Ertegun who co-founded Atlantic Records — FRIDAY, Dec. 25 2009 — 1843 work in five staves / Tannenbaum topper / Iconic flamers

Friday, December 25, 2009

Constructor: Paula Gamache

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "A CHRISTMAS CAROL" (10D: 1843 work in five "staves") — grid contains three additional answers related to the Dickens story

Word of the Day: AHMET Ertegun (7D: Ertegun who co-founded Atlantic Records)

Ahmet Ertegun (Turkish: Ahmet Ertegün; July 31 [O.S. July 18] 1923 – December 14, 2006) was the Turkish American co-founder and executive of Atlantic Records and chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and museum, described as "one of the most significant figures in the modern recording industry. He also co-founded the New York Cosmos soccer team of the North American Soccer League. // In the 1960s, Atlantic, often in partnerships with local labels like Stax Records in Memphis, helped to develop the growth of soul music, with artists such as Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett. Ahmet heard Led Zeppelin's demo and knew they would be a smash hit after hearing the first few songs. He quickly signed them. He also convinced Crosby, Stills and Nash to allow Neil Young to join them on one of their tours, thereby founding Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Ahmet helped introduce America to blue-eyed soul when he discovered the Rascals at a Westhampton nightclub in 1965 and signed them to Atlantic. They went on to chart 13 top 40 singles in four years and were elected to the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.


Interesting puzzle, but what the hell is this grid supposed to depict? What shape is that? A ghost? The only ghost it resembles is one of the ghosts from Pac-Man (my sister's first response upon seeing the grid: "Space Invaders?"). A Christmas tree? That's one messed up, lopsided Christmas tree. Neither wife nor I can figure it out. Like the way the theme answers intersect here, but feel like the rest of the grid is engaging in some serious Christmas overkill. Sneaking TINY TIM in was nice (24A: With 35-Down, brother of Master Peter), but JINGLERS (32D: Sleigh bells and such)? And then giving a Christmas-related clue to every possible answer? Dial it back. In addition to not getting the grid shape, I don't really love SOCIAL CLIMBER (12A: A-list wannabe) — great as a phrase, but weird for a non-theme answer to be longer than 3 of the 4 theme Acrosses in the grid. Wouldn't be so noticeable if it were directly under BOB CRATCHIT. I enjoyed this puzzle for its originality, shape-wise, and for its ambition. It was rough for me, in patches, but overall, mostly enjoyable.

Theme answers:

  • 9A: One who worked in a "dismal little cell" (Bob Cratchit) — spelled it CRATCHET, which created huge problems in the already difficulty NE. AHMET!?!? RIBCUT (8D: Club steak, e.g.)? ENYA as an "artist????" (16D: "And Winter Came ..." artist). What's the opposite of TERRIF (11D: "Super!")?
  • 26A: With 32-Across, one subjected to "incessant torture of remorse" (Ghost of / Jacob Marley)
  • 53A: One who saw his name upon the stone of a neglected grave (Ebenezer Scrooge)

Besides the NE, my other trouble spot was in and around SOIL (51A: Agrarian concern). Couldn't do anything with it. Couldn't get ENGEL (60A: Tannenbaum topper). Took a while to see IONS (52D: Na+ and Cl-). Made a good guess at SSTS, which helped (63A: Tupolev Tu-144s, e.g.). Also, perhaps because the very phrase YULE LOG sounds repulsive to me, I completely suppressed it and had ... YULE POTS. Needless to say, I did not approve that answer. Sadly, real answer (totally valid) didn't make me any happier (34D: Iconic flamers).


  • 25A: Stocking stuffer (toy) — best wrong answer of the day: TOE.
  • 44A: Noted Bauhaus teacher (Klee) — had no idea he had anything to do with Bauhaus or was ever a "teacher" of note. Live and learn. And then forget, mostly, if history is any indication.
  • 58A: Michael who wrote "Charmed Lives" (Korda) — I know him from a book about bestsellers called "Making the List." There was once a tennis player named Petr KORDA. Coincidentally, my sister and her husband are playing tennis on the Wii Fit (Christmas gift for their boys) as we speak.
  • 40D: Hutch's head, briefly (Hef) — What the ???? I have never heard the term "Hutch" for (I'm assuming) the Playboy Mansion. This must have been common parlance in some misty era before I was born, or before I became an adult. The only "Hutch" I know partnered with Starsky.
  • 50D: "The ___ Williams Christmas Album" ("Andy") — as Nelson Muntz once exclaimed, "ANDY Williams!?!?"

