Swedish lake that's largest in European Union / SUN 12-25-16 / Coin portraying Queen Victoria once / Stows as banner / Onetime alternative to Facebook Messenger / Soy-based frozen dessert brand / Roman emblem of power adopted by Mussolini

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Constructor: Kevin G. Der

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Married Couples" — themers are all two parts, where first and last parts are yoked (married) by a pair of letters (circled squares that represent the last two letters of the first part of the answer and the first two letters of the last part of the answer). Clues are all familiar phrases represented in the grid literally-ish:

Theme answers:
  • DRAMATIC PIE(CE)NTER (22A: Play by heart?) (get it, 'cause a play is a "dramatic piece," and here it is "by" (i.e. next to ... ?) "center" (another word for "heart"))
  • SYMBOL FOR AMPE(RE)GULAR (37A: A plus average?)
  • ALI(AS)SSITANCE (60A: Handle with care?) 
  • SERENI(TY)PHOON (75A: Calm before the storm?)
  • CLUT(CH)INESE BOARD GAME (96A: Grab and go?)
  • ABI(DE)CEPTIVE PITCH (116A: Stay ahead of the curve?)  
Word of the Day: FASCES (29A: Roman emblem of power adopted by Mussolini) —
Fasces (/ˈfæsz/, (Italian: Fasci, Latin pronunciation: [ˈfa.skeːs], a plurale tantum, from the Latin word fascis, meaning "bundle") is a bound bundle of wooden rods, sometimes including an axe with its blade emerging. The fasces had its origin in the Etruscan civilization, and was passed on to ancient Rome, where it symbolized a magistrate's power and jurisdiction. The image has survived in the modern world as a representation of magisterial or collective power. The fasces frequently occurs as a charge in heraldry, it is present on an older design of the Mercury dime and behind the podium in the United States House of Representatives, it is used as the symbol of a number of Italian syndicalist groups, including the Unione Sindacale Italiana, and it was the origin of the name of the National Fascist Party in Italy (from which the term fascism is derived). (wikipedia)
• • •

This was not pleasant at all. It's all backwards and strange, and the title doesn't really make any sense. I finished the entire puzzle without having any clear idea what the theme was trying to do. I mean, I got the whole letter-overlap thing, and I could somewhat see how the clues were signifying the answers in the grid, but I kept waiting for some big revelation, something that made sense of the whole fussy endeavor. But it never came. Unless I'm missing something, it just never came. There is no "aha" moment, just a series of "... oh, ok"s. Conceptually, this is a constructor's idea of a good time, not a solver's. If the solver had been taken into consideration, then the snappiness would be in the grid, not in the clues. You give away the fun in the clues, and then force the solver to endure the junky nonsense that appears in the grid. It's gibberish, these answers. You can see why I kept waiting for something Bigger—the only way the pain of putting those answers makes any sense is if there's some larger payoff. What do the two parts of each answer have to do with each other? What do the circled letters have to do with each other? Do they spell something? No. You give away the punchline in the clues and then make the solver cobble together the tortured set-up. No thanks.

And why "Married Couples"? Just the overlap? The clues don't express marriage at all. [Play by heart?] expresses adjacency, but not "marriage." And [Stay ahead of the curve?]... god knows how that relates to "marriage." The whole marriage concept seems to refer solely to the fact that a "couple" of letters unite (!?) two answer parts. The solve was just a bummer on almost every level. There were some nice non-theme moments, like ESPNRADIO and TOFUTTI, but there was also AREAR *and* AROAR, FAISAL *and* FASCES, and then whatever VANERN is (34D: Swedish lake that's the largest in the European Union) (if it's so all-fire "large," why have I never seen it in puzzles—weird). I'm stopping now so I can go get my Christmas spirit back (been gorging on TCM Christmas movies all day—got "Meet Me in St. Louis" waiting on DVR. Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and have a wonderful day, whoever you are.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Unknown 12:14 AM  

Thanks, @Rex, for articulating what I was thinking while working through @Kevin Der's December 25 contribution ... and having the discipline to get your post up on a holiday (a multi-holiday, for that matter!) I hope that everyone has a chance for a bit of down time and family time, if at all possible ... and that good will and civility prevail on this blog.

Unknown 12:30 AM  

Ugh. What a chore. I came here to see if I'd missed something, but apparently not.

allan 12:34 AM  

I feel Scrooged. It's like Shortz said bah humbug, let's give them this piece of coal to put in their stockings.

@GB Couldn't have said it better. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.

Passing Shot 12:51 AM  

So it wasn't just me. This was coal in my stocking. Happy Holidays to all.

