Monday, August 3, 2009

NYT Tuesday 8/4/09 - Birthday Boy

Happy 48th Birthday, Mr President. There's a saying in England that you know you're getting old when policeman look young. You really know you're getting old when a US president is younger than you are!

ObamaI wasn't aware of the upcoming event, so noted the thematic answers seemed to have AMAB(O) groups without understanding at all what was going on ... until I reached 71-Across. I can just imagine Will Shortz receiving hundreds of Obama puzzles over the last year and holding on to some of the best to be sprung on us when we least expect it.

I wonder what kind of gifts he'll get. Will Sheryl Crow (she's known to be on Obama's iPod) sing happy birthday to the President, like Marilyn Monroe did for JFK? One weird tribute I have noticed is that Antigua is today renaming Boggy Peak as Mount Obama.
Solving time: 8 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 18d atlas {Collection of plates}

Barack Obama's birthday, as indicated by 71a Obama {President born on August 4, whose name can be found backward in 17-, 31-, 47- and 63-Across}:
17a dream about {Envision in one's sleep}
31a pajama bottoms {Sleepwear component}
47a Alabama border {The Chattahoochee River forms part of it}
63a beam aboard {Arrive on the Enterprise via transporter}

Alan Arbesfeld
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersAlan Arbesfeld / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.79)
Theme squares51 (27.3%)
Scrabble points312 (average 1.67)
New To Me

14a Lahti {Actress Christine of "Chicago Hope"}. Christine Lahti has come up twice before this year, but only in Sunday puzzles where I can't pay such close attention to every detail. So I knew Lahti as a crosswordy answer without any specifics. One reason I remembered it is that LAHTI was one of those romantic sounding places printed on old British radio dials: HILVERS(UM) was another.

24a Noah {NPR newsman Adams}. Noah Adams was once co-host of All Things Considered - a program I hear from time-to-time. He's now the senior correspondent at National Public Radio's National Desk. He's written a number of books, his latest (and here's a coincidence ... see below) being about the Wright Brothers.

John Alden's House1d Alden {John on the Mayflower}. As I wasn't confident of Lahti at 14-Across, I really wanted to be sure of this crossing answer. No luck, though Alden was in fact the only surname that made sense. John Alden (1599–1687) is famous only because he was (said to be) the first passenger on The Mayflower to set foot on Plymouth Rock in 1620. John was in fact not a pilgrim, being the ship's repairman - he decided to come along in the hope of prosperity in the New World. He must have been a good carpenter, as his house of 1653 still stands and is open as a museum.


16a Ohio {Its license plates say "Birthplace of Aviation"}. The clue puts it very well: how can Ohio be the birthplace of aviation when Kitty Hawk is in North Carolina? I certainly put in _CAR because I knew it had to be one of the Carolinas. It seems Ohio is the birthplace because Congress said so (by a 378-3 vote in the House and unanimously in the Senate), Dayton being the hometown of the Wright Brothers. I do think Ohio could find a more honest claim to fame: like "First in Crosswords" - oh dear, it can't even make that boast, as it's second to Utah in mentions. Keep working on it, Ohio!

41a mints {Dishful near a restaurant door}. I thought this might be a water bowl for dogs. Restaurants sometimes do that, right? mints makes a little more sense though - great clue!

Krazy Kat46a Kat {Krazy ___ of the comics}. Tried to find Krazy Kat on, but I'm out of luck because it only ran from 1913 and 1944. William Randolph Hearst was a big fan and was known to ensure its appearance in his papers over the head of an editor.

Unix: Live Free Or Die68a or Die {"Live Free ___" (New Hampshire motto)}. One of the few state mottoes I know, because it has a famous association with Unix, the operating system I used for most of my professional life. The motto spoke to the desire early Unix users/developers had to be independent of commercial interests. Armando P. Stettner started giving out New Hampshire plates with UNIX on them and the image became an emblem for users of the operating system.

Gap3d The Gap {Clothing retailer starting in 1969}. I don't normally think of Gap as having the definite article in front and wondered if the branding was different in the USA. I gather the store started as The Gap and somewhere along the line became just Gap. The wording of the clue allows for this.

25d halo {Circle of angels?}, 18d atlas {Collection of plates}. A couple of the nicely misleading clues in this puzzle. I marginally prefer the latter, as I don't remember coming across anything like it before ... plates being book illustrations, the term dating back to when they were separately lithographed sheets bound into a book otherwise set using letterpress.

46d krona {Money from Sweden}. Scandinavian countries can't seem to agree on that final vowel, so I hedged and waited for beam aboard to resolve things. Krona is Swedish and Icelandic. Krone is Danish and Norwegian. Not that I'll ever remember this.

49d Old Man {Subject of a Hemingway title}. One of Papa Hemingway's titles I have no difficulty with, having studied it in school at about the age of 14. The Old Man and the Sea is unusual in consisting of only three-letter words - it kinda fits Hemingway's succinct prose style. Here's the start of the Spencer Tracy movie version (1958):

59d -aboo {Bug chaser?}. Making a virtue out of a necessity by cluing an ugly entry (suffix) with a misleading phrase.

The Rest

1a acted {Performed on Broadway, say}; 6a wail {Cry like a baby}; 10a RSVP {Invitation request, for short}; 15a Emma {Madame Bovary}; 19a boat {Yawl or yacht}; 20a egg {Bad thing to have on one's face}; 21a etc {List ender: Abbr.}; 22a segue {Transition}; 26a lab {Where to run some tests}; 28a reshot {Like some bad film scenes}; 34a Las {Vegas intro?}; 35a runs {Scoreboard figure}; 36a rip {Tombstone letters}; 37a Epsom {___ salts}; 40a sty {Hog's home}; 43a doh! {"How stupid of me!"}; 44a Papa {Nickname for Hemingway}; 51a Medici {Classic family name in Florence}; 52a slo {Street caution near a school}; 53a mass {Sunday service}; 56a Oskar {Schindler of "Schindler's List"}; 58a DNA {Genetic letters}; 60a MCI {2006 Verizon purchase}; 61a newt {Former speaker Gingrich}; 66a over {Done}; 67a lava {Molten flow}; 69a redo {Take from the top}; 70a Eden {Noted garden site}.

2d cargo {Freight}; 4d ETA {Pilot's announcement, for short}; 5d dime {It's smaller than a penny}; 6d webcam {Online video equipment}; 7d amo {Start of a Latin conjugation}; 8d Imus {Big name in morning radio}; 9d later on {Sometime in the future}; 10d robust {Hearty}; 11d shoehorn {Squeeze (into)}; 12d via {By way of}; 13d pot {One calling the kettle black, in a phrase}; 23d gets mad {Sees red}; 27d bar tabs {What some drinkers run up}; 29d omit {Skip}; 30d tsps. {Recipe amts.}; 32d jam-pack {Fill to capacity and then some}; 33d buy {Pick up, in a way}; 37d Edam {Dutch cheese}; 38d pole {Gondolier's need}; 39d shadowed {Tailed}; 40d spa {Rejuvenation location}; 42d item {Part of an agenda}; 45d amiable {Friendly}; 48d bistro {European-style cafe}; 50d Ramada {Holiday Inn alternative}; 54d scrim {Fabric for theater curtains}; 55d side A {Part of a record getting the most airplay}; 57d read {Peruse}; 61d nor {Hide-hair connector}; 62d eve {Threshold}; 64d ave {Cry in old Rome}; 65d orb {Sphere}.

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