Thursday, August 20, 2009

NYT Friday 8/21/09 - Freaky Friday?

Wow ... I could solve this Friday New York Times crossword in less time than the Thursday puzzle! I must be on Patrick Berry's wavelength having surmounted all his Crossword Puzzle Challenges. The Puzzle Masterpieces book, which I currently feature in the sidebar, has relatively straightforward puzzles and Magdalen and I are having fun doing these as a couple.

My comparative success may just be down to some lucky breaks: it really helped that I knew 1a acrostic and then adding 2d Chilean helped me finish the NW corner in about 2 minutes. It wasn't all quite that easy, but I never really got stuck for very long, which makes a change for me.

This themeless puzzle shows why Patrick is well-qualified to be writing all those books: the grid is really beautiful with an average word length of 6 (only two 3-letter words). The fill is awesome too, with the one minor blot that two superlatives (openest and remotest) cross in the SE corner. I imagine that would have been avoided if possible, but the cluing of these ({Most accessible} and {Least accessible}) seemingly makes a virtue out of a necessity.
Solving time: 19 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 30d skeleton {One hanging around med school?}

Patrick Berry
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersPatrick Berry / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 27 (12.0%) black squares
Answers66 (average length 6.00)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points290 (average 1.46)
New To Me

17a Arturo {Cuban-born jazz great Sandoval}. I'm guessing Arturo is normally clued as maestro Toscanini. Arturo Sandoval befits a Friday puzzle better - he's a Cuban-born jazz trumpeter and pianist who was taken up by Dizzy Gillespie, eventually defecting to the USA and becoming a naturalized citizen in 1999. His life is the subject of the 2000 TV film For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story.

Jack Dempsey32a Jack Dempsey {First athlete to appear on the cover of Time magazine}. I'd heard of the boxer Jack Dempsey (1895–1983), just didn't know this factoid about him. Since Time Magazine was only founded in 1923, the point is that Jack was one of the most prominent sportsmen that year.

6d Trio {Chad Mitchell ___ (1960s folk band)}. I had absolutely no idea about this one, so was pleased when the answer seemed logical. The Chad Mitchell Trio were apparently known for their political satire, in contrast to most folk groups of the era. And it seems they still reunite occasionally when the need arises.

7d Ivan Reitman {Director of "Meatballs" and "Stripes"}. If the clue had cited Ghostbusters, I'd have at least known the movie, but would still have had difficulties naming this successful director of movie comedies. Meatballs (1979) is notable as being the first film appearance of the great Bill Murray.

26d b-boy {Rap devotee, in slang}. The term b-boy (and b-girl) started out as equivalent to break-dancer, but then came to mean any follower of hip-hop.


aleph beth gimel1a acrostic {Feature of Psalm 119}. My first answer ... I remembered some psalm had an acrostic and just guessed it was Psalm 119 (what other "feature" of a psalm could there be - clerihew? limerick? - I don't think so). The acrostic can only really be appreciated in the original Hebrew: the 176 verses are divided into 22 eight-line stanzas. Each stanza starts with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet (aleph, beth, gimel etc) and each line within the stanza begins with that same letter.

16a Liar Liar {1997 Jim Carrey film}. No difficulties here, as this is a movie I actually have on DVD. Jim Carrey plays lawyer Fletcher Reede in Liar Liar, who becomes a compulsive truth-teller for a day after his son makes a birthday wish for him to stop lying.

WELK25a Welk {Onetime popular musician ... or a radio station where he might be heard?}. Lawrence Welk comes up surprisingly often and this clue certainly rings the changes. Are you expected to know that there's a WELK radio station (based in Elkins, West Virginia), or just recognize that his name fits the form and so could be one.

wedge44a wedge {It may get you out of a trap}. It took me a while to detect this golf reference.

53a Lorne {TV producer Michaels}. I'm not quite sure how I remembered Lorne Michaels but I did ... perhaps through watching Saturday Night Live and/or a documentary about it.

8d cereals {Post boxes' contents}. Hmm ... letters don't seem to fit the across answers. Oh yes, I remember now that Post makes breakfast cereals. All this reminds me of a fav crossword joke:
"Can you help me with a crossword?"
"I'll try ... what clue are you stuck on"
"Overburdened postman"
"How many letters?"
"Bloody hundreds!"
10d autoharp {Zither with buttons}. This is the sort of dictionary word I've heard of, but of course I can't picture what an autoharp actually looks or sounds like. As the clue says, an autoharp isn't a harp at all, but a type of zither patented by Philadelphian Charles F. Zimmermann in 1882.

22d skips a grade {Goes from first to third, say}. Nice piece of deception: I was convinced this related to races, so thought the answer would be something like gets a bronze.

skeleton30d skeleton {One hanging around med school?}. Lovely lovely clue.

The Rest

9a wages {People work for them}; 14a the nerve! {"How rude!"}; 15a haul up {Call on the carpet}; 18a all alone {Isolated}; 19a Sno-Cat {Tracked vehicle}; 20a Reims {City where French kings were crowned}; 21a rash {Spur-of-the-moment}; 23a host {Virus's need}; 24a gasp {Swimmer's sound}; 26a Basie {"Ella and ___!" (1963 jazz album)}; 27a -ent {Suffix with absorb}; 28a raisin bread {Sweet loaf}; 30a sort {Separate}; 31a poop {Lowdown}; 36a bro {Amigo}; 39a ogres {Ungentle giants}; 40a alas {As bad luck would have it}; 41a weep {Blubber}; 42a Ural {Caspian Sea feeder}; 43a snag {Hitch}; 45a resect {Excise via an operation}; 47a trainman {Switch hitter?}; 49a Nestlé {Coffee-mate producer}; 50a tall tale {It's unbelievable}; 51a ate out {Went on a dinner date, e.g.}; 52a educates {Shows the ropes}; 54a remotest {Least accessible}.

1d at large {Loose}; 2d Chilean {Poet Pablo Neruda, for one}; 3d realist {Dreamer's opposite}; 4d on-ramp {It's designed for quick entrances}; 5d sells {Plugs}; 9d warn {Premonish}; 11d glucose {What insulin regulates the metabolism of}; 12d Eurasia {"1984" superstate dominated by Neo-Bolshevism}; 13d spotted {Like pinto beans}; 15d hash {Jumble}; 25d ware {Pottery}; 28d rods {Some retinal cells}; 29d noes {Disappointing R.S.V.P.'s}; 32d journal {Personal writings}; 33d agree to {Accept, as conditions}; 34d crasser {More boorish}; 35d platter {Part of a caterer's display}; 36d bedmate {One who's on the other side?}; 37d regales {Entertains}; 38d openest {Most accessible}; 41d went at {Attacked}; 43d stet {Unmake changes}; 44d wilco {"Consider it done"}; 46d clue {Mystery novel element}; 48d alum {Chemical used to cure animal skins}.

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