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. Here's your Christmas present — another puzzle to amuse you this holiday weekend. It gets a little ... blue in places, but I assume you all can handle it. The puzzle was inspired by a comment on this blog in which the commenter confessed to having initially misunderstood the theme of this past Sunday's puzzle, "Inside Dope." Thus, I offer you "Inside Dope, Part 2." Enjoy.

[as always, click on "Print" below, or go here (to the forum at to get a .puz / AcrossLite version of the puzzle]

Inside Dope

PPS Hardcore followers of this blog (particularly this blog's comments section) should find this puzzle entertaining — an untitled effort by reader "imdsdave"


treedweller 2:52 AM  

Wow, I was just checking for late comments from yesterday--didn't expect a new write-up. Santa came early!

I was assuming this was a Christmas TREE, though I admit I was struggling to accept it, myself. I suppose the ENGEL is out of the picture.

My fastest Friday ever, I think, though I am in about the same place as always relative to other times (on those few Fridays I have finished), so I figure this is one of those holiday puzzles that doesn't quite match the difficulty for its day of the week.

Same TOe as Rex, same CRATCHeT, same huh? on HEF, same drive from yesterday (sort of--not as severe, but Texans don't really know how to drive on ice and like big pickup trucks, so still plenty scary). But I don't have the same YULELOG asociations (well, I didn't . . .) and I don't mind the excessive xmas clues much.

But I'd like to return my GUCK on Boxing Day.

Happy Kwaanza, everyone!

andrea grrs michaels 3:47 AM  

Same here! Checking for late responses, (as the highlight of my evening has been watching someone try to tackle the Pope
Wasn't that weird that no one in the procession even turned around to LOOK???!!!)

Anyway, saw this was already posted so felt compelled to tackle it...
Very Rohrschach-y (sp?) but I see a tree with ACHRISTMASCAROL as the stalk and that little black square atop as the star.

(Tho no comment on 1D having CAROLS in the clue and 10D CAROL in the answer?)

Hutch = rabbit hutch,
rabbits = bunnies, bunnies serve Hugh Hefner ='s like playing six degrees of Kevin Costner

Yes, weird little subtheme of GUCK and GOO and GEL...
I once made a list of all the four letter words in Scrabble that mean sticky or gooey for a puzzle I was making for their's amazing how many there are:
GLUE, GUCK, GUNK, GLOB, GAMY, GAUM (to smear), GORM (which means to GAUM) GELS, GLOP, GOOP, GOOS, GOBS, GOOK (which just means GOO),
throw in GORY and GUTS while you're at it...

35A Something to do twice? Since it was all Christmas-y I put in CHECK (as in Santa's checking his list twice)

NE tricky with mess-ups FDA and RIBEYE.
Misspelled EBENEEZER with 5 E's which scrooged up the bottom for a bit...

In a puzzle trimmed with SSGT, SSTS, GRRS, DESC, ODING (none of which are TERRIF) There was some fun answers like 6D Kind of rock = ACID...felt subversive.

I forgot the theme for a while and spent too much time trying to come up with RASKALNIKOV (again sp?) when I saw the -----OF of GHOSTOF.

Mme Bovary's Ovary seems to scream some set up for a joke or puzzle...
or at least a dirty limerick...
Darkman? dk? Wade?

drew 4:15 AM  

Had docket for 15a (order in the court), which is definitely a better answer than decree. I liked it so much that I refused to accept that it was false, which led to some... issues.

Elaine 4:33 AM  

Hey, what about GHOST OF?...

I thought the white squares kind of made a fir tree with sweeping branches--though the top got lopped off, so to speak. Doesn't quite show up if one converts to black....

Hand up for RIBEYE...and I had FLY (on the fly! better for Santa) at 62A...
AHMET...first I tried AHMAL, since that would have had a tie-in with the holiday ("..and the Night Riders.") Hey, you can't have TOO MUCH Christmas, so let's not be Scrooge-y about theme answers!

I must say, this did feel a bit strange, what with the BOVARY, GUCK, GOO, and (oh, thanks a bunch, Rex) YULE LOG, which clue and answer I liked *before* reading the Blog.

