Thursday, March 5, 2009

NYT Friday 3/6/09 - Au Pairs

This should really be a themeless puzzle, but the compiler has a sort-of-theme going with connected pairs of answers. Adjacent ones like cleanliness (is next to) godliness and do as I say, not as I do. Then there's ici et là and the stacked colloquialisms save it and I meant.

I like these features, especially as they really help break into an area of the grid once you see them. They certainly made for a faster than usual solving time for a Friday New York Times.
Solving time: 33 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 39a año [It includes mayo]

Corey Rubin
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersCorey Rubin / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 31 (13.8%) black squares
Answers70 (average length 5.54)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points286 (average 1.47)
New To Me

27a A. A. Milne ["The Great Broxopp" playwright, 1921]. I grew up on A. A. Milne and still have my well-worn copies of the Pooh stories - that didn't prepare me for this reference. Now all I tend to see of Milne is parodies, like this one from the great Beachcomber.
Hush, hush,
Nobody cares!
Christopher Robin
from By the Way
Michael Chang29a Changs [1989 French Open winner and others]. When he won that tournament at 17, Michael Chang was the youngest-ever male winner of a Grand Slam singles title.

47a Is Me ["All You Need ___" (2008 Morrissey song)]. Morrissey is famous enough to have appeared on my limited radar, but this modestly-titled song is New To Me:

63a Birney ["St. Elsewhere" actor David]. David Birney only appeared in the first season, playing Dr. Ben Samuels. He's perhaps better known as the taxi driver in Bridget Loves Bernie:

5d Magee [1966 Tony winner for "Marat/Sade"]. Patrick Magee is best known as a stage actor, particularly in plays by Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter. He played the Marquis de Sade in the play and movie adaptation of Marat/Sade:

6d Ste. [Julie, e.g.: Abbr.]. This clue isn't as unhelpful as it looks, since it's not just an arbitrary female saint - there is a suburb of Quebec called Sainte-Julie.

33d Enemy Mine [Barry B. Longyear novella that won Hugo and Nebula awards]. Had to just make a guess with this. Enemy Mine is Sci-Fi and was made into a movie in 1985.

48d Heath [Ledger with lines], 58d Sal [Paradise in literature]. I'm pairing these because they use the same device of disguising a surname by starting the clue with it - very neat. Heath Ledger was an Australian film actor who died tragically young last year. Sal Paradise is the narrator of Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road.

51d Edna [Mom in "Hairspray"]. Edna Turnblad is traditionally portrayed by a man in drag and John Travolta had the role in the 2007 movie adaptation of the musical:


7a MacGyver [1980s-'90s action/adventure series]. I've a feeling this series was shown in the UK as I vaguely remember the title. McGuiver would seem a more likely spelling, but that doesn't work in this puzzle.

17a a stage [The world, per the Bard]. I had oyster for a while, thinking of "the world's mine oyster" from The Merry Wives of Windsor. The reference is of course to the Seven Ages of Man speech in As You Like It - something I was made to learn by heart in the "school-boy" age:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
from As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Calydonian Boar22a Artemis [Sender of the Calydonian boar]. When solving, I wrongly assumed this related to one of the Labors of Hercules - no, that's the Erymanthian Boar. The Calydonian Boar may sound like a tedious Scotsman, but is actually a monster to be overcome (though in pictures it doesn't seem that monstrous).

35a iii [Name tag?]. The suffixes Sr., Jr., iii, iv etc seem to be exclusively American. Presumably it's much more common here to name a son after his father (how come it doesn't apply to daughters?). This certainly makes writing computer interfaces more complicated, as you need a box for a name suffix as well as a title.

39a año [It includes mayo]. I remembered the Spanish, but it took a while to realize that's what was involved here. The months come up frequently enough that it's worth memorizing the shorter ones:
enero (January)
marzo (March)
abril (April)
mayo (May)
junio (June)
julio (July)
40a Dolittle [Doctor who's friends with Matthew Mugg]. And I thought Doctor Dolittle didn't have any friends outside the animal kingdom. Matthew is the local cat's-meat-man who looks after things when the doctor is on his travels. He's played by Anthony Newley in the 1967 musical version:

45a Paramus [New Jersey setting of "Coneheads"]. Luckily, I knew of Paramus: seeing it in small print on a map, I read it as Pyramus, the lover of Thisbe - there may be a puzzle in there. I didn't appreciate the Coneheads connection before:

55a Norma [Noted role for Maria Callas]. We've certainly seen this Bellini opera somewhere in the past two years, but I forget where ... it left an indelible blank on my mind (we're not big fans of Bellini).

57a do as I say, 60a not as I do [Hypocrite's mantra]. The compiler nicely exploits adjacent answers in the puzzle. I wonder how many were planned and how many felicitous?

59a save it [Cry that may forestall a lame excuse]. Coffee Jones and Dino_Burger use the full version on their kids: "save it for Law School".

9d cleanliness [It's next to 10-Down, both in an adage and literally in this puzzle]; 10d godliness [See 9-Down]. I like this juxtaposition a lot ... and not just because I got it early on, which was a big help down the right hand side of the grid. It would be nice to think that a puzzle could be made from four such pairs, but it would be difficult in a fully-checked American grid - the blocked grids seen in cryptics are so much more amenable to that kind of thing.

25d cen. [What few people live for: Abbr.]. Ie a century - another great clue.

32d caesarean [Certain section]. I was surprised to see this spelling without some indication that it's a variant in the US.

The Rest

1a spasms [Tetanus symptom]; 15a tilt at [Square off against]; 16a on loan to [Being borrowed by]; 18a need help [Be in a fix, say]; 19a stare [It may be glassy]; 20a vital [Key]; 21a cay [Low reef]; 24a nick [Insignificant injury]; 26a acro- [Prefix with -polis]; 31a sciences [Academic area]; 36a eso ["Cómo es ___?" ("How come?" in Cádiz)]; 38a -ins [Follower of drop or shut]; 43a esteem [Prize]; 48a hora [Dance around a high chair?]; 49a base pay [It doesn't include a bonus]; 51a été [Annual stretch of trois mois]; 53a André [Physicist Ampère]; 61a I meant [Backpedaler's words]; 62a athletes [Forward and back, e.g.].

1d Stas. [Stepping-off points: Abbr.]; 2d pistachio [Yellow-green shade]; 3d altar rail [Place to receive communion]; 4d start on [Tackle]; 7d monisms [Philosophies that regard reality as one organic whole]; 8d a net [Without ___ (daringly)]; 11d yah [Derisive cry]; 12d V-neck [Feature of some shirts]; 13d et là [See 28-Down]; 14d ropy [Thickly fibrous]; 20d via [Using]; 23d mass transit [One way around town]; 26d acid [Breakdown cause]; 28d ici [With 13-Down, here and there, to Henri]; 30d get a raise [Start pulling down more?]; 34d some [Certain]; 37d ola [Brazilian greeting]; 41d IPO [Subject for a W.S.J. article]; 42d embryos [Early developments]; 44d tip over [Upset]; 46d UAE [Sharjah's fed.]; 50d en ami [As a friend, to Frédéric]; 52d toot [Blow]; 54d Dade [___ City, Fla.]; 56d atty. [Pro in briefs?: Abbr.]; 59d sib [Family member].

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