THURSDAY, Dec. 25, 2008 - Eric Tentarelli (Cousin of a treecreeper / Star of Broadway's "QED," 2001-02 / Family name suffix in taxonomy)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Football teams - wacky clues whose answers are made up of three NFL football team names (in the singular)

Merry Christmas. Not a very Christmasy puzzle. I guess we got ours on Sunday. Not only is this puzzle not Christmasy, it seems to suggest that Santa has, in fact, been killed - at least that's my interpretation of the RED SNO at the bottom of the grid?

[too gruesome? It gets nicer and more Jesus-y toward the end]

Not spending too much time writing this one up - gotta give myself a little rest on Christmas Eve / Day. So, after describing the theme answers, I think I'm just going to do the whole write-up as a long bullet list, with no more than two sentences per bullet. This is a challenge I set myself ... challenge accepted.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Chestnut-colored mustang offspring? (brown bronco colt)
  • 38A: Main dedicatee of an Austin cathedral? (chief Texan saint)
  • 55A: Hefty invoice for boots and spurs? (giant cowboy bill)

Cute clues. Wonder who wrote them? The theme is something I think I've seen before. Feels familiar. The team names don't go together for any particular reason except that they make a coherent phrase, which is enough, I guess.


  • 1A: Choker component (clasp) - Had PEARL, which got me off to a slow start
  • 6A: Music pioneered by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires (ska) - Educated guess (3 letters, and I know it's not RAP ... coulda been EMO, I guess). My intro to ska:

  • 16A: Bygone Olds (Alero) - 21st century crosswordese. Other answers I got because of constant crosswording include O'SHEA (25D: Dublin-born film star Milo), ARAL (12D: Asia's _____ Sea), IONA (56D: College in New Rochelle, N.Y.), and LUCE (43A: Time-honored man?) - "Time" is a magazine title in that last one, in case you were still or ever wondering.
  • 17A: Sorkin who created "The West Wing" (Aaron) - total gimme; loved "Sports Night," never watched "The West Wing." Tons of names in the puzzle today, including ARNE (23A: "Rule, Britannia" composer), ALAN ALDA (8D: Star of Broadway's "QED," 2001-02), AGNEW (31D: Predecessor of Ford), SNEAD (69A: Masters champ of 1949, 1952 and 1954), and some guy named NOLAN I've never heard of (47A: David _____, founder of the Libertarian Party).
  • 22A: Its coat of arms includes a vicuña (Peru) - find the vicuña!
  • 33A: Pitcher Hideo Nomo's birthplace (Osaka) - had the "K," which made it obviousish.
  • 66A: Last name of Kipling's Kim (O'Hara) - very Irish up in here: O'SHEA, O'SAKA, now O'HARA ...
  • 6D: Pelvic bone (sacrum) - yoga instructor mentions this bone a lot.
  • 13D: Shed (molt) - had LOSE (as in "shed some pounds"). Grrr...
  • 21D: Bust holder (bra) - what's a three-letter word for "pedestal?" Oh, you mean boobs.
  • 30D: The City of a Thousand Minarets (Cairo) - as with OSAKA, I had the key letter in place (in this case, the "C" - though the "O" might have been telling too)
  • 48D: Light ratio in astronomy (Al Bedo) - good ol' AL (I did not know this one, clearly - and I know it's one word and not a guy's name, so hold the email, thanks)
  • 59D: Family name suffix in taxonomy (-idae) - the original version of this puzzle did not have the word "suffix" in it, hence my mild confusion. Don't like this and IDEA (35A) in the same puzzle - what's the big IDAE!?
  • 58D: Cousin of a treecreeper (wren) - didn't know it. Just asked wife if she knew what a "treecreeper" was, and she answered: "Is it a bird? .... Is it a kind of WREN?" Damn her and her birdishness! How can I steal her powers?
  • 46D: Home of Fort Scott National Historic Site (Kansas) - this one tripped me up badly, but only bec. the orig. clue was written with an abbrev. -> [Home of Fort Scott Natl. Historic site], and so naturally I expected one in the answer.
I'll leave you with two very different versions of my favorite Christmas carol (three if you click the link you just read over)

Enjoy whatever it is you eat today. I love you guys! (and I'm not even drunk ... yet)


PS, click here to find out the answer to "What Was In the Basement?" - it is unbelievably fantastic, and the photo doesn't even begin to do it justice. P.S. I got my wife more than just the mug (though the mug is unique, handmade, and awesome)


Jeffrey 12:21 AM  

Thank you Rex for the daily dose of education, music and fun that you provide. And for the community of virtual friends that you have created.