Moly Shu 1:13 AM  

Same reaction as OFL, right down to the VANERN. Seemed more difficult than normal sundays. On the plus side, the Shu family traditional Christmas Eve clam chowder feast was really good. I'm fairly certain I ate too much.

'mericans in Cyprus 1:24 AM  

What @Rex, and the commentariat, said. Coal in our stocking, indeed. (A foretaste of the new energy policy?)

Happy Holidays to all!

CDilly52 1:45 AM  

Ugh, what a colossal slog! I was sincerely hoping for something clever with a variety of holiday clues and instead, nearly fell asleep. Oh well, here's to world peace and brotherhood and happy times to all.

razerx 1:49 AM  

Yuk. I must have been naughty this year.

joebloggs 2:45 AM  

Also my mother was born in Rio de Janeiro. If that's the Rio he refers to in 44 across then he's dead wrong. Cariocas NEVER say "olá" they might say "alô" but never EVER ola. Terrible puzzle all around.

Larry Gilstrap 3:08 AM  

I finished because that's what I do. How did Marco Polo feel after crossing the GOBI? How did Dara TORRES feel after swimming across the VANERN? How did Al GORE feel after the election 16 years ago? Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating.

Remember "Coffee, TEA. or Me" as a salacious expose of the glamorous life of a stewardess? Folks often wax nostalgic about the glory days of the airline industry. Really? Ever hear flight crews refer to Boeing's competitor as "ScareBUS"?

Hey, Rex's review and this puzzle triggered my grumpy mood. Christmas and Easter called for ham as the main course. Coincidence?

May your future be filled with very little DRAMA and lots of SERENITY. That's my goal.

Charles in Austin 3:11 AM  

No, it wasn't much fun to solve.

But upon reflection, each theme clue/answer pair make perfect sense. That in itself is something to enjoy.

jae 3:57 AM  

Yep, what @Rex and everyone so far has said. Tonight we watched the Christmas episode of "This Is Us" followed by Letterman's last Christmas show which I've saved on my DVR since 2014. Jay Thomas and Darlene Love, a fine way to close out Christmas Eve.

Anonymous 4:06 AM  

Yech! This was torturous. Unpleasant to solve.
SPEC is not a design "feature" but a requirement.

Anonymous 4:49 AM  

Not a fun fest, true enough, but OFL's review was too CRABBY by half. Odd to encounter a shout out to Judas, "that shipwreck" (this epithet courtesy of Rowan Williams, the previous Archbishop of Canterbury), in the puzzle for Christmas Day. P.S.: ...shout out from a fellow Ricochet podcast listener!

Anonymous 5:08 AM  

TOFUTTI will always remind me of "Mister Show With Bob & Dave"

Anonymous 6:54 AM  

@joebloggs Olá is a common greeting here in Brazil. It's just a little more formal than Oi. Think of it as Hello vs Hi.

IMHO, "Cariocas NEVER say..." is a dangerous corner to be in. Never say never, amigo.

Gotta say the puzzle left me flat. I'll just leave it at that. Everything I thought has already been said, beginning with Rex.

Happy Holidays


Anonymous 7:03 AM  

UGH!!! Guess this is the coal in my stocking. I should have saved this for later. Not a great way to start Christmas morning. Merry Christmas to all. Happy Hanukkah.

Z 7:24 AM  

I liked this more than Rex and the early commentariat, but agree with many of the points. First, marriage? Huh? Still hoping we all missed something. And the shared pair of letters? Why this bunch? And do we really need the shared pair highlighted? We aren't smart enough to suss out from the crosses that a pair of letters overlap? I do feel like this was more entertaining for a solver than last weeks effort (symmetrical clues? Who cares?), but feel like something is just a wee bit off.

I see others caught crossword favorite The Thin Man the other night. I got drunk just from watching. I was entertained, something modern murder mysteries rarely do for me anymore. Plot, character, the puzzle; these things I find interesting. Gore, not so much.

kitshef 7:48 AM  

Boy, am I an outlier today. I thought this was better than 70% of Sunday puzzles, with interesting clues, below average dreck, and certainly more challenge than is typical.

I normally glance at the title, then quickly forget it. So 80% of @Rex's rant is about something that I didn't notice.

Took forever and a day to figure out the theme, though. I had huge chunks of each themer, but one or two gaps that kept me from seeing what was going on in each one. When I finally got it, massive aha!

And that SE was a bear. That was the last to fall. aILEEN before EILEEN made 96A imparsable, and clues for TIC and THONG were tough, and GCHAT is a WoE. That section went in almost one letter at a time.

