Indian megacity of 28+ million / MON 12-23-19 / Tolkien's Lord of Rivendell / One of 38 for Madonna billboard record / Biblical birthright seller / New World natives noted for their pyramids calendar

Monday, December 23, 2019

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Felt hardish, but ... no. Clock says it was very Easy indeed (2:39) ... ah, I see now that it's only 14-wide. That explains it ...

THEME: SPIN THE DREIDEL (57A: Play a game during Hanukkah ... with a hint to 15-, 21-, 42- and 47-Across) — circled letters inside of themers contain the letters in DREIDEL all spun around (i.e. jumbled):

Theme answers:
  • MIDDLE RELIEVER (15A: Pitcher between a starter and a closer)
  • SLED RIDE (21A: Snow day activity)
  • HIGH-SPEED DRILL (42A: Metalworker's tool)
  • RED DELICIOUS (47A: Popular apple variety)
Word of the Day: ELROND (63A: Tolkien's Lord of Rivendell) —
Elrond Half-elven is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. He is introduced in The Hobbit, and plays a supporting role in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. // In The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, Elrond is portrayed by Hugo Weaving. (wikipedia)
• • •

Struggled repeatedly and still ended up near a record Monday time. Now, the grid is undersized, at just 14 squares wide, but still there was a huge discrepancy between how difficult this puzzle felt and how quickly I actually moved through it—between perceived and actual difficulty. I forgot who built the New World pyramids, forgot MARA Liasson's name (Liane Hansen was causing interference) needed several crosses to get DOTCOM (7A: Amazon or eBay), wrote in WIKI (?) before WIFI (25D: What'll help you see the sites?), have no idea what a HIGH-SPEED DRILL really is, and never really processed the name ELROND, so needed all the crosses there as well. And still: 2:39. Bizarre. Didn't love this one as I was solving it, and found the revealer kind of underwhelming (the idea of mixing up a bunch of common letters like that just isn't terrible exciting, conceptually). But the more that I look it over, the more I think it's pretty good. HIGH-SPEED DRILL is a shrug, but the rest of the themers are fine, and if you think of it as an easy themeless with a little holiday message at the end, it's just fine. And they got the holiday puzzle publication date right! Today is the first full day of Hanukkah, so Happy Hanukkah to all you who celebrate!

I'm gonna reprint my last-minute holiday gift guide from yesterday. I hope some of you find it useful. Since I posted yesterday, Fireball Newsflash Crosswords 2020 made its Kickstarter funding goal, so another season is guaranteed, which is nice. Also, I've added Eric Berlin's "Puzzlesnacks" to the list. So here you go (again):
  • American Values Club Crossword: the premier independent crossword puzzle. Imaginative, contemporary puzzles from an extremely talented and diverse group of constructors. You should already be a subscriber. Go ahead and make someone else a subscriber too.
  • Matt Gaffney's Weekly Crossword Contest: Matt's contest is by now an institution with a sizeable solving fanbase. Every Friday he releases a metacrossword. You have the weekend to figure out the meta answer. Puzzles cycle through difficulty levels week to week, from pretty easy to Ouch OMG Help! When you get the answer, you enter it on his website, and you can see if you're right and see how many others got it. There are prizes for randomly selected successful solvers. Matt's a great constructor and his contest is justly famous. For the serious solver who wants to spice things up, this subscription is just the thing.
  • Crossword Nation: Liz Gorski used to be a frequent and beloved contributor to the NYTXW, but she has taken her talents elsewhere, as they say, and one of those places is her own weekly easy themed crossword puzzle. This would make a great gift for someone who enjoys solving but still struggles with late-week puzzles—or for anyone who likes cute current delicious puzzles.
  • Queer Qrosswords 2: 2 Queer 2 Qurious: Nate Cardin was so successful with his first go at a collection of crosswords to benefit LGBTQIA+ charities that he decided to do another one! It's easy: donate to one of a number of charities, show your receipts, get your puzzles (from some of the best constructors in the business). Do it! Give it as a gift! Go on!
  • Women of Letters: Patti Varol put together this collection of crosswords by women constructors, to benefit "women-centric charities." As with Queer Qrosswords, you donate to a charity, show your receipts, get your puzzles. Great causes, great puzzles. Go for it.
  • Outside the Box puzzles (by Joon Pahk): I don't normally go too far into the world of non-crosswords, but the Variety puzzles and Rows Garden puzzles (so fun! see the sample here if you're not familiar with this type of puzzle!) available here are crossword-adjacent enough for me. If you want to diversify your (or someone else's!) puzzling fare, subscribe to Year 5 of Outside the Box. Now. Go on!
  • Fireball Newsflash Crosswords 2020: man I love these things. Biweekly crosswords that Peter builds with answers straight out of recent headlines. If something's in the news, chances are you'll see it here first (crossword-wise). These puzzles are hypercurrent and force me to have to deal on a regular basis with names I don't know—a very important solving skill to have. The Kickstarter for next season (2020) met its funding goal Sunday night (12/22), so get over there and subscribe with confidence, or buy someone a subscription, and add a newsy dimension to your (or someone else's) solving experience. 
  • Puzzlesnacks by Eric Berlin: Hey, look, puzzles for beginning and intermediate solvers, particularly *kids*. I'll let Eric describe: "With Puzzlesnacks, I specialize in taking variety crossword types generally seen as pretty darn challenging, and making them more accessible to beginning and intermediate solvers. I post a puzzle to the Web site ( every Friday -- I want kids to be able to access the puzzle for free. But adults are encouraged to subscribe, for $3 / month. Subscribers get the puzzle sent directly to them by e-mail, and they get a couple dozen bonus puzzles each year as well."
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    Joaquin 12:02 AM  