Anonymous 1:30 AM  

Merry Christmas!
Thanks for the lovely Peruvian illustration. I play VICUNA all the time in Scrabble, but I give up, what is it?

IDAE = redo the corner...

re: 6A. You're lucky you got it after two guesses...RAP, EMO...I thought BOP.

re: 39D Had TIGHTS for TUNICS, thinking of Mel Brooks "Men in Tights"
(insert hilarious clip here!)

re: 60D had RIAL for LIRA.
Thought it kinda cool mistake that there are two kinds of money that are anagrams of each other.

re: 9A. Wondered why it wasn't MADAME Secretary, so waited on that one.
Looks wrong to me without the E.
But MADAM I'M ADAM, so I guess that's how we spell it in this language we call English...

(Besides ALICES I think the only female references in the puzzle)

I mean, total boy puzzle: nine football teams, SNEAD, OSAKA clued to a baseball player...

(I'm not going to even comment on 21D Bust Holder = BRA)

Someone needs to UNMAN this trend in crosswords!

As god/Rex is my witness, I will get HELLOKITTY into a NYT puzzle one day!

Shanti11 2:28 AM  

I haven't even looked at the puzzle yet, but I know that Christmas Day will be a zoo and I probably won't get to solve it until the evening, so...

Merry Christmas all!

Doug 4:16 AM  

Nice, simple theme. Just right with holiday reruns and wine.

SNO Balls is as close to Xmas as we get. JAPAN, then TOKYO and finally OSAKA. Really liked UNMAN (as a clue.)

I wish RP and all fellow puzzlers a great Christmas. Our family did gifts tonight and will spend the day skiing with friends at Whistler. A great way to spend a family holiday, and I hope you all have an equally fine day.

Anonymous 8:24 AM  

Enjoyed the challenge of the puzzle, which took me a while to figure out as I was falling asleep over it last night and had to finish this morning. Didn't know there was a football team named Texans so that also made me pause a bit.

I had no problem with a non-Christmas-themed puzzle as there are many for whom Dec. 25 does not hold the same significance as it does for Christians, and it doesn't seem necessary to me to regularly key puzzles to particular days throughout the year. Once in a while is just fine.

This puzzle (for no reason specific to the puzzle itself) made me realize something about my solving preferences. For a long time I've known that I prefer to try to get all the answers on my own, that is, without filling in all the letters through the crosses. So if filling in the answer to one clue would complete another answer that I haven't yet gotten (or at least read the clue and tried to figure out), I make sure I read the clue for the other answer and make an un-aided attempt first. (Does that make sense?) What I realized doing this puzzle was how that habit would prevent me from doing well at any timed event. It's such a strong preference, I have trouble "violating" it.

Best wishes to everyone. I often lurk here but don't find time to comment. My puzzle-related activities have lessened recently due to the birth of a wonderful granddaughter who (weather permitting) is due to arrive today for a five-day visit.

Mary in NE

Anonymous 8:45 AM  

So, no puzzle for me today. My only reason for coming here:

What's in the Basement?

imsdave 9:05 AM  

That was a strangely difficult solve for me. I am so with Andrea on IDAE - the A was the last letter in the puzzle for me (of course, I'd use it in a heartbeat if I had to).

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

yeah me too -- i was reading something in the newspaper and thought... Hey, so .. now we can find out .. what were they making for Rex in the basement??? So -- spill, why doncha! No puzzle for me today .. Thursday starts to be when the rubber doesn't meet the road for me. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:16 AM  

One minor quibble: Since the answer to 9A is MADAM, shouldn't the clue be: ________ Secretary? (i.e., capitalized?)

Happy Humbug.

Anonymous 10:43 AM  

I kept expecting a Christmas theme. Even after I finished the puzzle, I looked for it, but only found football teams.

I also wrote in "rial" initially as the anagram of liar.

edith b 10:44 AM  

Couldn't see the forest for the trees today. I spent so much time hung up on who the cathederal in Austin was dedicated to. Sam Houston> Stephen Austin? Perhaps Jim Bowie or Davy Crockett? No, that would have been San Antonio.

A sports theme was the farthest thing from my mind but I did finally tumble to when I pieced together 20Across.

Could someone explain 59D : IDAI to me?

Rex, what's in the basement?

Anonymous 11:30 AM  

I thought since we had BRA for support, somehow AMPLE should have been tied in there. Maybe that's just over the line that we already were approaching.