Lake VANERN is the largest lake in Europe outside of Russia - remember that for your bar quiz nights.

chefbea 7:49 AM  

I agree with all...no fun, not pleasant, coal in my stocking!! I really wanted a Christmas puzzle...when I saw the two circled letters every where I thought they were going to be Ho-ho-ho's

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all!!

noreen 8:16 AM  

For the first time in months, I found little in this puzzle to be amusing. It did take me three or four hours so it was challenging, as usual for me. But no laughs or even chuckles; no reference to Christmas or Hannukah; no fun at all, sorry to say. Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday to all.

Maruchka 8:20 AM  

Play nice, children, or Santa will snatch your toys and sleighs away. Not my favorite, but -

DRAMATIC PIE CENTER! Nice one this year, Mom.
ALI ASSISTANCE! Who's that medic alert fool??
ABI, DECEPTIVE PITCH! He never saw that one coming.
SERENITY PHOON! Well, you got me there.. anyone?

TOFUTTI was once a staple here, when daughter had dairy restrictions. It was fine, but Rice Dream's a better ice cream sub.

Teedmn 8:59 AM  

The only themer that really made sense to me in this puzzle was SERENITY TYPHOON. The title didn't make sense. I spent most of this puzzle saying "Huh?" to the theme entries.

But the fill was great - I loved the clue "Makes minor observations" for BABYSITS and "Salty or spicy" for OFF COLOR, "Personal problems" for ISSUES. PRISS, MOTTLE, ROPETOW (which of course was TOW ROPE first), FJORD, the Queen Victoria related clue for RUPEE and with CLAM, SOU and RUBLES, a little monetary mini-theme. All of that was great.

Using the randomization function kept this puzzle from being a slog, so thanks, @r.alphbunker!

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Unknown 9:01 AM  

A worm is bait. A fly is not.

Kevin 9:10 AM  

The fact that neither Rex nor anyone else has mentioned this makes me think I have missed something. But what is a "Chinese board game"? Is that a phrase that describes a game with inscrutable rules or something? I've never heard that in my entire life. And if it is just literally what it says, then I call foul. I can't name even one board game we imported from China.

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

"Go" is a Chinese board game. This puzzle was a big "eh" for me.

Unknown 9:18 AM  

"Go" is as popular in Asia as chess is here.

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

This one was a humbug, but at least there were no clues or answers normalizing Donald Trump's family or cabinet. So there's that.

Trombone Tom 9:43 AM  

I have to agree with the majority here. Kevin Der put in several interesting clues, but my reaction to SERENITYPHOON and some of the other theme answers was WOE.

Never heard of VANERN and won't remember it beyond today.

Even if the solve was kind of "Meh!" the puzzle kept me busy for an hour or so.

Happy Holidays to all of you.

Lobster11 10:01 AM  

I finished about 75% of this, at which point I finally got one of the themers, at which point I threw it in the trash and decided to do something else.

jberg 10:09 AM  

I OFT go AFT, but was disappointed not to find an EFT when I got there. Well, UFF DA!

This was a real slog until I figured out the theme, then it wrapped up fast. Aside from that, my biggest problem was wiN OUT making be doubt FAISAL. Also CRAnkY before CRABBY.

I'll come right out and say it -- I wanted Liz Gorski drawing a picture of Santa going down the chimney.

Merry Christmas to all, as well as happy any other holiday you are celebrating! See this comic.

r.alphbunker 10:10 AM  

What do you do if there is an obvious wrong answer, e.g. TRANI for {Provider of limited coverage?}. You check the crossing answers. And if they all look good, (I'm looking at you ICHAT and EVER) you have two choices
1. Assume that the obvious wrong answer is correct
2. Check the crosses of the crosses.

I should have chosen 2 because BOARDGEME was obviously wrong.

Details are here.

skeeter 10:17 AM  

Same here lol.

AliasZ 10:24 AM  

@Nancy Pilla, don't tell that to fly fishers. It makes me wonder if pearl fishers use pearl as bait.

After I finished the puzzle, I was hoping that the shaded overlapping letters would spell out some hidden message or a snazzy phrase -- a "big reveal" so to speak, that @Rex and I and everyone else was looking for. Such as: MERRY CHRISTMAS or KEEP YOUR DRADLE SPINNING or even HOHOHO or something. As it is, it spelled out CEREAS TYCHDE. What the heck is CEREAS TYCHDE? Maybe it means "Merry Christmas" in Faroese. But no, "Merry Christmas" in Faroese is "Gleðilig Jól."

ALIASSISTANCE could have been spelled ALIASZISTANCE for effect.

@GB, if more people were like you, there wouldn't even be need to wish for good will and civility on this blog.

I wish a heartfelt and sincere CEREAS TYCHDE to one and all, and Kellemes Karácsonyi Ünnepeket.

