Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New York Times, Thu, Jan 15, 2009 Patrick Blindauer / Will Shortz

Another puzzle I was able to solve in a reasonable time, though the number of guesses I had to make was alarming.
Solving time: 40 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 7d an I [What causes Fred to be fired?]

"break-in", ie split a phrase into two answers between the I and the N of IN:
Josephi/ne Baker
mandari/n orange
rain rai/n go away
stumbli/ng block

A neat entry method that I don't recall seeing before. The full thematic answers were all of 14 letters split into two seven letter entries and this resulted in a grid of two halves, with little connectivity between the two.

My Solution

Grid15x15 with 42 (18.9%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.82)
Scrabble points300 (average 1.64)

43a Elmo [Sailor's saint] was my starting point - "St. Elmo's fire" makes it easy to remember the patron saint of sailors. 16d Ballad ["The ___ of Reading Gaol" (Wilde poem)] was another gimme for me: my last house in the UK was just outside Reading and I saw Reading Gaol many times from my train window - it doesn't look to have changed much since Wilde's day.

23d Brer [Word before Rabbit or Fox] - from the Uncle Remus stories; 24d sine [Trig ratio]; 38a break-in [Burglary ... or a hint to 17/18-, 26/29-, 47/51- and 62/63-Across] didn't help me much until I worked out 26a; 27d Akela ["The Jungle Book" wolf] - remembered from my time as a cub scout:
On the leaders signal (raising and lowering arms), the Cubs squat down, hands between feet
All Cubs: Akela, we'll do our BEST.
Spring to feet
Leading Cub: Cubs! Do your BEST
All Cubs: We WILL do our BEST

31d Greta [Scacchi of "Presumed Innocent"]; 50d insist [Be emphatic]; 32d empty [Drain]. 26a/29a mandarin orange [With 29-Across, tangerine] suggests how the theme answers are treated and allows me to put IN around the blocks in the other three cases. 47a rain rain go away [With 51-Across, wet-day wish] is then straightforward. 28d Naomi [She renamed herself Mara, in Scripture] - bitter treatment by God called for a name change; 21a ebbs [Goes back]; 33a aka [Nickname preceder]; 22d barb [Zinger] - as in a lively retort. 34a Rent ["One Song Glory" musical] - a guess in my case:

I hadn't heard of 40d Inga [Actress Swenson of "Benson"] either, but I was confident of all the crossing answers. 41d nook [Hiding place]; 54a Saki [Literary pen name] - changed from Elia; 59d lobs [High balls?]; 39d kens [Grasps] ken and grasp both mean understanding, but it's not clear the plurals get used much; 35d Taz [Looney Tunes nickname] - short for Tasmanian Devil; 45a Zeno [Paradoxical fellow] - the guy who came up with all those paradoxes, such as:
Achilles and the Tortoise: In a race, the quickest runner can never overtake the slowest, since the pursuer must first reach the point whence the pursued started, so that the slower must always hold a lead.
52d aisles [Where shopping carts are pushed]; 70a amasses [Gets together]; 63d NSA [Code crackers' org.]; 67a sure bet [Can't-miss proposition] - changed from my first assumption, safe bet; 48d rumbas [Relatives of cha-cha-chas]; 69a sot [Lush]; 1a begorra! [Irish interjection] - Irish for "by God!"; 3d gash [Nasty wound]; 5d R.I.P. [It may be written in stone] - nicely misleading; 6d rah [Rallying cry?]; 4d obeyed [Minded] - as in "was attentive to"; 17a Josephine Baker [With 18-Across, "J'ai Deux Amours" singer] - here she is singing that song:

14a Arabian [The Black Stallion, e.g.] refers to a movie of that name. 2d Eros [One taking a bow?] - the little guy in Piccadilly Circus is apparently not Eros, but his playmate Anteros. 1d Baja [Mexican peninsula] - I learnt this from crossword puzzles; 25a Edel [Pulitzer-winning biographer Leon] - literary critic born in Pennsylvania - yay! 7d an I [What causes Fred to be fired?] - inserting an I makes FRED into FIRED - wordplay that might have come straight from a cryptic clue.

19a ashy [Whitish]; 10d robber [Person holding things up?] - nicely misleading; 20a sublets [Extended vacationers may take them]; 9d pseudo [Fake]; 11d peke [Chow alternative]; 12d a set [Play ___ (do some tennis)]; 13d tors [Rocky peaks]; 11a pat [One way to get something down] - as in "have something down pat"; 8a spr. [Part of some resort names: Abbr.] - ie short for springs. 62a stumbling block [With 63-Across, temporary setback].

64d gum [Bazooka, e.g.] is the sort of clue that really holds me up as this is not a UK brand; I really must spend some time scanning the candy aisle in Wegmans. 65d bra [Word with sports or training] refers to "sports bra" and "training bra"; 60d ICEE [Summer cooler] - another brand that's new to me; 61d mkts. [Trading places: Abbr.] - ie markets; 58a slim [Gracile]; 44d on-ramps [Cloverleaf component]; 55a sesames [Chinese chicken flavorers] - another dubious plural; 57d sulk [Be ill-humored]; 55d SSgt [Mil. rank] - short for Staff Sergeant.

66a gal pals [Baby shower attendees, often] is a nice coinage that hasn't made it into any of my dictionaries (yet) - what's the male equivalent? 68a tsk ["Shame on you!"]; 56d ETAs [Some guesses, for short] - estimated times of arrival of varied reliability; 53a ruin [Crush]; 49d Aiello [Danny of "Ruby"] - another guess as Danny Aiello is unfamiliar.

Thinking of 26d Mayer [Early film executive] was essential as 37a yeo. [U.S.N. clerk: Abbr.] - short for "yeoman" in a naval rank - is very obscure. 36a dorm [Rice pad] - another university that can appear to be something else at the start of a clue (must make a list of these); 30d nohow [Slangy negative]; 42a hep [Viral inflammation, informally] - ie hepatitis; 46a Ott [12-time baseball All-Star] - Mel Ott; 15a Eso Beso [Paul Anka hit that made it to #19] - "that kiss" in Spanish; 8d Sen-Sen [Longtime breath freshener] - a brand so ancient that even Magdalen hadn't heard of it.

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