Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NYT Wednesday 7/29/09 - In The Right Ballpark

The subject of this Wednesday New York Times crossword should have caused me more problems than most. Although I've now seen two live Binghamton Mets games, I am still way behind the average American in knowledge of baseball.

Luckily you didn't have to know much about baseball to deal with the overtly thematic aspects of the puzzle: after solving the long answers, the player nicknames were there in the circles to notice if you had a care to.

It was the various other baseball references that were thrown in which caused more problems: although I'd heard of Yogi Berra, I couldn't have told you he was squat; Sammy Sosa and sac fly were also unfamiliar.
Solving time: 10 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 26d bronco {It's most useful when it's broken}
Theme

Six long answers each include a Major League Baseball team-member (indicated by the circles):
17a make a strong case {Argue forcibly} - Houston Astros
28a crop sprayer {Pesticide spreader, e.g.} - Tampa Bay Rays
48a short-winded {Terse} - Minnesota Twins
61a Norwegian throne {Where Olaf I or Olaf II sat} - San Francisco Giants
11d orange rinds {Juicer remnants} - Texas Rangers
24d come to terms {Shake hands} - New York Mets
Solution

Tim Wescott
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersTim Wescott / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 34 (15.1%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 5.03)
Theme squares70 (36.6%)
Scrabble points288 (average 1.51)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

10a Sosa {Baseball star in Senate steroid hearings}. The relevant hearings predate my arrival in the US, so I had some excuse for not knowing this answer right away. In 2005, former right-fielder Sammy Sosa told Congress that he had never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs. However, a New York Times article of June 17, 2009 reported Sosa tested positive for drugs in 2003. Coincidentally, Magdalen today read me a review of Cooperstown Confidential, which describes the inconsistent application of the Hall of Fame's "character clause", which makes Sammy Sosa's induction unlikely, although existing HOFers include:
a convicted drug dealer, a reformed cokehead who narrowly beat a lifetime suspension from baseball, a celebrated sex addict, an Elders of Zion conspiracy nut, a pitcher who wrote a book about how he cheated his way into the hall, a well-known and highly arrested drunk driver and a couple of nasty beanball artists
from Cooperstown Confidential
sac fly22a sac {___ fly (run producer)}. Given the theme, it's perhaps not surprising that any answer that could be clued with reference to baseball was. I gather sac is short for sacrifice, a sacrifice fly gets the batter out, but helps an existing runner to score. There are commonsense rules about how this should be handled vis-a-vis the statistics.

Noteworthy

tails42a tails {"Call it!" call}. I thought when solving that "Call It!" might refer to some TV game show. No, it's just what you traditionally say to get someone to choose "heads" or "tails" before a coin toss. Flipping coins as a means of deciding an outcome has been around since ancient Rome, at least, when it was known as "navia aut caput" (ship or head), coins commonly having a ship on the non-emperor side.

43a Lotte {Lehmann of opera}. Lotte Lehmann (18881976) was a German soprano particularly associated with Straussian roles such as the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier. Here she is in a 1961 masterclass (which based on what I first typed should perhaps be a masterCallas):



66a Irma {"___ la Douce" (1963 film)}. I've come across this title a few times, but I don't think I've ever watched the movie. Irma la Douce (literally "Irma the Sweet") was directed by the great Billy Wilder and adapted from the musical of the same name. Although not a musical, André Previn won an Oscar for his work on the score.



71a squat {Like Yogi Berra, physically}. Since I first heard the name Yogi Berra, I've wondered if he was nicknamed in honor of Yogi Bear or the other way around ... now is a good time to find out. It seems the ursine character postdates the baseballer's nickname: it's likely Yogi Bear was named because of Berra, although William Hanna and Joseph Barbera deny the intent to do so. Berra himself got the nickname "yogi" because he was said to resemble one when waiting to bat with arms and legs crossed.



9d renege {Bridge no-no}. I tried to learn Bridge for much of 2007 and 2008, so thought the answer must be revoke. It seems a renege means exactly the same thing, and it's unfortunate from the crossword-solver's point of view that they start with the same two letters. Reneging means not "following suit", something that in my experience happens by accident from time to time.

10d SiCKO {2007 Michael Moore documentary}. I'm sure I've watched Bowling for Columbine but not yet this movie. SiCKO is, however, constantly in the news, so I had no problems with the clue. As I am self-employed, finding suitable health coverage has been one of my biggest headaches since arriving in the US, and from experience I can say that publicly funded health systems (although not perfect) have a lot of advantages. I'm glad to see the Obama administration is making health care reform one of its key objectives.