Having had 9+ inches of rain here in 2 days (no kidding--this is now the wettest year in Arkansas history by 6+ inches) I must say I'd rather see snow. But that's just me; we brought our snow shovel from Ohio when we moved!

Have a Merry Day!

Elaine 4:40 AM  


Unknown 7:10 AM  

It's gross: Guck? Yuck!

I guess I'm old enough to recall that the Playboy bunnies lived not in the Playboy Mansion (reserved for girlfriend du jour) but in a separate residence, the Bunny Hutch, where the titular head would have been Hef, but the House Mother was in charge.
Oldsmar FL

bookmark 8:12 AM  

Husband and I are staying in a riverfront hotel on the SAVANNAH River, watching large container ships from around the world glide by. What a relaxing way to spend Christmas after many family get-togethers this past week.

Nice puzzle and unusually easy for a Friday.

I think the grid looks like Santa Claus.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Nebraska Doug 8:41 AM  

One of my fastest Friday's ever. I agree with treedweller, "I figure this is one of those holiday puzzles that doesn't quite match the difficulty for its day of the week." Ahmet was a gimme for a music geek like me, I guarantee it was a gimme for BEQ.

Unknown 8:52 AM  

I assume the grid is a meant to be a Christmas tree.

Perhaps someone else has already pointed this out or Rex was being sarcastic, if so, I apologize.

CoolPapaD 9:21 AM  

I almost didn't try this, given how hard I found Wed and Thu this week, but I'm glad I did - no real problems, once I discovered the theme. I'm not a real music geek like Nebraska Doug, but Vanity Fair seems to have had a lot of articles about AHMET Ertegun in the past few years, so he was a gimmee for me.

Hands up for TOE, even though there was no "?" to indicate it was a POW - seemed TOY was too easy.

@ACME - I also noted the Carol issue - is this OK or not OK? I was always under the impression that it was not. 1D would have been easly to clue differently. Also didn't think GUCK was a word, but I had no alternative.

Favorite clue was for NRA - very cute!

Happy Holidays to all!

joho 9:29 AM  

Well, I loved this puzzle because it's all about Christmas. ACHRISTMASCAROL, BOBCRATCHIT, GHOSTOFJACOBMARLEY, TINYTIM, YULELOGS, JINGLERS, a TOY, an ELF, an ENGEL, a partyGOER singing faLALALA with a big LAUGH and a HOE HOE HOE. (Well, it works phonetically!)

Thank you Paula Gamache for making my Christmas morning a little bit brighter!

PIX 9:31 AM  

I have been spending too much time on this noted above i saw "carol" in an answer and in a clue and started getting very upset...I never used to worry about such things.

At least according to Dylan, 35A should be clued as something NOT to do twice (..."You're the reason I'm trav'lin' on..Don't think twice, it's all right.")

Is the DUI answer a subtle reminder that there is a lot of drunk driving going on this time of year and you really don't want that on your tree?

Peace everyone

retired_chemist 10:00 AM  

I had no problem with the asymmetric Christmas tree - (1) it represents a TREE, after all, not a geometric construction. IF (2) it had to be done that way to get all the Dickensian answers to fit, then fine, so be it. IF not, THEN GOTO (1).

Hand up for not knowing KLEE had anything to do with the BAUHAUS - I had associated that only with architecture. Live and learn.

VAIO was my only WTF. Agree JINGLERS is kinda, well, less than aesthetic.

A happy holiday today to all.....

mccoll 10:12 AM  

I did it last night with a dull crayon in a record Friday time while waiting for Santa. He never showed, the jolly little elf. Don't think twice, it's all right. I had already seen to the new LCD TVs two weeks ago, plus satellite, plus internet, plus telephone. So there!
I instantly filled in HEF for 40D. Signs of an ill-spent youth, no doubt.
I can see Santa Claus or a tree if I squint. See the boots at the bottom?
@Treedweller - What's a Kwaanza? Sounds like an exotic fruit.
An enjoyable puzzle for Christmas. Thanks Paula Gamache and to all,have a year filled with compassion.

Alex S. 10:17 AM  

I accepted that Emma Bovare could be someone in literature I'd never heard of.

So I was stuck wondering what it meant to say that elves make toes.

