Thursday, August 27, 2009

NYT Friday 8/28/09 - Play Safe

I started off this Friday New York Times crossword very easily: thanks to Adelina and the Vatican, I got the whole SE corner in a few minutes. But I knew I was in trouble after this, as nothing else seemed to gel.

I plodded through the whole of the top half, and eventually had all but a few answers in the SW done by the half hour. In that area, safe sex was the key answer, but it took me ages to see it (I don't know what that says about me).

I'd like to mention some special crosswords I've come across this week and enjoyed solving: the puzzles from the Lollapuzzoola 2 contest are now available - this is the other New York City crossword tournament, run by bloggers Ryan and Bryan and going from strength to strength after its second year (ca. 30 competitors in 2008, ca. 75 in 2009 ... congratulations guys!). Andrea Carla Michaels also came up with a birthday puzzle for Will Shortz which is available in Across Lite's PUZ format; if you don't know what that means, you'd better try the PDF version.
Solving time: 35 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 19a Hal {Memorable 1968 movie villain}

David Quarfoot
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersDavid Quarfoot / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 27 (12.0%) black squares
Answers72 (average length 5.50)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points322 (average 1.63)
New To Me

16a Boola {Part of a college cheer}. The only crossing I wasn't certain of here was 13-Down, giving the fourth letter. Unfortunately, this could in theory have been a variety of things, but I eventually decided that L was the most likely: the Romanian Ilie Nastase was an influence and I thought I remembered Iliescu from somewhere. I gather "Boola Boola" is a fight song at Yale. Two other Yale fight songs were written by Cole Porter during his undergraduate days, but this one was penned by Allan M. Hirsh, class of 1901:
Boola, Boola, Boola, Boola,
Boola, Boola, Boola, Boola,
When we're through with these poor fellows,
They will holler Boola, Boo,
Rah, Rah, Rah,
Yale, Eli Yale.
Oh, Yale, Eli Yale,
Oh, Yale, Eli Yale,
Oh, Yale, Eli Yale!

Chorus of Boola, Boola
17a The Grudge {2004 horror film about a passed-on curse}. You know with a clue like this that (1) the film is going to be an obscure one and (2) that the wording of the clue is going to be confirmatory of one or more answer words. When I got The Grudge I wasn't surprised I hadn't heard of it, but was satisfied I had it right anyway.

28a Gunn {Jazz-loving TV sleuth of the 1950s-'60s}. Magdalen is a big fan of Tim Gunn and would certainly have clued the answer that way if she had the option. Peter Gunn was a series created by Blake Edwards, 114 episodes of which aired between 1958 and 1961. The title character is a PI in the Sam Spade tradition, but portrayed (by Craig Stevens) as a sophisticated dresser and lover of cool jazz.

Sigma Sigma Sigma39a SSS {Recruiting org.}; 42a ROTC {Recruiting org.}. I'd heard of the latter, but the former was a bit of a mystery and didn't help with my resolution of the SW corner. I assume SSS stands for the sorority Sigma Sigma Sigma in this context, since it has more than 100,000 recruits. POSTSCRIPT: a reader generously pointed out to me that SSS actually stands for Selective Service System, the military conscription program ... oops!

40d Sha La La {Title syllables in a hit 1964 song}. Tra La La and Sha Na Na were potent red herrings here. I gather "Sha La La" was originally recorded by The Shirelles, but didn't become a hit until covered by Manfred Mann.


19a Hal {Memorable 1968 movie villain}. The reason I like this clue is almost certainly personal to me: 2001: A Space Odyssey was a great favorite of mine as a kid and I remember it well. And yet, this answer proved elusive and came as a delightful surprise when I eventually got it. Rumors that Hal is a dig at the one-letter-different IBM seem to be unfounded as the movie's creators were on good terms with the computer company, who gave a great deal of help during its production.

37a red A {Hawthorne novel stigma}. A reference to The Scarlet Letter, a novel high on my reading list as I try to get beyond Melville and Twain in absorbing American literature.

62a simpatico {Congenial}. Perhaps I knew a little too much here, but that last letter is a bit of a minefield given the way Italian words are inflected. I plumped for the O based on the most likely surname in 47-Down and reasoning a constructor would be more likely to use the masculine singular. My worries all came from remembering this passage by Evelyn Waugh:
He was not loved, Guy knew, either by his household or in the town. He was accepted and respected but he was not simpatico. Gräfin von Gluck, who spoke no word of Italian and lived in undisguised concubinage with her butler, was simpatica. ... The Wilmots were gross vulgarians; they used Santa Dulcina purely as a pleasure resort ... They were simpatici.
From Sword of Honour
67a Penny Lane {Where "all the people that come and go stop and say hello"}. Strangely familiar words. Of course ... Penny Lane! Penny Lane is a must-see on any Beatles tour of Liverpool.

