Tuesday, March 31, 2009

NYT Wednesday 4/1/09 - You Could Have Fooled Me

I've been tipped off that tonight's Jeopardy! will have a category "New York Times Crossword Puzzle" with video clues presented by Will Shortz. I gather these clues are from tomorrow's Brendan Emmett Quigley puzzle. Given today's date, I wonder whether this is a leg-pull, but we're going to record the program and see.

Word Play companion bookToday's puzzle seems to be fairly light as April First puzzles go. I'm still working my way through the Wordplay Official Companion Book and that features a Byron Walden puzzle from April 1, 2004 where all the theme answers are upside down. Today's compilers managed to fit in an impressive number of misnomers: clues with apparently straightforward answers, but you'd be a fool to think so today!
Solving time: 24 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 55a tilde [Part of São Paulo]

12 misnomers for April Fool's Day:
18a Breed's Hill [Where was the Battle of Bunker Hill fought?]
29a steer [What animal does a bulldogger throw?]
37a Ecuador [In what country are Panama hats made?]
41a Mary Ann [What is George Eliot's given name?]
47a sheep [From what animals do we get catgut?]
59a New Zealand [In what country are Chinese gooseberries produced?]
3d orange [What color is the black box in a commercial jet?]
7d Stewart [What is actor Stewart Granger's family name?]
31d Utah [The California gull is the state bird of which state?]
34d dogs [For what animals are the Canary Islands named?]
43d avocado [What kind of fruit is an alligator pear?]
49d eleven [How many colleges are in the Big Ten?]

Ed Stein and Paula Gamache
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersEd Stein and Paula Gamache / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 37 (16.4%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.82)
Theme squares78 (41.5%)
Scrabble points287 (average 1.53)
New To Me

gas log42a gas log [It'll keep the home fires burning]. This was the last answer I filled in. I felt very uncomfortable making a guess here, as 39-down could have been anything; considering all the letters, gas log seemed most likely and it seems this is a term for the gas fireplaces that have fake logs.

Arthur Ashe Stadium43a Ashe [Queens's ___ Stadium]. Something Every American Knows, I suspect, but I have to learn these things. Arthur Ashe Stadium is the equivalent of Wimbledon's Centre Court.

12d Cal ["Silent" prez]. Coolidge was known as "Silent Cal" because of his taciturnity in private life. Dorothy Parker, seated next to the future prez at a dinner, said to him, "Mr. Coolidge, I've made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you." His reply: "You lose." This clip shows he was only fooling:

36d Eres Tú [1974 Mocedades hit]. An inspired guess on my part: Eres Tú is "you are" in Spanish and was Spain's entry in the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest.

USIA39d USIA [Former Voice of America org.]. I was confident of all but the second letter here and felt reassured when gas log resulted in an answer starting US. The United States Information Agency oversaw Voice of America from 1953 to 1999, but its broadcasting functions have now been taken over by the Broadcasting Board of Governors.


Ship of Fools5a Bosch ["Ship of Fools" painter]. An appropriate reference given the date of publication: the painting shows prodigal humans wasting their lives by playing cards, drinking, flirting, solving crosswords etc. instead of spending it in "useful" ways.

maple sap24a sap [Drain]. I had tap here at first and it took a while to see that sap and drain are equivalent in the verb sense of "to remove sap/energy from". Lots of folks round here make maple syrup at this time of year: it takes 10 gallons of sap to make a quart of syrup.

52a least [Smallest]. I confidently wrote weest in here, proud of knowing how to spell that surprising superlative.

tilde55a tilde [Part of São Paulo]. A neat clue which I saw through easily enough; but Magdalen was less lucky and didn't realize the "part" was the accent.

Bobby Orr6d Orr [Bruins' retired "4"]. One of the 100 Essential Words in Cruciverbalism - thank you Stanley Newman! Bobby Orr is one of the greatest (ice) hockey players of all time.

46d Emilio [Actor Estevez]. I know Emilio Estevez as one of the Brat Pack. More recently he has played Jed Bartlett as a young man. This clip seems particularly appropriate today:

48d Hi-de-Hi! [Cab Calloway phrase]. I know Minnie the Moocher mainly through Wodehouse:

Panther Crossing57d Nash [He wrote "If called by a panther, / Don't anther"]. Could anyone other than Ogden Nash have written those lines? Here is the complete poem:
The panther is like a leopard,
Except it hasn't been peppered.
Should you behold a panther crouch,
Prepare to say Ouch.
Better yet, if called by a panther,
Don't anther.
The Panther by Ogden Nash
The Rest

1a biol. [Frog-dissecting class: Abbr.]; 10a mace [Riot queller]; 14a rare [Pink, maybe]; 15a Ortho [Lawn care brand]; 16a alas ["Such a pity"]; 17a e-mag [Slate, e.g.]; 20a annuls [Makes invalid]; 22a Washo [California Indian tribe: Var.]; 23a dogma [Seminary teaching]; 25a agate [Cousin of a cat's-eye]; 30a trou [Drop ___ (moon)]; 32a Alma [Soprano Gluck]; 33a edit [Get copy right]; 35a tender [Money]; 44a aril [Seed cover]; 45a Seve [Golfer Ballesteros]; 54a moc [Soft shoe, briefly]; 56a ionic [Column style]; 58a rudest [Putting up the greatest affront]; 63a eves [Times to call, in some want ads]; 64a free [Unoccupied]; 65a side A [Deejay's interest, typically]; 66a heli- [Port opener?]; 67a labs [Family dogs, for short]; 68a hoots [Very funny happenings]; 69a inst. [The "I" in M.I.T.: Abbr.].

