Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NYT Thursday 10/1/09 - Boxing the Compass II

It seems that the dead tree version of this Thursday New York Times crossword is subtly different to what I solved, calling for you to draw a compass rose at the center of the grid (which is instead a white square, or conceivably a circle). This wouldn't have made too much difference to my solving experience, as it seems extraneous to the crossword per se.

I solved the puzzle from the top left as usual, so quickly ran into problems with North Pole at 6-Down; I was fairly confident of that answer, but it refused to fit with Colbert and Sbarro, which I also felt to be correct. A reversal of North Pole fixed all the problems and gave me a leg up with the other three answers that included compass points.

At first I thought clue 18-Across had a misprint in it, there being no 55-Across that I could see in the grid. Eventually I realized it referred to just the rose of Melrose, which conveniently starts in a numbered square. To split the answer like that, even though it is symmetrically opposite compass, seems ugly to me and I wondered if rose would have been better in a random four-letter entry, even though that is also unsatisfactory in its way.

This all reminded me of a rather more beautiful and crossworthy representation of a compass rose in the March 7 puzzle this year.
Solving time: 13 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 4d CPAs {Balancing pros}

Patrick Blindauer & Rebecca Young
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Four answers start with the four main points of the compass and are as a whole entered in that direction. Two other answers related to this theme: 18a compass {With 55-Across, direction indicator}; 54a (Mel)rose {Place name popular in the 1990s}.
27a West Point {Its motto is "Duty, Honor, Country"}
45a Eastender {Cockney, e.g.}
6d North Pole {Toymaking center?}
33d South Park {Long-running TV series set in Colorado}
CompilersPatrick Blindauer & Rebecca Young / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 33 (14.7%) black squares
Answers72 (average length 5.33)
Theme squares45 (23.4%)
Scrabble points279 (average 1.45)
New To Me

10d Toms {___ River, N.J.}. I wondered if this river would have an apostrophe. Apparently it has gone by Tom's River, but Toms River is the modern rendering. There is also a Toms River township, a few miles north of where all those Monopoly streets are based: Atlantic City.

View Larger Map

red ale20d ale {It may be red or brown}. I've heard of brown ale, but what is the red stuff? Apparently there are two so called: Irish red ale and a Belgian beer, Flanders red ale.

26d hasten {Get the lead out}. Not an idiom I've heard, and I wondered what sense of lead is being taken out. Apparently the heavy metal sense, since it's used to encourage someone rooted to a chair to be up and doing. I see Get the Lead Out is also a song from Aerosmith's fourth album Rocks.

28d O'Brien {Pat of "Knute Rockne All American"}. There are several Pat O'Brien's in Wikipedia, but this one's clearly Pat O'Brien (1899–1983) the actor. He's perhaps most famous for his roles in classics like Angels with Dirty Faces and Some Like It Hot; but Knute Rockne, All American (1940) is also notable if only for the line "win just one for the Gipper", referring to the deceased George Gipp, played by pres #40 to be.

43d Pamela {Bobby's wife on "Dallas"}. Yes, I did watch Dallas, if only to check up on the doings of J.R. Ewing, who shares my first names, though I go by Ross, not J.R.. I confess to having had to look up Pamela to confirm her role in the show and that she was played by Victoria Principal.


31a Colbert {"The ___ Report"}. We get to watch most episodes of The Colbert Report, though often days, weeks or months late, via the DVR. Knowing Stephen, this clue will get mentioned on the show and I expect a "Tip of the Hat" to the New York Times for it!

Sbarro34a Sbarro {Fast-food chain whose logo features a modified Italian flag}. Last Friday's mention of Sbarro primed me to get this one immediately; it helped uncover the reversal of 6-Down, which might otherwise have held me up quite a while. How is the flag modified? The Italian flag's colored stripes are normally vertical, but Sbarro has the same colors in horizontal stripes.

35a outate {Defeated, as at a Nathan's hot dog contest}. We usually buy Ball Park Franks and I only tried Nathan's Famous frankfurters a couple of weeks ago and thought them a bit spicier - maybe too much so for my taste. I like hot dogs with Marmite, much to Magdalen's disgust. Anyway, it seems the referenced contest is a Fourth of July institution: this year's winner Joey Chestnut outate six-time champion Takeru "Tsunami" Kobayashi by 68 hot dogs to 64.5 hot dogs (eaten complete with buns in just 10 minutes). Eww!

56a A. A. Milne {"Mr. Pim Passes By" playwright}. Referencing an obscure work like this is not (to my mind) the best way to spice up a clue for an end-of-week puzzle; I'd prefer a more subtle reference to something we would know, which for Milne has to be the Winnie-the-Pooh books, or perhaps his children's poetry. This is one of my favorite parodies by the awesome Beachcomber:
Hush, hush,
Nobody cares!
Christopher Robin

From By the Way (1931)
60a Eleanor {"The Lion in Winter" queen}. I recognized the title as a 1968 film, but I see now it was based on a Broadway play - a fictional account of some wranglings over the royal succession. The queen in question is Eleanor of Aquitaine, consort of Henry II of England. She was played by Katharine Hepburn in the movie version I'm familiar with.

tat3d tat {Bit of art on a chest, in slang}. Nicely misdirecting you to the wrong sort of chest, not the kind that's liable to have tattoos.

23d knob {Remote ancestor?}. Ah yes, knobs were those things you used to adjust your TV set before remote controls were invented. Neat clue.

59d err {Give all for one or one for all, e.g.?}. This seems just a little strained in the attempt to reference the motto of The Three Musketeers. In what context would you mix up "one" and "all"? I don't get it.

