Wednesday, July 29, 2009

NYT Thursday 7/30/09 - Express Letters

This was probably the weirdest New York Times crossword I've solved this year, although by the standards of the cryptic crosswords I'm used to, the gimmick wasn't too frightening. Still, when it's not clear what the "anomalies" in a puzzle might be, you can flounder around quite a bit until the penny drops about the theme.

In this case, it took me all of 22 minutes (and despite having four-letter words) to realize that 1-Across must be EEEE, fitting in with ease as the answer. I confirmed the pattern with QQQQ at 8-Across, and then went round "correcting" the remaining four-letter answers.

I like the consistent application of the idea: it's neat that the four-letter answers are exclusively those affected. The difficulties of filling around them are evident especially at the top, where abbrs. abound (one reason it's so difficult to make headway at the start). I wondered if working in CCCC {Global septet} or even PPPP {Vegetables} would have been slightly easier than QQQQ and so avoided an abbr. or two.
Solving time: 31 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 59a ref {Whistle blower}

The four-letter answers are entered as repeated letters that sound like the true answer:
1a ease {Facility} - Es
8a cues {Signals} - Qs
19a eyes {Peer group?} - Is
20a tease {Razz} - Ts
47a bees {Garden sights} - Bs
49a owes {Is behind} - Os
61a geez! {"Man oh man!"} - Gs
63a wise {Hip} - Ys
This treatment is hinted at by the two long answers:
16a four-letter words {Profanities (and a hint to this puzzle's anomalies)}
51a repeat offenders {Record holders? (and a punny hint to this puzzle's anomalies)}

Ashish Vengsarkar
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersAshish Vengsarkar / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 41 (18.2%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.84)
Theme squares62 (33.7%)
Scrabble points320 (average 1.74)
New To Me

34a Oop {Alley of Moo}. Seemingly the way into the milking parlor, I had no ideas about this; but was satisfied the answer might be oop in view of alley-oop plays in basketball. It seems though that this Alley Oop is a character in a comic strip of the same title: he normally lives in the prehistoric kingdom of Moo, but is sometimes abducted into our time by Dr. Wonmug's (ein stein, geddit) time machine. In case this comes up in future crosswords, I note that Oop has a pet dinosaur called Dinny.

Alley Oop

blood40a gangster {Blood, e.g.}. Perhaps influenced by 43-Across, I had daughter here for quite a while. The intended reference seems to be to the Los Angeles street gang the Bloods, rivals to the Crips (you wouldn't be a gang if you didn't have rivals). Bloods wear red and have a special hand sign that looks like "blood" in lower case.

4d eeriest {Like H. P. Lovecraft among all popular writers?}. I found this tough, as I've never read any H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937) and assumed he was "just" a science fiction writer. Now I see that he's one of the most influential horror writers of the 20th century, who together with Edgar Allan Poe has exerted "an incalculable influence on succeeding generations of writers of horror fiction". Must give him a try.

7d Yvette {Actress Mimieux of "Where the Boys Are"}. I recognized neither actress nor movie, though a French forename seemed appropriate for the surname given. Where the Boys Are is a coming-of-age comedy from 1960 about college students vacationing in Fort Lauderdale, which did wonders for local tourism apparently.

9d qtr. {12 or 15 min.}. I could see how 15 min. might be a quarter (of an hour), but 12? Ok, my researches suggest we're talking NBA basketball, in which games are played in four 12 min. quarters. Perhaps then the 15 min. is actually referring to American football, in which a standard game consists of four 15 min. quarters?

45d ABT {Dance grp. at the Met}. I knew this must be one of the New York City ballet companies, but other than there would be a B in it, had no idea what to expect. The American Ballet Theatre (sic, why not Theater?) was founded in 1937 and is one of the top three ballet companies in the US, along with the New York City Ballet (NYCB) and the San Francisco Ballet (SFB).

51d rig {Horse and buggy}. I know horse-and-buggy is a term meaning old-fashioned, so thought that would be the meaning here. No, the association called for was much more straightforward, rig being a general term for any horse-drawn carriage.

Edy Williams55d Edy {Actress Williams of the 1960s-'70s}. This makes a change from ice cream references. As the clue suggests, Edy Williams is best known for her TV and film work in the 1960s and 1970s. More recently she's made a name for herself by the flamboyant outfits she wears to awards ceremonies.


