Thursday, April 30, 2009

NYT Friday 5/1/09 - TGIF

I still remember Joon Pahk's Friday 13th March puzzle, which took about 40 minutes and defeated me with a Toots Shor reference. This Friday, I was luckier and managed to get the puzzle right and in a shorter time - a sign of improvement?

This is a good example of my favorite type of New York Times crossword: the difficulties come more from delightfully subtle clueing than obscure cultural references; the grids abound in low frequency letters and unexpected letter sequences (coq and DNA sequence being causes for surpise in this crossword). It's still a toss-up whether I manage to complete a puzzle of this difficulty: it can be really frustrating to get stuck on them, but it's wonderful when I finish one.
Solving time: 35 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 28a narcs {They're not exactly user-friendly}

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 points331 (average 1.69)
New To Me

Major League Baseball Players Association57a Fehr {Donald of the Major League Baseball Players Association}. I had to guess this one, but didn't have much doubt about it as the crossings seemed unambiguous. Don Fehr has been the Executive Director Major League Baseball Players Association since 1986. In this role, he represents the interests of the players in negotiations with the team owners.

59a He's {"___ in Love" ("Kismet" song)}. The 1953 musical Kismet is based on Borodin's music (principally the opera Prince Igor) - "a lot of borrowed din" as one critic put it. It was made into a movie in 1955.

Gridiron boo-boo13d turnover {Gridiron boo-boo}. I can usually recognize an American football reference now, but rarely know what it means. Time to learn: when the offense loses possession of the ball through a fumble or interception, that's a turnover. I'm not sure what's happening in this picture, but it doesn't look like things are going right!


stump speech27a pol {Stumper?}. I like the colorful shortening pol, which doesn't seem to get used in Britain. The question mark suggests "stumper" is the compiler's fanciful coinage for a politician on the stump - that term derives from the days when the stump of a felled tree was the most convenient platform for a pol to orate from.

blue screen of death28a narcs {They're not exactly user-friendly}. A beautifully deceptive clue calling to mind DOS command lines and the blue screen of death - yes, narcs are decidedly unfriendly to any drug users they find.

Chicago Cubs3d roster {Diamond information}. After thinking of carat, cut and purity, I finally remembered Magdalen's tip that any mention of diamonds in a clue probably refers to baseball. I gather a baseball roster typically consists of 25 players.

Bessemer converter37d Bessemer {Big name in steelmaking}. Sir Henry Bessemer (18131898) came up with the first industrial-scale process for the mass production of steel. The Bessemer process purifies pig iron by blowing air through the molten metal, oxidizing the impurities which becomes the slag.

58d rash {Precipitate}. I discovered the many meanings of precipitate recently while trying to write a cryptic clue for it. My clue was "What some drops are", which might pass muster in an American puzzle: it simultaneously alludes to the vertiginous and meteorological meanings.

The Rest

1a carjack {Take the wheels out from under?}; 8a muskets {Arms on shoulders}; 15a arousal {Opposite of depression}; 16a antique {Object of many an appraisal}; 17a festive {Like wingdings}; 18a procure {Win}; 19a tot {Add (up)}; 20a sept {Nombre after six}; 22a in kind {Way to repay}; 23a ales {They may create a buzz}; 25a stodgy {Hidebound}; 30a own {Completely dominate}; 31a wave {50-Across sight}; 32a OPEC {Venezuela is in it}; 34a alleges {Claims}; 37a barrier {Block}; 40a sealers {Polar bears, e.g.}; 41a Electra {Subject of plays by Sophocles, Sartre and O'Neill}; 42a exit {Turnoff}; 43a sigh {Indication of longing}; 44a coq {Poule's partner}; 46a cecum {The appendix extends from it}; 50a sea {Hydrospace}; 51a lay-out {Arrangement}; 54a rose {Mounted}; 55a entrap {Catch}; 60a matador {Guy making passes}; 62a neatens {Picks up}; 64a étagère {Stand against a wall, perhaps}; 65a cashier {One who's registered for work?}; 66a resents {Doesn't take well}; 67a exhorts {Presses}.

1d caftan {Unisex wear}; 2d areola {Small hollow in a surface, in biology}; 4d jut {Protuberate}; 5d as is {Just like that}; 6d caves {Relents}; 7d kleptocracy {Government marked by rampant greed and corruption}; 8d map {It may contain the whole world}; 9d unrig {Strip of gear}; 10d stony {Expressionless}; 11d kick {What a spiked drink has}; 12d equipage {Army outfit}; 14d seedless {Like ferns}; 21d tow {Request after breaking down}; 24d scorch {Assail scathingly}; 26d DNA sequence {Biochemical arrangement}; 29d spit {Stick in the fire}; 31d welter {Tumble and toss about}; 33d e'er {"Most miserable hour that ___ time saw": Lady Capulet}; 35d lex {Imperator's law}; 36d laic {Flock member}; 38d alienate {Put off}; 39d regattas {Meets near the shore?}; 45d oof {Reaction to a slug}; 47d coheir {Sibling, often}; 48d Usenet {Predecessor of Web forums}; 49d Messrs {Quaint letter opener: Abbr.}; 51d laden {Afflicted (with)}; 52d aport {Left on board}; 53d the ax {Bad thing to get from your boss}; 56d rage {Be uncontrolled}; 61d res {Image specification, for short}; 63d tho {However briefly?}.

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