Actress Strahovski of 2000s TV / SUN 12-21-14 / Computerdom informally / Roy Rogers's real last name / Risky chess move / Zion National park material / Tree whose pods have sweet pulp

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Season's Greetings" — add "HO" sound for wackiness:

Theme answers:
  • HO HUM DINGER (22A: Homer that leaves people yawning?)
  • HOKEY WORD (24A: "Shucks!" or "Pshaw!"?)
  • BLACK-EYED HOPIS (42A: Southwest tribe after a fistfight?)
  • DESPICABLE HOMIE (67A: Backstabbing pal?)
  • NO-MONEY HOEDOWN (91A: Barn dance that's free to attend?)
  • CROSS HOBO (114A: Vagrant after getting kicked off a train, say?)
  • HOKUM TO PAPA (117A: Stuff your dad finds ridiculous?)
Word of the Day: MARA Liasson (111D: ___ Liasson, NPR political correspondent) —
Mara Liasson (/ˈmɑrə ˈl.əsən/; born June 13, 1955) is an American journalist and political pundit. She is the national political correspondent for National Public Radio[1] and also a contributor at Fox News Channel. (wikipedia) (I will never not make public radio correspondents my WOTD … I'm coming for you, Ira Flatow …)
• • •

If you never solved a Christmas-themed puzzle in your life before today, this one likely seemed cute to you. And it is, without a doubt, a well-made puzzle, with a consistent theme and very good, fresh fill. If Joel (who works for W.S.) is being groomed for Will's job, well, fine by me. He's super-talented and lives in the 21st century, so thumbs-up. But back to the theme—I knew what it was before I started. Or, rather, I said to myself, "It's not just adding 'hos' to things, is it?" And then that's exactly what it was. Very good HO-adding, for sure, but very predictable HO-adding nonetheless. Either I am some kind of psychic *or* I've seen this theme before at least once. I mean, seriously, it was the most obvious / cliché theme I could think of off the top of my head, so it must've been done more than once. Still, though, these answers are new to me, and pretty funny on the whole. And you'll struggle to find bad fill here. The future looks bright. Here's to more careful editing, better attention to detail, and cleaner fresher fill in 2015. Not sure why I'm making the New Year's speech now, but I am.

My coup of the day was remembering SLYE (14D: Roy Rogers's real last name). Took me just 25 short years to commit that old-school GEM to memory. Yay me. TIM COOK (5D: Steve Jobs's successor at Apple) and EBOLA VIRUS (16D: Cause for quarantine) give the puzzle a very up-to-the-minute feel, while YOGA POSE and SOY LATTE show that the NYT *knows* its demographics. KUDOS also to BAR SCENE and its clue (11A: Likely feature of a college town). Took me a lot of crosses too see it, but when I did: your prototypical "aha" moment.

PUZZLE NEWS: Matt Gaffney's (amazing) Weekly Crossword Contest is going to a subscription-only basis in 2015 (and good for him—good puzzles are worth paying for). 52 top-tier meta-puzzles for just $26. All the details here. For aficionados and aficionados-in-the-making. Get some.

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. SOY LATTE anagrams to SLYE TO A T. Like, when you describe a young Roy Rogers perfectly. "That's SLYE TO A T!" she said, delightedly.


Unknown 12:25 AM  

1:48. Slow start. Quick middle. Slow end. Almost lost it at BVDS/NEREID but got lucky in the cross. MIEN INALL ONESHOT ANS TESTEES was painfully problematic to fill, and ONESHOT remains obscure. How is that [Special newsstand offering] exactly?

Yes, I found the HOs entertaining. HOKUMTOPAPA was my fave.

Charles in Austin 12:28 AM  

Lucky for me, I didn't know/guess the theme in advance, so when it started to fall into place I was highly entertained.

George Barany 12:30 AM  

And on the seventh day of the week, @Hayley Gold chose @Joel Fagliano's puzzle as the subject of her weekly webcomic (; click on link to the left). Will leave it to all to discover its delights on your own. Thanks @Rex for the amusing writeup, and to all a good night.

Whirred Whacks 12:31 AM  

This puzzle reminded a lot of last Sunday's puzzle. Today, constructor Joel Fagliano added a HO to words to create amusing answers. Last week, constructor Jim Peredo added the GEE sound to words to create amusing answers (remember OH DARJEELING?). I think last Sunday's puzzle had the more clever use of this "add-a-syllable" technique.

