Monday, April 20, 2009

NYT Tuesday 4/21/09 - What are the Odds?

I thought it really remarkable that this thematic puzzle was possible. What are the odds that the names from the Tinker to Evans to Chance combo, together with their positions, add up to 15 each. And then that "double play combo" should also be a 15-letter answer. A staggering coincidence - hat's off to the compilers for exploiting it.

Magdalen and RossMagdalen and I celebrate a milestone wedding anniversary today: our first ... yay! My gifts to her were a framed print of the accompanying picture from our ceremony last year and a cryptic crossword with a theme of "papers" - she's about halfway through it as I write. She gave me three more CDs of female vocalists (for some reason, I prefer female voices both in classical and popular music).
Solving time: 16 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 49d odds {They may be stacked against you}

The double play combo Tinker to Evans to Chance, which was immortalized in the 1910 poem Baseball's Sad Lexicon; hence 57a double play combo {What 17-, 25- and 43-Across were, famously}.
17a Tinker - short stop {1908 Cubs player and position}
25a Evers - second base {1908 Cubs player and position}
43a Chance - first base {1908 Cubs player and position}

Ronald J and Nancy J. Byron
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersRonald J and Nancy J. Byron / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.97)
Theme squares60 (31.7%)
Scrabble points293 (average 1.55)
New To Me

Chester Arthur14a Alan {The "A" in Chester A. Arthur}. I should have heard of the 21st President of the USA, but he's not really forced himself on my attention (he doesn't even have an interesting middle name). Magdalen tells me that Chester Arthur attended her alma mater, Union College, where there is a statue of him by Bissell with a pose that rather invites student pranks. It a copy of (or similar to) one in Madison Square, and this article suggests the president was supposed to be holding spectacles in his right hand, but he kept losing them - "though both monuments are made of bronze there’s a lot of irony in them too."

Orel Hershiser41a Orel {Baseball analyst Hershiser}. Orel Hershiser is an interesting reference in the context of the baseball theme. Orel, nicknamed "Bulldog", was a right-handed pitcher from a later era. He's now a baseball analyst on ESPN and a professional poker player.

52a Brainiac {2006 Ken Jennings book ... or the author himself}. Ken Jennings holds the record for the longest winning streak on Jeopardy!. Here he is winning the highest-ever amount in a single day.

Early Childhood of Virginia Dare60a Dare {Virginia ___ (noted 1587 birth)}. Virginia Dare is famous for being the first child born in the Americas to English parents. We know about her birth in the short-lived Roanoke Colony because it was reported by John White when he returned to England to request assistance. When White came back three years later, Virginia and the colony had disappeared under circumstances which are still a mystery.

John Gotti61a Gotti {The Dapper Don}. John Gotti (1940-2002) headed the Gambino crime family, one of the "five families" that controlled criminal activities in New York City. He was also known as "The Teflon Don" because so many prosecution attempts failed to stick.

Spy vs. Spy31d spies {Black-clad and white-clad Mad adversaries}. Magdalen tried to explain to me about Spy vs. Spy in Mad Magazine, but I found it hard to visualize until seeing some example images. It was by Antonio Prohias, whose name was spelled out in Morse Code below the title panel.


ENIAC25d ENIAC {1946 high-tech wonder}. Most computer programmers would have an advantage here in having heard of this landmark in the development of digital computers. It was the first computer capable of being reprogrammed to solve any computing problem, but its main purpose was to calculate artillery firing tables.

49d odds {They may be stacked against you}. I was just going to quote this clue as nicely misleading, but later realized how ironic it is in light of the unlikelihood of the puzzle's theme (see top of post).

The Rest

1a taco {Soft or crunchy snack}; 5a smart {Like a 52-Across}; 10a abra- {Start of an incantation}; 15a pushy {Rudely assertive}; 16a beep {When repeated, Road Runner's call}; 20a at a price {How fame comes, sometimes}; 21a roast {Friars Club event}; 22a ATL {The Braves, on a scoreboard}; 23a liar {"Pants on fire" person}; 33a nerve {Chutzpah}; 34a hone {Put an edge on}; 35a spa {Hydrotherapy locale}; 36a it is {"How sweet ___!"}; 37a trims {Barbers' touch-ups}; 39a spit {Polish's partner}; 40a ACC {U. of Miami's athletic org.}; 42a sic 'em {Command to an attack dog}; 47a Utes {Salt Lake City athletes}; 48a ETO {Ike's W.W. II command}; 49a Obama {"Yes we can" sloganeer}; 62a malt {Fountain order}; 63a star {Polaris or Sirius}; 64a Olsen {Jimmy of the Daily Planet}; 65a exes {They're splitsville}.

1d ta-ta {"Toodles"}; 2d alit {Touched down}; 3d Cana {Water-to-wine site}; 4d on KP {Peeling potatoes, stereotypically}; 5d sprits {Mast extensions}; 6d muscle {Bodyguard's asset}; 7d Ashe {Only African-American male to win Wimbledon}; 8d rho {P, on a fraternity house}; 9d Tyr {Norse war god}; 10d absorb {Work like paper towels}; 11d beta {Software test version}; 12d REOs {Vintage autos}; 13d appt. {Date with an M.D.}; 18d erase {Clear, as a tape}; 19d trade {The "t" in Nafta}; 23d loom {Machine with a shuttle}; 24d inns {Rustic lodgings}; 26d vetch {Climbing plant with pealike flowers}; 27d Erica {Novelist Jong}; 28d RVs {Homes on wheels, in brief}; 29d chili {Hot dog topper}; 30d ASPCA {Humane org. since 1866}; 32d eat me {Wonderland cake phrase}; 37d tree {Logic diagram}; 38d refs {Flag tossers, for short}; 39d sib {Bro or sis}; 41d octal {Of base 8}; 42d stoic {Showing no emotion}; 44d Number {"Sorry, Wrong ___"}; 45d rerate {Add a star to, say}; 46d stay in {Not leave the house}; 50d boat {Dinghy, e.g.}; 51d aura {Surrounding glow}; 52d BLTs {Nonkosher diner offerings}; 53d Nome {Iditarod terminus}; 54d IMAX {Huge-screen format}; 55d able {Up to it}; 56d cots {Hotel room roll-ins}; 58d ego {Part of Freud's "psychic apparatus"}; 59d pol {Vote seeker, for short}.


Guil said...

Hey there! Just commenting to thank you for this blog! It's just awesome, and very helpful for me, as I'm an English student from Brazil (so forgive me for my limited vocabulary...)

Thank you very much!

Crossword Man said...

Hi Guil and thanks for the feedback. I'm finding crosswords are a great way to learn and I'm glad it's the same for you - keep it up!