Classic comics teen with good manners / SUN 12-20-20 / Mild light-colored cigar / William founder of Investor's Business Daily / Halogen-containing salt / Suffix suggested by wiggling of one's hand

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Constructor: Randolph Ross

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (9-something)

THEME: AIM LOW ... just kidding, it's actually "Toy Story" — popular toys of yore, such as one might have received on CHRISTMAS (65A: Day to play with new toys)

Theme answers:
  • BARBIE DOLL (22A: She debuted on March 9, 1959, in a black-and-white striped swimsuit)
  • TAMAGOTCHI (24A: Virtual pet simulation game that won an Ig Nobel prize for its Japanese creators)
  • ETCH A SKETCH (39A: Toy that was originally called "L'ร‰cran Magique" ("The Magic Screen"))
  • TWISTER (57A: Game that got a big boost when Johnny Carson demonstrated it with Eva Gabor on "The Tonight Show")
  • PLAY DOH (78A: Toy that was derived from a wallpaper cleaner)
  • CHATTY CATHY (95A: Toy with 18 spoken phrases, including "I love you" and "May I have a cookie?")
  • RUBIK'S CUBE (111A: Puzzle toy solved in a record 3.47 seconds in 2018)
  • SILLY PUTTY (114A: Toy that astronauts brought to space to secure tools in zero gravity)
  • MR. POTATO HEAD (38D: First toy to be advertised on TV)
  • CANDYLAND (46D: Its box once read "A sweet little game for sweet little folks")
  • COZY COUPE (!?!?!?!?!) (48D: Toy that sold more cars in American in 1991 than the Honda Accord or Ford Taurus)
  • TICKLE-ME ELMO (33D: By the end of 1996, one million of this toy was sold in a shopping frenzy) 
Word of the Day: COZY COUPE (48D) —
The Cozy Coupe is a red and yellow toy car manufactured and distributed by Little Tikes, an American manufacturer of children's toys based in Hudson, Ohio. [...] First sold in 1979 as one of the first molded-plastic toy cars sold in the United States, it was called the "world's best-selling car for much of this decade" by The New York Times in 1998, outselling the Honda Accord and Ford Taurus. By 1991, the Cozy Coupe was selling 500,000 units per year, making it the top-selling model in the United States, outselling the 399,000 Accords and 299,000 Taurus vehicles sold that year. By 1997, its sales of 313,000 units in the US and another 100,000 sold in the United Kingdom in 1997, would have made it the fifth-best-selling car in the US among real vehicles. (wikipedia) (emph. mine)
• • •

What a depressingly unambitious puzzle. I am once again stunned with what veteran constructors can get away with. Must be nice. There's nothing here. It's a bunch of old toys. The. End. "Toy Story" is a wildly inaccurate name, as there are only the faintest hints of "stories" about these toys, in the clues. And then the revealer is just ... CHRISTMAS? And then on top of all of that, the fill is weak all over the place. This puzzle could've run 20 years ago, with almost no changes, and it would've been sub-remarkable then, too. This is a shrug. It's an insult. Again, I say: this is just a list of popular toys. The revealer is a total thud. The fill is bad. How much do you have to hate Christmas to make let alone publish this? I don't know. This is either the worst kind of cronyism or astonishing editorial malpractice or both. Either way, yikes. The frame of reference is very old, and not just because the toys are old (though that is a lot of it). The creaking quaintness of the fill isn't helping. APEDOM? IRENIC? "ETTA KETT"? Then there's awkward stuff like AT STORES (we say "in stores") and AT A RISK (the "A" was giving me fits, ugh). Also, who cares who founded Investor's Business Daily, what even is that? There are really good O'NEILs in the world! Pick one of them! From stem to stern, this puzzle is just a heap of bad decisions. I love CHRISTMAS! I love toys! I'm sure it's fun to reminisce about toys, but, you know, run a little feature in the Arts section if that's what you want to do. If you want to turn the concept of "Toys through the years..." into a crossword, you need a hook, an actual *puzzle* concept, something ... well, something more than this. 

What else to say? Not much. The biggest "??????" of the day by a long shot was COZY COUPE, which I first heard of ... today. Never ever heard of it. Ever. I get that the wikipedia page told you that COZY COUPE outsold Accords and Tauri in the U.S. but I have to insist that as far as Iconic Toys go, this one isn't anywhere near the others on the list. Also, the phrasing on the clue is bizarre: "Toy that sold more cars ..."???? The toy ... *is* the car. The COZY COUPE is not a car salesman. It's a car. [Toy automobile that outsold etc.], that might work. Anyway, not iconic, bad clue, clue language lifted from wikipedia (so, lazy clue). COZY COUPE is the biggest theme loser of the day. I didn't know what IODATE was, but that's pretty typical for me (98A: A halogen-containing salt). Had "I HOPE" for "I'M DUE" (101A: "My luck has to change at some point"). Balked / winced at the -AED ending of SAMBAED, but I guess you gotta spell it that way (107A: Performed a Latin ballroom dance). I'm gonna stop. Gonna go answer the question "Where are the CATS AT?" (96D: Took care of a tabby, say). Gonna ask Santa for much, much better puzzles this week. Take care. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. Peter Gordon's Fireball Newsflash Crosswords will be starting a new season in 2021—twenty crosswords over the course of the year with content taken directly from current events. It's a great way to keep abreast of new, potentially crosswordy names before they go mainstream, and Peter's puzzles are always really professional and polished. Get a subscription for yourself or *give one* as a gift to a crossword-lover you know this holiday season. Go here for more details.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Frantic Sloth 12:07 AM  

Pardon me while I Boomer like a boss.

Games of my youth. What a sucker punch!

I have owned and/or played with most of these. Exceptions:
COZYCOUPE (not even sure I've heard of it)
CHATTYCATHY (because, you know, dolls), and
TICKLEMEELMO (because I'm not four - or wasn't at the time. I might be closer to four now than I was then, but that's another story.)

"What about BARBIEDOLL?", you might well ask.

Yes. I had one of those, as did most girls my age. But, that was in "the before times" and you can bet your sweet bippy, were I 6 years old today...absolutely no way in hell or Santa Clara would she, in all her impossible proportional glory, set her baby-sized foot in my arena. Get outta here with that.

But I digress...I really enjoyed this puzzle because of nostalgia and stuff. A few nits (I'm looking at you, SAMBAED. Oof. Ugly. And ATSTORES? Blech.) but very, very minor. Barely an eyebrow got out of bed, let alone did raisercises.

Although it was rather easy, I didn't mind - especially after yesterday! So, color me happy and I hope you were, too.

I bid you good day.

๐Ÿง ๐Ÿง 

Joaquin 12:09 AM  

Yo, Rex! "'Tis the season to be jolly."

jae 12:10 AM  

Easy. Fun and nostalgic. Liked it a lot more than @Rex did.

My 18 year old grandson got into Rubik’s cube a couple of years ago and recently broke 10 seconds. He says it has something to do with knowing the algorithms.

EdFromHackensack 12:34 AM  

liked it alot... didn’t know COZYCOUPE, IRENIC and IADATE nut got them from the crosses and finished 100%. Cmon, toys, Christmas... lighten up

Elizabeth Sandifer 1:04 AM  

Bah humbug to the description of OCD, which is crassly peddling stereotypes about a mental illness that is far more wide-ranging, and in doing so making people with OCD fail to realize that’s what they have and seek appropriate treatment.

Bah humbug to the BASSI/IODATE intersection, the worst of several fiddly crosses of obscure words at hard to guess letters.

Bah humbug to this whole tedious puzzle,

Anonymous 1:32 AM  

My son (now in his thirties) was car obsessed as a little one. We bought him a Cozy Coupe for his second birthday and left it in his room while he was asleep. We woke up to him yelling jubilantly "MY CAR!!!!" It was his favorite toy for ages, and I don't think any gift we've ever bought him since then came close to being that successful. The last time he visited (over a year ago now--thanks COVID-19), he was driving his latest acquisition, and as he got out, he grinned and said "MY CAR!"

chefwen 1:40 AM  

This was fun.
TAMAGOTCHI - Never heard of it
PLAY DOH - After my toy time
CHATTY CATHY - Yeah, my Sister in law.
SILLY PUTTY - ✅ Loved the stuff.

A little on the easy side for Sunday, but the trip down memory lane was well worth it.

CDilly52 1:40 AM  

Oh my, what a delightful stroll down memory lane. Like @Frantic, I have owned, played with or provided for my daughter or other children all of these toys. Couldn’t agree more about Barbie, and truth be told, I did t really want a Barbie, but my younger sister did-badly, and so, I also got one that made its way to her side of the room.

I wasn’t a traditional dolls kid, but I adored the troll dolls that were all the rage and must have collected a dozen of the originals during the late 50s-early 60s. I made all kinds of houses for them from every conceivable empty box. The best was a “resort” that had a tower made of a round oatmeal box and a plaza/spa/observation deck area made from an empty round metal candy tin. The lid on paper towel or toilet paper tube centers was the observation deck/sun porch and below it was the patio-built on a shirt box so that I could cut a round hole the size of the base of the candy tin could sit inside it making it a built in swimming pool. Scale you say? Pish-tosh!

Actually, all three of us got hooked on the troll “community.” My younger sister was a gifted artist from a scary you age and she made tiny garden scene from scraps of construction paper and my older genius-brother was the engineer-problem solver. He reluctantly assisted with structural design after my early failures.

