Christmas Eve has always been one of my favorite days...as a child, we always started celebrating Christmas the day before. Mom would bake a ham and a turkey...and a BIG pan of lasagne...and we'd have a huge Christmas Eve buffet. After dinner, we'd open one present...chosen by Mom. It was always something to wear to midnight Mass. As we got older, our entire celebration was on Christmas Eve, so that Mary and I could spend Christmas Day with our husbands or their families. That's the two of us...Christmas Eve 1954. I'm 2 1/2, Mary is almost 6. It's probably obvious that I adored (and still do) my big sister.
When Elaine came to live with us in 1994, we unknowingly started our own Christmas Eve tradition. In an effort to get a very excited little girl to go to bed, she opened a present...chosen by Mom. It was a new nightgown, and it worked like a charm. By the following Christmas, Leslie was with us, and they received matching (it's so cute when you can get away with it) plaid flannel pajamas.
And we've done it ever since. Some years Don and I would get slippers or robes...thankfully, we don't outgrow our pajamas every year like kids do. And now that the girls are bringing significant others to join us tonight, they'll get new pajamas, too.
Can you tell I get sentimental on Christmas Eve?
But you came here to read about the puzzle, so I'd better get on with it!
The theme of Mark Sherwood's Monday puzzle is revealed at 52D: Word that can follow the starts of 17-, 27-, 44- and 59-Across (line)...and the theme answers are:
17A: One who's always up for a good time (party animal). We actually had a party line until my teen years. Don and I also had one in Arkansas in the early eighties...we felt very lucky to have a phone given that we lived so far out of town.
27A: Background check for a lender (credit report). For those of you who may not know, you can get a free credit report once a year from each of the three major companies...Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. That means you can go to this site every four months...just alternate the companies. It's a good way to keep an eye on things.
44A: Long, long sentence (life in prison). My only personal experience with that is knowing that it's NOT something you want. It's also a clever clue.
59A: Light hauler (pickup truck). Hoo-boy! I could go on and on about the best and worst pickup lines...except that I've been out of circulation for almost thirty years and I'm sure things have changed since then. Well, that...and I can't really remember any of them.
I finished the puzzle but couldn't make any sense of the theme. Turns out I was looking at 52A: Unretrievable (lost). It made much more sense when I looked at the down answer...which is what I was told to do.
The other wrong answer occurred because of a misspelling at 18D: Big name in fairy tales (Andersen)...an O instead of a second E. That made 41A: Bulls, rams and bucks hos...rather than the correct (and sensible) hes.
I'm always surprised by unfamiliar words in a Monday puzzle. 6A: Chinese-born American architect (Impei) was an unknown that I got only from crosses.
My best guess was 32A: Jay-Z and Timbaland (rappers). I've never heard of either of them, but the names sounded like those of rappers.
Favorite answers include 1A: Doorframe parts (jambs), 38A: Musical transitions (segues)...it's such a great word, 55A: Husband of Isis (Osiris), 65A: Edgar Bergen's Mortimer __ (Snerd), 7D: Drink that often comes with an umbrella (mai tai)...they're always free at happy hour anywhere in Hawaii, 8D: Olive stuffing (pimento), 9D: Airline to Ben-Gurion (El-Al), 11D: Bruce Springsteen's first hit (Born to Run), 29D: Place that often has picnic tables (rest stop), 34D: "Nutty" role for Jerry Lewis (Professor), and the seasonally appropriate 46D: Brenda Lee's "__ Around the Christmas Tree" (Rockin').
I'm usually not very good at remembering U.S. presidents in order, but 26A: President before D.D.E. (H.S.T.) was a gimme for me. I used to think I was born during Eisenhower's term, but it was actually Truman. The confusion is because he left office when I was six months old. Not that I remember that.
We have a couple of odd-jobbers here (I think that's what Rex calls them)...a splicer at 42D (Worker with genes or film) and a dicer (50D: Kitchen gizmo). The commercial is forming in my mind...it splices, it dices! Be the first on your block to get one!
Well, it's 8:15 and I'd better get on with preparing the feast...minus the lasagne (that will be for New Year's day) and the ham (that's for tomorrow). Last night we watched It's a Wonderful Life with Mike and Elaine. I just love that movie, but our old videotape doesn't have another viewing in it. If I can find it on DVD today without having to resort to Target or WalMart, it will end up in Don's stocking...the other tradition that we've continued from my childhood.
Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.