Merry Christmas, BFFs, Mon 12-24-12, Savanna grazers, South American plains, Spain's longest River, Sycophants

Monday, December 24, 2012

Greetings from the North Pole!!! Liz and Jenny here, aka Rex Parker's BFFs.  Today, we're not only his BFFs, we're also his little helpers.  Rex is busy wrapping presents for the brilliant daughter and the beautiful wife (a little elf told us that he went to Jared!). Since Hanukkah was so last week, we graciously agreed to be his Christmas Eve elves.

Oh, and also, he wrote the puzzle, and blogging about his own puzzle is totally not kosher.

Constructor: The King of Crosswords, aka Michael Sharp, aka Rex Parker, aka our BFF

Relative difficulty: As Easy as beating the NY Giants last night

Here's the fabulous Rex-written puzzle:


Word of the Day: SYCOPHANTS —

Sycophant[1] is obsequious flattery.
Alternative phrases are often used such as:

In Sunday's blog, Rex said the following:
Christmas Eve puzzle is by ... Me! So I won't be here tomorrow. But someone will. One of my sycophants, no doubt. So see you Christmas day! 

Guess he couldn't find any SYCOPHANTS, so as always, we selflessly agreed to do his job.
• • •

We loved this puzzle.  It was fun, it was easy, even Liz's 7-year old daughter knew some of the answers (Thursday comes after Wednesday!! (56D) Acorns come from oak trees!! (57D) Ok, maybe she had to recite the days of the week to get to Thursday, and her first guess was a pine tree, but come on.  She's 7.  It's late.  And she gets an A for effort...someone give that kid a trophy!!)

Theme answers:
  • 17A Yesterday's joe? (STALE COFFEE)
  • 24A Scouring pad material? (STEEL WOOL)
  • 36A Bonus for showing panache? (STYLE POINTS)
  • 47A What Jackie Robinson did, famously, in the first game of the 1955 World Series? (STOLE HOME)
  • 56A Informant? (STOOL PIGEON)
To be honest, we were a little stumped by the theme (see above).  We were looking for the Christmas tie-in.  Or the Festivus reference.  Kwanzaa anyone?  But it was a good solid theme and very fun to solve.

  • 14A The ____ State (New York)?  (EMPIRE) — Also known as home to the one and only REX PARKER himself!!!
  • 16A Rite ____ (drugstore)?  AID — Also, our new most un-favorite store.  Why?  Because on Tuesday, December 18, Liz went into her local Rite Aid to buy a pair of reading glasses (we know what you're thinking..."no way are the BFFs old enough to need reading glasses!!!"  But alas, it's true, we're older than we look). Anyway, what was on display at Rite Aid on Tuesday, December 18?  VALENTINE'S DAY CANDY!!! That's right. A full 7 days before Christmas.  Can't we just celebrate one holiday at a time???  (Don't ask if she bought any of the aforementioned candy...we have no comment).
  • 44D 1986 Tom Cruise Blockbuster? (TOP GUN) —We think that we LOVE this movie.  But, we're in this movie club with our BFF, and we've been watching "all" of the movies that were released in 1987.  There are so many that we thought we remembered loving, but really we hate it ("3 Men and a Baby" anyone?)

We'd like to thank our BFF for allowing us to blog about his puzzle.  Merry Christmas to all who celebrate.  Happy New Year.  Peace on Earth.  And all that sappy crap.  Until next time, we leave you with our favorite Christmas song.  

Signed, Liz and Jenny, aka the Sycophants, er...BFFs!!

One last thing.  In case you were wondering, here's what we'll be doing on Tuesday:


An elf with Horns 12:05 AM  

This puzzle was so easy, it makes my wife look virtuous and faithful by comparison.

PS. Christmas is only 7 days after 12/18.

Liz Glass 12:08 AM  

D'oh! Thank you for finding the typo!!!!

Anonymous 12:09 AM  

The 'theme entries' were all nice, but the vowel progression (yeah, yeah, with the bloody 'ell) probably amused the constructor more than most solvers. I wouldn't expect most Monday level solvers to see a 'theme'. As a themeless though, it's nice.

