Scenic stroll from the Spanish / SUN 1-8-23 / 2007 Lil Wayne song that opens Young Money! You dig? / Hindu goddess in the Ramayana / Serpentine constellation / Fragrant noodle soup made with beef / Human rights activist Xiaobo the first Chinese citizen to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2010 / Influential leader of the Seminole people

Scenic stroll from the Spanish / SUN 1-8-23 / 2007 Lil Wayne
song that opens Young Money! You dig? / Hindu goddess in the
Ramayana / Serpentine constellation / Fragrant noodle soup made
with beef / Human rights activist Xiaobo the first Chinese citizen
to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2010 / Influential leader of
the Seminole people
Constructor: Wyna Liu

Relative difficulty: Medium (theme was easy to uncover, but fill was often thorny)

THEME: "Do You Hear That?" — My puzzle came with notes: "Note: Each italicized clue contains a blank, which should be filled with a letter of the alphabet. When completed, the letters in order will spell out a two-word phrase." Every theme clue is a phonetic rebus puzzle, where one single-letter element is missing; the letters end up spelling out "SOUNDS GOOD" (presumably an answer to the puzzle's title question) (?):

Theme answers:
  • PRINCESS DI (26A: "Presses CTRL+P + ___ + Easter egg coloring") (Prints + "S" + Dye)
  • AU COURANT (28A: "___ + Scroungy mutt + Parent's sister, in some regions") ("O" + Cur + Aunt)
  • EUPHORIC (44A: "___ + Golfer's cry + 'Ugh!'") ("U" + "Fore!" + "Ick!")
  • ROSE GARDEN (46A: "Column crossers + Sentry + ___" (Rows + Guard + "N")
  • CANDY CANE (66A: "French festival, familiarly + ___ + Actor Michael") (Cannes + "D" + Caine)
  • ALL-ACCESS (70A: "Punching tool + Chopping tool + ___") (Awl + Axe + "S")
  • NON-APOLOGY (90A: "Tandoor bread + Harlem music venue + ___") (Naan + Apollo + "G")
  • AUTOFILL (93A: "Word of obligation + ___ + Punxsutawney name") (Ought + "O" + Phil)
  • TAE KWON DO (107A: "Rug rat + Magic stick + ___") ("O") (Tyke + Wand + "O")
  • GOLDILOCKS (110A: "Soccer score + ___ + Scottish inlets") (Goal + "D" + Lochs)
Word of the Day: OSCEOLA (57D: Influential leader of the Seminole people) —
Osceola (1804 – January 30, 1838, Asi-yahola in Creek), named Billy Powell at birth in Alabama, became an influential leader of the Seminole people in Florida. His mother was Muscogee, and his great-grandfather was a Scotsman, James McQueen. He was reared by his mother in the Creek (Muscogee) tradition. When he was a child, they migrated to Florida with other Red Stick refugees, led by a relative, Peter McQueen, after their group's defeat in 1814 in the Creek Wars. There they became part of what was known as the Seminole people.

In 1836, Osceola led a small group of warriors in the Seminole resistance during the Second Seminole War, when the United States tried to remove the tribe from their lands in Florida to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. He became an adviser to Micanopy, the principal chief of the Seminole from 1825 to 1849. Osceola led the Seminole resistance to removal until he was captured on October 21, 1837, by deception, under a flag of truce, when he went to a site near Fort Peyton for peace talks.  The United States first imprisoned him at Fort Marion in St. Augustine, then transported him to Fort Moultrie in Charleston, South Carolina. He died there a few months later of causes reported as an internal infection or malaria. Because of his renown, Osceola attracted visitors in prison, including renowned artist George Catlin, who painted perhaps the most well-known portrait of the Seminole leader.

• • •
***HELLO, READERS AND FELLOW SOLVERS*** How is the new year treating you? Well, I hope. Me, uh, not great so far (COVID, you know), but I'm 95% better, and was never terribly sick to begin with, so I have every reason to believe things will turn around for me shortly, thank God (and vaccines). Anyway, it's early January, which means it's time once again for my annual week-long pitch for financial contributions to the blog. Every year I ask readers to consider what the blog is worth to them on an annual basis and give accordingly. I'm not sure what to say about this past year. This will sound weird, or melodramatic—or maybe it won't—but every time I try to write about 2022, all I can think is "well, my cat died." She (Olive) died this past October, very young, of a stupid congenital heart problem that we just couldn't fix (thank you all for your kind words of condolence, by the way). I'm looking at the photo I used for last year's fundraising pitch, and it's a picture of me sitting at my desk (this desk, the one I'm typing at right now, the one I write at every day) with Olive sitting on my shoulder, staring at me, and making me laugh. It's a joyous picture. Here, I'm just gonna post it again:

I love the photo both because you can tell how goofy she is, and how goofy she made me. Her loss hurt for the obvious reasons, but also because she was so much a part of my daily routine, my daily rhythms and rituals. She was everyday. Quotidian. Just ... on me, near me, being a weirdo, especially in the (very) early mornings when I was writing this blog. She took me out of myself. She also made me aware of how much the quotidian matters, how daily rituals break up and organize the day, mark time, ground you. They're easy to trivialize, these rituals, precisely because they *aren't* special. Feed the cats again, make the coffee again, solve the crossword again, etc. But losing Olive made me reevaluate the daily, the quotidian, the apparently trivial. In a fundamental way, those small daily things *are* life. No one day is so important, or so different from the others, but cumulatively, they add up, and through the days upon days you develop a practice—a practice of love, care, and attention given to the things that matter. If you're reading this, then crossword puzzles are undoubtedly an important ritual for you, just as writing about crosswords for you all is an important ritual for me. It gives me so much. I hope that even at my most critical, my genuine love for crosswords—for the way my brain lights up on crosswords—comes through. I also hope that the blog brings you entertainment, insight, laughter ... even (especially) if you disagree with me much (most? all?) of the time. 

[man, I really wear the hell 
out of this red fleece...]
The blog began years ago as an experiment in treating the ephemeral—the here-today, gone-tomorrow—like it really mattered. I wanted to stop and look at this 15x15 (or 21x21 thing) and take it seriously, listen to it, see what it was trying to do, think about what I liked or didn't like about it. In short, I gave the puzzle my time and attention. And I continue to do that, every day (Every! Day!). And it is work. A lot of work. Asking for money once a year (and only once a year) is an acknowledgment of that fact. There is nothing to subscribe to here ... no Substack or Kickstarter or Patreon ... and there are no ads, ever. I prefer to keep financial matters simple and direct. I have no "hustle" in me beyond putting my ass in this chair every morning and writing.

How much should you give? Whatever you think the blog is worth to you on a yearly basis. Whatever that amount is is fantastic. Some people refuse to pay for what they can get for free. Others just don't have money to spare. All are welcome to read the blog—the site will always be open and free. But if you are able to express your appreciation monetarily, here are three options. First, a Paypal button (which you can also find in the blog sidebar):

Second, a mailing address (checks should be made out to "Rex Parker"):

Rex Parker c/o Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton, NY 13905

The third, increasingly popular option is Venmo; if that's your preferred way of moving money around, my handle is @MichaelDavidSharp (the last four digits of my phone are 4878, in case Venmo asks you, which I guess it does sometimes, when it's not trying to push crypto on you, what the hell?!)

All Paypal contributions will be gratefully acknowledged by email. All snail mail contributions will be gratefully acknowledged with hand-written postcards. I. Love. Snail Mail. I love seeing your gorgeous handwriting and then sending you my awful handwriting. It's all so wonderful. My daughter (Ella Egan) has designed a cat-related thank-you postcard for 2023, just as she has for the past two years, but this year, there's a bonus. Because this year ... the postcard is also a crossword puzzle! Yes, I made a little 9x9 blog-themed crossword puzzle for you all. It's light and goofy and I hope you enjoy it. It looks like this (clues blurred for your protection):

I had fun making this puzzle (thanks to Rachel Fabi and Neville Fogarty for proofing it for me!). For non-snail-mailers who want to solve the puzzle, don't worry: I'll make the puzzle available for everyone some time next month. Please note: I don't keep a "mailing list" and don't share my contributor info with anyone. And if you give by snail mail and (for some reason) don't want a thank-you card, just indicate "NO CARD."  Again, as ever, I'm so grateful for your readership and support. Now on to today's puzzle...

• • •

This puzzle landed with a PHO! That is, PHO was my last word, so that is where the puzzle ... landed. I ate PHO this past week when I was feeling my COVID-worst, and I'm not going to say it cured me, because it definitely did not, but it made me feel much better. I mostly just drank the broth, with a little of the accompanying hot sauce added, and if it wasn't magic, it sure felt like it. Speaking of magic—this puzzle feels a bit like a magic trick, the way multi-layered puzzles often can. It was an interesting puzzle to solve (as I did) immediately after watching "Glass Onion" (2022), which opens with an elaborate, multi-layered puzzle—perhaps not surprising for a puzzle that has an onion as its central (titular!) metaphor. Layers! The layers in this puzzle were fun to work through, though "work" feels like a bit of misnomer, in that I just smashed through them as soon as the concept became clear (the way one of the characters in "Glass Onion" just smashes her intricate puzzle box to get what's inside rather than work through all the ... layers). Since I read the "Puzzle Notes" that came with the puzzle, I could tell after one or two themers what was going on, and so I took the ball and I ran with it, running through alllll of the remaining theme answers without even having to look at the crosses—except AUTOFILL! I knew that the "O" went in the clue's blank, but I just could not think of a word that ended "O'Fill," which I kept hearing Irishly. So I had to really work that area to make AUTOFILL show up. But as you can see, I absolutely flattened all the others:

[CANDY DANE is a typo, obvs]

You'll recall (maybe) that last week's Sunday puzzle was a lot like this, in that once I had the puzzly key to figuring out the remaining themers, I stopped solving systematically and just went at all the themers directly, bam bam bam. It gives you a bit of a rush to solve this way, to run the table the second you have the power, but it does leave you in a kind of anticlimactic position thereafter, with the theme all wrung out and just a lot of empty space to fill in. Thankfully, the grid itself is interesting and lively, beyond the theme. The clues were prickly at times, too, so I never felt too bored or too complacent. Things got a little dicey in the OSCEOLA section (partially because of my "CANDY DANE" typo, partially because I honestly don't really know who OSCEOLA is) and again in the ASIANA / PASEO region (I know both terms ... but only kinda sorta). Did not know the "Ghostbusters" car was called the ECTOMOBILE. And forgot that Lil Wayne's song was called "A MILLI"—I always hear it as "I'M ILLI"... like ... ILLI being some version of "ill" ... sigh. Luckily HASP was unimpeachable and then my dumb brain realized that "A MILLI" is (probably) short for "a million." Fun with words (15 years late)! 

The "answer" phrase today—"SOUNDS GOOD"—is not what I would call spot-on, in that I don't really know how "GOOD" fits in. The way I'm interpreting it is that the puzzle is playing with the common phrase "SOUNDS GOOD" by asking me to mentally repunctuate it; the puzzle title asks me "Do You Hear That?" and I, the solver, mentally reply: "SOUNDS? GOOD!" As in "Oh, we're dealing with sounds? ... cool." Anyway, it's all good (!) enough for me. There really wasn't much that bothered me about this one. Didn't like IOU crossing AE ... IOU (14D: Ambidextrous features?) (note: "Ambidextrous" is a supervocalic, i.e. it contains one of each vowel (no "Y"s)) (note: "supervocalic" is itself a supervocalic). The puzzle probably should've kept "stick" out of the TAE KWON DO clue (107A) since STICK sticks out in the grid like a sore stick (in DIPSTICK) (59A: Insult that's also a measurement device). My favorite mistake was when I first read 61A: "The landlords of New York," e.g. (ASTORS) and tried to play ACTORS ... at the same time I was thinking "well I know there are a lot of them there, but that doesn't feel right..." Best answers of the day for me were the delightfully self-contradicting "YEAH, NO" (96D: "Nice try, but I don't think so"), the onomatopoeic "TAP TAP" (62D: [Is this thing on?]), and the unexpected but perfect negative phrase NO GENTLEMAN (68D: Hardly Mr. Nice Guy). Highest struggle-to-word-length ratio came with "WELP," the clue for which (108D: "Eh, what can you do?!") I completely misread in my head. I read it as confrontational, as if the speaker were speaking to an actual "you" and didn't think "you" were gonna be able to do squat, i.e. "Eh, what can you do, you incompetent boob!?" I was probably meant to hear something more like, "Ah, well, whaddyagonna do?" which is far more the vibe of "WELP?" But the clue is accurate enough, if not crystal clear. 

  • 71D: Path covered with diamonds (CARPOOL LANE) — The CARPOOL LANE is often signaled by a diamond, or even called the Diamond Lane
  • 105A: Couple of llamas? (ELLS) — There are a couple of "L"s in "llama." There are also two "A"s in "llama," so I'm not sure it's the best clue, but I guess the "L"s are more truly a couple, in that they are next to each other, and anyway, the clue doesn't say there aren't other couples
  • 41A: Número de "Años de Soledad" in a Gabriel García Márquez novel (CIEN) — CIEN = "100," which is the number of Years of Solitude in the Marquez title
  • 37D: Literary award shaped like a rocket (HUGO) — The HUGO is the Science-Fiction / Fantasy award, hence the shape
See you next week!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

* This article was originally published here


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