Sony clueing exercise: if you think back to last Sunday's puzzle, you'll recall that SONY was an answer, and that its clue was: "Electronics giant." In light of Sony's activities this past week in pulling their film "The Interview," what new (and more contemporary) clues for SONY would you suggest to Will and Joel?

Anonymous 12:44 AM  

HoHumbug! Soli: ick. Utahn: groan. Can we please, please retire obese and neap already? The HO theme is indeed a bore, and some of the theme answers are yawn-inducing. Just thinking about soy lattes makes me ill, so thanks for that. Overall I just found this unpleasant.

jae 12:49 AM  

Easy-medium for me.  What Rex said.  Simple theme, but very nicely done.  Amusing answers with some smooth fill.   Just what you want for a holiday week Sun. 

@Casco -  A ONE SHOT is a magazine, brochure, or the like that is published only one time, with no subsequent issues intended, usually containing articles and photographs devoted to one topical subject.

jae 12:54 AM  

Oh, and the TAUREG/MARA cross was iffy for me. Could have been MAyA. TAUREG just seemed more nomadic?

JFC 1:17 AM  

This was a boring slog, like many of the Sunday NYT puzzles. Of course, that is my reaction to the puzzle and I understand that others might have a different experience. It wasn't a disaster but it wasn't great. But for @Rex to proffer such a glowing review is further evidence to me that he has friends and he gives those friends thumbs up and others who he does not know are at his mercy. @Rex, in short, alas, sadly, reluctantly, is not credible.


Steve J 2:05 AM  

Thought this was fine. Nothing special, but nothing terrible, either. As Rex said, well-made, but a little unremarkable (especially with the exact same type of theme a week ago; I get the timeliness of this one, but I'd argue that Shortz should have rescheduled last week's in light of this one's having a seasonal hook).

I was slightly slowed down, and therefore mildly perturbed, by the fact that NO MONEY HOEDOWN spelled the HO portion as HOE, the only themer to vary from the HO template. Also, since it's hardly a word in my everyday lexicon, I never remember how to spell hoedown.

My inner 12-year-old giggled at 102A.

@JFC: Or perhaps he simply had a different impression. I never cease to be amazed at how the rest of us are allowed to have different opinions on puzzles because we have different opinions, yet for you and many others, Rex isn't allowed to and must always be exhibiting ulterior motives. Even if he is, who the hell cares?

KFC 3:05 AM  

If Rex is so corrupt, perhaps you should take your narcissistic whining else where.  OOH Rex doesn't pay attention to me so he's not credible. 

Eat more chicken, now boneless!

'mericans in Paris 3:28 AM  

Medium for us, too. Got GOES GREEN early on, and was often able to complete the theme answers after sussing out the trick at BLACK EYED HOPIS. Liked the fact that the "HO" appears in different places in each theme answer, and that often the non-HO part of the answer depends on the sound to make sense. Favorite was HOKUM TO PAPA.

Agree with Rex that many of the non-theme fill (EBOLA VIRUS, TUAREG) is very contemporary. Also, as a punctuationalist (just made up that word), really loved 6D: EN DASH ("Minuses, basically").

However, some of the cluing came as a stretch. INSPIRE as an answer to "Gives rise to"? Really? And I never like forced abbreviations, such as EDUC and OKLA. Who ever uses those?

120A should have been clued as "Gentle treatment (with)".

IN ALL, though, a pleasant Saturday solve. Had to put our thinking CAP(s) ON before we got to the END.

@Rex: "it was the most obvious / cliché theme I could think of" is lazy. Better would be: "it was the most obvious, cliché-ridden theme I could think of".

'mericans in Paris 3:29 AM  

Correction: Agree with Rex that many of the non-theme fill answers (EBOLA VIRUS, TUAREG) were very contemporary.

Susierah 6:26 AM  

Liked it! Once I sorted out that it was what instead of slap, and wine label instead of size label, I was able to correctly finish the puzzle. Had to guess at the Mara/Tuareg crossing.

Good review, Rex. I'm still laughing over that Dock Ellis video from yesterday!