1d breads [Challah and baguettes]; 2d I am not! ["You are so!" preceder]; 4d legume [Pea, for one]; 5d bobs [Short cuts]; 8d cheapo [For next to nothing, in slang]; 9d hods [Brick carriers]; 10d mahogany [Reddish brown]; 11d Ali [Clay, today]; 13d ESL [Adult ed. class, often]; 19d sha [___ Na Na]; 21d Laredo [Rio Grande port]; 24d stir [Recipe verb]; 26d Alda ["M*A*S*H" star]; 27d T-men [Eliot Ness and others]; 28d earn [Bring home]; 37d egal [Not différent]; 38d care [___ package]; 40d all sizes [Nobody too big or too small, on a sign]; 41d msec [Fraction of a tick: Abbr.]; 50d Edsels [Ford failures]; 51d pet-sit [Take care of a neighbor's dog, say]; 53d toe [Piggy]; 58d RDAs [Nutritional amts.]; 59d NFL [Cowboys' org.]; 60d era [Cold war ___]; 61d web [Site for a site]; 62d net [Site for a site].

Monday, March 30, 2009

NYT Tuesday 3/31/09 - Brae-marred

The choice for theme letters in Tuesday's New York Times puzzle didn't look promising, but the compiler surprised me by producing a Biblical forename (Reba) and a vegetable I didn't recognize (rabe). Despite these curveballs, I managed a respectable solving time and made no mistakes.
Solving time: 11 mins (no cheating)

Phrases containing words that are anagrams of BRAE:
20a broccoli rabe [Bitter-tasting vegetable]
32a Running Bear ["Young Indian brave" in a 1960 Johnny Preston #1 hit]
41a bare minimum [Least acceptable amount]
54a Reba McEntire [Country singer with a hit sitcom]

Allan E. Parrish
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersAllan E. Parrish / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.92)
Theme squares46 (24.6%)
Scrabble points304 (average 1.63)
New To Me

Torre16a Torre ["The Yankee Years" co-writer]. A new way to clue the manager of the New York Yankees from 1996 to 2007. Joe Torre's co-writer was the sportswriter Tom Verducci - you're not expected to know him.

40a Kix ["Kid-tested, mother-approved" cereal]. I just love cereal commercials.

William Saroyan5d Saroyan ["The Human Comedy" novelist William]. I'd heard of William Saroyan, but didn't know the work. It's an uplifting book about a 14 year-old boy growing up fatherless in World War II.

7d Lori [Actress Loughlin of "90210"]. From the title, I thought 90210 must be a sci-fi show. No, it's a teen drama named for the Beverly Hills zip code. Lori Loughlin plays the mom who works as a fashion photographer.

Shriner13d fez [Shriner's topper]. After reading the Wikipedia article on Shriners, I'm not really much the wiser. I could say the same about Freemasonry as a whole.


3d trios [The Dixie Chicks and the Dixie Cups]. I knew the answer from the Dixie Chicks, which Magdalen and I are both fans of. The Dixie Cups were a trio of songstresses from an earlier era.

10d Corea [Jazzman Chick]. Chick Corea is a jazz pianist who came to prominence after joining Miles Davis's early jazz fusion bands in the 1960s. He formed his own group in that vein called Return to Forever.

25d Tatum [10-year-old Oscar winner O'Neal]. I saw Paper Moon as a kid and was charmed. Tatum O'Neal is still the youngest actor to win an Oscar.

34d Nixon ["Frost/___," 2008 nominee for Best Picture]. The versatile Michael Sheen, who plays David Frost in the movie, is also well-known for playing Tony Blair and Kenneth Williams.

The Rest

1a HTTP [Internet address starter]; 5a sole [Shoe part]; 9a scuff [Shoe mark]; 14a Eire [Where Donegal Bay is]; 15a avow [Declare frankly]; 17a rain [Word after "ppd." on a sports page]; 18a rare [Like a 1943 copper penny]; 19a Arnaz [Desilu co-founder]; 23a sashays [Steps nonchalantly]; 24a plates [Common commemorative items]; 28a Ala. [Mobile's state: Abbr.]; 29a Odie [Garfield's foil]; 31a alp [The Eiger, for one]; 36a tie [Even up]; 37a at it [Arguing loudly]; 38a EOE [Abbr. in a help wanted ad]; 39a Ruhr [Essen's region]; 45a eco- [Prefix with tourism]; 46a ohms [Resistance units]; 47a meg. [Unit of RAM, for short]; 48a Sandra [Actress Bullock]; 50a opiates [Morphine and codeine, for two]; 57a lived [Dwelt]; 60a Moet [___ & Chandon Champagne]; 61a Obie [Village Voice award]; 62a amigo [Baja buddy]; 63a frau [Munich Mrs.]; 64a neck [Make out]; 65a spasm [More than a twitch]; 66a Men's [Macy's department]; 67a IRAs [S&L offerings].

