Toluca lucre / SUN 12-25-22 / Nickname of Looney Tunes animator Ben Hardaway / Grilled cornmeal cake popular in Latin America / Purple-crayon-carrying boy of children's literature / Cat breed with a shabby-sounding name / Animal whose name comes from the Narragansett word for twig-eater / The Rose City so nicknamed for its pink sandstone

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Constructor: John Martz

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: "Novel Thinking" — ordinary phrases are clued as if they related to famous novels:
[not by RLS!]

Theme answers:
  • HOME PAGES (24A: "Little House on the Prairie," e.g.?) (because it's "pages" ... about a "home") (!?!?)
  • GHOSTWRITING (26A: "The Haunting of Hill House," e.g.?) (because it's "writing" ... about a "ghost")
  • FLUID VOLUME (40A: "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," e.g.?) (because it's a "volume" ... set in "fluid" (i.e. the sea)) 
  • SECOND STORY (45A: "Back to Treasure Island," e.g.?) (because it's the "second" part of the "Treasure Island" "story") (?!?!?!)
  • PRISON SENTENCES (61A: "Crime and Punishment," e.g.?) (because it's "sentences" about a "prison") (there's not really a prison in this book, I don't think, but ... OK)
  • ADDRESS BOOK (80A: "If Beale Street Could Talk," e.g.?) (because it's a "book" about an ... "address")
  • ANIMAL PRINT (89A: "Fantastic Mr. Fox," e.g.?) (because it is a "print" (well, printed material, anyway) about an "animal")
  • WORKING TITLE (99A: "The Help," e.g.?) (because it is a "title" about people who are "working")
  • BUZZ WORDS (105A: "The Secret Life of Bees," e.g.?) (because it is "words" about creatures that "buzz")
Word of the Day: "The Haunting of Hill House" (26A) —

The Haunting of Hill House is a 1959 gothic horror novel by American author Shirley Jackson. A finalist for the National Book Award and considered one of the best literary ghost stories published during the 20th century, it has been made into two feature films and a play, and is the basis of a Netflix series. Jackson's novel relies on terror rather than horror to elicit emotion in the reader, using complex relationships between the mysterious events in the house and the characters' psyches. (wikipedia)
• • •

So much Christmas disappointment. First of all, the holiday *actually* falls on the crossword's big day (literally, the biggest day), and you ... pass? I've seen so many holiday puzzles published on holiday-adjacent days, but here you have the opportunity to hit it right on the money and ... nothing. But OK, you're not feeling festive, that's fine, but it's a big holiday, lots of people sitting around doing nothing, avoiding family, whatever, so lots of people are going to be doing this one; surely you're gonna put forth your "A" game—something really impressive. But ... no. It's an ordinary, workmanlike effort that stretches the concept of "wordplay" too thin and generally yields no laughs, chuckles, guffaws, or other gleeful noises. The "novel" concept just doesn't work here, in that so many of these "novel"-related terms are only horrifically vaguely related to actual novels. "Book," "volume," great, "story," OK, but after that the connection becomes tenuous and the words become fragments of novels so small that they could relate to any piece of writing. Like "writing." Or "title." And "sentences?" "Words?" The whole "Novel" conceit just doesn't hold up. 


And yet ... if the theme answers were themselves snappy and fun and clearly novel-related, I would still have been happy. But ..."HOME"?? The connection to "Little House on the Prairie" is just ... HOME? They're PAGES about ... HOME? Because ... what, "house" means "HOME?" The whole thing is literal to a painful degree, such that it doesn't even matter what the novels are actually about. A fox *is* an animal, the help ... work, I guess. So you don't even get the spark of some real thematic connection between novels and theme answers. In the case of PRISON SENTENCES, it's like there's no connection at all. I just read a summary of "Crime and Punishment" and (as I thought) there's no "PRISON" in it at all, except in the epilogue. But I guess that "punishment" for "crime" is (often) "PRISON," so ... good enough?  In the case of SECOND STORY, the content of the novel really really Really doesn't matter. Nothing particularly "Treasure Island"-y at all there. Could've used literally any sequel in that clue. Sigh. I love novels, but I just don't get this theme. Or I do get it, but I cannot feel whatever it is that's supposed to make it joyful to solve.


