Friday, March 13, 2009

NYT Saturday 3/14/09 - Rough as Silk

Barry C. Silk is a compiler I now recognize and look forward to solving. This seems to be his third solo effort of the year and I have got on comparatively well with previous offerings.

Unfortunately, I had a really rough time with today's puzzle. I made very good progress for a bit, filling everything SW of the "backslash" in 45 minutes or so. Then I really hit a brick wall and hadn't got much further by the hour. That's the point where I feel I need extra help, and today I called in the cavalry in the form of my wife Magdalen.

She hadn't got as far as me, but had some key answers I was missing, like 11d X-Games, and ideas about others like 21d Devon. Together we made reasonably quick work of the rest of the grid.
Solving time: 80 mins (collaborative effort)
Clue of the puzz: 56d y'all [Dixieland group?]

Barry C. Silk
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersBarry C. Silk / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 27 (12.0%) black squares
Answers72 (average length 5.50)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points357 (average 1.80)
New To Me

JFK Plaza1a JFK Plaza [Park near Philly's City Hall, site of the LOVE statue] and 11d X-Games [Skateboarders compete in them]. When I handed this puzzle to Magdalen, I mentioned she would find 1-across easy. Apparently not, for she didn't know the official name of Love Park, despite living in South Philadelphia for many years. Love Park was popular for skateboarding and led to Philly hosting the 2001 and 2002 X-Games, but Mayor John Street brought an end to that. Anyway, JFK Plaza makes a great 1-across, defying solvers' expectations with a five consontant sequence at the start.

Linus KOs Mimi19a USC [John Wayne's L.A. alma mater]. John tried and failed to get into the U.S. Naval Academy, attending the University of Southern California instead. Our cat Linus hasn't trained as an actor, but does a good impression of the John Wayne walk and throws a powerful punch too.

John Muir22a Muir [Sierra Club founder]. Like my great uncle, John Muir was a Scottish-born American. He founded the largest environmental organization in the US.

Grey Cup34a CFL [Grey Cup sports org.]. The Grey Cup is the championship of the Canadian Football League. It was named after the 4th Earl Grey, the grandson of the guy who gave his name to Earl Grey tea.

39a Niagara [River surrounding Navy Island]. The Niagara River runs between lakes Erie and Ontario. The only US geography I remember learning at school was the order of the Great Lakes, thanks to this helpful mnemonic:
School (Superior)
Marmalade (Michigan)
Hardly (Huron)
Ever (Erie)
Overflows (Ontario)
44a Scopes [1925 trial name]. Magdalen remembered this one. The Scopes "Monkey" Trial concerned the teaching of evolution in schools. I'd like to see Inherit the Wind, the Spencer Tracy movie concerning the trial.

65a Cool Jerk [1966 hit for the Capitols]. Another awesome answer to round off the acrosses. Cool Jerk has been covered by many groups including The Go-Go's.

Kit Carson3d Kit Carson [Eponym of a national forest in New Mexico]. Kit Carson was a frontiersman who gave his name to many places and institutions in The West.

5d Lila [With 59-Down, Rudolph Valentino's "Blood and Sand" co-star] and 59d Lee [See 5-Down]. I tried to recall Nita Naldi, whom I described as playing opposite Valentino in this movie on Wednesday. Wouldn't have helped, because Rudolf Valentino had another co-star in Lila Lee, who played Carmen.


18a opaque [Not easily understood]. A bit like this puzzle :-)

afro pick27a afros [Picked styles?]. Why picked? I see now ... an afro "pick" is the name of the comb with long widely spaced teeth, used to tease out the coils of hair. It's an adaptation of a traditional African grooming instrument.

MEN41a MEN [Head word]. This sort of misdirection is typical of cryptic crosswords. Magdalen is skeptical: is a head ever likely to carry the label MEN or is it always unisex?

48a swans [Some pens]. A wonderfully misleading definition that fooled me for a long time.