In the NE, having put in AHMED, RIBEYE, and FDA made that the last corner to come clear.

Leslie 10:18 AM  

Yep, I see the tree in my paper version just fine, with the central top black square being the ENGEL.

I didn't know, and won't remember, VAIO. While I loved all the Christmas answers, my favorite non-Christmas answer was PIT CREW, because of its being plural without an S on the end. Nice misdirection for a bit there.

Merry Christmas to all!

Meg 10:20 AM  

@Andrea Grr: I also wondered about the many slimy entries. Very strange.

I thought the bunny HUTCH clue was worth a chuckle.

Daughter says we MUST play the latest Nancy Drew computer game NOW! Happy holidays and thanks Rex for the 2 extra puzzles today!!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:21 AM  

Good Christmas puzzle, IMHO.

Struggled a bit in the NE, mainly because I threw in AHMED before AHMET (not much up on pop music.)

Only other write-over was ANGEL before ENGEL, hadn't caught on that Tannenbaum meant "It's German!"

I don't believe GUCK was in my vocabulary before this, and I never knew TURIN had been capital of Italy.

Merry Christmas to all!

(On the menu of the restaurant I was in last night, "Christma's special offerings".)

dk 10:31 AM  

drat, busted for posting on xmas morning.

**** (4 Stars)

Hope Santa was great to you all.


Two Ponies 10:59 AM  

I think one of the clues got mixed up.
Tiny Tim is the iconic flamer!

xyz 11:05 AM  

It's a TREE (the shape), D-OH, that much I got right away

Easiest Friday I've ever done got about 80-85% of it. Must be super-easy

SCALD is not really what blanch is, SACRO as pelvic prefix, one of ... maybe

Very awkward in places, ENGEL?
I figured it HAD to be ANGEL. Well, that corner went to hell fast and when I was doing so well on a Friday for me.

Overall, pretty uneven puzzle, must wonder if this is the best that they could do for a holiday puzzle?

Meryy Christmas Day, if you don't celebrate it,



Cool Dude 11:08 AM  

Loved ANDY Williams. His Christmas album is often the soundtrack to my family's festivities, so I was quite excited by its inclusion in the puzzle. Also, I think the puzzle may be shaped like a sprig of holly or even some mistleTOe.

Cool Dude 11:09 AM  

Loved ANDY Williams. His Christmas album is often the soundtrack to my family's festivities, so I was quite excited by its inclusion in the puzzle. Also, I think the puzzle may be shaped like a sprig of holly or even some mistleTOe.

JannieB 11:15 AM  

The grid looks like the bottom 2/3 of a Christmas tree to me, but Rex, your all black square version reminds me of the door knocker that morphs into the face of Marley's ghost. Coincidentally, this movie was running on TCM this morning (the Reginald Owen version) and I was watching it while fixing breakfast. Oddly, those theme answers just kept jumping onto the screen.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. "God bless us, everyone."

The Corgi of Mystery 11:36 AM  

Popping in here super quick to wish folks a merry Christmas. Must. Not. Burn. Kitchen. Down.

Masked and Anonymous Santa 12:02 PM  

I vote for (whimsical) christmas tree grid design intent. I would also vote to credit ACHRISTMASCAROL as one of the main theme entry list items. Otherwise, Rex is pretty much spot-on as far as comments on the puzzle.

Martin 12:09 PM  

The tree is a lot nicer if you consider it the white space, not the black squares. It even has a trunk. It's one of those silver-sprayed noble firs and it's huge. The top is out of frame. It's probably from a department store lobby.

Rex Parker 12:17 PM  

Black space, white space ... it's really not looking like a tree no matter how hard I squint. I don't mind too much — unusual grid shape is (almost) always welcome, if only to break the monotony.


George NYC 12:22 PM  

I am in Massachusetts for Christmas. Drove through Natick. Got lost.

jeff in chicago 12:47 PM  

I can't decide whether the easier-than-usual Friday puzzle is a gift, or if I think a real gift would be a terrifically hard Friday puzzle. In the spirit of the holiday, I deem it the former.

The CAROL thing bugged me, and we also have DOSED and ODING, which are a bit too close for me.

Perhaps the puzzle shape is the tree from the Peauts special?

Have a great day everyone!

C.D. 12:49 PM  

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.

