Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NYT Wednesday 3/11/09 - Anabolic

I can't always see eye to eye with the crossword compiler: today's puzzle was full of stuff I didn't know, much of it unconfirmed by known answers. It was inevitable that I would make a wrong guess at some point and the crossing of U Nu and Ana (Ivanovic) was my undoing.

This could just be sour grapes, but the cluing seemed a little thoughtless in several areas of this puzzle: given U Nu could only be defined one way, I'd have avoided cluing ana with reference to a person; and of course there are plenty of alternatives to N at that particular crossing.
Solving time: 30 mins (no cheating, two wrong answers)
Clue of the puzz: 44a oasts [Places for hops]

Four people whose surnames start with drinks liable to be found in a bar (58d):
20a Donald Rumsfeld [Bush cabinet member who resigned in 2006]
26a Amy Winehouse [Her "Rehab" won a Grammy for Song of the Year]
45a Wallace Beery [Best Actor winner for "The Champ," 1931]
54a Natalie Portman ["Star Wars" actress who's a Harvard grad]

Caleb Madison
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersCaleb Madison / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 37 (16.4%) black squares
Answers74 (average length 5.08)
Theme squares55 (29.3%)
Scrabble points289 (average 1.54)
New To Me

Underground Railroad1a Xenia [Ohio town called the Bicycle Capital of the Midwest]. I didn't know X&Y, so was guessing here and guessed right. I see that the welcoming Xenia ("hospitality" in Greek) was, like many small towns in Ohio and Pennsylvania, a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Robert Byrd10a Byrd [Longest-serving senator in U.S. history]. Two possibilities for 13d, so it was a toss-up between Byrr and Byrd. The latter seemed the most likely and I got lucky again: Robert Byrd has been a Democratic senator since 1959.

35a Nita [Actress Naldi of the silents]. Another difficult choice, as I wasn't sure of the spelling for 28d Uies. Nita Naldi memorably played opposite Rudolph Valentino in Blood and Sand.

U Nu49a U Nu [First P.M. of Burma]. Sooner or later, I was going to pick the wrong choice and I did here, guessing Utu. U Nu became prime minister when Burma gained independence from Britain in 1948. U is a title of respect in Burma, often appearing as such in British cryptics.

1d X and Y [2005 #1 album for Coldplay]. I just got Viva la Vida for Magdalen, but I didn't know this earlier album title. It had to end and Y, so X was a reasonable guess for the first letter. Here's the first hit single from the album, Speed of Sound:

6d Morrow [Rob of "Numb3rs"]. Rob Morrow plays Don Eppes in the series:

10d Blue Monday [1957 Fats Domino hit]. Another new one on me, but unlikely to be guessed wrong:

28d Uies [180's]. I had great difficulties with this, as I've only come across ueys. I suppose these maneuvers are more often said than written down, so the spelling can vary to suit the speller.
uey (Aust. inf.; usu. fig.) n a U-turn, as in do a uey.
from The Chambers Dictionary
32d Loca ["Livin' La Vida ___"]. Spanglish for "Living the crazy life". Shrek 2 featured a version of this Ricky Martin song:

Ana Ivanovic46d Ana [Tennis's Ivanovic]. The Serbian Ana Ivanovic is currently ranked 7th in the world.

48d EEO [Want ad abbr.]. EEO stands for Equal Opportunity Employment. Often seen with AA for Affirmative Action and M/F/D/V for Male/Female/Disabled/Veteran:
We are proud to be an EEO/AA employer M/F/D/V
James Ensor53d Ensor [Artist James]. James Ensor (1860-1949) was a Belgian painter and printmaker.


6a Mork [Sitcom father of Mearth]. Morkiana seems very common in crosswords: we've avoided "Na-Nu Na-Nu" this time by referencing Mork's son Mearth. Orkans age backwards, so Mearth is in fact older than Mork.

15a One I ["The ___ Love"]. An easily guessed fill-in-the-blank, which could reference several different songs. Let's go with R.E.M.'s first hit single.

afternoon tea34a tea [Leaves after dinner?]. Another clue that doesn't make sense to a Brit: I drink lots of tea, but seldom after dinner. "Leaves in the afternoon?" would work better from my point of view. We had a memorable afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC while vacationing with Hub 1.0 last fall.

39a old dear [Friend from way, way back]. Huh? In the UK, old dear is a somewhat patronizing expression for an elderly lady.

oasts44a oasts [Places for hops]. A nice clue, calling to mind sidewalks and hopscotch. Oasts (oast houses in full) are the characteristically shaped drying kilns that are commonest in Kent in the UK (where hops grow in abundance).

50a ylem [Proto-matter from which the universe was made]. This obscure word rang vague bells - I must have scanned the Chambers definition from time to time.
ylem n the original substance from which, according to some theories, the elements developed.
from The Chambers Dictionary
59a abaa [Simple quatrain form]. abaa is not a common rhyme scheme, but it is used for the final quatrain of a villanelle. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night is a famous example, which ends:
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
from Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas
2d Eliot [Poet who wrote "This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper"]. The lines are from the final stanza of The Hollow Men.

38d Poe ["The Bells" writer]. The same Poe-m as on January 20.

43d W. B. Yeats ["The Second Coming" poet]. A lot of poems in this crossword. This one was highly influential on other writers, inspiring the novel Things Fall Apart amongst others:

The Rest

14a along [Sing ___]; 16a lean [Be biased]; 17a niece [Wedding flower girl, maybe]; 18a read [Librarian's imperative]; 19a ulna [It's below the elbow]; 23a YTD [Wall Street earnings abbr.]; 24a iron [Monopoly token]; 25a MGM [___ Grand]; 31a alibi [Out]; 36a non-stop [All day every day]; 41a ecto- [Opening for outside?]; 42a sow [Spread]; 51a -ize [Real ending?]; 58a bebé [New member of la familia]; 60a oasis [Al-Qatif, for one]; 61a Aral [___ Sea, outlet of the Amu Darya]; 62a tits [Small songbirds]; 63a Otero [New Mexico county]; 64a rosy [Glowing]; 65a Esso [Old pump name]; 66a mater [Livia, to Tiberius].

3d no end [Incessantly]; 4d Inca [Ancient Peruvian]; 5d age limit [What some amusement park rides have]; 7d one unit [A pint, typically, at a blood bank]; 8d ream [Chew out]; 9d kids' meal [Restaurant offering that might come with a toy]; 11d yell [Holler]; 12d rand [Pretoria money]; 13d DNA [Strand material]; 21d dry [Towel off]; 22d FGH [String after E]; 26d absolutely ["No doubt!"]; 27d neo- [Prefix with liberal]; 29d stat [Factoid for fantasy baseball]; 30d ears ["I'm all ___"]; 31d anew [Fresh]; 33d intl. [Worldwide: Abbr.]; 37d osculate [Kiss]; 40d dorm room [Stereotypically messy digs]; 47d El Paso [City on the Rio Grande]; 51d I'm set ["No more for me"]; 52d Zaire [Congo, once]; 54d Nero ["I, Claudius" figure]; 55d à bas ["Down with ...!": Fr.]; 56d ibis [Relative of a stork]; 57d ta-ta ["Ciao"].

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