Friday, August 7, 2009

NYT Saturday 8/8/09 - Z Squared

With this Saturday New York Times crossword, things seemed to finally get back to normal in what's been a crazy week. The puzzle put up quite a struggle, although Magdalen had a different experience to me: when she gave up, she'd only been able to make progress on the right hand side, whereas that was all I had left.

The SE corner proved the toughest for me, as it has a ton of unfamiliar proper names - Prejean, Jarhead, Lomax, Dyan. In the end it was guessing cash cow that broke the logjam and allowed me to make the necessary guesses at the proper names, when the various dictionary words I could be sure of went in.

I really like the 2x2 of Zs in the SW corner and, as a budding constructor of these puzzles, it makes me wonder whether this motif could be the basis for a complete crossword. Most of the consonants would be happy to form up into such squares, but the vowels are trickier with the exception of E and O. I also like that the grid is panagrammatic - a neat piece of construction.
Solving time: 35 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 6a Sam's {Club for bulking up?}

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

CompilersKaren M. Tracey / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 37 (16.4%) black squares
Answers68 (average length 5.53)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points347 (average 1.85)
New To Me

14a Lorna {Patterson who played the title role on TV's "Private Benjamin"}. The answer had to be Goldie Hawn, surely? No, she played the role in the 1980 movie ... there was a less memorable TV series from 1981 to 1983.

16a Lalo {Four-time Grammy winner Schifrin}. Lalo Schifrin is the pianist and composer best known for his film and TV music. An example of his work is the Mission: Impossible TV series theme, with its distinctive 5/4 time signature.

17a Franz Kafka {He said "You are free and that is why you are lost"}. Another quote I've been unable to pin down. Given "said" in the clue, it's presumably not from any of Franz Kafka's writings. As a follow-up to previous postings, I note that WikiQuote is in the process of removing unsourced quotes such as this one: the quote in this clue is one of about 30 for Kafka that's about to get the chop.

29a Ireland {Home of the Knockmealdown Mountains}. The constructor seized a great opportunity in referencing Knockmealdown Mountains. The origin of the comical name is either Cnoc Mhaoldomhnaigh: Muldowneys' Hill or Cnoc Maol Donn: bald brown hill.

4d Annabel {Title girl of a 1906 L. Frank Baum novel}. Annabel was one of L. Frank Baum's first attempts at a novel for adolescent girls, and was issued under the pen name "Suzanne Metcalf". It was published six years after his success with the more famous The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

7d AEF {W.W. I military grp.}. My first thought was the British Expeditionary Force, which was wrong, but on the right track. The American Expeditionary Force joined the fighting from June 1918 onwards, under the command of John J. "Black Jack" Pershing.

8d make-ups {Second chances for students}. I went for retakes here, which held me up quite a bit in the NE. I gather a make-up exam is a supplementary test or assignment for a student that misses or fails the original one - a term peculiar to America, by the looks of it.

26d Oreo {Kind of mud pie}. An Oreo is a mud pie? No, but there's a dessert called an "Oreo Mud Pie", seemingly a variant on the Mississippi Mud Pie.

40d Prejean {Real-life death penalty opponent played by Sarandon in "Dead Man Walking"}. Strangely there was a Dalton Prejean who got executed for murder, and he might well have opposed the death penalty. But the clue actually calls for Sister Helen Prejean, a leading advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. Dead Man Walking is a 1995 movie based on Helen's book of the same name.

41d Lomax {Folklorist/musicologist Alan}. Alan Lomax (1915–2002) was one of the great collectors of folk music from the field in the 20th century, recording songs not only in the US, but Britain, Ireland, the West Indies, Italy and Spain. Lomax was responsible for preserving The House of the Rising Sun inter alia - one version of which became a huge hit for The Animals.

53d Dyan {Cannon shot on a set?}. A cute misleading reference to Dyan Cannon, the actress who was once married to Cary Grant, 33 years her senior. Here she is with Willie Nelson in Honeysuckle Rose (1980).