1d herbs [Rosemary and thyme]; 2d tiara [Princess' topper]; 4d penchant [Strong liking]; 6d ovals [Cameo shapes]; 8d ewer [Vessel by a basin]; 9d stabler [Less likely to collapse]; 11d urn [Subject of a Keats ode]; 12d fra [Monk's title]; 21d Cali [Colombian city]; 22d Apia [Samoan port]; 26d Elihu [Peace Nobelist Root]; 27d sperm [___ whale]; 29d oboes [Slender woodwinds]; 30d deem [Consider]; 32d rakes [Landscapers' tools]; 33d Utica [City in New York's Mohawk Valley]; 35d germ [Listerine target]; 39d rigatoni [Tubular pasta]; 41d boredom [Yawn inducer]; 42d Ahab [Melville's obsessed whaler]; 43d impetus [Driving force]; 44d nein [Deutschland denial]; 49d dregs [Bottom-of-the-barrel stuff]; 50d ocean [Great blue expanse]; 51d Tiber [River of Rome]; 52d Erica [Author Jong]; 53d seeks [Is in the market for]; 55d AM-FM [Like most car radios]; 56d more [Oliver Twist's request]; 57d Las [___ Cruces, N.M.]; 58d imp [Handful for a baby sitter]; 59d via [Itinerary word].

NYT Monday 3/30/09 - Go Forth and Multiply

Monday marked the end of our brief UK trip: we departed for the airport in such haste that there was no time to view that day's New York Times crossword - it wasn't till after about 23 hours of traveling that I could tackle the puzzle.

So it was a relief to see the welcoming byline of Andrea Carla Michaels and fill the grid in short order. It seems to me that I barely paused for breath in taking 7 minutes to write in the letters, yet there are some solvers who can accomplish that feat in under 3 minutes - how it's done is still a mystery to me!
Solving time: 7 mins (no cheating)

Phrases involving multiples, increasing down the grid:
17a single occupancy [Small hotel room specification]
27a Double Indemnity [1944 thriller with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck]
47a triple layer cake [Baked dessert with lemon filling, maybe]
62a quadruple bypass [Serious heart surgery]

Andrea Carla Michaels
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersAndrea Carla Michaels / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.79)
Theme squares60 (32.1%)
Scrabble points313 (average 1.67)
New To Me

5a Emil [1928 Oscar winner Jannings]. It seems the Swiss-born Emil Jannings won the Oscar for two films: The Way of All Flesh and The Last Command. I don't think that could happen now. In common with many other actors, his Hollywood career ended with the arrival of talkies.

Empire State Building16a Leona [Late hotel queen Helmsley]. Leona Helmsley (1920-2007) was a billionaire hotel operator, nicknamed "The Queen of Mean". Her real estate empire at one time included the Empire State Building. She was convicted of tax evasion and other crimes in 1989.

37a Edie [Falco of "The Sopranos"]. Edie Falco plays Carmela Soprano on the hit series.

Ad astra per aspera38a astra [Ad ___ per aspera (Kansas' motto)]. Literally "through hardship to the stars". Many variants on the wording are in use, such as Per Ardua Ad Astra, the motto of the Royal Air Force.

58a Celia [Oliver's love in "As You Like It"]. I know the "seven ages of man" monologue, but not these characters. Strangely, we had come across a frieze based on the seven ages in Alnwick the day before:

Seven Ages of Man


26d Omar [Poet Khayyám]. At school I lodged for a term with a retired master who always woke me up with these lines from the Rubaiyat:
Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight;
And lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.
From the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam translated by Edward FitzGerald
Pledge of Allegiance44d I pledge [Start of a daily school recital]. British kids are spared an oath of allegiance to the monarch. There is a statutory requirement to hold a daily act of collective worship, but this is apparently ignored by the majority of secondary schools.

The Rest

1a jamb [Side of a doorway]; 9a armed [___ and dangerous]; 14a Esai [Actor Morales]; 15a Reno [Western locale called the Biggest Little City in the World]; 20a Tae-Bo [Modern workout system]; 21a whir [Fan sound]; 22a SOS ["Hel-l-lp!"]; 23a Als [Capone and Pacino]; 25a goo [Sticky stuff]; 36a itty [___-bitty]; 39a GTE [Former AT&T rival]; 40a Spencer [Princess Diana's family name]; 42a -ial [Suffix with president]; 43a aerie [Eagle's nest]; 45a Ajax [Trojan War hero]; 46a anni [Years, in Latin]; 50a lat. [Partner of long. in a G.P.S. location]; 51a sac [Small pouch]; 52a She ["___ sells seashells by the seashore" (tongue twister)]; 54a tack [Bulletin board fastener]; 65a verge [Brink]; 66a euro [Continental money]; 67a Toni [Author Morrison]; 68a creed [Words to live by]; 69a Xena [TV's warrior princess]; 70a SSTs [Former jets to J.F.K.].

1d jest [Words said in fun]; 2d Asia [Where India is]; 3d mane [Lion's hair]; 4d big baby [Chronic whiner]; 5d ere [Before, poetically]; 6d meow [Cat's plaint]; 7d inch [1/12 of a foot]; 8d loci [Graph points]; 9d alp [Swiss peak]; 10d reasons [Deduces]; 11d mono [Not stereo]; 12d encs. [Letter attachments: Abbr.]; 13d day [When the sun shines]; 18d loll [Laze about]; 19d urge [Impulse]; 24d seep [Ooze]; 27d dig at [Probe persistently]; 28d otter [Stream critter]; 29d uteri [Wombs]; 30d ideal [Like a score of 10 for 10]; 31d ninja [Japanese fighter]; 32d decay [Go bad, as teeth]; 33d I, Tina [Singer Turner's autobiography]; 34d trank [Drug that calms the nerves, slangily]; 35d Yalie [New Haven collegian]; 40d Sela [Actress Ward]; 41d exes [Old flames]; 46d accepts [Opposite of refuses]; 48d et tu ["___, Brute?"]; 49d racy [Bordering on pornographic]; 52d suer [Litigant]; 53d hare [Tortoise's race opponent]; 55d apex [Peak]; 56d Clue [Word in many a Nancy Drew title]; 57d Kern ["Show Boat" composer Jerome]; 59d Laos [Neighbor of Vietnam]; 60d isn't ["Money ___ everything"]; 61d as is [Sale tag caution]; 62d QVC [Shopping channel]; 63d red [Scarlet]; 64d boa [Feathered neckwear].

