1970s first mother / SAT 12-25-10 / Twentieth century producer / Perfection under fire product / Corrosion-resistant plating

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Constructor: Stanley Newman

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Santa ___ — names of famous places that start with SANTA

  • 19A: Santa ___ (CATALINA ISLAND) — never heard anyone call it anything except CATALINA ISLAND ...
  • 36A: Santa ___ (MONICA MOUNTAINS) — ... whereas I've never heard anyone call these MONICA MOUNTAINS, and furthermore I never think about SANTA MONICA as anything but the city (where Best Friend 1 lives), or maybe the BOULEVARD (it fits!) so ... weird and weird so far.
  • 48A: Santa ___ (ANITA RACETRACK) — And weirder, as this one is not (like the others) a geographical feature ...
Word of the Day: LILLIAN Carter (18A: 1970s "first mother") —
Lillian Gordy Carter (August 15, 1898 – October 30, 1983) was the mother of former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter. She is also known for contribution to nursing in her home state of Georgia and as a Peace Corps volunteer in India as well as writing two books during the Carter presidency. (wikipedia)
• • •

Kind of an odd fake Christmas puzzle. Theme answers don't produce much joy. Fill is fine but unremarkable. Cluing is interestingly much more like Stan Newman's "Newsday" cluing than it is like the typical NYT puzzle. That is, it relies more on short (often one-word) and vague cluing for its toughness than the typical Shortzian creation. I'm thinking of [Point] and [Point] and [Tap] and [Zip] and [Spring] and such. [Go around] isn't ORBIT, it's AVOID. [Stir up] isn't AGITATE (as it should be), it's ANIMATE and the cross, [Imply], isn't GET AT (as it should be), it's AIM AT. That said, it wasn't all that hard, and there's hardly an obscurity in sight, so what toughness there was was welcome. [Put away] — is that about eating, or stowing, or ... nope. It's killing (DO IN). In the end, I liked this puzzle fine, though the theme left me cold.

Some interesting moments:

We've got STENO (7D: Old office worker) and STERNO (44D: "Perfection under fire" product), so lucky us.

I invented two words today: MAZING for 23A: Stunning (DAZING) and ADORATES for 37D: Fawns over (ADULATES).

I could remember the villain himself from 2009's "Star Trek," but not the actor who played the villain in 2009's "Star Trek" (xword-friendly Eric BANA).

Other wrong answers:
  • ORDINAL for 8A: Point (DECIMAL)
  • SPICE for 30D: Oomph (JUICE)
  • ASTI for 34A: Sight from the top of the Leaning Tower (ARNO)
Also, could not get ANDROMICA out of my head at 20D: Wife of Perseus, probably through conflation of the actual answer (ANDROMEDA) with Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus."

  • 1A: "The Twentieth Century" producer (CBS NEWS) — probably the hardest answer of all for me, as I don't know what "The Twentieth Century" is and I was looking for a person, not a news organization. This was especially weird when I thought the actor who played Nero in "Star Trek" was Billy ZANE. "CZ-NE-S?!?! Who is that?"
  • 44A: Happy cohort? (SNEEZY) — transparent, but I still liked the clue. That's the playfulness I like / expect in my late-weekers. (and it's a "Snow White" reference, in case somehow that's not yet abundantly clear)
  • 45A: Company with an I.P.O. in both 1992 and 2009 (AOL) — 1992. Wow. Seems early, but I guess I got my first email address in 1991, so maybe not so early after all.
  • 14D: Wiseman who directed "Live Free or Die Hard" (LEN) — wanted LES, which was good enough to get the ball rolling up there. No idea how I (2/3) know the name. Interesting fact: the first "Die Hard" was a Christmas movie. This "Die Hard" ... I don't know.

  • 38D: Corrosion-resistant plating (TIN) — "Tin roof! Rusted!"