The Rest

1a satchel {Paper carrier}; 8a acted up {Raised Cain}; 15a in a pile {Heaped together}; 16a bromine {Element used in fire retardants}; 17a catalog {Something made to order?}; 19a sopranos {Women who get high?}; 21a put {Lay}; 22a EKG {Med. readout}; 25a Helen {Euripides play or its heroine}; 26a here {"Catch!"}; 30a parer {Apple gadget}; 32a SSRs {Cold war grp.}; 39a Isn't {"___ It Time" (1977 hit)}; 41a tuned in {Hip (to)}; 42a spree {Jag}; 47a lain {Been abed}; 48a berth {Ship's resting place}; 49a say {"I have an idea ..."}; 50a IMF {Global finance org.}; 51a Peter Pan {Story that begins "All children, except one, grow up"}; 61a pricier {Like penthouse suites vis-à-vis other apartments, typically}; 62a sadness {Melancholy}; 63a skeeter {Picnic pest, informally}.

1d sic {Attack signal}; 2d Ana {Santa ___}; 4d CPAs {Balancing pros}; 5d Hilo {Hawaii county seat}; 7d leg-rest {Recliner feature}; 8d ABC News {"Nightline" presenter}; 9d croon {Sing like Andy Williams or Russ Columbo}; 11d Emp. {Titus or Tiberius: Abbr.}; 12d diaper {Something needed for a change}; 13d unsure {Dubious}; 14d pester {Nag}; 22d etcs {Series conclusions: Abbr.}; 24d Gila {Arizona's ___ Mountains}; 29d per se {As such}; 30d prune {Trim, as a topiary}; 36d adds {Puts on}; 37d tie a {How to ___ knot (Boy Scout's lesson)}; 38d 'Enry {One of eight English kings, to a 45-Across}; 40d teeters {Could fall either way}; 41d T-Straps {Features of some sandals}; 42d slimes {Slanders really badly}; 44d rifled {Ransacked}; 46d are {"Right you ___!"}; 48d besos {Spanish kisses}; 51d pone {Soul food side dish}; 52d amie {Le Havre honey}; 53d nice! {"Well done!"}; 55d ran {Split}; 57d lit {Pie-eyed}; 58d née {Name tag?}.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NYT Wednesday 9/30/09 - By The Wayside

I felt at home with the theme of this Wednesday New York Times - although the writers concerned were all American, I had at least heard of them, which probably wouldn't have been the case for a similar idea in a different branch of the arts.

What was new to me is the clustering of these famous names in Concord, a stone's throw from our Beantown cousins in Lexington. Apparently Emerson (1803–1882) was the leading light of this group of Transcendentalists, attracting the other writers into his circle. We're clearly going to have to visit The Wayside (where the Alcotts, and then the Hawthornes, lived) on one of our visits east.

The constructor did well to spot the exceptional opportunities presented by the names concerned - the biggest coincidence being that Ralph Waldo Emerson's (5,5,7) pattern corresponds beautifully with Henry David Thoreau.
Solving time: 9 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 40d saw-teeth {Cutting-edge features}

Kevin G. Der
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Nineteenth century writers who lived in Concord, MA (the town spelled by the circled letters).
1a Ralph; 6a Waldo; 22a Emerson {Noted 19th-century writer}
24a Nathaniel; 53a Hawthorne {Noted 19th-century writer}
39a Louisa May Alcott {Noted 19th-century writer}
70a Henry; 71a David; 55a Thoreau {Noted 19th-century writer}
CompilersKevin G. Der / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 40 (17.8%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.74)
Theme squares67 (36.2%)
Scrabble points296 (average 1.60)
New To Me

one pair15a a pair {It beats nothing}. I was slightly uneasy about this answer, as I'm not familiar with the context. The clue seems to refer to poker, in which a One Pair hand defeats a High Card hand aka "nothing" or "garbage".

16a uke {Arthur Godfrey's instrument, informally}. I'm not sure if I've met Arthur Godfrey (1903–1983) before. Certainly something made me suspect that uke was the answer right away, but I couldn't tell you how. Godfrey, nicknamed "Old Redhead", was a radio and TV personality whose fame peaked in the 1950s. Oh now I remember ... Godfrey famously fired Julius LaRosa on air, something mentioned in a clue in the April 16, 2009 crossword. Here he is in a happier moment.

32a PTL {The Bakkers' old ministry, for short}. I had no idea about this one, believing it to relate to a government ministry, not a religious one. I gather that televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker had a daily TV show called The PTL Club (PTL being short for "Praise The Lord" or "Preachers Taking Loot", depending on which side you took). This all came to an end in the late 1980s as a result of sexual and financial scandals. Here's SNL's take on it all.

59a Elmer {Bull on glue bottles}. Another clue where I was very thankful for the crossings. I think I probably mentioned Elmer the Bull in previous discussions of his wife Elsie the Cow: it might seem odd that a glue mascot should be married to a dairy mascot, but it seems the diversified Borden Company had both these product lines.

Oriental Avenue10d Oriental {Monopoly avenue in the light-blue group}. I dread the Monopoly clues, because the UK board is quite different. Even the tokens were changed for the British market, though there are some in common between the two sets (hat, car, iron, e.g.). The British equivalent of Oriental Avenue is The Angel Islington - not a street, but an area of North London named after an old coaching inn.

