December 24, 2008

Thursday, 12/25

LAT 16:53
NYT 10:31
Sun 9:35
CS 7:09

(Updated at 10:30am Thursday)

Hey, everybody, thanks for stopping by. PuzzleGirl here hoping you're enjoying a day filled with peace and are surrounded by people you love. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, that sounds like a good goal for today.

Are you ready for some football? Theme answers in Eric Tentarelli's New York Times puzzle mash three pro football teams' mascots into a clue-able phrase.

  • [Chestnut-colored mustang offspring?] = BROWN BRONCO COLT
  • [Main dedicatee of an Austin cathedral?] = CHIEF TEXAN SAINT
  • [Hefty invoice for boots and spurs?] = GIANT COWBOY BILL
I'm not a big football fan — honestly, it's been so long since I've paid attention that I don't even know where half the teams are any more — but I still think the league's mascot names can make for enjoyable entries. And if you can package them up with some fun fill, well ... you've got yourself a crossword puzzle. I believe this is Eric's puzzle debut. Very nice job, Eric — congratulations!
  • I was surprised to learn that SKA was pioneered by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. I would have expected its pioneers to have a name more like Marcus Marley and the Rastaboys. Byron Lee and the Dragonaires sound like they belong on the "Grease" soundtrack to me. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • Did you know that PERU's coat of arms includes a vicuña? Did you know that a vicuña is an animal similar to a llama?
  • I always loved that Speedy Gonzales's cousin's name was SLOWPOKE Rodriguez.
  • ALICE Walker and ALICE Cooper. Now there's an interesting pair.
  • So, yeah, it's football season, but it's also college wrestling season. That means when I see Ness in a clue, LOCH is nowhere on my radar and Eliot doesn't even come to mind. No, I'm thinking University of Minnesota 133-pounder Jayson Ness. I'm guessing I'm the only one here who's even heard of him. And hopes our guy at the University of Iowa can pull it together enough to beat him up a little bit.
  • ALBEDO, a [Light ratio in astronomy], is a more specific form of the term reflectivity. I just looked that up.
Daniel A. Finan's Sun crossword, "Ancient History," plays on the phrase "water under the bridge" by locating the name of a river in the grid underneath the name of a bridge. Love it!
  • [1950 John Wayne film] = RIO GRANDE (the Rio Grande is known as the Río Bravo del Norte in Mexico)
  • [Dwarf, with "over"] = TOWER (the Tower Bridge is in London and is not the same as the London Bridge)
  • [Boulder's place] = COLORADO (the Colorado River flows through the Grand Canyon and is home to 14 native species of fish)
  • [Theater district] = RIALTO (the original Rialto Bridge was built in 1255 and made of wood; the current stone bridge replaced the wooden structure in 1591)
  • [Big book e-tailer] = AMAZON (the Amazon River, the largest river in the world by volume and second by length, apparently is spanned by no bridges)
  • ["Welcome Back Kotter" setting] = BROOKLYN (the Brooklyn Bridge is in ... Brooklyn -- and it's not for sale)
  • You know you're getting better at solving when you can fill in R AND B and A TO Z without breaking a sweat.
  • For [Wolfgang contemporary] I was thinking Mozart and not Puck, so it took the crosses for me to finally get EMERIL Lagasse. Bam!
  • Hey, this is interesting. Joanne DRU co-starred with John Wayne in "Red River" in 1948!
  • Do people SIGNAL when they [Prepare to change lanes] where you live? Here, not so much.
  • Lute OLSON was a [Longtime Arizona Wildcats basketball coach]. He was with the Wildcats for 24 seasons before retiring earlier this year. Quick note: Lute, Ted, and the Folgers coffee lady spell their last name OLSON. Mary-Kate, Ashley, Merlin, Tillie, and Jimmy spell it OLSEN.
  • Finally, I hate to complain. I really do. But Carolyn KEENE was a pen-name. And it wasn't just a name used by one person. It was (and is) used for the stable of writers who have produced the Nancy Drew books over the years. For many years, it was widely accepted that Harriet Stratemeyer Adams was the writer behind the series, but eventually it became known that she was simply the face the publisher put in front of the camera. Maybe because she was the publisher's daughter? Who knows? Harriet Adams did write some of the early books, but Mildred Wirt Benson was responsible for 23 of the first 31 books in the series. The point is that Carolyn Keene is not the "creator" of Nancy Drew. Carolyn Keene is a pen-name used by many, many people who write books with Nancy Drew as the main character. But the character was created by Edward Stratemeyer. And he never went by the name Carolyn Keene. I feel better now.

