Friday, August 21, 2009

NYT Saturday 8/22/09 - On the Jazz Again

Saturday's New York Times crossword was much more of a struggle for me than Friday's, and this seems about right for me. I like the ramping up of difficulties through the week and it feels strange when a puzzle many people do on the commute is harder than the one you have a whole weekend to solve.

The grid is also nicely in contrast to yesterday's and shows the other approach to themeless puzzles: you can either aim for a low word count and a high average word length (the downside of which is the need to use lots of high-frequency letters like AEILNORSTU - the ones colored white in my grids); or try to work in low-frequency letters to catch solvers unawares (which tends to need shorter words to be viable). Friday's puzzle took the former approach, Saturday's the latter: note the long answers getting two low-frequency letters each: jazz session and Albuquerque.
Solving time: 31 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 47d exeunt {Dramatic order to leave}

Karen M. Tracey
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersKaren M. Tracey / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 26 (11.6%) black squares
Answers70 (average length 5.69)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points335 (average 1.68)
New To Me

16a Brian Eno {Co-composer of the "Prophecy Theme" in "Dune"}. Brian Eno comes up so often in crosswords (usually just as Eno) that you get to learn some of the more obscure things he has done. Dune is the 1984 sci-fi movie based on the Frank Herbert novel of the same name.

18a centimes {Fractions of a gourde}. I was momentarily confused about what a gourde is, thinking it was a unit of weight; hence I had scruples to start with. When I eventually recalled it as a unit of currency, I just had to choose between centavos and centimes, with the crossings deciding that. The gourde is used in French-speaking Haiti.

37a Kristi Yamaguchi {Olympic gold medalist who was a "Dancing With the Stars" champion}. This sole 15-letter answer was something of a make-or-break one for the whole puzzle. It certainly broke me, as I only got it close to the end. Getting it early might have knocked 5-10 minutes off the solving time. Kristi Yamaguchi is an American figure skater who was the women's singles champion in 1992. She won the sixth season of Dancing with the Stars in 2008, being partnered with Mark Ballas.

Sierra Nevada Minarets67a arêtes {The Sierra Nevada Minarets, e.g.}. I knew what arêtes are from school geog., but didn't recognize the Minarets as such (though seeing a picture now makes it patently obvious).

12d demoniac {One who may get dispossessed?}. I've only come across this as an adjective, equivalent to demonic. But my dictionaries do also list it as a noun, meaning someone possessed by an evil spirit.

Beata Beatrix14d Rossetti {"Beata Beatrix" painter}. From the clue, I thought we would be dealing with a much earlier painter than the co-founder of the PRB, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Beata Beatrix is an idealized image of Dante's Beatrice; it hangs in Tate Britain.

Nita Lowey34d Nita {New York congresswoman Lowey}. Not being absolutely sure of Kristi Yamaguchi's spelling, I just had to trust that Nita (usually clued with reference to Nita Naldi) wasn't perversely spelled. I got lucky: Nita Lowey is a Democratic congresswoman, representing New York's 18th District.

Queen Noor of Jordan59d Noor {American-born queen}. I got my royal families a bit mixed up here, as there's an Aunt Noor in our family who's Dutch. The reference isn't to the Dutch monarchy, but to the Jordanian: Queen Noor of Jordan (née Lisa Najeeb Halaby) is American born in Washington, D.C. in 1951. She married King Hussein in 1978, converting to Islam before the marriage and taking the name Noor (an Arabic word meaning "light").