11d Russo {Rene of "Lethal Weapon" movies}. Rene Russo apparently didn't make it into the franchise until Lethal Weapon 3 (1992). She plays Sergeant Lorna Cole - an internal affairs detective with expertise in martial arts.

Goodyear blimp12d Akron {Goodyear's Ohio headquarters}. If I'd known Akron was nicknamed "Rubber Capital of the World", I might have got this answer quicker. Akron was founded in 1825 at the summit of the Ohio and Erie Canal, which connected Lake Erie with the Ohio River and hence the Gulf of Mexico. B.F. Goodrich founded the first rubber company there in 1869. The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and Firestone Tire and Rubber Company followed in 1898 and 1900.

42d Tyne {Daly of "Judging Amy"}. I know of Tyne Daly mainly from Cagney & Lacey, which was a big hit in the UK. She's also on the recording I have of On The Town, signing the role of the cab-driver Hildy. Judging Amy was a TV show that ran from 1999 to 2005 in which Daly plays the mother of the family court judge, Amy.


The Ivies17a octad {The Ivies, e.g.}. I rationalized this, but it undoubtedly took me a whole lot longer because of my background. "The Ivies" I assume is a nickname for the Ivy League schools: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Penn, Yale. I make that eight ... check.

62a WALL•E {2008 Pixar robot}. Magdalen and I really enjoyed seeing WALL•E on first release. Apparently my 4-year-old niece found it a bit scary though, so it may be one of those kid's movies that's really for adults. I gather the technical name for that spot in the middle of the film title is an interpunct.

Apu7d Apu {TV's Kwik-E-Mart clerk}. It looks like references to The Simpsons are making a strong comeback this week. You're unlikely to see Apu Nahasapeemapetilon's surname, as it's 18 letters long. Both names together might make a dandy answer in a Sunday puzzle though.

HMS Victory63d lav {Head of London?}. A piece of deception that took a while to fathom. Use of "Head" like this always seems a bit of a stretch, as head meaning a toilet is nautical slang and not really used much of lavs. I guess the question mark at the end of the clue allows a bit of latitude. Incidentally, the name apparently arose because nautical toilet facilities were at the prow/head of the ship: the most practical location given wind direction (from the stern forward) and wave action.

The Rest

11a raj {British rule in India}; 14a icily {With aloofness}; 18a Dubai {Where Emirates Airline is based}; 19a Sra. {Málaga Mrs.}; 20a tra {Refrain syllable}; 29a neons {Some saloon signs}; 30a ate {Took in}; 31a situ {In ___ (as found)}; 33a chew {Meditate (on)}; 35a mer {Subject of a Debussy piece}; 36a lairs {Places to hibernate}; 43a splat {Mushy snowball sound}; 44a sei {Tre + tre}; 45a sway {Have influence on}; 46a Iwo {1945 Pacific battle site, briefly}; 47a ions {Solar wind particles}; 49a ein {"A" in German 101?}; 50a owlet {Little hooter}; 57a sob {___ sister}; 58a hid {Went underground}; 66a Eng. {H.S. subj.}; 67a tiara {Pope's triple crown}; 68a email {iPhone function}; 69a rye {Alternative to white}.

1d Rio {Copacabana locale}; 2d ACC {Georgia Tech's sports org.}; 3d lit {On}; 4d Plath {Sylvia who wrote "The Bell Jar"}; 5d hydras {Many-headed serpents}; 6d wad {Glob of gum}; 8d label {Place for a designer's name}; 9d diam. {Circular meas.}; 13d jeans {Casual wear}; 21d animato {Lively, on a score}; 23d relics {Tomb artifacts, e.g.}; 24d NaCl {Table salt, chemically}; 25d Athos {Friend of Aramis}; 26d tee up {Prepare to drive}; 27d item {Bullet point}; 28d Eurasia {Superstate in Orwell's "1984"}; 32d plaints {Lamentations}; 34d wilier {More artful}; 37d rower {Galley toiler}; 38d stain {Coffee spot}; 40d saw-teeth {Cutting-edge features}; 41d yeow! {"That hurts!"}; 48d showed {Didn't skip something}; 50d other {Alternative to this and that, with "the"}; 51d whiny {Prone to complaining}; 52d lodge {Rustic retreat}; 53d human {Any of us}; 54d Obama {"The Audacity of Hope" author}; 56d a lie {Get caught in ___}; 60d err {Muff one}; 61d ray {Bit of sunshine}; 64d LII {52, in old Rome}; 65d eld {Days of yore, in days of yore}.

Monday, September 28, 2009

NYT Tuesday 9/29/09 - The Main Idea

This Tuesday New York Times crossword was another one where I tried manfully to crack the theme quickly by homing in on the bottom right hand corner, but found it difficult to get at sea without all the answers that led into it, such as less fat and hard and fast. This didn't really matter too much, as the theme clues were helpful enough on their own.

The theme answers were nicely colorful examples of nautical phrases that have survived as idioms we're all familiar with. The one that I found surprising was deep-six, which I'd always assumed referred to land burials (i.e. from six feet under), but the term apparently relates to what was considered a respectable depth for burial at sea ... six fathoms.
Solving time: 8 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 58a allies {They're on your side}

Paula Gamache
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Phrases with a nautical origin, indicated by 71a at sea {Clueless ... or where the answers to this puzzle's starred clues were all first used}.
17a loose cannon {Dangerously unpredictable sort}
39a deep-six {Junk}
61a hard-and-fast {Inviolable, as rules}
11d in the offing {Likely to happen}
25d chock-a-block {Jammed}
CompilersPaula Gamache / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares56 (29.6%)
Scrabble points291 (average 1.54)
New To Me

2d ELO {"Evil Woman" band, for short}. ELO (like Eno and Ono in the same domain) are so ubiquitous that they don't always get a mention. But it's a bit of a quiet day for commentary, so here we go: Evil Woman was a 1975 hit for "The English guys with the big fiddles" and is from the band's fifth album Face the Music. The line "There's a hole in my head where the rain comes in" is a nod to "Fixing a Hole" by The Beatles.

