Tuesday, June 30, 2009

NYT Wednesday 7/1/09 - Farewell Michael

Working out the theme of this Wednesday New York Times crossword was a matter of seconds; but after putting in Michael and Jackson, I had some concern that my little learning of the man's career would prove a Dangerous thing. As it happens, the thematic material was fairly obvious and I'd even heard of Thriller and moonwalking.

Michael Jackson had considerably less impact on my life than most, to judge by the extent of news coverage. We haven't seen much of the original news items, but enjoyed Jon Stewart RIPping into some of the more bizarre coverage with his "Rippy Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Obitutainment". I appreciate the impact The King of Pop had on popular music, but am somewhat surprised at the impact of his death, considering the decline in Jackson's career and his history of eccentricity (perhaps that's part of the allure?).

I'm impressed by the speed with which this crossword was created and published (I'm assuming Will doesn't have a stock of obituary crosswords for people who conceivably merit that honor). The amount of theme material is remarkable, especially given almost all of it is in symmetrical answers: the exceptions being 42d Jam (a bridge needed to connect up 40a ask me) and 11a She, which just calls attention to its symmetrical opposite bye {"Farewell"}.
Solving time: 10 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 56d Pete {Rose family member}

A farewell tribute to 10d Michael, 25d Jackson, with the following clues directly relevant to the theme:
11a She {First word of 10-/25-Down's "Billie Jean"}
14a Lionel {Richie who wrote "We Are the World" with 10-/25-Down}
15a Thriller {1982 blockbuster by 10-/25-Down}
32a Dangerous {1991 hit album by 10-/25-Down}
40a ask me {"Don't you ___ for no favors" (42-Down lyric on 32-Across}
47a King of Pop {Nickname for 10-/25-Down}
67a falsetto {Vocal style of 10-/25-Down, at times}
68a Motown {First record label of 10-/25-Down}
3d moonwalking {Classic part of a 10-/25-Down stage act}
27d Gone Too Soon {Song on 32-Across}
42d Jam {First song on 32-Across}
44d Forever {With 10-Down, 1975 album by 10-/25-Down}

David J. Kahn
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersDavid J. Kahn / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares89 (47.1%)
Scrabble points316 (average 1.67)
New To Me

Sno-Caps17a Sno-Cap {Moviegoer's chocolate bite}. I need to learn these candies, preferably by eating them: Milk Duds featured in the 2009 ACPT final and I'm fairly sure Reese of Reese's Pieces got into an NYT crossword recently. Sno-Caps are chocolates covered with white nonpareils (what we Brits call hundreds and thousands).

2d Lin {Writer ___ Yutang}. Lin Yutang (18951976) was a Chinese writer whose compilations and translations of classic Chinese texts were bestsellers in the West. One of his most popular books, The Importance of Living, expresses his personal philosophy ... one of enjoying the life that's all around us without needless worry.

Atahualpa4d Inca {Atahualpa, for one}. I'd heard of Atahualpa, without being very clear about what he did and where. I see he was the last emperor of the Incas, being captured by the Spanish conquistadors under Francisco Pizarro in 1532 and executed in 1533.

Nedick's22d Nedick's {Old fast-food chain}. I'm always going to have difficulty with defunct companies like this: Nedick's started in New York City in the early 1920s and expanded throughout the northeast before succumbing to competition from the likes of McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts in the 1980s. The name was formed from the surnames of founders Robert T. Neely and Orville A. Dickinson.


nacho cheese19a nacho {Kind of cheese}. I've always thought nachos were a dish, but it seems there's a special name for the sauce that goes on the tortilla chips ... and that's "nacho cheese". You can make your own nacho cheese or buy it prepackaged.

no mas57a no más {Juan's uncle?}. In theory I had the knowledge to solve this clue, but in reality I had to ponder it for several minutes after finishing the puzzle. The same for Magdalen. To solve it you need to remember that "uncle" is what you say when surrendering (as in "cry uncle"), roughly equivalent to "no more", which is what the answer is in Spanish. An evil clue that seemed a little out of place in a Wednesday puzzle.