The puzzle was not hard, but it was slow-going with the theme answers, mostly due to issues discussed above (i.e. I could not make sense of the answers because their connections to the novels in question seemed so wispy). I'd get the front end of an answer and still have no idea about the back end, and then vice versa. But this just meant hacking at crosses—never really getting stuck. I could easily have finished with an error, since I had *no* idea what the animator's nickname was supposed to be at 1A: Nickname of Looney Tunes animator Ben Hardaway (who???), so I had to get it all from crosses, and let me tell you, GONG seemed like a very good answer to 1D: Hit it! When that gave me GUGS for the animator's nickname, I figured it must be right—obscure clue for an obscure answer. But then my brain went, "yeesh, why didn't they change that first letter to something like [rolodexes through -UGS words] BUGS ... oh ... oh, hang on! BUGS ... BUGS Bunny ... and then BONG for [Hit it!] ... yeah, that must be it. And now we're back to 'yeesh'." If you'd had a reasonable clue on BUGS, then you wouldn't have had "Ben" in the clue and *then* you could've turned 76-Across from BON to BEN, which is better, but also much Much better in the cross (changing NOONS :( to NEONS :). 


Part of the puzzle I loved was the clue on T-BONE STEAK (69D: Cut with a letter opener?). That is all kinds of devilish and brilliant. Just a great double misdirect, with both "Cut" and "letter opener" knocking you off balance. That answer next to BAD VIBES was the highlight of the puzzle for me, for sure. LOOT BAGS threw me, as I know them as MONEYBAGS, if I know them at all. And PETRA really threw me, as there was no "ancient" in the clue and the only "Rose City" I know (I thought!) was Portland, OR. Yes, I remembered correctly: Portland is the "City of Roses" or "Rose City" (per wikipedia). And it's an actual city that still exists, whereas PETRA is more UNESCO site than city now. What else? I had TEMPLE before CHAPEL (14D: Place of worship), but that's the only real mistake I made (besides GUGS, of course, LOL). Hope you liked this one more than I did, and that you are having a lovely Christmas or just a lovely Sunday, whichever is more meaningful to you. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

81 comments:

LenFuego 12:39 AM  

I hate to agree with Rex, but yeah, this one was … fine. And fine just does not seem enough on a Christmas day.

jae 1:52 AM  

Medium sounds right. Solid Sunday which I liked more than @Rex did (he made some good points) but not as much as Jeff did (he gave it POW).

OffTheGrid 5:22 AM  

I agree with @Rex. I'm glad I was under no obligation to review this because I stopped at about the half way point. Tedious and boring. I don't expect much on Sunday anymore so I can't really say I was disappointed. POW from Jeff Chen does not surprise me.

Conrad 5:25 AM  


I often disagree with OFL, but today, @Rex, you nailed it.

Isn't Pasadena also a "Rose City," since it's the home of the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl?

Anonymous 7:04 AM  

Guess I’m in the minority that likes this puzzle. I had a lot of fun with the themers, and other clues and answers. Can’t have everything all the time.

Lewis 7:06 AM  

Oh, a most, most enjoyable and impressive Sunday and NYT debut. I walked away from this thinking, “This guy Martz is someone to remember.”

This is a puzzle made with confidence and talent. It felt like the work of a veteran, with its dense and clever theme, interesting non-theme answers, junk-lite grid, and especially the fresh and spot-on cluing – pro-level cluing, fitting Sunday perfectly.

There were one-level-off clues, where at first pass the answer is just not clear, but with one or two crosses, it suddenly makes perfect sense. There were riddle clues, such as [One might have three parts, with or without its last letter]. There were direct clues, for footholds. And my favorite – there were wordplay clues, including the OMG [Cut with a letter opener?].

The grid was filled with life and humor. It entertained as it threw out stumpers. It charmed as it challenged, with pings of delight sparking throughout. What a lovely box to open on Christmas!

John, you’ve got the knack, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that you get the constructing bug – I pretty-please-hope to see more from you. Thank you for this treat!

Anonymous 7:42 AM  

'Petra' by John William Burgon

'It seems no work of Man's creative hand,
by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;
But from the rock as if by magic grown,
eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!
Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,
where erst Athena held her rites divine;
Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,
that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;
But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,
that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;
The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,
which Man deemed old two thousand years ago,
Match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
a rose-red city half as old as time.'