The very best part of “Troll Burbia” as it was called was the day in the middle of Ohio winter after I had tried and failed umpteen times to create a realistic looking fire pit/barbecue area. I was down in the basement looking for small pieces of wood because using my pocket knife to whittle pencils just wasn’t doing it. Matches and everything else was too big, too unrealistic (as if troll dolls in shoe box condos sharing cocktails on a candy tin “deck” on toilet paper core stilts was the very essence of realism) and I had had it. So my dad found me in tears on the bottom step of the basement.

This is one of the rare moments in my entire life when I connected with my father. He asked about the problem and I explained. He had never seen Troll Burbia, but came upstairs and took the tour. All he said was, “Keep thinking, you will figure something out,” and he went back downstairs. I remember thinking that I would try again another Saturday, and left it.

I went downstairs to the kitchen in search of solace and perhaps a snack from Gran. When I arrived, I noticed Dad shoveling his way from the back door to the garage-his workshop-barely heated by an ancient kerosene stove but full of tools of every description, power and hand tools. I remember asking Gran what on earth Dad was doing and she said she had no idea why he would be going out in the worst snowstorm in recent memory but he obviously had something on his mind.

As it turns out, the next morning I awoke to find a beautiful tiny little campfire with a tiny pebble (more like large grains of sand) fire ring and the smallest real logs complete with bark, a neat stack of (mercifully glued together) extra firewood and a box fashioned into a ”brick” barbecue pit complete with fire grate and tiny little black and grey rock “charcoal” - it is one of the best gifts my father ever gave me.

chefwen 1:41 AM  

Oops, I forgot the downs.

tbd88 2:09 AM  

Solving this one was a bit of a "meh" experience. Kind of fun, kind of dull. But I knew that Rex was going to rant about how antique it felt and I was right so maybe I'm not getting better at crosswords but I know how he thinks?

Rique Beleza 3:27 AM  

“Astonishing editorial malpractice“

Drama queen much?

Anonymous 3:36 AM  

I orate ended-up being a lucky guess for me. The rest was like you say ... no aha moment, just a collection of old toys which you could figure out as the grid filled.

Loren Muse Smith 4:05 AM  

Ok. So when I realized that this was to be simply a list of toys, I was a bit crestfallen. But honestly, teasing out each toy, staring off and remembering. . . I couldn’t stop. What a balm for the soul this was. I am familiar with each one of these, and the warm memories were welcome during these trying times.

My first entry was BROCAS. I’m a linguist, and don’t you forget it, buddy.

Loved the clue for AEIOU, and I’m not being facetious. Ahem.

COZY COUPE – my son was obsessed with his.

TWISTER – overrated. Never as fun as you think it will be.

BARBIE DOLL – I loved changing her outfits and was blissfully unaware that I was supposed to be outraged at her dimensions.

SILLY PUTTY – flatten some over newspaper print, and it transferred so the print was on the putty backwards. This thrilled me.

MR POTATO HEAD – whoever invented this gem was high. I loved mine.

ETCH A SKETCH – when my kids were young, we’d have a competition to see who could sketch the best elephant. It was invariably hysterical.

“O hell no” before OHM’S LAW. I like mine better.

CESSNA was serendipitous as yesterday I was telling my son about a Hallmark Christmas movie I had just seen that involved a CESSNA, a heart transplant recipient, a snowstorm, and power outage, and a community whose tradition was luminarias lining their streets. You do the math. I was sobbing as soon as the power grid went out with the CESSNA was already en route. I saw it coming and was crying even before those luminarias guided the plane and its precious cargo in.

When APEDOM fell, I whooped. What a word. How can a high school teacher used to teaching 9th-grade kids not like that word?!

Sure – this didn’t take a lot of thought or mind-bending lexical acrobatics; it’s a Hallmark Christmas movie of a puzzle, and I embraced it.

Anonymous 5:16 AM  

I totally agree with Rex!!

Ernonymous 5:57 AM  

My son is home for Xmas and I asked him for help with this clue: what's a toy car called the COZY something? He had no idea. Once I figured the COUPE out and told him, he said hmmm,huh? Then he said I think it's those battery powered toy cars everyone had. I agreed that must be it and that we didn't ever have a Cozy Coupe.
Now I see Rex's photo and yes we did have one. My 3 boys played in that for years. But we called it the Little Tykes car, as did everyone else!

frankbirthdaycake 6:01 AM  

I never heard of Cozy Coupe before, but I was able to come up it pretty easily from the crosses. I’ve heard of Chatty Cathy, but I’ve never seen one. Silly Putty, Rubik’s Cube: sure, I’ve had my hands in those. Tickle me Elmo was after my time. I’ve heard of some of these toys, and I’ve not heard of at least one of them. I’ve played with some but not others. So what? Why ODL (our dyspeptic leader) gets upset over something unfamiliar to him is beyond me. He’s like a restaurant regular who keeps coming back just to complain about the food, like the telephone repairman on Alice who kept returning to Mel’s diner despite his obvious problem with the food. Rex, if half the time you order a BLT and are served bologna, lard, and tuna, order something else or, perhaps, make your own lunch. Can you please come up with something better (and more interesting) than “Kiss my grits! [Blah, blah, blah!]”?

Lewis 6:10 AM  

@buss from yesterday -- Thank you for your shout-out! I am presently caring for someone recently back from the hospital, more than a full-time job, as it turns out. I hope to be back in a week or two with regular comments. Meanwhile, I am at least sneaking in my favorite clues listings on Mondays.

TTrimble 6:32 AM  

Yup, big nostalgia factor, even though I had only some of these growing up. SILLY PUTTY and PLAY-DOH, for sure. ETCH-A-SKETCH, you betcha. TWISTER, pretty sure yeah. MR POTATO HEAD, probably. But really I was more of a Space Age kid, and so the only doll I played with much was Major (that was his rank) Matt Mason, an astronaut character; I think that was a Mattel product. I had things like space stations and moon rovers and alien creatures.

My wife didn't have a BARBIE DOLL; her mother wouldn't allow it, since you could take her clothes off, or something along those lines. As a concession, she got instead some weak sister of Barbie named Skipper. It seems that Skipper wasn't too cool back then, some sort of annoying tag-a-long that cramped Barbie's style. Wikipedia reports that she's gotten better: "Skipper dolls have changed drastically". Whew!

We got our kids TICKLE ME ELMO, so check. We have a RUBIK'S CUBE or three lying around the house.

I remember that TAMAGOTCHI thing because my brother's ex got one. I didn't see mention of this by our dear @Sloth, but I do recall that Stacey was driven Frantic by that thing. Not sure how that became a fad, seems like a real pain in the BUNS, so needy and demanding that thing.

Oh yes, the puzzle. I too enjoyed the clue for AEIOU; I won't be abstemious in my praise for it. (Hat tip to @LMS.) In fact, what's so terrible about this puzzle? I really don't see it. In fact, good stuff in there. BASSI crossing BROCA'S. OHM'S LAW (which my 4:30 AM brain initially parsed as OHM SLAW, yeah, that's a thing). I learned a new word, IODATE -- I had had the TE and was so sure that this salt would end in -iTE that I confidently entered that "i" as a placeholder, causing me some delay. ALONSO crossing APOLLO, nice. Alternative cluing for OPA -- never heard of Opa-Locka; we just know him as the grandfather. IRENIC is creakily quaint? It's a fine word, Rex.

I agree with the nit about AT STORES -- it does sound weird and unidiomatic, like something someone studying ESL might produce.

Guess that's all for now. TA-TA!

Coniuratos 6:38 AM  

I look forward to the year 2050 or so when I, too, can retire and devote my time to making crosswords that are exclusively for solvers of a certain age. Just a bunch of 90s and 00s video game titles that will have long since passed out of the zeitgeist, maybe? Ooh, or some pop punk and fourth wave ska bands that no one's listened to since 2005. Look out, Gen Alpha.

CDilly52 6:48 AM  

@Lewis, we miss you! Please remember to take care of yourself. I’ve walked in your shoes during my husband’s las, prolonged illness and know how exhausting it can be. Sending healing vibes es and best holiday wishes!

rorosen 7:00 AM  

After many months away I returned to see if the temperament of Rex had brightened. I was grinning as I read his review. May the ghosts of constructors past visit him on Christmas eve,..

ChuckD 7:24 AM  

Once I realized that there’s no gimmick behind the theme it was fine - typical Sunday fill it in. I’m one of ten - we didn’t have many toys - I think TWISTER was around somewhere. Remember the year TICKLE ME ELMO was a craze but somehow scored one for my son that Christmas. Only know CHATTY CATHY from Planes, Trains and Automobile in the if you’re going to tell a story have a point scene. So - nothing erudite with the theme but nostalgic toys do have a tendency to stretch the memory.

Most of the fill was workmanlike - smooth but nothing really sparkled. Always like to see OHMS LAW and I like the BASSI x BROCAS cross. Side eye to APEDOM, IRENIC and the goofy looking SAMBAED.

A typical - but enjoyable Sunday solve.

JennyO 7:35 AM  

What a lovely story. Thanks

Frantic Sloth 8:15 AM  

@LMS Thank the gods you're here!! "O HelL no" is so much better, that I can accept IeDUE, lAMBAED, ASEn, and THAo without batting an eye. ๐Ÿ‘

@CDilly52 140am You are an eternal font of heartwarming stories. ❤️ Your dad! Keep 'em coming!