    Dreidel spinning is the traditional game played at Hanukkah and involves a top-like spinner with four sides, each side with a Hebrew letter.

    The holiday itself - Hanukkah - celebrates the brave band of Jews who had only 10% power on their iPhones, yet the phones worked for another eight days. Or something like that. Maybe you should look it up to be sure.

    chefwen 1:22 AM  

    Happy Hanukkah.

    Monday easy and enjoyable. Had to rely on a few downs for MIDDLE RELIEVER, don’t follow baseball if I can help it.

    HIGH SPEED DRILL evoked a trip to the dentist, so that produced a little grimace.

    To me MEWL is more cat like than babyish, I may be wrong.

    albatross shell 2:49 AM  

    HAPPY Hanukkah, I agree. And certainly agree with Arlo Guthrie "Children of Abraham, get it together,
    Stop killin' each other for a piece of land"
    But somehow even I find it strange that a Hanukkah puzzle should contain AWAKE ISLAM.

    Then ESAU NOAH and XENA try to walk into an establishment that only allows two's in. Esau says "Well I'm a twin, that qualifies me, so I'm getting in."
    Xena flexes her shoulders and says "I got a nice pair and a two-edged sword, so I know I'm getting in."
    Noah says "I've been drinking since I woke up. Look at me in that mirror. I see two of me in there. In fact I've been seeing double for hours, so both of us get in." This sure isn't a joke, so it must be a history lesson.

    I guess I need a MIDDLERELIEVER.

    OMG I just noticed it's
    Wish I could invest in those

    This puzzle is more interesting than I ever imagined. For this ex-Jersey boy, it even has APE MAE!!!

    Solverinserbia 2:51 AM  

    I thought it was ridiculously easy, and I set a record (4:05). Only ELROND/ALDA slowed me even a second and I just did a letter run until I hit the D. I saw the grid wasn't a square but didn't know it could be undersized so without counting just assumed it was 16x15.

    I liked the clue for wifi.

    jae 3:42 AM  

    Easy even though I had to fix SLEDding, but now I know it was because of the truncated grid. Cute, liked it.

    Lewis 6:13 AM  

    There is an art to Monday cluing, making the clues easy but not embarrassingly obvious. Lynn Lempel is a master, and Timothy showed today he can do it with the best of them. Also, a lovely concept -- I couldn't figure out the theme before getting the revealer -- as well as original, as some cursory research indicates this theme has never been done before.

    I never learned the rules of playing dreidel, but I always loved spinning it upside down. And Wikipedia tells me that astronaut Jeffrey A. Hoffman spun a dreidel for an hour in outer space. So there's that.

    The puzzle has an echo from yesterday, as a dreidel is a TOP TYPE, and of the day before, with NOAH, plus some long-i endings (WIFI /DOI/ ELI / LEVI) and schwa-backs (YODA / XENA /SIESTA /EUROPA /MARA / ALDA). And, because it is only 14 squares wide, the grid stands tall as a spinning dreidel should, and as an example of an exemplary Monday offering.

