Friday, March 6, 2009

NYT Saturday 3/7/09 - Boxing the Compass

When I printed this puzzle's grid, I was struck by how beautiful it was. As I started solving, I noticed the unchecked letters at the four edges: unches in an American puzzle, that's not allowed! After about 25 minutes with N(orth) definite, and E(ast) & W(est) tentative, I realized what was going on and had an S to help with 62 across.

I then finished the whole grid in another 10 minutes or so. My solving times seem to be a bit faster this week. Whether that's the effect of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament experience, or just coincidence, time will tell. Alas, I got one letter wrong: I'd not heard of Ric Flair and couldn't immediately see through the subterfuge in 29a NCO [Base pay recipient?: Abbr.].
Solving time: 36 mins (no cheating, two wrong answers)
Clue of the puzz: 23a idol [Very hot star]

The grid resembles a compass rose with N(orth), E(ast), S(outh) and W(est) at the centers of the grid edges.


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

CompilersJoe Krozel / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 25 (11.1%) black squares
Answers72 (average length 5.56)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points284 (average 1.42)
New To Me

El Duque31a El Duque [Pitcher Orlando Hernández's nickname]. A new one on me, although I managed to intuit what the answer must be. It seems Orlando Hernández is currently out of action due to injuries.

33a Steinem [Undercover Playboy bunny of 1963]. I knew of Gloria Steinem, but wasn't aware of this episode.

36a Ian ["Lost" Emmy nominee Henry ___ Cusick]. Not a show I have the patience for - Henry Ian Cusick plays the character Desmond Hume.

53a Daniels [Bebe who co-starred in "The Maltese Falcon," 1931]. Bebe Daniels was an American actress who began in silent movies. She played Ruth Wonderly in the 1931 movie adaptation, not the later one starring Humphrey Bogart.

Argonne Forest7d Argonne [W.W. I battle locale near the Belgian border]. The Battle of the Argonne Forest in 1918 was part of the final allied offensive of the war.

12d Trillin [Longtime columnist for The Nation]. Calvin Trillin writes humorous verse for The Nation. Here's his latest.

21d Ric [Pro wrestler Flair]. Ok, I'm ashamed to say I'm not big on pro wrestling. I had Rip here, as I didn't know better. Ric Flair aka "Nature Boy" has now retired.

32d unc [Family moniker]. This is presumably a shortening of uncle, but I've never seen or heard it used.

42d Arsenio [First name in late-night talk, once]. Arsenio Hall had a talk show from 1989 to 1994:

Elihu Root50d Elihu [Root of law]. I'd heard of Elihu Yale, the reason Yalies are called Elis, but was gobsmacked to find another famous guy with the same obscure forename.


19a hip [Not in the dark]. Very nice clue - I had the answer 33% right with my first thought lit.

River Lea22a Lea [River that meets the Thames at London]. In fact it joins the Thames in the East End of London at Bow Creek.

23a idol [Very hot star]. One of many lovely misleading definitions. Of course I guessed nova at first.

27a Nanos [Players that replaced Minis]. IPods of course - our iPod Classics mean we're totally unhip.

29a NCO [Base pay recipient?: Abbr.]. I had NPO here, as I thought the reference might have to do with Non-profit organizations. It seems the clue refers to NCOs as personnel on a (military) base.

30a spine [Title holder]. As in the spine of a book - another neat clue.

Strat47a Strat [Electric guitar model, familiarly]. The short form of Fender Stratocaster.

51a SSTs [Bygone boomers]. Supersonic transports, those makers of supersonic booms. I never heard Concorde called an SST until I started doing American crosswords.

61a Ghanian [Dweller along Lake Volta]. Ghanaian is the more common spelling, so this alternative came as a bit of a surprise.

5d agio [Money-changer's profit]. Agio is a term I learned from cryptics - useful today.

10d edge [Sedative target, with "the"]. Ie a sedative takes the edge off pain.

24d Lou Reed ["Walk on the Wild Side" singer]. This number is famous enough that even I recognized the answer:

26d spinets [Upright relatives]. I guess if a spinet was related to an upright piano it would have to be something like a great aunt.

49d laten [Round midnight?]. To laten means to make or grow late and I suppose going past 12:00 might be termed "rounding midnight", but it seems a bit of a stretch.

53d Devo [Band that famously remade "Satisfaction" on its first album]. Devo seem to have been making a real comeback (in crosswords at least) this year.

The Rest

1a mortar and pestle [Drug combination?]; 15a avenger [Many a vigilante]; 16a order in [Call for dishes]; 17a costing [Going for]; 18a signing [Unspoken language]; 20a odorize [Scent]; 25a snide [Insinuating]; 26a slog [No walk in the park]; 35a run [Continuous series]; 37a at peace [Sans strife]; 41a unlearn [Break, as a habit]; 44a shied [Started]; 45a Lon [___ Morris College, in Jacksonville, Tex.]; 48a heed [Mind]; 49a laude [Praise for Nero?]; 52a arr. [Gate info: Abbr.]; 55a eat [Act on a primal urge]; 56a Beckett ["Krapp's Last Tape" playwright]; 58a rip into [Chew out]; 60a lie over [Be postponed]; 62a ends on a sour note [Doesn't get wrapped up well?].

1d machine-washable [Not taken to the cleaners?]; 2d ovoidal [Not perfectly round]; 3d respond [Come back]; 4d TNT [Major downer?]; 6d rends [Splits]; 8d dosi-dos [Hoedown moves]; 9d prize [It may be received after sweeping]; 11d sen. [Beltway fig.]; 13d line one [Phone system starting point]; 14d engagement stone [One set for a future wedding?]; 28d squad [Platoon part]; 30d seals [They make lasting impressions]; 34d tin [Roofing material]; 38d therein [Legalese adverb]; 39d pierced [Like some navels]; 40d Elantra [Hyundai model]; 41d undergo [Bear]; 43d rat-a-tat [Automatic sound]; 46d oui [Réponse affirmative]; 54d spar [Work to help one get 57-Down]; 57d KOs [See 54-Down]; 59d inn [Night spot].


Daniel Myers said...


Fellow Brit here---Don't you think 49 Across is a wee bit questionable? It really should be "Laus" it seems to me. For it to be in the Locative, Dative or Ablative- "Laude"- requires some other hint, such as a preposition like "Cum".

-Quibbling Limey

Crossword Man said...

Hi David. I defer to your expertise on Latin: my teacher despaired of me at the age of 12, thrust a book of Latin crosswords into my hand and told me to get on with them!

But if "cum laude" is equivalent to "with praise", isn't that all that convention requires; viz that the definition can substitute for the answer in some context?

Daniel Myers said...

Yes, I suppose so. My old Latin master wouldn't have approved to be sure - "You don't go putting nouns into the ablative just because you fancy it, young man!" - But, in a Saturday crossword where things are a bit stretched, so to speak, anyway, I suppose it passes muster. Thanks indeed for taking the time to reply.