Napoleon5d tart {Napoleon's cousin}. The initial capital nicely disguises small 'N' napoleon, the dessert, aka "millefeuille". Le petit caporal has no connection with the dish, the name seemingly deriving from napolitain, the French adjective for Naples.

Thomas A Edison9d TAE {Inventor's inits.}. You could clue tae as "Scot's too" (by analogy with nae), but nobody does. The Wizard of Menlo Park it must be.

Ion Iliescu13d Iliescu {Two-time president of Romania}. Necessary to know Ion Iliescu if you didn't go to Yale. I must have encountered the name somewhere before, given the confidence with which I chose Boola for 16-Across. Ion (nice to have another way to clue that!) twice served as the Romanian president in the post-communist days: from 1989–1996 and 2000–2004.

safe sex39d safe sex {Transmission blocker?}. I suppose this really should have been the clue of the puzz, as it was highly elusive and the key to finishing the SW corner. I couldn't stop thinking of radio transmissions with this one ... or car transmissions.

41d satiric {Swiftly done?}. A neat reference to the satirist Jonathan Swift.

45d Adelina {Legendary soprano ___ Patti}. A gimme that got me off to a great start in the SE corner. Soprano Adelina Patti (1843-1919) was one of the greatest opera singers of all time, famous for coloratura roles like Lucia di Lammermoor and La Sonnambula. Here she is as the soubrette Zerlina in Don Giovanni.

USS Cole47d USS Cole {Destroyer in 2000 headlines}. USS Cole made headlines for all the wrong reasons: it was the vessel that was damaged in the suicide attack in Aden in 2000 - 17 sailors were killed and 39 injured. The ship is named in honor of Marine Sergeant Darrell S. Cole, who was killed in action on Iwo Jima.

The Rest

1a free Tibet {Rallying cry supported by some monks}; 10a Act IV {When Antony says "I am dying, Egypt, dying"}; 15a Air Canada {Company with a maple leaf logo}; 18a brain {Major processing center}; 20a tide {Geophysics topic}; 21a joshed {Chaffed}; 22a Enos {Book of Mormon book}; 24a took it easy {Chilled}; 26a année {A year abroad}; 29a tick {Second indicator?}; 30a Da Gama {He sighted and named Natal on Christmas Day of 1497}; 32a taxi {Airport waiter?}; 34a rue {Wish unmade}; 35a tins {Cans}; 44a déjà vu {Literally, "already seen"}; 48a ahas {Words teachers like to hear}; 50a Diaz {Princess Fiona's voicer in "Shrek"}; 52a sodas {Pops}; 53a fatal error {A bug may cause it}; 56a bets {All of them may be off}; 57a elides {Leaves out}; 58a foil {That's a wrap}; 60a lic. {Hunting req.}; 61a sarin {Lethal compound}; 64a e-list {High-tech subscription aid}; 65a Erie Canal {Construction with many locks}; 66a X-Acto {Brand for hobbyists}.

1d fat-head {Dolt}; 2d Rihanna {One-named Grammy winner of 2007}; 3d erelong {By and by}; 4d ECG {Beat recorder: Abbr.}; 6d Inuit {Kayak propeller}; 7d bad dog {Rebuke to Bowser}; 8d edge out {Barely best}; 10d abbot {Superior title?}; 11d corset {One with staying power?}; 12d to a hair {Right in every detail}; 14d Vandyke {Facial feature with a point}; 21d jinxed {Under a whammy}; 23d seat {Bottom}; 25d knar {Wood blemish}; 27d emir {Kaffiyeh-clad commander}; 31d anodes {Some poles}; 33d ides {10/15, e.g.}; 36d stir {The cooler}; 38d a job {Do ___ on}; 43d car fire {Shoulder inflammation?}; 46d Vatican {Swiss Guards' setting}; 49d sadist {Happily humiliating type}; 51d zoom in {Get close, maybe}; 54d lento {Funeral march direction}; 55d ripen {Soften, often}; 59d lacy {Like some clouds}; 62d sep. {Third qtr. ender}; 63d tal {"Qué ___?" (José's "How's it going?")}.

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