Susierah 6:31 AM  

Typo! Whap, not what.

Bob Kerfuffle 6:36 AM  

Good puzz.

My little knowledge of things German, usually a slight advantage, failed me this time: two write-overs, 3 D, SAAR before RUHR; and, 81 D, AUDI before OPEL, both early entries put in with no crosses.

Just struck me: has there been a puzzle inserting HUM into common phrases, i.e., a HUMBUG?

Charles Flaster 6:58 AM  

Easy. Caught theme right away but slowed with HOKEY WORD.
Lots of crosswordEASE------SLYE, SUI, RUHR and OWLS.
Really liked cluing for LEE, EFGH, CONDO and COUSIN.
Some abbr. seemed forced but OK.
Thanks JF.

F.O.G. 7:03 AM  

Enjoyed this one. HO-HUM DINGER is hilarious, and the cluing for WINE LABEL ("Red or white sticker")is very clever.

Yesterday a few of my friends were channel surfing and we watched part of an old Roy Rogers episode. Living in Southwest Ohio, we all knew that his real name was Leonard Slye and that he was born 55 miles south of us in Cincinnati. Another crossword coincidence.

Struggled mightily in the NE corner, and lucked into AD RATE to get congrats (finally!) from the Across Lite Pencil.

I was most surprised by Rex's comment: "...while YOGA POSE and SOY LATTE show that the NYT *knows* its demographics."

I have assumed that the NYT puzzlers were mostly a "mature" bunch, and not ones that would typically frequent Starbucks or yoga classes. I likely am displaying my biases based upon the daily practices of my young daughter and daughters-in-law, while it's decaf and a treadmill for me.

paulsfo 7:07 AM  

@Whirred Whacks: For a contemporary clue for SONY, how about
"Pollo, in Pyongyang?"

Took me a minute to parse ENDASHES even after getting all of the crosses. I assumed I must have an error.

Similarly, for a long time I assumed that something in ___UMTOPAPA *must* be wrong. :)

Liked the clues for ADRATE and USES.

paulsfo 7:12 AM  

@Charles Flaster: I knew SUI and RUHR, and that there were birds called OWLS, :) long before I did crosswords. I'll grant you SLYE, for sure.

GILL I. 7:17 AM  

AAH....Finally, everything is ready for our Christmas celebration. Time for a puzzle and I get this fabulous Joel Fagliano Sunday with a bunch of HO's. I just loved this one and my absolute favorite was DESPICABLE HOMIE.
Really... BVDS, YOGA POSE, GIBES, WHAP - and those are just a few of the goodies here. I'll take this kind of puzzle every Sunday.
And now, my little something to all the Rexaphiles:
Season's Greetings

Anonymous 7:26 AM  

22A Anyone else bothered that the clue for HO-HUM DINGER used a word with the theme's HO sound ("Homer"). Seemed out of place and easily avoided.

F.O.G. 7:35 AM  

Correction: Struggled mightily in the NW corner.

Anonymous 7:44 AM  

'mericans in Paris

"give rise to" is a standard dictionary definition of "inspire". Look it up.

Glimmerglass 8:18 AM  

@JFC. Rex is credible, by which I mean that he is sincere and doesn't consciously play favorites. His blind spot, however, is Will Shortz. For some reason (probably connected with Rex's experiences as a rejectee or edited-out-of-all-proportion contributor), WS is a burr under Rex's saddle. Today, Rex praises Fagliano as a candidate for Will's job, not so much to admire Fagliano as to disparage Shortz. Your blind spot, on the other hand, appears to be Rex Parker. This puzzle was a long way from a "boring slog." I think you should read someone else's critiques.

'mericans in Paris 8:23 AM  

@Anonymous: I'll have to take your word for it. The closest the on-line Merriam-Webster definition comes to "give rise to" is "bring about":

Mainly, though, inspire's meaning is to influence, move, incite. If the puzzle maker or editor wanted an obscure meaning, personally I think that "inhale" would have been more clever. But that's just my opinion.

Curious to know if any chess players out there have ever used SAC as an abbreviation for sacrifice.

Moly Shu 8:25 AM  

BLACKEnEDHOPI gave me nOGAPOSE, which went unchecked. Never heard the phrase black eyed hope, but soon gonna look it up. I'm in the sloggish camp. Liked some of it (TEAT and KIDGLOVES), tolerated most of it, disliked a little of it (SOLI, ANS). C'mon who didn't have evert before SELES? Top notch misdirect IMO.

