Saturday, January 3, 2009

New York Times, Sat, Jan 03, 2009 Peter Wentz / Will Shortz

My third day of trying to solve the New York Times crossword on my own and I'm beginning to become despondent, maybe even lose hope. I seemed to be going along so well for a while, but had to call for the cavalry in the form of my wife Magdalen right at the end.

26d Hawkins ["Treasure Island" hero] - Jim provided a helpful way in for me. This is one of my favorite books, enjoyed more as an adult than as a child I think. Passages like this make me yearn to find the inn at the start of the adventure:
Just at the door the captain aimed at the fugitive one last tremendous
cut, which would certainly have split him to the chine had it not been
intercepted by our big signboard of Admiral Benbow. You may see the
notch on the lower side of the frame to this day.
From Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Another inspired guess 60a cousins [People who may be removed] helped get me started in the bottom right. 49a anode [Current terminus], 44d Ed Asner [Santa Claus player in a 2003 comedy] followed - I mostly know him from Lou Grant, which made it to the UK, 43d low tide [When some sea creatures are exposed] and 53a swam [Participated in a pool, say] - my first thought was gambling - followed easily.

I had an advantage with 63a Kiki Dee [Singer of the 1974 hit "I've Got the Music in Me"]: in editing a cryptic puzzle, I once changed the answer "kike" to "Kiki" and then clued it with reference to the singer. Even though dictionaries may include vulgar and offensive words, there seems to be a general agreement that these don't belong in crosswords. As it turned out, "Kiki" still offended the many solvers who hadn't heard of the singer!

A teaspoon seemed about right, so 57a tsp. [About 20 pinches: Abbr.]. My wife, the arch-cook, seems to have at least one of every culinary item known to woman. However, this Christmas she did get something new from Hub 1.0: measuring spoons comprising a dash, a pinch and a smidgen. I can see this coming in very handy.

45d Dempsey ["Honey, I just forgot to duck" speaker] was a guess - apparently Jack Dempsey said this to his wife on losing the World Heavyweight title to Gene Tunney. 42a whiled [Passed pleasantly]. 30d mocha [Latte variety], 30a Mayan [Like the Topoxte archaeological site] and 12d evil eye [Supposed bringer of bad luck]. 56d Luke [Patron saint of surgeons] seemed likely in view of the many St Luke's Hospitals there are. Then I got 61d sin [You might pay for it later]; 65a scenery [Stage production] - clue didn't ring true with me, but could it be anything else?; 52d stoic [Immovable type]; 48d quacks [They treat people badly] - ie quack doctors.

55a Nahuatl [Language of central Mexico] I could guess from the ending as it was one of the etymologies in a recent Listener Crossword. "chocolate" comes from the Nahuatl chocólatl and I for one am very grateful for it; we also have an atlatl (another Nahuatl word) for throwing tennis balls for Mimi to fetch.

47a seq. [The following: Abbr.] - as in et seq. (short for et sequens), and what follows. 51a Venus [Magellan visited it] - knew this would be some planet visited by the probe and now only one fitted. 36d lose hope [Become despondent] fixed 35a Nell [Mistress of Charles II] which could otherwise have been Gwyn (all I remember about Nell Gwyn is that she sold oranges). 51d,41d value menu [With 41-Down, cheap fast-food offerings].

Now I could start on the top left. 32d ELO ["Eldorado" grp.] was a guess - Electric Light Orchestra in long; 24d slanted [Not on the level] - a nice clue capable of multiple interpretations; 28d every [___ other]; 27a sidle [Move stealthily]; 31a Mojave [Setting for Joshua trees] - Yucca brevifolia.

2d cheerio [English toast]? Like maybe 70 years ago!! I've never heard anyone use it as a toast and only know of it from literature. On the other hand "cheers!" is still used as a toast, though much more to just say "thank you". Helpful advice from your British travel guide: don't use "cheerio" as a toast in an English pub.

1d Sikhism [It rejects the caste system and idolatry] - I've not heard it described thus before, but seemed a plausible answer; 17a keyword [Database search option]; 3d Hey Mr DJ [1993 hit for the R&B duo Zhané] - a guess but right for once. Hence 23a irrs. [Clothing store bargain fodder: Abbr.] - irregulars; 19a hem [Border line?]. 4d law [Counselor's area] - it sometimes helps to have a lawyer in the family. 5d iron [Hard stuff] calls to mind those lovely lines of Christina Rossetti which we heard more than once in the last few weeks:
In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen,
Snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.
Now it was time to broach the top right. I couldn't be sure of 26a Hebe [Greek goddess of youth] until I had 13d wine bar [Bouquet setting] - wine bouquets may be savored there. 14d saddens [Gets down] - "down" and "blue" are both nicely misleading possibilities for "sad". Hence 22a led [Surpassed].

Into the final stretch with 62a frame-up [Potential cause of a wrongful conviction]; 59d EMF [Energy expressed in volts: Abbr.] - electromotive force; 64a fat-free [Made with 39-Down, maybe] - guessed, as I wasn't destined to solve the clue referred to. 58a Othello [Noted Venetian army general] is presumably noted because of the Verdi opera Otello - one of my favorites and I have a great recording of it with Jon Vickers in the title role.

Good thing 55d NLer [Giant, e.g., briefly] was checked by other answers I knew as these American football references are still a bit of a mystery to me. 38a coatroom [Where things get checked]; 38d came off [Appeared (as)] - still not convinced by this one, but it seems to be right. 46a alley [No place for a big rig] - quite so; 50a meld [Mixture].

Now a last push in the top half. 8a ABC News ["America This Morning" outfit] - a guess, but I'm starting to learn the limited options here; 9d booze [Hard stuff] - the other kind; 16a Moravia [Region south of Silesia] - guessed; 18a you mind? [Curt comment to an ogler] - I'd have thought "do you mind?" more common. Hence 11d 'Nam [1986-93 war-themed Marvel Comics series, with "The"] - see The 'Nam. Positing 20a neo jazz [Hard bop, e.g.] gave 10d cruz [Cristiano symbol] - still a mystery.

21d joke [Cause for winking]; 29a aka [Record letters]; 25a erode [Dwindle, as support]; 33a empowers [Permits] - corrected from allowers; 34d paw [Nail site]; 8d Amy Adams [2005 Best Supporting Actress nominee for "Junebug"] - a likely looking name which Magdalen later confirmed. So 37a sack [Can] - both slang for firing someone.

This is about where I ran into the buffers after an hour or so. Magdalen was itching to help me out, and she came through with 1a Schlitz [Brewer Joseph] - Joseph Schlitz is a Milwaukee-based brewing company apparently; 7d Zadora ["Butterfly" star, 1981] - both the actress and movie are new to me. This allowed me to complete 15a I hear ya' ["Comin' through loud and clear"] which I already had the first five letters of. 6d Tyree [David who caught a key pass in the 2008 Super Bowl] - local hero Chris Snee is about the only American football player I can remember at this point.

Magdalen also knew 39d Olestra [Ingredient in some chips], the fat substitute and suggested 54a -est [Suffix that may appear in a record] - a record-breaker might have the fast-est, long-est etc. 40d all that [Something great, informally] arrived en passant and I was very glad of it as I can't think of where I've heard this used before.



Solving time: about 60 minutes (but had to resort to the wife for help)

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