Wednesday, June 10, 2009

NYT Thursday 6/11/09 - Flag Day

If the appearance of the grid, with its 12 circles in the NW corner, didn't give the game away, then the "notes" that told you what colors to use certainly would have. The only question was which flag was being represented: an early one, because of there only being 13 stars, but not Betsy Ross's which had the stars in a circle.

Many sightings of the Betsy Ross Bridge in Philadelphia made me curious about the role my namesake had in creating the first American flag. After borrowing a book on the subj, my head was spinning with all the different variants of the flag and the associated mysteries and controversies.

It seems the Flag Resolution of 1777 (passed on June 14, now Flag Day) only specified that the union should be represented by thirteen stars, white in a blue field, without specifying the arrangement. Thus many variants existed but it was Francis Hopkinson's quincuncial layout that became the pattern for all subsequent flags and that's the one used for this puzzle.

The grid required to generate this pretty effect was necessarily very compartmentalized and I had great difficult in the NW block, which I wrongly thought might have "rebus" squares; also in the block below irks which took me about 10 minutes at the end - I was stuck there so long that Magdalen managed to finish the puzzle ahead of me.
Solving time: 27 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 30a Mount Rushmore {"Heads for the hills" locale?}

The grid approximates the 13-star, 13-stripe flag of the United States in the Francis Hopkinson design of 1777. There are three loosely associated answers:
30a Mount Rushmore {"Heads for the hills" locale?}
36a America the Beautiful {Whence "Thine alabaster cities gleam" lyric}
49a Don't Tread on Me {1775 flag motto}

Alex Boisvert
Grid art by Sympathy

CompilersAlex Boisvert / Will Shortz
Grid13x19 with 44 (17.8%) black squares
Answers80 (average length 5.08)
Theme squares45 (22.2%)
Scrabble points277 (average 1.36)
New To Me

22a RAs {Dorm V.I.P.'s}. Not TAs (teaching assistants) this time, but RAs (resident assistants or resident advisors) - student leaders trained to look after a residence hall.

Stu Ungar34a Stu {Poker champ Ungar}. Good to get away from the "alphabetical sequence" type of definition: Stu Ungar (19531998) is one of only two people to have won the World Series of Poker Main Event three times.

35a Eva {Actress Mendes}. Eva Mendes began acting in the late 1990s and has appeared in several major Hollywood movies, including We Own the Night.

Nats cap46a Nat {Baseballer with a "W" on his cap}. I was asea with this one, and could only get it from crossings. Turns out the Washington Nationals players sport the W, being Nats for short. Oh and they're a D.C. team, not a Washington State team!

56a Erins {Actress Moran and others}. Erin Moran gets tapped to represent her namesakes: she is best known for playing Joanie Cunningham on Happy Days and its spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi.

58a Liu {Lucy of "Kill Bill"}. Lucy Liu became known for playing the bitchy Ling Woo in Ally McBeal and was cast as the villainous O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill. O-Ren succumbs in a dramatic duel in a snowy garden.

Atlanta Hawks1d Atlanta {Hawk's home}. I suspected this might be to do with sports, but that didn't help any. Turns out the Atlanta Hawks is a basketball team in the NBA.

16d Reese {"The Terminator" man Kyle ___}. The only thing I could remember about The Terminator was Arnie's role. I'd forgotten the part the humans played in resisting the intelligent machines. Kyle Reese (played by Michael Biehn) is sent back in time to protect Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), who is being menaced by the unstoppable cyborg.


Chief Thundercloud17a Tonto {Film character played by a full-blooded Cherokee}. I learned this piece of trivia from NYT crosswords: Victor Daniels aka Chief Thundercloud (1899-1955) was supposedly a full-blooded Cherokee and played the most famous sidekick of all time in the Lone Ranger movie series.

23a Orly {Suburb south of Paris}. It took me ages to alight on this fairly obvious answer - obvious because it's the name of the major Paris airport. I started with Ivry (name of multiple communes in France, but nowhere near Paris) and then considered Illy (ditto) before realizing what the answer had to be.