(Not surprisingly, the U sound, the toughest entry, is marginal here (to be kind). You kind of have to pretend that it's not off. Is it just me, or is the difference noted by you too? Or, for the younger crowd, "U 2 ?".)


Too bad about the ADA / GATEAU entries. Also too bad that they cross. It's a vowel, which will give more people a chance, especially because the A is probably the likeliest guess for most. But a possible kill square for a Monday level solver. What I don't get is why it's there. 22A, 22D, 23D, 28A could have been reworked many different ways.

To boot, after yesterday's CORACLE, if you're stuck with ?ATEAU on a Monday, BATEAU would have been away cooler choice over GATEAU.

Anonymous 12:16 AM  

This puzzle was so easy that it has a great future as a cocktail waitress in VEGAS.

Unknown 12:27 AM  

We beginners appreciate another easy Monday, as well as fun blog by BFF's.
Wishing you all Happy Holidays from the Holy (some still say Promised) Land :)

chefwen 1:20 AM  

Anon 12:09 - Because we already have boat at 7A, we're talking cake here.

Super easy - one write-over @63A STa before STN.

Husband tore through his copy in 10 min. A personal best for him, a non-puzzle type. Now if you did an all sports puzzle, he'd leave me in he dust.

Anonymous 1:26 AM  

Absolutely awesome puzzle. Bravo!

Yes it was easy but also fun with lots of zippy answers. The easiness was balanced out a bit with stuff like STRIDENT and GATEAU but overall just a great solving experience.

Thanks Rex!

syndy 1:33 AM  

Had STa but TOPGUa didn't look right.Doesn't Michael always do vowel progressions? Okay so Galoot #1 took the gateau out of the OAST and fed it to Galoot #2 then they eloped on a pair of elands to the LLanos.Yuks!9:01 one finger

jae 2:27 AM  

BFFs, I love you guys.  Thanks for the chuckle. This was a medium Mon. for me, but the GATEAU/DULUTH/ADA/BOTS area seems a bit tough for the Mon. level solver (yes, there is such a person, I play golf with him). Liked the subtle vowel sounds theme plus a bit of zip...SPAMBOTS, STOOLPIGEON, YUKS, VEGAS ... So, pretty nice Mon. Michael.

And, for a circa late '80s Christmas movie I highly recommend Die Hard. 

Ada Coffee Maitais 2:45 AM  

style points for STYLEPOINTS!

Danp 5:59 AM  

Ooh! I think I see baby Jesus in the grid. Or not. I guess it's just another stairway to heaven.

Nickyboy 6:06 AM  

That theme was as weak as water! Boooo!!

and merry christmas to all of yins.

Anonymous 6:48 AM  

If anyone else had constructed this puzzle, #31 would have skewered him. A "sound" AEIOU progression? Weak. Some of the fill as old as the hills. Quite meh in my opinion.

Anonymous 6:52 AM  

Monday is Monday and easy is easy, and he doesn't like criticism, this was WAY too easy (though with some nice surprises).

Unknown 7:12 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown 7:15 AM  

really great stuff for all viewers by this puzzle game for this Christmas. really enjoyable it is.favorite christmas song

MetaRex 7:30 AM  

Rex runs a tight ship in today's Christmas Eve puzzle.

I like YALE and YULE instead of STALE and STOOL to bookend the STEEL STYLE STOLE middle. I don't think Will and most of us in CrossWorld are ready for that level of looseness...then again, we weren't ready for GO COMMANDO back in the days I constructed my Maleska puzzles.

evil doug 7:44 AM  

A big notch above normal Mondays. Bylines, empire, tote, patents, Psalms, strident, Edsels, saloon, Duluth---a nice respite from the typical early-week cliches.

Liked the theme answers, too. Stale coffee seems a little less likely than the others, but those four are vivid and true to the ear.

Saw 'Top Gun' the day after I passed my DC-9 copilot check ride, so I was pumped. I don't see Tom Cruise as the Jack Reacher I've enjoyed in every one of those joyously politically-incorrect novels, but he did okay as a Navy flyboy. And I wrote an article entitled 'Day One' about Delta taking over the Pan Am Shuttle. I was a new 727 captain conscripted to fly some old, tired Pan Am airplanes between LGA and DCA that first morning.

