Saturday, February 14, 2009

NYT Saturday 2/14/09 - No Love Lost

There's no love lost between the compiler and the solver, even on St Valentine's Day.

Magdalen has less patience than me with difficult puzzles and is liable to give up after half an hour or so. My limit is around 90 minutes and I had all but the NE block finished at that point.

I could tell, however, that I wasn't likely to make further progress. When I finally cheated to look up Irene, I felt that I'd been unfairly beaten on this occasion: that corner is really too dependent on an intimate knowledge of musicals and Irene would have been better clued otherwise.
Solving time: 90 mins (but had to google one answer)
Clue of the puzz: 1a egg [Unpleasant face covering]
A quick word on the grid: although the intersecting blocks of 15-letter answers are neat, the contortions this necessitates elsewhere contribute to the solver's difficulties: the NE and SW corners are particularly isolated. The average answer length - a guide to the difficulty the solver had with the fill - is somewhat less than in the more balanced grid for yesterday's puzzle.


Grid art by Sympathy

Compilers Joe Krozel / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 40 (17.8%) black squares
Answers68 (average length 5.44)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points276 (average 1.49)
New To Me

16a Irene [1973 musical for which George S. Irving won a Tony for Best Actor]. This was the clue that I had to cheat on to complete the puzzle. I'm comparatively ignorant of musicals, certainly those of Irene's vintage ...

18a I Love Paris ["Can-Can" song]. ... and here's why I was totally blocked in the NE corner. This song's in a Cole Porter musical.

28a roar [Emulate a woman, in "I Am Woman"]. Didn't know this, and but for rec'd at 31d, I'd have been happy with roam. I see this is something of an anthem for the women's liberation movement. It's a suprisingly bouncy number in this context:

5d Reluctant Dragon [1941 Disney film based on a Kenneth Grahame story, with "The"]. For a long time, I thought this must be something to do with Wind in the Willows, as I hadn't heard of this lesser known work before.

32d Mora [Third baseman Melvin]. A player for the Baltimore Orioles.

42d Che! [1969 Omar Sharif title role]. A biopic about Che Guevara.


1a egg [Unpleasant face covering]. Yes, to get "egg on one's face" is unpleasant - lovely clue to start the puzzle off with a bang.

4a Orff ["O Fortuna" composer]. Knew this as I sang it at university, but it didn't help as much as I hoped with the long down answers. Slightly odd to see just one of the movements singled out in the clue, but "Carmina Burana composer" would have been too easy for a Saturday, I suppose.

8a no MSG [Notice in a restaurant]. Very tough answer to get. I can't recall seeing any notices about monosodium glutamate, but this may be because we don't eat Far Eastern food much.

13a tort [Battery, e.g.]. I hope Magdalen solved this, as it's definitely her domain. To me it was just another delightfully misleading clue.

21a outer [Edgy?]. My first thoughts were sharp and honed. No, outer is just "more towards the edge".

22a Lett [Member of a NATO land since 2004]. I thought this answer might be a repeat of what we had a couple of weeks back, but that on its own didn't help break the log-jam in the NE corner.

23a step [Manual component]. I didn't get this until Magdalen explained: a manual might contain the instructions for how to make or do something in a series of steps.

27a ton [A long one is 12% "longer" than a short one]. Crazy but true:
ton(1) n (in full long ton) a unit of weight equivalent to 20cwt (2240lb or 1016kg);
(in full short ton) a unit of weight equivalent to 2000lb (907.2kg)
from The Chambers Dictionary
55a euro [Coin with 12 stars on both the front and back]. Why should 12 stars be the symbol of the EU? Because it's a number with no political connotations, a symbol of perfection and completeness, and it's ubiquitous as a number for groups in European cultures and traditions. Rather a shame it's not based on the number of states, as there's such fun to be had rearranging stars as new states are added!

57a ogre [Fee-faw-fum]. I knew ogres are liable to say this, but it took a dictionary the size of Webster's Third New International to convince me that "fee-faw-fum" can mean an ogre.

60a nsec [Minuscule part of a 34-Down: Abbr.] and 34d min. [See 60-Across: Abbr.]. A nanosecond is a billionth of a sec, so indeed a tiny part of a min.

