Tuesday, August 25, 2009

NYT Wednesday 8/26/09 - Use the Magic Word

This Wednesday New York Times crossword was another straightforward one until you ran into the SE corner and that crossing of WGN and nonart. I spent a few minutes at the end debating the merits of N and T in that spot; I was amazed to see Magdalen having the same difficulties and can only imagine this will vex all but the Chicagoans.

The thematic aspects were much less complicated and in truth I didn't really notice the puzzle had a systematic theme until I'd finished. I can see that the last four requests are cliches of a sort, but what about "chopsticks please"? Is that on a par with the others, or could we equally well have had "apple sauce, please" or "maple syrup, please"? Fill me in, readers, if I've missed something here.
Solving time: 10 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 22a header {Shot using one's noggin}
Theme

Five verbal requests, clued as fill-in-the-blanks:
17a chopsticks {"___, please" (diner's request)}
27a attention {"___, please" (announcer's request)}
36a the envelope {"___, please" (awards show presenter's request)}
51a one moment {"___, please" (operator's request)}
60a take my wife {"___, please!" (Henny Youngman's request)}
Solution

Gary Cee
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersGary Cee / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers74 (average length 5.05)
Theme squares49 (26.2%)
Scrabble points279 (average 1.49)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

Gerber baby58a tot {Gerber eater}. I always thought Gerber is a Bridge convention I can't pronounce properly. Now I discover it's a brand of baby products I can't pronounce properly. Magdalen said I should mention that Bogey was thought to have been the model for the Gerber baby. Indeed this was one of the popular choices when people were polled about who the baby might have become when grown up. In fact the model was mystery writer Ann Turner Cook.

2d McHale {Ernest Borgnine title role}. Getting all the letters from crossings, I assumed the role was M C Hale. The reference seems to be to McHale's Navy, a sitcom from the 60s in which Ernest Borgnine plays the commanding officer of a PT boat who has "gone native" with his crew on a remote Pacific Island. The straight-laced Lieutenant Durham is brought in to restore order.



Atomic FireBalls3d Atomic {___ FireBall (hot candy)}. Atomic FireBalls look to be what we Brits call "gobstoppers". They're a cinnamon-flavored hard candy with at least a hundred layers, made in a "hot panned" process that takes about two weeks. Only to be taken under medical supervision.

9d rushee {Fraternity hopeful}. Rushing fraternities and sororities, and the associated terminology, is completely alien to me. I think its closest counterpart in the UK is the Fresher's Fair where student clubs and societies try to recruit members from the new intake.

minneola12d Mineola {Seat of Nassau County, N.Y.}. There are several places called Mineola and Minneola ... not too surprising, as it's a Native American word meaning "pleasant place". I think of the two 'N' variety as a pleasant fruit, the Minneola tangelo.

48d Attila {The Scourge of God}. I wasn't familiar with this epithet, but not too surprised that Attila the Hun was known by it, probably more often in the Latin version flagellum dei.

63d WGN {Chicago Cubs' station}. You really needed to know this to be sure of 69-Across. I didn't and surprisingly Magdalen didn't either. WGN is the name of the Chicago radio and television stations that are owned by the Tribune Company. Since the Tribune Company also now owns the Chicago Cubs, WGN is effectively "their" station, but WGN in reality had a close association with the local baseball team since its beginnings.



Noteworthy

SimCity10a Sims {Best-selling computer game from the early 2000s, with "The"}. This looks to be a later iteration of a game I played as SimCity around 1990. I tried a lot of simulation games at that time, my favorite being Railroad Tycoon - that craze passed and I now waste my time in other ways :-)

19a nene {Endangered state bird}. Managed to guess this Hawaiian Goose on very little evidence: it's much the most crossworthy state bird, so any time you see such in a clue, nene is very likely the answer. I didn't realize they were endangered before: numbers went down from approximately 25,000 when James Cook arrived on Hawaii in 1778, to 30 by 1952. However, captive breeding programs have worked well and there are now around 800 nenes in the wild, 1,000 in zoos and by my estimate 1,500 in crosswords (and counting).