Dorothy Biggs 10:26 AM  

At the risk of drawing the evil doug's ire, I didn't like the puzzle. No one has to agree with me or even read my post here...and if I offend anyone who DID like the puzzle, I would just say that if you take offense to what some hack says on the internets, you're doing the internets wrong. I mean seriously, taking what someone says on the internet personally is like Internet Usage 101, and if you continue to take offense, then you need to get off the computer and take up a different hobby.

We don't all agree here and we don't all say it in what might be considered the "kindest" of ways, but the way to get around it is to simply move on.

I do find it interesting how evil doug takes it upon himself to stand up for decency when he himself is the very paradigm of negativity and personal attacks.

That said, Happy Holidays to everyone and may you find some joy in the day and even, for some of you, some rest.

Oh yeah, this puzzle was interesting on many levels and I'm not sure I enjoyed many of those levels...including the weird theme thing...and I certainly get that not everyone celebrates Christmas, but it would have been, I dunno, appropriate had there been some nod to the holidays here...since Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the Winter Solstice all coincide so closely so that we all seem to be celebrating something today.

Peace. At least for today...

Carola 10:36 AM  

@Rex's first paragraph: IT IS SO. There's almost something delightfully goofy aboutt the SERENITYPHOON, but I feel as though I'm CLUTCHing at straws there.... I did enjoy solving the puzzle, though - it was easy enough to go fast and there were some rewarding morsels: FIRE SALE, JUNGLE GYM, ACT FAST, BIG TOP.

Had a few ISSUES: snaTCH before CLUTCH, TaskS before TRIPS, EVer before EVAH.

@Larry Gilstrap - And then there was the DC10
@jberg - Loved your Uff-da!

Mohair Sam 10:48 AM  

So maybe it should have been titled "One Night Stands"?

Hate to be negative on Christmas morning . . . but . . . yeah, what Rex said. Not only were the themers hard to marry - but SERENITY/TYPHOON would seem headed for divorce court fairly quickly.

Santa left me a pedometer - Lady Mohair is real subtle, ain't she?

Hey, y'all have a great Holiday!

mathgent 11:01 AM  

Rex said it beautifully.

May I wish you all a wonderful Christmas.

Masked and Anonymous 11:05 AM  

Well, it was different, and I thrive on differentness. Thanx, Mr. Der. All the best to U, this holiday season. I value your constructioneerin efforts.

And, of course, all the best to yule'all. I thought seriously about namin U individually, but I was real afraid I'd leave somebody out. We're off to Cletus's house now for Christmas brunch. Talkin homemade cinnamon rolls … Wish I could save one, for each of U ... unless U ain't into gluten gluts, that is.

Masked & Anonymo11Us


MaryEllen Schneider 11:11 AM  

The best part of this awful puzzle was coming here and having my feelings validated. Thanks all. And Merry Christmas!

Married and A - Coupla 11:39 AM  

Would be a kinda neat rodeo, if CE RE AS TY CH DE anagrams to somethin special. We've got to think ...


sent from Cletus's ipad

RooMonster 11:48 AM  

Hey All !
Merry Christmas!
Commenting before reading anyone, so apologize if something's repeated.

Figured out the concept at SERENITYPHOON. Ah, said I, there's Calm (before [in front of]) the Storm. Neat. So went back to other themers that weren't making sense, and figured'em all out, except the last one. DECEPTIVE????? What in tarnation could that be? Finally got that SE corner (last area to fall), and saw PITCH. Curve is a DECEPTIVE PITCH? Um, ok I guess.

Also, Natick alert! GASCES/SOU. C'mon man! Alphabet run on that S.

Some fun clues, FJORD, JUNGLE GYM, BABY SITS, THONG, and others I'm sure I missed. Puz gets a notch higher by including ROO! :-)

Overall, nice SunPuz offering. Sorta different type theme. Nothing that will be kept in the ole brains memory. Like last SundayPuz.

Well, I nEVAH

Malsdemare 11:50 AM  

I'm Pollyanna this morning. The puzzle, interrupted OFT as I let dogs in and out, in and out, in and out . . . took two cups of coffee and kept me occupied. Mr. mal is working on his latest ship model, the Cutty Sark, so it's I and Muchas Pooches thinking about Christmases past. I was pleased to be distracted. I was pretty happy when I caught the trick though disappointed at the lack of a holiday theme, especially given the option of so many. It would have been fun, actually, to have had a Hanukkah theme.

And yes, we watched Die Hard last night. It was as good as I remembered.

Love and peace to everyone.

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

Most of the time, I find OFL's parsing of themes a little too demanding. However, I'm in full agreement here. As I was doing the puzzle, I kept waiting for some connection between the two halves - and there wasn't any - or for some connection among the shaded/circled letter pairs - and there wasn't any there either. If all the theme answers were like SERENI(TY)PHOON, I would have been okay, but they were just random words/phrases thrown together. No fun.

