Just when I think Patrick Blindauer can't possibly come up with another of those puzzles-within-a-puzzle...he does.
Today's puzzle, Secret Santa's Helpers, has ELF hidden in the grid twenty times...either horizontally, vertically or diagonally, in either direction. I wish Elaine was here...she's a whiz at Word Search. If I'm counting right, though, I've found all twenty. I hope the grid is readable!
The theme answers, which each contain at least one ELF, are:
23A: Yuletide celebration (TWELFTH NIGHT).
33A: Rock group with the 12-time platinum album "Hysteria" (DEF LEPPARD). That's one of my all-time favorite rock albums...in addition to Hysteria (hear it here), there's Love Bites, Pour Some Sugar on Me and Armageddon It. Great album.
44A: Like Narcissus? (SELF REFLECTIVE).
63A: Last time? (SHELF LIFE). Clever clue.
66A: 1964 Beatles #1 hit (I FEEL FINE). I needed a few letters in place to get this one...they had so many #1 hits.
81A: Classic outdoor winter toys (FLEXIBLE FLYERS). Growing up in south Florida, I didn't have one. Fortunately, I'd heard of them.
97A: Bond's man? (IAN FLEMING). Don's on a mission to collect all of the James Bond books. So far he's only found one at a decent price. If he hasn't made much progress by his birthday (in January), I'll order the set from Amazon.
108A: Precious cargo of legend (GOLDEN FLEECE).
Items of note include the similar cluing for 19A: Bashes (soirees) and 6D: Bash (fete)...I was happy to see that both answers referred to parties rather than violence. Liked the homophonic cross of 61A: Fully functional (able) with 55D: Genesis shepherd (Abel)...also the similarity of 30A: Hindu queen (Ranee) and 54A: Longtime soap actress Jones (Renee); 105A: Burning (ardent) and 9D: Silver-colored (argent); and 4D: Sen. Specter and others (Arlens) with 76D: Ailey and Toffler (Alvins).
There were so many good answers that it's hard to choose favorites...but these are definitely among them:
1A: Feed for cattle and horses (alfalfa). Would have preferred a clue about this little guy, but that might have been too easy...even for a Sunday.
32A: Bingo call (B ten). When I had the BT in place, I filled in two...soon figured out that it wouldn't work.
40A: Marc Antony's love (amor). Gone are the days when a clue like this would stump me. Not really...I still fall for it now and then.
59A: Kind of sweater (pull-on). This was the last answer I filled in. Even with the PUL in place, I was flummoxed. None of the crosses were helping, although I finally understand two of them. 49D: Hanna-Barbera collectible (cel), 40D: 13, for Al (ATNO)...as in atomic number 13, aluminum. I still don't get 41D: Air (mien). Just looked it up...air, as in appearance. Not air that we breathe.
77A: "Bald" baby (eaglet).
103A: Red-eye cause (insomnia). Never a problem for me, thankfully.
106A: Adam Sandler's "Spanglish" co-star (Tea Leoni). I just loved her in The Family Man. She looked wholesome and sexy at the same time. If I didn't have such a serious girl crush on Charlize Theron...
111A: Seussian villagers (Whos).
1D: Sources of fall color (asters)...not aspens, my first guess.
3D: Repetitive exclamation from Shakespeare (fie, fie). I haven't read much of Shakespeare and it didn't sound familiar to me. Can someone out there enlighten me...and maybe a few others?
11D: Santa's reindeer, traditionally (octad).
12D: Never-failing (surefire)...just because.
14D: Beetle juice? (gas). Cute. This is one of the clues I missed until I was finished...had all three of the crosses.
24D: Manx trait (no tail). Are they born without tails? Barnabas doesn't have one...or not much of one. Why would his previous owner dock his sweet little tail? When he's happy, there's just this little nub that wiggles. Maybe surgery had been necessary because of an accident or something.
34D: Actress Getty (Estelle).
45D: Dropping acid, say (etching). Probably the most clever clue in the puzzle.
46D: Evening person? (leveler). Maybe this one. I was just going to ask someone to explain it...then it hit me.
51D: Redenbacher of popcorn fame (Orville). It's sad to think that more people would think of him when they hear the name...rather than the Wright brother of the same name. He's on the left in this picture, with his equally famous brother, Wilbur.
80D: Towering figure in French engineering (Eiffel).
81D: Carrie Chapman Catt, for one (feminist).
90D: Key of Dvorák's "New World" Symphony (E minor). I didn't really know that, but I knew to put in the M, O and R until I had some crosses.
93D: Firstborn (eldest). Pretty straightforward clue for a Sunday. Usually it's something like Prince William, for one.
94D: John of "Rat Race" (Cleese).
95D: Constellation between Lynx and Hydra (Cancer). I think of that as a sign of the Zodiac...but totally spaced that that meant it's a constellation. I was missing the first letter, going through the alphabet. Is it Dancer? No, that's a reindeer. Lancer? The cross at 93A: "__ homo" (declaration in John 19:5) (ecce) wasn't much help. On the third run through the alphabet, it finally dawned on me. It was getting late...we had a party to go to...whatever.
101D: "The Night Cafe" was painted there (Arles)...another word that appears often.
Things I didn't know but got from the crosses:
8A: River or city of Maine (Saco), 50A: Popular Hispanic newspaper name (El Sol), 101A: Quasar co-discoverer Sandage (Allan), 112A: 1988 Cy Young winner Hershiser (Orel), 5D: "Waiting for __" (Odets play) (Lefty), 8D: Mushroom stems (stipes)...didn't know there was a name for them other than stems, 10D: Songwriter Sammy (Cahn), 15D: Edward O. __, card-counting author of "Beat the Dealer" (Thorp), 43D: Senior Saarinen (Eliel)...Eero's the one I remember, and 91D: "Crimes of the Heart" playwright Beth (Henley).
And that's it for today. Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.