Barbara S. 7:49 AM  

No time to blog today: the mimosas await. I'm here to wish Rex and you, the commentariat -- our online family -- much joy of whatever Old Year's festivities you celebrate. Be of good cheer!

bocamp 7:53 AM  

Thx, John; flat out fun Sun. puz! :)

Med.

A tad quicker than avg.; always nice when a Sun. is done with no typos. :)

Loved the theme. It was helpful, in a way, too!

Unknowns/learnings: BUGS; AREPA; PINK LADY; FATE; CIENTO; HAROLD; RAGAMUFFIN.

Just an all-around good adventure this AM! :)

@pablo yd

Down to the last cell at the 'Bear' / 'Units' cross. I know what letter I want, but the 'Bear' is not being friendly. [update: got it!] Anyhoo, this one goes down as a med+ solve.

Not sure why 25 down is sticking in your craw?

@TTrimble yd

I'm going to check my birth certificate to see if there's a period after my 'F'.

"Ronly Honly Bing": too funny! 🀣

Also, echoing your kudos to the @Mods! :)

On to the Cryptic. 🀞
___
Peace πŸ•Š πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness to all πŸ™

Son Volt 8:02 AM  

Pleasant enough I guess - I am surprised like Rex that it wasn’t an in your face Christmas puzzle. There’s probably more nuance than he wanted to see - like the double use of ADDRESS. I GO TO PIECES.

Densely packed with themers - overall fill was solid. Agree with the big guy on the greatness of the T BONE STEAK clue. Really liked LOOT BAGS too. Sometimes I wonder about his thought process though re: his discussion of 1a. Almost a gimme when you go thru Sam, Elmer, Porky etc.

Didn’t know HAROLD or the spelling of KETANJI. I’ve had bialys that are not ONIONY - but love AREPAS.

Enjoyable Sunday solve. Merry Christmas everyone.

Christmas in PRISON

pabloinnh 8:03 AM  

Mostly smooth sailing on this one, although the ANIMALPRINT LOOTBAGS PETRA section was problematical. Have never heard the term LOOT BAG, didn't know PETRA, and I'm still not convinced that an ANIMALPRINT is a thing at all, and if it is, is not related to a novel as demanded by the title. Maybe "novel" in this sense just means "totally new".

Like OFL, I was looking for a Christmas theme and was a bit disappointed to find nothing in my stocking or under my tree. At least we have lights and heat here in the NE. Hoping all of you who don't will soon.

Solid effort, JM, and congrats on the debut. To the NYT I say, Just More Christmas please.

Anonymous 8:06 AM  

As a first time commentator, I must disagree with Rex and the other high end crossword gurus. The Sunday puzzle is chosen for the enjoyment of the masses, not with the difficulty of Friday/Saturday.
Next, while this appeared on Christmas Day, given the time of year several holi(y)days are celebrated. I give the NYT for universal consideration and inclusion.

Colin 8:10 AM  

I said to my wife last night, "Rex is gonna hate this." We found it just fine - Congrats to John Martz on his debut puzzle. Took us a couple of tries to finish - we got held up at the PETRA/LOOTBAGS/AMBIT section.
Notably, we agreed on many of the same likes and dislikes, including TBONESTEAK.

A Happy Christmas to all who celebrate! And if you don't, warm wishes for a holiday weekend filled with health, joy, and love... See you in the New Year!

mmorgan 8:21 AM  

I often do agree with Rex, but I think he's too harsh on this one. I was very happy NOT to see a Christmas theme, thank you bah humbug. For me, it didn't in any way stretch the wordplay "too thin," and I got a smile out of all the themers. A few clues maybe seemed like a bit of a stretch but I have no complaints about the themers. Overall, I liked this more than most Sundays.

thefogman 8:27 AM  

We won’t be getting our Sunday New York Times today, delivery is Monday in our area this year because of Christmas. So in the meantime, Seasons Greetings to all and a Happy New Year 2023!

Joaquin 8:31 AM  

I don't even celebrate Christmas but I was really surprised by today's non-Christmas theme.
Perhaps on April 23, 2023 - World Book Day - we'll get a puzzle featuring jolly old St. Nick.

Anonymous 8:41 AM  

Amy: while I happily observe Christmas, it is a holiday that can be difficult for those who don't, or who are dealing with any number of challenges. And it's seemingly everywhere. So today's puzzle being a Christmas free zone doesn't trouble me. Being an avid novel reader, found the theme fun and recognized many of the titles. Enjoyed seeing Ketanji Brown Jackson again (she's been in before, am pretty sure). Stay warm and well; all the best, everyone.