Couldn't figure out the theme once again till I came here. Can't say I was overly impressed with it or the phrases that made it. I got the BRONCO answer first and kept looking for imbedded designers (like COCO). Oh, wait. I just finished getting the theme. At first, I saw BRONCO, COWBOY, and TEXAN. Didn't see that each theme was three teams. I'm still not blown away, but I'll grant you it's better than I thought.

Merry Football Day.

Chorister 11:54 AM  

Got the theme surprisingly early for me

Easy, fun: I got SKA without a glitch. I must have heard of these people somewhere & had it tucked away in my subconscious for future crossword use.

Also had TIGHTS for TUNICS at first

After all the years of syndicated puzzles I was looking forward to a Christmas puzzle on Christmas, but I guess football on Football Day is next best.

My God Man! The basement! We must know what was in the basement!

Leon 11:56 AM  

Happy Holidays to all !

Thanks to RP and all for making me a better solver.

Nice debut Mr. Tentarelli. Liked learning about ALBEDO.

Anonymous 11:59 AM  

Aha! There it is -- what is in the basement. I must have missed the p.s. and link the first time.

Just could not be COOLER -- the surprise! Very sweet and thanks for sharing the suspense and then the surprise with us! Love it!!

Shamik 12:15 PM  

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukkah!!!

We did all celebration on the Eve with the husband's family. Today we usually do a difficult hike. Alas, it looks like serious rain in Arizona. Go figure.

Very well done present from the basement and lovely mug. And thank you for the SKA clip. Fill it in regularly, yet never actually listened to the music before.

Oh yeah, the puzzle. Also surprised at the football teams...seems more appropriate for T'giving. Wanted TITANCHARGERBILL, but it didn't fit. And i knew that lions don't chase TNUS. Otherwise, no misstarts. Medium puzzle here for me.

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

Merry Christmas folks! Nice present, Rex. I was wondering if they did the NFL theme because of the 6 week syndication. I pulled up a mental blank for COWBOY, and guessed on OHARA for Kim. Overall I was happy with the puzzle. No crossword present for me this year. Or comic book presents.

jae 12:30 PM  

Yep, RIAL for me and I too was looking for the capital S in Secretary. Thought this was so so.

@edith b: Its IDAE. Try googling "IDAE suffix," you sort of get an explanation.

For a Christmasey puzzle try the BEQ that Rex linked to yesterday.

Happy Holiday's all.

Anonymous 12:45 PM  

@ Andrea,
The vicuña is an Andean animal, relative to the llama and the alpaca. The Incas used to keep them for their fine wool.

Great Christmas gift Rex! My congratulations to Sandy for a fine work indeed.

Anonymous 1:06 PM  

I liked the symmetry of 26D CAIRN and 30D CAIRO.
also 9D MASON and 52D STONY.
The Houston TEXANS...I learned something.
Too easy for a Thursday, i have so....much...time.
Rx thx 4 teh blog mre xms

Hungry Bird 1:57 PM  

Re: idae...Finally the tuition I paid to be a zoology major pays off! Kings Play Chess on Fiber Glass Stools indeed. For me, spinners = arachnidae.

@ACM, Bob K. et al, couldn't agree more re: Madame Secretary. I put in Madam thinking I would later have to change it and am irritated that it was correct. Perhaps the constructor is a francophobe freedom fry fresser?

I got lucky with "ska." I'm a recovering guitar teacher. One of my students loved the genre, so I had to learn some to teach some. Those who can't...take lessons from teachers. Touche.

@ Rex, I loved your presents, table and mug. Both were lovely.

We have the same favorite Christmas carol. We have a mixed home. Humans are Jewish. Dogs are Christian. They love, "Oh Howly Night." The "fall on your knees" crescendo gets the entire neighborhood throwing their head back for the nine dog chorus.

If any of you have howling dogs, I guarantee "Oh Howly Night" will be a major hit.

At Passover they howl "Dayenu."

janie 2:09 PM  

my fave balance thang was the placement in opposition of SLOWPOKE and AUTOBAHN. took me quite a while to grasp the theme -- but do like the stringing together of the player-types to create descriptive phrases.

as someone who does not celebrate christmas (and who generally loathes the ever-lengthening duration of the "holiday season" [but is very happy for some time off from work...]), i certainly didn't mind the lack of a holiday-themed puzzle *today*. that gorski on sunday did the job to perfection -- and then some!


Doc John 2:16 PM  

Happy Day to all!

