December 21, 2008

Sunday, 12/21

PI 29:20
LAT 26:52
NYT 25:02
CS 10:32

(Updated at 11:45am Sunday)

Hey, everyone. PuzzleGirl here with you again, filling in for the vacationing Orange. It's been a rough couple of days for me, but Monday is just around the corner and I dare say you will be impressed with my early-week times. So I've got that goin' for me.

When you saw Elizabeth C. Gorski's byline on the New York Times crossword you knew you were going to be impressed, didn't you? I sure did, and I sure was. The centerpiece of this puzzle, titled "Laughing All the Way," is a line of HOs stretching from top to bottom on the center vertical. That didn't sound exactly the way I wanted it to, but you all know what I mean. We've got JOLLY ST. NICK a/k/a KRIS KRINGLE a/k/a Father CHRISTMAS in the puzzle, landing on your HOUSE and causing all kinds of mayhem. There's also room for three French HENS, and a reference to the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), which is closed on Christmas Day. Any other Christmas-y stuff I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Stuff I thought about while solving this puzzle:

  • [Witnesses giving written testimony] are DEPONENTS. I was just thinking this morning about depositions. I know that's hard to believe, but I really was. At one time I thought I might like to work as a court reporter and now that I'm old and washed-up and haven't made anything of myself, I'm thinking about it again. This guest-blogging stuff is fun and all, but it's not what you would call consistent. Or lucrative.
  • There is no dearth of interesting facts about Don SHULA. Today we learn that he had a perfect 17–0 record in 1972.
  • I had lubes instead of LARDS for [Greases]. And bashes instead of BLASTS for [Memorable parties].
  • I really like the word HOBO. Do any of you have kids the right age to be fans of "iCarly"? Man, I really dig that show. I seriously can't figure out how it's possible that Miley Cyrus is more famous than Miranda Cosgrove. "iCarly" rocks! What does this have to do with hobos, you ask? One of the running jokes on the show is that Sam, Carly's webcast sidekick, is obsessed with hobos. Also gravy. It's an awesome show. You should watch it.
  • Nice shout-out to Patrick Creadon, who directed the 2006 movie "Wordplay," which I'm sure most of you have seen and some of you, you know, appeared in. Well, he also directed "I.O.U.S.A.," the [2008 documentary about the national debt]. I haven't seen it yet, but it's on my list.
  • I didn't know Rum Tum Tugger was a CAT from T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. I might have told you guys this once before, but I lived on 53rd Street a block away from the theatre where "Cats" was playing on Broadway back in the mid-80s. I never did see the show, but every once in a while I'd see someone walking around the neighborhood in one of those costumes. Now there's something I never saw in Fargo!
  • Here's the thing about "SANTA BABY." I wish Madonna hadn't ruined it. Eartha Kitt's version is so light-hearted and fun! (The video's a little strange though.)
  • [Includes in an e-mailing] = CCS. CC = courtesy copy. Yes, it used to mean carbon copy but that was, like, a hundred years ago. Back when you had to type two spaces after a period. Welcome to the 21st century.
  • U NU, the Prime Minister of Burma off and on between 1948 and 1962, wrote a book called Burma Looks Ahead. That's a NU one on me. (sorry)
  • Everyone knew [Leaves for a buffet?] is CRESS, right? It's a member of the mustard family, ya know.
On the 95th anniversary of the crossword, Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle pays tribute to "those old crossword words that just never seem to go away." He's taken familiar phrases and changed one completely normal word into one of those ucky crossword words that we all know and love.
  • [Intuitive remark, in Crosswordville] = I CAN FEEL IT IN MY OSSA (bones)
  • [Carnival barker's words, in Crosswordville] = HIE! HIE! HIE! (hurry) STEP RIGHT UP!
  • [Diet shots, in Crosswordville] = ERE (before) AND AFTER
  • [Historic document, in Crosswordville] = THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION (fiat)
  • [Noted Republican, in Crosswordville] = EFT (Newt) GINGRICH
  • ["Jeopardy!" selection, in Crosswordville] = OLIO (hodgepodge) FOR A THOUSAND, ALEX
  • [Nursery rhyme "ingredients," in Crosswordville] = FOUR AND TWENTY MERLS (blackbirds)
More ramblings:
  • I've never heard the word ADIPOSE before. It's an adjective that means "of or relating to animal fat." Its noun form is adiposity. Now there's a cool word.
  • FRAN Lebowitz is a well-known writer. Also Judge Goldberg on "Law & Order."
  • I'm sure I knew at one point that "The CISCO Kid" is an old television show. You know where this is going, don't you?
  • I believe Olympian MARY LOU Retton was the first woman athlete to be featured on the front of a Wheaties box. She wasn't the first woman though, that honor belongs to aviator Elinor Smith, who I've never heard of but she shares a name with my aunt! Oh and Babe Didrikson was the first woman athlete to be depicted on a Wheaties box, but it wasn't on the front. I wonder what the hell that was all about. Anybody know?
  • I can't think of the phrase "Neither a borrower nor A LENDER be" without remembering the castaways performing "Hamlet" on "Gilligan's Island."
  • Did anyone else have to go through the whole "Little Piggy" poem in their head before getting to the little piggy who HAD NONE?
  • Meryl Streep won her 1981 OBIE Award for her performance in Alice in Concert. Or possibly Alice at the Palace. I'm seeing conflicting reports on the title of that particular show and I'm too lazy to figure it out for you. I mean, that's close enough, right?
  • Huge, huge Jim Croce fan here. Here he is singing the song found in today's puzzle, "I GOT A NAME." Croce has so many great songs, it's impossible to pick a favorite, but this one is definitely in my top five. Check it out.

