Author: Brent Sverdloff
Theme: The puzzle contains five circled letters: S, N, O, and W in the corners and R in the middle. Each of the puzzle's four theme answers begins with a word that rhymes with SWORN, and ends with a word that can follow SNOW.
- 17a: *Bald car parts (WORN TIRES). WORN rhymes with SWORN, and SNOW TIRES are ... tires that are designed for snow.
- 63a: *Builder of an immense domed nest of twigs (THORN BIRD). i do not know this bird. i guess a SNOW BIRD is something... perhaps also a kind of bird? it turns out, i just don't know birds.
- 11d: *Basic breakfast cereal (CORN FLAKES). i'm all over this one, thank you very much. :)
- 29d: *Admiral in C.S. Forester novels (horatio HORNBLOWER). and i know what a SNOW BLOWER is.
what an odd theme! what would cause somebody to think of it? i never would have figured it out without the notepad hint. in fact, after solving the puzzle, i stared at the theme answers and couldn't figure it out. i noticed the SNOW part, but couldn't really figure out why they all started with _ORN. i guess not noticing the circled R in the middle pretty much killed my chances at figuring out what was going on. anyway, yes, the theme is a veritable flurry of activity: four theme answers, five circled letters, some anagramming, some "this can follow that"... you name it, this puzzle had it.
- 28a: Beset in two ways at once (WHIPSAW). awesome word.
- 47a: Gallivant (TRAIPSE). both of these words are terrific.
- 56a: Total screwup (FIASCO). this one, too.
- 60d: God with an eight-legged horse (ODIN). wanna know the story of ODIN's eight-legged horse, sleipnir? sure you do! so the aesir (the norse gods) lived in asgard, whose walls had been destroyed in a war with the vanir (some other norse gods). a stonemason named blast (have i mentioned how much i love names from norse mythology?) came by and offered to rebuild the wall, but in return he demanded freya, the most beautiful of the goddesses, as his wife, and the sun and the moon as well. (sounds like defense contractors in the 21st century, doesn't it?) the gods were outraged at this price, but they wanted the wall, so loki thought of a way to trick blast into building at least part of it for nothing. they agreed to his price, but only if the work was completed within 6 months. well, blast set to work with the help of his incredibly strong horse, svadilfari. the deadline approached and he was much closer to finishing than they had hoped. ODIN threatened to kill loki if the gods were actually forced to pay up, but he had another trick coming. loki took the guise of a lovely mare and lured svadilfari into a thicket for three days. without him, blast couldn't finish the job. enraged, he revealed his true form (that of a rock giant) and thor promptly killed him with one blow of his hammer. eventually, loki returned from gallivanting about with svadilfari and gave birth to an eight-legged foal named sleipnir, whom he gave it to ODIN as a gift. thus endeth the story.
- 9a: "___ Libre" (2006 Jack Black film) (NACHO). jack black is silly.
- 20a: Florida bay city, for short (ST. PETE). the nearby 25d: Florida bay city (TAMPA) is, um, nearby. but no BOCA, OCALA, or OPA to be found!
- 26a: Literally, "puffed up" (SOUFFLÉ). i tend to like etymology clues. this one makes a lot of sense.
- 39a: In the buff (BARE). so many pic options... what would pete do?
- 40a: Word after shopping or shooting (SPREE). half of this clue would not be found in a NYT puzzle.
- 42a: Coordinate, as watches (SYNC). the internet has let me down: i can't find a video clip of "synchronize watches!" from parker lewis can't lose. i can't even find an image. lousy internet—56 kajillion terabytes of useless crap, and no "synchronize watches"? ah well, i was probably the only guy who liked that show, anyway.
- 54a: Goddess of ancient Egypt (ISIS). okay, but she's no ODIN.
- 70a: Hamlet's cousin? (TOWN). i've seen this clue, but i like it anyway.
- 7d: Pentathlon event (ÉPÉE). i originally misread this as "pentagon event." that would be pretty funny, if the department of defense still used ÉPÉEs.
- 9d: Second-largest city in New Hampshire (NASHUA). also the city where i met pete mitchell at a bridge tournament over labor day weekend.
- 13d: Legal, in a way (OF AGE). is this sexual innuendo? it didn't occur to me while solving, but now i sort of think it is.
- 27d: Incite (FIRE UP). when i had the F, i was hoping this would turn out to be FOMENT. i love that word.
- 33d: Letterman's letters (CBS). this one had me for a while (especially since i had NUDE for BARE, and couldn't figure out 33a). eventually i realized it was referring to david letterman, not just any old varsity letterman.
- 48d: Wayne Manor butler (ALFRED). apparently he's surnamed pennyworth. i did not know that, but i don't really read comics.
- 49d: Magi's offerings (GIFTS). specifically gold, frankincense and myrrh. hey, how come you never see MYRRH in a crossword grid?
- 64d: Number in "A Chorus Line" (ONE). okay, that's clever.
Suns of Bitches:
- 33a: Plastic shoes in which Jibbitz charms are placed (CROCS). i think something is going on here that i don't understand.
- 51d: Former capital of Alaska (SITKA). whoa. i normally like hard academic clues, but historical geography is not my forte.
a strange puzzle, to be sure, but a fairly enjoyable one. i don't think i've seen brent sverdloff's byline before. if this is a debut, then congratulations to brent. i'll see you all next tuesday. in the meantime, have a merry christmas and a happy hanukkah.