@TTrimble 632am Yeah...I set the land-speed record for killing my TAMAGOTCHI. That and the fact that I somehow came to possess one in my 40s, might be why I failed to mention it. But, thanks for making me dredge up those "no kids for you, you infantile electonicider!" memories. ๐Ÿ˜‰
Lol! OHM SLAW? The picnic side dish that everybody can refuse.

Megafrim 8:19 AM  

Dear Santa,
Please bring Rex an Etch A Sketch for Christmas this year. He was very angry a while ago when Ohio Art was used as a crossword puzzle answer, and he was very angry at today's puzzle that also had Etch A Sketch in it. Rex is not a naughty boy, he just gets a little angry sometimes. If he had his own Etch A Sketch, I think it will make him very happy!

Merry Christmas!

Andrea 8:21 AM  

Sweet story ☺️ !

OffTheGrid 8:22 AM  

As it became apparent there would be toys I went in search of them. I confidently entered Hot Wheels where COZY COUPE ended up. I filled in a few correctly, then got into a more normal solving pattern and sussed out the rest. The fun faded only a little as I completed the fill. I didn't think of 65A, Day to play with new toys/CHRISTMAS, as a revealer. It is a clue that could be in any puzzle and made no reference to the theme answers. I'm familiar with all but two of the games and toys. Nit-go should've been capitalized in 120A clue. I do not know that game. I didn't notice any other non-theme toy/game clues.

Joe Welling 8:22 AM  

OFL said, "The biggest "??????" of the day by a long shot was COZY COUPE, which I first heard of ... today. Never ever heard of it. Ever."

And now you have. Isn't that one of the reasons we enjoy crosswords puzzles?

pmdm 8:25 AM  

How odd to complain about this puzzle. If it has characteristics you don't like (such as the amount of PPP) you can certainly complain you didn't like the puzzle. But to go a step beyond and castigate the puzzle itself smacks of you being an egotist who prefers puzzles to be perfect reflections of your own preferences. Is that too harsh? Probably. But the vehemence of some of those who complain about stuff they don't like rubs me the wrong way more than the puzzle itself. Borders on artisn political venom sometimes. Obviously I prefer intelligent incites to personal wrath.

Did I like the puzzle? With reservations. Perhaps I liked today's acrostic more. Who cares? If I don't, you shouldn't.

TTrimble: Hopefully you are a Hilda Rumpole fan (referring to a late comment you posted yesterday).

Andrea 8:25 AM  


John H 8:39 AM  

This was mostly meh for me, but I did enjoy entering the toys and games in the grid, with the exception of the NE. "Sans" means "without," not "minus," even though using it as a synonym can sometimes make sense. So I had "less" at 13A, never heard of tamagotchi, and so naticked myself and could make a sensible 13D. Fauci heads NIAID, which is admittedly part of NIH, but "less" did not make that possible.

MarthaCatherine 8:47 AM  

Hat tip to @JAE. I'm pretty sure everyone, on most days, could say "Liked it a lot more than @Rex did."

mmorgan 8:52 AM  

Yay — I successfully predicted Rex’s response, 100%! Yay! (I’m often waaaay off.) But I think if this had run 20 (or 30, or 40) years ago, it wouldn’t be just a (boring) list of toys — it would have been based on some kind of word play, rhymes, puns, or Ogden Nash-style variations. Anything that might have made this an actual, um, puzzle.

COZY COUPE was entirely new to me. I liked. CAT SAT.

Anonymous 8:53 AM  

Bah humbug says Rex yet again. He's like Mikey in the Life commercials. I loved this puzzle because once I got some letters for a theme entry, I could fill it in. Familiar with all of them and liked finding out the little piece of trivia that accompanied the clue for each toy. Rex needs to find something to do that he can like every now and then.

sf27shirley 8:54 AM  

A fun Christmas nostalgic puzzle which may have earned a certain critic's wrath for not including a single "The Simpsons" reference. Could almost smell the PLAY DOH again, not to mention the beginning-to-turn MR POTATO HEAD.

Loved my CHATTY CATHY almost as much as Tiny Tears, which shed tears and if I'm recalling correctly, wetted her diapers. SILLY PUTTY was a fun way to "read" the comics in the Sunday paper. Never heard of TAMAGOTCHI or COZYCOUPE but their inclusion did not cause fits of anger.

My younger sister and I both got BARBIE DOLLs one Xmas, and the best part was that our great-grandmother had hand sewed wedding gowns for both. These were elaborate gowns with lace, beads, long trains. If only i still had mine!

My Barbie ended up with a butch haircut after I gave such a 'do to my sister's doll (trying to fashion a Jackie Kennedy bubble) and my mother made us trade. A year or so later, Barbie came out with a bubble cut.

I had "boy's toys" too -- a little tin garage complete with a lift; Lincoln Logs; baseball glove and bat. So you could enjoy dolls and still be a tomboy.

Darren 8:56 AM  

I’m with Rex. This puzzle was a slog and not fun at all.

Andrea 8:58 AM  

Growing up in Mexico it was fancy, rich kids who got some of these imported toys that were always the object of envious feelings. But somehow we had an Etch-a-sketch (don’t even know how or when we got it) and my siblings and I would have competitions to see who would draw whatever thing faster and most accurately. It is THE best toy ever invented, period.
Some fun Spanish translations: BOLYGOMA for silly putty, SEร‘OR CARA DE PAPA for Mr Potato Head.
I’ve never seen a Chatty Cathy and my mom would never buy me a Barbie (though my best friend had plenty, plus the car and the pool, lots of wardrobe and a Ken). My kids were little during the tickle me Elmo craze but I’d rather die than succumb to shopping madness. And they happened to also enjoy enormously what I just learned is called a cozy coupe but we called EL CARRITO AMARILLO.

Puzzlewise....some of the fill was really awful, IMO.

Colin 9:02 AM  

Well, we all know OFL could pass as the Grinch this time of year:
Many Who Down in Whoville Liked the Times Sundays a lot...
But the Grinch, Who lived just north of Whoville, Did NOT!
The Grinch hated the Sundays! The whole Sunday season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

And I would one of the many in Whoville who liked this puzzle. Now, even if a couple of toys have no story (which I don't believe), all the toys are storied. They are all among the all-time greatest or best-selling toys, according to,, and They are old, yes, but that's what it takes to achieve such legendary status. You want a story? I would've like to have seen the full clip of Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor playing Twister, but here's what I could find, and it's a good story indeed:

@OffTheGrid, 8:22 AM: You raised an intriguing point, so I poked around a little. There seems to be some controversy, but many folks do not capitalize the game "go" just as they do not capitalize "checkers," "chess," and "poker."

With warm wishes to all for the holidays, and here's to a healthy, happy, and all-around better New Year!

TTrimble 9:05 AM  

I'm struggling to figure out what you mean... the Anonymous known for cleaving to a certain coinage, in responding to me yesterday, referred to She Who Must Be Obeyed; was that it? I myself am more familiar with that phrase from Rider Haggard's She, which I was led to because Carl Jung used to talk about in terms of its archetypal material.

kitshef 9:06 AM  

Somehow lived this long without ever hearing of COZY COUPE. Otherwise, a nice trip down memory lane.

Generally, I’m not sensitive to duplications, but when you hit us over the head with them …
IM so mad
IM due
IN the mood
IN one
Has AT
AT a risk
AT stores
ran TO
true TO

And then there are OPAH and OPA. Try not to use either of them. Definitely don’t use both of them. I’m betting on the OPAH/TAMAGOTCHI cross as the most frequent DNF today.

Teedmn 9:07 AM  

Gah, the unintended typo (like all typos, I suppose) caused a DNF. But otherwise, this was easy, maybe 10 minutes faster than my random Sunday average. Most of the toys were gimmes, created before I was born or at least during my childhood. TAMAGOTCHI, RUBIKS CUBE and COZY COUPE are the exceptions (COZY COUPE? Never heard of it).

Not a lot of cleverness in the clues. I can only come up with SCRATCH as an idiom for "the beginning" which had me SCRATCHing my head until I thought of "from scratch". The clue for EASELS tried but... I guess I groaned a TAD at the clue for TAO.

OHM'S LAW, MYOPIA, SAMBAED, SILICA, MY GOSH, ANY DAY are all nice to see in the grid. AT STORES, IRENIC, not to my taste.

Randolph Ross, you did a great job of evoking the IDEAL mess under the CHRISTMAS tree.

xraydoc 9:17 AM  

I learned a new word: IRENIC

We had a COZY COUPE for my daughter when she was 2. She loved it.

Blue Stater 9:28 AM  

Absolutely outrageous collection of Naticks in the Washington County, Maine area: “Minus” does not mean SANS; an obscure governor; an achingly obscure game. Who edited this mess? Oh, wait….

OffTheGrid 9:30 AM  

@Teedmn, I was thinking "SCRATCH my back and I'll SCRATCH yours".

bocamp 9:33 AM  

Thank you @Randolph, I always enjoy your puzzles and this was no exception. :)

Good start in the NW and never looked back. Very fast Sunday.

Always love a "Rubik's Cube" in my puzzle. Here's an excellent breakdown of Yusheng Du's 3.47 world record solve. ๐Ÿฅ‡

Peace ๐Ÿ•Š

TJS 9:40 AM  

Maybe the greatest Rex Rant ever ! Auditioning for the Grinch role in the school play, maybe ? Go play with the kittys until you calm down, Rexy.

