Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Eve (Sunday brunch: December 23, 2012)

(Welcome New York Times diagramless solvers: scroll down for your solution, then come back each week for cryptics and brunch, with sides of hockey and music.)

Last week, Hex shared some Christmas Eve traditions with us: we all have our holiday routines.  Our church has its services Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day.  There is considerable singing involved: Bangle now one of the senior members of the children’s choir performing at the family service, Sabers with the youth singers on Sunday, and The Other Doctor Mitchell with the adult choir at the late service.  Me, I bellow heartily from the pews.

After we get home from services, there are usually some last-minute preparations.  I always put on a recording of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College in Cambridge (check local listings for the streamcast in your area) while I assemble and wrap.  Then when all is ready, a dram of Glenmorangie with one ice cube.  Maybe I’ll have enough time to solve one of this week’s puzzles while I sip that malt.

Hex are like most of us in that they keep on singing, but garble some of their carols.  But they’ve been nice enough to put them in cryptic form so all the intersecting words can keep us in tune.  Falcon conducts the chorus over at his blog.

When Patrick Berry makes a list, he always checks it twice: every single item.  His gift to solvers is published in the Wall Street Journal (*).  He’s fit two dozen candy canes in his grid.  TODM thought it was exceptionally cute. Nothing in the puzzle is too hard or obscure: you just need to get the first answer or two placed and you’ll roll right along from there.

None of the clues are assigned to a specific space.  If you’re not sure where to begin, look first at the “canes” down the middle.  They’ll each have a string of five letters that will be checked by one or two of the across answers.  If you find an uncommon string in the cane, look for it in an across (remember it could be backwards).  Once you have the first of a pair of canes, you know where to put the second.  If you can get that one, and find the acrosses it checks, then you’ll be on your way to filling in the vertical canes.

Once Christmas is over, it’s time to prepare for the new year.  Richard Maltby will help us out that way with his Harpers’ cryptic.  I found this one something of a chore to solve: the theme answers weren’t obvious, and they required some Googling or checks with The Other Doctor Mitchell to verify that they really did fit the theme. 

The New York Times variety puzzle this week (behind the paywall) is a Fred Piscop diagramless.  I’ll update this post with the solution after I get my copy, since I love the traffic-building effect.  Deb Amlen has comments (and spoilers) at Wordplay.

*--if you have trouble viewing or printing the Wall Street Journal puzzle, go to and click the PDF link.

New York Times variety puzzle solution (diagramless 12/23/12) is posted below the fold. 

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