Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sunday, January 3, 2016, David Woolf


It took me nearly twice as long as usual for a Sunday puzzle today, and it was worth it. All of us here at Horace and Frances and Colum enjoy a good rebus. This one goes beyond a good rebus, in my opinion. We get all standard abbreviations for the twelve months, appropriately placed across the grid to create a calendar. Because each rebus is different, and further, because there is no predictability to the placement of the rebus, it made each section a challenge.

I will complain (but only very slightly) that the flow through the grid was poor. I recognize that it's thematic, in that each section had to be cordoned off to create the appearance of the calendar, and that's why I accept it. But at the same time, it created essentially 12 different mini-puzzles, some more isolated than others. For example, the sections for February and November have one square entries on either side.

I had a feeling something was up from 1A: Malicious computer programs (TRO[JAN]S). "Viruses" and "malware" entered my mind first, neither of which fit. I also confused myself by automatically throwing in "Arles" for 5D: Setting for van Gogh's "River Bank in Springtime" (SEINE). I mean, ever van Gogh reference in a crossword puzzle is to that town, no? I guess no.

Anyway, I jumped through the grid, throwing in GOTYE (but mistakenly putting in Gmail (?!) at 40A: Alternative to Facebook Messenger (GCHAT)), CILIA and CAL. I got traction with SASHA (I wonder how she feels being a crossword puzzle entry nowadays, along with her sister... both have very good letters for the grid) and filled in the entire September section except for the rebus. I didn't get it still, even with A_TIC. Attic? Antic? Doesn't make any sense.

So, anyway, I figured it out with [DEC]EIT, and then it was simply a matter of figuring out where each month rebus would fall. My favorite rebus was definitely 6A: Essence (LI[FEB]LOOD). That is so well hidden. Even when I had __[FEB]L___ it took me a long time to figure it out. The hardest one for me was MINI[MAR]T and I[MAR]ET. That bit of crosswordese eluded me. It was hard to get into that corner because of the pair of clever clues at 33A: Passing mention? (OBIT) and at 14D: One helping with servings (DIETITIAN). Nice avoidance of a question mark with the latter.

A number of tricky clues:

  • 21A: Band that doesn't play much music nowadays (AMRADIO) - didn't at all think of AM as a band. I was considering rock strata before radio until the _MRA___ forced my hand.
  • 30A: Battery parts (TESTS). Tough.
  • 66A: Dark horses (BAYS). So literal!
  • 11D: Emanation from a pen (OINK). Definitely was thinking about ink for the longest time, even though it just wouldn't fit!!!
  • 100D: Guy's thanks? (MERCI). Here's one where the question mark was absolutely necessary. I needed all the crosses but one to figure it out.
BTW, take a look at Gambia in that map. Weird! Completely surrounded by Senegal.

Very little glue here. Definitely thumbs up for me. Nice to see on a Sunday. 

- Colum


  1. 57:16 (FWOE)
    My error came at the GCHAT/GOTYE cross. I had iCHAT in there and since the singer is not known to me I just kept it. I loved this puzzle, otherwise. It took me a bit longer than usual, too. Sunday puzzles are usually between 35 and 45 minutes for me, but this was definitely worth it. A[SEP]TIC is nice, too, as are many of the others, but like Colum, LI[FEB]LOOD and MINI[MAR]T were the last to fall for me. I liked the nice spelling of AMOEBA, and although I got [JUL]EPS right away, I needed all of the crosses for BAN[JUL]. Colum must have known [FEB]RILE pretty quickly, but that's a word that I've never used. FATNESS (91A Obesity) is rather insensitive.

  2. Agree on all counts, including the North and the Northeast being the last to fall. Some great stuff in here, and it's nice to have such a satisfying challenge on a Sunday!