A fun puzzle today. Even though I've heard of all those teams, I really didn't piece it together as a theme. Oh well.

Very cool gift you got, Rex! Homemade always seems to be better- a true gift from the heart.

Was I the only one who put in "jerkin" for TUNICS? I also had "isceum" for SACRUM, "shed" for MOLT, "sham" for SCAM and "shot" for SANK.

Is UNMAN really a synonym for [Emasculate]? Because that's surely not what I think of!

Anonymous 2:17 PM  

No Christmas theme? Too bad. Brendan Quigley's puzzle would have been a good one today!

Anonymous 2:24 PM  

@rex: fabulous creative Christmas presents for you and Sandy!

@andrea carla michaels: I LOVE Hello Kitty!

I thought the puzzle was OK ... only slight stall was pulse for PUREE. I am a sucker for a Christmas theme so will check out Quigley's puzzle today. Thank you Jae for the tip.

I hope everybody has a wonderful day off ... something I plan to enjoy to the max.

Oh, and I thought a vicuna was a small, weasel-like, minkish sort of animal. Good to know it's like a llama. That's good to know, right?

Chorister 3:04 PM  

Had a bit o' trouble getting online here at the Grandfolks'. But once that was solved, found the link the basement. Awesome!

I guess at this house we're having a Merry Basketball Day. Board games to follow. I'm voting for Scrabble so I can use vicuna.

Doc John 3:21 PM  

BTW, VICUNA is really "vicuña".

green mantis 4:02 PM  

Easy schmeasy, but as a Jamaican music snob I do have a quibble with Byron Lee as the guy who pioneered ska. My understanding is that he was an early act that brought visibility to ska outside Jamaica, but he is not usually cited among those who really originated it. More of a showman than an in-the-trenches guy.

Is it wine-drinking time yet?

green mantis 4:02 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 4:05 PM  

Wanted AFL at 34D to stand for American Football League and the 9 teams in the grid to all be former teams, or even better, the charter members (which the Bills, Broncos, Texans and Chiefs were).

You just inspired this palindrome:
Madame, i.e., Madam
(p.s. I'm Mitch from Vibrato)

Merry X-words everyone!

Anonymous 4:42 PM  

That was Bettie Paige pictured on the cover of "Bust" magazine in your writeup. She died two weeks ago to the day. RIP Bettie.

Rex Parker 4:55 PM  

I'm pretty sure that's Gretchen Mol *playing* Bettie Page in "The Notorious Bettie Page." Gretchen Mol currently stars in "Life on Mars" and is ... not unattractive.


fergus 5:16 PM  

I saw that movie and thought Gretchen Mol was fantastic.

RIAL? check. Maybe we rejected LIRA since the plural didn't seem quite right. But I know my golfers and couldn't come up with any Masters champs with the fourth letter L. Nor any NFL teams ending with RL, either. Still thought at that stage, though, that something could be a afoot possibly with COWBOY GIRL?

Instead of LUCE I had LUCY, probably because I once lived next door to eminent anthropologist Donald Johanson who was a fine neighbor, but had the ego of a five year-old boy, always quick to tell your of his latest award or discovery. I don't think he ever thought to ask us about our mighty achievements.

I first entered DEMAN before UN-, but if you're thinking along those lines, why bother?

And yeah, I recall a list of football teams, similarly arrayed if not Clued, maybe about a year and a half ago.

green mantis 5:47 PM  

I always get Gretchen Mol mixed up with the girl who plays Kimber on Nip/Tuck, which the google tells me is actually someone named Kelly Carlson.

Also not disgustingly ugly, in a you-just-won-the-genetic-lottery-to-a-degree-rarely-seen-through-history way.

Also, there's a site called Let Me Google That For You which, according to the page, "is for all those people that find it more convenient to bother you with their question rather than google it for themselves."

Have you seen that Rex? You could direct people to it when they argue points of "fact" in the comments without having done any basic research, an event I know brings you great joy any time of year.

Anonymous 5:57 PM  

Breezed through this one, dropping guesses across and down. SKA, OSAKA, IONA, SACRUM, etc. Not a very Xmas-y puzzle, but then I'm not a very Xmas-y guy, so fine with me. Now I'm off to drink some of the fine pumpkin whiskey that my daughter's boyfriend made. (No, really, it is, it's fine.)


48D: Never heard of Al Bedo, tried Al Bundy but it wouldn't fit.

21D: Someone said BRA--OMG! WTF! Almost lost my breakfast! Women have breasts? Who knew?

