Thursday, May 21, 2009

NYT Friday 5/22/09 - Easy Manny

I had a great time with this Friday New York Times crossword. When I finished the northwest corner in about 5 minutes, it looked way too easy, but I found the remainder much harder: getting through from the northeast to the southwest was a long slog, partly because I can't say as I have was so hard to recognize - it got filled in several stages.

The bottom right gave a little resistance at the end, but I was very pleased to see the clock at just over half an hour when I put my pencil down. I seem to get along well with Manny Nosowsky's puzzles, as I finished his previous Friday one in about the same time. I suspect I have slightly better rapport with the more senior compilers: they are less likely to throw in pop culture references that are lost on me.
Solving time: 33 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 19a co-star {Bill sharer}

Manny Nosowsky
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersManny Nosowsky / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 26 (11.6%) black squares
Answers68 (average length 5.85)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points301 (average 1.51)
New To Me

18a Spinoza {Lens-grinding Dutch philosopher}. The compiler's generosity in throwing in a bit of Spinoza trivia was offset by the problem I didn't know it. Lens grinding was Spinoza's day job and he died young of a lung disease, possibly from exposure to glass dust particles. Here's another trivia ort for you: Spinoza was Jeeves's favorite philosopher:
Jeeves was in a deck chair outside the back door, reading Spinoza with the cat Augustus on his lap. I had given him the Spinoza at Christmas and he was constantly immersed in it. I hadn't dipped into it myself, but he tells me it is good ripe stuff, well worth perusal.
From Jeeves and the Tie That Binds by P.G.Wodehouse
SDS7d SDS {Port Huron Statement grp.}. I had no idea about this and even Magdalen had to think hard before realizing it related to Students for a Democratic Society, a left-wing movement that flourished in the 1960s. Poverty and civil rights were the main issues raised in the Statement, but the movement was later known more for its opposition to the Vietnam War. The SDS was revived in 2006.

Dalai Lama23d Dalai {Ocean, in Mongolian}. A classic clue type where the answer is something (or someone) strangely familiar: in this case Dalai Lama, which literally means "Ocean teacher".

24d Panhellenic {Of fraternities and sororities collectively}. The inspiration to clue Panhellenic this way presumably came from the names of organizations such as the National Panhellenic Conference (representing 26 sororities) and National Pan-Hellenic Council (representing nine African American fraternities and sororities).

27d SAS {World's first carrier with a transpolar route}. There aren't that many three-letter airlines and a carrier based in the north seemed likely. Scandinavian Airlines System started its transpolar route from Copenhagen to Los Angeles in 1954.

Ouida29d Ouida {"Under Two Flags" novelist, 1867}. Ouida was the pseudonym of English novelist Marie Louise de la Ramée (18391908). Under Two Flags is one of her most popular novels, being a tale of war, adventure, romance, tragedy and the Foreign Legion - as such it has attracted many film adaptations.

42d Urbana {It has a twin city in the Midwest}. It looks like I need to learn my twin cities, tri-cities and even quad cities, because compilers love to reference them. Let's start with Urbana and Champaign - both in the Prairie State. Railroads led to the foundation of Champaign when the Illinois Central Railroad laid track two miles west of Urbana's downtown.

47d O dear {"___ Cassio!": Othello}. The reference is from Act IV, Scene 1: Cassio is bragging to Iago about his affair with Bianca; poor Othello misinterprets (in asides) the whole story as being about his wife Desdemona:
CASSIO. She was here even now; she haunts me in every place. I was
the other day talking on the sea bank with certain Venetians, and
thither comes the bauble, and, by this hand, she falls me thus
about my neck-
OTHELLO. Crying, "O dear Cassio!" as it were; his gesture imports it.
From Othello by William Shakespeare

17a Phileas {Verne's Fogg}. A good thing the middle letter was clear from the crossing, because I easily confuse two similar forenames in fiction: Phineas (Finn) and Phileas (Fogg). There might have been an NPR Sunday Puzzle in there, except that Trollopean characters aren't exactly household names any more. Phileas is well-known from movie adaptations:

19a co-star {Bill sharer}. A lovely misleading clue, calling to mind diners going Dutch. But this time it concerns performers: folk not usually known for their democratic feelings when seeing how their names appear in publicity.