Medea12a Medea {Jiltee of myth}. In Greek mythology, the sorceress Medea is married to Jason, who deserts her for Creusa, the daughter of Creon. Medea wreaks revenge by killing Creusa and Creon; and then her two sons by Jason.

21a SSE {Liverpool-to-Portsmouth dir.}. Hey! for once I can reliably predict the dir. required. Normally I have no clue what the answer will be, but the possibilities are thankfully limited: SSE seems to be the most common dir., since there are alternative cluing options for ENE and ESE. Here are the frequencies of the eight possible dir. answers:
ENE - 29% (other cluing options)
ESE - 28% (other cluing options)
SSE - 19%
NNE - 15%
SSW - 5%
NNW - 2%
WSW - 1%
WNW - 1%
44a Ste. {Division of an office bldg.}. This abbr. for Suite was only introduced on July 3rd and here it is again. Clearly Suite is the new Sainte.

59a ref {Whistle blower}. An old 'un, but a good 'un.

Ali Khamenei13d Ali {Iranian supreme leader ___ Khamenei}. Ali Khamenei and the Ayatolla Khomeni (1902-1989) are easily mixed up in my mind. The former succeeded the latter as ruler of Iran.

24d Arn {Royal son of the comics}. We had Arn clued exactly the same way in March this year. He's the first born of Prince Valiant and Queen Aleta in the Prince Valiant comic strip created by Hal Foster. An animated series, The Legend of Prince Valiant, is based on the strip's characters.

48d bat {It goes over a plate}. A baseball reference, right? I'm getting better at spotting those now.

The Rest

5a May {<-- What this is, on a calendar}; 14a ATV {Yamaha offering, in brief}; 15a cut it {Perform acceptably}; 23a gnats {Buzzers}; 25a IMs {Some exchanges, quickly}; 28a gets there {Arrives}; 30a sneer {Mean mien}; 32a one to ten {Scale range}; 33a jiggle {Do what Jell-O does}; 35a ahs {Patient responses}; 36a fan {Geisha's accessory}; 37a a la {Like}; 38a droids {Many "Star Wars" fighters}; 42a saucy {Forward}; 43a ancestors {Some people in a tree}; 45a arced {Wasn't straight}; 46a ons {Carry-___}; 58a inert {Sluggish}; 60a Abdul {"American Idol" judge}; 62a sys {___ admin (computer techie)}.

1d emf {Voltaic cell meas.}; 2d EEO {Abbr. in a help-wanted ad}; 3d .edu {E-mail address ending}; 5d matinées {Show types}; 6d AT&T {Part of a 2005 SBC merger}; 8d quoting {Offering, as a price}; 10d q.i.d. {Rx abbr.}; 11d qts. {Peck parts: Abbr.};15d cwt. {100 lbs.}; 17d eighths {Some musical notes}; 18d RTs {Football linemen: Abbr.}; 21d Señoras {They may have niños and niñas}; 22d step out {Exit}; 26d megaton {Nuclear unit}; 27d sellers {Merchants}; 28d goods {Stuff on a shelf}; 29d toady {Kowtower}; 30d sings {Squeals}; 31d rears {Cans}; 33d Jane Doe {Courtroom identification}; 36d faceoffs {Starts of some sporting events}; 39d iceberg {Big chip off the old block?}; 40d GNC {Health supplement chain}; 41d stood by {Defended}; 43d arbors {Pergolas}; 50d on a {___ leash}; 52d Eng. {Official lang. of Barbados}; 53d peg {Part of a violin}; 54d fey {Hardly macho}; 56d Ruy {___ Lopez (chess opening)}; 57d sly {On the ___}.


Daniel Myers said...


Anent "theatre" for "theater": This is extremely common now in America. My local cinemaplex is titled "Theatre". It's a rather rum exemplar of an orthographical crosspollination (if that's the metaphor for which I'm looking) with anything connected to the arts - or, more generally, anything with pretences of being upmarket ("upscale" in America.) Here in Greenville, SC - a 15 minute (Qtr?) walk from where I live - we have the Peace Centre for the Performing Arts.

As American Poet John Ashberry puts it in his poem "Tenth Symphony":

"There is some connexion
(I like the way the English spell it
They're so clever about some things
Probably smarter generally than we are
Although there's supposed to be something
We have that they don't - don't ask me what it is...)"


Crossword Man said...

Thanks for those insights ... and American spelling is occasionally manifested in eg shop names in the UK, but more because it's perceived as kewl than smart. I doubt we'll ever see a Royal National Theater!