I spent a couple of hours today working our booth at the Alternative Christmas Fair, an alternative gifting opportunity that benefits local and international agencies. You can honor a friend or loved one with a gift of a latrine in San Salvador, a forest planting in Haiti, or gorilla protection in Rwanda. Right here at home, we could provide a doorbell or window for Habitat for Humanity, a case of canned goods for the local food bank, or meals at our Soup Kitchen. Every year I buy something for everyone in my family. This year my gifts include snacks and milk for preschoolers in the Gaza Strip, a case of peanut butter, a solar cooker for a family in Kenya, a day of skiing for a disabled person...and a latrine. There's something for everyone.
Just being there left me feeling incredibly good all day. While I was gone, beef stew simmered in the crockpot, so we had a hearty dinner without a lot of work. Yep...just a good day all around.
And an easy puzzle on top of that, with just enough of a Monday challenge and some interesting words.
The theme is revealed at 40A: Where you may find the ends of 17-, 23-, 52- and 63-Across (paper), and the theme answers are:
17A: Subversive group (FIFTH COLUMN). I'm not familiar with the expression, but here's what Wikipedia has to say.
23A: Soap or lotion, say (TOILET ARTICLE). As a kid, I thought that was a funny expression. I guess I still do.
52A: Notorious stigma (SCARLET LETTER). In the old movies, it looked like an applique on her dress...this one looks like it means business. I don't know about you, but I'd definitely behave myself.
63A: Coveted film honor (BEST PICTURE).
Not incredibly inspiring, but I don't think Monday themes need to be. There was some fill that I found particularly good, though.
5A: "Jeepers!" (cripes). That's not something I've ever said, but my friend's grandmother used to say something like that. It made me smile to think about her.
15A: Native name for Mount McKinley (Denali).
29A: Gardner of Hollywood (Ava). It's always a good day when Ava's in the puzzle.
34A: Suspect's excuse (alibi).
68A: Drooling dog in "Garfield" (Odie). I don't much care for Garfield, but I think Odie is sweet. Then again, I'm a dog person.
3D: One who'll easily lend money for a hard-luck story (soft touch). If you're that kind of person, do not become a social worker. I have been known to help out some of my favorites once or twice...truth be told, most of us have...but they always think the money has come from a local church. Some people just need a hand up.
4D: Fuel by the litre (petrol). I'm also a soft touch for all things Brit.
9D: New York city where Mark Twain is buried (Elmira).
33D: Marsh plant (sedge). Have never heard of it or seen it, but here's the scoop on it.
35D: Period between (interlude).
37D: Curve-billed wader (ibis). I know it's in the puzzle fairly often, but I've always liked the word. And it's a very cool-looking bird.
I liked the crossing of 22A: Repulsive (vile) with 22D: Pharmacy containers (vials).
Also liked the crossing of 1A: Bit of smoke (wisp) with 1D: Blow gently (waft). The word wisp brings back a very old memory...Will o' the Wisp, the Leon Russell CD (actually, what I had was the album) with one of my very favorite songs, Lady Blue. You can hear Leon sing it here. I just listened to it again...it's just as beautiful now as it was back then.
I should also mention 36D: Jefferson's first vice president (Burr). I didn't know it, and I'd be willing to bet there are others who don't. It will probably be the reason for most Google hits today...on this blog and others.
Well, I see that I posted four pictures instead of three, but it will have to do. Sometimes this OCD stuff just isn't worth the trouble.
Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.