeare play.

Today’s weird stuff:

TOSHE’S ECO PAP (naysayers view of talk from a Comedy Central host in support of climate change)

I’LL [be home for Christmas] (before doing the puzzle, someone voiced these very words to me and noted the song was a favorite or theirs.)

The Count of Monte CRISCO (the royal lard maker…..Yeah, I actually wrote that in, but with a little voice in my head saying, (like @Rex the other day) Dude, Dude! DUDE!!)

If it were correct, that would have led to this (please, I know, I know, some could find, as related, both answer and clue offensive):

ONE ACRE of CRISCO (fat farm)

PRICIEST CAMRY (‘nuff said)

TOP COPS are GREEK? Who knew? (However, there was Kojak played by a real Greek (Grecian?) Telly Savalas)

CONCOCT MMMBOP (create a nonsense song title)

The theme was right up my alley and pretty much immediately obvious from filling in my first two clues [see below],

In college I took courses in the Art of Tragedy and the Art of Comedy. Both were taught by (warning: name-drop, but would not have been at that time) Eric Segal (“Love Story” ring a bell?) who was also a translator and editor of translations for ancient Greek and Latin literature. He could actually converse in either as well as French and Italian. He was also a marathon runner and co-writer of the screenplay for “Yellow Submarine.” I learned this only years later watching the film. This finally explained some “mysterious” absences from our classes. As to “Love Story,” I most certainly read it, the author being one of my professors, and had the Kleenex at hand. My first comment after finishing it was, “Damn! He used everything he taught us to write this,” those things being the various tools and devices used by writers of the two genres for the last few thousand years.

An interesting thing he told us the first day of the course on Comedy. There are only five kinds of jokes. I’ve lost my notes but two obvious ones are the play on words and the surprise ending (jack-in-the box). Wish I remembered the other three for certain. However, I do remember that for quite a while afterwards when I came across a joke, at its core it always, as in 100%, could be classified as one of those five types.

Back to the theme: So, I first filled in GREEK PLAYS right away with no crossing support. This led to cutting a swath through the puzzle from NE to SW, which yielded some theme answers, finishing with the SE and (harder for me) NW. However, checking online, I found something was amiss. I was staring at ISLAd as a religion wanting GRAEdE for the cross and, ironically, already having filled in the famous Muslim ALI. Hey, Graede sounds Scottish/Irish, though I originally had Gradie. Finally figured it all out. ISLAd???? UGHS!

A big quibble or rather a small condemnation (I’m sure @LMS knows a word describing such word combinations). My middle name was incorrectly spelled in the puzzle. And this after I told them – EVEN twice - that it was ERNEST not EARNEST! Well, happy to see it anyway.

I am home for Christmas and hope you, too, will be happily ensconced wherever you are for your own Merry Christmas or were for Chanukah or will be, are, or were for any other celebrations, festivities, withdrawal from any of the aforementioned or just hangin’ out, like on a beach somewhere (gee, hope that doesn’t not cover everybody here….especially if you’re on a beach, but I digress…).

Holiday Cheers to all who have, haven’t cared to, or simply haven't read any of my BANTER and/or PAP. In other words, nobody doesn’t receive a Holiday Cheers from me.

old timer 10:16 AM  

I pretty much agree with OFL here. But gotta say, DEMOS THE NES was wonderful.

I'm hoping to know more about the back story, if there is one.

Merry Christmas to all.

xmatt 10:21 AM  

While I thought DEMOSTHENES was very clever, I think it's important to note that the 2nd generation console rival of the Sega Genesis was actually the Super Nintendo (commonly abbreviated "SNES"). Sega's offering opposite the original NES was actually the much less known and less popular Sega Master System:

L 10:37 AM  

Easy thursday puzzle for me too. I think the theme is clever - word plays on Greek names. What's wrong with that? And we got some current pop culture with TOSHES. Any time I get to recall Rock n Roll Hoochie KOO, is a good time.

Joseph Michael 10:39 AM  

Liked the theme idea but the grid is full of drek and nearly one third of the answers are proper nouns.

Far from a great Thursday, though I did like the discovery that CAMRY is an anagram of MY CAR. The theme also inspired reinterpretations of some nonthemers in the grid, such CAR PET, EAR NEST, and SEE THE.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

While I enjoy Rex's observations on the crossword puzzles he somehow completely solves every day, I never quite get his and other comments here on the quality of the puzzle.

This one is "undersized," presumably because it's only 12 by 12 squares. It's "aspirations" can't "find footing," and TOPCOPS crossing TOSHES? Oh my goodness, that's really bad for some reason or other.

I don't care whether the puzzle is humorous or ironic or redundant or wonky or weird or a train wreck. If it's challenging, that's enough for me, especially if I ace it (which I have done to very few NYT Saturday crosswords over the years.)