Annie Leibovitz7d Annie {Photographer Leibovitz}. Annie Leibovitz is the American portrait photographer who first became famous for her work in Rolling Stone magazine. She did a photo shoot with John Lennon just hours before he was shot and killed on December 8, 1980; the resulting image appeared on the January 22, 1981 cover of Rolling Stone.

22d Toni {Collette of "The Sixth Sense"}. Toni Collette is an Australian actress and musician. I've seen her in the movie In Her Shoes (2005), but not the referenced thriller The Sixth Sense, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

Bide-A-Wee44d -A-Wee {Bide-___}. Cluing AWEE requires some delicacy. "bide a wee" rang vague bells with me, but I had to look it up to confirm the origin and usage. It's a Scots phrase meaning "stay a while" - a perennial favorite for naming B&Bs, golf courses, animal shelters etc etc.

Bill Blass55d Blass {Bill of fashion}. Bill Blass (1922–2002) has come up at least once already this year in the NYT, but his name didn't spring immediately to mind today. Bill Blass was known for his tailoring and his innovative combinations of textures and patterns; for an update on the fate of the brand that bears his name, see this New York Times article.

59d Edna {___ Krabappel of "The Simpsons"}. I have a working knowledge of characters from The Simpsons, but clearly not a good enough one for NYT puzzles. Edna Krabappel is Bart's teacher in the fourth grade class, being voiced by Marcia Wallace.


67a Ramis {Harold who directed "Groundhog Day"}. I mostly associate Harold Ramis with Ghostbusters (and sequels), and hadn't before appreciated his strengths as a director. When I saw Groundhog Day (1993) back in the UK, I never imagined I'd come to live cheek-by-jowl with the little varmints.

Lend-Lease8d Lend-Lease {War aid program passed by Congress in 1941}. I'm a bit vague on domestic programs from this period, but had of course heard of Lend-Lease - in signing it, the US sided more emphatically with the Allied nations and Hitler consequently stepped up submarine attacks on US merchant shipping. It took until 2006 for the UK to settle its wartime debt.

Mimi's cocked ear40d ear {It may be cocked or cupped}. Neat cluing idea, referencing two ways to make an ear hear more effectively.

TSA65d TSA {Luggage inspection org.}. TSA, short for Transportation Security Administration, will be familiar to anyone who has flown in the last few years. We find their little slips of paper in our luggage about half the time we fly out of the USA - a nice gesture. The TSA is apparently heavily criticized for thefts from baggage, but the only problem (and it was a big one) we had happened flying into the USA: Magdalen and I did many transatlantic flights at the height of the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot scare and the one time we were forced to place laptops in hold luggage at Heathrow, one went missing, assumed stolen.

The Rest

1a cedar {Moth-repellent closet material}; 6a talon {Osprey's claw}; 11a IVs {E.R. hookups}; 14a elude {Get around}; 15a Enero {First month in México}; 16a not! {"Just kidding!"}; 19a TWA {Old "Up, up and away" carrier}; 20a placid {Even-tempered}; 21a other {Last choice on a questionnaire}; 23a vice {Nasty habit}; 26a Shel {Silverstein of children's literature}; 27a noels {Christmas carols}; 28a inhale {Take a breath}; 30a econo- {Commercial prefix meaning "low price"}; 32a stoke {Add fuel to, as a fire}; 33a reap {Harvest}; 35a if at {"___ first you don't succeed ..."}; 38a 'tec {Sleuth, slangily}; 42a Fra {Monk's title}; 43a Alka {___-Seltzer}; 45a Abie {Irish Rose's beau}; 46a I lied {Coming-clean declaration}; 48a aware {Clued in}; 50a Vienna {___ Boys' Choir}; 51a saber {Cousin of a foil}; 53a lobe {Bottom of a 40-Down}; 56a Sgts. {Three-stripers: Abbr.}; 57a inlet {Entrance to a bay}; 58a allies {They're on your side}; 60a GTO {Bygone muscle car}; 66a mic {Abbr. on an input jack}; 68a names {May and June, but not July}; 69a ask {"___ and ye shall receive"}; 70a oh yes! {"But of course!"}.

1d cel {Animation frame}; 3d duo {Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, e.g.}; 4d adspeak {Marketers' "language"}; 5d reel {Fishing line holder}; 6d teach {Show the ropes}; 9d oro {Conquistador's quest}; 10d no no no! {"That is completely the wrong way!"}; 12d vowel {One of five different ones in "sequoia"}; 13d stars {Roster at the Oscars}; 18d case {Private eye's project}; 23d vista {Scene from a summit}; 24d Intel {Big chipmaker}; 29d led {Set the pace}; 31d CPI {Cost-of-living stat.}; 33d rebel army {Insurgent group}; 34d epi- {Prefix with center or cycle}; 36d aren't {Ain't right?}; 37d tadas {Triumphant cries}; 41d XII {Noon, on a sundial}; 47d less fat {Healthful claim on labels}; 49d arthro- {Joint: Prefix}; 50d vein {Blood line}; 51d sigma {Summation symbol}; 52d antis {Nay sayers}; 54d oldie {Any Beatles tune, now}; 62d aah! {"That feels so-o-o good!"}; 63d AMs. {Morning hrs.}; 64d see {Visit with}.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

NYT Monday 9/28/09 - Failure to Appear

This Monday New York Times crossword was another very gentle start to the week and I equaled my best time I think. Getting under five minutes is going to be tough when working on paper - I definitely waste a lot of time searching for clues that would be right there if I solved on a computer. But I still like the flexibility of the old-fashioned solving method.