61a HST [Surprise winner of 1948: Abbr.]. Harry S. Truman, right? More presidents than I thought have TLAs: why there's JFK, DDE, LBJ, maybe even RMN?

4d olio [Number between scenes]. I knew the general meaning of olio as a variety entertainment, but wasn't aware of this specific sense: Webster's Third New International has "vaudeville numbers performed usu. in front of the curtain between acts ...". I think the clue might have made more sense with the plural "Numbers".

8d nip [Autumn arrival]. As in, "there's a nip in the air". If there's any particular reason to use "Autumn" rather than "Fall", it's lost on me! A beautiful clue.

9d oral [Like some confessions]; 10d mere [Simple]; 11d snit [Tizzy]. I thought of true, pure and to-do before any of the correct answers - the multiple possibilities engendered by these clues was one reason the NE corner was so hard.

12d gest [Adventure]. I couldn't quite believe that we'd get a repeat of the obscure word from yesterday's crossword.

19d -ern [It follows directions]. As in "southern", "eastern" etc.

36d farad [F on a physics exam]. Another great clue.

47d teal [Cousin of a greenwing]. Surely a greenwing is a teal:
greenwing or green-winged teal n a small river duck (Anas carolinensis)
from Webster's Third New International Dictionary
50d One-C ["Currently serving" military designation]. Undoubtedly the most obscure clue in a puzzle replete with arcana. This seems to be the draft category in the Selective Service System for current members of the armed forces. Of course it would always be written 1-C, and this makes such answers a little unsatisfactory to my mind.

The Rest

15a Leo I [Fifth-century pope called "the Great"]; 17a area [Stat for a state]; 20a leak [Unexpected info source]; 25a clan [It's all relatives]; 26a UAR [Old Mideast org.]; 32a man-to-man defense [Aggressive guarding option]; 37a oncoming traffic [Bad thing to drive into]; 38a roll on the ground [What some dogs and flaming daredevils do]; 39a axel [Winter Olympics maneuver]; 40a don [Get into]; 41a acr. [From left to right: Abbr.]; 42a CRTs [Plasma alternatives, briefly]; 43a duly [As required]; 45a oath [It's taken in court]; 49a had to [Was compelled]; 51a soup [Added power, in slang]; 53a please go on ["Tell me more ..."]; 56a email [It's often filtered]; 58a Sgts. [Company V.I.P.'s: Abbr.]; 59a dally [Do nothing worthwhile];

1d et al [Citation abbreviation]; 2d gores [Tusks, e.g.]; 3d great-uncle [Lionel to Drew Barrymore]; 6d footlong hotdogs [They're sold in oversize rolls]; 7d Five and Ten store [Bygone emporium]; 14d take a toll [Result in serious damage]; 24d promo [Many an ad]; 28d refocuses [Shakes off new distractions]; 29d on furlough [Away, in a way]; 30d as in [Clarifying link]; 31d recd. [Invoice abbr.]; 33d an ox ["He eateth grass as ___": Job 40:15]; 35d erg [Tiny fraction of a foot-pound]; 44d yurts [Nomadic dwellings]; 45d op-ed [Piece of punditry]; 46d Alma [Book of Mormon's longest book]; 48d hail [Approve enthusiastically]; 52d post [Blog bit]; 54d sly [Apt to trick].

1 comment:

Magdalen said...

Yes, I got tort, and no, I didn't finish this, and yes, I got bored (as opposed to discouraged -- I'll finish a puzzle even if I'm discouraged, but once a puzzle bores me, I'm done).

I had to ask what CrosswordMan meant by TLA (three-letter-abbreviation). He pointed out that TLA is a TLA itself, to which I replied that I bet there's a word that means "a word that is itself a member of the class it represents." But I don't know what that word might be.

Which is really where CrosswordMan shines and I don't. He's read the dictionary (Chambers, as it happens) from start to finish several times (6? 8? something like that) for professional reasons. If his memory were better, he'd be scary. As it is, he's got a bigger vocabulary than anyone else I've ever met. My ex would be in the same class if it weren't that his memory is worse even than Ross's.