    GILL I. 6:32 AM  

    I will confess to my sheer obtuseness...I've never heard of SPIN THE DREIDEL. The only SPIN I've encountered was of the bottle variety. My very first kiss playing that game. I still remember the sweet, very fat, very short boy who "got me." I was tall at the age of 13 and he came up to my chin. That's where he planted one.
    I always love me a Timothy Polin. He does seem to rely heavily on names, though.
    I wanted Aztecs for 1A. I prefer their calendars to the MAYANS - perhaps because it seems more EXOTIC. Just look at him eating the snake.
    I got to thinking of the prom hairstyles at 51D. I posted a picture of me and my prom date on Facebook. I had a terrible time trying to fix my UPDO. I'm so glad the days of pilling it up are long gone.
    Oh, and speaking of spinning games, we went to a Christmas party the other night and played a dice game called LCR. You need three dollars to start. I haven't had this much fun in ages. It helped that I won the pot ($38)...does SPIN THE DREIDEL involve cash? If so, I'm in.....
    Happy Chanukah to my friends that observe.

    kitshef 7:13 AM  

    Three unknowns on a Monday!??? (ELROND, MARA and ARLO).

    Despite which, I agree that this was close to record easiness. Almost everything else was read-write; no thinking required.

    Shouldn’t 36D be Alan? Isn’t the norm that a character first name in the clue yields an actor first name in the answer?

    Suzie Q 7:37 AM  

    Don't forget we also have 6D Nativity scene.
    I was a big Tolkien fan in my younger days but needed Alda to get that last letter.
    I'm not clear why sad is the answer to 43A.
    Pleasant enough to start my Monday.

    Carola 8:22 AM  

    Apt and fun. I guess puzzles count as games, and I liked this game-within-a-game idea. Nice wordplay, nice job on finding 4 ways to spin the seven (!) letters of DREIDEL.
    New to me: MIDDLE RELIEVER, STAMOS. Do-over: Dealer before DOTCOM, SLEDding.
    @albatross shell - Loved your APE MAE.

    ETaz 8:26 AM  

    How is 46 across Sol and not So? Sol? If so, I’ve been dreadful mistaken all my life, for which I blame Julie Andrews.

    Lewis 8:38 AM  

    My five favorite clues from last week
    (in order of appearance):

    1. Without which earth is just "eh"? (3)
    2. Inspirational passage? (7)
    3. Things that bakeries make but don't sell (6)
    4. 1/2 vis-a-vis 1/3, say (3)
    5. He is one (5)(3)


    SouthsideJohnny 9:03 AM  

    Hawkeye’s first name was Benjamin. I don’t know how to apply the first/last convention when a nickname is involved, probably constructor’s choice. ELROND ventures much too close to a garbage-time entry for a Monday (I don’t know how memorable he would be to, say a casual Hobbit reader). SESTET, which always seems like it should have been sextet, appears to be enjoying a renaissance lately.

    I wish the majority of the puzzles they publish would be this clean and junk-free. Looking forward to seeing what the rest of the week has to offer.

    Nancy 9:15 AM  

    It looked for all the world as though it would be some sort of mixed-up RIDDLE -- but there was that hard-to-explain extra "E". Oh, well, I thought, I'll worry about it when I get there.

    I got there. "Aha," I said. "Not RIDDLE. DREIDEL".

    Considering that this is both a Monday and a Hanukkah tribute puzzle, it has some interest. It made me do some thinking and I actually had a write-over: DOMAIN before DOT COM.

    Just one query on "You hate to see it" (43D). The answer is SAD???? SAD what? SAD FACE? SAD ENDING? SAD SITUATION? "I really hate to see that SAD," said no one ever.

    But other than that, a quite pleasant puzzle.

    Teedmn 9:26 AM  

    I got the theme at the second DREIDEL - the first one looked too much like a real word with just the first letter out of place but something about the randomness of the second one showed me the anagram. Fun!

    I used to run in an annual Reindeer Run 5K at the beginning of December around one of the Mpls. lakes. The crowds were huge and it was done for fun rather than speed. (I see that's changed - you can now opt for the chip-timed version). Folks were encouraged to wear Christmas-inspired costumes. One year, I was behind a trio who appeared to be dressed as gifts - they had boxes around their middles with funny looking letters on the sides. Trying to figure out the letters kept my mind occupied while I tried to ignore the cold and fatigue while running. When the trio got to the finish line, they loudly started singing the Dreidel song and they spun in place. D'oh, that's what those funny letters are!

