Sunday, April 5, 2009

NYT Monday 4/6/09 - It's Just a Phase

With this Monday puzzle, I tried a different technique to reduce my solving time. My normal approach is to try to solve clues where I already know one or more of the letters from crossings; this is true both for cryptics and the harder American puzzles.

Today I looked for clues to longer answers with no known letters - essentially trying to get the maximum number of new letters in the grid for a single clue solved. This seemed to speed solving up quite a bit, though it means a considerable number of clues don't get looked at - you have to trust that if an answer filled en passant is a word, it is probably correct.

The lunar theme was nicely implemented, with a bonus reference in 5-down, as well as the stated one in 68-across.
Solving time: 6 mins (no cheating)
Theme

Phases of the 68a moon [Its cycle is indicated by the starts of 20-, 32-, 40- and 55-Across]. Good to see them in the correct sequence down the grid, though I wouldn't expect less of the New York Times:
20a waxing poetic [Speaking with lofty language]
32a full disclosure [Withholding nothing]
40a waning interest [What a fresh ad campaign helps combat]
55a New Hampshire [Holder of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary]
Solution

Dustin Foley
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersDustin Foley / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 40 (17.8%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.74)
Theme squares56 (30.3%)
Scrabble points297 (average 1.61)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

syzygy5d aligned [Like celestial bodies exhibiting syzygy]. I love "syzygy" for the odd shape of the word (it also feel great to type). But I can never remember that it means. Now I look it up, I realize the answer could be regarded as thematic in the context of the puzzle.
syzygy n conjunction or opposition; the period of new or full moon (astron); a dipody (classical prosody).
From The Chambers Dictionary
Saint Dominic9d Domingo [Santo ___, Caribbean capital]. To be precise, Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic - it's also the largest city in the Caribbean. Both were named after Saint Dominic, who's the patron saint of astronomers!

44d raps [Notorious B.I.G. releases]. I parsed the clue as Notorious "B.I.G." releases. No The Notorious B.I.G. (1972-1997) was a highly successful rapper who got killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. A biopic was released earlier this year.



Buffalo Sabres50d Sabre [Buffalo hockey player]. The team started out as the Buffalo Bisons and were renamed the Sabres in 1970 after a name-the-team contest.

52d Mineo [Actor Sal of "Exodus"]. Sal Mineo played a Jewish emigrant bound for Israel in this 1960 Otto Preminger movie.



Noteworthy

14a Pepe [Skunk ___ Le Pew]. I came across Pepe Le Pew a day or so go, solving another crossword. I'd better see a clip to reinforce the memory.



The Rest

1a sled [Iditarod vehicle]; 5a alms [Money for the poor]; 9a dazed [In a stupor]; 15a Leah [Jacob's wife]; 16a Obama [President sworn in on Lincoln's Bible]; 17a egos [They can be stroked or bruised]; 18a Iago ["Othello" character who says "Who steals my purse steals trash"]; 19a magus [Bearer of gold, frankincense or 66-Across]; 23a sly [Cunning]; 24a unto ["Do ___ others ..."]; 25a enigma [Riddle]; 29a Ale [Ginger ___ (Canada Dry product)]; 30a sag [Droop]; 31a Lex [___ Luthor of "Superman"]; 37a Ella [Jazz's Fitzgerald]; 38a boo [October 31 shout]; 39a leis [Luau garlands]; 45a era [History segment]; 46a IRS [Auditor's org.]; 47a raw [Like carrots that crunch]; 48a serene [Calm]; 50a soup [Campbell's product]; 52a mar [Damage]; 58a ABC-TV ["Dancing With the Stars" airer]; 61a abet [Help in crime]; 62a ents [Tolkien creatures]; 63a tutee [One getting one-on-one instruction]; 64a urge [Egg on]; 65a Leo I [Sainted fifth-century pope]; 66a myrrh [Gift brought to Bethlehem]; 67a lead [Pb, in chemistry].

1d spews [Shoots, as lava]; 2d legal [Permissible]; 3d epoxy [Strong bond]; 4d Desi [Arnaz of "I Love Lucy"]; 6d leapt [Pounced (on)]; 7d Magoo [Nearsighted Mr. of cartoons]; 8d shoe [What a cobbler works on]; 10d abaci [Beaded counters]; 11d zag [Zig's partner]; 12d emu [Cousin of an ostrich]; 13d DAs [Prosecutors, briefly]; 21d null [___ and void]; 22d teal [Blue-winged duck]; 26d glues [3-Down and others]; 27d merit [Earn]; 28d axes [x and y, on a graph]; 29d alai [Jai ___]; 30d Scot [Sean Connery, nationally speaking]; 32d flare [Airborne signal]; 33d ulnar [Like a bone from the elbow to the wrist]; 34d ibis [Bird seen in hieroglyphics]; 35d son [Bush 43, to Bush 41]; 36d slew [Large amount]; 37d ewes [Rams' mates]; 41d Nineveh [Ancient Assyrian capital]; 42d grew [Sprouted]; 43d erupted [Blew, as a volcano]; 49d enter [Key in]; 51d omega ["Phi, chi, psi" follower]; 53d Artoo ["Star Wars" droid]; 54d resin [Plant exudation]; 56d haul [Lug]; 57d helm [Captain's place]; 58d ATM [Dispenser of 20s]; 59d buy [Totally accept, as an idea]; 60d ctr. [Midpoint: Abbr.].

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