Tuesday, July 7, 2009

NYT Wednesday 7/8/09 - Square Dealing

I tried hard to figure out the gimmick of this Wednesday New York Times crossword as I was solving it, but failed. It wasn't till about three minutes after I'd completed the grid that I noticed the 5x5 word square in the middle and hence all the other smaller, but less obtrusive, word squares elsewhere.

My hope was that the theme would confirm the answer Evan-Picone, but it turned out the two letters that I needed confirmation of were the centers of 3x3 word squares and hence not helpfully duplicated elsewhere. Luckily, my guesses turned out correct, but I was definitely skating on thin ice with this one.

I have to say that themes that don't come to light as you are solving aren't my favorites: the constraints they put on a grid aren't as amply rewarded if you have to ponder a completed grid for several minutes before realizing what is going on. One reason why this theme was fairly inconspicuous is that reflected sequences of letters across and down tend to occur naturally in most grids - only a 5x5 square could be no accident.
Solving time: 10 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 14a ope {"O Henry, ___ thine eyes!": Shak.}
Theme

The completed grid contains nine word squares in a symmetrical arrangement: a 5x5 in the center; four 4x4s and four 3x3s (see highlighted areas in the solution grid below).

Solution

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

Crucimetrics
CompilersTim Wescott / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.92)
Theme squares125 (66.8%)
Scrabble points300 (average 1.60)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

14a ope {"O Henry, ___ thine eyes!": Shak.}. Funny that the clue should start with another writer: I doubt this quote was the inspiration for William Sydney Porter's pen name - it possibly derived from Ohio Penitentiary, where O Henry served time for embezzling a bank. Shakespeare's line is from Act III Scene 2 of Henry VI Part 2: Queen Margaret revives the king with these words after he swoons on hearing of the death of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.

Devas36a Deva {Hindu god}. Deva isn't a specific god, but the name for any god, being the Sanskrit for "deity".

40a Sal {Mule of song}. A reference that meant nothing to me, but researches led me to a song from 1905 called "Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal" aka "Low Bridge"; this recalls the boom time on the canals, when barges were pulled by mules at 15 miles per day.



45a Dent {1978 Yankees hero Bucky}. Why was Bucky Dent such a hero in 1978? Ah, he scored a vital homer in a tie-breaker against the Boston Red Sox.

64a One {"A Chorus Line" song}. One I had to guess, as the thematic gimmick didn't help decide the middle letter: any one would do. A Chorus Line opened on Broadway in 1975 and was filmed in 1985. Of course now I listen to the song, I realize it's one I've heard, but not enough times to remember the title ... or associate the song with the show it was in.



Bing cherries4d Bing {Cherry variety}. I've not come across this particular cherry, presumably because they're cultivated in the Pacific Northwest almost exclusively for the fresh market. The Bing cherry cultivar was developed by horticulturist Seth Lewelling and Chinese foreman Ah Bing, hence the name. To my untrained eye Bing cherries look much like any other kind of cherry.

Evan-Picone32d Evan-Picone {Big name in women's apparel since 1949}. Does "big name" mean I'm supposed to have heard of this? I was forced to guess here, not knowing 64-Across. I said to myself "pick one" and that settled it. Evan-Picone is a brand of the Jones Apparel Group, but the lack of a Wikipedia article on the name itself suggests it's not on everyone's lips.

Chas Addams cartoon52d Chas {Cartoonist Addams}. Chas Addams (19121988) regularly appeared in the The New Yorker and had a syndicated strip Out of This World from 1956 onwards. His recurring characters eventually became The Addams Family, of which we have of course all heard.

53d hash {"Slung" dish}. I could make sense of "dish", but not the "slung" part. I gather "slinging" is the term used for preparing the dish, particularly associated with diners. This would have been a cinch if I ever watched SpongeBob SquarePants.



Noteworthy

22a emmets {Ants, archaically}. Not archaic everywhere: the answer is still in use in the Cornish dialect and applied to the tourists who make an antlike progress around the tiny roads of that county. The other colorful word for outsiders in those parts is "grockles".

41a Uses {"101 ___ for a Dead Cat" (1981 best seller)}. I had no trouble recalling this title and still vividly remember the "pencil sharpener" cartoon. It's good to see this classic is still in print.

Monroe31d West Monroe {Louisiana city named for the fifth U.S. president}. I managed to remember Monroe as the fifth prez from writing yesterday's post about the Era of Good Feelings. West seemed a likely prefix. West Monroe lies on the Ouachita River, opposite its twin Monroe.

The Rest

1a rob {Steal from}; 4a binge {Go on a jag}; 9a scram {"Beat it!"}; 15a ideal {"In an ___ world ..."}; 16a crude {Boorish}; 17a bee {Spell-off}; 18a new to {Just learning about}; 19a had it {"I've ___ up to here!"}; 20a irrigate {Make arable, perhaps}; 23a nags {Acts the shrew}; 24a Pnom {___ Penh, Cambodia: Var.}; 25a has a heart {Is compassionate}; 30a ewes {Half a flock, maybe}; 34a sor. {Sisters' org.}; 35a member {Dues payer}; 37a cud {What a cow chews}; 38a cab-over {Style of truck with a vertical front}; 43a revues {Multi-act shows}; 44a TNT {"The Closer" cable channel}; 46a tree-stump {Remains of a felling}; 48a aahs {"So satisfying!" sounds}; 50a rois {Louis XIV, Louis XVI et al.}; 52a chasms {Deep divides}; 55a rum-punch {Bacardi concoction, perhaps}; 59a has he {"___ lost his mind?"}; 60a tuber {Yam or taro}; 61a roe {Fish-to-be}; 62a ashen {Pale with fright}; 63a omega {Ohm's symbol}; 65a sheds {Casts off}; 66a spray {Alternative to roll-on}; 67a e'en {Bard's nightfall}.

1d Robin {Batcave figure}; 2d opera-house {Diva's workplace}; 3d beer garden {Place for a pilsner}; 5d idea {"Aha!" elicitor}; 6d Newt {"Winning the Future" author Gingrich}; 7d gate {Event receipts}; 8d ELO {"Xanadu" band, for short}; 9d schmo {Dorky sort}; 10d crammed {Pulled an all-nighter}; 11d rude {Like cutting in line, e.g.}; 12d adit {Mine opening}; 13d Mets {"Amazin'" team}; 21d iss. {Mag. copy}; 22d entrées {Followers of appetizers}; 24d prevue {Sneak peek, informally}; 26d AMC {___ Theaters (national cinema chain)}; 27d hearths {Fireplace floors}; 28d embers {Fireplace remains}; 29d above {Higher-ranking than}; 33d salt {Margarita glass rim coating}; 34d scud {Gulf war missile}; 39d RST {Run after Q}; 42d stashed {Squirreled away}; 47d Uru. {Montevideo's land: Abbr.}; 49d amens {Church chorus}; 51d sheen {Unwashed hair may have it}; 54d Ashe {Arthur who wrote "A Hard Road to Glory"}; 55d rump {Beef cut}; 56d uber {Super, slangily}; 57d mega {Prefix with vitamins}; 58d pray {Do penance, say}; 60d Tos {How-___ (do-it-yourself books)}.

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