Their faithful Friend and Servant,
C. D.
December, 1843

Campesite 1:04 PM  

Thanks to Rex and the commenters for the gift of this blog.
Peace to all,

mac 1:11 PM  

It's a Christmas tree, covered in snow, with the top chopped off, just like the one at my friends' house last year. It touched the ceiling, looking as if the tip was upstairs in the bedroom.

I had a lot of fun with this puzzle! Hand up for toe, and I had falala until I got the jinglers, which I actually found funny. There was a nice edge to this puzzle which seemed to fit my mood.
I'm having a very good Christmas.

@Andrea: isn't it Kevin Bacon?

@the redanman: blanch is very much like scald; you blanch vegetables by putting them in boiling water for a very short period of time, for instance before freezing.

Not cooking today!

Jim in Chicago 1:23 PM  

Late to the game today. Slept in, then pancakes (yum), then puzzle.... so, everythings been said already.

So, just a Merry Christmas from rainy/foggy Chicago.

Oh - I vote for "its a tree".

Steve J 1:26 PM  

I'm with Rex (and Jeff in Chicago) on the grid: if that's a tree, it's a tree only Charlie Brown could love. But at least I didn't feel like I was having to deal with a lot of crap fill to work around a clever but clunky grid. So in that regard, the unusual shape worked.

Easy Friday for me (record Friday time, in fact). Only major hangup was that I somehow ended up with JANGLER for a while. Not sure how I did that. Maybe it was somehow a peripheral casualty of having had FALALA for a while. And GUCK looked wrong to me all puzzle. Still looks wrong, even though I know it's right.

Non-theme fill was indeed Xmas heavy, but it is Christmas, after all. So it seemed to fit. Although, that makes GUCK and GOO that much weirder in a puzzle so heavily filled with Christmas material.

JannieB 1:51 PM  

Husband is making Christmas dinner - beef Wellington!!! - so I had time to do our gift puzzles. Enjoyed them both. IMSDave's was a bit more difficult - and Sunday-sized to boot! It should provide great fun for the blogosphere regulars. This is his second entry in what I hope he'll make an annual event (at the very minimum!). Thanks guys, for the goodies in my stocking.

ArtLvr 2:45 PM  

Thanks to C.D. above for dropping in, with gentle words for all... admonitions to both LAUGH and THINK, the satiric "Piece" org. NRA, and minitory "cause for weaving" -- DUI.

Talk about DECREE: FYI, for those passing through NY State, it's now a Felony (even on first offense) to be caught driving while the blood alcohol level is over the legal limit if there is a minor person aboard. Names of those apprehended are also published prominently.

@ Elaine: sympathizing with your record rain and it feels as if we're running not far behind in Chicago! Mixed reactions here, as lack of icy streets is a boon, but a light snow would have been prettier.

@ mac: agreeing with your view of the tree with cascading branches in close-up shot that cuts off the top (with ENGLE)! Still amazed that I saw the classic Irving Berlin film "White Christmas" for the first time last night!

Roast pork tonight, for a change, and a sampling of legendary cloudberry preserves from a Swedish exchange student -- I was thrilled to find out what they are like after reading about them for years!


Karen from the Cape 2:45 PM  

I did the puzzle quickly, but I messed up AHMET. And DANA/IONA.

And thanks for the extra puzzle, Rex. But why do I feel so hungry now? And thanks to imsDave, hooray, I'm in a puzzle!

Marry Christmas to all.

Ulrich 2:58 PM  

Very nice holiday puzzle, even if our tree was never topped by an Engel, always by a Stern (star), and that held me up a little. I'm surprised nobody called "Natick" over SAAR--Mosel/Saar/Ruwer is an officially recognized wine-growing region, dating back to Roman times. Oh, and Kandinsky taught at the Bauhaus, too...

@mac: I love the image of an xmas tree growing through the ceiling--but with that much doctoring, I can even see a (beheaded) Santa Claus in the grid..

Ulrich 3:04 PM  

..Oh and @imsdave: You already delivered on one of my New Year's wishes, to have my name appear in an xword puzzle--thx!

Doug 3:05 PM  

A fine Xmas tree, in a 1970s "Pong" kind of way!

Enough said about this one as I just did the bonus puzzle after a frantic morning opening presents while baking fresh bagels and croissants.