I had a ton of problems with Gia Christian's L.A. Times puzzle. It was totally my own fault though. The puzzle was just fine. First, let's talk about the theme. Then I'll tell you about the series of bad decisions I made while solving.

Theme answers are puns involving things you use to decorate for Christmas.
  • Crash helmet ==> CRECHE HELMET
  • Tensile strength ==> TINSEL STRENGTH
  • Holy scripture ==> HOLLY SCRIPTURE
  • The Three Bears ==> THE TREE BEARS
Okay. No problem with the theme. Here's where I had trouble.
  • I was not going to fall for the [Fall guy] trick this time. I know damn well that's a trick clue for Adam. But no. In that case, I believe the clue would include a question mark. Here, you really just need to know another word for fall guy. That would be MARK.
  • For ["Later"] I initially had see ya, then I'm out, and finally the correct I'M OFF.
  • Somehow I added an H into the [1995 N.L. Rookie of the Year] clue and guessed Gordie Howe off the O. When it became clear that it wasn't Howe, I thought "Hockey player, four letters, second letter O — how can that not be Howe?" That's when I actually read the clue and saw I needed a baseball player. Of course! Hideo NOMO. That's probably a good name to know. I bet he'll come up in a puzzle again soon....
  • I had ipso dixit, instead of IPSE.
  • I wanted the dreaded "see me!" note instead of the defiant "SEZ me!" Man I always hated finding the "see me" note on my chair back when I worked for the ... ya know what? I'm not going to say anything mean about him today. It's Christmas after all.
  • I'm going to declare publicly right now that my New Year's resolution is to learn the four-letter rivers of the world. This is getting ridiculous. I knew I'd have to wait for a cross on this one. And when I got the E, I confidently entered Ebro. Reasonable, right? Well sure, except that the Ebro is in Spain and the clue points to a river in Germany. The ELBE. Ach!
  • Couldn't get the name O'Toole out of my head for the Confederacy of Dunces author. I knew I was close, knew it wasn't right, but had a really hard time coming up with the correct answer. Maybe one day I'll actually read the book and that will help.
  • Finally, I fell for the misdirection in [Peck part], reading it as peck apart, which brought all kinds of creepy Tippi Hedren images to mind. But the answer was the benign Captain AHAB, a part Gregory Peck played in the 1956 film "Moby Dick." Hey, he also played a part in the 1998 TV production of "Moby Dick." And looky here: he was in both the original (1962) and the remake (1991) of "Cape Fear" too. Did you guys see that movie? PuzzleHusband and I were just talking about it the other day (the remake, not the original). That is a Seriously Creepy movie. I remember being disturbed for days after seeing it.
  • Wanted basic for BASAL, but knew LANI Guinier was right.
It was just tough all the way through! Good stuff, but I was not on the wavelength At All.

In Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy crossword, "Internally Consistent," the word same is buried in the theme answers: makeS AMEnds, gosSAMEr, MrS. AMErica, seSAME seed, haS A MEal.

Quick hits:
  • "Whatever you say' = I'M EASY. You can never have too many Commodores videos.
  • The hat trick is accomplished by a hockey player when he scores three goals in one game. There are hat tricks in other sports, also referring to doing something three times, but I think this is the most common understanding of the term.
  • So when did it become okay to spell amoeba AMEBA? I see it all the time in puzzles and it makes me pause every single time.
  • I don't remember ever hearing of the MAYPO brand of breakfast cereal. But it's got quite a long history. Did MTV rip of—er, borrow their first catchphrase from Maypo's ad campaign?
  • Hey look, it's Hideo NOMO! I told you he would turn up again!
  • [Finishes second] = LOSES. Harsh.