Thursday, July 30, 2009

NYT Friday 7/31/09 - Non-identical Twins

I found this Friday New York Times exceptionally tough, and all thoughts of being able to finish end-of-week puzzles in under half an hour have gone for the moment. Strangely enough, I started fairly well on this one, laying down a reasonable skeleton of correct answers; but ten minutes into solving, I hit a brick wall and found the whole grid slow going after that.

One feature I really liked about the puzzle was the number of related pairs of clues. I noticed three such pairs - not identical twins, but obviously related. They're worth separating out so that their elegance can be better appreciated:
51a noes {Passage blockers}
60a open sesame {Passage enabler}

24d eels {They might store electric charges}
32d Leyden jar {It might store an electric charge}

44d swoon {Become rapturous}
48d elate {Make rapturous}
Solving time: 56 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 47d repay {Square things}


Mike Nothnagel
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersMike Nothnagel / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 33 (14.7%) black squares
Answers72 (average length 5.33)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points332 (average 1.73)
FeatureLipogram (U absent)
New To Me

17a Salma Hayek {Oscar-nominated portrayer of Frida Kahlo}. I knew of Frida Kahlo from her many posters around Philadelphia last year, but wasn't aware of Frida the 2002 movie. Salma Hayek claims to have taken up smoking in order to impersonate Kahlo more authentically and then found it difficult to kick the habit.

The Alamo26a Alamo {Subject of the 1955 film "The Last Command"}. The Last Command is about Jim Bowie and the fall of the Alamo. Republic Pictures originally wanted John Wayne to star, but he left their employ before the film could be made. Wayne subsequently starred in the more famous movie about the same episode, The Alamo.

onesie28a onesie {Baby shower gift}. I found it a struggle to make these letters into a real word, but eventually realized what a onesie must be and Magdalen confirmed I have the right answer. In my defense, I note that the spell checker in Blogger rejects onesie.

31a Elis {Many students on "Gilmore Girls"}. I gather The Gilmore Girls is set in a small town Connecticut, so it's not unreasonable that the daughter on the show should go to Yale.

42a Swayze {Early TV news commentator famous for doing Timex ads}. Typical of a Friday puzzle to duck the obvious Patrick Swayze in favor of distant cousin John Cameron Swayze (19061995). Swayze hosted NBC's first television newscast and is remembered for the catchphrases "Let's go hop scotching around the world for headlines" and "That's the story, folks ... glad we could get together."

Helen Thomas6d doyenne {Helen Thomas in the White House press corps, e.g.}. Another source of difficulty in the top of the grid: the name Helen Thomas meant nothing to me but I gather she's served 57 years as a White House correspondent, covering every president since JFK. That should certainly qualify you as a doyenne.

Torah10d Torah {It contains 613 mitzvot}. I had no idea what mitzvot were, but could recognize a Hebrew plural, so Torah seemed reasonable after a few crossing letters. The 613 mitzvot (singular mitzvah) are the commandments given in the Torah. They're collectively known as the Law of Moses.

30d Sarah {Fast Eddie's girlfriend in "The Hustler"}. The role of Sarah Packard was played by Piper Laurie in the original pool-room drama. Paul Newman reprised his role as Fast Eddie in The Color of Money (1986) belatedly getting an Oscar for the later movie.


6a die {Factory staple}. One of those "could be anything" clues that helped make the little cluster of three-letter words tough to complete. A die in this sense is a tool to cut or mold metal into a particular shape.

20a dare {Reason to make a prank call, maybe}. I unfortunately had the equally good lark here, which held me up for a long time.

21a I pass {What a player may mean by knocking on the table}. I've encountered this when playing duplicate bridge, though I gather it's more respectable to use the bidding boxes, even when it's clear a bid is going to get passed out.

schmear of butter37a schmear {Roll top?}. A great clue to a great answer. Who'd have guessed that you could put schmear right on top of Swayze and still fill around them.

43a chairs {Heads up}. Neat clue, diverting you from thinking of "heads" as a verb.

52a NHL {Stars participate in it: Abbr.}. I assume the "Stars" here refers to the Dallas Stars ice hockey team, which is a member of the National Hockey League.

56a Bazooka Joe {Comics character with a "gang"}. I luckily remembered Bazooka Joe from a June puzzle, although it still took a lot of crossing letters to recognize him.

Bazooka Joe
5d dead to rights {Red-handed}. One of those idioms one knows, though it's quite hard to see why those words mean what they do. In this and its equivalent bang to rights, "to rights" means rightfully or indisputably.

Mario15d Mario {Plumber seen in an arcade}. I can't remember ever playing any of the Mario series of games, but it was so popular at one time that I had no difficulty here. I'm guessing Mario, Pac-Man and Tetris have to fight it out for the most famous video game of all time.

21d Irish whiskey {Mayo sauce?}. A great clue: I twigged the right Mayo very quickly and put in Irish; but didn't see that "sauce" was also misleading, so the whiskey part got added much later.

53d home {Typist's position}. Having learned to touch-type, I felt at home with this clue. The home keys ASDF and JKL; are where your fingers should rest on the home row, unless required elsewhere.

58d asp {"My baby at my breast," in Shakespeare}. The clue is Cleopatra's epithet for the snake about to bite her in the final scene of Antony and Cleopatra:
With thy sharp teeth this knot intrinsicate
Of life at once untie. Poor venomous fool,
Be angry and dispatch. O couldst thou speak,
That I might hear thee call great Caesar ass
... ...
Peace, peace!
Dost thou not see my baby at my breast
That sucks the nurse asleep?
From Antony and Cleopatra
47d repay {Square things}. Another beautiful clue: as with 43-Across, it's very hard to read the clue and think of the first word as a verb.

The Rest

1a it had {"___ better be!"}; 9a et al {Abbr. in a "works cited" list}; 13a there's more {"I'm not done yet!"}; 16a lore {It's passed on}; 18a area {Discipline}; 19a YTD {Financial statement abbr.}; 22a within earshot {Relatively close}; 29a sitars {Band members with long necks?}; 32a LGA {It's 11 miles NNW of JFK}; 35a special {Something not on the menu}; 39a nor {Certain correlative}; 40a grab {Really appeal to}; 45a hides {Makes scarce}; 46a free throw line {Where a fouled player might go}; 50a jells {Crystallizes}; 55a opal {Pendant option}; 59a rate {Not be a nobody}; 61a dyed {Not natural}; 62a wed {Bond}; 63a Ypres {City in 1917 headlines}.

1d itsy {Minute, informally}; 2d that {"Not ___!"}; 3d held water {Wasn't full of holes}; 4d arm {The Adriatic vis-à-vis the Mediterranean}; 7d ire {Boiling point?}; 8d eek {Cry of surprise}; 9d elapse {March on}; 11d are so {"... love's shadows ___ rich in joy!": Romeo}; 12d least {___ of all}; 14d shah {Onetime C.I.A.-backed foreign leader}; 23d iMac {Computer debut of 1998}; 25d Asics {Nike rival}; 26d assn. {Part of M.P.A.A.: Abbr.}; 27d lipo {Slimming option, for short}; 33d gaze {It's often piercing}; 34d Ares {Vultures were sacred to him}; 36d lair {Refuge}; 38d main {Cardinal}; 41d bronzed {Like many beachgoers}; 43d celled {Single-___}; 46d fjord {Product of glacial erosion}; 49d Leos {Independent, noble types, it's said}; 54d lees {Remains}; 56d bow {It comes after the last number}; 57d ape {Troglodyte}.

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