    Like @chefwen 1:22 AM, I think of MEWL for cats - aren't infants puling?

    Thanks, Timothy Polin, and Happy Hanukkah to all.

    calli 9:28 AM  

    In solfege, sol is the fifth note of a scale. The Sound of Music lyrics took liberties with do, re, mi etc. and assigned English words the children could relate to. Sol became "sew, a needle pulling thread."

    Speedweeder 9:32 AM  

    @Nancy 9:15 - Think of someone commenting on an unfortunate situation. Say, for example, their favorite bookstore going out of business. They might say "I hate to see it" or "Sad".

    Hungry Mother 9:34 AM  

    Very quick here this morning. Also very enjoyable long themers. More of these, please.

    QuasiMojo 9:34 AM  

    I broke my record for the longest time spent on a Monday. I put in NEMO for the boat captain. Ha! I also couldn't get SLED RIDE. I put in SLEDDING which is an "activity" -- never heard someone say I went for a sled ride. But then I was more in the "apres-sled" clique.

    We used to sing the Dreidel song when I was in grade school. "Oh dreidel dreidel dreidel, I made it out of clay..." I think it was a round. It always made me dizzy.

    I have never heard of MARA Liasson. I can't listen to NPR, something about it grates, like 9-inch nails on a blackboard. This isn't about the politics, just the tone. I can't explain it and people stare at me as a pariah when I mention it in "polite society." I would have preferred seeing MARA Hobel who played Christina Crawford in "Mommie Dearest."

    I usually admire Tim Polin puzzles and this was no exception.

    Granny Smith 9:37 AM  

    Happy Chanukah! This was fun and I liked it a lot, although I didn't get it as was solving. Then I got to the revealer, and I loved it. It's cute, it's clever, it's a perfect Monday.
    Thank you, from this Jewish girl from Brooklyn.

    Rastaman Vibration 9:47 AM  

    @Nancy, “Sad.” said on a stand-alone basis is synonymous with “You hate to see it.”. For example Bert: “Did you see that the New York Times published another bogus crossword clue yesterday, this time involving the speed of sound?” Ernie: “Yes, sad.”

    I agree, it would have been nice to avoid an answer like ELROND. I hate it when, as the week progresses, the ELROND-type entries get more and more eccentric and esoteric, so much so that they really don’t even need a clue because 100% of solvers have to discern them from the crosses. They can be thought of as the dark matter of crosswords - we don’t know what it is, but we know that it is out there, so we create a place-holder until science and technology (or in our case, crosses) evolve to the point to where we can accurately describe and identify it.

    Anonymous 9:52 AM  

    Mewl - verb (used without object)
    to cry, as a baby, young child, or the like; whimper.

    Nancy 9:57 AM  

    I get it now, @Speedweeder. Thanks.

    @Joaquin (12:02) -- Your Iphone comment is hilarious.

    @Quasi (9:34) -- I laughed out loud at both your "apres-sled" and "made me dizzy" comments. Especially the "apres sled". I've always imagined you as a rather sophisticated child, so it seems apt.

    @Teedmn (9:26) -- Your trio running around the lake in winter dressed as DREIDELS and then spinning at the end of the run is fun to try and visualize.

    CDilly52 10:03 AM  

    @ETaz, alas, blame Julie because the word truly is SOL (just like it is fa not “far, a long long way to run”). This comes from solfegfio, the naming of the scale notes to facilitate sight singing: do re mi fa sol la tI do.

    pabloinnh 10:06 AM  

    Confidently wrote in AZTECS (hi GILL I) and almost as quickly erased it. I blame this on years of teaching about the MAYAS, and having to remember that in English it has an N.

    Everything else was familiar, except STAMOS, easy enough from crosses.

    Thought this was a fine Monday. Sometimes it's good to get TP'd.

    Happy Hanukkah!

    WeesaSuzi 10:08 AM  

    Fast and fun for me...I thought that having the circled letters all grouped together, instead of spread out throughout the answers, took the construction up a notch. Enjoyed this little holiday treat!

    Europa Europa 10:16 AM  

    Finished in record time last night but no happy congratulations splash screen. Stared and stared at the puzzle as 15 minutes ticked by. Finally came here to check my answers: had EUROPe for EUROPA and MeRA for MARA. Ugh. SAD. Sorry, MARA Liasson.

