Wednesday, May 6, 2009

NYT Thursday 5/7/09 - Round the Bend

I really like the rebus theme of this crossword, which is reminiscent of some of the thematic cryptic puzzles I'm familiar with. The compiler did a great job matching up the symmetrical pairs of answers and fitting them into nicely "open" corners. In fact rounds the corner looks the most awkward part of the fill, with seven three-letter words required to shoehorn it in.

It took me a while to figure out these thematic aspects, but once the pattern was clear, it was really helpful to get the corner answers and make inroads in areas that had looked like trouble-spots to start with. So this puzzle didn't drive me round the bend - that's generally reserved for the Friday ones and guess what's coming up tonight!
Solving time: 18 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 18a talk radio {Rush job?}

The O in each corner can stand for hoop/ring/zero/circle, the significance being the same for symmetrically opposite answers. This is hinted at by 40a rounds the corner {Gets past a last difficulty ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme}.
1a hoopster {B-ball player}
6a awe-inspiring {Like the Grand Canyon or Fourth of July fireworks}
67a ring in the new {Welcome January 1, say}
68a hula hoop {1950s fad item}
1d Circle Line {New York City tour provider}
14d zero hour {Showtime, at NASA}
47d size zero {Teeny dress measurement}
55d crop circle {Mysterious art visible from the sky}

Elizabeth C. Gorski
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersElizabeth C. Gorski / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 34 (15.1%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 5.03)
Theme squares59 (30.9%)
Scrabble points305 (average 1.60)
New To Me

21a Reid {"American Pie" actress Tara}. Tara Reid plays Vicky in the 1999 teen sex comedy. The subject matter would seem gross to any minds other than adolescents.

Dora Maar au Chat26a Maar {Picasso's muse Dora ___}. Dora Maar (1907–1997) was a French photographer, poet and painter who had a nine year relationship with Picasso.

44a or I {"Show pity, ___ die": "The Taming of the Shrew"}; 12d Padua {"The Taming of the Shrew" setting}. Two references to The Taming of the Shrew, but not explicitly linked in the cluing. The quote is from the scale Hortensio (disguised as a music teacher in order to pursue Bianca) devises.
'A re,' to Plead Hortensio's passion;
'B mi,' Bianca, take him for thy lord,
'C fa ut,' that loves with all affection:
'D sol re,' one clef, two notes have I:
'E la mi,' show pity, or I die.
From The Taming of the Shrew Act III Scene 1

64a thoro' {Complete, quickly}; 60d Thru {Dolly Parton's "Travelin' ___"}. Easy to guess the Dolly Parton song title, which was on the Transamerica soundtrack, but I feel it's slightly inelegant to cross these two rather similar shortenings.

soma cube pieces2d somas {Bodies of organisms}. Not a word I use much: soma is the Greek word for body, and in biology means the body of an animal or plant excluding the germ cells. I associate the word more with Soma cubes, those puzzles made up of the different shapes you get by joining up to four cubes together.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway3d trams {Suspended air travel?}. In Britain, trams are definitely thought of as land transport. In the context of this clue, I see a tram is a cable car such as you might board to go on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

Les Aspin49d Aspin {Clinton's first defense secretary}. It's nice to have an alternative to a spin, but I'm particularly ignorant of former US pols. Les Aspin was Secretary of Defense from January 1993 to February 1994.

57d Seth {Green of "The Italian Job," 2003}. Seth Green plays technical expert "Lyle" on the heist team. Sorry, but my love for the original movie starring Michael Caine means this remake will never appeal.


16a neuropath {Phobic sort}. I'm not sure where the compiler got this definition - maybe by confusion with neurotic? My dictionaries suggest that a neuropath actually has a physical disorder of the nervous system.
neuropath n someone whose nervous system is diseased or in disorder.
The Chambers Dictionary
Rush18a talk radio {Rush job?}. You may not like the man, but you have to admire this clue which beautifully conceals the proper name at the start. Rush is The Mandarin of Talk Radio (self-appointed). I always assumed "Rush" was a nickname, but it seems he was born with it.

Sports Immortals19a Namath {Broadway Joe}. I took a book out of the library called Sports Immortals to try to learn some of the US sporting greats. I like its succinctness, but it teed off Magdalen by relegating Tiger Woods to a footnote on the Bobby Jones page. This seems to be because it's based around the collection at the Sports Immortals museum - maybe Tiger just hasn't generated that much memorabilia. Anyway, the book mentions Joe Namath in connection with Super Bowl III for which he was MVP.

22a U Nu {"Burma Looks Ahead" author}. U Nu was the cause of my downfall in a previous crossword, and it's a testament to the value of the blogging that he was no longer mysterious this time around: any three-letter answer with Burma in the clue and you can pretty much write in U Nu.

23a ess {Head of steam?}. A neat way of referring to the initial letter, which can be spelled ess.

50a nappy {Diaper, in Devon}. At last a clue that plays to my strengths. There are more deceptive counties that might have been used - as in "Kent's diaper", for example - but maybe the word nappy is hard enough on American solvers without any extra complications?

20d harps {Strings pulled in heaven?}. A delightfully whimsical definition.

The Rest

15a Lorre {"Casablanca" co-star}; 17a imams {Prayer leaders}; 24a a darn {Give ___ (care)}; 27a jure {De ___ (by right)}; 29a gay {Jocund}; 31a proud papa {Cigar distributor, perhaps}; 36a Frodo {Fictional hero on a quest to Mount Doom}; 42a eerie {Creepy}; 43a his or hers {Unisex}; 46a odes {Heading in a Keats volume}; 47a star {"Notch" on Orion's belt}; 53a ANC {Mandela's org.}; 56a IRS {Agcy. with agents}; 57a save {Stuff the piggy bank}; 58a sit for {Take, as an exam}; 61a zeppelins {Means of some W.W. I raids}; 65a evictions {Ousters}; 66a crump {Crunching sound}.

4d Erma {Humorist Bombeck}; 5d rest {Kick back}; 6d ant {Hill denizen}; 7d wear a {___ smile (grin)}; 8d Euler {Calculus pioneer}; 9d irking {Teeing off}; 10d nord {Sud's opposite}; 11d spa {Where you may get steamed}; 13d I, Tina {1986 Turner autobiography}; 25d death {The end}; 26d myrrhs {Some aromatic resins}; 27d junior {Sonny}; 28d udder {Milk dispenser}; 30d afore {Prior to, poetically}; 31d pre {Paid intro?}; 32d roe {Beluga delicacy}; 33d our {Joint possession word}; 34d Phi {___ Beta Kappa}; 35d Aesop {Classical storyteller}; 37d one {Series opener}; 38d der {Part of many Dutch surnames}; 39d ORs {Hosp. areas}; 41d Cody's {Buffalo Bill ___ Wild West Show}; 45d in a lie {Bad way to be caught}; 48d Trevi {___ Fountain}; 51d avion {Par ___}; 52d penne {Pasta variety}; 53d afoul {Run ___ of}; 54d Norma {Bellini opera}; 59d itch {Scratcher's target}; 62d pct. {%: Abbr.}; 63d SSW {Milwaukee-to-Houston dir.}.

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