47a Zapata {Mexican revolutionary played by Brando}. Until today, the most notable thing I knew about Emiliano Zapata (18791919) was his moustaches. Now I can add that he formed and commanded the Liberation Army of the South during the Mexican Revolution of 1910 ... a campaign to reclaim land from the wealthy landowners. For more accurate historical detail, see the referenced movie Viva Zapata! (1952).



Fountain69a nonart {Dada, to many}. I imagine the intersection with 63-Down caused a lot of grief. I had the grid finished except for that one letter after 7 minutes and spent another 3 minutes debating between not art and nonart, eventually concluding the latter more likely (plus I didn't think further speculation would help any). Afterwards I discovered that nonart is actually a dictionary word, with a meaning close to Dadaism ... which helps its cause, but only knowledge of 63-Down really clinches this answer.

picot edge7d picot {Embroidery loop}. Many hours spent trawling the dictionary when solving cryptic crosswords meant I knew picot as a term in needlework for a loop of thread.

Fangorn23d Ent {Fangorn in "The Lord of the Rings," e.g.}. Ents seem to be getting their twigs into a lot of NYT crosswords these days. Tolkien derived the word Ent from the Anglo-Saxon word for "giant". The accompanying picture wins the Fangorn lookalike competition.

25d Sith {Jedi enemy}. Regulars will know I'm no expert on the Star Wars franchise, but I have heard of the Sith, thanks to the title Revenge of the Sith. I know Jedis are the good guys and only baddies would take revenge - that's my logic. The evil Siths have to be played by Brits like Ian McDiarmid of course. Any coincidence that Sith anagrams into what dictionaries define as a "contemptible or worthless person"?



Amstel lager46d Amstel {Dutch brew}. Amstel was a Dutch brewery based in Amsterdam, and presumably named for the Amstel river. Its plant was eventually shut down after Heineken International took over, but the name continues as a lager brand.

The Rest

1a smarts {Hurts}; 7a par {3, 4 or 5, typically, in golf}; 14a Act III {When Hamlet says "To be or not to be"}; 15a IOU {Payment promise}; 16a on it {"I'm ___!" ("Will do!")}; 20a RAM {PC capacity, for short}; 21a SRO {"Full" sign}; 24a Elise {Beethoven dedicatee}; 29a decide {What to do at a crossroads}; 31a retable {Postpone yet again}; 32a tirade {Vehement speech}; 35a lar {Roman household god}; 40a APO {G.I.'s mail drop}; 42a Orsino {"Twelfth Night" duke}; 43a polecat {Malodorous critter}; 54a net wt. {18 oz., maybe, on a cereal box}; 55a screws {Hardware store boxful}; 56a USA {Springsteen's birthplace of song}; 59a thar {Old salt's direction}; 64a long {Past the golf pin, say}; 65a ENE {Direction from L.A. to K.C.}; 66a Eagles {Band with the 1975 #1 hit "One of These Nights"}; 67a Este {Ferrara family name}; 68a led {Blazed a trail}.

1d sacred {With 45-Down, something not to criticize}; 4d rip {Job for a tailor}; 5d 'tis {Rejoinder to "'tain't!"}; 6d sits {Collects splinters, so to speak}; 8d A-OK {Just fine}; 10d sonata {Beethoven keyboard work}; 11d inedible {Like poisonous mushrooms}; 13d sterner {Less lenient}; 18d IRA {401(k) alternative}; 26d Edie {Falco who played Carmela on "The Sopranos"}; 28d trees {Familial diagrams}; 30d ere {Bard's before}; 33d a note {"I can't sing ___"}; 34d DVR {TiVo, for one}; 36d tolerant {Broad-minded}; 37d Liz {Taylor who said "I do" eight times}; 38d on an {___ equal footing}; 39d pope {Wearer of a triple tiara}; 40d apostle {Last Supper guest}; 41d ponchos {Some rainwear}; 44d emerge {Come into prominence}; 45d cow {See 1-Down}; 49d twofer {Get-one-free deal}; 50d attest {Swear (to)}; 52d nuked {Microwaved, slangily}; 53d TSE {"The Waste Land" monogram}; 57d amen {Grace ender}; 61d an E {"I'd like to buy ___, Pat"}; 62d Yao {Hoopster ___ Ming}.

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