Sunday, August 30, 2009

NYT Sunday 8/30/09 - Takeaway Meal

Magdalen and I solved this Sunday New York Times crossword very late on Saturday night. We got it done pretty quickly (for us), but this says more about our comfort with the cryptic-crossword-like theme and the fact that we urgently needed to get some sleep.

This was clearly a difficult grid to put together, as there's evidence of strain in the number of abbreviations, and answers that constructors would go a mile to avoid (eg XOO). I really like that each of the seven theme answers has a different device to indicate the removal of letters - it must have been tough to come up with a viable set on this basis and tougher still to get a workable fill.

I was amused to see Eats, Shoots and Leaves among the answers - this lighthearted book on punctuation was a huge bestseller in the UK towards the end of my time there. It resulted in the most unwieldy of the theme clues, but I think it was worth it.
Solving time: 30 mins (with Magdalen, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 50a encore {It's music to a musician's ears}
Theme

Seven answers cryptically indicate a phrase with certain letters subtracted, that being the clue:
23a take out of context {-IRC-MS-ANCES}
CIRCUMSTANCES (
context) minus CUT (take)

36a Bloodless Revolution {ANTI--VERNMENT UN--ST}
ANTIGOVERNMENT UNREST (
Revolution) minus GORE (Blood)

52a the missing link {AR--CL-}
ARTICLE (
the) minus TIE (link)

70a Doctors Without Borders {P---ARY CARE PHY-ICIANS}
PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIANS (
Doctors) minus RIMS (Borders)

86a spare no expense {FI-TH WH--L}
FIFTH WHEEL (
spare) minus FEE (expense)

98a Eats Shoots and Leaves {WHAT A -ANDA DOES IN -EIS-RELY FA-HION}
WHAT A PANDA DOES IN LEISURELY FASHION (
Eats Shoots) minus PLUS (and)

121a lemon drop cookies {W--THL-SS R-AD-TER}
WORTHLESS ROADSTER (
lemon) minus OREOS (cookies)
Solution

Ashish Vengsarkar and Narayan Venkatasubramanyan
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersAshish Vengsarkar and Narayan Venkatasubramanyan / Will Shortz
Grid21x21 with 80 (18.1%) black squares
Answers140 (average length 5.16)
Theme squares119 (33.0%)
Scrabble points563 (average 1.56)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

Fosamax46a Merck {Maker of Fosamax and Zocor}. These sounded more like movie technologies to me. The Muppet Movie, now in glorious Fosamax. Actually Fosamax is a drug used for osteoporosis and other bone diseases; Zocor is a statin and is used to control cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular disease.

euro area76a euro area {Currency union since 1999}. I would have said eurozone, as that's the usual term for the currency union. But apparently euro area is the official name. They gained a new member this year - Slovakia - and now number 16 countries, with eight more obliged to join when they satisfy the criteria.

95a tonal {Like the Vietnamese language}. Not being a linguistics expert, I found this tough. I gather a tonal language distinguishes meaning by changes in the intonation given to words or syllables. Chinese languages such as Mandarin are the best-known examples, and Vietnamese is also tonal.



lomi-lomi107a lomi-lomi {Hawaiian massage}. Magdalen read this as {Hawaiian message} to start with, which didn't help (we were solving the puzzle around midnight). It seemed reasonable to assume that the answer was reduplicative, which it turned out to be. Apparently our cats Linus and Polly are experts, as the underlying meaning of lomi is "to work in and out, as the claws of a contented cat".

Kung Pao chicken7d Pao {Kung ___ chicken}. Just when I got used to General Tso's chicken, this comes along to throw a spanner in the works. Kung Pao chicken is another dish in Szechuan cuisine, named after Ding Baozhen (1820–1886), whose title was Gōng Bǎo (宮保), or palatial guardian.

Otis Chandler Car Collection43d Otis {___ Chandler, longtime publisher of the Los Angeles Times}. Otis Chandler (19272006) did for the LA Times what Adolph Ochs did for the NYT, increasing the paper's prestige and its profit margins during his tenure from 1960 to 1980. "No publisher in America improved a paper so quickly on so grand a scale, took a paper that was marginal in qualities and brought it to excellence as Otis Chandler did," according to one history of the company. He is also known for The Chandler Museum, his extensive transportation collection, particularly of vintage automobiles.

55d Nicol {"Excalibur" star Williamson}. Nicol Williamson is the Scottish actor who was cast as Merlin by John Boorman in the 1981 Arthurian fantasy Excalibur.



Noteworthy

33a -ola {Pay stub?}. Constructors can get fanciful with indicating a suffix, as here: the reference is to payola, bribery by record companies to get air time. The chances are any Sunday puzzle will have at least two suffixes, so it's good to have a bit of variety in the ways they are clued.

50a encore {It's music to a musician's ears}. Amusing clue ... of course musicians like to hear encore: just not too many times - they have to get home too.

105a XOO {Tic-tac-toe loser}. An ugly answer - good evidence that the thematic phrases were particularly hard to fill around, along with the many three-letter words with a preponderance of abbreviations.

Ellis Island15d Ellis Island {National monument site since 1965}. Any mention of Ellis Island makes me think of previous generations of immigrants. It's part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Liberty has been a wonderful backdrop for the golf tournament du jour, The Barclays at the Liberty National Golf Club.