Secret58a axilla [Secret area of anatomy?]. I'm not 100% sure of the explanation here: it must refer to the anatomical term for the armpit, but does "secret" just suggest that the area is normally hidden? Postscript: we eventually realized "Secret" refers to a brand of deodorant - click here for the Secret website.

1d Jerusalem [It was captured by British forces in 1917]. Guessing this early on should have given me a head start in the NW corner, but I had great difficulties until joining forces with Magdalen. Jerusalem had been under Ottoman rule since 1517.

Magdalen knitting8d argyles [Pair of diamonds?]. Magdalen is going through a sock-knitting phase, which may have helped her figure out this one. If you were at the American Crossword Tournament, you would have seen her knitting in any spare moment.

56d y'all [Dixieland group?]. Another beautifully misleading clue, which I was pleased to see through ... eventually.

The Rest

9a tax tip [One might help you on your return]; 15a elicitor [Drawer]; 16a I'm gone ["Ciao!"]; 17a rattling [Fazing]; 20a alkyds [Sticky paint resins]; 23a shad [Alewife's relative]; 25a tele- [Prefix with facsimile]; 26a beets [A root crop]; 29a devils [Prepares with hot seasoning]; 31a lisles [Fine threads]; 33a sore [Put out]; 37a erotica [Bedtime stories?]; 42a save [Reliever's triumph]; 45a I'm done [Confirmation to a busboy]; 47a Hesse ["Das Glasperlenspiel" novelist]; 51a idly [With no apparent purpose]; 53a Ruhr [Arnsberg is on it]; 54a half [One of two that make one]; 55a prepay [Gas pump option]; 57a led [Had no catching up to do]; 60a maharani [Sari-clad royal]; 62a refuel [Do a pit job]; 63a isolates [Cuts off]; 64a Drexel [N.C.A.A. rival of George Mason].

2d flash fire [Result of a combustion explosion]; 4d pct. [Election figure: Abbr.]; 6d atilt [Pitching a bit]; 7d zonked [Totally beat]; 9d tíos [Reunión attendees]; 10d amp [Performance piece?]; 12d toque [Alternative to a pillbox]; 13d Inuit [Anorak wearer]; 14d peers [They're on the same level]; 21d Devon [Dartmoor setting]; 24d dolt [One isn't sharp]; 26d bleach [It'll help you lighten up]; 28d seisms [They're the fault of faults]; 30d iris [One of Tennessee's state symbols]; 32d scad [Lot]; 34d capsulate [Enclosed in a case, as seeds]; 35d freshener [Toning skin lotion]; 36d laserdisk [Passé video store offering]; 38d avoir [To have, in Tours]; 40d goer [It may follow convention]; 43d endemic [Not foreign]; 45d influx [Opposite of exodus]; 46d El Paso [Texas's westernmost county]; 48d shard [Dig find]; 49d waxer [Polish person?]; 50d A Life [Part of some biography titles]; 52d yahoo [Bumpkin]; 55d pall [Dark cover]; 61d raj [Period in Indian history].


wormcast said...

When I resorted to the internet in an attempt to make some sense of 'secret area of anatomy = AXILLA' (ugh!), I had no idea that I'd find a whole blog entry on this baffling puzzle. What a beast, even for a Saturday! For the record, I'm also a Philly native, and never heard of JFK Plaza. Thanks...

Magdalen said...

I'm with you there, Wormcast. I am not a Philly native, but I lived there (West Philly for 6 years, South Philly for 8 years) long enough that I knew it as Love Park. At the same time, I can see how it could have JFK Plaza as a technical name. I believe the Visitor's Information center is another of Kevin Bacon's dad's not-so-good ideas in urban planning. It looks like a clunky flying saucer from a particularly bad 1950s Sci-Fi horror flick. All it needs are matte black sheet metal cutouts of the MST 3000 robots in front to complete the image!