Merry Christmas to all relevant parties. If you frequently read the comments section, you might enjoy this blog-based holiday puzzle by my friend Dave Eckert (whose dad is the eponym of a local theater here where I live, but that's another story...). Get it here. Enjoy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


glimmerglass 7:53 AM  

My grandchildren aren't here yet, so I had time to do the NYT puzzle. Agree with Rex down the line. What difficulty there is comes from vague clues (could be two or three answers).

davko 8:08 AM  

The lamely punned theme answers should at least have been set up as verticals, where they would have had some west-to-east geographical congruity from L-R.

The most familiar section of the Santa Monica Mountains, which bisects the city of Los Angeles, is often dubbed the "Hollywood Hills." The rest, a segment referred to as the "Coastal Range," runs roughly from Malibu west to the Ventura County line. Relatively undeveloped, it's the province of hikers, climbers, and mountain-bikers (but not skiers; it rarely sees snow).

I stared a long time at my misbegotten NE corner (where I went SPLAT for 11D) before realizing you don't really need an old chair to have a splat. Switching to INLAY really opened things up. The rest of this grid was easy.

r.alphbunker 8:09 AM  

When I saw Stanley Newman's byline my reaction was a four letter word that could translated as "Oh no, I have to get through two Saturday Stumpers on Christmas!" Stanley Newman owns me on Saturday. I rarely get through his Saturday Stumper without checking for errors to find what I have wrong. It is not unusual for every letter of an answer to turn red. Today was not too bad but he got me on 50A "Stir up" for which, like RP, I had the very reasonable AGITATE. The error check turned the G and 1st T red and I immediately got ANIMATE.

 This is the type of obscurity that Newman specializes in. It reminds of perverse answers on student tests that I mark off but then have return the points when the student comes up with an unlikely scenario where his answer is correct!

Smitty 8:30 AM  

SANTA ANITA RACETRACK opened the puzzle for me - and coincidentally, the track itself opens tomorrow, December 26, showing off its new dirt (changed back from synthetic- which had been changed from dirt) surface.

SANTA CATALINA is a geezer thing @Rex..."26 miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is awaitin for me" by the Four Preps

Merry Christmas everyone!

donkos 9:13 AM  

Merry Christmas to all! I enjoyed this puzzle if for no other reason than I was able to complete it - a perfect gift for the day!

CaseAce 9:39 AM  

"twas nothing to Sneezy at, no sirree bobalouie! Glad the little woman and I took a shot at a Saturday for a change and are pleased as Punch we did, as we completed it with only a minimal amount of cheating...Ho Ho Ho!
Merry Christmas all you Parker Roly Poly's and do enjoy this seldom seen snowy day with friends and fam!

mmorgan 10:26 AM  

Musta been easy -- I don't often complete an entire Saturday without a google peek or two.

Matthew G. 11:00 AM  

This was a weird solve for me. On my first pass through the grid, I filled in almost nothing. Then I got to the SE corner and got started with CLAP and ACLU, which gave me the UP in TOSSUPS, and I had a good foothold from which I moved through the rest of the grid. I suspected immediately that the "Santa _____" clues would involve West Coast geography, which caused a pang of alarm, as I've lived east of the Appalachians my entire life. But thankfully the only obscure one — Santa ANITA RACETRACK (somehow I never before imagined there being horse racing in California, to be honest with you) — had the easiest crosses.

Good puzzle. Agree with Rex --- theme barely there, but puzzle solid.

Merry Christmas, Crossworld!

Mel Ott 11:18 AM  

Easy puzzle for a Saturday. Western geography in the theme, but familiar names to most Easterners. Mr. Newman must be taking it easy on those who went to Midnight Mass. (Great music last night.)

FWAD = FAT burgers at 22A.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone.

jyp0625 11:31 AM  

I guess this puzzle is relatively easy if I can get 70% of it before I need any help. I had trouble with the NE and SE corners. I agree with Rex that much of the difficulty stems from the misdirection of clues. But I prefer misdirection anytime over obscure words.

