Thursday, August 6, 2009

NYT Friday 8/7/09 - A Moment Too Soon

This New York Times crossword seemed ridiculously easy compared to what I'm used to on a Friday ... and compared to what we've been faced with over the last few days. It's been a bit of a topsy-turvy week.

one moment please was the answer that really got me started and broke open the top half of the grid. However, this was also something of a disappointment, because we've had it two times already this year. Non-thematic 15-letter entries are so few-and-far-between that I'm surprised accidental reuse like this doesn't result in a puzzle getting postponed till eg a year's gone by. Perhaps that's a luxury that can't be afforded, or maybe it's considered to be of no moment - obviously there's a huge amount more repetition with shorter answers, which we accept as inevitable.

Long entries in "jumbo" puzzles are the equivalent problem in cryptics and some editors are known to keep track of the use of quotations, proverbs, etc, over about 20 letters and issue lists of the same to constructors to discourage reuse.
Solving time: 20 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 49a deans {Ones in control of their faculties?}

Manny Nosowsky
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersManny Nosowsky / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 21 (9.3%) black squares
Answers66 (average length 6.18)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points291 (average 1.43)
New To Me

48a Si Si {"Say ___" (1940 Glenn Miller hit)}. Say Si Si was written in 1935 by Ernesto Lecuona, originally with Spanish lyrics and titled Para Vigo Me Voy.

50a If a {"___ Girl Like You Loved a Boy Like Me"}. Easy enough to guess the blank, even if you didn't remember this Gus Edwards song from 1905.

Barnum and Bailey9d P. T. Barnum {Businessman/entertainer who was once mayor of Bridgeport, Conn.}. Presumably the skills P. T. Barnum had as a showman made him well-suited to the political stage: he had some success in local politics, though two attempts to get elected to the United States Congress failed. Bridgeport is the place to go to see the Barnum Museum.

10d a Pale {"Behold ___ Horse" (William Cooper book)}. I was expecting to find this to refer to a book along the lines of Black Beauty. No, Behold a Pale Horse is about UFO conspiracy theories, the "pale horse" of the title being a reference to Revelation 6:8: "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him". According to Milton William Cooper (1943-2001), UFOs influenced the assassination of JFK and the Apollo moon landings, inter alia. Cooper was shot and killed by police deputies in controversial circumstances.

12d Rea {Stephen of "Stuck," 2007}. Stephen Rea is the Irish actor who plays a homeless man who gets literally stuck on a car's windscreen after being injured in a hit and run accident in this comedy-thriller.

45d Simeon {Dinah's avenger in the Bible}. I thought this might be Samson, as he shares four of the six letters. No, this is a reference to Genesis 34, specifically the abduction and violation of Jacob's daughter Dinah and the vengeance sought by her brothers Simeon and Levi ... which involved killing all the males of the perp's city, and plundering "all their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses".


1a Maytag Repairman {"The loneliest guy in town"}. Here's an example of the sort of useful knowledge I've gained through crosswords recently (though maybe not in the NYT as I can't find any references in this blog). It wasn't the first 15-letter answer, I got, but repairman came easily and then it was just a question of remembering Maytag, which took a few more crossings. In the UK, Carlsberg had similar ads with an ill-used "Complaints Department". Character actor Jesse White played the bored repairman from 1967 to 1988.

16a one moment please {"Hold on"}. Hold on, haven't we seen this before somewhere? Yes, it's the third time this year in the NYT for one moment please - clearly the answer de no jours. Recognizing it quickly really helped crack open the top of the grid.

18a toe {Important part for a jig}. I was a little doubtful of the crossing with Terevan, but I eventually figured toe was the only sane possibility. Researches suggest the toes are particularly important in a jig, because the dance revolves around what you do with your feet. A video is probably the best way to appreciate this, and I thought immediately of Lord of the Dance for this.

20a GED {Substitute acquired by about half a million people a year: Abbr.}. Strangely, General Educational Development tests are familiar to me, as I'm a volunteer tutor with the local literacy program and trained to help students prepare for GEDs ... just one more piece of luck I had with this puzzle.

23a do re {Scale start}. As in sol-fa notation, do re mi fa so la ti do. Makes a change from references to illustrator Gustave Doré.

34a Mel's {1970s-'80s sitcom setting}. Mel's Diner is another American TV reference that I've seen enough times to recognize now.

