Sunday, April 19, 2009

NYT Monday 4/20/09 - Popinjays

The compiler seemed to get a bit carried away with the Js in this puzzle: in addition to the nine required for the thematic answers, he popped two more into the top row of the grid. This all does wonders for the grid's "Scrabble points", which averages at 1.98.

For some reason, I struggled more than usual with this Monday New York Times crossword: I stalled on a lot of the clues (see New to Me) and got particularly held up in the center at the end. Magdalen points out that if I'd been following the fashion news inspired by the First Lady, I'd have enjoyed plainer sailing with the J Crew.
Solving time: 11 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 24a jays {Ones with caws for alarm?}
Theme

People with initials J.J., signaled by 36a J.Crew {Retail clothing giant ... or a description of 17- and 54-Across and 10- and 24-Down?} - I gather Michelle Obama buys outfits from the store, which has done wonders for J. Crew's sales.
17a Jesse James {Brother outlaw in the Wild West}
54a Joe Jackson {White Sox outfielder nicknamed Shoeless}
10d Janis Joplin {"Me and Bobby McGee" singer, 1971}
24d Jacob Javits {Longtime New York senator for whom a center is named}
JoJo and jelly jar are bonus answers: they fit the pattern, but aren't part of the main theme.

Solution

Randall J. Hartman
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersRandall J. Hartman / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.79)
Theme squares47 (25.1%)
Scrabble points370 (average 1.98)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

25a T.K.O.s {Some boxing wins, for short}. I've heard of the term technical knockout, but never bothered to find out what it means ... until now. Although the meaning varies slightly between countries, a T.K.O. is declared when someone (usually the referee) decides that a fighter shouldn't continue, even though not technically KO'd by being "counted out".

Charles Robb38a Robb {L.B.J. son-in-law Charles}. Chuck Robb was a Virginia governor from 1982 to 1986 and senator from 1989 to 2001. He married the elder of L.B.J.'s two daughters, Lynda Bird.

Horace Mann45a Mann {19th-century educator Horace}. Horace Mann (1796–1859) is considered the father of American public education, due to his work as secretary of the board of education of Massachusetts.

Fala and FDR49a Fala {Bo : Obama :: ___ : Roosevelt}. This clue shows how close to publication puzzles can be changed: we didn't know of Bo until April 12 - his inauguration ceremony was two days later. I remembered Roosevelt had a dog, because I'd seen a documentary on Washington memorials and thought the inclusion of the pet so poignant. I had to be reminded of the name Fala, however.

1d Jojo {"___ left his home in Tucson, Arizona" (Beatles lyric)}. The words are from Get Back, a single that became the closing track on Let It Be. Of course I knew this one (it's been hard to avoid), just not been able to make sense of the words.



18d Jaye {"The Gong Show" panelist ___ P. Morgan}. I recognized the pun, so could make sense of the clue, but The Gong Show is new to me: I gather it aired in the 1970s and 1980s and was a parody of variety shows.



33d McGee {Fibber of old radio}. Another one I just had to get from crossings. Fibber McGee and Molly was a radio comedy show running from 1935 to 1959.



Noteworthy

24a jays {Ones with caws for alarm?}; 27d Bambi {Thumper's "deer friend"}. I love this kind of playfulness, which seems to be rare in Monday cluing.

frijoles41a frijoles {Mexican beans}. Frijoles were in the clue to arroz that caused me so much trouble last Friday. So I was in a good position to know what the Spanish for beans is today.

46a Harvey {Politico Milk of "Milk"}. Something good came out of watching the Oscar ceremony this year: Sean Penn won the Best Actor award for his portrayal of gay activist Harvey Milk.



5d The Mask {1994 Jim Carrey film}. Jim Carrey plays shy clerk Stanley Ipkiss who becomes transformed into an uninhibited cartoon trickster by the eponymous mask.



bowler hat13d hats {Bowlers that don't bowl}. Magdalen thought this was a cool clue, but it didn't really make much of an impression on me: I'm so used to the multiple meanings of "bowler" in England that I don't make any assumptions about what it might entail. Bowler hats were named after the hatmakers who designed it: Thomas and William Bowler.

The Rest

1a joust {Knights' competition}; 6a joey {Baby kangaroo}; 10a josh {Kid around}; 14a Oprah {Winfrey who said "I still have my feet on the ground, I just wear better shoes"}; 15a -enne {Feminine suffix}; 16a area {Length x width, for a rectangle}; 19a neat {Spick-and-span}; 20a -ola {Suffix with pay}; 21a many {"___ happy returns"}; 22a idiots {Imbeciles}; 26a abase {Humiliate}; 28a hung jury {Cause for a mistrial}; 32a slack {Not taut}; 33a me no {"Tell ___ lies"}; 34a one a {Prime draft status}; 35a Elmo {Googly-eyed Muppet}; 37a pink {Color for baby girls, traditionally}; 39a egos {Things inflated with hot air?}; 40a plots {Cabalists' plans}; 43a gains {Makes progress}; 44a able {Up to the task}; 50a Ali {"___ Baba and the 40 Thieves"}; 53a alai {Jai ___}; 57a hurt {Injured}; 58a alto {Choir voice}; 59a hit on {Discover by chance}; 60a Ames {Home of Iowa State University}; 61a rear {Back end}; 62a exams {Midterms and finals}.

2d Opel {Autobahn auto}; 3d Ursa {With 45-Down, home of the Big Dipper}; 4d SAS {Carrier to Copenhagen}; 6d jeans {Levi's, e.g.}; 7d On My {"Time Is ___ Side" (Rolling Stones hit)}; 8d ENE {Opposite of WSW}; 9d yes, I know {"So you've said"}; 11d Oreo {Nabisco cookie}; 12d seat {Chair or sofa}; 23d dog {Hound}; 25d tunes {iPod downloads}; 26d all or {"It's ___ nothing"}; 28d hero's {Give a ___ welcome}; 29d union {The "U" in A.C.L.U.}; 30d rents {Payments to landlords}; 31d yaks {Talks, talks, talks}; 32d serf {Feudal worker}; 36d jelly jar {Smucker's container}; 40d panache {Flair}; 42d OBE {U.K. award}; 43d gala {Black-tie affair}; 45d major {See 3-Down}; 46d ha-ha {"That's rich!"}; 47d alum {Homecoming attendee, in brief}; 48d rare {Once-in-a-blue-moon}; 49d feta {Greek cheese}; 50d Asta {Dashiell Hammett hound}; 51d loom {Tapestry device}; 52d inns {Places to stay the night}; 55d olé {Bullring cheer}; 56d Kix {Spherical breakfast cereal}.

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