Monday, January 26, 2009

New York Times, Tue, Jan 27, 2009 Jim Hyres / Will Shortz

I was finally tripped up by today's puzzle, caught out by my ignorance of proper names. Mize crossing with Orrin sent me sprawling, as I knew of neither: I guessed Maze and Orran, because I thought it more likely that the compiler would have used a dictionary word than not.

Magdalen, who Knows Her Golf, got the puzzle right, but took slightly longer. I think under the ACPT rules, she'd have got better marks as there are stiff penalties for mistakes - and rightly so.
Solving time: 15 mins (no cheating, but two wrong answers)
Theme

Four phrases with the sound of "born" at the end:
17a Mille Bornes [Game with "Out of Gas" cards]
58a Jason Bourne [Robert Ludlum protagonist]
11d firstborn [Heir to a throne, typically]
33d wind-borne [Like the dust in a dust storm]
I hadn't heard of Mille Bournes, although Magdalen has played it. Was it ever marketed in the UK?

There's a fifth homonym bourn, and TEA even finds a 15-letter pitcher "Old Hoss" Radbourn that could have been used. But I'm not sure stretching the idea to include a fifth thematic entry would have improved the puzzle.

Solution


Grid art by Sympathy

Crucimetrics
Grid15x15 with 32 (14.4%) black squares
Answers74 (average length 5.22)
Scrabble points302 (average 1.56)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Wiki Clues

1a Capp [Li'l Abner creator Al]. The American cartoonist Al Capp is easily mixed up in my mind with the British cartoon character Andy Capp (how a Northerner, dropping 'is aitches, would say 'andicap).

11a FSU [Seminoles' sch.] - Florida State University, whose athletic teams are named after the Seminole tribe. A cheat sheet of University towns, states, nicknames and abbreviations would definitely come in 'andy.

14a Alou [Baseball's Moises or Felipe]. Felipe Alou and Moisés Alou are father and son.

26a Astor [Furrier John Jacob ___] - John Jacob Astor (1763-1848) was the first multi-millionaire in the US.

28a I, Robot [Classic Isaac Asimov short-story collection]. Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics first appear in this collection:
  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
34a Zales [Big name in retail jewelry] - America's diamond store since 1924 - the name derives from two of the founders, surnamed Zale.

37a Erik [Composer Satie] - probably best known for his piano compositions, The Gymnopédies.

41a Benin [Nation once known as Dahomey] - when countries change names, their International Vehicle Registration codes continue to reflect the old name. So Benin cars still show the letters DY. This is worth remembering if you're a cryptic crossword solver in the UK, since abbreviations feature strongly in the wordplay of clues (and IVR codes are very popular abbreviations).

61a Attlee [Former British P.M. Clement ___] - the Labour leader who defeated Winston Churchill at the end of World War II. Britain's publicly funded healthcare system, the NHS, was created during his time in power. The cost of self-funding healthcare is one of the few disadvantages of emigrating to the US.

62a Mize [Larry who won the 1987 Masters] - I wrongly guessed Maze here, as I didn't know this American golfer and didn't know the crossing Orrin.

63a ode [Poem of Sappho] - her poetry is all Greek to me :)

1d Camay [Bar soap brand] - a Procter & Gamble product, as is ...

7d Atra [Gillette razor] - a safety razor used by a lot of crossword compilers. Solving a difficult New York Times puzzle, we often feel like we've gotten a close shave.

8d Sônia [Braga of film] - a Brazilian actress - here she is singing of her love for driftwood:



27d Ramis [Harold of "Ghostbusters"] - he played Dr Egon Spengler in one of my fav movie comedies.

29d Okie [Depression-era migrant] - knew this as I read The Grapes of Wrath in my teens.

41d Bell Jar [Sylvia Plath novel, with "The"] - semi-autobiographical account of a descent into mental illness.

42d Magoo [Myopic Mr.] - Mr Magoo is also the pseudonym of a cryptic crossword compiler in the UK. The tradition of using pseudonyms dates back to very early compilers such as Torquemada. Inquisitorial or otherwise evil-sounding names were popular, although in recent times pseudonyms tend to be derived from the compiler's name or favorite hobby.

In the UK it's the norm for puzzles to be unsigned or published pseudonymously. Yet in the US, the compiler's real name is used - and I gather the use of a pen name is verboten in the New York Times. Why the difference?

Personally, I find pseudonyms more colorful and it's easier to remember that you like, for example, Arcturus puzzles, but find Sabre puzzles impossible. For the humor of the pseudonym itself, it's hard to beat Sue de Nîmes, Mr. E and Dumpynose!

44d Dew [Mountain ___ (soda)] - the source of many a trivia question: Mountain Dew has a significantly higher caffeine content than Coca-Cola.

50d Orrin [Sen. Hatch of Utah] - an incumbent senior senator - sorry I hadn't heard of you buddy.

Dici Clues

5a tea set [China shop purchase] - a somewhat unhelpful clue, since teapot and teacup were possibilities.

21a air taser [High-voltage weapon] - air tasers are now being marketed as an alternative to pepper spray for self-defense.

5d tab set [Typewriter formatting feature] - there was a time when having a "tab set" key on your typewriter meant you were at the cutting edge of technology.

18d eensy [___-weensy] - exactly the same answer and clue as yesterday - an eensy-weensy oversight?

Quicky Clues

15a act one [Play starter]; 16a its ["___ only money!"]; 19a rye [Certain whiskey]; 20a ankles [Spots for spats]; 23a yearned [Had a yen]; 25a agent [Word with double or free]; 31a Downy [Popular fabric softener]; 36a OK's [Gives the thumbs-up]; 38a demos [Some mailings to record execs]; 39a trip [Go sprawling]; 40a MSN [AOL alternative]; 42a manes [Horses' locks]; 43a sodded [Like newly laid lawns]; 45a sedan [Alternative to a station wagon or convertible]; 47a belie [Contradict]; 49a ragtops [Convertibles, informally]; 53a prowl car [Cop's cruiser]; 56a borrow [Check out of a library, e.g.]; 57a ear [Place for a plug]; 60a sin [Ugly as ___]; 64a reseed [Start over with, as a lawn]; 65a snip [Salon sound].

2d A-line [Flared dress]; 3d polka [Oompah band tune]; 4d pull rank [Exert one's superiority]; 6d eco- [Prefix with system or sphere]; 9d energies [Vigorous feelings]; 10d testers [Lab personnel]; 12d stye [Eyelid woe]; 13d user [Tech's customer]; 22d a no ["I'll take that as ___"]; 24d dozen [Dunkin' Donuts order]; 30d tsps. [Recipe amts.]; 31d Dems. [G.O.P. rivals]; 32d or so [Guesstimate phrase]; 35d loner [Asocial sort]; 38d dedicate [Devote wholly]; 39d tantrums [Rugrats' outbursts]; 46d dabbed [Applied gently]; 48d easts [Some bridge seats]; 51d Ponzi [___ scheme (investment scam)]; 52d sweep [Remove dust bunnies]; 53d peso [Colombian cash]; 54d raid [Drug bust, e.g.]; 55d role [58-Across, for Matt Damon]; 59d née [Bridal bio word].

1 comment:

Magdalen said...

I feel sheepish admitting this but I've only just noticed how clever the masthead for this blog is -- a block grid that is evolving into an American style grid. You're too smart!