New York Times, Nov. 28
Well, ho-ho-ho! The leftover turkey is still in the fridge but Will Shortz is already celebrating Christmas with a puzzle dedicated to THE TREE LIGHTING CEREMONY (148 Across, “Annual Manhattan event (represented symbolically in this puzzle).” The rest of the theme clues, all referring back to that one, spotlight the “shining moment” on THE WEDNESDAY AFTER THANKSGIVING (3- and 5 Down) when crowds gather around the NORWAY SPRUCE (17 Down) at ROCKEFELLER CENTER (15 Down) to watch someone throw the (ON) SWITCH (120 Down). Voila! ‘Tis the season in New York.
This huge grid by constructor Jeremy Newton (23-by-23! 310 clues!) was fun and, I have to say, more puzzle-like because the hidden picture wasn’t hinted at by circled boxes or an editor’s note. The trick was fitting the letters ON into single boxes in answers like (ON) THE ICE (“Not benched, as in hockey,” 122 Down); (ON) BUDGET (“Not overspending,” 123 Down); and the ingenious T(ON)Y T(ON)I T(ON)E (“R&B funk trio with the 1990 hit ‘Feels Good,'” 121 Across). You can “light” a hidden tree in the grid by connecting all the ONs — easy as toggling an ON/off switch!
By the way, did anyone else notice that another “annual Manhattan event” — MACY’S THANKSGIVING PARADE — has the same number of letters as THE TREE LIGHTING CEREMONY? Luckily, a couple of crossing clues made me second-guess the parade answer; otherwise, my puzzle would have been a lot messier.
Literary Mystery Dept.: “Literary inits.” (63 Down) are usually either RLS (Robert Louis Stevenson) or TSE (T.S. Eliot); I have no idea who EAP is. Did I blow that answer? Anyone?
NYT Crossword Self-Promotion Dept.: “Movie co. behind ‘Wordplay’ and ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding'” (48 Down) is IFC. One is a romantic comedy starring Nia Vardalos and one is a documentary about … ? Hey, wait a minute …
Random Philly Fact Dept.: We claim funnywoman Tina FEY (“Onetime ‘S.N.L.’ regular Tina,” 45 Across) as a native daughter, though she’s really from the next-door suburb of Upper Darby. But she frequently gives us mad props in “30 Rock,” where art is imitating life and Philly-based Kabletown (read: Comcast) is taking over NY-based NBC. Best line ever, from Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy: “How could a company from Philadelphia buy a company from New York?”
Congratulations Are In Order Dept.: Finish today’s puzzle? Let out a “Cry of self-pride” — YAY ME! (116 Across).