Moly Shu 8:31 AM  

Well, I'm an idiot. Black eyed peas, of course. What the hell was I thinking?

Anonymous 8:33 AM  

93 Down?

Dorothy Biggs 8:48 AM  

Normal for me Sunday puzzle. Judging by cups of coffee, it was the usual 1 and a half...and a bowl of oatmeal.

One observation that is probably no big deal is the ENDASHES along with ENS. EN abounds.

I got naticked at the WHAP/OVA crossing with WHiP/OVi. I'm not going to count today as a DNF because I think WHiP/OVi is just fine, thank you very much. I could be wrong (and I don't care to be corrected) but the plural of eggs could be ovi. And honestly, 5 times out of 10, when you swat your swatter is goes whhhhiiiip...and the other 5 times it goes whhhhhaaap. comme çi, comme ça and qué será será.

On Sundays I make up my own rules.

Dorothy Biggs 8:55 AM  

BTW, I think that if you type two ENDASHES in a row in Word, it autocorrects to an em-dash.

I learned everything I know about type-setting measurements from the NYT xword puzzle.

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

@Frenchie - The theme isn't cliché-ridden, it's cliché. Cliché-ridden defines multiple, distinct cliches. The theme was one big cliche. The phrase "obvious / cliché" was accurate. Once again, the rule "before you correct, be sure you're correct" would best be adhered to.

Teedmn 9:37 AM  

@Moly Shu, I'm still wiping the tears away, thanks for the big belly laugh of the day!

And @ Gill I, that was a cute ( if vaguely disturbing) YouTube link. Thank you.

Big DNF for me due to the NE corner. Apparently too much Xmas shopping has led to me seeing saleLABELs everywhere instead of the obvious WINE. This led to slAP. If I had noticed 24A was a theme clue, I would have been saved. Oh well.

@ Steve J, I hope you were giggling at 124A, or I'm missing something about vinegar...

@Bob Kerfuffle, thanks for the link yesterday to the WSJ Patrick Berry puzzle, that was a fun change-up, even with my need to Google.

Thank you, Mr. Fagliano, for a nice Sunday sole.

(Guess I am thankful today:-). )

Anonymous 9:44 AM  

Not really my cup of tea. The clues felt hard and not spot on, though I finished in almost exactly the time I expect on Sunday. No complaints about HOKUM and HOKEY?

jberg 9:47 AM  

Yeah, TESTEES, TEAT, and OVA--kind of reproductively-oriented puzzle today. I had the same problem as everyone, probably, thinking the red and white stickers meant the color of the labels rather than of what was labeled, so I put in salE LABEL. I'm not up on my BUICK model names, either -- right, contemporary feel! I do YOGA POSEs (though anyone who does them is likely to call them asanas), but wouldn't touch a soy-anything with a 10-foot pole.

My only real problem though was not seeing a single HO as a seasonal thing -- you need at least two of them IMO.

Z 9:48 AM  

A Fine Sunday before Xmas offering, although UTAHN OGRES with the EBOLA VIRUS sounds like a new Sony holiday release to me.

@Steve J and @glimmerglass - anyone who gets "glowing review" from "it was the most obvious / cliché theme I could think of off the top of my head," "lacks credibility" (to use his words).

@Bob Kerfuffle - Hand up for Audi before OPEL. I did get RUHR, though.

@F.O.G. - I took the "demographic" comment as a joke. I also question "trendy" in the SOY LATTÉ clue. I think SOY LATTÉs have already gone from trendé to passé to cliché.

@'mericans in Paris - Inspire, i.e. give breath to, is about as visually accurate for "give rise to" as I can imagine. It is definition 1.3 here.

@moly shu - re:"I'm an idiot." Been There. Done That.

@Tita last night - I know. I've always liked this place because of the number of people who comment who can disagree without being disagreeable.

mathguy 9:51 AM  

Did it while watching the 49er game. It took a little of the sting out.

I expected Rex to rate it easy. No single segment slowed me up much -- if one resisted, I went to an adjacent segment and a letter or two would overlap.