I thought this was one of our better Sundays in a long time. Timely theme and a nice walk down memory lane. I loved hearing how many happy memories were triggered among the commentariat. @CDilly, thank you for sharing yours. Sometimes I tend to skip over the longer posts, but I am so glad I stayed to the end of yours.

Hey, @Lewis, Sylvester the Cat's favorite big band leader is in the puzzle.

Mr. Cheese 9:40 AM  

“She who must be obeyed” my favorite line from “Rumpole of the Bailey” - a funny TV BritCom I watched religiously back in the day.

Wm. C. 9:41 AM  

For me, a terrible puzzle. I've HEARD of most of them, but even with a lot of cross-letters filled, I couldn't get most of them. So many squares taken up by this fill.

My main reason for subscribing to the NYT is the mid-week puzzles (M/T too easy, F/S too hard), and most of all the Sunday ones. But today I feel robbed of my Sunday puzzle enjoyment!

I see from the above, many liked this, but most had objections. Shame on you, Shortz!

Z 9:43 AM  

Yesterday I finished a first draft announcement and shared it with the group saying, “I think this has a strong retired middle school principal tone and I don’t think that’s what we want.”

Anyone else disappointed that Ohio Art didn’t make the clue?

@LMS - it’s a Hallmark Christmas movie of a puzzle - ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ - but if I were a, say, KFC/Hallmark crossover mini-movie I’d feel insulted.

@pmdm - or, alternatively, one might agree that the puzzle is little more than an appeal to our nostalgia and is otherwise objectively bad. The “theme” is just a list of “classic” toys. We get BAHT and OREM in the first line, Florida towns you only hear of in Crossworld, and such great in the language fill as IODATE and IRENIC. MY GOSH, this puzzle thinks South Pacific is a hot musical. When the highlight of the puzzle is the punny clue for LEA we have a problem. I guess you can defend this puzzle for the nostalgia factor, but that’s basically another way of giving anyone under the age of 50 a middle finger. This is the puzzle for which the phrase “OK Boomer” was created.

@Joe Welling - Isn't that one of the reasons we enjoy crosswords puzzles? No. I have never once hoped to learn about a plastic toy from my crossword puzzle. Put another way, word play is always better than trivial trivia.

@Elizabeth Sandifer - I hear you. We do like to oversimplify complex things.

pmdm 9:43 AM  

TTrimble: I believe you refer to the origin of the phrase. John;s Mortimer character of the hen-pecked barrister Horace Rumpole refers to his wife Hilda as She Who Must Be Obeyed. Mortimer uses the term for its quasi-humor which often informed his Rumpe stories (at least in the Leo McKern portrayal. I don't watch that much on the small tube, but I used to be a fan of the PBS Mystery series when mystery serials were not as ubiquitous as they are now.

JD 9:48 AM  

And who made the Etch-a-Sketch kids! That's right.

Hand up for had-all-these-toys. The toys I didn't have, I braved Toy-Used-To-Be-Us in December for and slugged off the other moms to get them for my kids. The maternal instincts could turn vicious in the brick and mortar days.

I remember getting that Barbie in her striped bathing suit and tiny plastic open toed stilettos. Dressed her up in her Jackie Kennedy knock-offs and sent her off to work or for a date with my brother's GI Joe. You-n-me are bustin' outta this cow town someday Barbie.

Struggled in the NE with Set Date (aren't all appointment Set Dates) and Tamagotchi. A little more dedication there and I might've solved but it's Sunday and I have things to do. Also struggled with Adorn for Trim (that word's taken on some meaning I couldn't shake but isn't appropriate here).

Didn't know Iodate but did know Broca's Area, so I'm smart-ish (little hand wave). That's all I need to feel good.

Anonymous 9:49 AM  

Great story!

Anonymous 9:50 AM  

Ha! With you...

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

Great analogy!

Nancy 10:11 AM  



If you SAY SO.

Other than that, the names of all the other toys and games I've never seen or played are enough in the zeitgeist that they were familiar to me as they were coming in. So even though I'm not a toy-and-game sort of person, I found the puzzle fair. And the surrounding fill was challenging enough that the puzzle held my interest.

And the toys were clued in such interesting ways -- even though most of the time, not knowing the toy, the very interesting clue sailed right over my head. The exception was SILLY PUTTY. Since I know what it is, it was interesting to find out that astronauts brought it to space to secure tools. OTOH, some of CHATTY CATHY'S 18 phrases, while droll and amusing, lost something in the description since I've never seen or heard a CHATTY CATHY in the flesh.

Bottom line; A theme subject I have absolutely zero interest in was made rather colorful by the way it was clued. A small miracle, I'd say.

jfponeill 10:13 AM  

Lighten up with the screeds, Scrooge. Mr. Ross' timely gift triggered warm memories of opening presents around the tree with our grandkids, and long-ago ones with their Mom. Sometimes -- e.g., during a pandemic -- Sunday puzzles should toy with old and young solvers in old-timey ways.

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

I didn't mind it, but I could do without the reference to Cecil Rhodes.

Sixthstone 10:18 AM  

Can I have my 20 minutes back?

Granny Smith 10:22 AM  

I just don't get aeiou (things found in wandering souls).
Someone please explain.

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

I wasn't offended until your comment so I googled. I'm still not.

pabloinnh 10:25 AM  

So now nostalgia is out of bounds? If Christmas is not the epitome of nostalgia, what is? I always get sentimental at this time of you, and unashamedly so. Most of these toys were part of that, either in my life or my children's, and I learned COZYCOUPE. My boys had a lot of fun with one but we never called it that. I hope younger solvers are not insulted by all this history, they may learn something and their turn will come.

Apropos of very little, Mookie Betts is really good at solving the RUBIKSCUBE. Because he's Mookie Betts.

ETCHASKETCH didn't take much of a break. Talk about a gimme.

Any crossword puzzle which contains OPAH is officially a good old-fashioned crossword puzzle. All you whippersnappers had better learn this, and other crosswordese, if you want to have a future in this business.

Thanks for the fun, Mr. Ross. Even your name makes me think of Christmas. I mean, I know it's not Rudolph, but close enough.

ArtO 10:27 AM  

Couldn't resist adding my voice to those who thought Rex's critique was truly over the top. What a mean spirited rant. How about some kudos for density of theme answers (even though I could have done without Cozy Coupe which virtually nobody has ever heard of).

SouthsideJohnny 10:28 AM  

I found this one quite difficult, but still interesting. Initially, I just couldn’t gain a toehold anywhere. BAHT, BUSS and OREM are not even real words, for example. Finally I found a beachhead in the south and was able to work my way northward from there. Eventually, I was able to cobble together about 75% of the solution without assistance - which I consider pretty impressive since it is basically a minefield of Naticks (TAMAGOTCHI crossing ETTA KITT and ALONSO crossing ONEIL and the horribly clued “USE ME” for example).

I think if I gave myself just a scant handful of peaks at Uncle Google I could have cruised through the remainder in pretty good fashion. I think it just makes for a tougher solve when the theme entries are themselves Trivia along with the usual NYT grab bag of garbage (IODATE, IRENIC, SAMBAED to name just a few). I know that it is possible to construct a puzzle that is Sunday-level difficult without resorting to arcane esoterica, making up words and using foreign words, phrases (and currencies) because I have seen them published before. Why they don’t aspire to do so more frequently is something I just don’t get. It would be fun to see what would happen if Rex locked himself in his room for a weekend and posted an example of what he believes is a solidly A-rated Sunday effort on his blog.

RooMonster 10:32 AM  

Hey All !
After forever, you just come in and comment like nothings happened? C'mon now, give us a story/reason why you've been gone so long! :-)

Have seen that COZY COUPE a lot, never knew it's name. Have seen funny videos of adults stuck in said car, that's always good for a chuckle.

Never had a COZY COUPE myself, but one CHRISTMAS I did get a big green peddle car (Big for ma at that time, 6ish?) which I thought was just awesome! Don't know what it was, who it was made by, or even what happened to it, but I do remember playing/riding around in it thinking I was cool as heck!

Liked this puz. Had a one-name DNF today (better than a one-letter DNF? Maybe...) at mImI for LILI. Dang. Knew something was funky there. And that was after getting the plethora of names in the NE, N center area, which all were correct. Held up a bit by having IN THE MOOn for Glenn Millers song. Why not? I'll see you pretty soon/It puts my heart IN THE MOOn. Har. Let's see, ERIC! TAMAGOTCHI! INTHEMOOD! CECIL! EMILE! SELMA! COZYCOUPE! ONEIL! APOLLO! LEONE! ALONSO! DOYLE! ROWE! OOP! Dang. PPP much? :-)

ETCH-A-SKETCH about three times lately. Dang. Tried to put a link to a site about an artist who kicks ass on an ETCH-A-SKETCH the other day, but didn't go through. Just Google it, you'll be amazed!

Had my RUBIKS CUBE phase in about 9th/10th grade. Got it down to maybe 40 seconds or so. There is a method you learn to do it. Mind you, algorithms never entered into it with me, it was just the system. I've seen the videos of the 10 second or less solving. It boggles the mind.

Football time. Hope y'all have got some of that snow cleared out. Why I moved away from the NE USA!

One F (None YesterPuz, is it "Get the F out of here month?) ;-P

JamieP 10:34 AM  

I conducted an experiment today. I was racing to finish before my iPad died. It died when I was at the 25 minute mark and not quite finished. When it recharged, the grid was empty, but I knew 90% of the answers. (I was still struggling with the Northeast. Wanted LESS for 13a but also DUEDATE for 13d). Result? 12:22. That's right. I had the test answers and still couldn't beat Rex's time. King of Crosswords indeed.