6a Sam's {Club for bulking up?}. Not the local gym, but the retail warehouse Sam's Club (owned and operated by Wal-Mart Stores and named for Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton). The neatest of several highly deceptive clues.

57a Gene {With 44-Across, Champion rider}; 44a Autry {See 57-Across}. A good example of the close attention you need to pay to capitalization. Reading "champion rider" doesn't help much, but "Champion rider" gets you right away to Champion the Wonder Horse and hence his owner Gene Autry. Champion was apparently the first horse to fly from California to New York by plane, in a specially adapted TWA airliner in 1940.

1d Alfa {Starting code word}. Yes, the code word for A in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet is specifically spelled Alfa and not Alpha. Apparently this was to make the pronunciation ultra-clear (alpha could be wrongly rendered alp-ha).

11d Raj Quartet {"The Jewel in the Crown" begins it, with "The"}. I knew The Raj Quartet because of a very successful TV adaptation of The Jewel in the Crown in 1984. Incidentally, "the jewel in the crown" was an old term for India, alluding to its central importance in the British Empire.

Klein bottle18d Klein {German mathematician who lent his name to a "bottle"}. A gimme for me: a Klein Bottle is a mathematical surface with no distinct inner and outer sides. The term "bottle" is a misnomer: Felix Klein originally called the concept a Kleinsche Fläche ("Klein surface") which got misinterpreted in German as Kleinsche Flasche ("Klein bottle"). You can buy the bottles and related toys at

47d auger {A boring person might have one}. Very funny! Calls to mind one of the "humorous" definitions from The Chambers Dictionary:
xylophagan n one of the Xylophaga, a genus of boring bivalves.
From The Chambers Dictionary
The Rest

1a A team {Crack squad}; 10a frag {Wound, in a way, as a fellow G.I.}; 15a Leah {One of Laban's daughters}; 19a ojos {Spanish seers?}; 20a assault {Offensive action}; 21a El Duque {Pitcher Orlando Hernández's nickname}; 23a Bret {Author ___ Easton Ellis}; 24a Ulan-Ude {Capital of the Buryat Republic}; 25a dovekie {Little auk}; 28a Ponca {Cousin of an Omaha}; 30a steered {Did course work?}; 33a ser. {Inspirational delivery: Abbr.}; 34a Tru {1989 Broadway monodrama}; 35a corneal {Like some eye surgery}; 40a placebo {Test control}; 45a rotates {Moves in a tired way?}; 46a jazz age {"The Great Gatsby" setting}; 48a EMTs {Figures at a pileup}; 49a puzzles {Stumps}; 50a Jarhead {2003 Anthony Swofford Gulf war memoir made into a 2005 film}; 54a egal {Even around the Seine?}; 55a not exactly {"Close ..."}; 58a Tara {Old royal residence in 29-Across}; 59a Corea {Pianist with 15 Grammys}; 60a SROs {Cramped urban dwellings, briefly}; 61a open {Easy to get into}; 62a tween {One who was recently a child}.

2d tors {Places for some aeries}; 3d eras {Succession of history}; 5d mazurka {One of 58 Chopin compositions}; 6d slatted {Like fruit crates}; 9d shallot {Its bulbs are milder than garlic}; 10d flounce {Move in an attention-getting way}; 12d aloud {One way to think}; 13d go see {"Check it out for yourself"}; 22d Dane {Zealand resident}; 25d disc {Drum alternative, vehicularly}; 27d Verrazzano {Explorer of North America's eastern coast in 1524}; 31d Erbe {Player of Det. Eames on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent"}; 32d duos {Some acts}; 36d nuzzles {Is an affectionate pooch}; 37d et al {Indication that there's more: Abbr.}; 38d argento- {Silver: Prefix}; 39d lye soap {Some old-fashioned bars}; 42d attract {Draw}; 43d cash cow {Good profit source}; 46d JPEGs {Some high-tech images}; 51d être {Being abroad}; 52d alee {Way to turn a ship}; 56d tre {___ corde (music direction)}.

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