49a deans {Ones in control of their faculties?}. This idea has been used before, but it's still a great clue. Interestingly, I don't think you could clue dean using this ploy - I can't think of any idioms that use the right sense of "faculty" in the singular.

1d mostest {Maximum, slangily}. I immediately think of "hostess with the mostest" in this context and tried to pin down the earliest use of this tag. Elsa Maxwell (18831963) has strong claims: she was a gossip columnist who was renowned for organizing parties for royalty and high society figures in her day. She is also credited with starting the craze for scavenger hunts and treasure hunts as party entertainments.

Yerevan3d Yerevan {Capital of Armenia}. I'd definitely come across Yerevan before, but getting the spelling right was a challenge, particularly in the crossing with 18-Across, one of the tougher clues. Yerevan is one of the world's oldest continuously-inhabited cities, dating back to 782 BC, when the Erebuni Fortress was built.

37d Encarta {Something once bundled with Microsoft products}. Not too troublesome, as I own at least one copy of Encarta, though I'm not sure I got it for free. Encarta was based on the Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia, and continued to be expanded over the years. However, Microsoft announced they will discontinue the product on October 31, 2009, citing changes in the way customers seek information, and even the online version of Encarta will cease to exist.

The Rest

17a strikes a balance {Handles things evenhandedly}; 19a animals {Cracker shapes}; 21a envoy {Representative}; 24a Sinn {___ Fein}; 25a Siam {"The Bridge on the River Kwai" setting}; 26a Bern {City where Einstein developed his special theory of relativity}; 27a aceto- {Vinegar: Prefix}; 28a tonier {More fashionable}; 30a sunburst {Sudden light seen through the clouds}; 32a trap {Catch-22}; 35a poetical {Using high-flown language}; 39a Ayesha {"Mother of the believers"}; 43a année {"Bonne ___!" (French cry on January 1)}; 44a vest {Undershirt, in Britain}; 46a me on {"You're putting ___!"}; 47a recd. {Office stamp}; 51a Palomar {Mount from which people can see far away}; 53a Dow {Company that makes Styrofoam}; 54a Norse literature {Viking stories, e.g.}; 57a got into hot water {Took flak for something one said, say}; 58a stars in ones eyes {Bedazzlement}.

2d Antonio {For whose benefit "the quality of mercy is not strain'd" in Shakespeare}; 4d TMI {1979 nuclear accident site: Abbr.}; 5d a-okay {Hunky-dory}; 6d G-men {Some raiders, informally}; 7d reside {Lodge}; 8d enamors {Charms}; 11d ills {Targets of remedies}; 13d mangier {More itchy, maybe}; 14d ascents {Balloonists' doings}; 15d need not {Is unobliged to}; 22d omitted {Missing}; 24d 'scuse me {"Beg pardon," in casual talk}; 26d brac {Bric-a-___}; 27d ably {Well}; 29d Erie {Iroquoian language}; 31d neat {All lined up}; 33d pavilion {Fair place}; 35d parings {Cut rinds, e.g.}; 36d one foot {30.48 centimeters}; 38d Lesotho {Basutoland, today}; 40d sea duty {Navy service}; 41d honoree {Center of a roast}; 42d answers {"Jeopardy!" fodder}; 48d Salt I {1972 U.S./U.S.S.R. pact}; 49d draws {Ties}; 51d pens {Bank chains hold them}; 52d arte {Museo contents}; 55d sir {Quaint letter start}; 56d tae {___ kwon do}.


Daniel Myers said...

What do you know? I was under the impression that GED stood for Graduation Equivalency Degree, for whatever reason. The US educational system is still something of a mystery to me.

The only clue/solution that I could come up with off the top of my head having "faculty" in the singular was:

Clue: Mental Faculty
Solution: Crazy Teachers

Yes, I know, rather groaningly bad play on words with "mental." Still, one does come across these types of things in the NYT Xword.

But you're very much spot-on indeed about "dean" in the singular, since, in the educational institution sense, both "faculty" and "faculties" are plural--If I remember my grammar aright, "faculty" in this sense is termed a "collective plural."

Thanks for the write-up! Like you, the only part that stumped me was the "toe"/"Yerevan" cross.

Crossword Man said...

LOL. I'll try to work that piece of wordplay into a cryptic clue some day. Any coincidence that the UK teachers' union is the NUT?