Thursday, July 16, 2009

NYT Friday 7/17/09 - Not Napping

I'd spent most of Friday cleaning house for a weekend party and was feeling beat by the end of the day. So I was very pleased to get this Friday New York Times crossword done in under half an hour: this may not be a record, but it's certainly been a long time since I broke 30 minutes on what's the hardest day for me (for some reason Saturday puzzles turn out slightly easier on average).

There seemed to be a lot more clues than usual that I could solve immediately: normally I scratch around looking for ways to break in, searching out -ed, -s or -ing endings to get a toehold. This time, I got Palin, laser, tea kettle, even Pete (Rose) right away. That was enough to give me a strong start. Only the NW corner proved slightly tougher: the first few downs seemed impenetrable, so I had to deduce the long answers from just the endings - never an easy thing to do.
Solving time: 29 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 58a I need a nap {Comment from the beat}

Doug Peterson and Barry C. Silk
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersDoug Peterson and Barry C. Silk / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 30 (13.3%) black squares
Answers70 (average length 5.57)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points316 (average 1.62)
New To Me

Michael Steele41a Steele {Michael of the G.O.P.}, 10d Palin {Woman on a 2008 ticket}. I'd learned that the Grand Old Party is the Republican Party, but hadn't come across Michael Steele before. In January this year, he became the chairman of the Republican National Committee, which leads the party at the national level and runs the Republican National Convention (where Sarah Palin accepted her ill-fated nomination as a vice-presidential candidate in 2008).

47a a Boat {"If I Had ___" (Lyle Lovett song)}. I kept thinking of a hammer, but no amount of peening would fix it in place. Lyle Lovett is the country singer and actor who was briefly married to Julia Roberts. "If I Had a Boat" was a 1988 single that later featured in the movie The Interpreter (2005).

53a boho {Eschewer of convention, in slang}. I thought BoHo was a Manhattan neighborhood, to go with SoHo and NoHo. Wrong again! That confusion gave me doubts over boho as being an short form of bohemian, but I needn't have worried.

Imre Madach3d Imre {Hungarian writer Madách}. The clue that disproves Béla Theory. Perhaps we need a Bela-Imre Theory in light of Imre Nagy and the like's occasional appearance? Imre Madách (1823-1864) is most famous for The Tragedy of Man (1861), a dramatic poem of monumental proportions, along the lines of Goethe's Faust. Apparently, it's mandatory reading for secondary school students in Hungary, so I hope it's riveting stuff.

Norman Schwarzkopf8d Kentucky Colonel {Honorary title bestowed on Bill Clinton, Muhammad Ali and Mae West}. I gather Kentucky Colonels have been around since 1813, originally performing military roles. Now the honor is a purely ceremonial one: only existing colonels can nominate a new candidate, who must get the approval of the governor of Kentucky. Funny that Generals Omar Bradley and Norman Schwarzkopf were prepared to lose rank to accept!

Cold Harbor24d Cold Harbor {Site of Robert E. Lee's last victory}. The best I can hope for with clues like these is that I'll recognize the answer as a place, or know it as a trade name. That happened here, though I'm not sure where I've heard the answer before: the Battle of Cold Harbor was one of the bloodiest in American history, involving a futile assault on fortified Confederate positions. Over 10,000 Union troops were killed in the course of twelve days.

45d Sinead {"Hoffman" co-star Cusack}. I managed to guess Sinéad Cusack without knowing anything about the movie. In Hoffman, she starred with Peter Sellers - I've seen most of Sellers's comedies, but this performance was unusual in being a "straight" role (and one he purportedly hated as being too close to his own character).

5d SMU {Big D campus}. I recognized Big D as Dallas, but had to get SMU (Southern Methodist University) purely from crossings.

50d leeks {Amaryllis family members}. I'm not sure what's going on here as Wikipedia claims that leeks are in the family Alliaceae. The article alludes to some disagreement over the classification, so it could be that the clue is correct according to some references.

Tito52d Tito {Outfielder Francona}. Tito Francona is a former professional baseball player and the father of Terry Francona, outfielder and current manager of the Boston Red Sox. Since the latter is also nicknamed "Tito", I'm guessing the clue could apply equally to both players.