Although I noted the theme as expressed in the long across answers when solving, it only occurred to me that down answers might also be involved when pointing out to Magdalen that the across material was a bit skimpy. Then I noticed drug bust and flip-flop!
Solving time: 5 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 69a alps {High points of a European trip?}

Lynn Lempel
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Each of five long answers ends in a slang term for a failure:
17a cold turkey {Abrupt way to quit}
40a milk dud {Chocolaty morsel munched at movies}
63a cherry bomb {Round, red firecracker}
11d drug bust {Narcs' raid}
39d flip-flop {Beach footwear}
CompilersLynn Lempel / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares43 (22.8%)
Scrabble points325 (average 1.72)
New To Me

30a Pérez {Actress Rosie of "Do the Right Thing"}. Rosie Pérez is an American actress and made her feature film debut in the referenced Spike Lee movie Do the Right Thing (1989). She plays Tina, the Latina girlfriend of Spike Lee's character Mookie.

Nathan Hale13d spy {Nathan Hale, notably}. I had a nasty feeling that I should know this guy already, but searching through my blog suggests he hasn't been referenced in the NYT recently. I gather Nathan Hale (1755–1776) was America's first spy, being captured on an intelligence-gathering trip during the American Revolutionary War and hanged by the British. Oh, he was the guy whose famous last words were "I only regret that I have but one life to give my country".

38d Edna {"Giant" writer Ferber}. A Giant reference that for once has nothing to do with sports teams. Edna Ferber (1885–1968) published the novel Giant in 1952. It was made into a successful movie (1956 - famous as James Dean's last) and there's now a musical.


Ransom Eli Olds14a Eli {The "E" in 68-Across}; 68a REO {Classic car inits.}. REO is a familiar enough answer in American puzzles: the brand name for these classic cars derives from the initials of their creator Ransom Eli Olds (18641950). Interestingly, Olds' use of assembly lines for producing cars predates Henry Ford's - I'd always thought Ford was the pioneer in the technique.

craps table16a crap {Losing roll in a casino}. An interesting answer, as it sheds light on what kind of words are considered taboo in the NYT crossword. Apparently schmucks was in a puzzle once, and is now a no-no because of objections relating to its original Yiddish meaning. It looks like crap is OK if you clue it with reference to the casino game, and indeed the etymology of the game is different to that for the familiar slang usage. Craps comes from, and was originally called, crapaud (French for "toad"). One wonders if the word will offend nevertheless: crap hasn't appeared as an answer in recent times, although craps gets rolled out about once every two years on average.

alps69a alps {High points of a European trip?}. With all the generous cross-checking around, it didn't hold me up for a moment, but I still like this misleading clue.

2d Eloise {Fictional girl at the Plaza Hotel}. I think Magdalen must be an fan, as she has at least one of the Eloise books. Two made-for-TV movies have appeared, starring Sofia Vassilieva as Eloise and Julie Andrews as Nanny.

The Niagara Frontier6d War {___ of 1812}. I'd heard of the War of 1812, but wanted to look this one up to get my mind clearer about it. In the past I've only associated 1812 with a Tchaikovsky piece, but I see now that it all ties in: the 1812 Overture celebrates Russia's defense of Moscow against Napoleon, and the War of 1812 started over Britain's attempts to restrict trade between France and the United States. While the Napoleonic Wars were preoccupying Britain in Europe, the United States took the opportunity to declare war on Britain and proceeded to invade Canada. Much of the action took place around Niagara, where we were this summer.

35d 'tis {"___ better to have loved and lost ..."}. Words from In Memoriam A.H.H. by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892), completed in 1849. It is a requiem for the poet's Cambridge friend Arthur Henry Hallam.

The Rest

1a REM {Sleep stage, for short}; 4a raw egg {Nog ingredient}; 10a adds {Opposite of subtracts}; 15a azalea {Relative of a rhododendron}; 19a Rudy {Former Big Apple mayor Giuliani}; 20a oilier {More greasy}; 21a zero g {State of weightlessness, as in space}; 23a user {Consumer}; 24a -ette {Suffix with cigar}; 27a abbot {Monk's superior}; 32a oar {Boat rower}; 33a mauve {Purplish}; 34a rat on {Betray by blabbing}; 36a bats in {Brings home for a score}; 37a ref {B-ball official}; 42a TDs {N.F.L. six-pointers}; 43a ad-libs {Talks off the cuff}; 45a tunas {Bluefin and albacore}; 47a unite {Join forces}; 48a Joe {V.P. Biden}; 49a nasal {___ congestion}; 53a La Paz {Bolivian capital}; 54a opts {Chooses, with "for"}; 56a Hopi {Southwest Indian}; 57a flies {Gets around like Superman}; 59a A-lines {Flared skirts}; 61a Mali {Saharan country south of Algeria}; 66a bloc {Political coalition}; 67a resign {Quit one's job}; 70a US Open {Annual tennis championship in Queens, N.Y.}; 71a Ann {Advice columnist Landers}.