38A: Texan is a football player? News to me. From Texas, I suppose. Don't care that much for football, despite living in the most football-crazed state in the nation (Nebraska).

16A: Bygone Olds? Aren't all Olds (Oldses?) bygone?

Have a great holiday...

Anonymous 5:59 PM  

Totally in awe of the table!!!!!!!!
Loved esp the black panthers/pumas
You are one lucky sumofabeotch!
Thanks for the suspense and the sharing! I envy your life (in a good way, not in a John Lennon-stalking way!) ;)

You should try today's; it's semi-easy...and maybe your rubber will be on the road (ick...sorry!)

Can't believe it's you!!!!!!
What ever happened to us?

Try and put an S on VICUNA so you get the 50 point bonus! UNIVAC is not good (yet!)

Waxy in Montreal 6:01 PM  

Talking of deaths, the passing of the fabulous Eartha Kitt has just been reported - ironically on Christmas Day given her fame for a most steamy rendition of Santa Baby. Of course, she's equally famous for her role as the original Catwoman in the megacamp original 60's Batman TV series.

mac 7:25 PM  

This was one easy Thursday for me - I was just happy Larry heard my message about the trip cut short and he came through even on Christmas Day!

I'm sorry you never watched the West Wing, Rex, it was pretty good. What I liked even more was "Commander in Chief" and that series disappeared for no good reason!

Madam secretary should have a capital, but it came immediately anyway.

Sorry, guys, we had a lovely
Christmas lunch, which lasted 5 hours, with too many different alcoholic beverages, and I'm tired or whatever you want to call it.

Anonymous 7:32 PM  

Just heard about Eartha Kitt's death on this day; loved her singing. her "Santa Baby" is better than Madonna's creepy rendition (though the song is awful). Don't know if last Sunday's puzzle mentioned Kitt in re "Santa Baby"

@Waxy, thanks for the Catwoman memory. RIP Eartha the Great . .

mac 7:57 PM  

@rex and sandy: the table is fantastic! You will enjoy it and remember these times for so many years to come.

RIP Eartha from me, as well.

chefbea 9:09 PM  

didnt have time to do the puzzle today. - went to three different children and just got home. Tried to get some of the puzzle but guess I'm suffering from the same ailment as Mac

Our roast beef - done on the grill!! - and yorkshire pudding was unbelievable.

@rex and Sandy - what a great table

Time for bed see you all tomorrow

As we were coming home tonight - Santa Baby was playing on the radio - then I get home and saw on the computer about Eartha Kitt

Anonymous 1:45 AM  

I thought, didn't she just die a few weeks ago? But realized I had conflated Eartha Kitt with Yma Sumac. Don't ask.

Anonymous 4:19 PM  

For the record: "Albedo is the fraction of solar energy (shortwave radiation) reflected from the Earth back into space. It is a measure of the reflectivity of the earth's surface. Ice, especially with snow on top of it, has a high albedo: most sunlight hitting the surface bounces back towards space. Water is much more absorbent and less reflective. So, if there is a lot of water, more solar radiation is absorbed by the ocean than when ice dominates"...from the web

retired_chemist 10:58 AM  

Interesting that the syndicated puzzle came out in Super Bowl week, and neither Super Bowl team (Steelers, Cardinals) was mentioned. Where is prescience when you need it.....

xyz 6:54 PM  

I am going back and doing older puzzles; just happened on this one as I wanted a Thursday and I get in with the syndicatees. Didn't get the theme until a D-oh! moment here. :-) Not much of an American football guy, watch (FSN) Fox Soccer (arrrgh) FOOTBALL channel late at nite.

In short ALBEDO (albedo) is the reflective capability of an astronomical body, not a person named Al, it's not limited to the Earth or any other body in particular. This is relatively obscure even for Astronomy folks. GREAT! word.

WAXY in Montreal, that's coincidental, not ironic.

And one last cool bit of trivia, you men can get a Lora Piano suit made of superfine vicuña and pay over $40,000 for it.

Anonymous 12:11 PM  

I enjoyed seeing NOLAN clued as someone other than Nolan Ryan or Christopher Nolan for a change. I don't think I'd ever seen David Nolan in a puzzle before. Other Nolans of note are entrepreneur Nolan Bushnell (founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese), lawman Richard Nolan (FBI agent who helped catch Al Capone), musician Eric Nolan (formerly of the O'Jays), and actress Jeanette Nolan (who was a voice in Disney films, among other roles), so there are plenty for clue-makers to choose from.

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