A little disappointed that there wasn't more Christmas in the fill. HOHOHO is all we get?

Unknown 10:00 AM  

My fly swatter goes THWAP. Just sayin'.

There are DINGERS in baseball, HUMDINGERS in story-telling, and a HOHUMDINGER in this puzzle, which would be better clued as a Shaggy-dog story with a flat punchline than anything to do with baseball.

@jae Thanks for the ONESHOT backstory. Is Time/Life a ONESHOT publisher these days? BTW, I agree with your take: a delightful not-too-tough-to-get holiday head scratcher.

I hereby stipulate that YOU are not a robot. And neither am I, certain knee-jerking notwithstanding.

Charles Flaster 10:08 AM  

OK. They were gimmes BECAUSE they recur in puzzles quite often and make the solve essier.

joho 10:23 AM  

The first themer I got was BLACKEYEDHOPIS so I thought we were looking for homophones for "peace" and other such Seasons Greetings.

I quickly caught on to the add a HO trick and smiled and HO HO HOed my way to the end: loved it! A very nice Christmas present from Joel and Will.

This definitely got me into the Christmas spirit!

Steve J 10:32 AM  

@Teedmn: Actually, I meant 103A. Even my inner 12-year-old would struggle to find something to snicker at regarding vinegar or USES.

@Z: Yeah, I noticed that "glowing" commentary, too.

Z 10:36 AM  

@Casco Kid - HO HUM DINGER worked for me since it immediately brought to my mind a former Tiger who drove in "the most worthless 100 RBIs, ever."* The guy always seemed to get his RBIs when the game was 5-0 or 2-9. Bases loaded in a 4-2 game, though, and you could put a K down on the scorecard as he stepped into the box. The Tigers won 79, 65, and 69 games during his best years (not that I'm bitter).

*Me during his second and third best years.

Lewis 10:42 AM  

I did like the theme, even if it has been done before (and has someone confirmed this yet?), because the answers were smile-worthy. I liked the clues for LEE, NBAGAME, ADRATE, and COUSIN, and KIDGLOVES is a terrific answer.

There are lousy puzzles, good puzzles, and great puzzles. I think OFL only sees the former and latter, while the majority of the NYT puzzles, IMO, fall under the middle category. We need those good puzzles, or else the great ones wouldn't seem so great.

Lewis 10:47 AM  

@steve j -- I was thinking you were thinking piss for what vinegar has a lot of.

@ww -- Defiled screen giant?

Anonymouse 11:05 AM  


JFC has long been the Curmudgeon Of Cook County. He's too old to change at this late date.

AliasZ 11:08 AM  

I didn't think this was an overly exciting, faultless puzzle, nor did I find it a boring slog. It was somewhere between these two extremes. But then, I am biased. I love crossword puzzles. For me solving puzzles is not a chore, it is a pleasant diversion. This one was at least that. Besides which, seeing so many HO's in one place tends to improve my mood. The HOEdown was the one inconsistency, but I can even forgive that. If it sounds like a HO, it is a HO. OOHOOH just added to the fun.

- The product of yesterday's POTFARMS ends up in the POTSHOP today. Is it time for an intervention or the STATE PEN?
- We learned two new Italian words today that not everyone may realize they already knew: PESTO from "pounded", as in mortar and pestle, and PENNE from "quill" or pen. We all know quills were used as pens.
- The HONEY LOCUST (Gleditsia triacanthos) is a pretty tree with a pretty name and a sweet pod, the opposite of its symmetrical pair NANCY PELOSI, who to me looks more like a praying mantis.
- Proctor, so close to proctologist, must cause some unease for TESTEES. It gave me jock itch.
- Is it UTAHN, Utahan, Utahian, Utahanian? I can't decide.

Here is a Christmas gift from SANTA + ME.

Happy Sunday.

Josh 11:15 AM  

Really nice piece of puzzle-making. Some of the theme answers are genuinely funny, like BLACKEYEDHOPIS and DESPICABLEHOMIE. The NE and SW corners are great. EBOLAVIRUS cutting through BARSCENE and WINELABEL, and ORANGESODA and POTSHOP crossing KIDGLOVES and STATEPEN. I love the big NANCYPELOSI and HONEYLOCUST.

Solving this was a lot of fun because the fill is so great. Excellent puzzle.