I missed DECIMAL in 8A, LILLIAN in 18A. I had ENDGAME for 59A and I have no idea what TREACLE means.

The theme was a bit forced but I enjoyed the puzzle nonetheless.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

Merry Christmas to all....

Rex nailed it with: Kind of an odd fake Christmas puzzle.

After yesterday this was a downer, though it might have worked better as a regular Thursday. But, on the other had, who's doing puzzles on Chruistmas?

Neville 11:45 AM  

Had SPICE for far too long!


I got more theme-joy from today's CrosSynergy and LAT puzzles, but not bad at all. I think if I take this as a themeless, it's not too bad.

Tobias Duncan 11:53 AM  

Loved the puzzle,fake Xmas is best Xmas as far as I am concerned.
I too invneted ADORATES today.
An easy Sat puzzle is a nice gift to those of us bringing up the rear around here...

Hope everyone is enjoying time with their families or whatever makes them happy!

Jim 11:53 AM  

Biiiiiigggg boo-urns on the theme. Hate it. Hate the one-word cluing. Hate the grid construction and its stacked sevens.

For all you natick gripers out there, how do three random, California-specific arcana pass muster?


Besides, when all the Santa misdirects all point to (essentially) the same phenomenon (the seeming ubiquity of San or Santa in everything CA does), how is that clever or interesting?

Huge step backward for me today after three successful Saturdays in the last four. Good thing I celebrated Christmas last night.

joho 11:58 AM  

Easy peasy Saturday Christmas puzzle ... I'm happy!

Merry Christmas everybody!

Sparky 12:34 PM  

Managed two thirds but had to stop. Christmas taking its toll. Remembered song, Santa Catalina and the racetrack. Had anti, not ACLU. @jyp0625, treacle is molasses. It's sweet but not chicken fat. Goood point.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate. Have a great weekend everybody. I'm off to drive through the land of plastic Santas and Snowmen in front of palm trees.

syndy 1:04 PM  

Don't say Its my favorite but my longest running wrong answer was the Santa Susana mountains'so the mid-west was my last fill.Dazing didn't jump to mind but zoning out finally set me right!Liked having a western centric puzz for a change (yes even if we don't say it there is always a silent santa in california-)

Doc John 1:23 PM  

Fastest Saturday ever for me. A very California-centric puzzle, for sure. I also thought AOL was early but then remembered that I was on Prodigy in 1990, so... what the heck.

I also had a malaplop (I think that's the term). Had REST early on only to find out it fit later on. I love the term STAT but don't get to use it very much. :( I guess that's a good thing.

Merry Christmas to all that celebrate it.

retired_chemist 1:49 PM  

Well, look what Santa brought. Easy here. And fun. Thanks, Mr. Newman.

The Four Preps' biggest hit was "26 Miles (Santa Catalina)." Huge in my heyday and certainly not forgotten, at least not on the Sirius 50's channel. You young'uns need this kind of exposure to the good old days.

Slapped down RATATAT, ruled it out by 3D REST, 4D ELAN, and 7D MIMEO ("worker" could be interpreted metaphorically). When REST appeared correctly @ 50D, 3D got erased, and RATATAT, WARING, and ON A DARE made the NW fall smoothly.

I assume many others tried PISA @ 34A. Thought it was too ovious for a Saturday. When ANDROMEDA ruled it out the correct ARNO showed up.

To this chemist, TREACLE (aqeuous/carbohydrate) and SCHMALTZ (lipid) were not obviously synonymous. But, as metaphors, they are indeed, so long as you ignore the chemistry. Which in this case you should.

ANON B 2:12 PM  

Don't understand 56D. Foot up=ADD

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

Foot up means to add a column of numbers

Really easy for a Saturday & I usually cannot say that!

jberg 2:35 PM  

Two points:

"26 miles across the sea,
Santa Catalina is awaiting for me .."