Sunday, March 29, 2009

NYT Sunday 3/29/09 - Tower Blocks

Magdalen and I solved the Sunday New York Times on a bright morning in North Queensferry before heading back to York. It seemed to take us about half an hour: encountering a new rebus square stalled us briefly, but usually allowed another two letters to be written in the symmetrical position, speeding things up elsewhere.

Alnwick CastleFor variety, we chose the east coast route for our return journey to York: it offers intermittent views over the Firth of Forth and the North Sea. We broke for lunch at Alnwick (prounounced ANNICK), whose famous castle is now even better known as a location used in making the Harry Potter movies. The castle was still closed for the winter, but one of our servers at lunch described how she'd been an extra.
Solving time: 30 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 61a ad in [Deuce follower]

118a Eiffel Tower [Landmark inaugurated 3/31/1889]. Its shape is suggested by nine rebus squares containing the initials ET ("and" in French, as referenced by 67-Across). The main theme answers are:
26a An American in Paris [1951 Oscar-winning film whose title suggests a visitor to the 118-Across]
45a Château Lafite [Wine enjoyed by 26-Across, maybe]
67a The French Connection [1971 Oscar-winning film whose title is hinted at nine times in this grid]
52d café-au-lait [Morning refreshment for 26-Across?]
55d patisserie [Napoleon's place, frequented by 26-Across?]
French words were used for several of the answers crossing rebus squares:
93a etude [Chopin's "Butterfly" or "Winter Wind"]
95d étagères [Snow globe holders]
117d etre [To be abroad]
121d etui [Pins and needles' place]

Elizabeth C. Gorski
Grid art by Sympathy

CompilersElizabeth C. Gorski / Will Shortz
Grid21x21 with 79 (17.9%) black squares
Answers142 (average length 5.10)
Theme squares89 (24.6%)
Scrabble points553 (average 1.53)
New To Me

29a Crowe ["Cinderella Man" co-star, 2005]. Cinderella Man was the nickname of heavyweight boxing champ James J. Braddock. The movie is inspired by his story and includes the legendary fight with a boxer that frequents crosswords: Max Baer.

31a Tomei [Actress Marisa] and 37d Lumet ["Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" director, 2007]. I've grouped these two clues, as Marisa Tomei stars as the finance director's wife in this Sidney Lumet movie:

York Mint Patty88a mint patty [York product]. Not the York we were headed back to, but York, PA - birthplace of York Mint Patties. Pennsylvania is rich in its associations with chocolate companies and I'm looking forward to "learning" more about them.

92a Tama [Author Janowitz]. Tama Janowitz is one of the four "brat pack" authors. Slaves of New York is based on her 1986 collection of short stories .

123a a Tail ["Shake ___ Feather" (1967 hit)]. Originally a hit for The Five Du-Tones, the song has been covered numerous times, notably by Ray Charles in The Blues Brothers:

Raspberry Beret4d Prince ["Raspberry Beret" singer]. A Raspberry Beret might protect you from Purple Rain.

9d Eric [Playwright Bogosian]. Eric Bogosian's 1987 drama Talk Radio, about a Cleveland-area shock jock, was made into a movie.

15d Ned Rorem ["Bertha" composer]. Bertha is a one-act opera - a little-performed parody of Shakespeare's history plays, intended for children.

28d Nerf [___ ball]. Nerf is a soft foam that's used to make balls of various sizes that are safe for indoor use.

58d Arn [Royal son of the comics]. Arn is the firstborn son of Prince Valiant and Queen Aleta in the Prince Valiant comic strip. I didn't know that - would anybody?

102d Horton [Fictional elephant]. I wasn't brought up on Dr. Seuss so have some catching up to do. Horton is voiced by Jim Carrey in the Horton Hears a Who! movie.


22a Elektra [Strauss opera]. Richard, not Johann. Elektra is a great opera, but not the best introduction to Strauss: its intense music is as demanding on the audience as on the soprano singing the title role.

Judy and Liza56a Liza [One of Judy Garland's girls]. A round-about way of cluing Liza Minnelli.

61a ad in [Deuce follower]. This should have been obvious, but I kept thinking of trey - a neat clue.