Nancy 10:35 AM  

Confession: I'm skipping all the BARBIE stories on the blog today.

I never had a BARBIE. I never wanted a BARBIE. I hated dolls during every stage of my childhood and would never permit them to be given to me as presents.

And so today was a first for me. @CDilly52 is one of the people I always read from cover to cover, as it were -- I love her warm, colorful, revealing posts. But today I skipped right over all the TROLL BARBIE stuff (there's such a thing as a TROLL BARBIE???!!!) and segued right down to her bonding with her father over the building of a barbecue pit. It was warm and beautiful that he did that -- but what it all had to do with TROLL BARBIE is more than I want to know about TROLL BARBIE, I'm afraid. Sorry, CDilly! And my apologies to all the rest of you whose BARBIE tales I didn't read either.

Jim Stevens 10:35 AM  

A friend once took an exam in order to become a science teacher. The question was Explain the three most important rules in electricity. The answer is of course Maxwell’s Equations, but there are four of those... and would have been a very worthy question to answer.

The answer they were looking for was OHM’S LAW: I= E/R, R=E/I, and E=IR.

Carola 10:37 AM  

This one set a record for me: the first Sunday puzzle I've quit on. After BARBIE and the ETCH-A-SKETCH, I lost heart. Writing in product names, even if toys, just isn't my idea of puzzle fun.

Tea Man 10:39 AM  

Although I always enjoy Rex's commentaries, this is one that I totally disagreed with. Perhaps it's the difference in our ages; it could certainly be the difference in our crossword solving prowess. (I'm a capable amateur at best). But Rex came across on this one as more of a curmudgeon than usual.

Big House 10:45 AM  

@Granny - the letters appear in that order in wandering souls. It’s a cluing convention that the Times editors use pretty frequently.

KnittyContessa 10:50 AM  

BARBIEDOLL made me smile. Loved mine. Still have her and her glorious wardrobe.

Sadly, that it where the joy ended. ATSTORES????? That is absolutely ridiculous. COZYCOUPE???? This would have been so much better if they had clued the toys in a clever, punny way.

Anyone else confidently write in "floor" for 89A?

RooMonster 10:51 AM  

"Things we're thankful for"

All the rescue groups who've worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep animals safe and connect them with forever homes.


Pete 10:56 AM  

What @Coniuratos said. What @Z said about retired middle school teacher. The (unstated) downside of all those 60+ (like me) who waxed poetic about the trip down memory lane this puzzle brought missed. That made it good for the AARP Magazine, not the NYTimes Sunday. I don't think looking up obscure details in Wikipedia counts as "such interesting info". It's obscurity about dated trivia.

My local Thai place puts mushrooms in their Red Curry dishes. I order them minus the mushrooms, I'll as for them SANS mushrooms and see if I get a lecture that SANS doesn't mean minus. I don't think so.

I feel sad for both CDilly52 and her father, as there was clearly so much love there that almost never got expressed, damaging both.

Texas Red 10:57 AM  

@Jim - interesting, such a dumb question and an incorrect answer to boot. Those are not 3 different laws - E=IR states that E,I and R will have the inverse relationship described by the other two. It’s the same law described a little differently using the language of physics (i.e. mathematics). Imagine what life would be like if the government focused its time, energy and resources on educating teachers and students, and not trying to intrude on every aspect of the lives of its citizenry (by dictating what types of lightbulbs are acceptable for purchase for example).

thefogman 11:03 AM  

A bit on the challenging side compared to most Saturdays of late, which is good. What’s not so good is the amount of unfair Naticks, PPP and obscurities. I almost solved it but had one error. Had LIbI and OCAbA at 52D - 62A. Close but no cigar. Better than the usual offering, but that isn’t saying much.

GILL I. 11:04 AM  

How to start your day laughing through your nose? Read @Frantic first thing in the morning.....May I share some of your brain syrup?
HAH!....then I get to @Andrea 8:53. Senor cara de papa made me spit out my Peet's espresso, French Press, expensive and lovingly made coffee, right out my nose. about Catalina la Charlatana for Chatty Cathy?
The puzzle was fine but I'm loving the comments more. @CDilly and her wonderful stories, having @Loren come back, @Lewis stopping in, and hearing all the toy
I knew some of these only because we have two (grown) children and 4 grandkids. About the only toy I grew up with in Cuba was a mango. Well...maybe an avocado as well. We weren't deprived or anything, it's just that American toys were hard to come by. I do remember my Nana coming to visit and giving me my first doll. It scared the hell out of me. Maybe it was that CHATTY CATHY because you could pull a string and it squawked at you. It reminded me of serial killer, Chucky.
So my sister had a BARBIE DOLL. She always got the good stuff. She also had blonde hair and cute dimples. She fell asleep once with chewing gum in her mouth and the gum made its way into her hair. My mom had to cut her long gorgeous hair off. It gave me future ideas for SILLY PUTTY. Kidding....we love each other lots nowadays.
Never heard of TAMAGOTCHI....could've been gamapoachy for all I know. Had the same OHM SLAW moment as @TTrimble . Did anyone else have food PORN for 69A? No?'s a COMA. I like porn better. You know....looking at all the side dishes in Bon Appetite ......
I like CHRISTMAS smack dab in the middle of the puzzle. We're having a small one this year but I get to hold my little Hadley Rose in my arms and spoil her rotten.
Be safe and stay warm and hug a puppy or a kitten if you can.

Anonymous 11:06 AM  

Really liked this puzzle. Very nostalgic

yinchiao 11:20 AM  

One little quibble: I don't believe anyone ever "hams up" a part, the expression as I've always heard it is "hams it up" or of course it can be a noun as in "what a ham."

Zoomfactor 11:31 AM  

Can you imagine how much landfill space is being taken up by Cozy Coupes? That is first time I’ve heard that name, but for years they littered yards around the rural south in a ubiquitous fashion.

BobL 11:34 AM  

@Southside - your made up words schtick is getting old, as baht, buss, and Orem are quite real.

Anonymous 11:38 AM  

Save your cheap diagnoses for real doctors. You have. I way of knowing whether CDily 52 was damaged or the father for that matter.

You’re a boob and a boor. Taurii? That attempt at humor is so far from clever I barely know where to begin.
But you should know that a decade ago Alan Mulally used the same tin -eared , illiterate word and was, rightly, castigated by everyone with an ounce of sense, from his shareholders, marketing department to the The New York Times.
It’s so famous in auto circles that Jalopnik did a story about it.

Adam12 11:39 AM  

Honeymooned in Taormina. Closer to Messina. You cannot see Mt Edna. We did see it as we drove to Catania to fly home.

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

This was just awful. And not just the fill (though there was a lot of that... looking at you NIH, SCI, STL, BAHT, ISH, CAA, ESL, etc.) but the cluing of otherwise perfectly good fill. "Calf-eteria?" Really? No better choice for LEA? At least "Shopping site with a "Toys" section" is a sad attempt to link to the theme.

I could definitely continue, but why? Best to pretend this one never existed and move on.

PS: Peter Gordon's Fireball crosswords are awesome.

What? 11:45 AM  

I agree with Rex. Just a list of toys, that’s it. Sunday puzzles seem to be following a theme lately being geared to newbies or to an intended audience whose puzzle experience/aptitude falls below those of the Times.
I think Shortz is looking to the audience in the syndicated puzzles that find their way into other newspapers a week later.

Missy 11:51 AM  

Frank aren't you describing yourself? You keep coming back here looking for something else?

puzzlehoarder 11:53 AM  

A list of famous toys is ho-hum enough but the crossword dreck they were wrapped in was what really brought the solving experience down. The list that @kitshef9:06 made, is a cringe inducing reminder. What brought it home to me was having both OCALA and OPA in the same grid. It would be like adding ALTA to OREM.

For my retirement Etsy project I should make a wooden puzzle map of the USA. Instead of the usual iconic images each one would feature the place names made famous by crosswords. Something every regular solver should have under their tree.

OffTheGrid 12:02 PM  

@Roo. Glad you included animal people in your thanks. I am retired and have volunteered at the local shelter for nearly 10 years. But I am not among those to be thanked. That is reserved for the staff people and younger volunteers who continue to do the work day in and day out. I miss being involved and can't wait to get back after I get vaccinated. I continue to transport dogs and cats to the vet for their spay/ neuter procedures. It is low risk as I don't go inside and everyone is masked.

egsforbreakfast 12:04 PM  

First, it’s a thrill to have @LMS and @Lewis comment today. I sincerely hope that life is treating you both well.

Second, it takes a heckuva puzzle to get Rex to overlook, or at least not rant about, both Ross Perot and Cecil Rhodes.

I’m @Jae-ish about it myself. Randolph Ross is so embedded in the NYTXW platoon (116 puzzles over 20 years), that I don’t think he gets edited. They just publish what he mails in. Sometimes that shows, Today’s was a pleasant nostalgia trip, at the end of a year where we all need to think about pleasant things. Was there some garbage? Yes, many have pointed out much of it.

Rex asks “ How much do you have to hate Christmas to make let alone publish this?” Is the idea that if you don’t have an actual story line to go with the Toy Story title, then you hate Christmas? Or that to demonstrate his love of Christmas, the constructor should have used puns or wacky phrases to clue the theme toys? Maybe someone can translate for me why Rex thinks that this puzzle signifies that both Randolph Ross and Will Shortz hate Christmas.