My only complaint is that these days the Times crossword has too many references to contemporary TV shows that nobody in their right mind would watch.

Andy Updegrove 11:10 AM  

I've gotten in the habit of always doing the Times puzzle in an empty grid, initially to make a Tuesday or Wednesday puzzle interesting enough to be worth doing. It also provides the occasional bonus when there's a non-standard size puzzle like this, which not only is smaller than the usual 15x15, but also asymmetrical (14x15).

If you're feeling jaded, you might want to give the empty grid a try. But be aware that it can become habit forming.

David Cole 11:10 AM  

This fun puzzle actually reminded me of Rex's own Thursday NYT puzzle from 7/21/11, featuring the revealer SLICED CHEESES, and four themers with wacky cheesy wordplay. E.G. GORGONZOLA - "French writer with snaky hair and a petrifying gaze?" Other theme answers included PROVOLONE, LIMBURGER and MASCARPONE.

AliasZ 11:11 AM  

Fun theme today marred by a few inconsistencies, but who cares. For some weird reason I feel charitable and forgiving today. I took GREEK PLAYS to mean plays on Greek names.

The one thing I cannot forgive though is the clue for AL CAPP. "Cartoonist whom John Steinbeck said 'may very possibly be the best writer in the world today'" is so awful, it has the effect of fingernails on a chalkboard. Talk about tone deaf. For goodness' sake Will, you got it right at "Whom Plato called 'the tenth Muse'." Or do you just flip a flippin' coin each time a who/whom choice comes up? Shame on you.

@Leapy, you beat me to the second half of my comment. Is that why you got up at 5:00 AM? Although I would have clued ANTI_GONE "Side with those who remain," and would have added THESE_US as "What Alabamans through Wyomingites call home." [Note to self: get up early if you want to beat @Leapy]

With this beautiful Michael Praetorius Christmas carol, let me wish you all Merry Christmas. God bless us, everyone -- including those with whom I disagree.

Mohair Sam 11:40 AM  

Case here where Rex the constructor perceives flaws that laymen like myself never notice - hence we got more enjoyment out of this one than he. And I'm with @Lobster11, the thematic PLAY is clearly on words and not of words, no problem. However we, like Rex and many of you, were wondering why SAPPHO and PINDAR were left twisting in the wind.

I guess speed solvers account for grid size in their difficulty rating (Rex has referenced twice this week), I never notice row extra or missing until I come here. Would have rated the puzzle easy if GRAEME McDowell spelled his name correctly, headaches there. Not all gimmes are gimmes I guess.

Learn something every day in the Times puzzle - fascinated by the Steinbeck quote on Capp. Two of my favorites.

@NCA President - Still chuckling over your spoiler alert on Lear. Stopped reading right there of course.

Speaking of stopping reading. I nearly swore off @Leapfinger for a week after his hideous clue pun on SAP_PHO ("Dilute the Vietnamese noodle soup"), but the follow-ups were terrific, so I'm still a fan.

Just read yesterday's posts (got in late last night). Welcome back LMS - good to see you again. Stick around this time.

Mikey From ABQ 11:52 AM  

I guess s one was just in my wheelhouse as my solve time was equivalent to my Monday "easy" time, I'm of the mind that Sappho and Pindar are theme answers because of their symmetric and relative locations to the other themes answers, but Rex doesn't include them. That's acceptable, and slightly debatable. Guess we need to ask Derek Bowman.

brandsinger 12:09 PM  

I was surprised how many verbally adept cartoonists from the John Steinbeck era came to mind. I thought of Bill Mauldin (of WWII fame) and then Herblock (of anti-McCarthy fame) and then strained to think of others... "Now, who drew Snuffy Smith and Dennis the Menace?" I mused over a bowl of oatmeal... before coming up with the brilliant Al Capp.

Mr. Benson 12:17 PM  

I'm thinking PLAYS is intended as in "plays on words," so the play/playwright/other author distinction isn't important. But I couldn't be wrong.

Arlene 12:31 PM  

It was GREEK to me, in a good way. Finished it all - no googling - and that means even the stranger words/names could be gotten with the crosses. Happy and merry!

beatrice 12:39 PM  

Wishes for a warm and happy Christmas for all, and some music appropriate to the season from over 400 years ago:

William Byrd

Giovanni Palestrina

Carola 1:22 PM  

I liked the reveal - after I had GREEK and HIPPOCRATES, I fhought, "Well, 58A won't be PLAYS, because HIPPOCRATES wasn't a PLAY." Ah, that "PLAY"! Never heard of MMMBOP, but I did know Peter TOSH - and thanks to crosswords, NES.

Also liked the CRISTO-ARISTO eye rhyme.

@Leapfinger, you knock me out!