I don't comment much here but I enjoy all the regulars (and not regulars). Happy Holidays to all and wishes for peace in the New Year!

Jim C. in Maine (in San Francisco for the holidays)

Leapfinger 12:21 PM  

@Maruchka, lol at you! It was staring at SERENITY PHOON (where'd that umlaut go?)that stopped me looking for state abbrevs, chemelements, and cryptic encodings. Had as good a time as @Teedmn did, enjoying the same clues and entries, as well as tripping the Nile-Amazon-CONGO, fixing the evil I on my double TRON, and recognizing the fasciculating facies on those FASCES.

@r.alph, Yup, I waffled between "Well, Did You Ever/Evah?", and then DAPPLEd where I should've MOTTLEd.

My only nitlet had to do with the Rio OLA, as all my Carioca, SaoPaoloiste and Bahian friends always only said Oie (as I mentally spelt it). Thanks for the explanation and correct spelling, @Ziggy.

@AliasZ, I expect @Z agrees, after being passed over a 2nd consecutive day. Would csertainly like to hear sz'more about that ALIASZISTANCE, as it szeems to me the ALIASZI STANCE has been to go Szouth off-grid for the holidays.

Well, at first I wasn't ready TIBET the farm on the theme, but with understanding came respect, and the solve finished with no END OW. I don't mind finding the cleverness in the clues, when it isn't done to excess, and works as well as in this case. Not only are all the theme-clue phrases perfectly good phrases in their own write, but in each case, a different word is used to describe the relation of one part to the other:
Play BY heart
A PLUS average
Handle WITH care
Calm BEFORE the storm
Grab AND go
Stay AHEAD OF the curve

That's the kind of attention to detail that imparts elegance, in my lexicon. Not that Kevin Der would have tried this, had he thought the theme was, um, Anything next to impossible
PROPERNO[UN]LIKELY, as it were. [insert emoji of your choice here]

Fröhliche Weihnachtung und Kellemes Ünnepeket all around! Csókolom!

Marcy 12:23 PM  

JOYLESS! You'll definitely have to find Holiday Cheer elsewhere.

Joseph Michael 12:34 PM  

Oh, well. It will be a new year soon.

Happy holidays.

Leapfinger 12:46 PM  

@Married & A Couple, how's about?


All we need is a LOOF, and the CEREALS could provide the gluten gluts for the glutes galoot. As for TYCHo DE Brahe, who nose? His duel identity probably summered on Lake VANERN.

Alan_S. 1:06 PM  

Shortz has officially lost it! To allow this nightmarish slog of an entry to be the December 25th selection for the NYT Sunday puzzle is evidence enough. Out with the old!

Anonymous 1:38 PM  

I agree with Rex. Didn't make any sense to me. If I wasn't stuck in an airport between flights....

QuasiMojo 1:42 PM  

I kept asking myself "Why!"??? -- a thousand times -- while doing this one. Not much of a Christmas chuckle. Did the two-letter married couples add up to anything that I missed? A secret recipe for glogg perhaps? Happy Holly Day to everyone on here! I'm listening to the Scherchen Messiah which is the best recording of it ever IMHO. Saving "the Holly and the Ivy" for later. Best XMas movie "evah." :)

Airymom 1:50 PM  

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. I made great latkes last night along with brisket. Then the whole family watched "White Christmas", because even
"members of the tribe" love the best holiday movie ever. If you don't tear up when General Waverly walks downstairs in his uniform, then maybe you solved this puzzle earlier and were anesthetized.

Let's hope Will chose a good puzzle for New Year's.

Best wishes to everyone for a happy and healthy New Year.

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

I think I figured out the theme... the circled letters anagram to "SCRATCHED EYE" which makes perfect sense.

Anonymous 3:04 PM  

You said it exactly. What a write off of a Christmas crossword :-(

edmcan 3:23 PM  

A real humbug of a puzzle; Rex was right. Happy Holidays everyone!

Unknown 3:36 PM  

I think that the first theme answer was, by far, the worst of the bunch. DRAMATIC PIECE and CENTER are both dull answers, and the phrase used in the clue [Play by heart?] is the least familiar of the six clue phrases. Solving this theme answer immediately soured me on the puzzle, and I mentally prepped myself for writing a scathing review.

As I went along, I found enough good things in it that it earned some grudging respect.