Anonymous 8:53 AM  

Maybe it's National Library Week or something... Surely there was a Christmas themed Sunday-sized puzzle floating around Eighth Ave., somewhere?

1A was a gimme for me, as I had just read last week the origins of B. Bunny's name. Otherwise, I would have been flummoxed until working the Downs.

Off to start hours of cooking..

Anonymous 8:57 AM  

I definitely was hoping for a holiday theme. ☹️...Does anyone have a puzzle recommendation for a puzzle they did today that does have a holiday theme? I'd like something festive to keep me and my family occupied. It's currently a balmy 5 degrees here in WV. Thanks and happy holidays!πŸŽ„⛄πŸ•Ž

Joe Dipinto 9:42 AM  

If you're jonesing for a Christmas puzzle you can always go back and do last Sunday's acrostic.

Nancy 9:44 AM  

I thought this theme was really nifty. And as I'm reading down the blog I'm thinking: "Am I the only one? What am I seeing that they're not?" Then I got to Lewis who loves it too. Thank you Lewis! I thought I was losing my everloving mind.

A rich, dense theme that was fun to try to guess without crosses. I had ------RITING for my first themer and immediately saw GHOSTWRITING. "Clever!", I thought. "This is going to be fun."

I had quite a number of writeovers: enSURE before ASSURE; THus before THEN; CPA before AGT; lATkeS before MATZOS; and my seat was sAvEd before it was TAKEN.

My nits are my usual ones: Too many obscure names. I nominate for Most Arcane Clue of the Past Year 1A: "Nickname of the Loony Tunes animator Ben Hardaway". Of course when BUGS comes in, you do say to yourself: "Of course!!!"

A delightful puzzle -- with a clever theme I wish I'd thought up myself.

Laura 9:50 AM  

Fine puzzle, but big disappointment. All I can think is that after mistakenly running a picture of a swastika on Hanukkah, NYT was too embarrassed to run a Christmas puzzle. A reasonable step, but should have been preceded by an abject apology, from NYT and Schwartz, for the mistake.

My sympathy to whoever created a great Sunday Christmas puzzle...7 years to wait to see it run. Looking forward to it.

pavj 9:56 AM  

I still don’t get the letter opener reference. Is it because the T Bone kinda looks like a possible letter opener? Sans handle

Bob Mills 10:04 AM  

Nice puzzle. Thanks for a pleasant Christmas present...not too hard, but with a good theme (not one out of left field that requires a computer brain to get) and some interesting fill. I finished it after finally figuring out how to spell KETANJI.

Can someone explain the answer to "Seoul singers"?????

Nancy 10:10 AM  

Let me echo @mmorgan: I, too, was extremely happy NOT to see a Christmas theme. Those kinds of puzzles -- however well-intentioned-- tend to be flat as a pancake. It's really hard to prevent them from being predictable and obvious.

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

The puzzle was okay for a Sunday. Perhaps the animus towards a non-Christmas theme should be directed at Shortz for running it today instead of any other Sunday. We should celebrate someone’s debut, with a Sunday no less.

kitshef 10:19 AM  

Fantastic clue for TBONE STEAKS!

I think if you are going to do a theme like this, you need all the 'second parts' of the themers to be unrelated to books. FLUID VOLUME works. ANIMAL PRINT works. SECOND STORY works. PRISON SENTENCES works. HOME PAGES kind of works. GHOST WRITING, ADDRESS BOOK, AND WORKING TITLE definitely don't work.

Koshershrimp 10:32 AM  

Because “T” is a letter, and the letter starts the term, same as with “I” bar or “f” stop. Happy Holidays!

Anonymous 10:34 AM  

I like the title - novel as a phrase containing a tertiary relationship to writing in general (ala sentences, print, words, etc). Always enjoy your posts. Happy holidays!

TJS 10:44 AM  

"And now we're back to 'yeesh'.''Favorite Rex line of the year.

Agree with everything Rex has to say about this one. Seems as if the Times puzzles are just seriously disappointing more often than not these days.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to All.

egsforbreakfast 10:47 AM  

Too bad @Clare wasn’t here to gush over BTS today. But we will still, I hope, get a victory lap from our own Monster over the inclusion of ROO (plus cousin BOO).

