Monday, January 19, 2009

New York Times, Tue, Jan 20, 2009 Tim Wescott / Will Shortz

Congratulations to President Obama on his Inauguration Day. And kudos to the American people for electing him. As a non-citizen, I can't vote in US elections; I can still vote in UK parliamentary elections, but British politics seems increasingly remote to me.

Here is our outsize button (badge in UK parlance) celebrating the inauguration, with Barack Obama surrounded by the 43 previous presidents. It has turned out to be a handy reference when solving puzzles of various kinds.

Today's crossword was (and this won't surprise many) a tie-in with the inauguration. It was straightforward, even for a Tuesday one. It seems appropriate that it should be on the easy end of the New York Times spectrum, with no regular solvers being excluded.
Solving time: 18 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 30a ion [It's not free of charge]


The 44th President of the United States is alluded to in various ways:

1. The campaign slogan YES WE CAN in a circle

2. Four long entries:
20a Audacity of Hope [Book by 52-Across, with "The"]
52a President Obama [Oath of office taker on 1/20/09]
3d Leader of America [52-Across, starting 1/20/09]
11d campaign rivalry [52-Across had one with John McCain]

The compiler did well to find these four, which all interlock - the last one feels just a little less relevant, but I doubt one could do better.
3. Shorter entries that were thematically clued:
16a dais [Setting for an Inaugural Address]
17a star [Representation of a state on the U.S. flag]
25a senate [Former body for 52-Across]
27a enrobes [Dresses like a justice]
39a Oval [___ Office];
41a bar [52-Across once passed it, with "the"]
2d in turn [Through regular order of succession]
29d/36a Joe Biden [52-Across's number two]
37d Ill. [Home state of 52-Across: Abbr.]
My Solution

Grid art by Sympathy

Grid15x15 with 36 (16.2%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.97)
Scrabble points304 (average 1.61)

Not knowing for sure what was ahead, I started with 1a dill [Pickle flavoring]; 4d lira [Old Italian money] - Italy adopted the Euro in 1999; 1d dosage [Medicinal amount]; 7d Toby [Sir ___ Belch of "Twelfth Night"]; 8d Cleo [Nile queen, informally] - as in Carry on Cleo? I understand that the Carry On films didn't travel well to the US, unlike Benny Hill, for example.

18a Mabel [Silents actress Normand] - a Chaplin co-star:

6d abates [Lets up]; 5a batch [Sheetful of cookies]; 9d half seen [Not fully noticed]; 5d be mine [Valentine candy message] - one of the messages on Love Hearts, which I enjoyed as a kid - "candy, be mine ... mmm"! Sweethearts is American for Love Hearts. 15a Ebola [Nasty virus] - a generally fatal pathogen.

19a Emma [Jane Austen novel] - and a 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow movie; 10d odeon [Ancient Greek theater]; 10a octa [Eight: Prefix]; 13d as a [Solid ___ rock]; 22d hew [Chop]; 29a Jew [Synagogue-goer] - not necessarily? 30a ion [It's not free of charge] - neat clue; 26d enow [Sufficient, once] and 38a snow [Winter forecast] cross at the W - is it a bug or is it a feature?

24a NNE [Opposite SSW]; 21d CNBC ["Mad Money" network]; 31a orc [Hobbit's enemy]; 28d oral [Transmitted by speech]; 14a One I ["The ___ Love" (hit by 42-Across)] - R.E.M.'s first hit single; 23a GRE [Test for coll. seniors] - Graduate Record Examination; 34a sofa [Crash site?] - another nicely misleading definition; 34d sort [Variety]; 35d overpaid [Spent too much (for)]; 42a R.E.M. [Rock band fronted by Michael Stipe]; 48a trench [You can dig it].

56a laic [Not of the cloth]; 56d LVI [This clue's number in Roman numerals]; 62a Idas [Actress Lupino and others] - Ida Lupino; 49d necks [Parts of bottles]; 59a Vick [QB Michael] - the football player suspended for his involvement in a dog fighting ring; 43d CCs [What secondary recipients of e-mails get]; 43a cel [Cartoon collectible]; 36d beehives [1960s hairdos]; 33d Esau [Biblical birthright seller]; 12d time to go [Cry just before leaving]; 33a Eggo [Frozen waffle brand] - one of a several answers that have been repeated within a few days (but this can be excused, given the constraints of the tie-in).

60a elite [Upper echelon]; 53d Dell [Big name in computers]; 57a VE Day [May 8, 1945]; 44d innate [Natural]; 54d Edie [Actress Sedgwick] - the actress associated with Andy Warhol; 63a sleet [Winter forecast] - same clue, different precipitation; 45d not yet ["Maybe later"]; 50a now ["___ what?"]; 44a intuits [Senses]; 41d B-Two [Kind of bomber] - a stealth bomber; 46d tamale ["Hot" food]; 58a alas ["Oh, woe!"].

55d Baer [1930s boxing champ Max] - haven't we met before? 64a ryes [Bakery loaves]; 61a Erle [___ Stanley Gardner] - lawyer and author of detective stories; 47d stases [Equilibria] - a useful plural for crossword compilers; 51a vat [Vintner's container]; 32a Poe ["The Bells" poet] - a not inappropriate reference at this time of year:

Hear the sledges with the bells -
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells -
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
from The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe
32d PDF [Suffix for many a computer attachment] - the clue suggested a peripheral at first, but I eventually realized we were talking file formats - the Portable Document Format; 40a elf [Hobbit's friend] - not ent, which I had to start with.

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