Tuesday, June 2, 2009

NYT Wednesday 6/3/09 - Cold Comfort

I wasn't firing on all cylinders when trying to solve this Wednesday New York Times crossword. I'm now seven days into a cold: each night I think it's going to be over in the morning, but in fact it's got progressively worse. Well that's the excuse I comfort myself with, and I'm sticking to it.

The middle left was always going to be tough for me, with its two quarterbacks; but what was I thinking with having thirty-six instead of twenty-six states? Magdalen excelled herself by finishing the puzzle in 15 minutes, but it took another nine minutes for light to dawn on Marblehead (real place in MA, as I discovered last month) - once I'd counted the states and corrected 36-Across, the final squares could be filled with reasonable confidence.

Whoever came up with the two-letter abbreviations for states should get a cruciverbal medal. Their uniformity and ubiquity make them perfect for word games and I remember several cryptic crosswords that used state abbreviations, including one that managed to get them into approximately correct locations, assuming the grid was a map of the continental US.
Solving time: 24 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 8d less {More, in a saying}
Theme

Each perimeter answer is made up of two-letter abbreviations for U.S. states. In all 26 distinct states appear, as per 36a twenty-six states {What this puzzle's perimeter contains abbreviations for}.
1a MA LA RI AL {Like some fevers}
9a GA ND HI {Title role for Ben Kingsley}
62a NE CT AR {Drink of the gods}
63a CO NC OR DE {Retired Mach I breaker}
1d MO NY {When repeated, a Billy Idol hit}
14d IA MS {Pet food brand}
32d MI SC {Like items in a junk drawer: Abbr.}
47d VA IN {Self-absorbed}
54d CA ME {Showed up}
Solution

Samuel A. Donaldson
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersSamuel A. Donaldson / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares61 (32.3%)
Scrabble points312 (average 1.65)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

25a Jons {Stewart and Lovitz}. I knew Jon Stewart because we're occasional watchers of his show and he features in Wordplay. I hadn't heard of the other comedic Jon who was a Saturday Night Live cast member in the 1980s and has subsequently made many movie appearances. Here's an example of his routine as a pathological liar:



35a Mimi {Actress Rogers}. Another day, another Mimi. This time Mimi Rogers, whose breakthrough role was Claire Gregory in Someone to Watch Over Me (1987).



Drano42a lye {Chemical in Drano}. I had great difficulties with this, even though the name Drano offers a hint that the answer is something aggressive enough to clear drains of gunk.

9d Gia {1970s-'80s supermodel Carangi}. Gia Carangi (1960–1986), considered by some to be the first "supermodel", had a tragic life: her modeling career waned after she fell prey to heroin and she died at the age of 26 of an AIDS-related illness. Angelina Jolie portrayed her in the biopic Gia.



27d Elway {Former QB John}; 28d Peete {Former QB Rodney}. Two QBs alongside each other - is it a bug or is it a feature? They certainly bugged me, because it created a dead area that took me ages to penetrate, even though I had come across John Elway in crosswords before. Rodney Peete, QB for various NFL teams over his professional career, was new to me.

43d Garcia {Deadhead icon}. To solve this, you needed to know (or guess) that a deadhead is a Grateful Dead fan, Jerry Garcia (1942–1995) being the most famous musician of the group.



CCC58d CCC {New Deal inits.}. There seem to be a lot of New Deal inits (do I really need to learn them?) - here are the New Deal TLAs that have been considered fair game in the NYT:
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
National Recovery Administration (NRA)
Rural Electrification Administration (REA)
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
Works Progress Administration (WPA)
Noteworthy

23a Shor {Restaurateur Toots}. Toots Shor is certainly getting a lot of crossword ink this year - this is his third appearance already. There's a documentary film about his life imaginatively called ... Toots.



33a Ulee's {"___ Gold" (Fonda film)}. I've now seen Ulee enough that this should have been a gimme, but it took a very long time to wrest the name from my brain. Ulee's Gold (1997), starring Peter, not Jane, is about a beekeeper with family problems. I wonder if the producers were aware what a gift this title would be to crossword compilers?



46a agua {Eau, across the Pyrenees}. Here's a really neat way to clue a Spanish word that I don't remember seeing before.

6d I, Robot {2004 Will Smith film}. I, Robot is a 2004 sci-fi film loosely based on the Isaac Asimov story of the same name.



Less is More8d less {More, in a saying}. This clue appeals to me, because it achieves the feat of defining a word by its opposite (and without using the word "not"). "Less is More" was coined by architect Mies van der Rohe and has become the mantra for minimalists in all fields.

49d stac. {Opposite of legato, in mus.}. Ie staccato, literally "detached". The intermediate rendition should, to my mind, be "semi-detached", but the official term is mezzo staccato.

The Rest

15a one-horse {Tiny, as a town}; 16a Iberia {It's north of the Strait of Gibraltar}; 17a nonstops {Some long flights}; 18a aswarm {Teeming, as with bees}; 19a yds. {Fabric amts.}; 20a best {Letter sign-off}; 22a -ettes {Diminutive endings}; 27a Epcot {Florida theme park}; 29a smut {X-rated stuff}; 30a hem {Garment line}; 34a alar {Banned apple spray}; 39a I ate {"Must've been something ___"}; 40a Amex {Visa alternative, for short}; 41a Olmec {Early Mexican}; 43a gnar {Make a snarling sound}; 44a after {In pursuit of}; 45a Jágr {Hockey's Jaromir ___}; 47a visor {Dealer's wear}; 50a acme {Wile E. Coyote's supplier}; 52a arc {It's measured in minutes}; 55a antics {Class clown's doings}; 57a hot cocoa {Winter warmer}; 60a Iranis {Farsi speakers}; 61a ice-cream {Summer cooler}.

2d a nod {Give ___ to (approve)}; 3d lens {Monocle part}; 4d ahs {Sounds from a hot tub}; 5d rot {Hogwash}; 7d as per {"___ your instructions ..."}; 10d absent {Playing hooky}; 11d newts {Colorful salamanders}; 12d drat {"Curses!"}; 13d hire {Bring on board}; 21d T.J. Maxx {Discount apparel chain}; 23d scene {Part of a shoot}; 24d host {Parasite's home}; 26d ours {Sharer's pronoun}; 29d slier {More artful}; 30d hit me {Blackjack player's request}; 31d emeer {Mideast bigwig: Var.}; 33d util. {Gas, e.g.: Abbr.}; 34d Asmara {Eritrea's capital}; 35d Malta {Mediterranean land}; 37d yang {Yin's counterpart}; 38d tofu {Vegan's protein source}; 44d age ten {What many fifth graders have reached}; 45d joint {Like some tax returns}; 46d Amoco {BP gas brand}; 48d in re {Concerning}; 51d chic {In vogue}; 52d Acer {Big name in desktop computers}; 53d road {Map line}; 56d SSR {Ukr., once, e.g.}; 59d oro {Conquistador's prize}.

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