Regarding yesterday’s NMI discussion, it reminded me that when I went to work as an investment banker in 1981, the firm used a state-of-the-art word processing pool equipped with processors and software from a company called NBI, which literally stood for Nothing But Initials.

I enjoyed the theme and puzzle quite a bit today. If you just appreciate that the second word of each phrase is at least “novel adjacent”, everything seems fine. Given the density of theme and the presence of some great clues, I’d like to say congrats on a really nice debut, John Martz.

Merry Christmas to all of you in this odd little community. I’m inclined to sign off with some lame humor beclause that’s the kind of guy I am.


TTrimble 11:02 AM  

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I guess I'm more or less with Rex on this one. It was okay, but nothing too thrilling except for the T-BONE STEAK clue, which was amazing.

I like her music, but I discovered that I really don't know how to spell RIHANNA: it took me three tries.

"Whatevs": you need to hear the tone to get this. I took it first as "sure, sure, whatever you say; I'm no longer interested", as opposed to a more cheerful "whatever, I'm cool either way". I think the former is more common. Also stumbled on the parsing, thinking at first "I [some verb beginning with M]". For spot for a trough, I put in wAVE at first, since waves have crests and troughs.

ASSN, ASSURE, SASSY. Yep, seems about par for the course. Which reminds me how @JC66 made me laugh last night, guessing what @Anoa's last name would likely be. And this in turn reminds me that thinmintcookies has NMI.

Another odd or end from yesterday: I share Nancy's thought that someday we will no longer use words, only acronyms and initialisms. Oh, I guess I'm as guilty as anyone doing that, misjudging how well-known something like IANAL (I Am Not A Lawyer) actually is. Thus making who knows how many people run for the dictionary or Google or simply make them feel left out of the conversation. This is partly inevitable, but I think people often overdo it nevertheless.

For example, someone asked yd: what does "SB: 0 yd" mean? It means "In Spelling Bee (SB), I got all the words from the list yesterday (yd), 0 left to go, in other words I got to Queen Bee (QB)". Which, by the way, I didn't yd. I was -1 yd, and I'm too embarrassed to admit the one word I missed.

RooMonster 11:16 AM  

Hey All !
Merry Christmas everyone!
Woke up with the shakes and sore all over. Dang. Taking some Alka-Seltzer Plus cold medicine all day. Haven't finished puz yet, as napping twixt clues!
It has a ROO!

RooMonster Shake, Rattle, and Snore Guy

Anonymous 11:44 AM  

And T-bone is a cut of STEAK

Diego 11:45 AM  

A slog. . .agreed that TBONE was a winner but slim pickings otherwise. No chuckle, no sparkle and we definitely need all the uplift we can muster this formidable holiday season.
It was a debut so there’s that. But on a Sunday?

tim 11:57 AM  

LOOT BAGS - doesn't the greedy/hungry person looking at the LOOT BAG have dollar signs in their eyes? That's the way I remember these cartoons... if LOOT BAG means rich person.

Weezie 12:00 PM  

I’m with @Lewis and @Nancy, I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and not just because it was a personal best solve time. I loved the variety of clues, I loved the theme (we have a first edition of the Haunting of Hill House that is much treasured), and as someone who celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas as part of what I grew up with but is very Jewish-identified, I really appreciate that it didn’t center Christmas. Would have felt gimmicky at best to me. (That said, happy Christmas to those who celebrate, happy Chinese food and last night of Hanukkah to my fellow Jews, Habari Gani to folks observing Kwanzaa, and happy day of rest to folks not observing anything today!)

It would have been an even faster solve if I didn’t manage to convince myself that a “ballerina’s asset” could only be POINTE and therefore had a rebus square for NT, making the “Whatevs” answer I MEAN… TY. I rationalized that one to myself as something, say, a petulant teen might utter on unwrapping a less than fabulous Christmas gift.

Small quibble on CIENTO for “One hundred, in Honduras” - CIENTO is only used before another number, ie CIENTO CINCUENTA for 150. CIEN is used for one hundred flat.

