Sunday, January 11, 2009

New York Times, Sun, Jan 11, 2009 MAKING HISTORY David J. Kahn / Will Shortz

I again solved today's New York Times puzzle jointly with Magdalen and we enjoyed a theme close to our heart - the historic election of Barack Obama.

The two-letter abbreviations for states really are a gift to thematic crossword compilers. If there was an OCW (Order of the Crossworld) I would certainly wish it on the guy who came up with AL thru WY.

It's not just the uniformity of the abbreviations that can be exploited: the well-defined order of entry into the union presents opportunities. I recall at least one Listener Crossword that required you to transform answers on this basis.

TEA Crossword Helper tells me that the longest word you can make from the two-letter state abbreviations is CA-CO-GA-LA-CT-IA - a medical term for the production of bad milk.

We also liked the many clues that set out to mislead (and succeeded in most cases), including our:
Clue of the puzz: 84d opiates [Numbers?]
After yesterday's trip to the cinema to see the New York Met's HD simulcast of La Rondine - a rather modest Puccini effort - it was fun to see two other references to the maestro in this puzzle.

First 68a Madama [Butterfly's title] - we're excited beyond belief about the March 7 broadcast of Madama Butterfly as it's Puccini at his best, in an outstanding production which we saw in London.

Then 64d O mio ["___ babbino caro" (Puccini aria)], referencing the standout aria from Gianni Schicchi, an opera I'm not yet familiar with, but probably should be. Here's the lovely Kiri to sing it for you:

All this reinforces an impression I'm getting: if an answer's in Italian then it has to be clued with reference to opera - suits me!

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