Monday, May 4, 2009

NYT Tuesday 5/5/09 - Staying in Balance

This crossword feels imperfectly balanced in a couple of ways: the MUSCLE/MUZZLE pun seems the odd one out - it might have been better to either have only USS to UZZ, or have three different ways of spelling the USS sound represented. (Writing this, I realize the compiler may have intended the latter, as bussing can be spelled busing - but this wasn't obvious to me when solving.)

In doing the commentary, it also appears that most of the references in the puzzle are to movies - that's fine by me, but the New York Times normally seems to spread the references around more aspects of culture high and low, to suit everybody.

These aspects didn't faze me much and I made relatively good progress - the one trouble spot was the unfamiliar Bit-O-Honey but I shot myself in the foot there by trying proton, even though I knew it to be massful. Once I made the correction, what appeared in 35-down finally seemed a likely name for candy.
Solving time: 11 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 5d noms {Jules et Jim, par exemple}

Phrases with an USS sound changed to UZZ, making a pun:
17a don't move a muzzle {Decide against reorganizing the pet store?}
38a buzzing tables {Conversation-filled places in a restaurant?}
61a fuzz and feathers {What chicks have?}

Trip Payne
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersTrip Payne / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares43 (22.8%)
Scrabble points340 (average 1.80)
New To Me

14a Adano {Hersey's "A Bell for ___"}. A Bell for Adano was first published in 1944 and is set during the Allied occupation of Adano (a fictional port) in Sicily; Major Joppolo, an Italian-American officer helps find a replacement for the town bell that was melted down by the fascists to make bullets. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945.

2d I Do! I Do! {Musical whose opening song is "All the Dearly Beloved"}. I Do! I Do! first opened in 1966 with music by Harvey Schmidt and book and lyrics by Tom Jones (the writer, not the sexy singer). The musical is about the ups and downs of a married couple from their wedding night in 1895 to their 50th anniversary in 1945. Today is the second anniversary of my marriage to Magdalen in Lexington, MA, but there's not much of a song-and-dance as we consider the formal British wedding in April 2008 to be the one really worth of celebration.

Bit-O-Honey35d Bit-O-Honey {Nestlé candy}. There's not much overlap between the names of US candy and British sweets. Here's an example that you wouldn't find in the UK. I think from now on I have the right to try every new candy item that I see in a crossword - that would sweeten the pill a little!

64d Her {"How Stella Got ___ Groove Back"}. I thought this was going to be one of the few cultural references that wasn't to a film, but I was wrong! How Stella Got Her Groove Back is a movie romance from 1998 based on a Terry McMillan novel. Here's Stella's love theme, sung by Boyz II Men - I was really freaked out the first time I saw that unlikely character sequence in a puzzle.


44a HAL {Evil computer in "2001"}. The answer is clear, but "evil" seems inappropriate if you know the story: HAL's programming placed the success of the mission as a higher priority than the lives of the astronauts. Logophiles find it curious that HAL is IBM with each letter shifted back one in the alphabet: Clarke and Kubrick were adamant that they weren't trying to make a dig at IBM, who gave considerable assistance to the moviemakers.

58a Les {"Au Revoir, ___ Enfants"}. Au revoir, les enfants is a 1987 Louis Malle movie, based on
a real event in the director's childhood: a boy at a Catholic school inadvertently betrays a Jewish schoolfriend to the Nazis. Unless you've a good memory for titles, it's easy to assume the answer Mes here, but only Les works with 47-down.

70a Prada {"The Devil Wears ___"}. The Devil Wears Prada was one of our favorite movies from 2006. We're big fans of Emily Blunt and particularly enjoyed her performance in this comedy.

5d noms {Jules et Jim, par exemple}. We're doing well for cinéma references in this puzzle. Of course the lack of quotation marks suggests it's not the movie that's called for - Jules and Jim are just names, carefully selected to deceive you. Jules et Jim is Truffaut's most famous movie, but my favs of his are The 400 Blows and Day for Night.

40d Nemo {Whom Marlin sought in a 2003 film}. Whoa! Another movie reference. I haven't seen this one, but the title Finding Nemo is kind of a clue what the answer was here.