20a stew {Stay up nights, say}. In the UK, to "stew" is an old slang term for to study hard, but I think the intended sense here is to worry about something, especially on your own.

Elon45a Elon {Its sports teams are called the Phoenix}. Elon University in Elon, NC crops up again to show why it's #12 on The Crucy League. A fire in 1923 destroyed much of the campus, hence the team nickname.

amoeba51a amebae {Real low life?}. Old habits cost me a minute or two when I put in amoeba ... which the clue could equally well lead to, except that you'd never get a British variant spelling in a puzzle without some kind of indication of it.

4d Piltdown man {Its teeth were actually a chimpanzee's}. A great answer to get into a puzzle: the Piltdown man fossil was "discovered" by Charles Dawson in 1912 and it was over 40 years before it was finally exposed as a hoax in 1953. The identity of the forger is still unknown, but evidence points to the discoverer, who had quite a history of creating fake archeological finds.

sixty-nine10d FWIW {E-mail disclaimer}. This is one of those neat acronyms that became popular with the advent of e-mail, for what it's worth.

20d sixty-nine {Cardinal that looks the same when viewed upside down}. Great clue and answer, although I didn't spend too long thinking of religious cardinals before arriving at 69.

51d acey {___-deucy}. Acey-deucy is one of those dictionary entries I know well, without remembering the meaning ... which suited me OK with this clue. Acey-deucy is a version of backgammon in which a dice throw of one or two wins an additional turn. I gather it's also a recent album from R&B singer Anthony David.

The Rest

1a Harper's {Magazine since 1850}; 8a informs {Enlightens}; 15a e-tailed {Accepted PayPal payments, e.g.}; 16a now what? {Cry upon reaching an impasse}; 21a deg. {Acad. goal}; 22a amid {Within}; 23a dirt {Scandalmonger's love}; 24a Pele {Goal-oriented superstar?}; 25a tenor sax {Ravel's "Boléro" calls for one}; 28a so as to {Such that one might}; 30a wealth {Assets}; 32a union {It may be striking}; 33a I can't say as I have {"Not in my experience"}; 37a Norma {Celestial neighbor of Scorpius}; 38a inside {Private}; 39a damage {Crack, e.g.}; 41a it's a Lulu! {"Wait'll you see this!"}; 46a Tony {Accolade for a great play}; 48a L. Ron {Hubbard of science fiction}; 49a TMI {"I didn't need to know all that!," informally}; 50a made {Whipped up}; 53a air mile {Frequent flier's credit}; 55a O Canada {It's heard before many a face-off}; 56a inertia {Sluggard's problem}; 57a relines {Makes warmer, maybe, as boots}; 58a less tar {Selling point for some lights}; 59a eye care {It might improve your focus}.

1d hep-cat {Old swing digger}; 2d at-home {In familiar territory}; 3d raisin {___ bread}; 5d Elea {Home of Parmenides}; 6d rear {Can}; 8d instr. {Music producer: Abbr.}; 9d no pets {Apartment restriction}; 11d own {Consistently defeat, in slang}; 12d Rhodesia {It was NE of Bechuanaland}; 13d Mazeltov {Literally, "good luck"}; 14d stage one {Initial part}; 26d retag {Change the price on}; 31d hasty {Precipitate}; 33d in detail {Blow-by-blow}; 34d coalmine {Where pit stops are made to get fuel?}; 35d armoires {Bedroom furniture}; 36d sis {Provider or wearer of some hand-me-downs}; 40d et alia {Stand-in for unnamed others}; 43d loader {Construction machine}; 44d unease {Distress}; 50d mitt {Paw}; 52d male {Like some electrical plugs}; 54d Mrs {Questionnaire check box option}; 55d öre {100ths of a krona}.

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