Re: acronyms, I don’t mind them in puzzles typically as long as they abide by the Natick principle, because then you learn something new. But in life in general I take extra pains to spell them out. I work at a non-profit, where it’s very easy to fall into acronyms and social justice rhetoric if we’re not careful. One of our ground rules is actually “Jargon Giraffe,” where we encourage folks to make a little giraffe hand signal to show the speaker that they or someone else don’t recognize the phrase or acronym being said. It helps to normalize not knowing things, and also remind the speaker that we should all take time to try help people feel included when we can!

Speaking of which, @Bob Mills, BTS is a suuuper successful K-Pop band, probably one of the bands with the highest degree of crossover from Asian markets into the US.

Kent 12:26 PM  

The NY Times’ War on Christmas continues. Tongue firmly planted in cheek, but I was a little surprised there was no nod to the big day (and I wonder how many grifters will try to stoke outrage over the omission).

I liked it more than Rex, but not much more. SECOND STORY feels a little green paint-y for a theme answer.

TJS 12:54 PM  

@ Joe Dipinto, Thanks for the Acrostic tip. I forgot to go there last week, and it was perfect for this morning in a number of ways.

Joseph Michael 1:03 PM  

Count me in among those who thought this was a fun puzzle with a clever theme. Especially loved the wordplay in HOME PAGES, PRISON SENTENCES, BUZZ WORDS, and ADDRESS BOOK, not to mention the wicked clue for T BONE STEAK.

Glad that Jeff Chen gave it his POW and sorry that Rex missed the point of this NOVEL Christmas present. Congrats to John Martz on a brilliant debut.

Archimedes 1:10 PM  

As someone who knows volumes about, well, volume, the phrase "liquid volume" has never before in the history of mankind been uttered. Volume is Volume.

Newboy 1:11 PM  

Well, Merry Christmas Rex! Glad you’re recovering from the jet lag and found a bit of the ole snarl in your stocking this morning. Gotta say that I thought this cute in some spots like the T-BONE STEAK clue, but still a slog as Sunday usually seems. And that missing STEM on the Apple Logo sent shivers through my iPad though it’s obviousness BUGS me now. Still, starting a day with a puzzle is better than shoveling snow as the first daily chore, and now we begin final house prep before family & friends descend for the day’s festivities πŸ₯³

. Peace and Joy to all denizens of Crossworld.

Anonymous 1:46 PM  

I spent almost 10 minutes trying to find my spelling error of KATANJI/ASE! I just thought I didn’t get the clue/answer until I found my mistake and realized it was legalESE. D’oh!

CDilly52 2:35 PM  

Starting my jambalaya, but I dropped in to wish everyone a very Merry Everything. I truly enjoy reading and commenting, and have laughed and occasionally cried and learned so many things - trivial and not - and I value your company. Enjoy the day and the season!

As for the puzzle, once I discovered it wasn’t going to be holiday related, I just dived in. I’m with @Lewis all the way. This was one of the most “classic NYTXW Sundays” in a very long time. Wordplay was excellent, and the theme clever and well executed. Thanks John Martz!!

Smith 3:24 PM  

@Anon 7:42

Lovely, thank you

Anoa Bob 3:24 PM  

I jumped ship about half way through this one. The connection between the theme clues and answers struck me as tenuous at best to just plain wrong in places. The one that torpedoed my solve buzz was FLUID VOLUME for "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea". Huh? A "League" is a measure of distance, not VOLUME. Not sure how that one can be justified.

I soldiered on as far as PRISON SENTENCES but "Crime and Punishment" as its clue was too much of a stretch for me. Clue and answer had a kind of, sort of, if I don't think too critically, connection. I guess we are supposed to not overthink these and just move on. Can't do that.

J.W. 3:52 PM  

This one was fine. Didn't love it, but didn't hate it either. I'm on the side of those that contend that it's more of a win for inclusivity than a fail for theming opportunities to not have a Christmas theme on the day. Also agree with others that TBONE STEAK had the best clue by far.

Thought SUBSIDIZED was a pretty cool word to fit into a grid. I also thought "Seoul singers?" for BTS was cute, but I could definitely see this crowd grousing about slash having trouble with it.

Originally had core instead of STEM at 78A, but luckily I know the sun is not called Col, so I worked myself easily out of that one.

Have never heard anyone say I'M EASY in that SENSE.

Happy holidays, folks.

kitshef 4:18 PM  

@Anoa Bob 3:24. VOLUME merely indicates that it is a book - nothing do do with the 'leagues' part of the clue. The key part of the clue is "under the sea" which gets you do the "fluid" part of the answer.

