New York Times crossword Dec. 23 / Constructed by Joe DiPietro
Greetings from chilly North Berwick, Maine. It was 23 degrees when I woke up this morning, though it did warm up to the respectable mid-30s. And big thanks go to my sister-in-law Kay, who was patient enough to drive me around this morning until we found a store that carried the Times. It only took three stops in two states!
Today’s clever puzzle included visual and rebus elements, plus a bunch of fun long answers. But the funny thing is that the longest entries had almost nothing to do with the theme. In fact, the theme answers weren’t clued at all. Instead, constructor Joe DiPietro used clusters of circled letters to yield literal interpretations of phrases with the word “by” – thus the title “Bywords.” SELL (by) DATE was created by taking from COSELL (“TV announcer who broke the news of John Lennon’s murder,” 91 Down) and the neighboring CANDIDATE (“One running,” 78 Down). FINE (by) ME takes from FINESSE (“Trick-winning attempt in bridge,” 87 Down) and ISOMERS (“Beta carotene and others,” 80 Down). (Note: I’m using bold and underlines to denote the circled letters.)
Others: PLAY IT (by) EAR takes from DISPLAY ITEMS (“They’re often behind glass,” 64 Down) and NEAR (“___ beer,” 88 Down). TWO (by) FOUR takes from NETWORK (“ABC, for one,” 69 Down) and DAYS OF OUR LIVES (“Long-running TV show featuring the Hortons and the Bradys,” 54 Down). KNEW (by) HEART takes from NEW YORK NEW YORK (“Vegas casino,” 3 Down) and THE ARTS (“Newspaper section,” 33 Down).
More: GO (by) TRAIN takes from GOAL (“Sports announcer’s scream,” 29 Down) and STRAINED PEAS (“Certain baby food,” 7 Down). ONE (by) ONE takes from NONET (“Piece for nine,” 47 Down) and STONE (“Things may be written in it,” 42 Down). DO (by) HAND takes from the obscure ADONAIS (“Whom Shelley wept for,” 11 Down) and HANDEL (“‘Water Music’ composer,” 12 Down). And WIN (by) A NOSE takes from GNAWING AT (“Really bugging,” 15 Down) and the uncommon but convenient LANOSE (“Woolly,” 16 Down).
SportsCenter Dept.: In addition to the abovementioned COSELL and GOAL, there were a bunch of other athletically inclined clues. KERRI STRUG is the “1996 Olympian noted for performing on an injured ankle” (105 Across). Also: SLOT (“Hockey area in front of the crease,” 49 Down), NBA (“Heat org.,” 113 Down), RBIS (“Triple Crown winners must lead their league in these,” 117 Across) and CELT (“Boston player, for short,” 116 Across).
Doubled-Up Dept.: “De novo” is ANEW (43 Across), while “Made de novo” is REDID (6 Down).
Say What? Dept.: I had never heard of a CORACLE (“Small boat made of wickerwork,” 71 Down). I had also never heard of ADONAIS, mentioned above. My original answer had actually been ODONAIS (which I had never heard of, either) because I figured the crossing entry was OH, ME (“‘I’m not doing so well,’” 11 Across). But after looking up ODONAIS and finding no mention of Shelley, I realized it should be ADONAIS, crossing with AH, ME.