SouthsideJohnny 12:05 PM  

@Bobl - I usually put “made up” in quotes as they almost always are technically acceptable. I believe that because you can doesn’t mean that you should. In this case BAHT is a foreign word, BUSS is archaic and OREM is a bit of esoteric PPP. I don’t find it enjoyable when you have to parse together every single cross to in effect “manufacture” an answer that may turn out being a valid word in some foreign language or was perhaps last used several centuries ago.

Just my personal opinion - yours appears to be contrary and is certainly no less valid.

JC66 12:07 PM  

A Sunday puzzle constructed by Randolph Ross = A Rex meltdown. Who would have thought?

I'm in the liked it camp. Maybe because I made my living working in the toy business.

BTW, I wonder if Mr. Ross originally included IDEAL as a theme answer.

oliar 12:08 PM  

Yeah, this one was not fun, and I think those who enjoyed it are probably of an age where they remember who the hell Sam Snead was (born in 1908; had a golf career lasting until the 1980s) and had formative relationships with the toys. The toys didn't bother me at all, though I have to agree with Rex that the cluing of today's WOTD was redundantly awful. It was the inexcusable fill that really got to me: "Etta Kett" (again, from a strip that debuted in 1920-FIVE and lasted to the '70s), the solution "arty" for the clue "chichi" (which has NEVER meant "arty" as I have seen it used and instead invokes something fancy), the horrible OCD cluing others have mentioned, and especially the hot mess of the NW middle section with "Brocas", "AAh" "Snead" and "Iodate". Also, "atop" doesn't necessarily MEAN "straddling". it just means...something on top of something else. Can we PLEASE have retired math/science people banned from making these puzzles? They reveal a pure hatred for the English language and crossword conventions; it's like Will Shortz is gaslighting me every Sunday a hard science person makes a puzzle.

Nancy 12:29 PM  

@Blue Stater (9:25) -- Actually "minus" can equal SANS:

This puzzle, minus the phrases on @kitshef's list, would have been a lot better.

This puzzle, SANS the phrases on @kitshef's list, would have been a lot better.

Birchbark 12:30 PM  

An inwardly IRENIC exercise this weekend, oddly enough involving a gun rack (so maybe AT A RISK of alienating -- no need to read if hunting-related activity isn't to your liking):

An old weatherbeaten 2x4, which for years has done little but rest quietly in the outside garage waiting for something to happen, became a gun rack inside the metal storage cabinet that houses the hunting gear. I was moving some things around out there, picked up the board, dusted it off, and the rest just proceeded of its own inertia.

I measured the cabinet and sawed the board to fit, then used a compass to trace 2" diameter notches for the barrels to rest against, then jig-sawed them neatly but with enough personality (cf. ERRS) to establish the human element. At the ends, a couple more pieces for braces.

Sanded everything down smooth and wiped it with a damp cloth, the weathering on that 2x4 now an asset. Brushed on Crab Coat, a clear gloss marine finish for wooden boats (because it was there). I found some black felt scraps and cut strips to fit each notch and at the brace ends. Anchored the rack with screws into the cabinet's shelf slots.

I introduced the fowling pieces, etc., to their new upscale home, locked it back up and SAMBAED inside to the imagined music of the spheres, none but me (and now you) the wiser that our universe is more orderly now than it was a few days ago.

Total cost under $5 for finishing nails -- just needed a couple for the braces, but the hardware store in Scandia only sells them by the box. I could have driven another ten minutes to the Ace Hardware in Osceola, which sells them individually. But at a certain point you just want to get on with it. So I have plenty of 8d finishing nails if anybody needs any.

Thankful for LMS 12:36 PM  

What a pleasure to have @LMS comment today, just so down to earth. The @LMS comment on Barbie is exactly how I felt...I just loved changing her clothes and sometimes I would TRY to make clothes for her. My mother sewed and she would actually make me outfits that were way cooler than the store-bought clothes. People talk about the Barbie dimensions but in the late 50’s the voluptuous woman (hips) was very much the ideal but Barbie hardly had any. I think her hipless state had more to do with the ease of pulling her dresses, skirts and pants (Laura Petrie style) on and off. That’s just me.
@Nancy, you told us you were born in 1946 yesterday so I doubt whether you would have played with dolls anyway when you were 13, the year Barbie came out. I missed the first generation ponytail Barbie and (hi LMS) was so happy to get the bubble cut second gen.
I apparently just called the Cozy Coupe “one of those Lil Tykes cars.”
Hey, when I started working the Times puz in my 20s I remember I thought tons of puzzles were terribly dated but gosh darn it I learned a lot.

Anonymous 12:39 PM  

HATED it! No Aha moments. Awful fill. Clearly, Mr. Ross made his grid, filled in the toys and Christmas, and then had to scrape the bottom of the barrel for things to cross with. CAA, OPAH, AEIOU!!! IODATE? ATOP is not STRADDLING. A TAMBOR is not an English word for snare drum. I hope your TORN OFF WRAPPING PAPER is going in recycling, not the TRASH. Plus all the other dreck Rex mentioned.

What? 1:04 PM  

I’m always mystified when people excuse obscurities by saying I learned a new word. If you want to learn a new word read a dictionary - this is a crossword puzzle.

Pete 1:10 PM  

@Anon 11:38 - Feel free to grow a pair and post with a consistent name. Make one up, "TheGuyWhoHatesPete" is fine. If you're the guy who hates me and Z,add him to your new name, but please don't conflate us. Just be consistent and accountable for your comments.

What the hell does "Save your cheap diagnoses for real doctors. You have." mean? I hope you don't get cheap diagnoses from your real doctors. Real doctors should give logical, well informed diagnoses at a fair price for their time and all their training. Also, I "have" what? Insight, compassion, empathy for my fellow man? An over-inflated sense of self? What? If you're going to go to all this trouble to insult someone, at lease use complete sentences to express well founded thoughts.

Finally, when a grown woman (repeatedly) writes of "rare moments in my entire life when I connected with my father" it's clear that the father had an inability to regularly and easily connect with his child. That hurts both of them by depriving them of the full benefit of one of life's most important relationships, parent and child. If you find that "cheap", that's on you. If you thing my thinking that is sad, that too is on you.

Nancy 1:11 PM  

@Birchbark (12:30) -- I didn't understand a word you were saying, not one, but once again you've left me with the impression that, were I to be trapped in any sort of dangerous physical emergency situation, you'd be the person I'd most like to be trapped with. (The other major candidate on the blog is @puzzlehoarder because of his career as a firefighter.)

Anyway, about the hunting thing: Personally speaking, I could never in a million years kill some cute, furry creature with big, soulful eyes. Never. But I used to date a guy, originally from Norway and a big outdoorsman, who hunted. Game birds like pheasant and quail, and deer. When I protested how simply awful that was and how COULD he, here's how he explained it to me:

"It's only wrong if you kill solely for sport. If you eat everything you kill, it's not wrong. Where do you think the meat that you eat actually comes from, Nancy? Do you think it comes neatly wrapped in cellophane -- the way it appears in the meat counter?"

I couldn't really argue with his logic. And so, while I didn't go out and buy a hunting rifle myself, I forgave him. Then, several years later, when he brought me a large portion of venison stew that his friend Gaspar, a good cook, had prepared from the deer they had bagged on a hunting trip, I forgave him even more. Venison actually is one of my favorite dishes in the whole world.

Do I feel guilty about loving venison? Sure. But maybe not guilty enough. I was eating venison at one of the few restaurants that has it on the menu with my friend Maxine (who had ordered something else). She took a video of me as I ate. She sent a copy to me online with the title: "Nancy savoring Bambi".

Blue Stater 1:13 PM  

Nancy @12:23, I respectfully disagree. The SANS in your example means "without," and "without" is what SANS means (in French *and* in English).

John Culhane 1:17 PM  

Rex. You’re allowed to dislike puzzles. That is most of what you do, it seems. Please don’t be inaccurate. There are MANY stories here. The bit about Carson and Eva Gabor? A story. The Silly Putty clue? A story!! The Play-Doh clue? A STORY!!! (Yelling.) And: “ I’ve never head of this toy” not= “unfair clue.”

Nancy 1:19 PM  

@Thankful (12:36) -- No, [sob], I never said that. Because, alas, it would have been a lie. Read the blog again.

And if BARBIE didn't appear during my childhood, there were plenty of other dolls around back then. But my rule remained the same: No dolls, please, for presents, thank you very much!

John Culhane 1:24 PM  

Rex. You’re allowed to dislike puzzles. That is most of what you do, it seems. Please don’t be inaccurate. There are MANY stories here. The bit about Carson and Eva Gabor? A story. The Silly Putty clue? A story!! The Play-Doh clue? A STORY!!! (Yelling.) And: “ I’ve never head of this toy” not= “unfair clue.”

Masked and Anonymous 1:28 PM  

Some cute toy trivia here. Had heard of all the themetoys except for the COZYCOUPE and TAMAGOTCHI. COZYCOUPE was kinda inferable after a few crosses. TAMAGOTCHI was more of a GOTCHA-TO-ME.
Nice to have a slightly CHRISTMAS-y theme mcguffin, so close to the holidays.

Nice constructioneer name drop at 103-A, a la ROSS SANS PEROT. Also, nice near -miss, with ROSAS.