47d no less {Amazingly enough}. To rationalize this, you have to think of a sentence in which clue and answer are equivalent: for example, Ross cooked dinner, roast beef with all the trimmings, no less.

The Rest

1a Biden {Cheney's successor as vice president}; 6a Clio {Prize in the ad biz}; 10a on an {___ irregular basis}; 15a aero- {Prefix with nautical}; 16a rely {Count (on)}; 20a fig {Mediterranean tree}; 21a sci. {Geog. or geol.}; 22a props {Stagehands' items}; 23a IDed {Picked out of a lineup}; 25a tarsal {Ankle-related}; 28a ETA {Announcement from a cockpit, for short}; 30a toric {Doughnut-shaped}; 32a rich {Very chocolaty, say}; 33a wrap {Finish shooting a movie}; 34a tub {Bathroom fixture}; 36a nap {Break in the day}; 37a ecru {Cousin of beige}; 42a Kate {Oscar winner Winslet}; 43a Tel {___ Aviv, Israel}; 45a Isis {Mother of Horus}; 46a omen {Sign of the future}; 48a recur {Come up again and again}; 52a DSL {Computer connection choice}; 53a photon {Massless particle}; 55a SASE {A MS. might come back in it}; 56a tie to {Make a connection with}; 60a Med {Pre-___ (undergrad study)}; 65a uber {"Deutschland ___ Alles"}; 66a eyes {"Windows to the soul"}; 67a eerie {Amazingly coincidental}; 68a nada {Zero}; 69a yews {Certain conifers}.

1d bad fit {Mismatch}; 3d danger {What a flashing red light may indicate}; 4d -ent {Suffix with differ}; 6d caviar {Expensive eggs}; 7d Lee {Washington and ___ University}; 8d Ira {Certain savings plan, for short}; 9d oom pah pah {Sound from a 38-Down}; 10d orzo {Very small pasta}; 11d Nez Percé {Pacific Northwest tribe}; 12d all-stars {Baseball V.I.P.'s}; 13d Nye {Comedian Louis}; 18d Oct. {When Canada celebrates Thanksgiving: Abbr.}; 19d URL {Web address}; 24d ditzes {Airheads}; 26d ringlet {Hair curl}; 27d scat {Nonsense singing}; 29d Apu {Clerk on "The Simpsons"}; 31d cuz {Since, slangily}; 33d Welles {"Citizen Kane" director}; 38d bass tuba {Low-pitched instrument}; 39d utilized {Availed oneself of}; 41d bar {Tavern}; 42d kid {Young goat}; 49d camera {Cell phone feature, often}; 50d user ID {Computer handle}; 51d Red Sea {Sudan/Saudi Arabia separator}; 53d PTA {Sch. group}; 54d NEA {Largest U.S. labor union: Abbr.}; 57d Ezra {Old Testament book}; 59d step {Dance lesson}; 61d fun {Enjoyment}; 62d dye {Hide the gray, say}; 63d few {Many's opposite}.


Keenan said...

I'm a beginner at these, and I've been doing pretty well on Monday and Tuesday but these last two both killed me! Were they more difficult than usual?

Magdalen said...

Ah, a newby. (I mean that in the kindest possible way.) Generally speaking, Will Shortz tries to get the puzzles to go from easiest on Monday to toughest on Friday/Saturday. But your mileage may vary: Sometimes an "easy" puzzle will prove to be hard simply because some of the references aren't in your areas of expertise. And then a Wednesday/Thursday puzzle will prove to be easier because you get all the more-arcane references.

As for this week's puzzles specifically, I'm not sure they were harder, but they might have been. (Ross thinks "iters" in yesterday's puzzle was a deadening answer. But see? If you're a biologist or something, that could have been easy-peasy.)

One of the things I like about Ross's blog -- okay, so I'm married to him but still -- is that he finds hard all the stuff I find easy. Unfortunately, he finds easy stuff I literally can't do. (I think I've completely precisely one Friday puzzle in six months.)

Keep working on them. They do get easier as you learn some of the regular clues/answers.

And keep enjoying them -- that's the key to the process.