Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New York Times, Wed, Jan 14, 2009 Oliver Hill / Will Shortz

Today's post has a little more color: the solution images are made using Sympathy with cell colors to show low frequency letters; I'm also presenting some grid statistics, for which Magdalen coined the term "crucimetrics". More about this in a separate posting.

The Wednesday puzzle proved slightly more challenging, but I was pleased to record another time under thirty minutes. We met an experienced ACPT-goer earlier in the week and he pointed out that you only get half an hour to solve each puzzle: so I have some work to do - 55 minute solving times just won't cut it!
Solving time: 28 mins (no cheating)

This puzzle used a "reversal" technique I encountered a couple of times during last year's more casual solving: the answer is the clue and the clue is the answer; and it's the clue words that are related in some way, in this case, by sounding the same:
always in poetry [E'er]
monarch to be [Heir]
Bronte's Jane [Eyre]
snobbish manner [Air]
My Solution

Grid15x15 with 37 (16%) black squares
Answers74 (average length 5.08)
Scrabble sum302 (average 1.61)

For once I could make a start in the top left with 13a Carlton [Ritz-___ hotels]; 1d octa- [Prefix with -gon]; 17a The Lark [It's "ascending" in a Vaughan Williams piece] - VW was brilliant at evoking pastoral scenes and this is a beautiful example; 14d llano [Grassy plain], specifically in South America - is that where the llamas llive? 21a 'N Sync [Justin Timberlake's former group] - OH NO NOT AGAIN!? The first time it was mysterious, the second time I was pleased to recall it, the third time, it's as monotonous as a stereotypically bad professor.

4d stays [Holds back] - as in a stay of execution? 5d horsy [Equine]; 4a shu [Moo ___ pork] - will have to try this next time at a Chinese restaurant; 6d unkindness [Bad behavior] - what you get from a group of ravens, apparently; 3d drew [Chose, as lots]; 1a odd ["That's ___ ..."]. 2d Dahl [Actress Arlene] - guessed, as I don't think I've seen any of her movies - here she is on What's my Line:

9d Renee [Actress Zellweger] - she I know as the brilliant portrayer of Bridget Jones. 19a always in poetry [E'er] - the first inklings of the theme; 10d terracotta [Flowerpot material] - literally "baked earth" in Italian; 22a mesa [Badlands sight]; 8d axiom ["Lost time is never found again," e.g.] - one of Ben Franklin's best. 15a exegete [Expert at interpreting a text] is a favorite word, not least for its distinctive vowel pattern - here are some of TEA's suggestions for its buddies with the other vowels:
A - Alabama (the Heart of Dixie)
I - inimici (Latin for enemy, as in inimicus inimici mei amicus meus est)
O - oloroso (kind of Sherry)
U - Umuduru (place in Nigeria)
16d gets at [Subtly suggests]; 7a tar [You don't want it beaten out of you] - I thought it would be something else, but it was one letter too long; 7d temp [Sub at the office]; 18a mineral [Contents of a lode].

11d otay [Buckwheat's affirmative] is the kind of clue that gives me trouble - it's not just culturally specific to the US, it's also dated. Would younger solvers born in the US have encountered otay except in a crossword? Since I'm here to learn, I'll look out Our Gang clips:

12d eel [Electric ___]; 10a toe [A minimus is the smallest one] - only the smartest peeps can become doctors because you have to know this stuff; 39a Tom [Uncle of fiction] - Harriet Beecher Stowe is on my assimilation reading list; 43a Too ["Winnie the Pooh and Tigger ___"] - a Disney movie; 28a acid [Inspiration for Hunter S. Thompson], ie LSD; 30d demos [Autos for test-driving]; 29d iBook [Bygone Apple laptop] - now replaced by the MacBook; 46a yaks [Talks one's head off].

I had a leg up with 57d reed [One of two in a 47-Across] and 47a oboe [Instrument you blow into], as I earned the oboe as a kid - it's impossible. 56d Etna [Highest European volcano]; 65a lad [Pip at the start of "Great Expectations," e.g.]; 59a imitate [Ape]; 51d Amman [Capital of Jordan]; 32a monarch to be [Heir]; 35d hue [Orange or plum]; 34d can [Fire]; 38a eau [La mer, e.g.]; 27d Great White [Man-eating shark] - famous from Jaws; 64a ENE [Cincinnati-to-New York dir.]; 45a set [Not budging]; 50a swale [Low-lying wetland].

61a tanline [It may be hidden under a shirt] - nice word to get into a puzzle; 46d Yentl [Isaac Bashevis Singer story "___ the Yeshiva Boy"] was a scary clue, until I realized this story was made into the movie with Barbara Streisand. 31a ovo- [Egg: Prefix]; 24d overt [Flagrant]; 36a men [Dudes]; 23d combo [Money-saving restaurant offer]; 40a Bronte's Jane [Eyre]; 32d mat [Hair lacking care] - thought mop initially, but I guess that can be cared-for; 33d owe [Be in the red]; 37a awe [Blow away].

23a como ["___ te llamas?" (Spanish 101 question)] - "What's your name?" - nothing to do with the woolly beasts of the llano; 25d monotonous [Like a stereotypically bad professor]; 41d nobody [Nonentity]; 44a Otto ["Beetle Bailey" dog] - the January 5 clue in reverse; 63a Ste [Sault ___ Marie] - another popular clue; 60a gruyère [Cheese for French onion soup]; 58d FGH [Alphabet trio] - a very ugly answer; 62a He's ["___ Mine" (1957 hit by the Platters)] is another case where I need to be educated:

58a foodies [Zagat's readers, informally] - I learned about Zagat ratings very early in my US life from eateries like Bitar's in Philly; 53d sore [Peeved]; 53a snobbish manner [Air] calls to mind this lovely clerihew:
Peter Pears
Needn't give himself airs
He has them written
By Benjamin Britten
by Jacques Barzun

48d Obies [Off-Broadway awards] - the singular is Obie (not Oby); 49d Ebert [Critic Roger] - a film critic I've never heard of, but then how many Americans have heard of Barry Norman? 52d Laine [Singer Frankie] - associated with High Noon, although he didn't sing the soundtrack song itself:

42d Jess [Boxer Willard defeated by Jack Dempsey for the world heavyweight title] - Jess Willard is also new to me; 54d I see ["Gotcha"]; 55d nail [Ace] - as in "secure conclusively"; 26a Dag [Hammarskjöld of the U.N.] - second UN Secretary-General; 20d NCAA [Elite Eight org.] - not surprising this was my last answer as it has to do with college basketball - National Collegiate Athletic Association.

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