The Rest

1a adaptor [Electrical gizmo]; 8a beach [Umbrella locale]; 13a sunspot [It's got magnetic pull]; 20a go broke [Lose one's shirt]; 21a Aretha [1986 self-titled album whose cover was Andy Warhol's last work]; 23a arrives [Achieves success]; 24a liner [Queen Mary, e.g.]; 25a endears [Makes lovable]; 30a eye on [Keep an ___]; 34a sell for [Bring at market]; 40a RSVPs [Answers, quickly]; 44a ABA [Legal org.]; 50a oop [Alley ___]; 51a botches [Messes up]; 53a rumor ["___ has it ..."]; 54a compote [Fruity bowlful]; 57a Goa [India's smallest state]; 59a dets. [Police dept. employees]; 60a dab [Tiny application]; 62a as of [Beginning]; 63a INRI [Letters on a cross]; 65a aura [Mystique]; 66a toot [Binge]; 73a aaa [Fine rating]; 74a e-ticket [Modern traveler's purchase]; 75a C is [Sue Grafton's "___ for Corpse"]; 76a accursed [Doomed]; 81a NCR [Co. that makes A.T.M.'s]; 82a glossily [How photography books are usually printed]; 87a thole [Gunwale pin]; 91a Henie [Skating star Sonja]; 94a reset [Adjust, as a clock]; 96a ran a [___ temperature (was feverish)]; 97a aspish [Venomous]; 99a seethe [Bubble over]; 103a anises [Licorice-flavored seeds]; 105a tatted [Like a lace collar, maybe]; 107a Tahoe [Geographically named S.U.V.]; 108a agreed ["I'm with you!"]; 109a hes [Cock and bull]; 110a area [Surveyor's measure]; 112a ser. [Rev.'s address]; 113a Elea [Philosopher Zeno of ___]; 114a cap [Jockey's wear]; 116a onset [Beginning]; 121a eons [Some collars and jackets]; 122a leer [Dirty look]; 124a O'Hare [United Airlines hub]; 125a unci [Hook-shaped parts of brains]; 126a mdse. [Inventory: Abbr.]; 127a lyres [Cousins of zithers]; 128a no-nos [Taboos]; 129a ides [Midmonth date].

1d aga [Turkish title]; 2d d'Or [Palme ___ (prize at Cannes)]; 3d abra [Start of a spell]; 5d tovarich [Soviet comrade]; 6d Okemo [___ Mountain (Vermont ski resort)]; 7d resew [Mend, in a way]; 8d Bali [Tourist haven east of Java]; 10d Aetna [Insurance giant]; 11d Chen [Julie of "The Early Show"]; 12d Hari [Mata ___]; 13d seepy [Poorly drained]; 14d ulnae [Arms runners?]; 16d skeins [Knitter's stash]; 17d PTAs [Class-conscious grps.?]; 18d Orr [Peace Nobelist John Boyd ___]; 19d TAs [Prof.'s helpers]; 27d rest [Dormancy]; 31d tabla [Small drum of India]; 32d oboist [Orchestra member]; 33d matzoh [Square meal component?]; 35d eer [Suffix with election]; 36d laud [Hail]; 38d Flos [Andy Capp's wife and others]; 39d oar [Rowing trophy]; 41d voodoo [It may be bewitching]; 42d potion [It may be bewitching]; 43d spent [Dog-tired]; 46d hegiras [Long flights]; 47d as one [In concert]; 48d I care [Words of empathy]; 49d tobacco [Popular vice]; 60d dun [Pester for payment]; 64d ice ["Rhyme Pays" rapper]; 65d a net [Work without ___]; 68d fare [MetroCard payment]; 69d hint [Comment from over the shoulder, maybe]; 70d CCCP [Soyuz letters]; 71d okra [Vegetable in Cajun cuisine]; 72d Tish [Mrs. Addams, to Gomez]; 76d atta [Lead-in to girl]; 77d chastened [Admonished]; 78d compasses [Circle makers]; 79d emu [Swift-running bird]; 80d did [Accomplished]; 82d GTE [Verizon forerunner]; 83d Lys [River of France and Belgium]; 84d in a second [Shortly]; 85d line dance [Macarena, for one]; 86d yeas [Congressional assents]; 89d nest [Home in a 90-Down]; 90d tree [See 89-Down]; 93d ethereal [Light]; 98d sta. [RR stop]; 100d easels [Stands before a business meeting, maybe]; 101d Ethel [Jazzy Waters]; 104d NRA [It has many arms: Abbr.]; 106d deity [Part of a pantheon]; 108d Alero [Oldsmobile model]; 109d Holm [Actress Celeste]; 111d afar [Way off]; 113d Ewan [McGregor of the "Star Wars" films]; 115d psis [Fraternity letters]; 119d fie! ["Down with you!"]; 120d oho! ["You can't fool me!"].

Saturday, March 28, 2009

NYT Saturday 3/28/09 - Setting Forth

My brother's houseI tackled the Saturday New York Times crossword at my brother's house in Naburn, York on Saturday morning. Several answers offered a good "way in" to the puzzle and I finished with an excellent time under half an hour. Unfortunately, my knowledge of Trollope let me down and I got two answers wrong.

Forth BridgesMid-morning, Magdalen and I drove north to attend the annual Listener Crossword Dinner. This year it was held in Scotland, and we took the western route, crossing the border near Gretna Green and stopping for lunch at the spa town of Moffat. The venue for the dinner was a hotel at the northern end of the Forth Road Bridge, where there is also a fine view of the Forth Railway Bridge, described as "the one internationally recognized Scottish landmark". I'll write about the dinner itself in a separate post.
Solving time: 25 mins (no cheating, two wrong answers)
Clue of the puzz: 29a dinettes [Parts of some studios]

Joe Krozel
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersJoe Krozel / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 19 (8.4%) black squares
Answers64 (average length 6.44)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points265 (average 1.29)
New To Me

Ponte di Rialto18a ponte [Common sight in Venezia]. I got into trouble here, thinking for some reason of the plural ponti and being satisfied with Erli as the surname in 5-down.

34a Susann ["Valley of the Dolls" novelist]. I had to guess this one and was surprised that the answer appeared to be a forename. Jacqueline Susann wrote this bestselling book about three girls in showbiz (the "dolls" of the title are downer drugs). It was made into a commercially successful movie:

45a Ulee [Title apiarist of a 1997 film]. The film is Ulee's Gold, which starred Peter Fonda as the beekeeper.

tir48a tir [French shooting match]. Is it reasonable to expect us to know this one? I suppose some solvers might have come across archery's governing body FITA, short for Federation Internationale de Tir a l'Arc.