Bob Kerfuffle 1:27 PM  

Clever wordplay on the Greek names, but sorry to say that when I was half-way through the puzzle I thought I would like it more than I actually did when I was finished.

OISK 2:04 PM  

The "Plays on words" were clever and cute enough for me to forgive Madonna references, and Daniel and Peter Tosh (???) crossing Top Cops, which I never watched. Ohio may well be home of the first full time service station, but was that an "AHA!!" for anyone? With so many possible better clues, I don't know how that one got in.

Still. I had fun, and finished it perfectly.

Numinous 3:11 PM  

What? Three half-formed cryptic charade clues as PLAYS on GREEK names? Yoda tells me, "Puzzle easy this was. Absurdity to the point of." Typing with one hand while nursing coffe in the other (yeah, I got up late due to excessive holiday cheer) I finished this in waaaaay under half of my Thursday average. I had settled down, ready for a long winter's workout and was done before I'd properly woken up. Am I complaining? No, not really. I just like to sound like a curmudgeon.

I sort of wish today's and yesterday's puzzles had been reversed. Vaguely hoping for a buildup to the big holiday, this effort was a bit of a letdown. Amusing but disappointing.

@Trombone Tom, I spent the first semester of 9th grade at Albany high. For whatever reason I finished 9th at Willard. I grew up on the corner of Durant and Telegraph. Trombone, eh? Did you ever have Mr. Lunt at BHS?

Leapfinger 3:52 PM  

Hi Chuck! (That makes me feel like Peppermint Patty) It seems that you and I were in New Haven at the same time, cuz I remember when E-Segal came out with Love Story, though I was no longer in school, but cheerfully poisoning the pristine CT air with lab effluvia and setting fire to gallon cans of ether. From my vantage point at 333 Cedar St., I heard many faculty members descrying the sheer ignominy of publishing such crassly commercial drivel, deeming it more fitting to maintain the intellectually pure modesty of a Jerzy Kozinski. Some great theater in NHaven in those days, including Hair opening at the Shubert, Henry Winkler at the Yale Rep, and riots on Congress Ave about the time of Bobby Seale's appearance. Btw, I only remember Asimov's saying a surprise ending is the core of all humour, so I'd be pleased to hear anything more you recall. Though I privately think Asimov has more funnybones than Segal.

@ALIasZ, hard to be certain, but you may have caught the wrong end foremost. These days, I can't always tell the difference between 'up early' and 'up late'. Love your variations on the theme, but can't quite believe that anyone would really want to 'beat Leapy'. 'Cept maybe @NCA Prez... with a stick.

@Gill, I couldn't be happier that your Christmas will have oodles and oceans of Sweet Spice! Hey, Cinnamon, where ya gonna run to?

Yeesh and Sheesh, Mr.Mohair! Would it make any difference if I told you, after all this time, that I'm no gentleman? Without getting into excessive detail, last time I checked, none of my cups were athletic ones.

@brandsinger, who was more verbally (and maniacally) adept than Walt Kelly? He must have overlapped Steinbeck for a while.

Hey. Give or take an L, did anyone else notice I, SAM ALITO coming 'round the corner? Nicely balanced by JON COCTTO's brother, CON.

@beatrice, I know I'll enjoy hearing the Palestrina, and look forward to meeting the Byrd. You've been an intermittent island of calm in the midst of frenzy. @Alias, you haven't been, but köszönöm to you also and Boldog Karácsonyt to all.

Time to wrap the last presents.

Masked and Anonymous 4:15 PM  

Heck, no matter what U think of trying to decipher Geek theatrical productions, those NW and SE corners were really somethin. Normally, M&A looks forward to much more desperation, when he glimpses corners like those puppies, in a themed ThursPuz.

Holiday bullet ideas:

* LUIS. Admired the token U attempt, but Argentine province names are pretty intimidatin. Amazed there ain't more Geek works with -US endings. Somethin like Braychinwindonus Rex, or somesuch.

* SHORTIE/SAPPHO Across line. Nice HO HO row.

* ETH. fave weeject, in the NE Christmas 3-stack. However, for cluing purposes, note that a nifty double-runt-roll (™) would produce ETHOOK, which could be conveniently clued as: [Way to be suddenly yanked into a flying saucer??]

* MMMBOP. Man, them Geek playwrights really overlooked a primo title, there.

Merry Christmas - 1, all U smart, nice crossword folks. Good puz, Mr. Bowman -- M&A sees a lot of Bo Derek, in you, btw.


**Christmas gruntz**

Norm 6:58 PM  

This was a hilariously fun puzzle. Nuff said.

Jonathan 7:09 AM  

So glad somebody else noticed this. Great theme answer but this is definitely a flat out mistake in the cluing. It literally kept me from getting the right answer because I knew it wasn't correct according the the clue.