@RP: You must have been in a very merry state of mind post-exams when you wrote this one!

In this season of mirTH, Celebrate well my friend.

David 3:20 PM  

With the YULELOGS blazing - on the hd screen they almost look real - and thoughts of the new Sony VAIO laptop - an object of beauty - dancing in my head, I set to work on this puzzle.

And it produced - a Christmas Tree?

Happy Holidays everyone!

Anonymous 3:23 PM  

Help! Why can't I find a link to imsdave's puzzle?

Shamik 3:26 PM  

@Rex: You must have only ever had artificial trees with perfect symmetry and not the Charlie Brown's of my own former years! ; ) And thank you and Merry Christmas for all you do to keep this blog on task, lively, funny, informative and available!

4th fastest Friday for me at 7:42 and I wasn't rushing. Enjoyable and given the holiday, ok for any flaws. Peace on earth, etc.

Low key day here...have to go to work in a few hours. All celebrations completed last night. Now the next holiday IS the ACPT, right?

Elaine 3:33 PM  

I don't think my grid matches your grid; I can't find the same shapes. I have no idea why. I agree, YOURS looks ugly, but mine is (as I noted above) a topless tree (probably from The Hutch.)

Now for pot roast and gravy, fingerling potatoes, green beans, and fruit cake with real ice cream. This is instead of a cooking orgy!

Daughter is hearing from friends in Oklahoma City --snowmageddon-- and Bro-in-law is snowed in there in Minot ND-- no trip to extended family this year. But being safe is better!

Is ismdave's puzzle the LAT? Will seek it out....

See you tomorrow!
Elaine in Wettest Arkansas

retired_chemist 4:09 PM  

@ Elaine - imsdave's puzzle is on Orange's blog. Follow Rex's link to it.

OKC is a mess, weatherwise. Dallas's weather has been much better than the news has been posting - 1/2 inch of snow, hard freeze last night, beautifully sunny (but cold) today.

retired_chemist 4:32 PM  

@ Rex - Thanks for the Christmas present puzzle. Fun.

PlantieBea 4:57 PM  

Thanks for the Christmas puzzle, Paula Gamache. To me, the grid looks like a tree wearing black Santa boots. Or maybe an angel wearing boots...Too much Christmas chocolate I guess. Hand up for TOE on the first pass. I knew AHMET--went to the Led Zep tribute concert a few years back.

Now, off to roast the beast and finish the banana cream pie. Happy Christmas Day to all.

chefwen 6:03 PM  

Toe and angel for me too. A fun filled Christmas puzzle.

To Rex, Orange, Puzzle Girl, and all who comment here, a BIG thank you for brightening my days.

Merry Christmas


Anonymous 6:34 PM  

Still can't find imsdave's puz - where on Orange's site is it?? TIA

Rex Parker 6:39 PM  

Just click the words "this puzzle entertaining" in my write-up about the imsdave puzzle. It's a link.


edith b 7:24 PM  

It was a Christmas tradition at our house for Father to read "A Christmas Carol" aloud to the family. He had a mellifulous baritone voice that he was proud of and liked to show off. He was active in Community theater all his life.

My point being that once I saw the expression "dismal litle cell", I knew that the puzzle was themed and what the theme was and I found the puzzle chock-a-block full of neons and it was an easy solve for me.

Gloria Steinhem wrote a piece called "A Bunny's Tale" in the early 60s where she worked as a Playboy bunny in the Manhattan "hutch" which was how she referred to the Playboy club on several occasions in the piece. She, of course, was a noted feminist but the piece had a whimsical air about it and it was hardly an expose of Hugh Hefner's empire although he did take offense to it.

There were several clunkers in the NE, IMOO, SOCIALCLIMBER prominent among them but all in all I enjoyed this little piece of Christmas on Christmas day.

Oh, and I vote for seeing a tree in the grid. And I was thrilled to see my name in IMSDave's puzzle but when I showed it to my husband, he sniffed.

CoolPapaD 7:38 PM  

Rex-Loved your puzzle today. Does this mean that you created it in the last few weeks? If so, even more kudos! Off to try IMSDave's! Couldn't see the link earlier on my first-generation not-so-smart phone.