    Seems our President tweets SAD when he wants to be sarcastic.

    CDilly52 10:19 AM  

    This was such a fun Monday for me. Right smack on the bridge of my wheelhouse with clear skies and smooth sailing!! On top of that, I found the grid, albeit small, lively and full of interesting fill with nearly no drek. And as luck would have it, only last night I was watching the Australian legal comedy “Rake” and the psychotic alleged killer-cannibal was played brilliantly by none other than Hugo Weaving. I commented to the friends with whom I was watching, “I never knew ELROND could be so funny!”

    Mr. Polin has proven himself among the elite who can create Monday-worthy difficulty with great fill. Thanks Mr. P

    Z 10:22 AM  

    STAMOS MARA ELROND didn’t seem very Mondayish to me. Full House ended 25 years ago. I guess STAMOS is back in the new Netflix version, but still not a Monday level answer in my opinion. To @Southside Johnny’s question, ELROND is pretty important as is Rivendell so easy for anyone who enjoyed LOTRs. But Monday? I don’t think so. There are huge swaths of solvers with little to no interest in LOTR and he’s not a central character like Bilbo, Frodo, or Gandalf. Those three permeate our culture to a degree that you almost have to actively avoid pop culture not to have heard of them. ELROND is definitely more LOTR lover type knowledge .

    MIDDLE RELIEVER seemed akin to ELROND. Easy for someone into baseball but a little niche for a Monday. I guess that sums up my reaction, fine for a the baseball loving LOTR fan of a certain age, but not really Monday fill for the masses.

    @QuasiMojo - The tone doesn’t bother me but I get it. I think SNL has made fun of that tone on occasion. I quit listening when my local station brought in a general manager who fired all the local on air talent as a cost saving move. WDET had had great music programming and they replaced it with syndicated shows. I don’t know how the economics of that move worked out since it resulted in a drop in donations. It’s been a couple decades now and the only NPR related program I listen to or watch is Tiny Desk Concerts.

    SIESTA SESTET seems like something that happens after the Thanksgiving turkey, doesn’t it?

    Dorothy Biggs 10:26 AM might have thought it was "SO" for three is the R&H lyric from Sound of Music (sew = SO), second also because it precedes "LA" so it's easy to think that the L is for LA and not SOL, and thirdly, SO is acceptable too.

    Here is why those notes are named like they are (Solfège). It was named after a Latin hymn, Ut queant laxīs

    UT queant laxīs REsonāre fībrīs
    MIra gestōrum FAmulī tuōrum,
    SOLve pollūtī LAbiī reātum,
    Sancte Iōhannēs.

    Each phrase above starts on a succeeding note, so the original scale went: UT, RE, MI, FA, SOL, LA.

    In the 1600s, UT was changed to DO by an Italian named Giovanni Battista DOni. The 7th degree of the scale was (and still is in non-English speaking countries) SI (coming from the last two words, Sancte Iōhannēs. It was changed in the 1800s to "TI" so that "every syllable might begin with a different letter." (From Wiki).

    And now you know.

    Mo-T 10:27 AM  

    @Joaquin 12:02 Not sad at all!

    I'm with @Kitshef 7:13 for 56D. I immediately put in ALAN, which made ELRONA and SIESTN. Oops. It's ALDA? With a clue of "Hawkeye" and not "Pierce?" Kinda bad editing there.

    I like the dreidel spinning in each answer. And the letters X, Y, V, W make a few appearances, which for some unknown reason, make me think of spinning. I know, I'm weird.

    relicofthe60s 10:51 AM  

    HIGH SPEED DRILL is really a thing, but it’s a “shrug” because you never heard of it?

    QuasiMojo 10:53 AM  

    @Nancy, I somehow missed your comment. Thanks for laughing at mine. I agree about SAD. I think the clue did the answer no favors. Made me think of two other SADs: Seasonal Affective Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder, both of which, alas, are too common during Hanukkah and Christmas, at least here in the States.

    @Z I forgot about the music. I get mine still from QXR online only and WMHT which is a goldmine for decent classical music, including the occasional unknown piece. SADly too much holiday music this month but the New Year is coming just around the corner, and back to the Three B's.