69a bye {"Farewell"}. I can't help feeling this is a thematic answer that got left on the cutting-room floor.

Pete Rose56d Pete {Rose family member}. Nice clue, as I was convinced this Rose family member would be a plant of some kind. When the answer turned out to be Pete, I recollected learning about baseballer Pete Rose in a previous NYT puzzle.

Riksdag65d Swe. {Riksdag locale: Abbr.}. Getting my Scandinavian countries mixed up here, I put in Nor. to start with. The thing is, Norway's parliament is the Storting, if it's the Riksdag (literally, the National Diet of Sweden) it must be Swe..

The Rest

1a Elmira {City SW of Syracuse}; 7a scam {Ripoff}; 18a sincerer {More honest}; 21a ohm {Its symbol is omega}; 22a now {Right away}; 24a hadj {Trek to Mecca}; 26a aught {Zero}; 30a evade {Give the slip to}; 35a delish! {"Yum!"}; 37a cool {Air-conditioned}; 38a NNE {Dir. from Gary, Ind., to Sault Ste. Marie}; 39a irks {Grates on}; 42a Jett {Joan of rock}; 43a CLI {Middle of the second century}; 44a Flos {Ziegfeld and others}; 45a spates {Deluges}; 50a amore {Romeo's love?}; 51a Segar {Popeye creator Elzie ___}; 52a null {Zero}; 54a OSS {Old spy grp.}; 55a pep {Vitality}; 59a Aloe Vera {Skin cream ingredient}; 64a at cost {Less than wholesale}; 70a reek {Stink up the joint}; 71a spinet {Small piano}.

1d els {Some urban rails}; 5d reaches {Gets to}; 6d alpha {Greek leader?}; 7d sts. {City grid: Abbr.}; 8d Chi {___-Town (Midwest hub)}; 9d Arno {River under the Ponte Vecchio}; 11d SLR {Certain camera, for short}; 12d hee {Laugh syllable}; 13d err {Miss the mark}; 16d lemur {Ring-tailed primate}; 20d odd {Quirky}; 23d overlie {Be positioned above}; 28d hunters {Bird dogs, say}; 29d tsetses {Flies over Africa?}; 31d dis {Bad-mouth}; 33d nom {Jean Valjean, e.g.}; 34d goes {Takes off}; 36d half {Either 50 of 50/50}; 41d sop {Appeasement}; 46d palmtop {Handheld device}; 48d gapes {Goggles}; 49d pun {Bit of wordplay}; 53d loams {Rich soils}; 58d Act I {Play starter}; 59d AFB {Vance in Okla., e.g.}; 60d lay {Minstrel's song}; 61d olé {Arena cry}; 62d rte. {Itinerary part: Abbr.}; 63d A-OK {Just dandy}; 66d TNT {Cable channel with the slogan "We Know Drama"}.


Daniel Myers said...

Could you please explain to me how Aught = Zero?? Shouldn't that be Naught? The OED defines Aught as "anything whatever, anything." In other words, the exact opposite of Zero--Perhaps it's an Americanism of some sort.

Crossword Man said...

Good point Daniel. I may have had ought in mind when solving and so overlooked the complications here. The New Oxford American Dictionary's definition 2 of aught is "the digit 0; zero", with no indication of regional usage or archaism. Both Collins and the New Oxford Dictionary of English give aught as equivalent to ought in the sense used in the clue. So someone must be using aught in that way.

Daniel Myers said...

Yes, apparently so. Thanks. Apparently (i.e., according to the OED)the problem stems from the (familiar to us) game of noughts and crosses where "a nought" was taken to mean "an ought". and so on to what appears to be this American spelling thereof. I suppose, at any event.

Magdalen said...

Does anyone remember when the question arose of what our current decade would be called? After the 80s (eighties) and 90s (nineties), what would you call the 00s? One suggestion had been the Aughties, not that this caught on.

In fact, I'm not sure anyone has found a satisfactory answer -- and possibly won't until we're in the 10s (teens?) and commenting in retrospect on this decade.