Friday, April 3, 2009

NYT Saturday 4/4/09 - Opposites Attract

This Saturday New York Times crossword had the feel of an April Fool's Day puzzle that couldn't be scheduled on a Wednesday and so was given the nearest feasible slot. I wasn't expecting a theme, and it took 9 minutes or so to get to 33-across and discover the message spelled by the first letters. Progress got a little faster after that!

This weightier-than-usual theme approaches what you might see in a thematic cryptic like the Listener Crossword. In fact, acrostics are so hackneyed in that series that I often scan down the first letters to see if there's anything there. So it was nice to be reminded of that in an American puzzle: the icing on the cake was that 33-across, having an 11-letter answer, had to be treated consistently with the theme and be the opposite of what was expected.

I have to applaud the compiler for surmounting the various challenges he was faced with: first filling a grid where all the long answers have antonyms; then sculpting a message to fit the total number of clues; and finally writing clues with pre-determined initial letters. Awesome!
Solving time: 23 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 12d rioter [Tears may be brought to one's eyes]

The clues make an acrostic - ie their first letters read:
Any clue for a word of eight or more letters is the opposite of the word to be entered
The 11 answers and clues affected by this are:
18a opposition [Friendly side in a debate]
23a evenness [Asymmetry, as in a relationship]
33a last letters [Explanatory information about this puzzle is revealed by reading these in the clues]
49a relegate [Make more important]
54a inactivate [Energize]
3d graceful [Tripping over one's feet]
4d essential [Hardly necessary]
9d in secret [Overtly]
32d irregular [Well-proportioned]
35d trusting [Remaining leery of]
36d separate [Draw together]

Matt Ginsberg
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersMatt Ginsberg / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 34 (15.1%) black squares
Answers68 (average length 5.62)
Theme squares85 (44.5%)
Scrabble points262 (average 1.37)
New To Me

60a Trey [ESPN anchor Wingo]. Trey Wingo is the co-host of ESPN's SportsCenter - he also seems to have a nice sideline in commercials:

28d Otto ["How to Make an American Quilt" author Whitney ___]. Because of the "quilt" in the title, I thought Magdalen might know this - she has more quilt books than I knew existed, but not this one. Although the book involves quilting, it's also a metaphor for the piecing together of different story lines. It was made into a movie in 1995:

50d Estes [Rob of "Melrose Place"]. Rob Estes played Sam Towler in a guest role, and Kyle McBride later in this soap opera. Anyone named Estes is guaranteed a starring role in crosswords too.


15a Loman [Lead role in a classic Arthur Miller play]. Luckily for me, I have seen the 1985 film of Death of a Salesman and remembered enough to know the name of the title character.

22a Sennett [Rival of Roach in early film comedy]. I'd also heard of Mack Sennett, "The King of Comedy," and was entertained by the likes of the Keystone Cops from a very early age. I remember asking Magdalen if they were based on the Pennsylvania State Police - apparently not!

Songs of the Cat37a Laredo [Its streets are immortalized in a classic cowboy ballad]. My introduction to this song came courtesy of Garrison Keillor's Songs of the Cat, which improves the lyrics as follows:
As I walked out in the streets with my radio
As I walked out with my radio one day -
I saw a poor kitty cat wrapped in white linen
(It had been white linen but now it was gray)
Lyrics from Songs of the Cat

There's no hope of finding that on YouTube, so we'll have to make do with the original:

Rodin's Thinker43a nude ["The Thinker," for one]. Don't really think of this Rodin statue as a nude - the original is in Paris and there are over twenty casts around the world including one in the Rodin Museum in Philly.

12d rioter [Tears may be brought to one's eyes]. A lovely misleading definition.

The Rest

1a page [Attendant]; 5a chili [No mild pepper]; 10a APRs [Yearly loan figs.]; 14a errs [Chooses badly]; 16a Erie [Upstate New York county]; 17a eras [Eventful stretches]; 20a license [Officer's request, at times]; 25a chaser [Wile E. Coyote, often]; 26a rafter [Overhead supporter]; 27a pore [Ruminate (over)]; 29a try [Determine the innocence or guilt of]; 30a lui [Orléans pronoun]; 31a Peter I [Feodor III's successor as czar]; 38a reg. [Govt. agency creation]; 40a top [Head]; 44a beeper [On-call accessory]; 47a spades [Rakes' shedmates]; 51a here's to [Opening of a toast]; 53a secured [Reinforced]; 56a lava [Leucite source]; 57a re-do [Edit menu command]; 58a named [Titled]; 59a a ten [Two fives for ___]; 61a gloss [Result of polishing]; 62a rent [Split].

1d peeler [Implement in a kitchen]; 2d arrival [Station information]; 5d closer [Expert dealmaker]; 6d hopes [Optimists keep them alive]; 7d imp [Parent's challenge]; 8d Laos [Part of French Indochina]; 10d Aetna [State Farm competitor]; 11d priest [Incense burner, at times]; 13d sentry [Ever-vigilant sort]; 19d in here [One possible answer to "Where are you?"]; 21d NNE [Frankfurt-to-Copenhagen dir.]; 24d speeder [Ticket taker?]; 31d pled [Entreated]; 34d sanest [Of soundest mind]; 39d get even [Take vengeance]; 40d T-shirt [Option for dressing down]; 41d opener [Barkeep's gizmo]; 42d parade [Event for a marshal]; 44d bleeds [Extorts]; 45d EEC [Nafta's overseas counterpart]; 46d red ant [Tiny biter]; 48d decoy [Entrap]; 52d oval [Eyecup's shape]; 55d amo [Domitian's "I love"].


BR Gardens said...

Deinitely a new theme, but I managed to get most of it before resorting to Google!

Crossword Man said...

Glad to hear it. It's very rare that I need to Google (expect to confirm answers), even for an end-of-week puzzle, as my wife Magdalen is so good at filling in the gaps in my knowledge.