    Dan 11:07 AM  

    Am I the only one who thinks that the grid itself is representing a spinning dreidel? If you take out the 3 blocks under ESAU and the 3 under XENA, it's unmistakeable.

    jberg 11:13 AM  

    SLED RIDE bothered me -- sleigh ride, OK, but you go SLEDding, so that's what I put in. It took that big EAR to make me see the error.

    For 48D, "turnpike turnoffs," I wanted to put in "people who drive slow in the left lane," but it wouldn't fit.

    Nobody's complaining about ARLO, so I guess that strip is read more widely than I'd thought -- I like it for its offbeat view of life, and because the characters are growing old along with me. No problem with ELROND, but then I used to read Lord of the Rings once a year.

    As the melancholy Jacques used to say,

    "...And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
    Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms...."

    Kittens mew.

    old timer 11:14 AM  

    English babies and toddlers MEWL when they are frustrated, and if you don't raise them right, grow up to be world-class whingers. No cats involved. Our American kids cry and can become whiners. Both MEWL and whinge are part of the working vocabulary of any Tory PM, though I can't say the latest one uses those words so much.

    I found the puzzle surprisingly tough because I had no idea what all those circles were for until I got the revealer. Plus I didn't know all the names other than the ubiquitous ALAN ALDA.

    Anonymous 11:46 AM  

    HIGH SPEED DRILL, as those who've worked in machining (anyone left?) know, is a drill made from high-speed steel, which is harder (the hardest? too long ago to remember) than other machining steels, and is (mostly?) used when carbide drills aren't required. DRILL means the cylinder of twisted metal, not the tool used to turn it, in this case.

    Anonymous 12:20 PM  

    Which, if any, of the crossword sites work on a iPad? I couldn’t get American Values to appear.

    Suzie Q 12:28 PM  

    @ jberg, Thanks for posting the quote from "As You Like It". That was exactly what went through my head as I was solving and gave me the right answer.

    rextorturer 12:33 PM  

    Hanukkah isn't an "american" holiday so why is it a theme in the puzzle?

    JC66 12:39 PM  


    Try AcrossLite.

    Joaquin 12:58 PM  

    @ rextorturer asks, "Hanukkah isn't an 'american' (sic) holiday so why is it a theme in the puzzle?"

    Like Easter and Christmas (and unlike Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Presidents Day, etc.) Hanukkah is a holiday celebrated by a significant number of Americans and is a religious holiday. Are you suggesting we should not include in crossword puzzles references to religious holidays like Easter and Christmas?

    rextorturer 1:09 PM  

    Our puzzles should be secularist unless referring to certain aspects or words that are a part of a specific religion or religious holiday. This puzzle celebrates Hannukah. We should not "celebrate" any religious holiday, let alone a foreign one, in our puzzles.

    JC66 1:20 PM  


    You are so wrong. SAD!

    Z 1:25 PM  

    @rextorturer - What? I mean, seriously, What? We get all kinds of sectarian answers and clues in puzzles all the time. And what do you mean “foreign?” Religions were the first multinationals.

    @Linda - To add to @JC66’s answer, most of those sites will allow you to get multiple versions of the puzzle. One option is to download the .pdf version and print out the puzzle. There will also be a .puz or .jpz version to download. These need a crossword app like AcrossLite or (the much better) PuzzAzz to open the file and solve on your iPad. I have PuzzAzz and Crosswords on my iPad, you can find them at the app store. Android tablets have there own OS specific apps. If you have been using the NYTX app to solve the NYT puzzle I recommend using PuzzAzz instead.

    Joe Dipinto 1:30 PM  

    Now Esau, now Noah, now Arlo and Eli!
    On Mara, on Xena, on Elrond and Levi!

    I liked this puzzle. It seemed a little more ambitious than a typical Monday, with an inspired theme. Though, like @Quasi, I would consider putting SLED RIDE in the green paint container. Yes, you can go for a ride on a sled, but "sled ride" doesn't seem like something people say much. ("Sleigh ride" overrules it, what with that song and all.)

    43d and its clue reminded me of a tweet from The Impeached One.

    Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate. Here's a not-exactly-Hanukkah song, but it does connect to the puzzle .

    Ethan Taliesin 2:02 PM  

    RED DELICIOUS apples?

    Okay, as long as they stay in the grid and not in my lunch bag. They are indeed red, but the other part is false advertising.