1d recoup {Get back, as lost money}; 3d Miller {Arthur who wrote "Death of a Salesman"}; 4d rate {Label G or PG, e.g.}; 5d azure {Color of a picture-postcard sky}; 7d elk {Antlered animal}; 8d geezer {Old, crotchety guy}; 9d Gaye {Marvin of Motown}; 10d acrobat {Circus performer}; 12d dad {Mom's mate}; 18d direr {More grim}; 22d Ramadan {Month-long Islamic observance}; 25d tool {Hammer or saw}; 26d tank top {Close-fitting sleeveless shirt}; 28d Ovid {Roman love poet}; 29d tens {Fives and ___}; 31d Zambezi {Africa's fourth-longest river and site of Victoria Falls}; 36d bun {Hot dog holder}; 37d Raul {Fidel Castro's brother}; 41d duet {Performing pair}; 44d italics {Type for book titles}; 46d sahib {Form of address in British India}; 48d joshes {Teases playfully}; 50d Sonora {Mexican state on the Gulf of California}; 51d apemen {Tarzan and kin}; 52d Lisbon {Portugal's capital}; 55d sarge {Beetle Bailey's boss}; 58d ecru {Light brown}; 60d Lynn {One of the Redgrave sisters}; 61d MBA {Degree for a C.E.O.}; 62d all {Entirely}; 64d eso {That, south of the border}; 65d Rip {___ Van Winkle}.

NPR Puzzle -- 09/27/09 UP Where We Belong

Here's today's puzzle:
Take the family name of a famous world leader in history. Drop the last letter, then switch the last two letters that remain. The result will name the country that this leader led. Who is it and what is the country?
There are a couple reasons why Ross and I think this is not the strongest puzzle we've seen, but I'll wait until Thursday to discuss them. Suffice it to say if you've already solved the puzzle you've thought of the concerns. And if you haven't: expect the unexpected that you've come to expect with the NPR puzzles.

Another from the autumnal photos chez CrosswordMan. This is our view from our deck, looking down into a tiny valley that collects mist under certain conditions. Sometimes the fog is so thick that this very view is all white! (I won't insult you with a photo of that, though.)

September in our neck of Pennsylvania is very humid but not hot. Thus you can end up soaking in sweat while the thermometer insists it's a comfortable 72°F! Oh, and one of our lilac bushes is blooming. It's a strange time of year, that's for sure.

Will honored NPR's theme of Michigan's Upper Peninsula this week in his on-air puzzle. He tried a variety of ways the letters U and P could occur in the answer. (My favorite was "Four-letter word ending UP where the P is silent.") I'm going to try just one of Will's puzzles, namely two word phrases where a single U appears somewhere in the first word, and a single P in the second word. In order to make this challenging but not impossible, I have included the lengths of the words.

Ben Franklin founded this (with "of") (10, 12)

There's one in Cape Canaveral (6, 3)

Nanny from Europe (2, 4)

A bunch of girls doing everything but sleep (7, 5)

This eliminates two runners (6, 4)

An error in communication that reveals more than one intended (8, 4)

Shiftless TV addict (5, 6)

Used to prevent frost in the orchard (5, 4)

Trains, buses, and the subway (6, 14)

McDonald's offering (7, 7)

Flat with up and down? (6, 9)

Eat here & get gas? (5, 4)

You can tell it holds eight ounces (9, 3)

Foodie's facial hair? (6, 5)

Kind of stock? (4, 4)

NYT Sunday 9/27/09 - XLNC

This Sunday New York Times crossword was another that Magdalen and I solved together after midnight. We'd been to see the current show at the Cider Mill Playhouse - 8-Track: The Sounds of the 70's. Magdalen seemed to know all the songs, but I only remembered about a quarter of them - maybe because some US hits didn't make it to the UK, but probably because I wasn't hugely into popular music at the time (was I ever?).

Anyway, we were a little puzzled at the start why the longer answers seemed to be normally clued, but then rationalized our first rebus square (the tooth decay one, I think) and were off. We have met this type of idea before, but this one was implemented with some excellency: the only very minor blemish we noted is that all the letter pairs correspond to one answer word except for CU in see you later; and we regretted that the rebus squares weren't symmetrically disposed, as that would have helped with the solving (but concede the idea must have been hard enough to implement without that added constraint).
Solving time: 45 mins (with Magdalen, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 7d alarm {Screamer at a crime scene}

Patrick Berry
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Thirteen "rebus" squares contain two letters. In one direction these are a normal part of the answer; in the other direction, the answer contains the sound of the two letters:
31a tooth decay {Dental problem} DK
70a Around the World in Eighty Days {1873 adventure novel that begins and ends in London}
87a rest easy {Stop worrying} EZ
108a poison ivy {It's not to be touched} IV
116a green with envy {Jealous} NV
2d photo essay {Life magazine staple} SA
13d carpe diem {Latin catchphrase sometimes seen on sundials} DM
14d see you later {Casual farewell} CU
48d Eydie Gormé {Singer who played herself in "Ocean's Eleven"} ED
60d Katey Sagal {"Married ... With Children" actress} KT
67d to excess {How drunks drink} XS
94d Casey Jones {Driver of the Cannonball Special} KC
104d Kewpie doll {Carny booth prize} QP
The highlight for me was Casey Jones, the title of a hugely popular TV show in our household when I was a small kid ... my younger sisters loved to sing the theme tune, but never quite picked up what the words were (so "steamin' and a-rollin'" became "steaming à la Roman" etc). Here's the real thing:

CompilersPatrick Berry / Will Shortz
Grid21x21 with 72 (16.3%) black squares
Answers138 (average length 5.35)
Theme squares142 (38.5%)
Scrabble points581 (average 1.57)
New To Me

Leopard10a iMac {Leopard's home?}. Leopard is apparently the nickname for the otherwise prosaically dubbed "Mac OS X version 10.5". This attempt to mislead was perhaps too obvious for Apple users and maybe too obscure for PC users ... and you tend to be in one or the other camp. The market share for operating systems is now about 5% Mac and 93% Windows according to the Net Applications site, though I suspect there may be a higher proportion of Mac users than that among solvers of the NYT.

