Friday, April 10, 2009

NYT Saturday 4/11/09 -The Power of Two

This Saturday New York Times crossword seemed rather variable in the difficulty level: the bottom was straightforward and after about 30 minutes, I just had the NE and NW corners to finish off; unfortunately, no amount of cerebration seemed to help break into these areas.

Shortly before an hour, I decided to combine forces with my wife Magdalen. She hadn't got many answers in the puzzle, but amazingly knew two of the critical long answers I was struggling with: Sacajawea and Priceline. With just these extra answers, we could finish the grid in no time - Magdalen and I make a great team solving crosswords and in other aspects of our lives.

This crossword's grid is a neat piece of construction: the average answer length is well over six letters and there are no three-letter words. The fill seems remarkably good, with delightful answers like Yakety Sax and Sacajawea.
Solving time: 60 mins (no cheating, collaborative effort)
Clue of the puzz: 5d tale [Related thing]

Karen M. Tracey
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersKaren M. Tracey / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 29 (12.9%) black squares
Answers64 (average length 6.13)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points331 (average 1.69)
New To Me

Sacajawea14a Sacajawea [Her face began to circulate in 2000]. Not knowing Sacajawea was a real killer in the NW corner. Luckily this was a gimme for Magdalen and together we could complete that section very quickly. The Sacagawea (sic: there are multiple spellings) dollar was issued in 2000 - it's one of two current dollar coins, neither of which I've seen. I gather Sacajawea is famous for accompanying the Lewis and Clark Expedition and acting as a Shoshone interpreter.

Carroll Reece20a Reece [1920s-'60s Tennessee congressman B. Carroll ___]. I'm really going to struggle to learn facts like these. I guess 40 years in congress earns B. Carroll Reece a place in the Congress Hall of Fame, but even Magdalen didn't remember him; and, as she points out, there are a lot of US politicians with this record of service. A museum at the East Tennessee State University bears Reece's name.

44a Raitt ["Something to Talk About" Grammy winner, 1991]. Although I didn't recognize the song title, the answer somehow shouted Raitt at me - not the first time she's been an answer I imagine. Something to Talk About is from her eleventh album, Luck of the Draw.

carne asada1d asada [Carne ___ (roasted beef dish)]. I knew chili con carne, but not carne asada (literally "roasted meat" in Spanish).

4d Tania ["Lost" actress Raymonde]. Tania Raymonde plays Alex Rousseau on a show that has baffled me every time I've seen it.

6d Switzer [Child actor Carl who played Alfalfa]. We're going all the way back to Our Gang again - is that fair to me? Carl came to be hired quite by accident: the Switzers were on a sightseeing trip to the Hal Roach Studios when Carl and brother Harold did an impromptu performance in the commissary; Hal Roach happened to be there and signed them both up.

11d Yakety Sax [Musical accompaniment to many a comedic chase scene]. Another nightmarish answer. Yakety Sax was a 1963 single written and recorded by Boots Randolph. Reading this didn't mean much to me, but listening to the music recalls those speeded-up chase scenes from The Benny Hill Show. I fail to understand why Benny Hill is one of Britain's most successful comedic exports - he's not who I'd have picked to be funny for England (Spike Milligan, the Pythons, Rowan Atkinson, to name a few).


Equal5a tsps. [Equal measures?: Abbr.]. Lovely clue with the initial capital disguising a proper name, in this case Equal, the sweetener brand.

17a atonality [Feature of the 1925 opera "Wozzeck"] and 19a Donizetti ["Lucrezia Borgia" composer]. Interesting to see two opera clues in a puzzle: the first was a gimme, although Wozzeck is really atonality-lite - I don't find it too hard on the ears. I struggled to recall who wrote Lucrezia Borgia, even positing one of the Scarlattis in desperation; only when the corner was truly broken into with the help of Sacajawea did I recall Donizetti.

36a flapper [Historical decorum disdainer]. This clue could cover a lot of ground, so it took a lot of crossing answers before I saw flapper and accepted they indeed did a good job of flouting conventions in their day.

Ulan Bator2d Bator [Mongolian for "hero"]. I knew the answer had to be part of a famous Mongolian name, but couldn't think beyond Genghis Khan. Ulan Bator is Mongolia's capital, and literally means "red hero" in honor of Damdin Sükhbaatar, who liberated Mongolia with the Red Army's help in the early 1920s.

5d tale [Related thing]. I saw through this reasonably easily, but it's still a great clue: a tale is something that is related, in the sense of "told".

calico cat29d calico cat [Litter member that's almost always female]. Calico cats are largely white, with red and black patches - an accident of genetics, specifically X-inactivation.

The Rest

1a abut [Be against]; 9a crypt [Undercroft]; 16a hoary [Grizzled]; 18a ask in [Warmly welcome]; 21a Arnaz ["Holiday in Havana" star, 1949]; 22a zen state [A Buddhist might be found in one]; 24a emerge [Spring]; 26a Pyle ["The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood" author Howard]; 28a scissor [Clip]; 32a seeps in [Enters gradually]; 34a pan out [Bear fruit]; 35a Delano [California city near Bakersfield]; 38a telexes [Outdated communications]; 39a sigh [Dramatic exhalation]; 40a Tuborg [Danish beer brand]; 42a crossbow [Old bolt shooter]; 49a mooch [Bum]; 50a avalanche [Go downhill fast]; 52a E. coli [Gut flora]; 53a digestion [Gut reaction?]; 54a saver [Screen ___]; 55a uneasiest [Least comfortable]; 56a A-test [Big shock wave producer, briefly]; 57a Bess [Gershwin title character]; 58a cres. [Musical score abbr.].

3d UConn [Big East b-ball powerhouse]; 7d petter [Dog owner, often]; 8d sayings [Saws]; 9d chart [Plot]; 10d rose apple [Fragrant fruit used for jellies and confections]; 12d Priceline [Alternative to Travelocity or Orbitz]; 13d Tyne [River near Hadrian's Wall]; 15d jazzes up [Adds spice to]; 23d seeder [Farming machine]; 25d motets [Some a cappella music]; 27d Enos [Biblical 905-year-old]; 28d SPFs [Nos. on some lotion bottles]; 30d in a groove [On one's game]; 31d Sophocles [He wrote "Time eases all things"]; 33d eelgrass [Plant with long ribbonlike leaves]; 37d rub-a-dub [Drumbeat]; 38d towages [Tugboat fees]; 41d bovine [Jersey, e.g.]; 43d shirt [Jersey, e.g.]; 45d antic [Bit of harlequinade]; 46d icier [Relatively remote]; 47d those [Word that might accompany finger-pointing]; 48d tents [Nonpermanent residences]; 49d mesa [Pueblo site]; 51d leas [Bucolic backdrops].

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