Friday, February 27, 2009

NYT Saturday 2/28/09 - Tales from the Cryptics

crossword bloggersThis puzzle appeared on the evening of our arrival at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. We'd enjoyed the entertainment laid on, particularly the panel discussion on blogging, by five people who've been writing about crosswords for much longer than I have. From left to right in the picture: Rex Parker, Amy Reynaldo, Ryan Hecht and Brian Cimmet, Jim Horne.

Ryan and Brian are unique in also podcasting about crosswords and were to be seen doing interviews on and off throughout the weekend.

I also felt right at home solving a cryptic crossword as part of the informal games: we got to do one by masters of the US cryptic, Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon. I thought their cryptic crossword was my best hope of being highly ranked in any competition over the weekend, but the versatile Jon Delfin opted for the same combination I did of four 4x4 Ken-Kens plus the cryptic and secured the prize.

Cryptic CrosswordsIt was sad not to see Cox and Rathvon on the list of attendees, as I am a great fan of their Random House Guide to Cryptic Crosswords and would love to meet them.

So it was late when Magdalen and I got back to our hotel room and took a gander at the newly published New York Times puzzle. As Saturday puzzles usually take me more than an hour, we decided this was a good time for a collaborative effort ... and proved what a good team we make by polishing the thing off in well under half an hour.
Solving time: 22 mins (no cheating, solved with Magdalen)
Clue of the puzz: 17a garbage bag [Place for a tie]

Grid art by Sympathy

CompilersFrank Longo / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 32 (14.2%) black squares
Answers66 (average length 5.85)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points292 (average 1.51)
New To Me

1a Ebert [Hindenburg's predecessor as German president]. Just when I've learned Roger the film critic, the sneaky compiler chooses Friedrich, the president of the Weimar Republic.

16a Ripa [Gifford's talk-show replacement]. Another close call (I've encountered her co-host Regis Philbin because of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire). Here's their famous Hallowe'en edition:

42a essa [She, to Schiaparelli]. How come this isn't already in Español para los crucigramistas? Because it's Italian, not Spanish (the reference is presumably to the Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli). Further proof that Italian words aren't always clued with reference to opera.

61a Erma [Title aunt in a 1979 best seller]. My introduction to Erma Bombeck, writer of the "At Wit's End" column and author of the self-help book, Aunt Erma's Cope Book.

4d Rob Lowe [2001 Emmy nominee for "The West Wing"]. Still haven't got around to watching - sorry Bill. This Sam Seaborn clip will have to do for now:

ten31d ten [Phil Rizzuto, on the Yankees]. This isn't quite as obscure as I first thought: Phil Rizzuto's number is significant because it was "retired" from use by other players - Magdalen tells me you have to be a really good player for that to happen.

40d Seekers [Group with the 1967 #2 hit "Georgy Girl," with "the"]. The title song of a movie that I must have heard such a young age, it's hard to shake from my brain:

Zesta50d Zesta [Ritz rival]. Ritz is a big in the UK, but not Keebler - if you asked for saltine crackers in the UK, you'd get very puzzled looks.


Ecce Homo21a ecce [Biblical trial word]. As in ecce homo ("behold the man"), how Pontius Pilate introduced Jesus to the mob at his trial, according to St John's Gospel - an event commonly portrayed in art.

Nicholas Nickleby23a Rees [Roger of "Cheers"]. Supposedly that's his best-known role, but I can picture him better as an outstanding Nicholas Nickleby in the RSC stage adaptation.

25a tailor [One doing fitting work]. A neat piece of deception, although it didn't hold us up long for once.

38a Alec Guinness [Oscar winner for "The Bridge on the River Kwai"]. A bit of a gimme, as this is one of my favorite David Lean movies.

47a Elizabeth I [First holder of the title Supreme Governor of the Church of England]. The critical word is "Governor" - Henry VIII's use of Supreme Head was not tenable when protestantism was re-established by his daughter.

59a trike [Toy with tassels]. Ok, I can accept that tricycles sometimes have tassels - but does anyone know why?

60a Epps [Dr. Foreman's portrayer on "House"]. Know him well, because we're regular House viewers. I feel a strange connection with Hugh Laurie, as we were born within months of each other and both grew up in Oxford, England:

6d scena [Elaborate solo vocal composition]. According to my dictionary of music, a scena can either be an elaborate concert aria, not part of a larger work; or a solo operatic movement that's less formal than an aria ... such as Abscheulicher! from Beethoven's Fidelio:

34d alley-oop [Court crowd-pleaser]. And staying with Beethoven, here's Semi-Pro's version of how the maneuver came about:

The Rest

6a shad [Cousin of an alewife]; 10a TASS [Longtime name in news-gathering]; 14a donor [Drive participant]; 15a capi [Heads of Italy]; 17a garbage bag [Place for a tie]; 19a Ural [Magnitogorsk's river]; 20a Italian ice [Summer cooler]; 22a negotiates [Manages to get through]; 24a grew [Multiplied]; 27a electric blue [Hue similar to cyan]; 33a gal [Miss at a rodeo]; 36a on leave [Off for a stretch]; 37a STP [Brand of octane booster]; 41a slalom [Water-skiing variety]; 46a repo [Credit report tarnisher, briefly]; 53a ayes [Calls for passage]; 54a rule-makers [Governing group]; 55a node [Origination point]; 56a axis of evil [Epithet coined for the 2002 State of the Union address]; 57a gout [Toe trouble]; 58a tout [Recommend highly]; 62a a seed [Plant ___].

1d edging [The rough vis-à-vis a green]; 2d boater [Summer headgear]; 3d enrage [Bring to the boiling point]; 5d trait [Quality]; 7d habit [It might be kicked after being picked up]; 8d apace [With celerity]; 9d digestive [Like some tracts]; 10d true rib [Sternum attachment]; 11d air-cells [Alveoli, e.g.]; 12d space out [Enter la-la land]; 13d sales rep [Spiel preparer]; 18d gai [Cheerful, in Châlons]; 26d aces [Sports winners]; 28d logo [Stationery topper]; 29d enumerate [Count]; 30d CLI [Second-century year]; 32d ran [Headed up]; 33d gas range [Burner locale]; 35d leaped up [Executed part of a 34-Down]; 39d closets [Shuts up]; 43d Stevie [English poet Smith]; 44d shrike [Butcherbird or woodchat]; 45d aisled [Like supermarkets]; 48d Luxor [Locale of Theban ruins]; 49d ilium [Part of the body next to the sacrum]; 51d Amo [Catullus's "Odi et ___"]; 52d BAFTA [U.K. equivalent to an Oscar].

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