OHELLYES, @Muse darlin.

staff weeject pick: TOK. Goes well with them TIK-LE-MEELMO toys.
fave sparklers: ATSTORES [Kinda meshes with the theme, a little bit]. SCRATCH. CESSNA. Maybe MYGOSH. Actually, almost all the longballs were themers … as in **twelve** of the lil devils! Heckuva SunPuz constructioneerin challenge. ROSS dude no doubt suffered.

Thanx and Happy Holidays, Mr. Toys R Ross.

Masked & Anonym8Us


Anonymous 1:29 PM  

SEPIA is not a finish. it's a way to process a black&white print such that the black is brownish. matte is a finish.

TTrimble 1:36 PM  

I get that; what I was saying is that it wasn't in one of my comments, but of someone else addressing me. I didn't know what else it could be though.

@Frantic Sloth 8:15 AM
Now, now: acknowledging that painful episode from your past, and getting into contact with your real feelings about it, is the first step toward healing and recovery, and ultimately forgiving yourself. You were in your 40's; you were still young!

First of all, calm down. Second: don't be too quick to condemn math/science people. You don't know all of them, and based on what you wrote ("pure hatred for the English language"), I'd even say you don't know many of them, at least not that well.

Regarding your criticism of the clue for ATOP and crossword conventions: any criticism that starts off saying that the answer doesn't necessarily mean what the clue says is ignoring a very basic crossword convention. The problem is with the word "necessarily". The right word is "possibly": could the answer possibly fit the clue. For example, @Nancy 12:29 PM, who is experienced in crossword construction, illustrates how "minus" can mean SANS, and that "can" is exactly the right criterion to apply. This should be obvious; for example, the word "jack" has a whole bunch of meanings, but if that were the answer, it would be ludicrous to demand that "jack" must necessarily mean whatever is there in the clue, precisely because of the multiplicity of meanings.

(And now, this hater of the English language is heading off to do the acrostic.)

Unknown 1:43 PM  

A COZY COUPE for grownups

skristol 1:43 PM  

We have two cozy coupes that we bought for our grandchildren. Great toy. But have someone else assemble it for you.

Frantic Sloth 1:50 PM  

@TTrimble 136pm Ssssh! Don't you know that psychological opinions are verboten here?
I can't believe it's snowing again. ๐Ÿ˜•

mooretep 2:31 PM  

Ctrl-F Loren = gift!
Agree with Gill I

Late to the party as I am trying to prepare lessons for my students this week.
Like Loren, I have likely worked harder in my 30th year of teaching our future taxpayers than I have since I started.
Monday and Tuesday lessons will be about the physics of Christmas and the Solstice celebrations.

Loved the puzzle for its toy nostalgia.

KingRoper 2:54 PM  

Yes, this was dreadful. I could fill in nearly every toy without any crosses to confirm... no, never heard of a Cozy Coupe. Bad clues, bad fills... shame on the creator.

Simpson 3:01 PM  

Other toys he could’ve used that are 9-letters long: LITEBRITE, HOTWHEELS, KOOSHBALL, all are way more famous than COZYCOUPE

LorrieJJ 3:11 PM  

I love your take on 92D Statement of resistance ... MUCHO better than what we got!

jberg 3:49 PM  

I'm with @Rex on this one, pretty much. It's just a bunch of toys, clued with arcane bits of info, or not. It's fine, but needs more to make it a theme.

Me too for hOt wheels before COZY COUPE. I should have more attention to the 1991 part -- my kids played with Hot Wheels, and the youngest was 15 in 1991 (which is probably why I never heard of them -- they didn't get the press of Tickle Me Elmo.)

I don't think go should be capitalized -- it's a game, like chess, checkers, or bridge. Not a trademarked game like Uno. Also, I don't really think of the SAMBA as a ballroom dance, though I guess it can be done in a ballroom -- but it's basic identity is in the streets during Carnival.

ghthree 3:50 PM  

On April 3, 1995, Dilbert helped his pointy-haired boss re-boot his "laptop computer" by holding it upside down and shaking it. That's right; it was an Etch-a-Sketch.
I'd include the actual cartoon, but I don't know how.
Merry Christmas, everybody. Stay safe.

Anonymous 3:51 PM  

All 5 regular vowels are found in "wandering souls"... in the standard order.

Z 3:56 PM  

So you might want to skip this and go on to the next comment or do that puzzle first - go here and click on "Sunday Puzzles by Evan Birnholz" and sit through the ad.

Unsurprisingly Birnholz also published a Christmas related puzzle the Sunday before Christmas. I wouldn't put this in my top ten Birnholz puzzles - probably not even my top fifty - but I think it is, again, discernibly better than what we got from the NYTX. On the demerit side are some dated fill, a lot of choppiness (partly due to theme requirements it looks like), "Author of the 1931 novel 'The Brontรซs Went to Woolworths'" for a theme clue, a RRN at 2D, and seemingly unrelated to Christmas theme answers. But - and this is something I think of as a bare minimum that we don't get often enough from Shortz on Sunday - the PPP is all over the place - old music, new music, in between music, science people, business people, comics people, movies, geography, a Civil War general, TV people, a cold war angst author. In other words, the puzzle doesn't feel like it is just for people my age nor does it feel like I need to be on TikTok or SnapChat. And never did finishing the puzzle hinge on me knowing some abjectly awful obscure trivia.
And, AND!, we get a theme that's more than just a list. A Santa's helper rebus nicely hidden that then ties to the the theme answers' initial letters spelling out what the rebus subjects are. So that รผber obscure novelist is there for two reasons, the intial R and the elf sequence in her name. And, needing this obscure author for the theme, all the crosses are more than fair. I wouldn't call getting the final sort-of-meta answer an "Aha Moment" (there's a note that gives away the game), but there was a "nicely done" moment when I realized that the seeming randomness of the theme answers was a feature, not a bug.
Again, not the greatest Birnholz, but I would be pleased if the NYTX approached this level of quality every Sunday.

Unknown 4:15 PM  

Liked the toy theme. Cozy Coupe? Yep. My tag-along youngest son had one that he very graciously gave away to a younger child at a house-clearing yard sale. The child's mom kept saying no. We can't afford it. My Alex, bless him, though as possessive as any kid,tore off the $25.00 price tag and told the little boy the Cozy Coupe was free to a good home.

Like Rex, however, I hated much of the fill.

Pinky 4:19 PM

Anonymoose 4:23 PM  


Christopher Jones 4:27 PM  

What another un-exciting Sunday puzzle to solve in record time. Got hung up on 4 answers at the end that ruined what was probably going to be my best time ever and by that point I just wanted it over.
Sunday NYT puzzles used to really challenge me but now they are just something to do to keep my weekly crossword streaks going.

Santa 4:28 PM  

Nicest story today.

Newboy 4:28 PM  

I’m all in for @Cdilly52 who shares the nostalgia and a great Dad Story that has to trigger personal reflections for many this week, moi included. Made me recall having my first cigarette with instructions from dad on a Wyoming antelope hunt (in Wyoming where the Tetons really exist), but I digress....

The puzzle. “ The creaking quaintness of the fill isn't helping. APEDOM? IRENIC? "ETTA KETT"?”. But as @Z might observe: it is Sunday.

sanfranman59 4:32 PM  

Medium NYT Sunday ... Easy-Medium-ish except for the NE corner. I've never heard of TAMAGOTCHI {24A: Virtual pet simulation game that won an Ig Nobel prize for its Japanese creators} (or the "Ig Nobel prize") and there's really no way to infer any of that. I was also pretty locked in on 'lesS' instead of SANS {13A: Minus} and 'ess' instead of ARC {14D: Curve} up there, even though I thought Fauci worked at the 'cdc' (which turned out to be NIH {15D: Dr. Fauci's agcy.}). I finally tore everything out and ARC occurred to me, which allowed me to guess ERIC {21A: Indiana governor Holcomb}, which led to SANS, NIH and then, finally, SET DATE {13D: Appointment that may be hard to change}.

I knew all of the other toys and games except COZY COUPE {48D: Toy that sold more cars in America in 1991 than the Honda Accord or Ford Taurus}, which was obscured by my having 'ask ME' instead of USE ME {81A: "I'm here to help"}. The SW gave me a little trouble. I went with 'AT A coSt' instead of AT A RISK {88D: With some downside} and had 'FLAp' before FLAK {121A: Strong criticism}.

Now, off to read the blog reviews and comments. I'm guessing they'll be critical of the mustiness of the grid, but that's kind of a hallmark of Randolph Ross constructions. Plus, I'm a bit musty myself, so it doesn't bother me at all. I think TAMAGOTCHI is the newest toy/game and it's 24 years old. Most of them are from my childhood or even earlier (i.e. old). I was surprised by the clue for O'NEIL {74A: William ___, founder of Investor's Business Daily}. I only knew this because I went through a phase when I tried to learn about investing strategies and I regularly read that publication for a little while. In spite of all of the statistics, I found it all very boring. I now just park my money in passively managed index funds and let the markets do their thing. It's much less stressful and time-consuming that way.

Eddie 4:33 PM  


Colin 4:50 PM  

@Eddie, 4:33 PM: Rex was trying to be erudite and instead of going with "Accords and Tauruses," he went with the Latin second declension, plural nominative of "Taurus" which is "Tauri."
Actually, in thinking about it, I think it should be "Tauros" (which is the plural accusative) if this is the object of the verb "outsold."

JC66 5:12 PM  

Or, as @Z would say, TAURAPODES.