97a poem {Masters piece}. That "Masters" really does have a capital M, since this clue refers to the American poet Edgar Lee Masters (1869-1950). His most famous work is the Spoon River Anthology, a collection of short free-form poems that collectively describe the life of the fictional small town of Spoon River, named after the real Spoon River that ran near Masters' home town.

106a atonic {Unaccented syllable}. A dictionary word obscure enough that I haven't encountered it before. "Unaccented" is in the sense of "unstressed" (rather than lacking a grave/acute etc): when a word is pronounced, the stressed syllable is the tonic, the unstressed syllables are atonic.

43d Dinah {Singer Washington}. Dinah Washington (1924–1963) was an American singer known as the "Queen of the Blues"; although she died young, she was one of the most influential vocalists of the twentieth century. Here she is performing in a very odd dress at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.


60a K-tel {Music compilation marketer}. This took our minds back to 8-Track: The Sounds of the 70's, which opens with the cast plugging a song compilation à la K-tel.

81a mare {Flicka, e.g.}. A reference to the 1941 novel My Friend Flicka and its two sequels, written by Mary O'Hara. I think my mother has/had this one on her shelves, which is how I came to remember it. It spawned popular film and TV adaptations.

125a Yeats {"Sailing to Byzantium" writer}. I got this answer right by accident: it seems Yeats wrote a poem called Sailing to Byzantium (1927) and one called just Byzantium (1930), which seems to be a rethinking of the earlier poem. I in fact only knew the latter, from Sir Michael Tippett's 1991 piece for soprano and orchestra of the same name.

The Rest

1a appal {Horrify}; 6a pack {Get ready to go}; 14a cudgel {Club}; 19a shine {Excel}; 20a alai {Jai ___}; 21a mama {Baby carrier}; 22a Leone {Sierra ___}; 23a Costa Brava {Resort region near Barcelona}; 25a pharmacist {Drug distributor}; 27a Ott {Famous Giant}; 28a Terri {Country singer Gibbs}; 29a ore {Vein contents}; 30a patines {Surface films: Var.}; 33a marker gene {Key sequence in a chromosome}; 36a gab {Chitchat}; 37a salient {Very noticeable}; 39a Riis {Jacob who wrote "How the Other Half Lives"}; 40a admirable {Praiseworthy}; 42a proud {Self-satisfied}; 44a tests {Hospital bill items}; 46a dys- {Prefix with function}; 47a reds {Chianti and Beaujolais}; 50a blitz {Big rush}; 52a Rubik's {___ Cube}; 56a agts. {Authors' aids: Abbr.}; 58a Sino- {___-Japanese War}; 59a Topeka {Brown v. Board of Education city}; 63a forma {Pro ___}; 65a palatal {Of the mouth's roof}; 68a foresee {Envision}; 73a emptier {Less popular, as a restaurant}; 74a Rex Stout {"Fer-de-Lance" mystery novelist}; 75a sagos {Certain palms}; 76a Les {"WKRP in Cincinnati" role}; 77a tee pad {Driving surface}; 79a pate {Crown}; 82a came at {Attacked}; 83a Benin {Republic once known as Dahomey}; 84a Lee {Surname of two signers of the Declaration of Independence}; 85a A to {From ___ Z}; 90a enter {Take part in}; 93a crank case {Dipstick housing}; 99a Graham {Car make of the 1930s}; 102a amt {No. on a check}; 103a John Q Public {American everyman}; 110a dry {Like some humor}; 111a Doria {Andrea known as the liberator of Genoa}; 113a is a {"Patience ___ virtue"}; 114a Liam Neeson {Ethan Frome portrayer, 1993}; 118a Ernie {"Sesame Street" regular}; 119a role {It might be assumed}; 120a Aida {Opera set in ancient Egypt}; 121a atria {Courtyards}; 122a teats {Baby bottle tops}; 123a sold {Tag in an antique store}; 124a tbsp. {Med. dose}.