47a Val {Kilmer of "Batman Forever"}. Val Kilmer is someone I remember as being married to a fav actress of mine, Joanne Whalley. They divorced in 1996. Val got the role as Batman after Michael Keaton refused to reprise the role despite being offered ridiculous amounts of money to do it.

65a east {The right point?}. An elliptical way of saying the point of the compass to the right on a map.

6d Rorem {"Air Music" composer}. I thought I knew classical music pretty well, but only found out about Ned Rorem through crosswords. Usually he's a means of cluing Ned - it's only about once a year that we get Rorem as the answer. Air Music is the suite for which he won a Pulitzer in 1976.

pinker10d rarer {Pinker, perhaps}. As the "pinker" was at the front of the clue, I convinced myself it was a proper name. I tried to think of famous Pinkers until concluding it must be a river. It wasn't until getting the crossings that I realized "pinker" just meant "more pink" on this occasion.

Kilaeua11d Kilauea {Hawaiian tourist attraction}. I reckon I must have come across this at some point, but it took me ages to dredge up the name and even then, I couldn't quite believe the spelling we had to come up with. Kilaeua is one of the five volcanoes that form the Island of Hawaiʻi. It's the home of the volcano goddess Pele, whose anger precipitates an eruption.

oil production39d atelier {Oil production site?}. Another beautifully misleading clue, as the oil we had to think of was an oil painting, which might be produced in an artist's studio or atelier.

50d Oscar {Jazz's Peterson}. I first came across Oscar Peterson's piano-playing as a teenager, and I've been in awe of him ever since for his virtuosity and musicality - indisputably one of the greatest pianists ever. Here's one of his own compositions, Cakewalk.

The Rest

1a A-test {Bikini blast}; 6a rag {Car wash aid}; 9a irks {Bugs}; 13a spur {Track branch}; 18a oto- {Ear: Prefix}; 19a wail {Cry}; 20a cite {Name, in a way}; 21a Lotus {Ferrari competitor}; 24a rate {Give a star, say}; 25a akita {Japanese dog}; 26a Eco {Trendy prefix}; 27a NEA {Cultural org.}; 28a tunes {iPod contents}; 29a natty {Spruce}; 33a tile {It may be fired}; 48a San'a {Mideast capital}; 57a usual {Stock}; 59a DTs {Drunk's woe, with "the"}; 60a lanes {Bikers may have them}; 61a VCRs {Some RCA products}; 62a hire {Take on}; 63a art {Knack}; 64a metro {___ area}; 66a beet {Kind of salad}; 67a gee {"Holy smokes!"}; 68a élève {Pupil, in Picardie}; 69a trey {Three-point shot, in slang}; 70a or so {"... ___ he said"}; 71a -eer {Chariot attachment?}; 72a rides {Pony farm sign}.

2d took aim {Lined up the cross hairs}; 3d entitle {Name}; 4d stutter {Possible result of anxiety}; 5d to say {"... ___ the least"}; 7d at a cost {Not free}; 8d go south {Turn bad}; 9d I won't {"Forget it!"}; 12d sly {Hugger-mugger}; 13d scrum {Rugby scuffle}; 14d piano {Softly}; 15d utter {Total}; 28d that {"___ so?!"}; 31d Nuevo {___ León (Mexican state bordering Texas)}; 32d SVU {"Law & Order" spinoff, informally}; 37d intl. {U.N.-like}; 38d car {Wheels}; 40d bandage {Operator's need}; 41d elm-tree {Stately thing in Browning's "Oh, to be in England ..."}; 42d Israeli {Like Bar-Ilan University}; 43d fainted {Blacked out}; 44d unnerve {Rattle}; 45d lassoes {Rodeo rings?}; 49d duvet {Bed cover}; 51d nurse {Sip}; 52d tasty {Delectable}; 53d Aires {Buenos ___}; 54d due to {As a result of}; 55d ester {Aromatic compound}; 56d Elmer {Whom Bugs bugs}; 62d HBO {"The Wire" shower}.

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