December 23, 2006

Sunday, 12/24

LAT 9:10—"Gia Christian"/Rich Norris, "The Meaning of Christmas"
NYT 8:45—see below
WaPo 6:52—Frank Longo Xmas theme, easy
BG 7:03—Hex crossword, "New Start"
CS 4:48—Randolph Ross themeless, great pop-culture fill

Happy Christmas Eve! (Technically, I'm writing this on Christmas Eve Eve, but you get the idea.) May you either carve out a little time over the holidays for crossword puzzlin', or may you be having such a grand time that you don't even think about crosswords. (And please time-shift my generic "Happy Holidays!" wishes if you're celebrating Hanukkah, the solstice, Orthodox Christmas, and/or Kwanzaa, or just biding time until it's New Year's Eve/Day.)

Brendan Emmett Quigley's NYT crossword is called "Yule Laugh." Guess what? The theme is...Christmas-related puns. The eight theme entries warp their base phrases by swapping in a Christmas word that sounds the same or similar. For example, [Santa reindeer-turned-zombie?] is DONNER THE DEAD (playing on Dawn of the Dead); [Sunburnt Santa?] is LOBSTER CLAUS; the small PEE WEE WREATH lisps Pee Wee Reese. I've decided my favorite themer is PRESENTS OF MIND—[Gifts you only think about giving?]—hey, those are always the best gifts! In theory, anyway. The theme entries are supplemented with HOS ([Christmas laughs]), a little JESUS (which reminds me—if you like goofy comedy and you haven't seen Talladega Nights, watch the DVD. Will Ferrell's defense of praying to Baby Jesus, versus grown-man Jesus, when he says grace, complete with corporate sponsorships...I laughed. A far better movie than I expected.) Glancing back over the grid, I finally understood why [Like some chefs] was TRIBAL—because the word is "chiefs," not "chefs." Never heard of [Italian tragic poet Vittorio] ALFIERI. Fill I liked included BORSCHT, CHEM LAB, REMARKET (which doesn't have a big presence in dictionaries or Google, but haven't you heard the jargon plenty?), OUGHTN'T, and BERNIE Mac. This puzzle's also got Asimov's autobiography, I ASIMOV, which showed up in a Bob Peoples crossword last March. That time around, it was a Saturday NYT, with a tougher clue—a lot of people Googled their way to my blog post in search of that answer. (The current clue mentions "sci-fi writer," so that's more accessible.)