Wednesday, May 20, 2009

NYT Thursday 5/21/09 - Back Ends

This was another puzzle where it took me ages to see the theme: only after eight minutes of struggling did I notice what was happening by getting 65-Across. The knowledge that the last pair of letters was being swapped had great predictive value in the rest of the grid and I finished in a respectable time for a Thursday New York Times crossword.

The original phrases used for the theme are an oddly assorted bunch: a sitcom character (Barney Fife) and movie title (Happy Feet), with the rest regular dictionary phrases. One wonders if a more uniform set would have been possible with this idea: perhaps not if the objective was for six theme answers - that's pushing the limits.
Solving time: 13 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 22a resole {Fix, as a pump}
Theme

Phrases with the last two letters reversed, making a pun:
17a Barney fief {Name of Lord Rubble's feudal estate?}
26a coal mien {Air in a sooty shaft?}
33a sneak peke {Sly little dog?}
46a Happy fete {Celebration for a Disney dwarf?}
51a snow Coen {Bamboozle a "Fargo" director?}
65a border lien {Property claim along the Rio Grande?}
I really love Happy Feet, which I remember as one of the first movies I saw after arriving in wintry USA.



Solution

Patrick Blindauer
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersPatrick Blindauer / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares54 (28.6%)
Scrabble points300 (average 1.59)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

The Shrinking Aral Sea64a Aral {It's shrinking in Asia}. This was an original (to me) way of cluing a ubiquitous answer: apparently, the Aral Sea (once 68,000 km2) has been steadily shrinking as a result of Soviet Union irrigation projects. It is now 10% of its original size and has split into three separate lakes. What's left is too salty to support fish and heavily polluted.

Kampgrounds of America34d KOA {Place to overnight in an R.V.}. The liberties taken with spelling the first word made this answer hard to guess. Kampgrounds of America is a chain of campgrounds - a franchise business with over 450 sites in North America and Japan.

60d René {___ Dubos, Pulitzer winner for "So Human an Animal"}. René Dubos (19011982) was a French-American microbiologist whose work on isolating antibacterial substances from microorganisms led to the discovery of antibiotics such as tyrothricin. So Human an Animal expresses his concerns about our loss of humanness as a result of changes in the environment.

Noteworthy

1a ABC {1970 hit for the Jackson 5}. With my useless knowledge of popular music, you might expect me not to know this. But here's a song from the seventies that I actually remember - perhaps because it is one of the most irritating songs of all time. Prepare to be irked again.



Our pump being fixed22a resole {Fix, as a pump}. Very neat piece of deception: I tried to think what re- word might apply to a mechanical pump. Like many rural properties, we get our water from a well pump, which we took the precaution of replacing in 2007: after 25 years of use, we thought it wouldn't be long before the pump failed (and knowing our luck, it would be when we had guests).

44a Ryder {Charles ___, "Brideshead Revisited" protagonist}. I like Evelyn Waugh's writing and was positively obsessed by it in my teens ... to the extent that I thought Oxford University would be as described in his books, and populated by characters from his books. Big mistake, as I was about 50 years too late. For most people, the image of Charles Ryder will be that portrayed by Jeremy Irons in the Granada TV adapation.



Ernie Els73a Els {P.G.A. Tour Rookie of the Year after Singh}. Not as difficult as at first sight: are there any other three-letter golfers than Ernie Els?

ape4d ape {Mirror}. Nice clue, although it didn't fool me for very long: the words are equivalent in the sense of copy or mimic.

47d Yma {Sumac from Peru}. I encountered Yma Sumac in a puzzle back in January, but even this weird a reference obviously didn't sink in completely: it wasn't till I had finished the puzzle that I remembered why Sumac = Yma. So here again is the soprano with the five octave range.



The Rest

4a agreed {"Deal!"}; 10a clue {What a loose thread might be}; 14a bro {Friendly term of address}; 15a puente {Río crosser}; 16a hens {Nest egg protectors}; 19a arcs {Slurs, in music}; 20a Anne {English princess}; 21a SSA {Sender of monthly checks: Abbr.}; 24a bow {Present addition}; 28a torn out {Removed roughly}; 32a NYU {Big Apple sch.}; 35a lifer {One stuck in the can}; 40a amat {Third in a Latin series}; 41a scour {Carefully search}; 43a nite {Short evening?}; 48a obi {"The Mikado" wardrobe item}; 50a similes {Like words?}; 56a add {Do sum work}; 57a cubism {Picasso/Braque movement}; 58a Aer {___ Lingus}; 61a Emma {Title heroine described in the first sentence of her novel as "handsome, clever and rich"}; 68a bsmt. {Realty ad abbr.}; 69a arcana {Alchemic knowledge}; 70a cat {Mungojerrie or Skimbleshanks, in a musical}; 71a seas {Wet septet}; 72a yes men {Toadies}.

1d ABBA {"Money, Money, Money" band}; 2d bran {Muffin composition, maybe}; 3d corn-bread {Hot dog coating at a county fair}; 5d Guys {"___ and Dolls"}; 6d refs {Judges}; 7d Eniac {Pioneer computer}; 8d été {Beach time in Bordeaux}; 9d defray {Offset, as expenses}; 10d chasm {Gorge}; 11d -le-Roi {Choisy-___ (Paris suburb)}; 12d uncle {Pawnbroker, in slang}; 13d Essen {Ruhr industrial hub}; 18d neonate {Recent arrival}; 23d Elul {Month before Tishri}; 25d wok {Convex cooker}; 27d one-ups {Betters}; 28d tsar {Romanov ruler}; 29d On My {"___ Own" (song from "Les Miz")}; 30d UPS {DHL competitor}; 31d techie {Sysop, for one}; 36d infidel {Unbeliever}; 37d fieldmice {Meadow voles}; 38d -ette {Major conclusion?}; 39d Rees {Roger of "Cheers"}; 42d RPI {Sch. that's about 150 mi. north of 32-Across}; 45d rocs {Enormous birds of myth}; 49d Bombay {City visited in "Around the World in 80 Days"}; 51d scabs {Union foes}; 52d nurse {White-cap wearer}; 53d Obama {"The Audacity of Hope" author}; 54d wilts {Slumps}; 55d narcs {Pusher pursuers}; 59d Edam {Cheese choice}; 62d meal {Seder, e.g.}; 63d ants {Creatures with tunnel vision?}; 66d ore {Prospector's prize}; 67d ran {Fled}.

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