Monday, August 31, 2009

NYT Tuesday 9/1/09 - Any Which Way You Can

This Tuesday New York Times crossword offers a twist on the "answers with a common definition" theme: here there are two common definitions ("hook" and "crook"), and I like the way the two answers for each definition use radically different meanings of the word.

With this type of theme, it can be hard to see the basis until you get the one key answer. I was lucky here to see by hook or by crook after getting just the first four letters or so, which helped pin down every other theme answer when I got to the relevant part of the grid.
Solving time: 7 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 35d sot {Pink elephant sighter}

37a by hook or by crook {How 18-, 24-, 47- and 56-Across may be defined}: the other theme answers may be defined alternately by hook or crook:
18a sharp turn {See 37-Across, i.e. hook}
24a shepherd's cane {See 37-Across, i.e. crook}
47a swinging punch {See 37-Across, i.e. hook}
56a racketeer {See 37-Across, i.e. crook}

Steven Ginzburg
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersSteven Ginzburg / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 40 (17.8%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.87)
Theme squares59 (31.9%)
Scrabble points326 (average 1.76)
New To Me

23a Eadie {"___ Was a Lady" (Ethel Merman tune)}. Eadie Was a Lady is a hit song from the 1932 musical Take a Chance - sung by nightclub singer Wanda Brill, a role Ethel Merman created.

sushi55a ahi {Tuna at a sushi bar}. I assumed that ahi was a Japanese word, but it seems it's the Hawaiian for two types of tuna: yellowfin tuna and bigeye tuna. So why the reference to sushi? I see lots of sushi restaurants are called Ahi Sushi, and perhaps this is also the generic name for a cuisine that's a fusion of Japanese and Hawaiian? Can any readers help out with this one?

64a Tess {"Guarding ___" (1994 MacLaine movie)}. Guarding Tess is the movie about a former first lady with a difficult personality. Assigned to guard her is a Secret Service squad headed by a reluctant Doug Chesnic (Nicolas Cage).

12d Teri {Garr or Polo}. I knew Teri Garr from movies like Young Frankenstein, but the younger Teri Polo is less familiar. Her best-known film roles seem to be Meet the Parents (2000) and its sequel Meet the Fockers (2004), in which she plays the schoolteacher with the intimidating parents.

13d Anne {Rice who wrote of vampires}. I wasn't sure why "wrote" was in the clue, since Anne Rice is alive and writing. It seems, though, that since her return to the Catholic Church, she will "write only for the Lord". Which presumably means there are to be no more of the vampire books that made Anne so popular (her books have sold nearly 100 million copies). Interview with the Vampire (1994) is a movie adaptation of an Anne Rice novel.

46d LGs {Some football linemen: Abbr.}. Although I can't predict what the answer might be in the absence of crossings, I can just about work out the player when I know the letters: an LG is a left guard, right?


34d code names {Utah, Omaha and others, on D-Day}. This reminds me of a famous crossword legend: in 1944, schoolmaster Leonard Dawe, constructor of crosswords for Britain's Daily Telegraph, got a surprise visit from MI-5 officers who were alarmed by a number of suspicious words in his recent puzzles: MULBERRY, NEPTUNE, OMAHA, OVERLORD, PLUTO and UTAH. He managed to persuade the spooks that this was pure coincidence, but a pupil of his later claimed that Dawe delegated grid filling to the boys, who may have overheard the codewords from servicemen stationed nearby. Marc Romano in Crossworld is skeptical of this rationale, his best argument being that such codewords wouldn't have filtered down to the rank-and-file soldiers most likely to encounter local schoolboys. I'm not sure we'll ever know the whole truth about this one.

Pink Elephant35d sot {Pink elephant sighter}. Neat clue to an oft-used three-letter word. Why do sots sight pink elephants? The expression was apparently well-established in 1913, since Jack London refers to it when describing an alcoholic in John Barleycorn:
the man whom we all know, stupid, unimaginative, whose brain is bitten numbly by numb maggots; who walks generously with wide-spread, tentative legs, falls frequently in the gutter, and who sees, in the extremity of his ecstasy, blue mice and pink elephants. He is the type that gives rise to the jokes in the funny papers.
48d items {"10 ___ or less" (checkout sign)}. This ubiquitous wording has long been a pet peeve for linguistic purists. The beef is that "less" (=a smaller amount of) refers to something that can't be individually counted, "fewer" (=a smaller number of) being used for things that can be counted. The British supermarket Tesco caved to the complainers by changing their signs to "Up to 10 items". All this didn't discourage the producers of the movie 10 Items or Less (2006).

The Rest

1a bonds {Moody's rates them}; 6a vast {Oceanic in scope}; 10a beta {Early software version}; 14a opera {Musical work that's often not in English}; 15a icky {Gross, in kidspeak}; 16a oxen {Cart-pulling beasts}; 17a artsy {Pretentious and showy}; 20a raw {Uncooked}; 21a shoe {Old woman's home, in a nursery rhyme}; 28a I aim {"___ to please!"}; 29a easy {"Careful, now!"}; 30a angst {Woody Allen's trademark emotion}; 32a bark {It may be worse than a bite}; 34a CST {Winter hrs. in New Orleans}; 41a cut {Director's "Stop!"}; 42a wigs {Tops of many Halloween getups}; 43a had to {"You ___ be there"}; 44a Avon {Bell-ringing cosmetics company}; 46a loge {Theater area}; 52a fleas {A pet collar repels them}; 54a toss {Flip, as a coin}; 59a he-man {Rambo type}; 61a ante {Start the pot}; 62a arms {Equips for war}; 63a overt {In-your-face}; 65a base {First, second, third or home}; 66a pests {Noodges}.

1d boars {Sows' mates}; 2d Oprah {TV host with a book club}; 3d net weight {Food package datum}; 4d Drs. {"M*A*S*H" staffers: Abbr.}; 5d says hi to {Greets informally}; 6d visor {Baseball cap part}; 7d ached {Needed a massage, maybe}; 8d ska {Precursor of reggae}; 9d Tyr {49-Down war god}; 10d botany {Plant expert's field}; 11d exude {Give off, as charm}; 19d peas {Accompaniers of carrots in a Birds Eye package}; 22d hem {Haw's partner}; 25d Paso {El ___, Tex.}; 26d Serbs {Belgrade natives}; 27d caky {Forming clumps, like drying mud}; 30d ABC {Epitome of simplicity}; 31d NYU {Big Apple sch.}; 32d boing {Spring sound}; 33d Arg. {Land SW of Uru.}; 36d TKO {Fight ender, for short}; 38d Kwon {Tae ___ do}; 39d chop shop {Hot car's destination}; 40d Ragu {Giant in pasta sauce}; 44d awakes {Responds to a morning alarm}; 45d vise {Workbench gripper}; 47d sects {Sunni and Shia, for two}; 49d Norse {Like Odin or 9-Down}; 50d chart {Business presentation aid}; 51d hints {Aids for the stumped}; 52d frat {Rush week venue, for short}; 53d lane {Sprinter's assignment}; 57d tab {Running account at a bar}; 58d era {Geologic time}; 60d eve {Day before a big event}.

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