Mark Feldman's L.A. Times crossword, "You're Out!," takes the letters URE out of familiar phrases to create new amusing phrases.
  • [Feudal court of law?] = MEDIEVAL TORT(ure) CHAMBER
  • [Cover on Cousteau?] = UNDERWATER PRESS(ure)
  • ["How can I drive the babysitter nuts this time?" et al.?] = IMP(ure) THOUGHTS
  • [Secret society of executives?] = CORPORATE CULT(ure)
  • [Money for some therapy sessions?] = VENT(ure) CAPITAL
  • [Fruit cut in linear shapes?] = GEOMETRICAL FIG(ure)S
  • [Evel Knievel biopic?] = FEAT(ure) FILM DOCUMENTARY
A couple of those seem a little off to me. The al on GEOMETRICAL feels redundant. I've always thought a FEATURE FILM was one thing and a DOCUMENTARY another. But the phrase used in the puzzle gets 55,000 Google hits, so I guess someone uses it somewhere.

  • Man Friday is a character in Daniel DEFOE's Robinson Crusoe.
  • OUTLANDISH is an awesome word.
  • Never heard of Nina FOCH. She died earlier this month.
  • The [Endangered equine] ONAGER has great letters and probably shows up in the puzzle once in a while, but I didn't remember it. Of the six sub-species of this mammal, sometimes known as an Asian Wild Ass, one is extinct and two are endangered.
  • In our house a [Shiner] isn't the SUN but a yellow car. Anytime the kids see one they yell out "Shiner!" It can be annoying. Actually, if they restricted themselves to yellow cars it would be okay, but they've made up other things to yell out for red cars ("Gryffindor!") and orange cars ("Marshmallow!") and of course all the different kinds of "slug bugs" have special designations. It's often loud in our car.
  • I'm at just exactly the right age that when I think of "Runaround Sue," I think of Leif Garrett and not DION. It's sad, really.
  • I think of an RSVP as a call or an email these days, but I suppose there are still those formal occasions where people send their RSVP cards back in an SASE.
  • Can someone explain how a [Fishhook fastener] is a SNELL? A quick Google search gets me nothing and I'm running out of time here.
  • Never heard of the [Folk actors] called MUMMERS. Other names for them include rhymers, pace-eggers, soulers, tipteerers, galoshins, and guysers. It's like a whole different world out there.
  • I'm definitely a fan of ELLEN DeGeneres. Here's a clip of Ellen boogying with our president-elect.
Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" has a cool-looking grid with some nice fill. The 15s aren't particularly sparkly, but there sure are a lot of them. DELICATE BALANCE is nice.
  • It took me way too long to remember that hammer and anvil are parts of the EAR.
  • DAG Hammarskj√∂ld once said "That we all — every one of us — take ourselves seriously is not merely ridiculous." So true.
  • [Second-century anatomist] GALEN is new to me. But TITO Jackson? Yeah, I've heard of him.
  • Nice tricky clue for SEM(inary): [Place for a father-to-be (abbr.)]. I'm all, "How do you abbreviate waiting room?" Of course fathers-to-be aren't generally left out in a waiting room any more, are they?
  • Didn't know skittles was a NINE-PIN variety of bowling. I know that the first time PuzzleSon played in a big chess tournament he was directed to wait in the "Skittles room" and was really disappointed that there weren't any, ya know, Skittles in there.