Masked and Anonymous 4:38 PM  

Decent SunPuz in its own right, but sure not real Christmasy.

fave themer: GHOSTWRITING. Was over to the kinfolks for brunch, so didn't get to the puz, until we got home, a few nanoseconds ago. Did get a cool "steamin pile" of schlock DVD flicks, from the bro-in-law, plus a real nice eggs benedict brunch with mimosas and **cinnamon rolls**. And good people, too boot. Definitely worth the trip. Plus Sammy (the dog) let m&e run her belly.

staff weeject pick … tough to pick one outta 35, but: OMA. (Cuz U can just add -ha, to get somethin.)

Thanx for yer novel approach, Mr. Martz dude. And congratz on doin a SunPuz & a debut, all in one big crockpot of constructioneer-sufferin.

Masked & Anonymo9Us

And a Merry Christmas to all …

gift bag #1:
**gruntz**

gift bag #2:
**gruntz**

Anonymous 5:12 PM  

@Bob Mills - BTS is a (Seoul) South Korean boy band.

MexGirl 6:12 PM  

100 in Spanish is CIEN.
CIENTO is the prefix for numbers after 100, like ciento uno, ciento dos, ciento tres, etc.
Or to talk about hundreds of things, as in CIENTOS de cosas.
This clue is absolutely wrong.

Anonymous 6:39 PM  

Thanks! I assume the acrostic is in the print version? I only have the online version and don't see a link to the acrostic...

Sandy McCroskey 7:08 PM  

Re the Crime and Punishment clue, I don't think we're expected to know what's inside the books alluded to; the joke is playing only on the title. But Raskolnikov does wind up in prison, and parts of the story are told as first-person narration from his point of view, which parts we can easily assume were written in prison.

old timer 7:41 PM  

Actually, CIENTO is the historic name for the number 100. Comes from the Latin Centum, (cf the French cent). Somewhere along the line, people shortened 100 to CIEN, for the ordinal number, but not for larger numbers from 101 to 999, which keep their T.

I liked the puzzle fine but had to look up some of the people not named GLENN. The themers were amusing. And I am delighted that they gave a Looney Tunes animator the nickname BUGS. Had he been around more recently, that would surely have been his personalized license plate.

Smith 7:48 PM  

Posted like 5 hours ago but don't see it. That hasn't happened since we were away. Anyhow, overall the puzz seemed very easy, BUT I had a DNF due to FLooDVOLUME, which I could not get past and totally destroyed that whole section. Maybe because I earlier happened upon a text exchange with a friend dating from Hurricane Sandy...

Joe Dipinto 8:29 PM  

@Anon 6:56 – I don't do the Acrostic online, but it's there, if you can figure out how to navigate their stupid "Games" section. One page has it all the way at the bottom under Variety Puzzles, labeled December 18 Acrostic. But now I can't get back to that page. Maybe someone else here can give you directions how to find it.

TTrimble 8:40 PM  

@Anonymous 6:39 PM
No, you can get it online. If you're at the Crosswords section, go to the Archives; there's a separate category for the Acrostics. Seems to work glitch-free if you use Chrome, but I've experienced difficulties in Firefox.

Anoa Bob 8:42 PM  

Thanks @kitshef 4:18, that had crossed my mind but I said "Nah, that's too thin of a connection." Plus, the first two theme entries, HOME PAGES & GHOSTWRITING, played on "Little House" and "The Haunting", and not on "Prairie" or "Hill House", so I was expecting 40A would also play on "20,000 Leagues" and not on "Sea".

Anonymous 8:58 PM  

Flood volume is of course a book (volume) about a flood

Maverick 9:17 PM  

Isn't the whole point of _Crime and Punishment_ kinda that he doesn't go to prison... until the very end at least.

Wish they had taken the opportunity to use _Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption_! The movie gets so much attention (rightfully so, it's amazing), the book not so much.

Joe Dipinto 10:50 PM  

@TTrimble – I am using Chrome on my phone and the only the things I can access in the Archives are the regular crosswords and the Minis. There's no category for Acrostics. The design of that site is an absolute disaster.

SharonAk 11:00 PM  

Another thumbs up for the t bone steak clue and answer.
I found the theme clues and answers sort of fun and sort of not quite ...something.
Too many obscure names, but i was glad to be reminded of Ketanji Brown Jackson. Don't think I had registered her first name at all before.