I saw that theme answers were not random but were chosen because of the clue phrases. I did like that the six phrases each used a different linking word: [Play by heart?], [A plus average?], [Handle with care?], [Calm before the storm?], [Grab and go?], [Stay ahead of the curve?]. I actually like the idea here, and I would guess that theme answer possibilities are surprisingly sparse. (Hmmm ... Time after time? = PHASE/SECOND.) If most of the theme answers had been of the SERENITY/TYPHOON variety, then I think that I would have genuinely enjoyed the theme.

I agree with @Teedmn (8:59am) about the cluing. This puzzle had a handful of wonderful clues. BABYSITS [Makes minor observations?] got a laugh from me. I also enjoyed OFF-COLOR [Salty or spicy], FJORD [Ice carving?], and HIDE [Cry at a surprise party just before the honoree arrives]. Pleasant clues for CLUB SODA [It puts the fizz in a gin fizz] and PAIR [Two turtledoves, e.g.]. I liked the trivia for RUPEE [Coin portraying Queen Victoria, once] and CONGO [River more than 2,700 miles long that crosses the Equator twice].

I liked the clue for ALLOY [Cupronickel, e.g.]. At first, I thought that "cupronickel" was an inscrutable word, and I left it to the crosses to get the answer. Once I did, I noticed the "nickle" half of the word, making the word semi-scrutable.

The fill was so-so. Rex points out AREAR and AROAR and FAISAL and FASCES. I'd add RUPEE and RUBLES to that list. TOFUTTI was easily my favorite answer. FIRE SALE will always remind me of this scene from Arrested Development.

Mohair Sam 4:09 PM  

@Martin Abresch - Ah yes, Tobias and his job searches. Thanks for the link.

old timer 4:32 PM  

It took me until just now to figure out the trick hidden in the clu words like with and plus and ahead. Now I like the puzzle and I did not before. Some answers were clever and I for one thought RUPEE was brilliant

I may be a robot 4:42 PM  

Evah, enact, gchat, ian helped kill me because at that point of 116A I still had no idea what was going on, and the crosses were foreign to me. Also I thought Giovanni was = to Joe and Ian was = to John. Ehhnd maybe because we were into the brie with farmers market honey and pecans, and the wine, by then. No, no on second thought it would've ended there anyhoo. I'd be more frustrated if the libations were so marv

Andy 4:51 PM  

What everyone else said. Ugh. Sone Christmas/Hanukkah present.

BallBoy 4:54 PM  

Robot, think of Don Giovanni, aka Don Juan, or Don John but not Don Johnson although he was from all reports a definite Don Juan.

I may be a robot 5:03 PM  

@Ball, thanks! Wow, my whole life, wrong. And @Martin, I thought your link would connect to something relating to Tobias'portmanteau for his profession as an Analyst Therapist (aka analrapist).

puzzle hoarder 5:06 PM  

I missed out on Friday and Saturday due to all the Xmas prep. Now I get to not make up for that by covering this monstrosity.
That first themer had some promise. I read it as DRAMATIC PIE CENTER and I thought the couple's would be connected by a three letter anagram forming a third separate word and thus a weird phrase I. E. EPICENTER becomes PIE CENTER. However such was not to be. The fills' cluing was a workout and I did get to learn TOFUTTI so not a total loss. Ho Ho Ho.

Unknown 5:15 PM  

Off-topic, but not really. I just finished solving a special seasonal Sunday-sized puzzle for AVCX crossword subscribers that was constructed by @Elizabeth Gorski, edited by @Ben Tausig. No spoilers from me, but the puzzle came in the nick of time for this holiday. Those of you who have access to the aforementioned puzzle will find it well worth your while.

Hope the rest of the country is dealing with better weather and road conditions than what we have here in the Twin Cities ... in any event, stay warm and bask contentedly with family and friends.

Unknown 5:17 PM  

Answer is THONG

Crossing answers are GCHAT and EVAH

dick swart 5:37 PM  

I was really looking forward to a Christmas Treat! Printed the xword out, had a nice cuppa all ready. Plus some baked goods!

Waaa Waaa! The Grinch stole my Christmas morning.

The Christmas appearance of this puzzle seems to ignore customer expectations.

cwf 5:40 PM  

@jberg: check the AVXWORD for your Gorski!

Anonymous 6:28 PM  

Was it me or did I feel that a Sunday puzzle landing on Christmas/Hanukkah was a perfect opportunity for an extravagant holiday theme? Or has the NYT become so PC that they can't do that anymore? This puzzle was obtuse and dry. Thumbs down.

aknapp 6:41 PM  

I share @Rex's distaste for the common-phrase-clue / wacky-answer concept. In addition:

"Grab and go"? Common phrase? More usually seen as "grab-and-go," grab 'n go" etc.
"Play by heart"? Same deal -- much less common than "learn by heart" or "know by heart"
"A plus average" Not an actual phrase! The phrase is "A-plus average" which this puzzle did not earn from me.

