Friday, January 9, 2009

New York Times, Fri, Jan 09, 2009 Paula Gamache / Will Shortz

Today's lesson: be very suspicious if you don't understand a clue. I do sometimes have to guess when it's a question of fact (eg sports name, car model, TV actor), but shouldn't for clues that appear to be a straightforward definition.

So although I finished in less time than yesterday's puzzle, I'm kicking myself for not thinking about the problematic areas for a few more minutes. One consolation is that Magdalen also struggled with this puzzle, giving up well before I did.
Solving time: 55 mins (no cheating, but three answers wrong)
Clue of the puzz: 27a axis [Something to turn on]
One thing I really liked about this puzzle was the attractive long answers and I was lucky to guess some of them quickly, which really helped. 36a Anaïs [First name in erotica] led to 31d gateleg [Drop leaf supporter], which prompted 45a culture vultures [Habitués of art galleries, theaters, etc.].

Then the bottom right fell into place: 41a leder [Shorts material, in München] - ie leather in German, used to make the imagined costume of all German men lederhosen; 35d après [Opposite of avant]; 38d deluge [Cataclysm]. 48a green screen [Once-common monochrome PC display] - yes, the screens were green, but were they ever actually called that? The video technique springs to mind more readily for this answer, so I'm surprised it wasn't clued with reference to that.

33d order in [Call for delivery]; 47a Georgie Porgie [Nursery rhyme title fellow]. Hence 46d UPC [Lines at a checkout counter?: Abbr.] - not queues (popular formation in Britain) but the lines of a barcode (Universal Product Code). 41d litre [Petrol purchase] - the use of "petrol" signifying a British spelling in the answer; 34d lienee [One with a mortgage, e.g.]. 38a drip [With 15-Down, hangs on the line] 15d dries [See 38-Across] was handy in giving a leg up with the top part of the grid. Now three guesses: 44a Filene [Department store founder who pioneered credit unions] - Edward Filene founded the Boston-based chain Filene's Basement; 44d flor [Thing with pétalos] - another "definition by model" clue; 33a Ola [Rock-___] - manufacturer of jukeboxes.

43d cure [Smoke, e.g.]; 29d tabac [The French smoke it]. 30d in a rug [Bug's place?] - the idiom referred to originates in Benjamin Franklin's epitaph on the death of Georgiana Shipley's squirrel Skugg:
Here Skugg
Lies snug
As a bug
In a rug
from the Papers of Benjamin Franklin
29a Tigger [Bouncy kid-lit character] - I was brought up on A A Milne and Tigger was the name of our first cat, a Siamese; 27d agitator [One stirring the pot]; 39a batt [Matted cotton sheet] - Magdalen is liable to call me in for help when basting batting. 42a area code [Prefix in parentheses]; 32d sleeves [They're short on T's] - ie tee shirts; 37d fade-in [Many an opening shot] - referring to cinematography, not warfare; 40d Borge [The Great Dane of entertainment] - Victor Borge. 40a Baez [Dylan was once her protégé] - Joan Baez.

After finishing the bottom section, it took a while to make further progress, but I eventually did it with the long answers again: 1a the once-over [A looker might give it ... or get it]; 6d clamors [Raises an outcry]. 17a man-eater [Lion, tiger or shark] - well they all can be man-eaters, but aren't necessarily - I'm surprised that ? isn't used when clueing the general by the specific, but acknowledge that the New York Times has a different tradition to what I'm used to.

8d owing [Seeing red?] - in debt, hence seeing red on bank statements etc; 19a Borg [Winner of 11 Grand Slam tournament titles] - Björn Borg of course; 14a say the magic word ["Please?" elicitor] - that's how it was done in my family too! 10d Edward II [Loser in the Battle of Bannockburn, 1314] - the result of this opening match was Scotland 1 England 0. 9d vice [Gambling too much, e.g.]; 4d OBEs [U.K. awards] - the Order of the British Empire is awarded at New Year and the Queen's Birthday (not her real one, her pretend one); 5d 'Nam ["We Were Soldiers" setting] - Vietnam is a reasonable guess in the circs.

1d Toyotas [Some hybrids] - can't escape those Prius ads on NPR; 11d root out [Find and destroy]; 13d wretch [Base person] - hey a base that isn't a reference to baseball; 23a educe [Infer from data]; 26a smiths [Forgers] - cryptic solvers get used to this sort of misdirection; 20a rôti [___ de boeuf] - hands up all those who thought of oeil first! 12a football widow [Partner of a certain rabid sports fan]; 3d ether [Clear sky]; 2d hot rod [Fast accelerator]; 16a Azores [Native home of the canary] - not the Canary Islands?

37a flip [Saucy] - in the sense of impertinent; 26d seep [Ooze] and 23d emit [Ooze]; 32a suet [Blood sausage ingredient]; 28a QE II [Ruler crowned in 1953, informally] is usually a short form of the ship Queen Elizabeth 2 - I've never heard anyone call her majesty this, even informally. 28d quiz [It can be frightening when one is popped] - guessed, because pop quizzes are not the done thing in the UK.

24a els [Local borders?] - the edges of "local" are els? 14d sarge [Base person?] - base 2 and still baseball doesn't get a look in? 21a goad [Goose] - in the sense of stimulate into action; 18a rotor [Wankel engine component] - it seems Mazda (name derived from Ahura Mazda, as we discovered on Sunday) is the greatest user of this technology in automobiles; 12d fazool [Italian beans, in a Dean Martin standard] - when the stars make you drool just like a pasta fazool that's amore.

So to my downfall. 22a port [Computer hookup point] looked secure and I correctly guessed 7d Elgart ["Hooked on Swing" jazzman Larry]; I was also happy with 19d bods [Figures, informally] - ie physiques. However, when I justifiably thought of 22d pair [See 25-Down], I thought it would split into ones not 25d exes [22-Down that has split]. I couldn't have known about 25a Eads [19th-century engineer with a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame] (James Buchanan Eads, inventor of the diving bell inter alia), but I should have thought much more carefully about the other wrong answer (a nis or an is or anis?) because I might eventually have got to 27a axis [Something to turn on] and henced cobbled together a correct grid.

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