Saturday, July 25, 2009

NYT Sunday 7/26/09 - Knights to Remember

Knights of the Round TableWe got home safely from our Canadian trip on Saturday evening, in time for a pot of tea and the Sunday New York Times crossword. Even though there were three of us solving it, the puzzle took us longer than my average time, perhaps because the grid was supersized at 23x23, with 170 answers to work through. Henry returns to Philly this afternoon, so I'll go back to solo solving for the foreseeable future.

Although we got some of the long thematic answers pretty quickly, it wasn't till we ran into the first answer affected by a rebus square (pumps iron, I think) that we realized the concept behind the rather odd grid: this has mirror, rather than rotational, symmetry. For space reasons, the Knights of the Round Table (estimated at between 12 and 150 or more) have to be represented by just five sirs.
Solving time: 50 mins (with Magdalen and Henry, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 83a rehem {Bring up, perhaps}
Theme

The King Arthur legend, hinted at by the title "Story Circle". The round table is represented by five sirs (the knights) in a circle of rebus squares:
38a sires {Fathers}
40a aesir {Norse pantheon}
72a Sirius {Part of Canis Major}
73a yes sir {Boot camp affirmative}
101a desired {Popular}
18d pumps iron {Does some heavy lifting}
19d fire siren {Red alert?}
72d sirloins {Some steaks}
74d siroccos {Hot desert winds}
88d Yasir {Chairman Arafat}
Six titles are thematically related:
137a Sword in the Stone {1963 animated film with the song "Higitus Figitus," with "The"}



143a Quest for Camelot {1998 animated film featuring the voice of Pierce Brosnan}



2d Excalibur {1981 film in which Helen Mirren plays a sorceress}



4d A Connecticut Yankee, 12d in King Arthur's Court {1889 Twain novel}



14d Knights of, 76d the Round Table {1953 Ava Gardner film ... as depicted elsewhere in this puzzle?}



71d Mists of Avalon {2001 Anjelica Huston miniseries, with "The"}



Solution

Kevin G. Der
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersKevin G. Der / Will Shortz
Grid23x23 with 99 (18.7%) black squares
Answers170 (average length 5.06)
Theme squares115 (26.7%)
Scrabble points687 (average 1.60)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
FeaturePangrammatic
New To Me

Sky Chief16a Texaco {Sky Chief company}. Magdalen solved this without my noticing, so I only now discover I have no clue what the Sky Chief connection is. I gather Texaco's main brands of gasoline were Fire Chief (regular gasoline, dispensed from a red gas pump) and Sky Chief (higher octane, dispensed from a silver gas pump). These brands seem to have been superseded in 1982.

50a Erica {Longtime Susan Lucci role}. Magdalen got this one too, and said I should go look Susan Lucci up. The reference here is to her role as Erica Kane in the soap All My Children; something she's done for nearly 40 years - wow! Susan is supposedly the highest-paid actor in daytime television.



kombu sheets69a kombu {Dried seaweed popular in Japanese cuisine}. None of us had come across kombu before, an edible kelp cultivated on ropes in the seas of China, Japan, and Korea. It's apparently used extensively in Japanese cuisine, being one of the main ingredients of the soup stock dashi.

Ming Yao85a Yao {7'6" Ming}. Magdalen thought I should have heard of the basketball player Yao Ming, and indeed his description does seem familiar now - I just didn't remember the name. It seems a body that tall isn't without its problems, as Yao has been plagued by injuries.

94d Esai {Lou's "La Bamba" co-star}. Esai Morales crops up so frequently, I'm now familiar with the name, but not necessarily every role he's been associated with. In this biopic about the life of Ritchie Valens (played by Lou Diamond Phillips), Esai plays Ritchie's half-brother Bob Morales.



Noteworthy

26a chain {Word with mail or letter}. This is a cool clue, because the association with letter makes you think of the postal sense of mail, not what knight's might wear.

32a nips {Tweaks}. I'm still not completely convinced of the equivalence here, although the clue and answer are close in meaning: tweaking seems to imply either twisting or pulling, which I'm not sure nipping does, necessarily.

45a nub {Center}. We ran into a red herring here: the clue can lead equally well to hub.

83a rehem {Bring up, perhaps}. We all liked this neat misleading clue ... once it was explained to us. To bring up a dress (ie make it shorter), you need to rehem it.