Maruchka 11:29 AM  

Soon gonna(?) agree with @Casco Kid - felt flat, forced and futile. Too many HOHOs, not enough (or any) AHAs!

I loved Roy Rogers and knew that he was born Leonard SLYE. Coveted both their boots. Funny, I was just telling a friend today that my 10-year-old self once chased after an escaped, galloping horse. My ROY kicked in.. good thing it didn't catch up.

@Steve J - Yep, the HOE bothered me a BIT, too.

A Happy Trails holiday season to all!

Carola 11:29 AM  

Today again I got off to a slo-HO-HO start, with scattered entries that refused to accrete. Finally saw the theme at DESPICABLE HOMey. That helped, but it remained just shy of a struggle to complete the grid. Agree that there's lots to like. HOKUM TO PAPA - crazy genius.

Would the grid be stronger without HONEY and HOLLIES, with their "huh" and "hah" instead of "ho" sounds? Discuss.

Ludyjynn 11:40 AM  

HONEYsuckle before LOCUST and saleLABEL before WINE. What makes "shucks!" a HOKEYWORD?

I liked OOHOOH above EDUC; reminded me of Ron Palillo (1949-2012) who played Arnold Horshack on "Welcome Back, Kotter".

UTAHN is just an ugly looking word, IMO. OTOWN for Orlando? Sez who?

Like Rex, it took me a while to find the BARSCENE, making the NE the last to fall.

Speaking of alcohol, gotta run and finish setting up libations for today's party. Just fried up all the latkes and need to set the buffet table and make myself presentable, so I'll go.

KUDOS and thanks to you, JF and WS.

shari 11:46 AM  

Rex is a blogger with opinions, not an unbiased judge

Lewis 11:50 AM  

Factoid: In TUAREG society women do not traditionally wear the veil, whereas men do; It is a matrilineal society in which women have high status compared with their Arab counterparts. (Wikipedia)

Quotoid: "A child's spirit is like a child, you can never CATCH it by running after it; you must stand still, and, for love, it will soon itself come back." -- Arthur Miller

Mohair Sam 11:50 AM  

Very nice seasonal Sunday puzzle. Played medium here. Very much agreed with OFL except for his perfunctory Shortz bashing. What @Glimmerglass said about both Rex and @JFC.

NW took us forever because just like @Bob kerfluffle we liked saaR for 2d. Finally got an aha moment on the well-clued COUSIN and the corner (and puzzle) finally fell.

MARA Liasson a favorite here for both her work on NPR and her willingness to take on the conservative voices on the panel on Brent Baier's Fox show.

Actually, just reviewed the theme answers and like this puzzle even more than before, nicely done. Thanks Joel and Will.

Mohair Sam 11:53 AM  

Almost forgot. Thanks for the 8:31 chuckle @Moly Shu - When I make those kind of mistakes I usually delete the entire post rather than owning up.

Norm 11:55 AM  

This was an okay puzzle, but I found the inconsistency in the themes a bit irksome. Not only the HOE as noted by Steve J., but the fact that some of the original phrases (like HUMDINGER and KEYWORD) did not change their spelling while most of the other (e.g., KUM/COMETOPAPA) did. Made me scowl rather than smile. Bah humbug.

Anonymous 12:07 PM  

A better clue for SELES would have been "court grunt extraordinaire" We have her to thank for the endless shrieking on the women's tour. Sharapova is unwatchable. Certainly unlistenable. I can't find my remote fast enough when she appears on tv.

atsears 12:21 PM  

@Casco Kid @Maruchka At first I took Homer as the Greek storyteller before thinking it just be a baseball thing, so Casco Kid's definition would be right on n this case. Thanks for the clarification!

RooMonster 12:43 PM  

Hey All !
Liked it, theme to me seemed a bit thin. Agree with whoever said it should have been Ho-Ho. IMO. Also liked IMO, IMO!!

Surprised no one commented on the EFGH run. Usually alphabet strings cause an uproar.

Hands up for saleLABEL and evert! Also had swearWORD first, and asone for INALL. HONEYsuCKLE, POTfarm, also.

Wonder if Joel got the payment for this puz, or if it's part of his job? Interesting...