19a foozled {Muffed on the green}. Being a bit hazy about golf terminology, I had flubbed for quite a while, before thinking of foozled, a word I know from Wodehouse's golfing stories.
The members of the Cape Pleasant Club were easygoing refugees from other and more exacting clubs, men who pottered rather than raced round the links; men, in short, who had grown tired of having to stop their game and stand aside in order to allow perspiring experts to whiz past them. The Cape Pleasant golfers did not make themselves slaves to the game. Their language, when they foozled, was gently regretful rather than sulphurous. The moment in the day's play which they enjoyed most was when they were saying: 'Well, here's luck!' in the club-house.
From Archibald's Benefit by P.G.Wodehouse
22a OTs {They occur when things are all tied up, briefly}. Any time "tie(d)" appears in a clue, I should really think of overtime; but alas I didn't see through this piece of deception until well after I'd got the answer from crossings.

Oseberg ship43a Oslo {Home of the Viking Ship Museum}. I had a big advantage here, in that I visited this museum during a business trip to Oslo. Its highlight is the largely intact Oseberg ship, which survived only because it was preserved in a burial mound.

56a -ism {Creed component}. I neat way of cluing the suffix -ism, referencing the many religions that include it such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism etc; or if in the widest sense of creed, ideologies such as Marxism, Reaganism and Peronism.

loquat63a loquat {Plumlike fruit}. I had another stroke of luck here, having looked through six-letter fruits earlier in the day for a cryptic crossword. The oddly-named loquat stuck in my mind. It's a small yellow egg-shaped fruit that's indigeneous to southeastern China.

11d -ini {Ristorante suffix}. My first guess on this was -ria, as in trattoria, pizzeria etc. It turns out I should have been thinking of what's served in a ristorante (not what the ristorante might be called); ie linguini, porcini, dry martini etc.

47d exeunt {Dramatic order to leave}. A nicely deceptive clue, calling for the stage direction used when more than one actor must exit.

The Rest

1a bag job {Spook's break-in}; 7a corridor {Gallery}; 15a ablare {Deafening}; 17a frozen {Like some wages and wastelands}; 21a Ike {Kyle's baby brother on "South Park"}; 23a lams {Quick flights}; 24a toad {Herd : horse :: knot : ___}; 26a ranee {Asian royal}; 28a Edsel {Very unpopular model}; 30a scab {Very unpopular worker}; 32a lint {It might get rolled off}; 33a sénat {Assemblée législative}; 35a Labatt {Blue Light brewer}; 41a nudist {One barely living?}; 42a et seq {Reference abbr.}; 44a agog {Enthused}; 46a suede {Kid that has a nap}; 50a when's {"___ the last time ...?"}; 52a anew {Fresh}; 54a exam {Physical, e.g.}; 55a Bic {Razor handle?}; 58a San Remo {Italian city with an annual music festival}; 60a enhances {Betters}; 64a staccato {Cut short in performing}; 65a lounge {Place for many a piano}; 66a tottered {Was close to failure}.

1d baffle {Cause to be stuck}; 2d abroad {In wide circulation}; 3d glooms {Depressions}; 4d jazz session {Swingers' get-together?}; 5d Orel {Russian oblast or its capital}; 6d Benét {"By the Waters of Babylon" author, 1937}; 7d CBC {Where Alex Trebek worked as a newscaster}; 8d Ore-Ida {Brand of 17-Across food}; 9d rink {Setting for 37-Across}; 10d rater {Critic}; 13d one-tenth {Agent's cut, maybe}; 20d do say! {"I'm all ears!"}; 25d Actaeon {Mythological hunter}; 27d Albuquerque {Home of the annual Gathering of Nations powwow, the world's largest celebration of Native American culture}; 29d let's {Response of assent}; 31d Blas {Panama's San ___ Islands}; 36d ages {A long stretch}; 37d know best {Have the most reliable info}; 38d rush into {Undertake precipitately}; 39d idle chat {Yak}; 40d mtges. {You can get them on the house: Abbr.}; 45d gamete {It passes through a pollen tube}; 48d damage {Hit to the wallet}; 49d emotes {Doesn't play conservatively}; 51d since {From}; 53d Walla {When repeated, Columbia feeder}; 57d scar {Cutting-edge development?}; 61d act {Performance piece?}; 62d sod {Green stuff}.

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