92a tat {One side of an exchange}. A reference to "tit for tat".

136a Eva {Operatic heroine wooed by Beckmesser}. Beckmesser is the buffoonish town clerk in Die Meistersinger through which Wagner caricatures the musical establishment. Wagner's ideals are expressed through the knight Walter (and his coach Hans Sachs), who we see singing to Eva and the assembled company here.



11d dos {Things first on the way up?}. This is the most baffling clue I've seen for some time. I'm guessing this may have to do with solfa notation (do re mi fa so la ti do) in which dos are the first notes on the way up the octave. But then they're also the first notes on the way down, so I'm not completely satisfied with my explanation - readers?



44d ROTC {Drilling grp.}; 86d ADA {Drilling grp.}. A neat cluing trick which can't be that hard to achieve in a puzzle with 170 answers.

63d Ille {"Winnie ___ Pu"}. This refers to the Latin translation of Winnie-the-Pooh, first published in 1958. It was the first foreign-language book to feature on the New York Times Best Seller List, and (not surprisingly) has been the only Latin one.

97d Nils {Rocker Lofgren}. We can't let a reference to Nils Lofgren pass without playing something for his number one fan Coffee Jones. Is he the only famous Nils?



101d dorm {Temple structure?}. Nice concealment of a proper name at the start of the clue. We came up with several answers like dais before twigging the reference to Temple University.

106d coma {Result of going out?}. Another beautifully misleading clue.

117d Leonora {Heroine in Verdi's "Il Trovatore"}. Leonora is possibly the most-used name for operatic heroines. There are Leonoras in Fidelio and La forza del destino as well as Il Trovatore. As Henry points out, the latter is the opera used so deliciously in A Night at the Opera (1935).



ashcan123d ashcan {Antisub weapon}. Ashcan is the slang term for a depth charge, originally being similar in shape (if not size) to the domestic receptacle.

The Rest

1a medal {Do well in the Olympics}; 6a opt in {Choose to take part}; 11a disks {Modern storage sites}; 17a up to snuff {Satisfactory}; 21a one-nil {Low soccer score}; 23a escrow {Place in trust}; 24a guide rail {Stabilizing track}; 25a skeins {Weaver's supply}; 27a Olmos {Actor Edward James ___}; 28a Enron {2001 headline maker}; 30a ingot {It's worth its weight in gold}; 31a LAN {PC linkup}; 33a Cera {Michael of "Juno" and "Superbad"}; 34a nah {"Ixnay"}; 35a kaisers {Bygone leaders}; 41a Dogstar {Another name for 72-Across}; 46a Chico {A Marx brother}; 48a yon {Thither}; 52a Sno {___-Caps (candy)}; 53a ORU {Tulsa sch.}; 54a titan {Largest moon of Saturn}; 55a nag {Subject of a tipster's tip}; 56a Niner {Joe Montana or Jerry Rice, informally}; 57a Ont. {Windsor's home: Abbr.}; 58a bar lines {Additions to a musical staff}; 60a not if {___ but when}; 62a beatific {Blissful}; 64a ace {Crackerjack}; 65a said hello {Expressed a welcome}; 68a NHL {Org. with spring playoffs}; 75a ultra {Fanatic}; 79a exist {Be more than a dream}; 80a lo-fat {Lite}; 82a video {Clip, e.g.}; 84a -ics {Suffix with magnet}; 87a envying {Green-eyed}; 89a C as {___ in Charlie}; 91a Eve {Wall-E's love in "Wall-E"}; 93a adieu {It may be bid}; 95a sax {Big band instrument}; 96a encyc. {It comes in volumes: Abbr.}; 98a Ren {Cartoon pooch}; 99a HRs {Slugger's stat}; 100a nans {Tandoor flatbreads}; 103a iono- {Prefix with sphere}; 104a oar {Galley figure}; 105a stock {Bones may be found in it}; 107a sabot {Cousin of a clog}; 109a Neals {Oscar winner Patricia and others}; 111a uvula {It's found near the tongue}; 113a foes {Achilles and Hector}; 115a irr. {Clothes rack abbr.}; 116a FGs {Gridiron scores: Abbr.}; 117a L. Ron {Scientologist ___ Hubbard}; 118a enamel {Crown covering}; 120a am I late? {"Did you start without me?"}; 124a études {Rachmaninoff's "___-tableaux"}; 127a Java {Island where Sundanese and Madurese are spoken}; 128a OD on {Take too much of, briefly}; 131a gas {Windbag's output}; 132a Isao {Golfer Aoki}; 135a stye {Certain infection}; 141a Ari {___ Gold, character on "Entourage"}; 142a Cal {Stanford's Big Game rival}; 144a biz {Hollywood, with "the"}; 145a tho {Notwithstanding that, for short}; 146a ipso {___ jure (legal term)}; 147a friar {"The Canterbury Tales" traveler}; 148a merc {Gun for hire}; 149a Lee {Loser at Gettysburg}; 150a son {Heir, perhaps}; 151a NSA {Org. in Clancy's "Red Storm Rising"}; 152a yeans {Gives birth to a kid}; 153a rah {Bit of cheer}; 154a ess {Road twist}.

