Sunday, May 24, 2009

NYT Monday 5/25/09 - Forest Grump

Hub 1.0 was still with us Sunday night and the question arose whether we should solve the Monday New York Times crossword together. I said this was probably pointless, as the puzzle would be so easy that trying to collaborate would slow things down considerably.

This was a reasonable prediction, although the puzzle wasn't the easiest Monday one I've tried. I finished slightly ahead of Magdalen, who was trailed by Hub 1.0 - he had difficulties with the crossing of GTO and Oteri, reminding me of where I was at the start of the year.

Am I alone in thinking we were a little short-changed on the theme here: 64-Across tree and three 3-letter trees embedded in movie titles? Maybe it would have been difficult to find enough longer trees in movies alone; but this begs the question why not widen the options for 15-letter answers to get longer trees: or at least go for four 15-letter movie titles with trees in. This Forest Grump feels the grid doesn't push the envelope much, even for a Monday audience.
Solving time: 7 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 9a slab {Hunk}

The long answers have a tree hidden in the circled squares, spanning two or more words. This feature was referenced by 64a tree {Thing hidden in each of the movie names in this puzzle}.
19a Steel Magnolias {1989 Sally Field/Dolly Parton/Shirley MacLaine movie}

35a Big Momma's House {2000 Martin Lawrence movie}

50a Prelude to a Kiss {1992 Alec Baldwin/Meg Ryan film}

Prelude to a Kiss

Peter A. Collins
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersPeter A. Collins / Will Shortz
Grid15x14 with 34 (16.2%) black squares
Answers71 (average length 4.96)
Theme squares46 (26.1%)
Scrabble points281 (average 1.60)
New To Me

17a Olin {Ken of "thirtysomething"}. Ken Olin rose to stardom with his role as Michael Steadman on thirtysomething (sic, no initial capital). I seem to remember watching some episodes in England, but didn't recall the names of the actors - hearing the lovely theme music brings it all back.

electric kettle4d Oster {Blender maker}. Going to the Oster web site explains why I haven't heard of these guys: you can select any country in the Americas, but not on the other continents. An odd difference between Britain and America is the use of electric kettles: they're really hard to find here, but everyone has them in the UK - perhaps because we need to make so much more tea!

5d Boom Boom {Classic John Lee Hooker song of 1962}. I only know one famous "boom boom": it's the end of every joke by Basil Brush, the vulpine glove puppet that appeared on British TV.

D.H.Lawrence memorial52d Taos {New Mexico resort}. I was going to pass Taos by in this commentary, until I noticed an odd literary connection: the English novelist D.H. Lawrence settled there in the 1920s and, although he died in Venice, his ashes are now interred in a chapel near Taos.


9a slab {Hunk}; 23a he-man {Hunk}. Having solved 23-Across first, it was hard to get in the right mindset to solve 9-Across - neat pair of clues.

29a GTO {Old Pontiac}. The Pontiac GTO was originally produced between 1964 and 1974. It's regarded as the first "muscle car" and famously featured in Two-Lane Blacktop. GM have announced that the Pontiac brand will be phased out next year as part of its restructuring efforts - what a shame to drop such iconic branding.

41a Amy {Novelist Tan}. Amy Tan is a Chinese American writer whose writing focuses on the relationship between mothers and daughters divided by cultural and generational differences. The Joy Luck Club was made into a movie in 1993.

Reno46a Janet, 51d Reno {With 51-Down, John Ashcroft's predecessor as attorney general}. This comes up often enough that it's now a gimme for me. Nice to be able to clue Reno as something other than the "gambling mecca".

58a in LA {"To Live and Die ___"}. I don't know too much about this movie, but familiarity with the title was enough. To Live and Die in LA is a thriller from 1985 involving Secret Service agents.

loving cup10d loving cups {Some trophies}. I knew that loving cups had two handles, but it never occurred to me before that indeed many trophies have this form. Here's a picture specially for Magdalen: Tiger sure loves cups.

31d Oteri {Onetime "S.N.L." player Cheri}. I stumbled the first time I was faced with Cheri Oteri: seeing Hub 1.0 struggle in the same way reminded me of where I was and how much progress I've made in filing away common crossword answers like this.

The Rest

1a zero {Home (in on)}; 5a bows {Arrow shooters}; 13a axes {Lumberjacks' tools}; 14a oleo {Margarine}; 15a core {Uneaten part of an apple}; 16a pint {Small milk carton capacity}; 18a avid {Eager}; 22a rob {Hold up}; 24a jib {Foresail}; 27a toasts {"Here's to you!" and others}; 32a adaptor {Electrical device for foreign travelers}; 34a scat {"Git!"}; 39a bogs {Swamps}; 40a stopper {Cork}; 42a gropes {Seeks blindly}; 45a Sri {___ Lanka}; 48a res {Legal matter}; 56a real {Not imaginary}; 57a alai {Jai ___}; 59a anno {The "A" in A.D.}; 60a clod {Lunkhead}; 61a roof {Santa's landing place}; 62a most {Part of M.V.P.}; 63a toss {Pitch}.

1d zaps {Microwaves}; 2d exit {Stage direction after an actor's last line}; 3d René {Philosopher Descartes}; 6d olla {Earthenware pot}; 7d weighs {Puts on a scale}; 8d sonnet {One of Shakespeare's begins "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"}; 9d Scala {Milan's La ___}; 11d aria {Diva's number}; 12d beds {They have headboards and footboards}; 20d lotto {Game with a $100 million prize, maybe}; 21d oms {Meditation syllables}; 24d Jabba {"Star Wars" villain ___ the Hutt}; 25d idiom {"Knock it off" or "get it on," e.g.}; 26d Baggy Jeans {Hip-hop wear}; 28d arm {One of an octopus's octet}; 30d Taser {Police stunner}; 33d PMs {Evenings, briefly}; 34d sop {Soak (up)}; 36d asp {Egyptian cobra}; 37d steroids {Shots taken by some athletes}; 38d Hosea {Old Testament prophet}; 42d gnu {Bearded beast}; 43d redact {Edit}; 44d Otello {Verdi hero married to Desdemona}; 47d allot {Apportion}; 49d skirt {Mini or tutu}; 50d pram {Nanny's vehicle}; 53d in or {"Are you ___ out?"}; 54d sloe {Gin flavoring}; 55d safe {Not out}.

1 comment:

Magdalen said...

I mocked the hapless Crossword Man in my post on the NPR puzzle for yesterday (5/24/09) when I pointed out (in real life, and again on this blog) that Callista Flockhart is now on Brothers & Sisters. Well, look who's showing up in today's puzzle? Ken Olin, who has a recurring role on Brothers & Sisters, and his wife Patricia Wettig (not clued as such, but looking very beautiful in Ross's clip from thirtysomething) who's a key protagonist on B&S, oh, and Sally Field, who's the mother of all those titular brothers & sisters! All we need now is to have Rob Lowe, Ron Rifkin, Nigel Havers and/or Rachel Griffiths in tomorrow's Times puzzle.

But, lest you worry that everyone is on B&S, Ross -- no, Janet Reno has not had a guest role as Saul & Nora's transgendered second cousin, Pat!