A joyous and peaceful Christmas to you all,


Anonymous 7:49 AM  

When I saw the constructor's name, I wanted to tear this puzzle to shreds. But then I remembered the Chrimbus spirit. Plus Rex has been exceptionally nice to constructors for the last couple of months, almost inexplicably.

The good: this went down like butter. Only GATEAU made me wince.

The bad: STALE COFFEE is on the cusp of contrived. STYLE POINTS is the only plural in a sea of non-plurals. STOLE HOME is the only verb phrase in a sea of nouns. But I didn't notice that stuff until after the puzzle had been solved, in near-record time.

All in all, this is everything a Monday puzzle should be: easy as pie, good for casual solvers, yet something for people like me to complain about.

chefbea 8:02 AM  

Loved the puzzle. It was great and an easy solve.
Loved the write-up. You BFF are great. I saw that cartoon of Santa coming down the chimney while tje family is lighting the menorah and he explained that the smell of the latkes brought him to their house.

Noticed the bleed-over BY.

Now, to the kitchen to get a head start on tomorrow's feast

Merry Christmas

Rob C 8:15 AM  

Fun puzzle. Good solid Monday-type theme. Definite STYLE POINTS for some of the fill. MAITAI, VEGAS, SPAMBOTS, STRIDENT. Lots of the clues have a current VIBE also.

Is STALE COFFEE a saying meaning "something old" or is it simply old coffee? Just googled it, doesn't seem to be a saying. So it could be STALE-any item that is 6 letters long.

One small inconsistency, 4 theme answers are Adjective-Noun, the other is Verb-Noun. Some are bothered by things like this, but not me.

Really hoping for a panagram - not to be though. Merry Christmas Eve to all!

Anonymous 8:33 AM  

Michael looks so stern in the picture. Is that his professorial persona?

Tita 8:33 AM  

Damned if you do, damned if you don't...

Woulda been fun if NONE of the words used the "right" vowel for the you did with STYLE & STOOL...
Wow - ain't at all easy.

And then there's that spurious STRIDENT non-theme answer...

Overall it was a fun solve.

dk 8:46 AM  

Nice puzzle Rex. You have got the construction part down now show us a little soul. I know you have it. I can see it in your elves.

Merry Christmas to all.

**** (4 stars) A very solid puzzle: just sayin!

jackj 9:09 AM  

Our intrepid blogger 31* gives us a Monday puzzle with a clever gimmick, a phonetic long vowel progression using unique two word phrases with the vowel sound in the first word of each phrase squeezed in between an ST and the letter L. (Think, STYLEPOINTS for the letter “I”, for example).

The clever theme phrases, all but one, (STOOLPIGEON), were appearing for the first time in a NY Times puzzle. Other ST words sprinkled throughout the puzzle, STE, STN, STY and STRIDENT seem to be only teasers, not part of the theme.

The fill had its share of crossword clichés, EREI, IDO, EBRO, et al but in a tolerable amount and there were also some superb non-theme entries, especially SPAMBOTS, DAYONE, BYLINES, GATEAU, TIPTOE and a Barrymore/Kennedy clue looking for a shared first name and, nicely, it isn’t the John’s, it’s the ETHELS.

This was an accomplished puzzle from Michael who now has had Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday puzzles published in the Times; can Friday and Saturday be far behind, allowing him to “hit for the cycle”?

For those who keep track of such things this was a pangram {minus three (Q X Z)}.

Welcome back to Jenny and Liz with their fun review!

Merry Christmas to Rexworld.

Unknown 9:17 AM  

I hate to be Grinchy, but this wasn't my favorite. If a Monday is going to be this easy, it needs to have a zippier theme/reveal, and the vowel progression thing has been done so often. I agree with whoever suggested having all of the theme answers have the misleading kind of words for the sound ala STYLE, STOOL. Would have added interest. Also, the nature of this theme created sooo many ST occurrences...5 in the theme and then another 7 or so by my count. Kept wondering if ST Nick would pop up, given the timing. Liked the clue and answer for STYLEPOINTS a lot.

Glimmerglass 9:20 AM  

Theme? What theme? Oh, maybe a word ladder? Ok puzzle for a Monday, maybe, but I like 'em harder than this one. No brown nosing here.