1d mesh {Work together}; 3d Darias {Onetime MTV animated title character and others}; 5d low {Weathercast figure}; 6d otiose {Slothful}; 7d pods {Underwater families}; 8d TSE {Japanese market: Abbr.}; 9d in re {Memo header}; 10d nuance {Subtlety}; 13d seen as {Perceived to be}; 15d Sino- {___-Japanese}; 16d 'tec {Gumshoe}; 17d ugli {Relative of a grapefruit}; 20d flor {Bilbao bloom}; 22d LST {W.W. II vessel}; 27d on-site {Kind of inspection}; 29d Nadine {___ Gordimer, Literature Nobelist}; 35d knob {Aid in finding a station}; 36d aura {Magical glow}; 37d Rhine {River that flows past more than 40 castles}; 39d synod {Bishop's group}; 40d Angie {1973 Rolling Stones #1 hit}; 42d ocean {Davy Jones's locker}; 43d anni {Years in old Rome}; 47d Cassio {One of Iago's victims}; 49d oath {Words of commitment}; 51d ribose {Five-carbon sugar}; 59d labs {Culture areas?}; 60d Nisan {Passover month}; 61d fly in {Arrive by air}; 66d au feu {Pot-___ (French stew)}; 67d ledge {Overhang}; 69d Keiths {Conductor Lockhart and others}; 70d oxcart {Rustic transport}; 77d reveal {Magic trick's climax}; 78d Amen-Ra {Supreme Egyptian deity}; 81d TV set {Soap box?}; 82d vixen {One of Santa's reindeer}; 90d Ayn {___ Rand, developer of Objectivism}; 102d deft {Quick}; 108d Brandt {1971 Peace Nobelist from Germany}; 110d ageism {AARP concern}; 112d vous {"Parlez-___ français?"}; 114d slow-ups {Delays}; 118d ejects {Gives the heave-ho}; 119d Navaho {Arizona native}; 121d ignore {Not pick up}; 122d latria {Highest worship in Catholicism}; 125d eyries {Cliff homes: Var.}; 126d seizes {Takes by force}; 129d does a {___ number on}; 130d or so {About}; 133d stem {What an inflectional ending is added to}; 134d AOLer {Certain netizen}; 137d sq. in. {Area meas.}; 138d iffy {Up in the air}; 139d ears {Canal sites}; 140d etch {Emulate some of Goya's work}.

4 comments:

Magdalen said...

Sorry, sweetheart -- if I'd known you had been confused about 11 down, I'd have said something. I assume it refers to "do" as a short term for hairdo, which can be done up as in all the hair is arranged on top of the head (chignon, French twist, top knot, Gibson Girl, etc.). Such a style is also known as an "updo."

Buy Fresh Buy Local Hampton Roads said...

RE "Things first on the way up," I like the do re mi explanation better, but thank you both for a great explication. July 26 was tough.

Stephanie said...

I learned yean and latria, and was definitely misled by the variant spelling on eyries, which I'm used to seeing as aeries. I love the extra challenge of the puzzles that contain more than one letter per box, or sometimes a symbol.

Crossword Man said...

Thanks for the support on the do-re-mi theory: I doubt we'll ever know what the intended explanation was. Multiple letter cells are called "rebuses", mainly because of those occasions when a symbol replaces the letters: I couldn't think of an appropriate symbol for SIR - a chess knight would have looked odd at the round table.