'mericans in Paris 12:57 PM  

@ Anonymous 9:37 AM:

My comment was addressed to @Rex, not you. But since you want to argue about it, I'll oblige.

Cliché is normally a noun. Some dictionaries allow it to be used as an adjective, but much more common is chliched (or clichéd). So, at the very least, it should be "it was the most obvious, clichéd theme I could think of". A comma is called for here, or an ampersand (&), not a slash.

Apologies to others for a third posting.

Masked and Hoanonymous 1:01 PM  

thUmbsUp to the SunPuz, for throwin a Christmas party with a bevy of ho's in attendence.

Also, greenthUmbsUp, for givin up a little respect to the oft-neglected Organic Santa, and his Hoe, Hoe, Hoes.
Did slightly confuse the M&A at first, while solvin 91-A, tho. Lost precious nanosecs.

fave themer: HOKUMTOPAPA. Them ho's always look better, at closin time.

Also, magigiftthUmbsUp, for the well-above-average 11 U's. Merry Christmas to m&e.

fave clued-up city: Stillwater (110-D): Just visited friends there, a few weeks ago.

fave weejects: yer IST/ISM combo.

fave moment of fill-and-run desperation: EFGH. Cool clue, there. In the M&A Universe, I will follow U, btw.

"har, har, har"

Kinda like this new "I'm not a robot" checkbox. A great first step. Top suggestions for companion checkboxes:
* I'm a robot, but was assembled in the U.S.A.
* I'm not a spellcaster.
* I'm not North Korean.
* I'm not an Elvis impersonator.
* I'm not a pewit.

Ferris Bueller 1:04 PM  

Fun puzzle, good fill. New theme to me, but then again, I'm a new solver.

One issue . . .

R.S.V.P., e.g.: Abr. Besides being the most punctuated clue I've ever seen, the answer was, well, ANS.

R.S.V.P. (Repondez s'il vous plait = Respond if it pleases you) is a request for an answer, and not an answer, itself.

I suppose the acronym can also be used as a verb ("Did you RSVP, yet?), in which case I can could see "answer" or ANS being suitable, but with all the less ambiguous clues available to the author, this choice seemed off.

Z 1:33 PM  

@M & not a robot - Now I'm wondering why Lord Google is so negative.

☐ I want to know who put a spell on the spellcasters

☐ I am Dennis Rodman

Elvis is King

☐ I can use PEWIT in a sentence

☐ I can solve a runtz faster than Dr. Fill

☐ 42

@'MiP - no need to apologize for three. Apologies start on the 4th post.

@Bueller - RSVP has been nounized. "Did you RSVP yet?"

I'm M and Also 1:46 PM  

@Z, U magnificent beast.
har. Excellent xbox suggestions.
How'bout a "senior discount" checkbox?
I want to try that "42" xbox out, just out of curiosity...


mac 1:57 PM  

Medium to me, with some trouble in the "hokey word" region.

They must have pot on the mind at the NYT puzzle office.

Had to laugh at Hokum to papa! Funny.

I have arrived, Google believes me when I avow/aver that I'm not a robot.

Hartley70 2:29 PM  

POT has officially entered the mainstream now that it's appeared twice this week. I don't recall seeing it before. Who woulda thunk it? Aren't those pesky Rockefeller laws still spoiling the fun in NY?

On behalf of the senior presbyopic/myopic crowd, I would like to say that while I found the puzzle thematically okay for Xmas and reasonably do-able for a Sunday, the difficulty level should be UTTERLYMINDBLOWING when you're trying to do it on an IPhone 5 screen with those itsy bitsy little squares.

Fred Romagnolo 2:59 PM  

Again - Bravo Fagliano! WINE LABEL and vinegar in approximately symmetrical places. HOKEY WORD does seem a bit condescending, but he's a New Yorker. Hands up for HOKUM TO PAPA as a fave. Had to leave the Saar for the RUHR. I knew @Alias Z wouldn't let us down with SMETANA. I got the gimmick at BLACKEYED HOPIS. @Bueller: shouldn't it be "If you please?" @atsears: your mistake was nobler than mine, I was thinking Homer Simpson! Great Sunday Christmas puzzle.