Mohair Sam 8:36 PM  

@George B. - Funny you should mention Elizabeth Gorski. I was in a Barnes and Noble yesterday looking for a book of non-NYT puzzles for Lady M. Hard to decide which book is the right book with little time to choose. Thumbing through one book I noted Gorski's name as constructor of a couple of the puzzles and decided that was the book. What better mark of quality? - Bought the book.

Anonymous 9:56 PM  

I agree with Rex and others. Kept waiting for some big holiday reveal but alas, no such luck.
Bah humbug. Felt Scrooged!!

Z 10:13 PM  

R.I.P. George Michael.

Unknown 10:16 PM  

Not my favorite puzzle ever, but I respected it more than most of you. Like at least one other commenter, it took me an EXTREMELY long time to suss out the theme. So when I finally got there it was quite an AHA moment. That made it worthwhile for me.

No, I didn't care for the title either. I'm still trying to get those letters to spell out "Drink your Ovaltine."

JC66 10:50 PM  

@Dan Steele

Just finished watching it again, Very funny.

Anonymous 11:26 PM  

I'm sorry if I missed this while reading the comments, but can someone tell me what does

"Symbol for Ampere Regular" mean? "Ampere regulator" seems like it could be a thing, but do

electricians (or physicists) say Ampere Regular?

I agree with all the negative comments above: this was the LEAST fun I've ever had with a Sunday puzzle &

on Christmas/Hanukkah. Bah Humbug!

Art F 6:08 AM  

Anonymous: "Ampere Regular" is not a thing said by anybody. The idea is that A is the symbol for Ampere, plus (i.e., in addition) "average" means "regular". So the COUPLE of clue answers "symbol for ampere" and "regular" are MARRIED (puzzle theme) by the overlapping COUPLE of letters RE.

I rather liked this puzzle, with the late aha for catching on to the theme.

ghostoflectricity 7:40 AM  

I agree, Rex. A lot of slog and tedium with no pay-off. And Vanern? WTF? Didn't finish puzzle (which I do in print) until early Monday AM because of Christmas this and that.

BTW, Christmas Eve on TCM was great. Christmas Day, not so much: "King of Kings," "The Robe," "Ben Hur"- all boring (and interminable) Technicolor sword-and-sandal sagas (and mostly more associated with Easter, anyway). Finally in prime time they got to Preston Sturges and Frank Capra, more my speed.

Georgia 10:00 AM  

Then go should have been capitalized .....

Tita 10:29 AM  

Happy Boxing Day!

Rex and @George B's sentiments here too.
But also appreciated some of the clues, including the subtle misdirect at IAN for Giovanni...

Knew all about FASCES because I worked for a company based in Latina,a city founded by Mussolini, and originally names Littoria, after Fascia Littorio, they full name for the fascist symbol.
I was surprised at what a beautiful and well-laid out city it is...I was expecting cinder-block structures and a strict grid of streets. Actually, wide boulevards and lots of parks and open spaces.

Also loved CLAM...when the euro changeover happened, I explained the impact of it to my young nieces by having them imagine if when they had to carry around Clams as the Cape Cod currency, Rudies as the ny money, and dollars as Connecticut cash, and half to do conversions across the currencies any time they wanted to buy something.

Anyhow, hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday.

The Clerk 11:13 AM  

Friday's puzzle was likely my worst time in years, while this one was my fastest Sunday ever. I didn't quite catch the theme quickly but had enough downs to "wheel of fortune" my way through the remaining gaps. This theme felt as if there were a bigger idea in place but maybe that's not the case based on the prior comments.

Slow solver 1:57 PM  

Just got to this easy/meh today. I always do Evan Birnholz' Sunday Washington post puzzle first. They're sparkly.

TimJim 3:23 PM  

Someone spilled water all over my puzzle before I could do it. Turns out that was a lucky break!

Unknown 10:13 PM  

Admitttedly, I am late to this party. My printer is not working and I was forced to hunt for hard copy of the NYT on Xmas. By the time I got it, the family Xmas dinner trumped the Sunday xword, so I did it today. What a waste.

All I can say is, "What Rex and 99.99% of the commentators said". Ugh! Serenity typhoon is the only theme answer that made immediate sense. When one solves the entire puzzle without grokking the theme, the puzzle tends to suck. This a disappointing finish to an otherwise satisfying weekend of puzzles.

My apologies to all those who must endure receiving day late comments.

Anonymous 12:15 AM  

I always thought that go was a Japanese game.

Bernecky 1:44 PM  

All the theme clues have this form:

across 37 A plus average?

