Tuesday, August 4, 2009

NYT Wednesday 8/5/09 - Too Proper

This Wednesday New York Times crossword was just a disaster for me. I seemed to be doing quite well when I'd finished everything except the SE corner in about 12 minutes. Breaking into that final block of answers took over 20 minutes at the end.

Perry WhiteThe problem I had was the thicket of proper names in that area. If I'd known the Perry White reference, things might have been easier. As it was, I had to consider Perry Mason as a possible candidate although I didn't fixate on that.

In addition to Perry White, we have Stu (Sutcliffe), No Spin, Serta, Urals, Paley, She-Ra, Tittle. The only dictionary answers in the area are uneasy and spiral, the latter being clued with reference to American Football.

I doubt solvers brought up in America would have the difficulties I did: Magdalen was solving alongside me and put down her pen after 15 minutes or so. But I don't feel too hard done by, because it's clear my knowledge of popular culture - particularly the characters in comics and the associated movies - still needs brushing up.
Solving time: 35 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 34a magi {Crèche trio}
Theme

Answers starting with "Great Caesar's ghost!", the oath spoken by Perry White, Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Planet in Superman comics. This is indicated by 57a Perry White {Character known for exclaiming the first words of 20-, 28- and 46-Across}:
20a Great Lakes {America's so-called Third Coast}
28a Caesar's wife {One who must be above suspicion, in a saying}
46a ghost-writer {Many an autobiographer's need}
Solution

Donna S. Levin
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersDonna S. Levin / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 34 (15.1%) black squares
Answers74 (average length 5.16)
Theme squares42 (22.0%)
Scrabble points306 (average 1.60)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

18a Cora {Mrs. Dithers in the comics}. Cora Dithers is a character in the comic strip Blondie, being the domineering wife of Dagwood Bumstead's boss, Julius Caesar Dithers. In view of the theme, I have to wonder if the reference to this wife of Julius Caesar was deliberate or coincidental. Here's a clip from a 1987 animated adaptation.



64a Ella {"___ Enchanted" (Anne Hathaway movie)}. Ella Enchanted is a Gail Carson Levine novel, being a retelling of the Cinderella story. It was adapted into the referenced movie in 2004.



68a Paley {Longtime CBS boss William}. I knew of a William Paley from reading Richard Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker inter alia. That didn't help me identify William S. Paley (1901–1990), the guy who built CBS into the major player in broadcasting that it is today. In fact the existence of the philosopher made me doubtful that another famous person of the same name could exist.

2d Penrod {Booth Tarkington title tween}. Penrod seems an unlikely name, but I was prepared to believe it when I rationalized Le Car and spoke ("speak" tells a dog to bark). Penrod Schofield is an 11-year-old boy growing up in the Midwest at the beginning of the 20th century, in stories in the same vein as Tom Sawyer. Penrod and Sam (1931) is one of several movie adaptations inspired by the characters.



12d Bennifer {Affleck/Lopez as a tabloid twosome}. Supercouple nicknames, or "uninames" seem to be in vogue in NYT puzzles - we also had Brangelina recently. Others to watch out for: TomKat and Vaughniston (Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston). If Magdalen and I were a supercouple we could be Rossalen (I don't like Magdaloss, Bradford or Bereden).

47d R. Kelly {Singer with the 1994 #1 hit "Bump N' Grind"}. It seems unusual for personalities to be known by their initials, as here - a Good Thing as they make crossword answers that are very hard to recognize. R. Kelly is a singer-songwriter in R&B and Soul. Here's the referenced hit.



48d spiral {Form of a well-thrown pigskin}, 49d Tittle {Y. A. known for well-thrown pigskins}. This juxtaposition was deadly for me, though spiral seemed reasonable when I finally got it. Tittle I just had to deduce from crossings and trust on faith, and I wasn't even aware that Y. A. were his initials. I gather Y. A. Tittle is a former QB (which I suppose is evident from the clue), who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971. His initials stand for Yelberton Abraham, so you can perhaps understand why he goes by Y. A..