39a adj. {Rich or famous: Abbr.}. Although the clue conjures up other associations, all you really needed to know is that "rich" and "famous" are both adjectives.

Constable George Dixon58a I need a nap {Comment from the beat}. I love this clue, because - try as I might - I kept thinking of policemen on the beat. The classic comment from the beat in the UK might be something like Dixon of Dock Green's catchphrase "evening all". I wasn't sure if America had beat cops, or if they all used patrol cars. Anyway, when I finally got the real sense of "beat", I was totally satisfied the answer was correct.

6d Halle {Berry with juicy parts?}. Do you think this is referring to Halle Berry's roles or her body parts? She's certainly luscious enough that there's room for ambiguity here.

28d REW {Opposite of FF}. This first suggested fortissimo, but that would be a lower case ff. It's been so long since I used a tape recorder of any kind that I'd temporarily forgotten REW (rewind) and FF (fast forward).

halo around the Moon55d halo {Solar or lunar phenomenon}. I thought of wind to start with, but should have realized there's no lunar wind. Halos (aka nimbi, icebows or glorioles) are produced by ice crystals, creating arcs and spots in the sky.

The Rest

1a fair shake {Reasonable treatment}; 10a peens {Striking ends}; 15a alma mater {63-Across?}; 16a Ariel {Moon of Uranus}; 17a corpulent {Having a lot to lose?}; 18a laser {CD player part}; 19a tees {Supply for driving}; 20a late risers {Most night owls}; 22a Jesu {Pietà figure, literarily}; 23a on end {Turned up}; 24a come {With 54-Down, approach with a line}; 27a ecru {Tawny}; 29a shop {Factory}; 31a louver {Kind of door or window}; 33a kegs {Draft sources}; 35a owe {Have yet to settle}; 36a slippery when wet {Highway caution}; 40a spec {Particular}; 42a that {Word accompanying finger-pointing}; 44a Otos {People of the Platte, once}; 46a burl {Lump in cloth}; 49a lily {Symbol of innocence and purity}; 51a Brownstone {Lucy and Ricky Ricardo's residence, e.g.}; 57a aback {One way to be taken}; 60a Loral {Big maker of communications satellites}; 61a tea-kettle {One singing in the kitchen}; 62a Dr Dre {Artist with the 1999 6x platinum album "2001"}; 63a old school {Opposite of avant-garde}.

1d fact {It's not fancy}; 2d aloe {Tropical flower}; 4d raps {62-Across offerings}; 7d at ease {Chilling, so to speak}; 9d Erte {"Manhattan Mary V" artist}; 11d erases {Takes back one's words?}; 12d Eisenhower {He said "A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both"}; 13d ne'er-do-well {Bum}; 14d SLRs {Pentax Spotmatic and Nikon F2, for short}; 21d roughs {Sketches (out)}; 22d jeeps {Some Cherokees}; 25d ouija-board {Means of getting some answers}; 26d MVP {Shooting star, briefly?}; 30d Pete {Rose with a hit record}; 31d LSAT {180 is its max. score}; 32d repots {Does a nursery job}; 34d set by {Put aside}; 37d ret. {Emeritus: Abbr.}; 38d neu {Modern, to Beethoven}; 43d tow car {Crash site sight}; 48d ankle {___-high}; 51d bald {Completely smooth}; 53d bath {Some like it hot}; 54d onto {See 24-Across}; 56d Opel {2009 G.M. spinoff}; 59d Dec. {Part of the fourth qtr.}.


Roger M said...

As usual, I am impressed with your solving time. This puzzle took me about three hours, and in your words, solo, no solving aids - although I was sorely tempted to use Google for clues like "Hungarian writer Madách."

Daniel Myers said...

The OED has leeks in the family "Liliaeceae". Go figure.

Crossword Man said...

In conclusion, it might have been better to clue leeks in some other way than to their family - there seems to be some sort of "tug of love story" going on there.

Anyone who thinks my solving times are impressive should check out Amy Reynaldo (Crossword Fiend)'s times - she finished the above puzzle in 6 minutes 33 seconds!

Doris said...

I am 90 years young and don't time as it always take a lot and I am "beat" and need a nap.Doris

Crossword Man said...

Wow Doris! I hope I'm still solving at the age of 90 ...