Rob C 9:25 AM  

@Tita and Susan McC- I believe the vowel progression theme with "incorrect" letters has been done before. Maybe within the last year or so. Can't remember any details, so I couldn't find in xwordinfo archives.

joho 9:32 AM  

@Rob C ... Really hoping for a panagram - LOL!

Once I figured out it was the sound not the actual letter, I really liked the idea. Seems fresh. STYLEPOINTS was the most unexpected and my favorite.

@Tita ... great idea! That would have added a whole 'nother layer to the theme.

@BFFs ... your best write-up to date!

@Michael, thanks for a fun Monday and don't be drinking any STALECOFFEE with your GATEAU!

xyz 10:12 AM  

This puzzle suxs big time no I is inexcusable and there's no way to YUK is a big laugh.

Bah humbug.:-)

Twangster 10:16 AM  

I broke my NYT record by several seconds (3:09). My goal for 2013 is to break the 3-minute mark.

Qvart 10:17 AM  

Okay, you’re all in for it now –

Like I said in a previous comment, the NYT is non-existent in my hometown (where I’m visiting my family for xmas), but I was curious to see @Rex’s puzzle so I broke down and revived my puzzle subscription.

Here we go…

I haven’t used AcrossLite in years so typing my answers into the grid slowed me down a bit versus doing it on paper. In the end, I really don’t think there’s such a thing as a bad NYT crossword, and this one holds up as well. Pretty fun.
For some reason the food/drink answers stood out:

STALE COFFEE…MAI TAI…GATEAU…NESTEA…”Who wants cookies?” – I do!!!

The Rite Aid where I currently live has an old school lunch counter/coffee shop and is worth frequenting for good diner style food. They still have some vintage equipment too and do milkshakes and vanilla Cokes. I couldn’t find a good picture of a Rite Aid lunch counter online, but here’s a pic of what they remind me of (there was still a Woolworth’s with a small lunch counter in my hometown when I was growing up in the ‘80’s).



Tita 10:26 AM  

@qvart - you just made me realize that Rex was teasing us yetserday with the pic of his talented daughter with a big batch of cookies...

Just liked this puzzle a whole lot more, for that reason alone.

Also wanted to say thanks to the BFFs for a fun writeup.

Merry Christmas!

PIX 10:43 AM  

how can you have Duluth as an answer without refering to Dylan?

Bob Kerfuffle 10:50 AM  

I hadn't grokked the theme fully, in that I didn't realize a long vowel sound was required, so as I approached the end of the grid I expected some kind of slice of STOLLEN, which I pronounce with a short U sound. (And I would have considered it seasonal, too.)

Two Ponies 11:00 AM  

I'm in the "liked it" camp. Way to go Michael. Spambots was new to me so that was a fun surprise. Lots of nice words in the fill. Good start to the week.
Rib roast and stuffing for supper tonight but no gateau.

John V 11:01 AM  

Initially was looking for a word ladder, but the vowel progression is fun. Nice and easy for a busy morning.

My WOTD: SPAMBOTS Initially had SPAMMERS, so nice bit there.

No mileage rating today, as off all week.

Peace to all, from CT.

Sandy K 11:02 AM  

He was going for the vowel SOUNDS! The VIBE! What's the problem? I liked the TWISTS at STYLE and STOOL.

The fill was mostly good- SPAMBOTS, BYLINES, SALOON, DAY ONE, VEGAS, STRIDENT, TOP GUN, NESTEA, and more...

Very funny write-up from the LASSES- lots of YUKS!

Merry Christmas to all!

Qvart 11:10 AM  

@Tita "@qvart - you just made me realize that Rex was teasing us yetserday with the pic of his talented daughter with a big batch of cookies..."

Is anyone surprised there was a teaser? It was the last clue I filled in so it definitely stood out. Nice.

JFC 11:13 AM  

Finally. Finally. Finally. Finally, on his 4th attempt Rex makes a puzzle I can enjoy. This puzzle is so superior to each of his three prior efforts (each of which was better than the previous), that I seriously wondered if Rex really did this one.

And the BFFs are getting better with their write-ups. That picture of Rex captures his inner soul. One thing the BFFs overlooked were the two 3-letter words that began with ST in the opposite corners.