5d Erle ["Phineas Finn" character Barrington ___]. Another mightily obscure reference: Barrington Erle is a Liberal MP and minor cabinet minister in Trollope's Palliser novels. He was played by Moray Watson in the 1974 TV series.

10d Avas [Prizes for video production]. Information on the Ava Awards is somewhat scant: I couldn't find the origin of the name - is it an acronym, or is there an Ava after which the award was named? Anyway, the prize is a statuette of a girl holding a reel of film aloft.

43d aetat. [Old tombstone abbr. meaning "at the age of"]. An abbreviation for aetatis, aet. being the more common form.


line of scrimmage21a ends [Line pair]. When solving, I thought this must refer to (American) football, in which ends line up at either end of the line of scrimmage. Now I wonder if that's over-reading the clue and no specific line was intended?

The Artist's Studio29a dinettes [Parts of some studios]. A great clue - I couldn't help thinking of artists' studios.

O'Neal49a O'Neal [Cager who starred in "Kazaam"]. I came across Shaq when compiling The Crucy League. Kazaam received resoundingly negative reviews.

Brasil8d Brasil [Five-time winner of the Copa do Mundo]. Use of Copa do Mundo rather than World Cup calls for the Portuguese spelling of the country.

16d Lt. Cols. [Maj. superiors]. This answer was a gimme for me, as it was the rank my late father had in the British Army when he retired.

27d Tosca [Object of Cavaradossi's affection]. Another gift on a day when they are sorely needed.

The Rest

1a Hussein [Big catch of 2003]; 8a bravoed [Applauded with shouts]; 15a internal revenue [Estate taxes, e.g.]; 17a scarlet tanagers [Grosbeak relatives]; 19a ACs [Temp. reducers]; 20a Samos [It's north of the Dodecanese Islands]; 22a Alois [Joseph ___ Ratzinger, birth name of Pope Benedict XVI]; 24a nope [Casual rejection]; 25a Edo [Nigerian native or language]; 26a spill it ["Fess up!"]; 28a Mer [La ___ Caspienne]; 31a no meat [11-Down's request]; 33a Tories [Reactionaries]; 35a Singer [___ Building, company headquarters erected in 1908 in New York City, at the time the tallest building in the world]; 36a biscotti [Crunchy cafe treats]; 38a EOE [Want ad abbr.]; 39a sage-tea [Herbal brew]; 41a phr. [Sentence part: Abbr.]; 42a ansa [Looped vase handle]; 44a lames [Disables]; 46a mated [Like shoes and socks]; 50a a lot on one's plate [Tons of work to do]; 53a pleasure cruises [Carnival offerings]; 54a systems [Digestion and circulation]; 55a tasters [Intrepid palace employees].

1d Hi-Speed [Like many Net connections]; 2d unconditionally [Without reservations]; 3d stand on one's toes [Try to get a better view, say]; 4d Serts [Some Spanish murals]; 6d -ine [Serpent's tail?]; 7d Natalies [Wood and others]; 9d Ren [TV canine]; 11d vegan [One on a strict diet]; 12d one moment please [Operator's line]; 13d European Theater [It included the Eastern and Western fronts]; 14d dessert [There's sometimes no room for it]; 22d apteral [Having no aisles, in architecture]; 23d sinuses [Allergies often affect them]; 26d sties [Major messes]; 30d erg [Dyne-centimeter]; 32d Mao [Red giant?]; 34d sit erect [Be no slouch in class?]; 35d sea maps [Oceanographers' references]; 36d be mine [Words from the heart?]; 37d ireless [Having no spleen]; 40d gators [Southern snappers, briefly]; 45d unlit [Dark]; 47d dose [Recommended intake]; 49d opus [Work ID]; 51d Num. [O.T. book]; 52d Sra. [Title of respect in 8-Down: Abbr.].

Friday, March 27, 2009

NPR Sunday Puzzle 3/22/09 - Getting the Finger

This week's NPR Sunday Puzzle was:
Take the letters I, L, R and T. Insert a trigram (three-letter group) twice into these letters to complete a familiar 10-letter word. If you add S, P and O, you would get the answer, "spoilsport."

Now, take R F E and R. Insert a trigram twice somewhere in these letters to complete a familiar two-word phrase. What phrase is it?
ring fingerMagdalen and I got married in Massachusetts in 2007 and in England in 2008, so it wasn't hard for us to to find the answer: ring finger. We bought our rings from The Goldsmith in Binghamton for the first ceremony; they were exchanged again for the English wedding, but not before they were given a clean to look good in the photos.

I came up with a couple of other challenges that follow the same pattern. The answers to these are:

phenomenon [P H M N]
stepsister [P S I R]

NYT Friday 3/27/09 - Spoilt for Choice

YorkThe Friday of our UK trip was the time for relaxing and recovering from the trials of the previous day's traveling. I solved the New York Times puzzle in the morning and we then went into the center of York for some shopping and sightseeing. As you may guess from this well-populated signpost, there is much to see.

BettysWe browsed the shops in "The Shambles" and admired the outside of the cathedral before succumbing to the attractions of the famous Bettys tea room, where their afternoon tea choices are not to be missed.