Or is is Sunny Catalina? Anyway, the island of romance!

Second, I loved the diagonals in the SW:


Not quite perfect symmetry, but nice try.

chefwen 2:50 PM  

Easiest Saturday for me in a looong time. Place me in the "loved it column". Started it last night after my guests rolled their full bellies off to bed and ripped through the rest without pause, except agitate and adorate. Had only one A in place in RACE and got the track immediately. Perhaps I have spent a little too much time there.

Nice little X-mas present.

Anonymous 3:03 PM  


In addition to being a prominent lyric, the last shot of the montage shows a 45 with Santa Catalina as a second title.

John V 3:08 PM  

Thanks for the Christmas present, Stanley. I rarely attempt Saturday, just because weekends are so busy. Today is very quite in CT, so I had the luxury to tackle this one. Only misses were in SW, where I had DPTTEST @60A and couldn't see past that. No so bad for me, though.

Merry Christmas, all!

Larry 3:52 PM  

Really this puzzle belongs in the LA times with all of the LA area features.

Twentieth Century Producer is a real geezer clue. I recall watching this documentary with my Father in the 50s when it played on Sunday afternoons with host Wally Cronkite, but I'm 58, so that means this was really aimed at the post 60 solvers. Rather this than some hip-hop star I am not likely to know. (excepting the crossword star Dr. Dre.)

Stan 4:57 PM  

This was an enjoyable solve, even if a bit of a softball for a Saturday -- fine with me since I finished. Also I get kind of Christmased out by this point in the year, so the three Santas (with their SoCal associations) were plenty enough for me in the way of seasonal theme.

ADORATE is very funny...

Happy midwinter to all!

(Off to do the bonus puzzle)

Shamik 5:32 PM  

Easy-medium, though I got two squares wrong in the SW: AGITATE for ANIMATE. Now I knew this was wrong, but my mind couldn't jump the gap.

Received "world's largest crossword puzzle" from my SIL...something like 6-1/2 feet tall...which I am not. Am reluctant to see how Dell it might be. Will report back in the future. At least I have a son-in-law who is thinking of something I might really enjoy. And that's a very good gift, indeed.

retired_chemist 5:48 PM  

@ ANON B 2:12 - Agree "foot up" is a toughie. I have never heard the phrase. Googling "'foot up'dictionary" gets that meaning, but more often it occurs in conjuction with "your a##."

santa andrea clausa michaels 7:02 PM  

I thought it was super fun to have three random Santas! I mean, it's not easy to come up with a fresh Xmas theme! And Santa ___ fit the bill for me.

Those would make great Holiday Drag queen names...
"Hi! I'm Santa Anita! Come sit on my lap little boy" ;)
"I'm Santa Monica!" said with deep voice, fake beard, fake breasts, 5 inch spiked heels with lots of tinsel.
(yes, my 20th+ Xmas in SF!)

I agree tho, with @Larry...prob more fitting in the LA Times, as few would know the Santa ANITARACETRACK back East.

Can't get the "26 miles across the sea..." tune out of my head.
Thanks for the clip, @Rex...maybe I'll replace it with "Tin Roof Rusted" which was a phrase I could never figure out they were singing no matter how many times I heard the B-52s or saw the video.

mac 10:09 PM  

Nice little puzzle, which I solved in spurts between all sorts of food, in fact 3 meals!

I too had agitate, get at, adorates, and on top of that felt so good about "deal" instead of "clap" when there were no crosses yet to set me right.

Loved the "sneezy" clue.

@doc John: had the "rest" malapop as well.

@shamik: lucky you with a toughtful SIL!

Hope you are all having a wonderful holiday. Mine is very calm and delicious.

