Thursday, January 29, 2009

New York Times, Fri, Jan 30, 2009 Brendan Emmett Quigley / Will Shortz

Wow that was a tough one. Intersecting "meta" clues describe my feelings when hitting the brick wall of the bottom center and right (47a we're doomed!) and on completing the grid (47d we did it!).

What really annoyed me was the long answers that I would have died to know, but which a Brit couldn't realistically have heard of. For example, Seth Low, Matt Drudge, Larry David (OK, I suppose I could have known him). I managed to skirt round these unknowns and figure them out through cross-checking, but that does slow things down.
Solving time: 55 mins (no cheating)
9d skate [Work on one's figure, say]

Grid art by Sympathy

Grid15x15 with 27 (12.2%) black squares
Answers72 (average length 5.50)
Scrabble points319 (average 1.61)
Wiki Clues

19a Seth Low [Early 20th-century New York City mayor]. Is Seth Low well-known to Americans, or is the crossword compiler (not unreasonably) just being a little NY-centric?

22a Raj [Rule that ended in 1947] - also a sympathetic character on my fav sitcom Big Bang Theory - he's so shy he's unable to speak to women (especially beautiful ones) - I can relate to that!

23a Matt Drudge [Journalist with a widely read "Report"] - famous for being the first to break news of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

38a Jif [Peter Pan rival] - as usual, I'm at a disadvantage with brand names - I see Jif and Peter Pan are peanut butters.

39a Carr ["The Emperor's Snuff-Box" novelist John Dickson ___] - but I knew this author right away (if not the book) - he's famous for locked room mystery detective stories.

47a we're doomed [Cry when you don't think you'll make it] - also the catch-phrase of Frazer on the greatest ever BBC sitcom Dad's Army. Frazer was the dour Scottish undertaker who never failed to see the worst in any situation.

54d Mav [Big D cager]. A series of hurdles: cager is slang for a basketball player; Big D is slang for Dallas; the Dallas basketballers are the Mavericks, shortened to Mavs, so a Dallas basketball player is a Mav. Don't expect me to solve this sort of clue first - or at all!

Dici Clues

1a moth [Woolly bear, eventually] - a woolly bear is a large hairy caterpillar, especially that of the tiger moth.

15a INRI [Cross letters] - from the initials of "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" in Latin.

34a data [It may be mined] - "data mining" is extracting nuggets of useful information from large databases.

35a avisos [Warnings, to Juan] - oops, that one was missing from Español para los crucigramistas - it is now!

49a LTs [Some linemen: Abbr.] - LT = left tackle - more American football lingo to learn.

51a rips one [Hits a line drive] - I had no clue about this one, but Magdalen explained it was to do with baseball. I did go to see a Binghamton Mets game, but I can only take in so much information at once.

52a outside man [Gardener or landscaper] - this seems a tad obscure. I've found outside man in Partridge and the Oxford English Dictionary, but only as US slang meaning "a lookout man for criminals but particularly for a 'firm' of card sharps engaged in the three-card trick".

4d high treason [It has made many people lose their heads] - not height reason - the makings of a thematic puzzle?

5d actor [Person in an apron] - ie an apron stage - a nice clue that had me thinking of a cook, chef, even smith (which fitted the squares, but no crossing answers).

9d skate [Work on one's figure, say] - also a super clue - the figures of figure skating are the compulsory patterns such as circles, figures of 8 etc.

28d kit [Young fox] - had cub to start with, but young foxes can also be called kits.

34d digerati [Computer-savvy crowd] - a lovely word to get into the grid - coined in the 1990s, it has had time to make it into the dictionaries.

35d axolotl [Salamander variety] - another great word, which comes to us from the Nahuatl atl 'water' + xolotl 'servant'. Anytime an English word ends -tl, it probably comes from the Nahuatl.

37d in a stir [Excited] - couldn't get this right away, since in a spin was more tempting (but wrong).

Quicky Clues

5a Addis Ababa [City at the foot of Mount Entoto]; 16a crankcases [Sludge buildup sites]; 17a a log [Like falling off ___]; 18a terracotta [Brownish orange]; 19a Seth Low [Early 20th-century New York City mayor]; 21a att. [Many a defender: Abbr.]; 23a Matt Drudge [Journalist with a widely read "Report"]; 25a tiro [Newbie: Var.]; 26a avers [Maintains]; 27a pas [Not overseas]; 28a Kodak [___ moment]; 29a sere [Not at all wet]; 30a sob [Be visibly disconsolate]; 31a rib eye [Steakhouse order]; 32a Avon [Foundation maker]; 38a Jif [Peter Pan rival]; 39a Carr ["The Emperor's Snuff-Box" novelist John Dickson ___]; 43a Xenon [1980s Big Apple nightclub with a chemical name]; 44a sag [Mattress problem]; 45a scree [Cliffside detritus]; 46a on an [___ outing]; 47a we're doomed [Cry when you don't think you'll make it]; 49a LTs [Some linemen: Abbr.]; 50a Len [ESPN analyst Pasquarelli]; 55a Hite ["Women and Love" writer]; 56a triplicate [Some forms are filled out in it]; 57a Orem [City south of West Jordan on I-15]; 58a Larry David [1993 Emmy winner for "Seinfeld"]; 59a Pers. [Asian lang.].

1d miasmas [Noxious vapors]; 2d on leave [Ashore, maybe]; 3d trotter [Horse in harness];
6d drew upon [Tapped]; 7d Dar [___ el Beida (Casablanca, to its natives)]; 8d in rags [Destitute-looking]; 10d acct. [A.T.M. receipt abbr.]; 11d Bao [___ Dai (last emperor of Vietnam)]; 12d astride [One way to sit on a chair]; 13d beta ray [Tritium output]; 14d as a joke [Facetiously]; 20d LDS [Denom. with elders]; 24d dab [Touch]; 25d tobacco shop [Briar locale]; 30d SOS [911 call, e.g.]; 31d RAF [Org. involved in the gulf war]; 33d von [From, in some names]; 36d Ventura [Classic Pontiac]; 38d jar [Big bump]; 40d armoire [Dresser alternative]; 41d re-enter [Verify, as a password]; 42d redeems [Saves]; 44d Seneca ["Phoenissae" playwright]; 45d sop [Offering of appeasement]; 47d we did ["___ it!" (cry of accomplishment)]; 48d dined [Had a 31-Across, e.g.]; 50d lily [Asparagus's family]; 53d spr. [May days?: Abbr.].

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