Monday, February 9, 2009

NYT Tuesday 2/10/09 - Around the World in 12 ______

This Tuesday crossword is a little out of the ordinary: there are a lot of theme answers, but these come from a fairly large pool of possibilities and don't need to be in a specific order. It's the sort of thematic fill which tools like Sympathy can really help with - you just need to make a custom dictionary containing the possible theme answers and assign that to the entries you want to make thematic.

From the point of view of solving, the puzzle seemed fairly tough for this early in the week, with some answers (Ero and haole, for example) whose obscurity befits a Friday or Saturday.
Solving time: 16 mins (no cheating)
14a afro [Bush not seen much nowadays]

A cruciverbal tour through 12 different countries and associated phrases. It was good to see no "fill in the blank" clues outside of the thematic ones, as it made for consistency. I'll comment on the relevance of the association:

1a Turkish bath - a misnomer, since they are not of Turkish origin (they were likely introduced from other Near Eastern states under Turkish rule).

5a Dutch treat - this may literally originate in Dutch etiquette.

20a Russian roulette - a recreation popularized by the Russian officers of the Tsar's court in the months before and after the 1917 Revolution.

22a Swiss cheese - a generic name for cheese resembling the Swiss Emmental.

34a Australian crawl - a step in the development of the modern crawl stroke, made by Australian champion Dick Cavill (1884–1938).

35a American elm - native in eastern North America, it once lined just about every street there until the pesky Dutch elm disease came along.

41a Italian ice - a non-dairy frozen dessert that would indeed seem to originate from Italy.

42a Canadian bacon - literally bacon from Canada, but also a Michael Moore movie.

55a Danish pastry - from Denmark, but it's more complicated than that! The specific style of pastry we call a "Danish" may have come from Austrian bakers brought into Denmark during a strike.

57a Portuguese man-of-war [___] - so called because its triangular air bladder looks like the sails of a Portuguese caravel.

66a French toast - its origins are unclear, and possibly not French - all I can say is that we called it eggy bread in our family. Do Americans still call it Freedom toast?

67a Spanish rice - a side dish unknown in Spain - it may instead originate from Mexican cuisine.


Grid art by Sympathy

Compilers John Underwood / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.79)
Theme squares62 (33.2%)
Scrabble points282 (average 1.51)
New To Me

19a X-Men [Superheroes battling the evil Magneto] - and if he's evil, he has to be played by a British thesp. Cue Sir Ian McKellen:

9d The Crow [Brandon Lee's last movie] - last because the actor was accidentally shot and killed during filming.

10d sixes [Boxcars] - why are boxcars called sixes? No, it's the other way round: a dice roll of two sixes is called a "boxcar" because the dots together approximate a boxcar's shape ... supposedly.

23d haole [Outlander in Hawaii] - this one caused some anxiety as it crossed
with 27a -aroo, which I also wasn't 100% sure of. haole seems to be the native word for a foreigner.

48d Ero [Leandro's partner in a Mancinelli opera]. Ero e Leandro - an opera so obscure that the English Wikipedia has no article on the composer and no article on the opera. Is this reasonable for a Tuesday puzzle?! Here's a relevant Italian Wiki page.


14a afro [Bush not seen much nowadays] - this certainly had me fooled - a wonderfully misleading definition.

18a ounce [Measure of prevention or strength?] - I just love this type of clue which ends up associating two quite different things.

27a -aroo [Buck's tail?] - a more cryptic way of doing the suffix thing. It made me think of scut, which then had to be changed.

38a OSU [The Buckeyes, for short] - thanks to the The Crucy League, this is the sort of clue that I now solve first, not last.

47a tel [Hill, in Haifa] - as in Tel Aviv ("Hill of Spring"). tel comes up a lot in advanced cryptic crosswords.
tell or tel n. in Arab lands, a hill or ancient mound formed from the accumulated debris from earlier mud or wattle habitations.
The Chambers Dictionary
49a poema [Spanish verse] and 51d vamos ["Let's go, amigo!"] - more vocabulary for Español para los crucigramistas, though being five-letter answers, they don't come up that often.

51a verismo [Operatic movement circa 1900] - originally a literary movement in Italy, that later influenced opera composers, notably Puccini. The Met's Madama Butterfly on March 7 is the HD simulcast we're most looking forward to this season. It's already sold out at Cinemark Moosic.

11d homestead [Locale for a pioneer family]. What little I know of homesteading comes from the signage about local hero Galusha Grow, "the father of the Homestead Act". He was educated at the Franklin Academy in our township.

The Rest

10a shod [Like horses' hooves]; 15a north [Toward the Arctic]; 16a Iowa [Sioux City's locale]; 17a soot [Lampblack]; 24a at times [Now and again]; 25a brass [Military pooh-bahs]; 26a nus [Preceders of xis]; 28a tam [Cap with a pompom]; 31a apse [Semicircular building extension]; 36a balsa [Light wood]; 39a evade [Skirt]; 44a I dos [Union agreements?]; 45a tee [Golf peg]; 46a L. Ron [Scientologist Hubbard]; 58a a lot [Very much]; 59a aroma [Appetite stimulant]; 61a -iana [Collector's suffix]; 62a café [Place to order a sandwich or espresso]; 63a ninon [Sturdy chiffon]; 64a emit [Put out]; 65a tsar [Ivan or Feodor].

1d Basra [Iraqi seaport]; 2d afoot [Going on]; 3d trout [Lake catch]; 4d hotlines [Crisis center connections]; 5d T-Notes [Govt. securities]; 6d routs [Licks soundly]; 7d erne [White-tailed eagle]; 8d ATC [Takeoff and landing overseers: Abbr.]; 12d owes [Is in the red]; 13d Dane [Hamlet, e.g.]; 21d emu [Part of the Australian coat of arms]; 25d Braun [Brand of razors and coffee makers]; 27d arson [Burning issue]; 29d Aldo [Fashion designer Gucci]; 30d Mmes [Ladies of Versailles: Abbr.]; 31d a bit [Not much]; 32d pace [Double time, for one]; 33d Sleep Sofa [Convertible]; 34d cocoa [Après-ski drink]; 37d abler [Better trained]; 40d vilifier [Slanderer]; 43d army ant [Tiny marcher]; 47d tenant [Kind of farmer]; 50d otter [Prized fur]; 52d swami [Hindu wise one]; 53d manic [Bouncing off the walls]; 54d orate [Speak before throngs]; 55d pact [Agreement]; 56d alas ["'Tis a pity"]; 57d Mona [Lisa with a "mystic smile"]; 60d Rio [Grande opening?].

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