Saturday, August 1, 2009

NYT Sunday 8/2/09 - Greek Revival

Magdalen and I got on pretty well with this jumbo New York Times crossword. A combination of seeing the wording of 39-Down and getting letters at the end of 23-Across led us to the theme, which we enjoyed working out.

But there's something of a technical problem, in that no reasonable person could look at the four "fraternity" clues and deduce what the answers are ... well that's what we thought, anyway. Which begs the question, why have those clues at all? I suppose it's the least bad option in the circumstances and some help is better than none at all.

Del TacoBut this means that the crossing answers effectively have a lot of unchecked letters. Mostly that didn't matter, because knowing the missing letters are one of only 24 possible strings is pretty useful. But we had real difficulties with 35-Down, where we assumed the "Mexican-style fast-food chain" would end Taco, but had to divine (figure out intuitively) whether it was e-Taco (where you could presumably order online), The Taco, Ze Taco etc.

I eventually persuaded Magdalen that if there's a food company called Del Monte, there must be a fast-food chain called Del Taco. I note that the chain is concentrated in just 17 states to the west and south of us, with our nearest branch 500 miles away in Toledo, OH ... which explains why we haven't heard of it.
Solving time: 35 mins (with Magdalen, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 105d pray {Speak up?}
Theme

Four answers are Greek letter organizations:
34a Tau Delta Phi {Group formed at C.C.N.Y. in 1910}
93a Omega Psi Phi {Group formed at Howard University in 1911}
39d Beta Theta Pi {Group formed at Miami University in 1839}
79d Alpha Chi Rho {Group formed at Trinity College in 1895}
Answers crossing these include the Greek letters spelled out:
37a Tibetans {Roof of the World natives}
47a on the take {Accepting bribes}
50a American Pie {1971 album dedicated to Buddy Holly}

78a Ralph Abernathy {Co-organizer of the Montgomery bus boycott, 1955}
87a duchies {Bavaria and others, once}
91a air hose {Engine attachment}

14d great aunt {Social reformer Margaret Fuller, to Buckminster Fuller}
26d Sophie {Meryl Streep title role}
35d Del Taco {Mexican-style fast-food chain}

85d Pepsi {Product with a circular red, white and blue logo}
86d amphibian {Semiterrestrial organism}
90d home game {Match played at the local arena}
Two long answers allude to the theme:
23a Greek letters {Contents of four answers found in this puzzle}
108a fraternities {Four groups found in this puzzle}
Solution

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

Crucimetrics
CompilersPatrick Berry / Will Shortz
Grid21x21 with 74 (16.8%) black squares
Answers140 (average length 5.24)
Theme squares92 (25.1%)
Scrabble points586 (average 1.60)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

portrait of Eloise31a Eloise {Fictional Plaza Hotel resident}. Magdalen has some Eloise books knocking about the place, but I hadn't registered before that she lived in the Plaza Hotel (a real hotel - a portrait of Eloise hung in the lobby of the Plaza until it closed for renovations in 2005).

64a Mo' Money {1992 Damon Wayans comedy}. The answer doesn't look like a film title until you parse the first two letters as "more". Mo' Money is a crime dramedy about two brothers (Damon Wayans and Marlon Wayans) who scam their way off the streets.



weenie roast69a buns {Weenie roast needs}. We use "weenie" in Britain, but it means small, not a hot dog: a weenie roast is something you might find in the kitchen of a doll's house. I gather a weenie roast US-style is a cookout where hot dogs are the main fare. I like hot dogs with Marmite, a habit Magdalen deplores, but which will persist as long as the stocks of Marmite do.

Hi-Ho crackers77a Hi-Ho {Old cracker brand}. I didn't think this a very fair clue, but Magdalen just about remembered the brand from Sunshine Biscuits that was among several discontinued when it merged with the Keebler Company in 1996.

42d Dristan {Antihistamine brand}. It seems Dristan is a brand of decongestant nasal spray with oxymetazoline as the active ingredient; and a cold formula (which I think is the one that includes the antihistamines). Tough sort of clue unless you happen to take that specific brand.

96d Jan {Dean's 1960s singing partner}. Magdalen said I should look up Jan and Dean for this one. This was a partnership between William Jan Berry and Dean Ormsby Torrence; the duo became associated with surf music, even though they predated the The Beach Boys.



Noteworthy

106a amnesiac {Jason Bourne, in the Bourne series}. I admire clues like this one that duck a dictionary definition in favor of an allusion to a book, movie etc. We're fans of the Bourne films, so had no difficulty justifying this answer.



2d Our {First word in many church names}. As in Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility? Well we had just been listening to A Prairie Home Companion when we solved this!

speaking up105d pray {Speak up?}. I thought this witty - heaven's above us, so if you're praying, you're speaking up, right?