Lastly, I’ve posted several comments on Wordplay and the only one that hasn’t received any recommendation is the one where I praised the puzzle….


PS to @Chefwen. I tried ordering the popcorn but the shipping cost to Hawaii was prohibitive, so I’m mailing you a Christmas card instead (just kidding).

Bird 11:27 AM  

Great write-up BFFs.

So the theme is supposed to be vowel sound progression? Lame. Even for a Monday. Lots of stale fill took away from this already tired puzzle. Only writeover was PLACE at 38A (also briefly thought it might be JOINT). And what the hell is that Natick at 32A/23d doing in a Monday puzzle.

I like SALOON and the WOD.

Merry Christmas!

PS. I'm staring at a "31" in the captcha. I'm not kidding. Creepy.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

@pix Bobby Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan) is from Hibbing, MN, also birthplace of Hupmobile (aka Greyhound.)

Agree puzzle was pleasant, but the theme didn't resonate.

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

@pix Bobby Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan) is from Hibbing, MN, also birthplace of Hupmobile (aka Greyhound).

Okay puzzle, wanted more zip from Rex.

Masked and Unonymo5Us 11:57 AM  

Have a Marry, Merry, Mirrhy, Moory, mUrry one, all you BFFs and bloggroupies and cookie connoisseurs. Great writeup, especially if done unsober.

Always a fan of themer puzs like this that start out with longish stacks. Gets the blood flowin'.
Weaker sauces: GATEAU. Cake? Thought it meant Cat!--? Or... maybe Cat Water? Tough crosser with ETHELS, where M&A desired 2JOHNS.
So, what DO Parisians say, when referring to Cat Cake? Suggestion: GAT2AU. And what exactly IS Cat Cake? snort.

Peace on earth, good will toward all Viking fans.


Merry anda Christmas 12:21 PM  

p.s. BTW dept.:
Is it EYEING or EYING? Is one of 'em a var(mint)?
Aw, heckwithit. You know, ... It's Christmas Eve. And I'd probably gone with EYIN', anyhoo. Who wants cookies?


Two Ponies 12:23 PM  

@ M&A, You might be thinking of the Spanish gato. French is chat.

Milford 1:04 PM  

Fun Monday, don't think I'd call it the easiest, what with the vowel progression being sound-based. Liked the cluing on much of the entries, made me smile!

Liked the shout out to my graduate alma mater at 60A, MSU! Sparty on!

Thanks Rex! Thanks BFFs! Merry Christmas Eve, Rexworld!

M and A's last silver snort 1:24 PM  

@Two Ponies-- Thank you, darlin'. Starting to make sense, now. Wrong again, M and A breath.

Time to wrap up the presents. I prefer the "rough" look, where I use last year's normal wrapping discards, to create a sorta taped-together "collage" effect. Makes for signature pieces. No from on the gift tags necessary, as everyone recognizes my work. Plain brown wrapper is also nice, for the really " spared every expense" gifts. Do have to put disclaimer tag on the collage wrapjobbers: "Sometimes the wrapping part of a gift is the Best part".

Har har har.
Really in the mood, now. Santa's gotta fly. I'm outta here.

jberg 2:06 PM  

ELANDS! I love elands! I was in South Africa a few years back, and our host took us to a game farm where we drove around looking for animals. The big elands were the most elusive - he was so happy when we finally saw one. So that alone made the puzzle for me.

And, what with the GATEAU and the cookies, it was really sweet. The only hard point was noticing that STOLE HOME was in the past tense.

Merry Christmas everyone! And thanks for the great writeup, BFFs! Enjoy your Chinese food!

Lewis 2:21 PM  

So, Rex, what did and didn't you like about the puzzle? Please join the conversation.

As many have said, there were a lot of zippy answers, the puzzle was easy (even for a Monday), the theme is adequate for Monday (plenty as far as I'm concerned) -- and may I add, because of the zip and overall excellence, I found it to be an enjoyable solve.

Clark 2:40 PM  

Great Monday puzzle. ACME-esque even. I loved the sound-based vowel sequence. Merry Christmas to all.