I skip M-W 2:51 AM  

Seemed quite difficult at first, but soon saw Santa Anita Racetrack. For those who remember Jack Benny on (CBS) radio, wasn't Phil Harris always sneaking off to that track? Not to mention several movies in which it figures,as well as noir detective novels. From where I'm sitting in Berkeley,I can see the Golden Gate Fields track, though I've never been, we certainly do have horse racing on the west coast, and S A is the premier track. The amazing Zenyatta did much of her racing there.
That made the rest fall into place quite easily. California is full of Spanish sounding place names that formally have San or Santa in front, as in Ventura, short for San Bonaventura. One key exception is LA, for Victoria de Los Angeles, victory of the Angels — no, not the beisboll team!

Anonymous 10:07 AM  

Can someone explain TOENAIL for 27A - low tip? Is it just low because it's on your foot and the tip of your toe? Ugh.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

Oops - that was supposed to be for the Sunday puzzle.

Chip Hilton 2:53 PM  

Way late with this comment, but like many, I was too busy to get to it right away. Just found this to be an extremely easy Saturday puzzle, coming on the heels of a Friday puzzle that ate me for dinner. Belated Christmas greetings to all from blizzard-ridden southern Connecticut.

mmorgan 10:40 PM  

Doubt anyone will get this ... and we're driving from DC back home to Amherst tomorrow (snow permitting)... but just want to say that Monday is a bit more difficult than usual. Not a Tuesday, but maybe a Monday evening.

liquid el lay 8:24 AM  

took a look at the the puzzle Christmas evening- but did the solve sunday morning on an observation deck on point dume.

it had rained Christmas night but was now clear and you could see across the santa monica bay to the snow covered san gabriels, and, further out, san jacinto, i think.

I had the bizarre santa anita race track and was thinking- LA friendly, at least. it didn't occur to me that the track was somewhere under those san gabriels.

then i got santa catalina island and looked up and there it was, dead ahead of me, floating on a shimmering sea.

after that i tried to work in santa susana mountains- always liked that name.. then i found the santa monica mountains... and i turned ninty degrees to my left, and looked, and nothing but.

fergus 8:58 PM  

Not that it matters at this point but I was liking PHILOMENA ...

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

Syndicated solver--it's now 1/29/11. Probably no one will read this now but it usually takes me all weekend to solve the Saturday puzzle. What was this --a Christmas present to regular solvers. I filled in "CBSNews" almost immediately and finished the puzzle over breakfast.

Cary in Boulder 1:43 PM  

Merry Xmas to everyone living in the past.

Easy by definition if I get through a Saturday unscathed. Especially after getting brutalized yesterday. My FWAD was CALLOT, my last fill, which I had crossed with DO IT until I couldn't figure any way to Tap a 17th century French engraver (Jacque).

Plenty old enough to remember "26 miles across the sea." Closest I ever got to Sta. Catalina was standing on the dock checking out the QE2, which is right next to the ferry to the island. Was tempted to hop on just because of that song.

Crossed the ARNO many times when we were in Florence, but don't think of it as running thru Pisa, too.

aggvhl= an inflammatory drug?

Marc 5:38 PM  

Fairly easy for a Saturday, except for the NE corner, which had me stumped for quite a while. I had DOWN for "put away" (eat, that is) before I finally tried DOIN. As an ESL teacher, I can only imagine what my students go through trying to remember what phrasal verbs like "put away" are supposed to mean, when they can have six or seven interpretations.

I never would have thought of INLAY for fine furniture feature; in fact, I couldn't think of anything and got it on the crosses.

Spent too much time trying to think of something like SKIT or PLAY for "place for a ham", before finally getting DELI.

Some nice challenges in the NE but otherwise a fairly straightforward solve.

Anonymous 11:27 PM  

Happy Christmas Past from SyndiLand!

Seemed like a medium to me. Got AMES right away (where I started my oh-so-lengthy college career) but went with ALPS for the leaning tower view. Guess the tower isn't that tall?

Enjoyed the west coast bias as a nice change of pace to the usual east coast headscratchers.

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