The Rest

1a mouth {It's open for dinner}; 6a stripe {High ball, in pool}; 12a alga {Pond organism}; 16a Amy {Sedaris of "Strangers With Candy"}; 19a sushi {Dish that may be served on a boat}; 20a haikus {Three-line poems}; 21a sort {Put into piles}; 22a via {Traversing}; 25a knee sock {It covers a lot of leg}; 27a freebee {Good for nothing?: Var.}; 28a Persia {Alexander the Great conquered it}; 30a ones {Rarely counterfeited bills}; 33a Ionia {Alexander the Great conquered it}; 36a MIRV {Weapon with many warheads}; 40a princedom {Monaco is one}; 45a maced {Given an eyeful, you might say}; 48a Porto {Brazil's ___ Alegre}; 49a rue {"And all too soon, I fear, the king shall ___": "Richard II"}; 52a blue {Picasso's ___ Period, 1901-04}; 53a Pitt {Surname of two British P.M.'s}; 54a vase {Waterford purchase}; 55a drains {Empties}; 57a Cesar {Labor leader Chávez}; 58a registry {Bridal wish list}; 62a iced {Like some twisted ankles}; 63a Costco {Sam's Club rival}; 65a oinks {"Old MacDonald Had a Farm" sounds}; 67a tomcats {Womanizers, slangily}; 68a amines {Nitrogen compounds}; 70a trade-ins {Cars that go toward other cars}; 72a lungs {Subjects of pneumography}; 73a warded {Fended (off)}; 75a oleo {Something that's been clarified}; 76a ales {Tavern orders}; 84a wan {Ill-looking}; 85a Paolo {Renaissance painter Uccello}; 88a spree {Bout of revelry}; 89a in the main {By and large}; 92a peen {Claw alternative}; 94a world {Sci-fi author's creation}; 96a juleps {Kentucky Derby drinks}; 98a foam {Fire extinguisher's output}; 101a Beirut {Mideast hub}; 103a empanel {Fill a box, say}; 112a cad {Bounder}; 113a mask {Umpire's wear}; 114a fedora {Retro headgear}; 115a Tonto {Jay Silverheels role}; 116a try {Have a bite of}; 117a unes {Quelques-___ (some: Fr.)}; 118a Sydney {2000 Olympics locale}; 119a Snead {Golfer who said "Never concede a putt"}.

1d MSG {"No ___"}; 3d use force {Pursue violent options}; 4d The River {1980 double album by Springsteen}; 5d hikes {Raises}; 6d Sheb {C&W singer Wooley}; 7d Tate {British art museum}; 8d rite {Book of Hours entry}; 9d Ike {___ & Tina Turner Revue}; 10d purpose {Determination}; 11d Essen {Ruhr industrial city}; 12d asks around {Gets several views}; 13d Loni {Actress Anderson}; 15d ate {"I already ___"}; 16d Avon {Skin So Soft seller}; 17d mice {Lab test subjects}; 18d yaks {Asian bovines}; 24d lee {Sheltered side}; 29d rippliest {Most corrugated}; 31d Emma {Novel on which "Clueless" is based}; 32d Liam {Writer O'Flaherty}; 33d inked {Like final contracts}; 37d toasty {Comfortably warm}; 38d inner {Personal, as thoughts}; 41d ires {Furies}; 43d outacts {Steals the show from, say}; 44d metros {Urban railways}; 46d divines {Figures out intuitively}; 51d cases {Legal precedents}; 52d back {No longer on vacation}; 53d Pesci {Oscar winner for "GoodFellas"}; 56d rinse {Remove the suds}; 57d come-ons {Inducements}; 58d Romulan {Pointy-eared "Star Trek" character}; 59d eminent {Highly respected}; 60d gongs {Round percussion instruments}; 61d your honor {Term for a judge}; 63d coder {Enigma machine, e.g.}; 64d Malawi {Nyasaland, nowadays}; 66d Indo- {___-European}; 67d Talese {New Journalism pioneer Gay}; 69d bailiwicks {Areas of expertise}; 71d robes {Choir attire}; 73d whoa {Liveryman's command}; 74d Druid {Celtic priest of old}; 80d Appleton {Wisconsin home of Lawrence University}; 81d tree-line {Timberland limit}; 82d Heep {Villainous Uriah}; 83d yens {Desires}; 87d Daltrey {The Who's lead singer}; 95d ruffs {Elizabethan collars}; 97d units {Apartments, e.g.}; 98d fact {Undisputed point}; 99d Omar {W.W. II general Bradley}; 100d Andy {Red's pal in "The Shawshank Redemption"}; 102d ease {Slip (into)}; 103d Eton {English collar}; 104d mère {French family member}; 107d SMU {The Mustangs of the N.C.A.A.}; 109d add {Get a total}; 110d ETA {J.F.K. board info}; 111d sod {Ground cover}.

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