Acme 2:49 PM  

Have given this more thought and as an occasional maker of vowel progression puzzles I have some constructive criticism.
Shift STYLEPOINTS down to the bottom, adding a Y sound, which it is anyway.
It's the nicest entry in the grid, looks a bit stark as an 11 across the middle with all those surrounding black boxes.
Put in a grid spanning "i" phrase like STILLOFTHENIGHT 15.

This way you have AEIOU AND Y, it causes less confusion as evidenced by the bff's email...never a good sign if your critiquers don't quite get or appreciate your theme!

STYLEPOINTS 11 still matches the STALECOFFEE 11 entry for symmetry.
People are being needlessly rexharsh about STALE entry as being not in language, could be STALE anything. UNTRUE. STALE. Fits sound progression he is doing and the only word that fits this theme and STALE + anything would be deemed arbitrary...but COFFEE comes the closest to being an in the language common phrase.
You're right that it prob ironically wouldn't have passed Rex's own "taste test" but it's

Acme 2:56 PM  

Oops got cut off.
Anyway STALE is fine here (just reheat this and add your own sugar)
So if it was a sound/vowel progression, STOOL would then become the outlier not having both the vowel and U.
(because you'd now have STALE, STEEL, STILL, STOLE , STooL, STYLE)

So, all to say, it's harder than it looks, perhaps @Rex will have newer appreciation as such, and @clark, Bite your tongue! ;)

sanfranman59 3:16 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

Mon 5:43, 6:12, 0.93, 15%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:36, 3:39, 0.99, 35%, Easy-Medium

evil doug 3:24 PM  

Ooooh, nicely played! Obtaining your revenge under the guise of being the Old Pro, the "occasional maker" with "constructive criticism". How dare Michael intrude on the "Monday Specialist's" hallowed ground? Better nip that in the bud, but quick!!!!!!!!

"Never a good sign if your critiquers don't quite get or appreciate your theme!" ..."rexharsh"..."wouldn't have passed Rex's own 'taste test'"..."So, all to say, it's harder than it looks, perhaps @Rex will have newer appreciation as such". And on Christmas Eve, yet!!!!!!!

Welcome to the dark side, ACME. You've always served as the public defender of EVery puzzle, so as to curry logrolling support for your own. But now that you've had a taste of your own bile by creating biting criticism, you can never go back!!!!!!!!!!!

Of course, the rest of us who believe in an honest assessment that requires baring the flaws---while also raising praise to be meaningful and sincere instead of vapid love loops---do it out of respect for the craft rather than vengeance. But whatever floats your boat!!!!!!!


Gareth Bain 3:27 PM  

Except, STYLE is a long I not a long Y sound. STILL is a short I sound. So the puzzle can only work the way Rex did it.

Ignorance is bliss 4:17 PM  

In keeping with the season,
Ignore, ignore, ignore...

Happy Festivus to all. Let's see how many of us can stay civil - at least through the end of the year. Provacatuers and provacatees both (they are so often one-and-the-same).

chefwen 4:21 PM  

@Clark - Love your new avatar, typical kitty antics.

@JFC - Anxiously awaiting said popcorn, even if it's in a Bears tin. I need a new tin for my Christmas ornaments, things get awfully rusty in these environs.

@Evil - Let's not go there again.

@Everyone - Merry Christmas!

acme 4:38 PM  

it's comments were sincere :)

retired_chemist 4:55 PM  

Too easy, even for a Monday. Almost 4 minutes flat here, which beats my previous best by more than 30 seconds. And that without fully comprehending the theme, which I did only afterward. Used the ST and that was enough.

GATEAU - no prob. Prefer a MAI TAI to STALE COFFEE.

2013 agenda - under 4 minutes.

Season's Greetings and happy Holidays to all Rexites.

JenCT 7:08 PM  

@BFFs: "As Easy as beating the NY Giants last night"

Ouch!!!! You don't have to rub it in....

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone.

Rex Parker 7:19 PM  

Thanks for the feedback, everyone. Merry Christmas.


Carola 7:48 PM  

Liz and Jennie - a Christmas bonus! Nice work, elves!

Got the theme at STEEL, then looked ahead and filled in the remaining theme answers. Was doubtful about STALE COFFEE as a "thing" but STYLE POINTS won me over.

No MAI TAI swilling here - off go get some brandy-doctored egg nog.