One slight quibble: I think the Genesis/SNES rivalry was actually the fourth generation:

Lazy Susan 10:43 AM  

Since when is Ethiopia a land-locked country, African or otherwise?

Jonathan 11:10 AM  

1993, I believe.,_1993

Burma Shave 9:40 AM  


When PEOPLE with ESP like Doctor HIPPOCRATES
they must AVOW to be EARNEST folks,
ORELSE ACHE to be butts of jokes
by comedians like that HAMSTEAK ARISTOPHENES.


rondo 10:14 AM  

Well, OFL might not have liked TOSHES, but it went in lightning quick for me and helped get me off to a quick solve.

One write-over was down at that song title where I had MMMmmm, thinking of the Crash Test Dummies song, but even so I was only half way there on the Ms.

Kinda odd seeing ISLAM and ISLA so close to each other.

I wouldn’t mind a little BANTER with acting yeah babies elegant RENE Russo and red bikini clad Phoebe CATES. A hundred years ago I suppose PEOPLE sad the same about Mata HARI.

I’m OK with not seeing a rebus today, but how about those wacky GREEKs?

spacecraft 12:58 PM  

Didn't like it for a myriad of reasons. It's "shorty," never SHORTIE. Your central down is an awkward partial (LOSTTO)? ISLAM/ISLA? More weirdness: the crutchy ESSES doesn't come at the end of a line (!?!). This whole thing feels like it needed to be reworked but went in as is to meet a deadline. The puns are unwieldy, the fill...well, you saw. D-.

Chris 1:07 PM  

Along with what Jonathan said, The NES, in the states anyway, was directly rivaled by the Sega Master System. If there was a rival to the Genesis, it was the Super NES, which, like the Genesis, was also 16-bit.

Diana,LIW 1:36 PM  

First go-thru I only had half a dozen entries, but soon the bottom half revealed itself. We're having a new roof put on this week, and it sounds like MTETNA is right above my head. I was pleased with how much I did get, esp. for a Thurs. (Then I see the blog and all the "this was so easy" comments and I begin to SEE THEe giant red.)

Finally resorted to cheatersville with the Natick of TOPCOPS and THOSHES. Back in the day when I worked in several venues and then went back to grad school, I created a huge hole in my pop culture soul. TV was the first entertainment to bite the dust, followed closely by dusting and gourmet cooking. I do now watch the occasional movie on TV (going to the cinema is too hard on my hard--of-hearing husband's ears) and HGTV at the gym. Those Property Brothers are my idea of Yeah Babies!

Then...double DNFd when I confidently wrote in DEMOS THE wee (and even I know it's Wii) and couldn't get the last few to fall into place. NES was another WOE for me.

Still, I'm happy enuf for a Thurs, as I'm still in puzzle third grade.

Leftcoast - it's 10:30 here on the Cal. central coast - no syndies posted yet. Probably a few more hours... Hope you survived that thud! Many otherwise intelligent people have told me they believe software runs our technology toys. They are wrong. It's gerbils. Sometimes those gerbils tire of running the wheel, take a nap on the CARPET (great misdirect clue) or eat up whatever we're working on. That's my story, and I'm sticking with it.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rain forest 2:14 PM  

The week of easy puzzles continues, and instead of a lot of French, we get a lot of GREEK, but it certainly wasn't all Greek to me.

I did wonder why SAPPHO and PINDAR weren't part of the theme, but I guess they were merely frills, sort of like movie extras. Anyway, the plays on Greek names were fun to figure out, even if they made the puzzle that much easier. The notion of stopping HANES was quite risible--just wanting to say "risible" there.

I don't know what is wrong with TOP COPS. I mean, I never watched it, but I heard of the show. We've had Cheers, Frazier, NCIS before, so what's the beef? Of course, I like Peter TOSH, and this puzzle.

leftcoastTAM 3:55 PM  

Too quickly wrote in FATSOCRATES(!!) before HIPPOCRATES, but still a relatively easy Thursday.

Great Greeks, all.

MMMBOP was an outlier.

Unknown 6:25 PM  

Can someone explain the "big Bucks earn big bucks" reference? Is there some place I can accuse the NYT of shameless racism?

Unknown 12:51 AM  

No racism as far as I can see. NBA players tend to be big, they make a lot of money, and the Milwaukee Bucks are an MBA team.

rain forest 2:32 AM  

The Milwaukee Bucks, NBA team, are all big fellas earning lots of $.

Burma Shave 9:37 AM  


When PEOPLE with ESP like Doctor HIPPOCRATES
they must AVOW to be EARNEST folks,
ORELSE ACHE to be butts of jokes
by comedians like that HAMSTEAK ARISTOPHENES.


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