54d She-Ra {Mattel's Princess of Power}. The original She-Ra is a Mattel doll, the alter ego of Princess Adora. She is the twin sister of He-Man (Prince Adam) and was supposed to appeal to girls in the same way as He-Man appealed to boys. Both had tie-in animated series on TV.



Noteworthy

skee ball6a Skee {___-Ball (game on an incline)}. I've heard of skee ball machines but never seen one to my knowledge or tried to play the game. It looks like a crude form of pinball but Magdalen had to explain the finer details: you propel balls up the shallow ramp, as in bowling, and there's a take-off ramp at the end which makes the balls do a little jump into one of the collecting pots. You need a good aim and to propel the ball with the right amount of force.

Le Car14a Le Car {Renault 5, in North America}. This clue was tough until you parsed the answer as a (2,3) and remembered that Renault is a French manufacturer. French manufacturers have a big presence in the UK (in fact my last car there was a Citroen), but I don't see many Le Cars (or indeed any French cars) round these parts.

34a magi {Crèche trio}. I like this clue for reasons that are probably peculiar to me: I know a crèche in the US is a nativity scene, but in the UK it doesn't mean that at all and would be understood as a day care center for kids. The misleading nature of all this appealed to me.

62a Serta {Perfect Sleeper maker}. A proper name in the SE corner that I vaguely knew, but Sealy also fit the crossings I had, and I thought of that first. Serta is a cooperative of mattress manufacturers founded in 1931 and is famous for its Counting Sheep advertising campaign.



The Rest

1a spoke {Did a dog trick}; 10a ABBA {"Mamma Mia" quartet}; 15a pour {Rain cats and dogs}; 16a Kael {Film critic Pauline}; 17a intro {First few bars}; 19a is no {"This ___ joke!"}; 22a nine {Clementine's shoe size}; 23a hottie {Playboy or Playgirl-caliber model}; 24a key {Item with a magnetic strip, nowadays}; 26a Liv {Tyler of "The Incredible Hulk"}; 27a TDs {What Hail Mary passes rarely result in, briefly}; 32a Sarah {Ex-governor Palin}; 33a slicer {Hero maker's aid}; 34a magi {Crèche trio}; 37a ton {Whole bunch}; 39a para- {Prefix with normal}; 40a Adonis {Hunky sort}; 43a judge {One who tries}; 48a Stu {Early Beatle Sutcliffe}; 51a Ned {Original Luddite ___ Ludd}; 52a Oak {Oklahoma's ___ Tree National golf course}; 53a No Spin {Like Bill O'Reilly's "zone" on Fox News}; 55a as is {Clearance rack words}; 60a tidy {Like certain sums}; 61a plié {Ballet bend}; 63a even {Smooth}; 65a Urals {Range extending to the Arctic Ocean}; 66a seas {Huge quantities}; 67a dyed {Gray no more, say}.

1d slight {Cold-shoulder}; 3d octets {Largish combos}; 4d karat {Unit of purity}; 5d erotica {Racy reading}; 6d SPCA {Pet welfare org.}; 7d kook {Wack job}; 8d eureka {"That's it!"}; 9d erasers {Blackboard accessories}; 10d akin {Closely related}; 11d basilica {St. Peter's, e.g.}; 13d Aloe Vera {Important plant in alternative medicine}; 21d Lear {Father of Goneril}; 25d YSL {Fashion inits.}; 29d eat {Mother's cry at a dinner table}; 30d shoji {Japanese sliding screen}; 31d wipe {Disposable cleaning aid}; 32d sins {Lust and envy, for two}; 34d magnates {Ones in high places}; 35d adhesive {Post-it component}; 36d good idea {Brainstorming result, perhaps}; 38d nut {Wack job}; 41d I to {"Who am ___ say?"}; 42d swapped {Out of order, in a way}; 44d deny {Refuse to grant}; 45d grows up {Matures}; 50d uneasy {On edge}; 56d syns. {Roget offerings: Abbr.}; 58d rile {Anger}; 59d read {Interpret}.

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