@Rex, thanks for a fun puzzle. Happy celebrating to all.

MetaRex 8:29 PM  


retired_chemist 8:45 PM  

Happy Holidays to all my (25D) E-BROs and E-SISses.

joho 8:46 PM  

Wow, how disappointing. Just this morning I was thinking, "what a refreshing comment from the formerly @evil doug." Great critique, interesting personal story and uplifting sign off.

Then he drops this bomb. Second comment wasn't anything but biased and just plain mean.

However, nothing can dampen my high Christmas spirits and I wish everyone here a very merry Christmas!

Mikem 9:41 PM  

It is snowing on Christmas Eve, we went to top he 4pm Christmas Mass and came home to a delicious roast chicken dinner with great desserts. Fit the crossword in while the kids did the dishes. Perfect, perfect day. Thank you Michael for a not-SO-easy puzzle and also for the year round blog. Btw, your name came up at a family Christmas party last Saturday. My nephew goes to the college you teach at and some friends are your students. They all, naturally , love you. Merry Christmas to all.

Sparky 9:43 PM  

No trouble at all with sound progression. Would have preferred colleen. Unfortunately it is 7 letters. Easy for a beginner with a crunchy GATEAU to let you know it's The New York Times fer pete's sake.

Thanks Rex, Thanks Elves. Merry Christmas and Joyous Holiday to one and all.

The Houseguest is cooking salmon tomorrow. WTF.

sanfranman59 1:34 AM  

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

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

Mon 5:46, 6:12, 0.93, 18%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:31, 3:39, 0.96, 26%, Easy-Medium

Coffee Lover 2:09 AM  

I don't know anyone who says STALE COFFEE. STALE bread? Of course. STALE crackers? Yes. COFFEE does not get STALE. It gets cold.

Happy walker 3:35 AM  

Merry Christmas ~ Have a nice day~ =)

Regards, (A Growing Teenager Diary) ..

PIX 10:06 AM  

@anon (11:37)....Dylan was born in Duluth and even mentions it in one of his songs

ShortShrift 3:50 PM  

May this ditty suffice to say:
Me thinks his puzzle's all right (OK?)
My take on the reveal? Just this:
Mo' letters! (Aural's 2 EZ 2 miss.)
Moon-y BFFs beat me here by a day!

Make that two days. Anyway, just wanted to add my congrats to Rex on his achievement, and compliments of the season to fellow Rexites. And thanks also to him and his crew for clearing matters up, as ever. Cheers!

JackLee 6:05 AM  

Awww, no Christmas theme.

Spacecraft 11:32 AM  

So. Time to critique the critic, eh? (Rolling up sleeves) Here goes.

STYLEPOINTS: Zippy long fill. TIPTOE evoked, of course, the image of Tiny Tim--right mext to the equally ugly image of EDSELS. Nice to have the whole drink in front of me instead of just half (MAITAI). Mini-Irish theme with LASSES doing a JIG. The twin "Galoot" clues for OAF and APE may stretch the point a bit, but are OK and cute. I think OFL just loves to say the word "galoot." It's fun, I'll admit.

Now to subtract from the total. AMT, EREI, STE,DDT, FGS, MSU, THU, NSA. And EBRO. EBRO?? On a Monday???

Got the vowel-L progression theme after just the first two entries. Like @Coffee lover, I generally don't think of that beverage as getting STALE. That's what microwaves are for. So it seemed a strained phrase, and the seed of VP was already planted in my head when I saw STEELWOOL. That confirmed it, and I was off to the races. Lots of uber-simplistic clues made for a beginner-class grid--one to try on a 7-year-old for example. The whole thing just makes EBRO stand out like a throbbing sore thumb.

DMGrandma 3:29 PM  

Easy enough puzzle. Only pause was DeLUTH, but GATEAU solved that, once I realized " torte" wouldn't fit.
Must admit I never saw the vowel sound progression. Just a series of two word answers that started ST. If I could learn to spell and see the themes, I'd probably be a lot better at this!

@Ginger. Sadly the Open is over, and a wait for the next meet ensues (Indian Wells?). Odd thing. Last night I was watching the delayed finals broadcast which showed Lendl in the audience. Unable to watch Murray grimace again, I flipped the channel to see Lendl playing against McEnroe! Time travel? Turned out it was a replay of a January tape.

