Thursday, March 12, 2009

NYT Friday 3/13/09 - Loony Toons

February's Friday the 13th was lucky for me, but I don't feel so fortunate today after misguessing Toots Shor. This was disappointing, as I made really fast progress through the other parts of the grid, before stalling in the SE corner at the end.

Despite the error, I thought this was a wonderful puzzle: a great fill (which seemed to be headed for pangrammatism, but omits B and W) with nicely deceptive cluing.
Solving time: 40 mins (no cheating, two wrong answers)
Clue of the puzz: 50a ore [Extraction target]

Joon Pahk
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersJoon Pahk / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 29 (12.9%) black squares
Answers72 (average length 5.44)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points320 (average 1.63)
New To Me

O, the Oprah Magazine20a mag [O, say]. After 23a, I thought this might have to do with oxygen. No, the clue refers to O, the Oprah Magazine. This photo is blurry for a reason: the photographer has combined a year's worth of magazines into one picture - it's kind of spooky.

58a Vic [1951 A.L. strikeout leader Raschi]. Vic Raschi was a baseball pitcher nicknamed "The Springfield Rifle".

66a Toots Shor [Saloonkeeper of note]. Here's where I got unlucky and put in Toons Shor. This was based more on what I thought 52d would be, as neither Toots Shor nor Toons Shor looked likely to me. I think most people would know him from Toots Shor's Restaurant, which was a Manhattan landmark popular with celebs in the 1940s and 1950s. A documentary about Toots's life was made in 2006.

firm tofu5d firm [Tofu specification]. I never knew there was so much to tofu. There are three varieties of fresh tofu: soft/silken tofu, Asian firm tofu and Western firm/dried tofu. Plus there are more processed varieties than I want to go into today.

The Invisible Man26d Ras [___ the Destroyer (rabble-rouser in Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man")]. Ras the Exhorter, the fanatical black nationalist in Ralph Ellison's book, renames himself Ras the Destroyer. All this has nothing to do with the Invisible Man I'm familiar with, who surprisingly has an action figure.

35d re-up [Go for another tour]. A useful coinage for crossword compilers, which seems to be peculiar to the USA. I gather it means to re-enlist for military service, hence the definition in this puzzle.

62d OAS [Intl. group with 35 members]. Organization of American States. I assumed OAS must stand for the Organization of African States, but got away with it!

4d out [Tag cry] and 52d not it [Tag cry]. Having correctly (I assume) detected one baseball reference at 4d, I assumed 52d was going to be its counterpart and so wrote not in. Big mistake, as the second clue relates to the playground game of tag.


Sea of Azov1a Sea of Azov [It's shared by Russia and Ukraine]. It's the world's shallowest sea, with an average depth of 43 ft and maximum depth of 50 ft. A great answer, getting two low-frequency letters into the grid.

23a at. no. [8 for O, say]. Symbols for the chemical elements can be highly misleading, but I saw through this one right away.

28a tears ["Like Niobe, all ___": Hamlet]. I didn't recall this line, but the blank was easily filled in light of the lachrymose Niobe. It is from Hamlet's Act I Scene 2 soliloquy:
Frailty, thy name is woman! --
A little month; or ere those shoes were old
With which she followed my poor father's body
Like Niobe, all tears
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
extraction target42a Sussex [Piltdown man locale]. Sometimes it's an advantage being British. The Piltdown man - human skull and orangutan jawbone - was a hoax perpetrated on paleontologists in 1912.

50a ore [Extraction target]. I'd just been to the dentist and couldn't get my mind off teeth - great clue!

51a Pac-Ten [Wildcats and Cougars play in it]. My past research into college teams was useful here. Although the Washington State Cougars and the Arizona Wildcats aren't popular enough to be in the Crucy League, I'd at least heard of the Pac-10.

47a rand [100 cents, in East London]. My background helped here too, as the eastern part of the UK capital isn't usually referred to in this way. Also, Britain still uses pence, not cents. So the clue must want the currency of East London, South Africa.

54a Carlyle ["Sartor Resartus" essayist Thomas]. Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) was a Scottish writer. Sartor Resartus ("The Tailor Retailored") was his first major work.

65a esses [A lot of assessments?]. Yes, "assessments" has five Ss.

Amerigo Vespucci6d Asian [See 9-Down] and 9d Vespucci [He demonstrated that what Columbus had discovered was not 6-Down]. I was inspired to get Vespucci very early and that helped break open the top half. Amerigo Vespucci went on two voyages of exploration to South America, giving his name to the Americas. A school ship also bears his name.

41d ENT [Specialized M.D.]. I know ENT is a specialism, but it grates with me to call a person an ENT. Ents are walking trees. I've been on about this before, haven't I?

48d De Soto [He joined Pizarro in the conquest of the Inca Empire]. I first came across DeSoto as the sponsor of You Bet Your Life, so when I found out what the original de Soto did, it lodged in my memory.

61d Ono ["Revolution 9" collaborator]. Oh no, not again! If you solve American crosswords, you get to find out a lot about Yoko.

The Rest

10a shalt [Dated will?]; 15a exquisite [Flawlessly crafted]; 16a paler [Less well-looking]; 17a neutrinos [They're produced in great quantities by supernovas]; 18a inlay [Mosaic work]; 19a Sri [Honorific that's Sanskrit for "majesty"]; 21a pick-ups [Light haulers]; 25a Neruda ["Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair" writer]; 27a DDT ["Silent Spring" subject]; 30a race [It may concern arms or contain legs]; 31a yeas [Supportive side]; 32a Edsels [Old bombs]; 34a Scaredy [___-cat]; 36a Lapp [Finno-Ugric tongue]; 38a Îles [___ de la Société]; 39a Castile [Isabella's home]; 46a jape [Make fun of]; 49a pilaf [Dish cooked in seasoned broth]; 53a rata [Pro ___]; 56a sop [Payoff]; 59a occur [Become part of history]; 60a moot point [It's open to debate]; 63a sauté [Start to prepare, as 49-Across]; 64a antipasto [Italian meal starter].

1d sensate [Having feeling]; 2d exerted [Brought to bear]; 3d Aquinas ["Summa Contra Gentiles" theologian]; 7d zinger [It may be fired back at someone]; 8d Oto [Chiwere dialect]; 10d Spica [Virgo's alpha star]; 11d hank [Bit of hair]; 12d alluded [Referred]; 13d leap-day [March preceder, periodically]; 14d trysts [Couples might set them up]; 22d ideals [They can't get any better]; 24d or else [Ominous words]; 29d slat [Strip on a bed]; 31d yes sir! [Drill bit?]; 33d spiral [Like some shells]; 37d place mat [Put-down in a restaurant?]; 39d Caracas [City due south of San Juan]; 40d aperçus [Quick impressions]; 43d slavish [Blindly imitative]; 44d eat into [Deplete]; 45d X factor [Hard-to-define influence]; 46d jocose [Sportive]; 51d pyres [Funeral arrangements]; 55d lute [It's featured in two Vivaldi concertos]; 57d PPPS [Afterthought #3: Abbr.].

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