Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New York Times, Wed, Jan 21, 2009 Fred Piscop / Will Shortz

Back to normal with a non-Obama-themed Wednesday puzzle? Superficially it seems so, but the mongrel theme echoes the remark Barack Obama let slip in his first news conference after the election: "a lot of shelter dogs are mutts, like me".

True to form, our shelter dog Mimi seems to be quite a mixture: there's American Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Rhodesian Ridgeback in there at least. We're thinking of getting a DNA test done, just to satisfy our curiosity.

Today's puzzle was replete with US cultural references - as full of culture as an organic yogurt: mostly things I didn't know; but some I'd learned about from previous puzzles and not recognized (Casey at the Bat again!). This made for a slowish solving time:
Solving time: 35 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 49d Oliver [Twist of fiction]

Non-pedigree puns:
Mongol Empire - 20a Mongrel Empire [Genghis Khan's non-pedigree domain?]
core curriculum - 38a cur curriculum [Non-pedigree essential courses?]
Mudville Nine - 57a Muttville Nine [Casey's non-pedigree team?]
My Solution

Grid art by Sympathy

Grid15x15 with 40 (18.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.74)
Scrabble points270 (average 1.46)
Wiki Clues

14a Teri [Polo on TV] - she has appeared in Northern Exposure and The West Wing. It's neat to put the proper name at the start of the clue, although I doubt many were fooled into thinking polo the sport is TV fodder.

16a Alfie [Jude Law title role]. I see he's also playing Dr Watson in a new Sherlock Holmes movie. I look forward to each new Holmes adaptation and wonder if any can surpass the Jeremy Brett series (in which Watson was played by David Burke and then Edward Hardwicke).

23a III [George ___, longest-reigning English king]. It's popularly thought that the play The Madness of George III was renamed The Madness of King George for the movie because American audiences might mistake the former for a sequel! Queen Victoria is still the longest-reigning English monarch.

25a one run [Narrowest winning margin in baseball]. Amazingly, the answer would be the same for my national game.

17a on an ["___ unrelated note ..."] - is Onan too indelicate to be clued in a New York Times puzzle?

32a Tyne [Newcastle's river] - easy for me as the place is called Newcastle upon Tyne in full. And I've been there. One of its claims to fame is the Gateshead Millennium Bridge (aka the winking bridge), which pivots to allow ships underneath.

44a Eco [Author of "The Island of the Day Before"] - Umberto Eco, more famous for The Name of the Rose, perhaps.

45a Matt ["___ Houston" of 1980s TV]. A crime drama starring Lee Horsley:

56a lap [Talladega unit] - a NASCAR race track. NASCAR is little-known in the UK - our motor sport of choice is Formula One.

57a Muttville Nine [Casey's non-pedigree team?]. This one held me up for ages, but I've no real excuse, as I came across Casey at the Bat on January 5th. This time I'm really going to listen to those immortal lines and take them in:

64a Ivan [Dr. Pavlov] - Ivan Pavlov was famous for his dog experiments of course.

65a lathe [Bat maker's tool] - baseball bats are usually made from ash, cricket bats from willow.

66a Alan [Pundit Colmes] - saw Alan Colmes on The Colbert Report the other night, but he left an indelible blank on my mind (perhaps because he seemed so tiny alongside Stephen).

70a ERAs [Bullpen stats]. Bullpen means baseball right? Specifically the exercise area for pitchers? They get measured by their Earned Run Average.

2d Renoir ["The Bathers" painter]. Bathers seem to have been a popular subject for Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Is this the one?

9d Sabin [Salk contemporary] - both developed Polio vaccines. Having seen the effects of the disease on at least two of my teachers, I'm very grateful to them.

11d after you [Words from Alphonse or Gaston]. Another new factoid for me - the characters seem to derive from a comic strip, and they're obviously just one of those things that Every American Knows.

12d Rio [Ipanema locale]. Ipanema is where the girls come from:

21d relics [Items in some illicit trade] - Saving Antiquities for Everyone is trying to raise public awareness of the trade.

22d police [Miranda rights readers] - the wording of the caution in the UK is a little different:
You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you fail to mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say will be given in evidence.
26d unum ["One" on a coin]. From E Pluribus Unum, which appears on the dime, for example.

27d net [Court divider] - we're not thinking courts of law here.

29d war [Cabinet department until 1947] - the United States Department of War.

36d duckie [Ernie the Muppet's rubber toy]. There's a brand new dance and it's got a reggae beat:

39d ultimate [Frisbee game involving body contact] - see What is Ultimate.

41d Lon [Chaney of "The Wolf Man"] - Lon Chaney, Sr., best remembered for horror roles.

49d Oliver [Twist of fiction] - referring to the Dickens novel, of course.

61d els [Ways around Chi-town]. During solving, I just read this as China-town and thought the clue referred to New York. Now I see that Chi-town is a nickname for Chicago, a place with a major El system.

62d Nat [N.L.'er since 2005] - baseball again! Player in the Washington Nationals, which was renamed after a move in 2005.

Dici Clues

18a dune [Buggy place?] - not referring to computer code, but the vehicle for driving on sand.

30a pal [Word after pen or gal] - pen pals and gal pals (met last Thursday).

43a stet [Margin marking] - editor's mark meaning "let it stand".

47a icy [Far from welcoming] - either the literal or figurative senses could apply here!

48a knobs [You can open with them] - nicely misleading clue.

54a p.s.i. [Letters on tires] - pounds per square inch.

61a enact [Put on the books] - in the sense of enacting legislation.

63a idea [Trial balloon, e.g.] - a sounding of opinion we get from the French ballon d'essai.

3d crania [Head cases?] - another great clue.

4d sing [Be a fink] - both slang terms for inform on - "grass on" is the equivalent in British slang.

7d line [Singles bar delivery] - in the sense of a chat-up line - neat clue.

30d party [Kegger, e.g.] - keggers wouldn't be understood in the UK.

34d lutist [Elizabethan ballad player, maybe] - lute players can also be called lutenists or lutanists.

54d pleas [Results of some bargains] - referring to plea bargaining.

55d slant [Apply spin to] - in the figurative sense of biasing information.

59d idle [On one's duff] - "duff" in this sense isn't so recognizable in England. There "duff" means "pudding". Wait a sec! "pudding" in that sense isn't recognized in the US. Let's just say "duff" is British for "dessert".

60d nite [Time on a marquee] - the simplified spelling of night familiar from displays over movie theaters. In the UK, "marquee" means a big tent.

Quickie Clues

1a arcs [Electrical bridges]
5a cels [Disney output, once]
9a scarf [Winter warmer]
15a exit [Place to pay a toll, perhaps]
19a baton [4 x 100 meters need]
24a est. [Round fig.]
28a crawl [Rush hour pace]
33a ail [Be indisposed]
35a amid [In the thick of]
37a out [So last year]
42a all [Monopolist's portion]
52a odious [Repugnant]
67a tend [Be disposed (to)]
68a steer [Burgers on the hoof]
69a lest [For fear that]
1d atomic [Like superprecise clocks]
5d cedes [Hands over]
6d exult [Jump for joy]
8d stem [Pipe part]
10d claret [Bordeaux wine]
13d fen [Place for reeds]
31d am i ["___ losing it?"]
38d clad [Decked out]
40d rec. [Nonacademic school activities, informally]
42d amo [Latin 101 word]
46d touché ["You got me!"]
50d banana [Potassium source]
51d spends [Goes on a spree]
53d utter [Out-and-out]
58d vial [Baby bottle?]

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