Sunday, July 5, 2009

NYT Monday 7/6/09 - Left, Right and Center

My reaction when I discovered the theme of this Monday New York Times crossword was "why weren't the 15-letter answers downs?". This would have put liberal on the left, conservative on the right, and moderate in the center - how appropriate! (Across and downs can be swapped simply by mirroring the grid along the diagonal and otherwise requires no reconstruction.)

It could be that the flipped arrangement never occurred to anybody; or the convention of having the theme answers across was considered more important than the aesthetic niceties of this particular theme. I can see the advantages of having the theme answers as acrosses as a general rule, but there are also times when it makes sense to deviate from the norm.
Solving time: 6 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 64a Aida {A slave to opera?}
Theme

Phrases starting with the three broad political ideologies:
17a liberal benefits {Company-paid medical and dental coverage, college tuition, etc.}
37a moderate drinker {A sot he's not}
59a conservative tie {Bit of attire for a business interview, maybe}
Solution

Fred Piscop
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersFred Piscop / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 40 (17.8%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.74)
Theme squares45 (24.3%)
Scrabble points280 (average 1.51)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

30a niece {Dorothy, to Em}. A reference I didn't recognize, but assumed was to the Wizard of Oz. Correct: Dorothy is an orphan, raised by her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry.

25d simp {Nincompoop}. Although I wasn't familiar with the answer, I reasoned it was a shortening of simpleton and so it turns out to be.
simpleton n a weak or foolish person, one easily imposed on (short form simp, esp N Am).
From The Chambers Dictionary
Evan Bayh54d Evan {Politico Bayh}. We had Evan Bayh back in March as one of the examples of the different ways the I sound can be spelled. Sadly the junior senator from Indiana's name didn't stick in my mind, despite the weird spelling. And I thought Will Shortz was Indiana's finest ...

62d Ada {Critic ___ Louise Huxtable}. A clue leaving one wanting to know more. Ada Louise Huxtable is an architecture critic who currently writes for The Wall Street Journal. She won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1970.

Noteworthy

10a Emma {Actress Thompson of "Howards End"}. I often have trouble with movie references, even on a Monday, but a Merchant Ivory adaptation of a classic 20th century novel is likely to have reached my attention. Along with The Remains of the Day, Howards End is my pick of their productions.



34a SPF {Tanning lotion abbr.}; 9d tan {Get some sun}. We haven't had too much truck with these things so far this "summer": there's now a stream running down our lawn where there didn't used to be one, thanks to the superfluity of rain in the last few weeks. When tanning lotion is called for, I like the type that has insect repellent mixed in - I've got some new stuff called BullFrog "Mosquito Coast" and I'll report back on efficacy.

64a Aida {A slave to opera?}. Ha ha - very nice! The eponymous Aida was an Ethiopian princess, but by the time the action starts, has been captured and enslaved by the Egyptians. I've just discovered that there was a film version made in 1953 with Sophia Loren as Aida (miming to Renata Tebaldi's voice).



1d Mel's {Diner on "Alice"}. I should have remembered the series Alice, as it's come up a couple of times already this year. Something about the clue made me think of the Woody Allen movie, however. Seeing another clip of Mel's Diner (which is based in Phoenix, AZ) should help me remember Alice, Mel, Flo and Vera.



Waldo6d Waldo {Hard-to-find guy in children's books}. In Britain, the hard-to-find guy is named Wally. Luckily I knew of the mutation in naming: for some reason British author Martin Handford renamed the character when adapting the books to each new country ... eg he's Charlie in France and Holger in Denmark. The Where's Waldo? books were a huge sensation when they arrived in the USA in the early 1990s and gave rise to "Waldo-mania". More recently, fan Melanie Coles built a 2,300 sq ft Waldo on a Vancouver roof just so it would show up in Google Earth.

55d Reba {McEntire of country music}. Reba McEntire also showed up in a puzzle in March, but this time I managed to remember the singer's Old Testament forename. Another candidate in the weird-forenames-from-the-bible stakes is Zebulon ... it's hard to beat. Here's Reba singing her new single Strange.



The Rest

1a melon {Fruit often cut into balls}; 6a Walt {___ Disney Pictures}; 14a exude {Give off, as charm}; 15a aria {Song for a diva}; 16a foes {The North and the South, in the Civil War}; 20a steroid {Controversial substance in baseball news}; 21a puree {Reduce to mush}; 22a do I {"___ look like a mind reader?"}; 24a wisest {Most like Solomon}; 25a settee {Upholstered piece}; 32a icier {Not so congenial}; 33a Edna {Poet ___ St. Vincent Millay}; 41a ply {Tissue layer}; 42a go no {"This will ___ further!"}; 43a guile {Artful deception}; 44a plant {Factory}; 46a mottle {Pattern on a pinto horse}; 47a mohair {Angora goat's fleece}; 50a Sri {___ Lanka}; 52a avert {Ward off}; 53a emerald {Ireland's hue}; 63a rice {Bowlful accompanying teriyaki}; 65a above {Superior to}; 66a odes {Pindaric pieces}; 67a snag {Hosiery spoiler}; 68a named {Identified}.

2d exit {Emergency door sign}; 3d lube {Garage job, for short}; 4d Oder {Baltic Sea feeder}; 5d Nero {Wolfe of whodunits}; 7d arb {Wall St. whiz}; 8d lie {Tell a whopper}; 10d effuse {Pour forth}; 11d moire {Wavy pattern on fabric}; 12d metes {Apportions, with "out"}; 13d asset {Liability's opposite}; 18d aide {Capitol Hill helper}; 19d epic {Cast-of-thousands movie}; 23d indents {Hits the tab key, say}; 24d wear {Grow tiresome}; 26d ecol. {Environmental sci.}; 27d tidy {Neat}; 28d tee {___ time (golf course slot)}; 29d err {Blow it}; 31d Indo- {___-European languages}; 33d Eton {School attended by princes}; 34d skit {Burlesque bit}; 35d pell {___-mell}; 36d free {Gratis}; 38d agar {Petri dish gel}; 39d I go {"Here ___ again"}; 40d nut {Macadamia, for one}; 44d parses {Breaks down grammatically}; 45d lite {Lo-fat}; 46d Mimi {Actress Rogers who was once married to Tom Cruise}; 47d macro {PC shortcut}; 48d ovoid {Egg-shaped}; 49d hence {"It follows that ..."}; 51d retag {Put a new price on}; 56d atom {Molecule building block}; 57d live {Not prerecorded}; 58d deed {Monopoly card}; 60d Ras {___ Tafari (Haile Selassie)}; 61d vin {Beaujolais or Chablis}.

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