Unfortunately, the choices I made in the crossword weren't very smart: if I'd thought about 26-down a little longer, I might have surmised what "honey-do" lists are. I suspect that Magdalen has a mental honey-do list for me, but doesn't present it in written form - I have to keep lists of her requests myself or they too easily evaporate from my brain.
Solving time: 45 mins (no cheating, three wrong answers)
Clue of the puzz: 46a scarf [Quaint aviation accessory]

Paula Gamache
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersPaula Gamache / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 28 (12.4%) black squares
Answers70 (average length 5.63)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points334 (average 1.70)
New To Me

Ivo Andrić19a Ivo [Literature Nobelist Andric]. Ivo Andrić was a Bosnian Yugoslav novelist - he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961. His novels depict life in Bosnia under the Ottoman Empire.

University College, Oxford34a bimbo eruption [Certain sex scandal, in slang]. The puzzle looks to have been built around this answer, but I hadn't heard of the expression and neither had Magdalen. It's difficult to find references to it outside of other blogs. I have something in common with Bill Clinton and now Chelsea Clinton: we are all alumni of University College, Oxford.

Essex, CT38a Essex [Connecticut town attacked by the British in the War of 1812]. Although I negotiated many of the pitfalls in this fine puzzle, I failed here, with Esset instead of Essex. It's one of the few American towns to be attacked by a foreign power: my country destroyed 28 vessels at anchor and under construction, in what was the "Pearl Harbor" of that war.

45a Lucy [Sitcom character discussed in the 2003 biography "Ball of Fire"]. I've heard of the character, but the reference didn't mean anything to me: Ball of Fire is Stefan Kanfer's biography of Lucille Ball.

Tino Martinez48a Tino [Former Yankee Martinez]. I had Nino here: retired first baseman Tino Martinez is not someone I've come across in my limited study of baseball.

8d Gobots [Transforming Tonka toys]. Gobots are similar to Hasbro's Transformers and were produced by Tonka from 1983 to 1987.

Rilke9d Rilke ["The Book of Hours" poet]. Rilke wrote The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God from 1899 to 1903 following a visit to a Russian monastery.

Honey-do26d Mr Fix It [Recipient of a honey-do list]. This was the first I'd heard of "honey-do lists": on a more relaxed day, I might have figured out the context, but thinking the clue might relate to a TV character, I guessed Mr Fit-in.


25a Klute [1971 title role for Donald Sutherland]. I must have seen this not longer after it was first released. Klute also starred Jane Fonda, who won a Best Actress Oscar for playing the call-girl.

26a mini [Height of fashion?]. A neat clue. It reminded me of a funny cryptic clue inspired by the absence of miniskirt in The Chambers Dictionary at the time:
It must not be looked up in Chambers!
Cryptic clue to miniskirt
Snoopy46a scarf [Quaint aviation accessory]. I love this clue. I quite made up my mind the answer was part of a plane, so it was a pleasant surprise to get the answer and be reminded of Snoopy and the many movies based on early pilots.

The Rest

1a swung by [Detoured to pay a visit along the way]; 8a grab-bag [Gallimaufry]; 15a Capella [One of the 10 brightest stars]; 16a oil tube [Engine line]; 17a ritzier [Having superior amenities]; 18a blows on [Cools, in a way]; 20a bad joke [It may fall flat]; 22a tut [Critical cluck]; 23a be in [Hippie happening]; 27a estos [These, overseas]; 29a iss. [Periodical output: Abbr.]; 30a PRNDL [Shifting sequence]; 31a taint [Sully]; 33a leftie [Liberal, informally]; 37a cacaos [Their beans were used as currency by the Aztecs]; 39a agent [Instrument]; 40a ale [Wassailing choice]; 41a riced [Not quite mashed]; 49a mea ["Magnificat anima ___ Dominum"]; 50a faux fur [It's not really mink, for example]; 52a cay [Bit of the Bahamas]; 53a et voilà [Chef's cry]; 55a edamame [Finger food at a Japanese restaurant]; 57a step cut [Diamond-shaping choice]; 58a egged on [Prodded]; 59a testate [One way to die]; 60a sea wars [Fleet activities].

1d scribe [Worker who sets things down]; 2d waives [Doesn't take advantage of]; 3d up to it [Game]; 4d nez [Arôme detector]; 5d glib [Smooth to a fault]; 6d bleak [Discouraging]; 7d yardline [Grid marking]; 10d aloe [Natural treatment]; 11d BTW [Start of a text-message afterthought]; 12d bust into [Enter like a storm trooper]; 13d abound in [Crawl with]; 14d gentile [Guest at a synagogue]; 21d just relax ["Cool your jets!"]; 24d not many [One or two]; 28d sabot [Cousin of a clog]; 30d peter [Fizzle (out)]; 32d Ios [Island SSW of Naxos]; 33d LP's [Old track holders]; 34d baguette [Diamond-shaping choice]; 35d ice caves [Some permafrost features]; 36d user fees [Tolls, essentially]; 37d calmest [Still the most]; 40d acuate [Needle-shaped]; 42d cicada [Shrill flier]; 43d enamor [Bewitch]; 44d doyens [Ones with seniority]; 46d salut [Gallic greeting]; 47d fudge ["Oh, phooey!"]; 50d FICA [W-2 inclusion]; 51d raga [Music that influenced the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood"]; 54d opt [Elect]; 56d mew [Cry from a litter].

Thursday, March 26, 2009

NYT Thursday 3/26/09 - Spring in the UK

This was the first of the New York Times puzzles I solved on our trip to the UK. I thought there might be time to write some commentaries while traveling, but ended up just doing the Under Construction posts - I've now returned to the USA and have some catching up to do.

