Wednesday, April 15, 2009

NYT Thursday 4/16/09 - Crazy Driver State

Connecticut is lucky to be honored in today's New York Times crossword: without extra-ct as the starting point I doubt there'd have been a puzzle. I found it fun to learn the state nicknames when I arrived in the USA three years ago, but the Nutmeg State is one of the hardest to remember: driving through it on I-84, we see some of the craziest drivers I've ever experienced, but no nutmeg. To us, CT will always be the "crazy driver state".

Overall this puzzle was straightforward, but I got into trouble with the square at the intersection of Arnel and La Rosa: if you didn't know either of these dated references you were in difficulties. The problem is really in the fill, as the clues to these answers couldn't really be made any easier than they were.
Solving time: 19 mins (no cheating, two wrong answers)
Clue of the puzz: 19d Delta {American alternative}
Theme

An extra CT is inserted into four long answers, making puns. The explanation comes from 26d extract {Derive (from) ... or a two-part hint for understanding 17-, 33-, 42- and 58-Across}.
17a showed the doctor {Revealed when seeking medical help?}
33a Direct Straits {Water passages that don't turn?}
42a Monica Selects {One-named R&B singer makes her choice?}
58a European Unction {Continental salve?}
Solution

Oliver Hill
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersOliver Hill / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 34 (15.1%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.90)
Theme squares63 (33.0%)
Scrabble points297 (average 1.55)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

9a Arnel {Synthetic fabric}. I hadn't heard of Arnel and, not knowing 13-down, had to guess at the last letter. With a 1 in 10 chance like this, I usually guess wrong! This answer comes up about once a year in the NYT so I should probably make an effort to remember it. As far as I can tell, the sole producer of the fiber, Celanese, stopped making Arnel in the mid 80s cuz of toxicity concerns - time to expunge it from crosswords too?
Arnel n. trademark a synthetic fiber made from cellulose triacetate; a fabric made from fibers of this type.
From The New Oxford American Dictionary
21a Len {___ Barry, with the 1965 hit "1-2-3"}. Len Barry is a Philadelphian who was the lead singer of The Dovells from 1957 to 1963. He had the referenced hit after going solo - it was one of the forty singles John Lennon selected for his tour jukebox.



27a Lois {Trixie's mom, in the comics}. A reference to the Hi and Lois comic strip. Hi and Lois have four kids: Chip, Dot, Ditto and baby Trixie, who converses with a ray of sunlight. They also have a Dawg. It looks like a special posting on comic strip characters is called for.

dorsiflexion37a ankle {Exhibitor of dorsiflexion}. dorsiflexion may be music to the ears of the medical profession, but doesn't crop up much in everyday conversation. Here's my one chance to find out what it means.
dorsiflex v.t. Physiology bend (something, typically the hand or foot) dorsally or toward its upper surface: the subject dorsiflexed his ankle
From The New Oxford American Dictionary
13d La Rosa {Singer Julius who was famously fired on the air by Arthur Godfrey}. "fame", "famous" and "famously" tend to be used rather liberally in NYT clues. The incident in 1953 certainly hadn't come to my attention before: Julius La Rosa was a regular on the morning radio show Arthur Godfrey Time and the Wednesday night variety show Arthur Godfrey and His Friends. He was fired on air without being given any prior warning - this clip explains the background better than I could.



Noteworthy

1a oh oh {Cry of anticipation}; 2d heh {Schemer's utterance}. It seems a little inelegant to have these two crossing, but that corner's fairly constrained: would Roth and echo worked out any better at 1 and 14 across?

Jon Lester38a ERA {It's low for aces: Abbr.}. Earned Run Averages aren't exactly new to me ... why they're in the tagline at the top of the blog! But I didn't know that an ace is specifically the best starting pitcher in baseball and needed to be reminded that the best pitchers give away the fewest runs. Here's one for Dino_Burger: Red Sox ace Jon Lester.

jobless47a can {Pink-slip}. Two slang terms for the unfortunate fate of many Americans these days. A green card isn't green and it seems a pink slip isn't pink.

69a one-d {Flat, for short}. This seemed wrong at first glance: surely one-dimensional is linear and two-dimensional is planar? Yes, that's how Sheldon would look at it, but to normal peeps like Penny, both mean shallow and superficial, ie "flat".

American Airlines19d Delta {American alternative}. A neat clue - it took a while to realize American was the airline.

10d roc {Menace for Sinbad the sailor}; 53d orc {"The Silmarillion" creature}. Two mythological creatures that coincidentally make anagrams of each other. rocs have appeared in movie versions of Sinbad, but The Silmarillion seems to be the one Tolkein book that remains to be filmed.



62d ode {"Beauty is truth, truth beauty" genre}. A nice reference to an ode we've all heard of.
O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,"--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
From Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats
The Rest

5a bass {Low part}; 14a keno {Game with many balls}; 15a etch {Carve}; 16a voilà {Cry of accomplishment}; 20a Sara {1979 Fleetwood Mac hit}; 22a rho {Density symbol}; 23a no more {"I've had it!"}; 26a ell {Wing}; 28a Ana {Santa ___}; 29a sax {Instrument in the E Street Band}; 31a trauma {Focus of a hospital center}; 39a e-tail {Modern sales}; 45a crypts {Locations of some secret meetings}; 48a is a {"Patience ___ virtue"}; 49a I owe {"___ you one!"}; 50a sot {Drunk}; 52a good at {Accomplished in}; 55a Ngo {Old Vietnamese strongman ___ Dinh Diem}; 56a cuz {Slangy conjunction}; 57a firs {A lot of a Maine forest}; 64a medal {___ ceremony}; 65a ware {Ending with flat or spy}; 66a endo- {Prefix with -plasm}; 67a assts. {Staffers: Abbr.}; 68a Amy's {"___ View" (1999 Broadway play)}.

1d OKs {Approvals}; 3d Ono {Sean ___ Lennon}; 4d howso {Question that demands an explanation}; 5d bed-rest {Recuperation requirement}; 6d atta- {Boy lead-in}; 7d sch. {K.S.U., L.S.U. or M.S.U.}; 8d shell {Bermuda memento, perhaps}; 9d Avon {Massachusetts town named for a river in England}; 11d nitrous acid {HNO2}; 12d Elohim {God, in the Old Testament}; 18d ear {Place for a headphone}; 23d nada {Zilch}; 24d on in {"Come ___!"}; 25d mark my words {"Just you wait!"}; 27d latte {Drink that may be vanilla-flavored}; 30d a sec {"Just ___"}; 32d riel {Cambodian currency}; 34d elope {Advice for lovers whose parents disapprove}; 35d cent {Copper}; 36d rasa {Tabula ___}; 40d it's a {"___ deal!"}; 41d LSAT {Future atty.'s hurdle}; 43d issue {Newsstand offering}; 44d engines {They're under hoods}; 45d cinema {Hollywood business}; 46d rogues {Reprobates}; 51d Ozawa {Conductor noted for wearing white turtlenecks}; 54d osteo- {Bone: Prefix}; 56d Cpls. {Inferiors to sgts.}; 57d fury {Hurricane's force}; 59d oat {___ flakes}; 60d 'Nam {'60s service site}; 61d inn {B and B}; 63d nod {Approval}.

2 comments:

THE FLATBACKER said...

Completed the puzzle but pondered on the theme! Thanks for the help!

Crossword Man said...

Many thanks for the feedback - I'm glad you found the commentary useful.