Anonymous 5:25 PM  

Eddie, Colin,
Nope. In fact the Times itself uses, correctly, Tauruses as the plural.
See their article of June 17, 2007 “ A Constellation of Tauruses”

Pete’s moral and intellectual superior

Colin 5:49 PM  

@Anonymous: Yes, I was not suggesting "Tauri" or "Tauros" be used... only pointing out the Rex was thinking along those lines...!

Anonymous 6:04 PM  

No, you suggested the even more absurd Tauros.

Pete’s moral and intellectual superior

anonymous not 6:09 PM  

I'm in agreement about the general tone of the puzzle but surprised by most of the criticisms. I had never heard of ETTAKRETT or SNEAD but I got them on crosses. And IRENIC is a perfectly good word. TAURUPODES would only make sense if the singular was TAURUPUS

Birchbark 6:15 PM  

@Nancy (1:11) -- I really like your take on venison. I completely get it.

On reflection, the 2x4 out in the outside garage was once our back-deck railing, until we had to replace it a few years ago. One early spring night a bear came up the stairs onto the deck and tore the whole rail off, to get to the bird feeder that we'd hung on a post clamped to the rail. I must have saved the rail, thinking there'd be a use, et voilร : the provenance of a gun rack.

Anonymous 7:45 PM  

@Pete,Z, michiganman-LOL

sanfranman59 7:54 PM  

@TTrimble (1:36pm) ... hand up for being a "retired math/science person" who was surprised to learn (courtesy of Oliar (12:08pm)) that I most likely have a "pure hatred of the English language" ... yeesh! I guess I've also learned that I'm a masochist given the amount of time I fritter away solving crosswords and playing a Boggle-like game on my phone.

Did I think this crossword was flawless? Not at all, but, for the most part, I enjoyed the way I spent this particular 18 minutes of my life. Do I sometimes get pissed off when I can't complete a grid because a few intersecting clue/answer combinations makes it impossible (Agard!!! Klahn!!!)? I sure do, but I try very hard not to blame the constructor or the editor of the crossword for the holes in my knowledge and I generally try to educate myself about the things I didn't know. In the case of this puzzle, once I got over my frustration at needing two minutes to get just a few squares in the NE, I was glad to learn about TAMAGOTCHI and COZY COUPE and I had mostly forgotten about the few answers that seemed a little less than perfect.

I'm forever amazed at the disdain so many crossworders around these parts seem to have for the knowledge sweet spot of those of us who are of a certain age. This puzzle managed to hit my sweet spot almost dead-on and took me on a lovely trip down memory lane. Apparently, most commenters here and OFL think this "OK Boomer" type of puzzle should be out of bounds for the NYT crossword and is appropriate only for the pages of AARP Magazine (@Pete, 10:56am). I'm not entirely sure why, but that makes me a little sad. It's also a real buzz-kill and reminds me (for the umpteenth time) why I'm a rather hit and miss reader and commenter on this message board.

Anonymous 9:05 PM  

I don't want to be so grinchy as to complain about a puzzle many enjoyed, or I won't blame the constructor, Randolph Ross. I think the blame here falls on Shortz, who should have put this with the puzzle section in the NYT of a week ago.

Did remind me of how envious I was of those who got a lot of toys, while I got "useful" stuff like socks and shirts! Even in the stocking my sisters and I got bottles of coke (!) and things like apples and oranges--ugh! My sisters and I were usually good sports about it, and laughed as we unloaded the stocking in the kitchen pantry. One dear aunt always gave a real toy, and I mean the good kind that one could break within 24 hours. I wondered if it was because she never had children.

Anon. i.e. Poggius

GILL I. 9:34 PM  

@Anon. i.e. Poggius....But did you ever get a mango in your stocking?

Birchbark 10:22 PM  

@Anon/Pogius (9:05) & @Gill (9:34) -- Our stockings always have an orange at the bottom to remind us. You have to plow through a lot of plastic to get there, but it's there. Plus, oranges are delicious --

albatross shell 11:04 PM  

I liked CHRISTMAS in the center. I liked the RexRant as silly and irrational as it was.

I liked the the nostalgic Christmassy toys. I call it the Dead Tree Festival now. My cards say Happy Solstice which to me is the actual Victory of Light and the reason for for the season. But everyone is welcome to their own story.

I never had a MR POTATO HEAD. My friends did and loved it. I thought it was silly and boring. Cootie is a different story.

CANDYLAND was not nearly as much fun as Uncle Wiggily. CANDYLAND did have the advantage the kids did not need to know how to count to play.

Today I found out beaniebabies has the same number of letters as TICKLEMRELMO.

As do OHMSLAW ivoteno and iHateit. And OHellno (above).

Apparently MRPOTATOHEAD was the first toy to be advertised on TV and the first to be advertised to children. Easy marks. Should been nipped in the bud with a stick in the eye, so to speak.

Minus can be equvalent to sans. I'd give you a numerical example but I'm afraid I'd confuse you. And you are right.
How about a literary one?
"TWO" sans the "W" is "TO".

"TWO" minus the "W" is "TO".

I always enjoyed superballs in my stocking. Keep some on hand for kids who stop by. Those paddles and balls connected by an elastic band too. Don't know their name.

TTrimble 11:32 PM  

It's hard to overstate just how mistaken this idea is, of scientists and mathematicians being insensitive to language (or "hating language", which formulation maybe Oliar would temper on reflection). I guess this is a pretty big failure of our educational system, that science and math are seen as simply dry and analytical, based on equations, deprived of life and any emotion. For me, the practice of mathematics is much more about language than is ever dreamed by most people -- not just logic and grammar, but fine shadings of meaning, wordplay, elegant formulations, weavings of narrative. A really good mathematician puts in a lot of effort to wield language effectively, not only to be precise, but to convey ideas with force and piquancy and even humor. Anyway, we math and science types have been known to sift and savor the richness of language.

Conversely, it might be thought that those on the other side of the "Two Cultures" hate mathematics and science, but I think that's also based on misunderstandings. Actually I'm of the opinion that math and rational thought generally are a human birthright, and that people are constantly mathematicizing whether they recognize it or not. If, for example, one is locating a word in a dead-tree dictionary, then one is utilizing a deeply-learned subconscious apprehension of the notion of lexicographic order, a concept of pure mathematics, and more sophisticated than most concepts taught in school. The very parsing of spontaneous language in real time partakes of deep mathematical structures, processed unconsciously at high levels of speed, right under the hood. In short, each of us is a deeply mathematical creature.

What you write reminds me of my dad, who spent part of his childhood in deep, dirt-floor poverty, being raised by my grandmother who suddenly found herself without a husband. One Christmas during that time, his only gift was a ripe avocado, which he ate voraciously -- and proceeded to vomit. It seems hard to believe. I myself grew up with no wants whatsoever.

Monty Boy 11:52 PM  

Ah, my day is complete, my week, my month, my year. Welcome back LMS.

Dave S 1:27 AM  

Maybe it's because a Cozy Coupe was the first big toy I put together for my first child on the first Christmas she could remember (she was just turning two) , and she loved it, or maybe because we lived in Cleveland at the time and Little Tikes is based in nearby Hudson (in fact they had an outlet store at he time that was a lot of fun to visit). At any rate, I enjoyed the puzzle and the little stories about the toys. Some of the fill may have been graceless or dated but hardly much more so than other puzzles, and certainly not in any undecipherable way. Had more fun than many recent Sundays.

lilyturquoise 8:24 AM  

Wow I totally agree with Rex, this puzzle SUCKED. Why are all the commenters so jolly lol, it’s ok to be a little cynical

donomom 8:47 AM  

Cozy Coupe! Super popular long ago where I live, I *think* because they were a local product, northeast OH. Oh my, Cozy Coupes at Safety Town, what a '90s memory!

Ken Freeland 12:39 PM  

Your bet is a winner in my case. My first DNF in many months all because I'm unfamiliar with Japanese toys. Bah, humbug!

chinch 4:15 PM  

@LMS 4.05 AM A lovely surprise to get to read your take!

a.corn 10:25 PM  

Trash. Such such such trash.

spacecraft 11:04 AM  

I have to agree with OFC on this one. This guy's a hack, as evidenced by, among other things, the vowel string at 47a that tried for respectability with an off-putting clue. It failed. Plus, he couldn't resist a selfie at 103-across.

Bah humbug. A happier new year than this, folks, we all hope. Double-bogey.

Burma Shave 1:33 PM  


he'd USEME just TO PLAY,
but I was INTHEMOOD TO be BAD,


rondo 1:55 PM  

More disappointed with the fill than the theme. There's plenty of TRASH fill and you recognized it, didn't you?


LILI Taylor, yeah baby.

Almost a waste of TIME.

Diana, LIW 8:35 PM  

You guys need a happy pill. This was the second fun Sunday in a row for me. How can you hate a toy? Sheesh!

Diana, Lady in Waiting for Crosswords

Monsta 9:07 PM  

@CDilly just wanted to say what a lovely story you shared of your Dad. It was a pure expression of love from him. It made my heart swell. Thank you

Dude 5:40 AM  

Exactly, minus:less without:sans.

Tony Paglia 7:45 PM  

This review had me cry-laughing. This puzzle was terrible. Thanks for the levity. ๐Ÿ˜‚

Tony Paglia 7:50 PM  

I’m cry-laughing at this review! This puzzle was terrible. Thanks for the levity. ๐Ÿ˜‚

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP