Thursday, January 22, 2009

New York Times, Fri, Jan 23, 2009 Barry C. Silk / Will Shortz

Friday's New York Times crossword was notable for a couple of reasons. It was the first Friday puzzle I could solve in under half an hour - yay! It could be that I'm getting better, or more likely that this crossword played into my strengths (Shakespeare references for example).

This was also the first pangrammatic grid of the year - every letter of the alphabet appears at least once. If you suspect that a grid is going to be pangrammatic you can take advantage of that in the final stages - in this case, I was solving so fast that I didn't notice what was going on until after I'd put down my pencil.
Solving time: 25 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 46a top story [Opening for an anchor]


Grid art by Sympathy

Grid15x15 with 28 (12.7%) black squares
Answers70 (average length 5.63)
Scrabble points329 (average 1.67)
Wiki Clues

1a Alabama [Creek Confederacy tribe] - it's typical of a Friday puzzle to clue a very familiar answer in an unfamiliar way. In this case, the Alabama people after whom the state is named.

8a Grisham ["The Appeal" novelist] - I guess John Grisham's a strong contender for any book that sounds like it may involve legal matters.

15a Molotov [Two-time foreign minister of the U.S.S.R.] - a mixologist of sorts, he's famous for organizing the production of those improvised grenades Molotov cocktails.

16a Renault [Clio maker] - I had a big advantage here, as this little French-made car is a familiar sight on English streets.

17a The African Queen [Film with the line "By the authority vested in me by Kaiser William II, I pronounce you man and wife. Proceed with the execution"] - Magdalen and I had a little dispute about the significance of these lines. She was right: they were said to Charlie (Bogart) and Rose (Hepburn) in the final moments of the film, when the happy couple ask the captain of the Louisa to marry them before they are hanged.

22a Ont. [Home of Sault Ste. Marie: Abbr.] - this place in Canada sure comes up a lot in crosswords. It's not quite at the unwelcome guest stage, but I feel a stifled yawn coming on.

30a Alonso [King of Naples in "The Tempest"] - for once a king has comparatively little to say in a Shakespeare play.

39a Nazarene [Jesus, Mary or Joseph] - ie Nazareth was their home town.

55a AARP [U.S. org. with over 39 million members] - you have to be 50 to join the American Association of Retired Persons. I'm 49 so it'll soon have over 39 million and one members.

56a Magic Carpet Ride [Fantastic flight] - a hit for those heavy metal pioneers Steppenwolf:

62a St John's [Big East team with six N.I.T. basketball championships] - if this clue were in Dutch it would have been about as helpful to me. OIC, St John's is one of New York City's universities. I guess I just have to learn these universities, especially the ones in the Big Apple!

2d Lohan ["I Know Who Killed Me" actress, 2007] - Lindsay Lohan.

5d ATF [Justice Dept. division] - the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - that covers a world of sins.

12d Huey [U.S. military chopper] - this helicopter's nickname supposedly derives from one of the early model designations HU-1, not the duckie nephew.

18d CIA Director [George H. W. Bush, once] - strange but true.

40d REO [Franklin contemporary] - two early and now long defunct American automobile manufacturers.

48d Faith [Hill in Nashville] - here she is singing There You'll Be from Pearl Harbor.

49d Arden ["As You Like It" setting] - the Forest of Arden is right by Shakespeare's birthplace.

52d Mali [Where Bambara is spoken] - they didn't make this up.

55d Arlo [One of a comic-strip married couple] - from the Arlo and Janis strip. Jimmy Johnson has a blog too.

58d Taj [Atlantic City hot spot, with "the"] - a casino resort.

Dici Clues

38a aero [Prefix with marine] and 27d ires [Ticks off] - I had to reach for an unabridged dictionary (Webster's Third New International Dictionary) to justify these. aeromarine isn't on most people's lips and ire as a verb is uncommon. I paused a long time before dismissing irks and akro - it seems aero should have been given an easier clue in view of the difficulties here.

44a accent [Evidence that one is an alien] - guilty as charged!

46a top story [Opening for an anchor] - excellent clue - I got stuck thinking of hawseholes and the like for a very long time.

48a FAO [Toy store inits.] - FAO Shwartz the Manhattan toy store of course. For a long time, I misread their initials as FAQ, but I know better now.

51a amah [Asian au pair]. Easily confused with ayah. The former comes from the Portuguese ama 'nurse', the latter from the Portuguese aia 'nurse'; how did we get into this mess? I spent the first year of my life in Malaysia and I'm told I had an ayah to help care for me.

60a exalted [August] - the initial capital nicely disguises the adjectival definition.

4d boas [Givers of unfriendly hugs] - a beautifully whimsical clue.

14d mtns. [Chain links?: Abbr.] - calling mountains "links" seems a little strained.

23d res. [Apt., e.g.] - ie abbreviation for "residence".

24d eso [Panamanian pronoun] - OK, I didn't even both trying to solve this. eso is "that" in Spanish, the main language in Panama.

Quicky Clues

19a oars [Equipment for strokes]; 20a said a [___ lot (was telling)]; 21a eyes [Observing things]; 23a retailer [Recipient of a trade discount]; 25a secede [Withdraw]; 26a skimp [Not be generous]; 33a in horror [One way to recoil]; 35a wore [Sported]; 36a dirty [Ill-gotten]; 41a paused [Like some DVDs in DVD players]; 43a smoke [Burning evidence]; 54a an out [Have ___ (not be trapped)]; 59a fleecer [Cheat]; 61a misfire [Ignition problem].

1d am too [Childish comeback]; 3d alert [Word often preceded by a color]; 6d Morse code [A ham might use it]; 7d aviate [Focus on one's approach, say]; 8d gradient [Inclination]; 9d renal [Kind of artery]; 10d inq. [Govt. probe]; 11d sauerkraut [Frank request]; 13d alee [One way to turn a ship]; 25d sneak thief [Lifter]; 28d more [Glutton's desire]; 29d prod [Driving tool]; 30d awns [Beards]; 31d loam [The good earth?]; 32d orzo [Pasta eaten with a spoon]; 34d hypertext [Web connection means]; 37d in a snare [Trapped]; 42d any [Word with longer or minute]; 45d coupes [Body types]; 47d pacer [Apparently anxious person]; 50d op-eds [Subjective pieces]; 51d AM/FM [Switch letters]; 53d ages [All ___ (words on a game box)]; 57d CCI [Third-century year].

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