Joe Dipinto 11:09 PM  

Sorry, my 8:29 post was in response to @Anon 6:39, not 6:56.

Ken Freeland 2:03 AM  

Like @Anoa Bob, I bailed halfway through. The PPP chunk in the middle was impassable. Either you knew this judge's name or you didn't, and if you didn't, you got no help from the PPP crossings... Naticks galore.
Well, the NYT did not give us a merry Christmas... We can only hope for a happy new year next week!

MexGirl 2:45 AM  

Still, not used like that for the number 100. Not now and not for hundreds of years (cientos de aΓ±os πŸ˜‰)

Anonymous 4:32 AM  

The VOLUME refers to an installment of a book. It’s not meant to correlate with “league,” it’s meant to correlate with the entire title. The novel is a VOLUME of LIQUID. You (and several others here) are not overthinking, as much as slightly off track.

Anonymous 8:06 AM  

Thanks Joe! I found it. Had no clue that it existed. Now on to even more puzzling!

Chris 1:23 PM  

Like several others have said, first time I am agreeing with Rex. (What's with that Christmas miracle?) Not that it matters. Rex, it's your show. Want to reiterate how sad it was, NYT/WS et al, that you blew the opportunity to PRESENT us with a Christmas crossword, and instead delivered a load of COAL. UGH to all of you humbugs. GONG/BONG... GUGS/BUGS... AMBIT, AMA... just a few that VEXed me. Otherwise, let's get back to being festive and grateful again. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Best wishes to all !

Anonymous 5:49 PM  

BTS is a boy band from South Korea. Huge.

Anonymous 2:16 PM  

Agree, tedious and boring! Still don’t get the “double misdirect” of “cut with a letter opener”. I get T bone steak is a “cut”of meat. What is the letter opener connection?

Anonymous 5:33 PM  

All of this played as someone who is decent with the mechanics of a grid but not interesting and clever. Just a slog with only a couple of decent bits as you noted.

Anonymous 8:22 PM  

The name starts with the letter T

Anonymous 6:12 AM  

Kudos to the creator on his debut, but as others have said, the theme’s answers just too forced - none was clever in the way we’ve come to expect from NYT puzzles — and few even made sense (other than attempting to fit the theme). Isn’t Will Shortz supposed to be an editor? He had to have seen the issues with this one. Maybe it’s time to retire. This is the first time in 45 years I’ve actually lost interest and bailed halfway through.

thefogman 3:41 PM  

Only today did I receive my copy of the Dec. 25th NYT magazine because of the bomb cyclone. I have to agree with Rex. This puzzle is okay but misses the mark in several ways. Don’t tell me Will Shortz did not receive any crosswords with a Xmas or year-in-review theme.

thefogman 3:58 PM  

PS - “Today” being Jan. 1st, 2023…

Anonymous 1:16 AM  

Spartans? Ugh.

spacecraft 1:04 PM  

Well, we in Syndiland miss the point about the non-Christmas thing. It's just another dreary day in January for us. The puzzle was good, I thought, and NOT "not hard." ? clues abounded, and they held up the solve considerably. That's okay; we like a little brain exercise.

The last theme entry actually serves as a revealer too, if you think about it: WORKINGTITLE. I like. Birdie.

Wordle par after another G-less list: YYBYB BBYYY YYYYB GGGGG. That last took me forever to see, then *headslap* "Doh!"

Diana, LIW 3:00 PM  

My favorite punny answer - TBONESTEAK. The other puns were a combo of good and meh. IMO

Just didn't bring the zing I like to have in a Sunday puz.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Anonymous 5:27 PM  

Looks like a lot of people need their annual rantyrex vaccination shot again. I want my Christmas theme on January 7th. Only because I'm unorthodox.

Burma Shave 5:41 PM  

SHORT SUITE EASY

SASSY JEN is IN my ADDRESSBOOK,
but THEN, that's the SECONDSTORY;
the LADY's HOMEPAGE'S worth A look,
GO there TO SEE her TOPFORTY.

--- HAROLD LEVY

rondo 5:56 PM  

This would have been a lot more enjoyable if the paper would have printed any of the clues past 65 down; crosses are important in a crossword puzzle. Most any JEN, yeah baby.
Disappointing wordle bogey.

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