We flew into Manchester Airport in the northwest of England early on Thursday morning - of course it seemed like the middle of the night to us. We set off towards Oxford to see my mother and came across a service area (the British term for a rest area) with free Wi-Fi - it was great to relax for an hour or so and get the Thursday puzzle done and posted. After lunch with my mother we drove up to Naburn, York to stay with my brother Michael, of which more in the next post.

spring in the UKThe puzzle theme seemed appropriate, as spring was much more advanced than in Pennsylvania. This must have been the result of some really warm weather earlier in the month, as it was pretty cold during our visit, though thankfully dry.
Solving time: 30 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 10d entendre [Double ___]

An Emily Dickinson poem:
20a A little Madness
33a in the Spring
40a Is wholesome
52a even for the King
[Start of a poem by Emily Dickinson that continues "But God be with the Clown, / Who ponders this tremendous scene"]

Edward Safran
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersEdward Safran / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers74 (average length 5.05)
Theme squares50 (26.7%)
Scrabble points290 (average 1.55)
New To Me

golem5a golem [Dimwit, in Yiddish slang]. I thought I knew what a golem was: a Frankenstein-like creation from Jewish folklore. It seems that in modern Hebrew golem now means "fool" or "stupid".

24a Len [Barker of the Cleveland Indians who pitched a perfect game in 1981]. I wondered what might constitute a "perfect game" in this context, not that it made any difference to my ability (or lack of it) to solve the clue. I gather it's one where the winning side's pitcher is on for at least nine innings and no opposing player reaches base.

James Exon39a Exon [Former Nebraska senator James]. James Exon (1921-2005) was a Democratic governor and senator who never lost an election.

4d Knotts [Funnyman Don]. Don Knotts (1924-2006) played Barney Fife in The Andy Griffith Show. Here he needs a little help to recall the opening words of the US Constitution.

31d Agnes [1985 Meg Tilly title role]. Meg Tilly played Sister Agnes in the John Pielmeier play and movie and got an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.


18a Lloyd [David ___ George, British P.M., 1916-22]. David Lloyd George is a real gimme for a Brit of my generation. There's an old music hall song that goes "Lloyd George Knew My Father, My Father Knew Lloyd George": we now know that "Lloyd George Was My Father" is more appropriate - "the old goat" was a notorious womanizer.

1d Coma [1977 best seller set at Boston Memorial Hospital]. I remember seeing the chilling movie based on this book by Robin Cook, in which patients undergoing routine surgery go into comas due to problems with the anesthesia.

10d entendre [Double ___]. Fill-in-the-blank clues aren't usually that notable, but the compiler found a great opportunity here: it's hard to see the clue and think of the French double.

Lucky Jim12d Amis ["Lucky Jim" novelist, 1954]. Another gimme, as I read this comic novel about British university life in the 1950s around the time I went to university in the late 1970s. A film was made starring Ian Carmichael.

56d None ["___ But the Brave" (1965 Sinatra film)]. This movie about the war in the pacific is the only one directed by Frank Sinatra.

The Rest

1a cork [What you might push a pushpin in]; 10a El Al [International company with the slogan "Home away from home"]; 14a Oran [North African city captured by the Allies in 1942]; 15a as one [In unison]; 16a Nome [1899 gold rush locale]; 17a mano [A la ___ (nearby: Sp.)]; 19a twig [New growth]; 23a tiers [Levels]; 25a adds to [Increases]; 28a Dead Sea [Refuge for David, in the Bible]; 32a Nor. [Eur. monarchy]; 36a Twas [Christmas verse starter]; 38a ham [Radio geek]; 45a ere ["... ___ he drove out of sight"]; 46a celadon [Chinese porcelain with a pale green glaze]; 47a alarms [Sleep disturbers]; 49a Kia [Sedona maker]; 50a tucks [Puts in a snug spot]; 58a Avis [Warren who founded a rental car company]; 59a emote [Chew the scenery]; 60a odor [Spray target]; 61a menu [Pull-down list]; 62a rivet [Fix]; 63a ulna [It runs parallel to the radius]; 64a prep [Teacher's before-class work]; 65a stere [Volume unit]; 66a teem [Overbrim (with)].

2d oral [___ contraceptive]; 3d rani [Queen of Bollywood]; 5d galleon [Shipping mainstay of the 1600s]; 6d Osler [Physician William]; 7d looms [Appears imminent]; 8d Enya [Singer with the 2008 gold record "And Winter Came ..."]; 9d meddles [Acts the yenta]; 10d entendre [Double ___]; 11d lows [The worst of times]; 13d leg [Relay division]; 21d titi [South American monkey]; 22d neap [___ tide]; 25d antic [Monkeyshine]; 26d dowse [Divine water]; 27d drawl [Say with two syllables where one would do, say]; 28d demo [Promotional item]; 29d Sixer [Philly hoopster]; 30d enorm [Extremely large, old-style]; 34d then [In the past]; 35d has [Is afflicted by]; 37d shakes up [Reorganizes drastically]; 41d Odin [Figure in the Edda]; 42d loafers [They have no ties]; 43d machete [Rain forest implement]; 44d Elke [Sommer of Hollywood]; 48d ask out [Try to see]; 50d trove [Antique dealer's happy discovery]; 51d utter [Articulate]; 52d ever [Anytime]; 53d vine [Melon's site]; 54d omit [Drop]; 55d idle [Fallow]; 57d Gram [Elderly relative, informally]; 58d amp [Crank (up)].