Rex Parker 8:55 PM  


"Inside Dope" came out just this past Sunday, so, yeah, I wrote it quickly. In a day, actually, with a little more time spent on editing / proofing / getting feedback from test-solvers (thx to Orange and PG ... and to Tyler Hinman and BEQ for assistance in getting the fantasy footballer clue right.


Stephen 10:28 PM  

A Friday easy enough even for ME! What a Christmas gift! Thanks.

Someone whined about engel. I did stumble on it, but when I got it I LIKED it.

TOE is great. Wish I'd thought of it. Glad I didn't.

Germany has at least a dozen 4-letter rivers, and at least 3 that end in AR. gad. Took a long time to drop that ACID.

PITCREW and HOE were fun.

The tree is a lock, people. Department store version, with baubles on it.

sanfranman59 12:06 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. 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 6:38, 6:56, 0.96, 42%, Medium
Tue 11:00, 8:44, 1.26, 94%, Challenging
Wed 13:46, 11:58, 1.15, 85%, Challenging
Thu 16:56, 18:56, 0.89, 23%, Easy-Medium
Fri 18:15, 25:44, 0.71, 4%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:35, 3:41, 0.97, 50%, Medium
Tue 5:31, 4:28, 1.23, 92%, Challenging
Wed 6:46, 5:52, 1.15, 85%, Challenging
Thu 8:58, 9:07, 0.98, 51%, Medium
Fri 9:52, 12:17, 0.80, 11%, Easy

Based on the median online solve times, this puzzle ranks as the third easiest Friday for all solvers and the sixth easiest for the top 100 in the 30 weeks I've been tracking data. It seems that Mr. Shortz cut us some slack on the holiday.

Ben 12:05 PM  

Give 'em a break, Rex. It's clearly meant to be a Christmas tree. There's only so much you can do with 15x15 and the standard grid rules.

Love Petr KORDA and Goran Ivanisevic becuase they are tall lefty hotheads on the tennis court, just like me.

Jackie 7:15 PM  

So unthinkable to me was the answer ENYA for "artist" that I just kept my first answer, GOYA, for 16D, and figured that DECREG was some legalese term I hadn't heard before. (TURIO, I figured, must have been some obscure form of ancient currency.)

TOE so should have been the answer to "stocking stuffer." I guess you know you've been doing xwords too long when you assume a straightforward, easy clue is trying to mislead you.

GUCK instead of "gunk"??? Come on.

WilsonCPU 11:46 AM  

From SyndicationLand, I give up. I got the whole puzzle, but am stumped by Rex's "Demon" comic graphic for the paragraph about Ahmet Ertegun. What the heck is the connection? Since no one else asked, I have to assume it's _really_ obvious, but I ain't getting it....

Singer 12:20 PM  

It probably is a good idea on Christmas Day to have an easy puzzle - after all many of us have other priorities that day. But in syndiland five weeks later, it was just too easy for a Friday puzzle. After yesterday, I didn't forget that today's puzzle was the Christmas one, so all the Christmas Carol references came quickly and easily.

I think if you look at the black squares, ignoring the NE and NW corners the Christmas tree shape pops right out.

I did make the toe for TOY mistake, and I didn't know Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's OHIO - I put in Oh No, which gave me dun instead of DUI. Couldn't figure out what dun had to do with weaving.

Happy Friday to everyone in syndication land - can't say Merry Christmas.

Bob Kerfuffle 3:06 PM  

@WilsonCPU --

Not exactly obvious, but . . .

Doing a little reverse engineering on Rex's blog: If you click on the "Demon" comic graphic, it opens to a larger version of the same picture. Reading the entire cover yields nothing. But look at the address in your tab (sorry, whatever you call it.) It says "Etrigan.jpeg" or something. Googling that name tells us that the name of the Demon is Etrigan. So Rex is just having a little fun with the name Ertegun.

BassManPDX 8:30 PM  

Out here in syndication land (Oregon), I'm starting to learn to check the original date of the puzzle for a clue to the theme. After completely missing the theme on the previous puzzle (I completed the grid, and determined that the theme was "All About EVE" rather than the date-appropriate "Christmas EVE") I had full awareness that today's puzzle would most likely have a Christmas theme, and that helped a lot with the longer theme answers.

At least there were no clues pointing to CAGANER, KRAMPUS, or that foulest of YULE LOGS, the CAGA TIO!

I'll be on my toes next week for New Year's themes!

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