Thursday, June 11, 2009

NYT Friday 6/12/09 - Less Is More

Remembering my favorite clue from a crossword earlier this month made 8d less is more a gimme and I never looked back, getting the top half of the grid done in short order. Only the SE and SW corners put up significant resistance: I had to guess at the crossing Magda (Gabor) and (Donnie) Darko but it turned out I made the right choice with D at their intersection.

The grid is impressive with an average answer length well over 6 and a particularly awesome swath of five- to eight-letter words down the diagonal between the NE and SW corners. The price we paid for this loveliness is a relative dearth of low-frequency letters, but I didn't regret that at all when solving and thought this was a great crossword.

I've now finished Will Shortz's Funniest Crossword Puzzles and am temporarily without a crossword book to work on. Help is on its way in the form of Frank Longo's Cranium-Crushing Crosswords which I hope will arrive very soon to satisfy my craving for more challenging puzzles.
Solving time: 23 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 35a tope {Empty bottles}

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

CompilersPatrick Berry / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 26 (11.6%) black squares
Answers64 (average length 6.22)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points308 (average 1.55)
New To Me

Lorax16a Lorax {Truffula Tree defender, with "the"}. I unfortunately missed out on Dr. Seuss as a kid, being brought up on A.A.Milne. The Lorax (1971) is a comparatively late book in which the Lorax protects trees from the predations of the Once-ler, who needs their foliage to knit a "Thneed".

first catch your hare24a hares {Main ingredients in hasenpfeffer}. "pfeffer" I knew to be pepper, but that was not to the point. The question was what "hasen" meant and it took a few crossings to track down what I needed: hares. This calls to mind the instruction that might proverbially start a hasenpfeffer recipe: "first catch your hare".

geoid42a geoid {Imaginary surface coinciding with the earth's sea level}. I'd come across the word geoid before without taking in quite what it meant ... and it's by no means easy to understand. The geoid essentially depends on the gravity field: it's not a regular ellipsoid, because the force of gravity is affected by magma distribution, mountain ranges, deep sea trenches etc. The geoid surface is typically higher than the idealized ellipsoid over mountains and below it over the sea.

46a Darko {"Donnie ___" (2001 cult film)}. Donnie Darko is a psychological thriller written and directed by Richard Kelly. The movie was made on a shoestring budget and even then wasn't profitable on initial release, but has since acquired a cult following.

10d soup's on {"Come and get it!"}. I had my doubts about soup's on - it seemed plausible but I'd not come across it before. I can find a huge number of references to the expression, but not how it came to be so popular. Oh well, another excuse for the greatest comedy of all time.

Thor and the Midgard Serpent23d Serpent {Midgard ___ (monster of Norse myth)}. Hmm, I don't think this one made it into The Ring. The Midgard Serpent's real name is Jörmungandr, but his spelling isn't so good, so he also goes by Jormundgand, or on a bad day Midgårdsormen. Thor is his arch-enemy and they're both due to expire in a final battle at Ragnarök.

27d Heller {Author of "Something Happened," 1974}. Catch-22 would have been too easy on a Friday, so we get Joseph Heller's darker second novel, written after a gap of 13 years.

Magda Gabor38d Magda {One of the Gabor sisters}. It was a struggle to get beyond Zsa Zsa and clearly I have to do better. Magda (circa 1915-1997) was the eldest of the sisters and Eva (1919–1995) the youngest. Magda was married a mere six times - nothing compared to Zsa Zsa's nine marriages.


19a Scopes {One of Darrow's clients}. I knew about the Scopes "Monkey" Trial through the movie Inherit the Wind. Clarence Darrow unsuccessfully defended high school teacher John Scopes against charges of teaching evolution in 1925.

27a Hermione {Friend of Harry and Ron}. A reference to the Harry Potter franchise. Hermione Granger is played by Emma Watson. This reminds me that the sixth movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is scheduled for release on 15 July 2009.

35a tope {Empty bottles}. Convinced that "empty" was the adjective, I didn't see how this clue worked until after the puzzle was finished. Of course "to tope" can substitute for "to empty bottles". Great clue wording.

36d Sinéad {Musical O'Connor}. This should have been a gimme, but I sadly needed the first three letters to get to the correct first name.

The Rest

1a aced {Served well}; 5a fail {Without ___ (religiously)}; 9a ASPCA {It has a facility with animals: Abbr.}; 14a sale price {Nice figure}; 17a premieres {Red carpet events}; 18a Luigi {Playwright Pirandello}; 20a seeps in {Enters via osmosis}; 22a setter {Hunting companion, maybe}; 23a singsong {Uninteresting voice}; 25a be strong {"Don't give up!"}; 26a Otis {Manufacturer of boxy cars}; 28a Esc {Isolated PC key}; 29a despots {Unilateral decision-makers}; 30a rad {Excellent, slangily}; 33a adultery {Frequent subject on "Desperate Housewives"}; 36a slimline {Like some jewel cases}; 37a hi-fis {Bygone players}; 38a misspent {Wasted}; 39a banzai {"Char-r-rge!"}; 40a antlers {Head set?}; 41a duffer {Lousy driver, say}; 43a hair tonic {Alopecia sufferer's purchase}; 47a open-sided {Like gazebos, often}; 48a ad-men {Pitching staff?}; 49a West {Communism battler, with "the"}; 50a lass {Miss}.

1d asp {Deadly desert denizen}; 2d car seats {They come with belts}; 3d electrical storm {Potential blackout cause}; 4d demotes {Puts in a bad position?}; 5d freer {Less reserved}; 6d airs {Show of superiority}; 7d ice {Winter coat}; 8d less is more {Central concept of minimalism}; 9d allegros {Quick movements}; 11d Prisoner Of Zenda {1894 adventure novel, with "The"}; 12d caging {Putting away}; 13d axing {Giving a pink slip}; 15d pipes {Singer's gift, colloquially}; 21d entity {Body}; 22d shoe {Mule, e.g.}; 25d Best in Show {Top dog}; 29d dumped on {Bad-mouthed}; 31d apiaries {Things getting a lot of buzz about them?}; 32d Desi {Portrayer of TV's Ricky}; 34d dislike {Find objectionable}; 35d tinfoil {Early phonograph cylinder covering}; 37d hafts {Swordsmen's grips}; 39d burnt {Very well done}; 41d dies {Conks out}; 44d ape {Caricature}; 45d CDs {Certain investments, for short}.

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