92d aleatory {Dependent on chance}. Familiar from aleatoric music, the term derives from the Latin for dice alea. Much classical music from the 1950s onwards sounds aleatoric even if it wasn't intended to be.



The Rest

1a Adam {Singer Lambert, runner-up on the 2009 "American Idol"}; 5a yap at {Talk to shrilly}; 10a rhomb {Four-sided figure}; 15a eggs {Halloween purchase}; 19a fine {"___ by me"}; 20a -orama {Slangy commercial suffix}; 21a ASPCA {Shelter org.}; 22a leak {Scuba diver's worry}; 26a laze {Be a couch potato}; 27a Agathas {Mystery writers' awards}; 28a monk {Person with few possessions}; 29a Dies irae {Hymn whose second line is "Solvet saeclum in favilla"}; 31a snap {Breeze}; 35a ass {Ninny}; 45a goad {Urge}; 47a Ida. {Moscow's home: Abbr.}; 48a stoa {Covered walkway}; 57a litre {Size unit of an English soda bottle}; 58a Dem. {Like 11-Down: Abbr.}; 59a in a sec {Soon}; 60a it I {"Is ___?"}; 61a roots {Underground network}; 66a Thom McAn {Shoe brand reputedly named after a Scottish golfer}; 77a in all {Together}; 78a NEA {PBS benefactor}; 79a strati {Low clouds}; 82a RNA {Stranded messenger?}; 84a Eagan {1991 Tony winner Daisy}; 92a advice {Tips, e.g.}; 93a EKGs {Heart lines: Abbr.}; 94a OTB {Where some people get tips: Abbr.}; 97a intr. {Like some verbs: Abbr.}; 104a ant {Tiny tunneler}; 106a spar {Box lightly}; 112a NLer {Met, for one}; 115a Atlanta {Home of the N.H.L.'s Thrashers}; 120a Iran {Modern home of the biblical Elam}; 124a daze {Stun}; 125a erase {Take out}; 126a Oscar {8 1/2-pound statue}; 127a in re {Regarding}; 128a sled {Bob in the Olympics}; 129a nexus {Connection}; 130a sassy {Fresh}; 131a Nana {Favorite baby sitter, maybe}.

1d Afta {Brut rival}; 2d diag. {TV screen meas.}; 3d Anka {"It's Time to Cry" singer, 1959}; 4d meet {Hook up}; 5d you and me {Us}; 6d art sale {Gallery event}; 8d AM-FM {Alternative to satellite}; 9d taco {Kind of shell}; 10d rankle {Stick in one's craw}; 11d HST {Pres. when the C.I.A. was created}; 12d op-ed {Piece of a newspaper?}; 13d MCXI {1,111}; 14d bateau {French river craft}; 16d gear {Skis, boots, masks, etc.}; 17d Gaza {Mideast tinderbox}; 18d skee {___-Ball}; 24d oh so {Very}; 25d on or {"___ off?"}; 30d SST {Bygone flier}; 32d pert {Fresh}; 34d Avis {Company name that becomes another company name if you move its first letter to the end}; 36d bonito {Mackerellike fish}; 37d lactic {Kind of acid}; 38d odor {Effluvium}; 39d sch. {Principal location?: Abbr.}; 40d sked {TV exec's concern}; 41d ODs {Some E.R. cases}; 42d Lai {Chou En-___}; 44d none {All's opposite}; 45d gelid {Icy}; 49d AKC {Dog breeders' org.}; 51d reroute {Send another way}; 53d methane {Dangerous buildup in a mine}; 54d IMHO {Preface online}; 56d gnarled {Knotted up}; 62d Orrin {Senator Hatch}; 63d oso {Spanish bear}; 64d TWA {Bygone flier}; 65d sir {Word often following yes or no}; 67d oui {Agreement abroad}; 68d Mtn. {Atlas abbr.}; 69d MBA {Wharton deg.}; 71d tear-stained {Like the face after a good bawl}; 72d Terp {A.C.C. athlete}; 73d engine {It typically has lots of horses}; 74d reacts {Isn't inert}; 75d saner {Less bananas}; 79d SSE {Toledo-to-Columbus dir.}; 80d tpke. {N.J. or Pa. route}; 81d raga {Music in Mysore}; 83d anta {Architectural pier}; 85d Aviv {Tel ___}; 87d ooh {Cry at a circus}; 88d ETO {W.W. II arena}; 89d Xbox {Wii alternative}; 90d son {Male delivery}; 91d ends {Some receivers}; 96d alpacas {Sources of fleece}; 99d SNL {NBC inits. since 1975}; 100d stolen {Pirated}; 101d tonnes {British weights}; 102d sold {Cry after the rap of a hammer}; 103d Arlo {Man's name that's an anagram of 108-Down}; 107d lids {Caps}; 108d oral {Exam format}; 109d maze {Something to be threaded}; 110d mere {Pure}; 111d IMAX {Kind of screen}; 113d Eros {Psyche's love}; 114d Rosa {Sub ___ (confidentially)}; 116d akin {Similar}; 117d Nina {Ship that sailed "the ocean blue"}; 118d tern {Shore flier}; 119d a-sea {On the ocean}; 122d OSU {The Cowboys of the Big 12 Conference}; 123d PCs {They may be cloned}.

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