    There are so many better varieties out there.

    tea73 2:15 PM  

    My mother had a little crush on Hugo Weaving which I think was the main reason she liked the Lord of the Rings movies. I read them every year for more than 20 years. I still reread them from time to time. I thought the puzzle was easy, but it took me forever to complete because I stupidly typed in EUROPe not remembering we were looking for Greek mythologic people not geography. Took me forever to see my mistake.

    Masked and Anonymous 2:18 PM  

    Good to see Hanukkah get some xword respect. Have a Real Happy one, all U nice folks who celebrate it.

    Cool E-W symmetrical (EWS) puzgrid design. Luvly 2x2 bookend blocks for weeject columns 7 & 8. They are unusual but necessary Across-wise grid dividers, for an EWS 14-wide puzgrid, I suspect.

    staff weeject pick: IND. Better clue: {How the no-ear student's musical composition was graded??}.

    fave moo-cow eazy-E MonPuz clue: {Female sheep} = EWE. Also may stand for: E-W-Entry.

    Learned new stuff on a Monday, but they was both names … STAMOS. ELROND.

    What wears a ring and yet may have a lot of dirty folks lie down in private with it? … *

    Thanx for the fun, Mr. Polin. And for the lil dash of Christmas, at 6-D.

    Masked & Anonymo4Us

    * Answer: BATHTUB. [Hearty Congratz, if U solved the M&A lamE RIDDLE.]


    Joaquin 2:39 PM  

    Best part of today's discussion: Joe Dipinto's music links @1:30. Thx, Joe, for the great Hanukkah/Christmas gifts!

    Joe Dipinto 2:58 PM  

    @rextorturer – First of all, the subject word of the puzzle is DREIDEL, not "Hanukkah". According to your rules, "referring to...words that are part of a specific religion or holiday" is okay for a puzzle to do. Which is what this puzzle did. So, even by your own dubious standards, there is no problem.

    @Ethan Taliesin – Honeycrisps all the way, baby! (I'm a junkie, I admit it.)

    Anonymous 4:48 PM  

    I also can't imagine why a theme has to be intrinsicly American (or non-religious for that matter). Surely at some point a puzzle has been themed based on Cinco de Mayo or Bastille Day. And if not, why not?

    Hartley70 4:50 PM  

    I got as far as @Gill and started hunting for dice and quarters! I’m looking to win the pot on Christmas. It beats a snowball fight when the gang gets restless between presents and wine. Thanks for the great idea!

    The SPINning DREIDELs made a great Monday holiday theme. I fell for AZTEC and SLEDding too until I got the crosses.

    @Teedman! Enough about the gifts turning into DREIDELs. I want to know what you were wearing? Antlers, perhaps? I suggest a fetching little elf for next year.

    jae 4:52 PM  

    Meant to add that Jeff gave this one POW.

    @Joe D - I’m hooked on Galas and have lately been dipping them in Chobani plain yogurt for breakfast.

    Teedmn 5:01 PM  

    @Hartley70, just a couple of jingle bells (and my running clothes of course, MN in December not being conducive to running in the nude!)

    Unknown 6:34 PM  

    Nice puz Mr. Polin as usual

    Anonymous 7:27 PM  

    It's way too bad that you let rextorturer continue, but spiked my, very fact filled, rebuttal. What's going on?

    Z 8:04 PM  

    @ anon7:27 - Don’t know for sure But the now missing comments I saw were about a commenter, not the puzzle. However tortured their logic, @rextorturer stated an opinion about the puzzle. The mods have mentioned before that they try to be hands off but that personal attacks will get you deleted. So my guess is your comment veered too far from talking about the puzzle. I noted two missing anonymous comments, the second seemingly a reply to the first. Were there more comments deleted? I count four remaining rebuttals (including mine) and they all comment on the puzzle or puzzles. And, really, how much more needs to be said?

    I’ve done a couple of weeks worth of USA Today puzzles curtesy of Mr. Agard. Yes, the quality is way way WAY up from before. The puzzles are titled, so no revealer. I see Rex’s point about how it creates room in the grid. I still don’t like them, it always feels like a spoiler to me. Also, there was one theme that, even with a title, I didn’t get. Sadly (or happily for some I suppose) nothing more challenging than about Wednesday yet. Diary of a Crossword Fiend doesn’t review USA Today. I’m hoping that changes. I’m also hoping that my local paper replaces its current offering with the USA Today puzzle.