12d so-so {Eh}. I assume this refers to the noncommittal vocalization that I've also seen spelled "enh" and "meh". It's much used by kids, and some speculate that the habit started with The Simpsons:
Homer: Kids, how would you like to go... to Blockoland!
Bart & Lisa: Meh.
Homer: But the TV. gave the impression that--
Bart: We said "meh".
Lisa: M-E-H. Meh.
19d garret {"La Bohème" setting}. Darn, Paris doesn't fit! I got there in the end. Here's Rodolfo in That Garret (which can't help appearing pretty palatial on the average opera stage) singing about Mimi's tiny frozen mitts.



22d Schulz {Charles who created Peppermint Patty}. I don't usually have a problem recognizing Peanuts characters. The character of Patricia "Peppermint Patty" Reichardt was supposedly inspired by one of Schulz's cousins, Patricia Swanson.

Peanuts

26d bronco {It's most useful when it's broken}. Nicely misleading, like a riddle in a Christmas cracker. Oops, you don't have them in America: all you need to know is they have a (usually corny) joke or riddle in them, like this:
Who is never hungry at Christmas?
The turkey - he's always stuffed!
56d Nora {"The Thin Man" detective}. This mention's for Magdalen, as she's a big fan of the "Thin Man" movies. Nick and Nora Charles are the sleuths who banter away as they solve crimes. In this connection, we have to give prominent billing to their dog Asta, who crops up more often in crosswords than either of the detectives.



65d est {1970s self-improvement program}. I'd heard of est, mainly through cryptic crosswords, in which it's a useful way of indicating an -est ending. Erhard Seminars Training offered 60-hour training courses from 1971 to 1984. They claimed to give participants a sense of personal transformation and enhanced power.

The Rest

1a jails {Clinks}; 6a afar {Way out}; 14a inlet {Sheltered water}; 15a rote {Repetitive routine}; 16a iron {It may be pumped}; 20a Rio {South American cruise stop}; 21a tie a knot {Finish lacing up}; 25a nab {Catch red-handed}; 27a grog {Royal Navy drink of old}; 32a Eno {Brian of ambient music}; 35a hemi- {Prefix with sphere}; 36a yore {Arthurian times, say}; 37a Enron {Name in 2001 bankruptcy news}; 39a UTenn {Knoxville sch.}; 41a NBA {Grizzlies' org.}; 44a cost {Damage, so to speak}; 46a anti {Con man?}; 47a zoo {Chaotic place}; 51a tase {"Don't ___ me, bro!"}; 53a yin {Dark half of a Chinese circle}; 54a SSE {G.P.S. heading}; 55a one-sided {Like a Möbius strip}; 59a sci. {Class with the periodic table on the wall, often: Abbr.}; 67a erne {Fish-eating raptor}; 68a eases {Moves gingerly}; 69a TASS {Cold war propaganda disseminator}; 70a deke {Rink fake}.

1d Jim {Huck's raftmate}; 2d -ana {Bibliophile's suffix}; 3d ilk {Sort}; 4d leer {Lounge lizard's look}; 5d stains {Discolorations}; 6d art {Works in a gallery}; 7d fort {Snow structure}; 8d a toi {Yours, in Tours}; 13d a net {Work without ___ (be daring)}; 18d soapy {Needing a rinse}; 23d are too {"Am not!" response}; 29d pint {Blood drive donation}; 30d arbor {Shady retreat}; 31d yeasty {Like bread dough or beer}; 33d Noltes {Actor Nick and family}; 34d onside {Like some football kicks}; 38d naan {Tandoor-baked bread}; 40d Nessie {Storied monster, informally}; 45d twist {Dance for Chubby Checker}; 49d hedged {Counterbalanced, as bets}; 50d inches {What some races are won by}; 52d as was {___ the custom (traditionally)}; 55d on it {"Get ___!" ("Stop procrastinating!")}; 57d Eire {Mayo's land}; 58d dank {Dungeonlike}; 60d Iraq {Modern home of ancient Ur}; 62d née {Alumna bio word}; 63d OSU {Columbus sch.}; 64d NEA {Teachers' org.}.

4 comments:

Maggie B. said...

Although Yogi Berra was relatively short and stocky, the other aspect to his being "squat" is that he was a catcher and spent his career in a "squatting" position.

Crossword Man said...

Thanks for the insight. I hadn't appreciated that aspect. I'm getting more into baseball now, and asked last night if we could watch a match on TV - bad timing as there was nothing on!

HBLizzie said...

I can confirm that Peppermint Patty is in fact based on Schulz' cousin, Patricia Swanson. I just talked to her today; it's her 7?th birthday! She was my 5th grade teacher at Middleton Street School in Huntington Park, CA back in 198?. Very strong-willed woman and extremely intelligent.

Crossword Man said...

Hi HBLizzie. How wonderful to hear that first-hand! Thanks for getting in touch.