Just failed another Captcha. And the one offered now has illegible number, so off to start cycling through the possibilities. Failed again!!

rain forest 4:13 PM  

This was an easy Monday with decent fill and a "theme" I picked up on at STYLEPOINTS. I immediately knew the next two were going to start with STOLE and STOOL. As someone said, Rex has snarled at this sort of "theme" in the past, but for a Monday, it was just fine.

Re the ACME/ED contretemps, for what its worth (no one but we syndies will see this), Andrea was off the mark suggesting an entry with a short "I" sound, and Evil was just a tad TOO evil there, even if partially right.

Tita 4:30 PM can type any old thing you want for the number part...Google doesn't know what they are either...they are just"crowd sourcing" us as free labor to figure it out for them...
The only capcha that counts is the text...
And that is NOT case sensitive.

They are still a huge pain, but a little easier if you ignore those two aspects.

@rain forest...lots of us realtimers get the email follow ups...
But for me, clever references to 15D six weeks later don't register..for that matter, 2 days is enough to make me forget...
But I still like hearing y'all"s clever insights...

Dirigonzo 5:03 PM  

I spent too much time, as usual, trying to figure out the theme which I thought would involve both words of the answers - STALECOFFEE had me thinking it might be S-C combinations that would culminate in, you know, Santa Claus (it being Xmas Eve and all). But I guess the Grinch stole Christmas after all. Otherwise, my first pass completed the top and bottom sections of the grid but left a few holes in the middle that needed some crosses - STYLEPOINTS was a new phrase for me although I have "awarded points for style" so now they have a name.

I always enjoy the BFFs write-ups - but they were kidding about needing reading glasses, right?

@Tita - nice to see you back here! Snowing in CT?

DJ Stone 5:44 PM  

Puzzle was way too easy for the NYT, and the theme came out for me after the second theme answer and led to easy solves for the other three.

Out here in syndiland, it's very hard to add anything original on the content of the theme entries, but today presents an opportunity.

Especially for a puzzle in the New York Times, StylePoints could have been StileJumper. You know, those guys who hop the stiles in the subway rather than ponying up for Metro tokens. Same length, and the noun-verb form just fits with the inconsistency of the form of the other theme answers.

JenCT 7:45 PM  

I second @Tita's whole post...

@DJ Stone: Metro tokens are now Metro Cards...but I still have some of the old tokens.

We just got a dusting here in Northern CT...

DJStone 8:17 PM  

@JenCT: wondered if anyone would comment on that. Used tokens when I first visited NYC in 1997, and then the Metro cards when I moved there in 2000. When I moved back to Portland (West Coast) in 2002, I brought my last card back and it's been hanging proudly on the fridge ever since.

Tita 8:25 PM  

Howdy, @Diri... As @Jen says..just enough to make everything pretty again.

@DJ...i like your suggestion. Reminds the days of said tokens, there were tolls in Connecticut...also tokens, but they cost a mere 25 cents. They were exactly the same size as the 35 cent subway tokens.
I heard tell that the station from which they would regularly retrieve the most CT highway tokens was the Wall St. stop...

Texas Syndy Solver 9:15 PM  

In my syndyland paper the puzzle BYLINE was AUTHOR AUTHOR AUTHOR -- no mention of the illustrious Mr. Parker. STRANGE?

Dirigonzo 9:35 PM  

@Texas SS - STRANGE, indeed. Perhaps a conspiracy is afoot? (I love a good conspiracy theory.)

Ginger 10:27 PM  

I got a double dose of OFL today as I also solved the Thursday LAT. His style points are unmistakable. Enjoyed both puzzles! and, Rex' BFFs, Enjoyed the write up.

@DMGrandma - The Aussie Open was quite a tournament, though the final didn't live up to expectations. My DVR really got a workout! Yes, Indian Wells is in March I think, though there may be some Davis Cup in the meantime.

Nice to have 'realtimers' crash our Syndiland Party. @Tita, and @JenCT, you're welcome any time!
Jen, great looking shepherd. Thanks for stopping by.

Mark M 3:08 PM  

Same experience here in Indiana as Texas Syndy Solver. Glad it wasn't just me!

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