    Anonymous 8:10 PM  

    my comment merely listed the holidays. nothing more. no mention of any comment or commenter.

    s/he also deleted a 'Merry Christmas' that followed. ????

    the puzzle, after all, is about Chanukka. how's discussion of alternative holidays not germane?

    Anonymous 8:42 PM  

    Hey mods
    At z just posted a long rambling bit of nonsense which has nothing to do with either the puzzle or Rex's critique.
    Why is this permissable?

    Joe Dipinto 9:03 PM  

    @Anon 8:10 – I remember your post with the other holiday names, it showed up at the same time as mine. It seemed perfectly okay as I recall. Strange...

    Anonymous 9:51 PM  

    Hi Joe,
    You forgot my comment: Merry Christmas.
    Why was that deleted? Mods?

    JC66 10:04 PM  

    @Anon 9:51

    Just curious, have you tried reposting your comment?

    Anonymous 10:29 PM  

    No. Why would I? Are you suggesting the mods didn't delete the comments based on content? That strains credulity, frankly.

    JC66 10:58 PM  


    Why wouldn't you? @Joe D didn't see anything wrong with your comment.

    Sometimes, posts just get "lost." It's been know to happen.

    I, for one, would like to read what you have to say.

    Anonymous 11:02 PM  

    Ok. Once again. Merry Christmas.
    May I invite you to reread this thread to see how ludicrous my acceding to your request is?

    JC66 11:19 PM  

    Right, better to curse the dark than light a candle.

    Anonymous 11:49 PM  

    What?! My comment was:
    Merry Christmas. What are you going on about?
    I curse no one. But if I did, it might be the poster who can't follow a thought.

    Escalator 10:34 AM  

    Rex channeling his inner Sinatra 😊

    “Mistakes, I made a few. And, lucky for you, not too few to mention.”

    starkfarm 12:31 PM  

    This puzzle's brilliance lies in the fact that the construction found three expressions, all of the same length, where adjacent letters spelled "dreidel" (in mixed-up form). That's astounding. Try doing that with so unusual a holiday word.

    spacecraft 10:18 AM  

    I groan when I see circles. So, what did we have in the circles this time? In alpha order, DDEEIRL. RIDDLE with a leftover E? I considered the Jewish top, but thought it was spelled DREIDL and so rejected it. Maybe I was thinking of German Jews. Anyway, I was baffled till reaching the revealer. And the "SPINNING" part is right on, so it all works. So the circles get a pass.

    A prominent feature is the TRE "equis", or three Xes. Wonder how THAT beer would taste. The Xings are seamless, and highlight my DOD, Lucy Lawless as XENA. I'm not a fan of the penultimate across line; the letter-added PETERI and the unknown but to Tolkien trivia experts ELROND, but by and large this was a good one. Birdie.

    JimmyBgood 1:40 PM  

    I disagree with everyone who has wanted to sleigh sled ride. I too put in sledding at first, but then saw it had to be sled ride. As soon as I changed my answer, I immediately pictured in my mind, a mom or dad, older brother or sister, or other relative, pulling a child too small to slide down a hill all by their lonesome, on a sled with a long rope attached across a snow-covered yard, field, or sidewalk. I've seen it many many times, and for me that is the very definition of a sled ride. Fond memories apply.

    Burma Shave 2:24 PM  


    to LIE AWAKE and EAT s’mores,
    watching TOPTEN MEMEs so erotic:


    Diana, LIW 2:54 PM  

    I won't be revisiting the dentist for a couple of months, so the HIGHSPEEDDRILL in the puzzle was no problem for me.

    A fine Monday, with a fine Monday theme. See, new solvers? Wasn't that fun?

    Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

    leftcoaster 3:00 PM  

    Didn't know exactly what a DREIDEL was, but it certainly is a good spinner.

    Besides, you could take a spin in a SLED RIIDE, a MIDDLE RELIEVER would no doubt throw a spinner of some kind, the RED DELICIOUS name for an apple is a good marketing spin, and If a HIGH SPEED DRILL didn't spin it wouldn't be worth a damn.

    Leaves me a little dizzy.

    strayling 7:58 PM  

    A bit of a sidetrack on this one for me. I thought I was the RIDDLER, but as it *ahem* turned out, I was the RIDDLEE.

    Just the sort of lighthearted solve I enjoy on a Monday.

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