Thursday, May 14, 2009

NYT Friday 5/15/09 - Use a Pencil

I'm not sure what to make of this puzzle: its thematic aspects are minimal, but it doesn't have a particularly ambitious grid - in terms of the number of black squares and number of answers, it's pretty close to yesterday's highly constrained design.

In a thematic cryptic, the "disappearing ink" theme would call for some letters to be erased, revealing an extra message (I very much doubt that's the case here). The instructions for cryptics sometimes give the redundant advice "use a pencil" - redundant, because solving any crossword in ink is asking for trouble.

So this wasn't what I have come to expect from a Friday crossword, but it was still a lot of fun and stretched my capabilities - particularly towards the top where Jubal, Anya and Ames conspired to hold me up. Despite that, this has to be one of the easiest end-of-week puzzles I've come across.
Solving time: 28 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 20a pre-op {Before making the cut?}
Theme

The two long answers are linked in the cluing:
17a temporary tattoo {Fun application}
56a disappearing ink {Means of secret writing ... or a description of a 17-Across?}
Solution

Xan Vongsathorn
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersXan Vongsathorn / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 32 (14.2%) black squares
Answers72 (average length 5.36)
Theme squares30 (15.5%)
Scrabble points307 (average 1.59)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

Jubal Early5a Jubal {Confederate general Early}. Jubal Early has to be one of the weirdest names in history. Nicknamed Old Jube and Old Jubilee, he served under Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee and was the Confederate commander in the Valley Campaigns of 1864.

37a Doran {Ann of "Rebel Without a Cause"}. Ann Doran (1911–2000) played the dominating mother to James Dean in the movie that crystallized Dean's status as a cultural icon.



59a Inés {Supermodel Sastre}. Inés Sastre is the Spanish model who became one of Lancôme's "spokesmodels" in 1996. She's also appeared in several movies, notably playing Aurora in The Lost City.



8d Anya {"Dragonwyck" author Seton}. American author Anya Seton (1904-1990) wrote historical romances. Dragonwyck is set around the Hudson River in the middle of the 19th century. A movie was made in 1946.



Aldrich Ames's mailbox19d Ames {C.I.A. betrayer arrested in 1994}. Aldrich Ames was a CIA counter-intelligence officer and analyst who was arrested for spying in 1994 and is currently serving a life term. He received over $4 million from the Soviet Union for his activities. The mailbox at 37th and R Sts. NW in Washington is famous for being used by Ames to signal (with a chalkmark) that he wanted to meet with his Russian handlers.

53d Gena {Rowlands of "Gloria"}. American actress Gena Rowlands stars in Gloria (1980) as the girlfriend of a gangster who goes on the run with a young boy wanted by the mob for information he may (or may not) have.



Noteworthy

20a pre-op {Before making the cut?}. My favorite clue of the puzzle - deceptive, but not stretching things too far.

26a TNT {Boom producer}. I'd seen this clue before when the answer was SST so I confidently put that in to start with.

31a uke {"Tip-Toe Thru' the Tulips With Me" instrument}. I have heard the song several times without knowing anything about its origins: Tip Toe Through the Tulips was written by Joe Burke in 1926 with lyrics by Al Dubin. Joe Burke subsequently used the song in his music for the movie Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929).



40a MDCLXVI {The annus in Dryden's "Annus Mirabilis"}. I didn't know this for sure, but strongly suspected 1666, the year of great disasters such as the Great Fire of London. Dryden chose to put a positive spin on things in his poem Annus Mirabilis, effectively saying - in typical British fashion - it could have been worse!



11d anti-nuke {Protesting the pro-testers?}. In the printed version I solved, the "pro-" appeared at the end of the line, so I assumed it read "Protesting the protesters". This made the clue look like the reverse of what it should be. I do hope the crossword printed in the dead tree edition of the New York Times doesn't suffer the same accident.

V for Victory41d V-sign {Winning move?}. I couldn't understand this at first, as where I come from the V-sign is usually rather rude. In fact it's known as a Harvey Smith from the time when the showjumper was disqualified for making a V-sign after winning. Then I remembered the more peacable use of the gesture (made the appropriate way round) in World War II.

Old Line Terp43d Terp {Maryland player, informally}. The Terps didn't make it into The Crucy League as they really don't come up often enough to be considered. Luckily I remembered the association with terrapins from somewhere and "terp" seemed a reasonable shortening.

The Rest

1a silo {Tower that's typically scaled from the outside}; 10a fact {Concern for a checker}; 14a I can {Confident assertion}; 15a as one {Harmoniously}; 16a snow {Cap material?}; 21a gas-mains {Subterranean lines}; 22a austere {Bare-bones}; 25a Ernst {"Ubu Imperator" artist, 1923}; 27a rentals {Beach houses, often}; 32a tea cozy {Pot cover}; 33a skip {Playback problem}; 34a spar {Argue (with)}; 38a kens {Some dolls}; 39a ally {Get together (with)}; 42a LOL {Response to an e-mailed joke, maybe}; 43a tee-hees {Giggles}; 44a ebb {Dwindle}; 47a stale {Stuffy, as air}; 49a asimmer {Barely boiling}; 51a alter ego {Captain Marvel, to Billy Batson}; 55a go pro {Hit the big leagues}; 60a in for {Soon to experience}; 61a Erie {Lake bordering four states}; 62a peat {Three-___}; 63a caste {Nobles and knights in the Middle Ages, e.g.}; 64a ne'er {Start to do well?}.

1d sit pat {Be content with where one is}; 2d ice-run {Annual river thaw}; 3d lamest {Like the worst of excuses}; 4d on pot {High, in a way}; 5d jar {It holds the mayo}; 6d USA {___ Patriot Act (2001 measure)}; 7d Borg {Wimbledon champ, 1976-80}; 9d lets {Do-overs}; 10d F star {Canopus or Polaris}; 12d coonskin {Kind of cap with a tail}; 13d two-steps {Some ballroom dances}; 18d opere {___ citato}; 23d README {Computer instructions heading}; 24d encode {Secure, in a way}; 28d torch {Image on a dime}; 29d azalea {Garden shrub}; 30d lynxes {Largish animals with black ear tufts}; 32d try {Go for it}; 33d ski {Biathlon need}; 34d salsa dip {Party dishful}; 35d plot line {Stripped-down story}; 36d all at sea {Hopelessly confuddled}; 44d empire {Result of many conquests, perhaps}; 45d Bernie {Late comedian Mac}; 46d broker {Stock figure}; 48d least {Minimal}; 50d Mogen {___ David (six-pointed star)}; 52d epic {"Beowulf," for one}; 54d oafs {Lubbers}; 57d rot {Hokum}; 58d ire {Steam}.

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