About Me 4:46 PM  

I agree with Rex most of the time, but think he gives this puzzle a pass because of who the constructor is rather than it's merits. He would never have given the extra E addition in NoMonetHoEDown a free pass with another constructor. All the theme answers apart from this one provide phrases with or without Ho.

paulsfo 7:08 PM  

"All the theme answers apart from this one provide phrases with or without Ho."

I was going leave this alone but, since so many people have mentioned it...

First, it's *not* just this one that's unlike the proposed "just add HO" rule. In the HOKUM answer, "come" was changed to KUM.

Secondly, why do people think there's ever been some ironclad rule of themes that's being broken? We can all see that the theme is about adding a "ho" sound to make a new phrase. Sometimes that sound is spelled slightly differently. That's because this is the English language, rather than Esperanto. As I've said before (much to the irritation of some, I'm sure. Sorry), if you want consistency you should be doing Sudoku instead of crosswords. ;)

(as techies sometimes say) Rant off.

Tita 7:37 PM  

@Bob K - you may want to consider officially changing your Nom de Blogue as per @Mohair Sam's suggestion.

@Molly - thanks for the laugh. Quite funny.

@'mericans - no worries - "3 and out" is the unspoken (unwritten?) Rexville posting etiquette.

And while I am acting as the Emily Post of posting, another unwritten rule is that we ONLY ever discuss today's puzzle today - not everyone solves sequentially, so giving answers today about last Sunday's puzzle might have terribly traumatic and disappointing effect on those folks. (Yea, sure, you can reference other puz's - just no spoilers.)

You're welcome.

Oh - really liked the puzzle - Thanks Mr. Fagliano. (In spite of an official DNF - I had HOKEeWORD, figgerin' SLeE was just as likely.)

Tita 7:39 PM  

@Thanks for the early Christmas gifts, @Gill & @AliasZ.

Just my thoughts... 8:41 PM  

I think Sharapova is utterly watchable

Rosejimbo 9:23 PM  

I throw a flag at the clue for OPED PAGES (It's full of opinions).

Andrew Heinegg 10:22 PM  

Amen, Amen. I do not agree with RP all the time but, if you feel the level of hostility that some folks do, go elsewhere. This is a place for reasoned opinions not personal attacks on Rex. He is not perfect but he does try to give a reasoned analysis.

Unknown 3:44 AM  

My thoughts exactly.

paul kurtz 6:22 PM  

IMO.....Testees was wrongly clued.....should have been proctor's charges not charge......

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

Especially offensive (and out of touch with reality) remarks by Rex this week. His utter contempt for anyone who isn't a hipster (all ten of you down in DUMBO) is on full display. First, the problem isn't that his critics aren't living in the 20th C., it's that a crossword puzzle isn't a pop culture trivia context. It's about thinking and reasoning, not about patting yourself on the back for being so hip to pop culture. If you want a puzzle that strokes your ego, invent one and give it some other name -- it isn't a crossword puzzle. Second, Rex's idea that everybody who reads the times is young or leftist (justifying all the NPR and SNL references) just isn't true. This idea that everyone who isn't a flaming leftist must be stupid and uneducated is so far from reality. There are plenty of people of all political stripes who read the NYT for the news, science and especially the arts, and who don't just buy it to feel like they're going to church to be with people of their own kind. Offensive statements like this on Rex's part really show how small his world is.

spacecraft 12:32 PM  

Not much time today, so: I did it, it was OK, HOHUM. Had some trouble with HOMey vs. -IE, but that was ABOUT the only glitch.

Give it a B, I guess. Gotta run.

rondo 1:01 PM  

All that for a bunch of HOs??
This one hit me near the TESTEES it hurt alot.
EFGH and some of the 3-letter fill - didn't think that much of it.
Anyone from MN would put the hockey hall of fame in Eveleth, where it actually is.
Bright spots were POTSHOP and TEAT.
And on one line there's the ONEI OTOE COP.

Happy holidays captcha again!
Nothing memorable here.

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manitoba 3:09 PM  

I am probably the only one to say this but I did not like a single thing about this puzzle.

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Greg 7:15 PM  

Wow, Rex must have been in the Christmas spirit when he reviewed this one. Can't believe he didn't call out all the "green paint". BARSCENE, WINELABEL, HOKEYWORD (all in the same corner!), FILMSET, EBOLAVIRUS, ORANGESODA. All seem pretty "painty" to me.

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