A (symbol for Ampere)
plus (i.e. next to)
average (regular)

the two "answer phrases" overlap by 2 letters

I thought it was clever.

Anonymous 7:26 PM  

This was bad!!! The theme is supposed to be a revelation, this was so tortured it was painful. "Abide deceptive pitch",' are u kidding me? "Clutching Chinese board game"? Embarrassing! A big letdown. If a different phrase had been revealed if you took out the 2 highlighted letters I may have been (a bit) less negative. Because the filler was ok actually. Love the NYT crossword and I can't imagine how hard it is to come up with these every day. This is an example of how wrong it can go.

Anonymous 11:29 PM  

I read your explanation and still don't get it. Ugh, hated this puzzle.

Eric Selje 11:10 AM  

Fie, indeed.

Happy 2017 solvers!

spacecraft 12:29 PM  

DNF, what a way to kick off the new year. The first two theme answers, filled in on crosses (all except the second letter of some European lake that that there's no hope of knowing, which is the point at which I gave up) made absolutely no sense to me. Even after I read the "get it" explanation, I STILL don't "get it." Total nonsense. In golf terms, I had an injury that forced me to withdraw. No score. I may just skip Der puzzles in the future, because I do NOT like them.

rondo 12:53 PM  

Maybe I have more tolerance for the cryptic type clues/answers, being a big fan of the Harper's puz. But I can see where most folks here don't appreciate that kind of stuff. There were a bunch of longish answers that weren't bad. +/- 40 minutes is kind easy for me on a Sunday. Nary a write-over yet this year!

Hope to see VANERN someday. Numerous reasons.

Big props for yeah baby Dara TORRES. Not only 5 Olympics, but non-consecutive - twice! (And a SI model and commentator besides.) Gives hope to us older folks who still compete with the kids.

Looks like it might be nice enough to fire up the WEBER and start the new year out right.

Happy New Year to all syndies and other visitors. Make it the best EVAH.

Burma Shave 2:40 PM  


I SUREDO remember his TRIPS to SCORE in L.A. and the CONGO,
he'd CLUTCH and SPAR with a PAIR of dopes on the ROPETOW-to-TOW.
in a BIGTOP Clay WON over MOORE before TYSON's existence,
and in a JUNGLEGYM ENDed Foreman while Angelo gave ALIASSISTANCE.


BS2 3:58 PM  


EILEEN is ENDOWed with a BIGTOP, or PAIR, or SETBY any name,
AREAR END and long LEGs ALLINONE DIOR THONG that drives me mad.
She's no PRISS in OFFCOLOR PICTURES used as BAIT in the AD game,


AnonymousPVX 4:06 PM  

A real slog with no payoff. I usually feel Rex is too rough. Not today.

rain forest 6:11 PM  

Except for the themers, I found this easy/medium, which I guess it had to be to get enough crosses to complete the theme answers. The theme was, shall I say, odd? It wasn't until I did the fourth one that I finally figured out what was going on. Just odd.

Other than that, a typical Sunday, with the THONG providing some lightheartedness.

Glad to finish this one after yesterday's DNF. 2017 is off to a decent start.

Anonymous 10:31 PM  

OMG. Our paper printed this today, and we were so frustrated. The thing is, ours included multiple clues that didn't have corresponding spots, and multiple slots for answers with no corresponding numbers or clues. I couldn't figure out why nobody was talking about that! For example, for 24 down, we had a clue, but no spot numbered 24. We had no clue for 40 across, AND no spot numbered 40 (but we had the 5 spots that followed 40, but with no clue). Upon comparing your puzzle to ours, I see that our paper misprinted it. Every place where you have circles (showing the overlapped letters), we have blacked-out squares. The corresponding across clues were omitted, but the down clues were left in.

Ugh. I'd like to think we might have figured it out if the puzzle had been printed correctly, but the way it actually was? No. We were stumped.

Anonymous 10:53 PM  

I liked some of the cluing: fjord, rupee, baby sits, thong, tac. I had to do a "google images" search for fasces afterwards. I'm amazed that I wasn't aware of the image before -- other Nazi symbols are so well known. Otherwise, it was a lot of slogging to work out what the theme was supposed to be.

BS3 12:45 AM  

The ALI stuff is all factual. And a nod to one of the great ones who passed last year.
Maybe I'll stick to the doggerel.

manitoba 11:00 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
manitoba 12:44 PM  

Let's call a spade a spade. This was a piece of rubbish from beginning to end.

BKWestby 2:42 PM  

"Married couples"? In my paper the theme was "Attention". Not sure it would have made a difference in solving it, though. This one was torturous.

Anonymous 8:46 PM  

Deceptive pitch, doesn't pitch refer to a slope? What does that have to do with curves? This puzzle made me upset.

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