1d ascot {Dressy tie}; 3d pistol {Something to draw}; 4d ant {Queen's servant, maybe}; 5d leather {Baseball coverage?}; 6d Parr {Catherine who survived Henry VIII}; 7d alarm {Screamer at a crime scene}; 8d caviar {Pricey appetizer}; 9d Kia {Maker of the Optima}; 10d impress {Wow}; 11d Maher {"Real Time With Bill ___"}; 12d AMA {Antismoking org.}; 15d deci- {Numerical prefix}; 16d going by {Passing}; 17d enseals {Closes tight}; 18d lets be {Doesn't bother}; 24d bedknobs {Post decorations on four-posters}; 26d Man I {"The ___ Love" (Gershwin song)}; 29d Okie {Depression-era migrant}; 32d tip {Recommendation}; 34d Ritz {Prestigious London hotel}; 35d gas up {Fill the tank}; 38d tulip-tree {Yellow poplar}; 41d ads {Some pop-ups}; 45d Trollope {Author of the Barsetshire novels}; 47d Rafael {San ___ (San Francisco suburb)}; 49d strops {Barbershop sights}; 51d tolerate {Stomach}; 53d befitting {Suitable for}; 54d ikon {Venerated image: Var.}; 55d karats {Units of fineness}; 57d smut {Offensive lines?}; 59d tart {Like vinaigrette}; 61d Eeyore {Gloomy Milne character}; 62d lessee {Flat dweller}; 64d Anita {One of the Pointer Sisters}; 66d awed {Full of fear}; 69d Edam {Dutch export}; 71d deem {Judge}; 72d Duane {Guitarist Eddy}; 78d paren. {One end of a digression, for short?}; 80d entrain {Go aboard}; 82d con {Flimflam}; 83d bezel {Chisel face}; 85d armoire {Large wardrobe}; 86d Tatiana {"From Russia With Love" Bond girl Romanova}; 88d spurned {Rejected as unworthy}; 89d Toby {Mug with a mug}; 91d eat away {Corrode}; 92d rho {Density symbol}; 93d caplet {Pill that's easily swallowed}; 95d A-one {Excellent}; 96d shivers {Flu symptom, with "the"}; 98d midrib {Leaf vein}; 100d Anitra {"Peer Gynt" princess}; 101d mishit {Bad connection, say}; 105d Coeds {"Here Come the ___" (Abbott and Costello film set at a girls' school)}; 107d canvas {Sneaker material}; 109d smit {Struck down, old-style}; 112d reap {Harvest}; 115d Soo {The Great Lakes' ___ Locks}; 116d gat {Slang for a 3-Down}; 117d -ite {Suffix with favor}.

Friday, September 25, 2009

NYT Saturday 9/26/09 - Dream Job

This Saturday New York Times crossword was about as difficult as yesterday's, but compared to that, seemed a much more even challenge. Each area of the grid seemed to hold me up about the same amount and there was no particular trouble spot that really stuck out: a great job of balancing the vocabulary and cluing.

Looking back, I see I've enjoyed Joon Pahk's previous end-of-week puzzles, and this is another grid fill that I'm in awe of. It's hard to find a weakness: Leo X isn't great, but it was clued interestingly and we had Xerxes to compensate. Perhaps basal body would have been best avoided? Other than those, it's hard to fault the cleanness of the fill and, with cluing to match, this has to be one of the best puzzles of the year - a dream job.
Solving time: 40 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 30a read {Enjoyed London or France}

Joon Pahk
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersJoon Pahk / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 27 (12.0%) black squares
Answers72 (average length 5.50)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points326 (average 1.65)
New To Me

RedSox25a Red Sox {Team known as the Americans until 1907}. Once again, I would have benefited from the knowledge of our Beantown cousins. The well-known team name only began when the Red Sox changed their uniforms to show a large red stocking across the shirt front in the 1908 season.

43a Sendak {Author of the controversial kids' book "In the Night Kitchen"}. In the Night Kitchen is apparently controversial in the US because the hero of the story - a young boy called Mickey - spends much of the story fully naked and is drawn in an anatomically correct fashion. Librarians and readers are apparently liable to improve the drawings by adding pants (trousers for British readers) etc. Where the Wild Things Are seems less worrying to people and is all over the media at the moment because of the impending film adaptation.

50a Zaire {1971-97 nation name}. I could envisage Zaire being called something different before independence (in fact the Belgian Congo), but I'd somehow failed to notice that the country had been renamed again in 1997 to the Democratic Republic of the Congo - this the result of Laurent-Desire Kabila taking control.

67a basal body {Cell organelle with microtubules}. I guess if you end up with this answer, there's no way to clue it interestingly. The Wikipedia page on basal body just describes it in terms of more long words I don't know (and don't want to know?).

Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge22d Hodges {His #14 was retired by the Mets}. Another famous baseball player that I wouldn't have seen at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Gil Hodges was considered one of the finest players of the 1950s and enjoyed success as a manager at the New York Mets ... he was a great offensive player, but never top-ranking in any of the statistics that count apparently. Anyway, they renamed the Marine Parkway Bridge in his memory and that may count for more.

Anthony Kennedy46d Kennedy {Successor to Powell on the Supreme Court}. Is everyone expected to know The Nine by heart? Anthony Kennedy was a Reagan appointee and is considered the swing vote in many of the politically charged 5–4 decisions.

58d Earl {N.B.A. legend Monroe with a signature spin move}. Earl Monroe is a former professional basketball player known variously as "Earl The Pearl," "Black Magic", and "Black Jesus" and known for his flamboyant moves.

Jefferson62d UVA {It was founded by Thos. Jefferson}. Yes, Thomas Jefferson managed to fit founding the University of Virginia ("Mr. Jefferson's University") in between writing the Declaration of Independence and becoming Pres #3.


Kyrie Eleison1a Vatican II {Momentous 1960s convention}; 60a Latin {1-Across topic}. Was Woodstock an intentional red herring here? In which case, shame on you JP! :-) I didn't persist with it for long, since I was fairly confident of vis-à-vis at 1-Down. It took a long time to parse the answer, but I eventually recognized it was the 1962 to 1965 council that led to major reform in the Catholic Church ... including the use of the vernacular rather than Latin as the language for the liturgy - a move which offended diehards like Evelyn Waugh (how I came to know about it). My experience of the Catholic Mass comes largely from classical music, so I would probably recognize the liturgy better in Latin than English.

shiner21a shiners {They may come with socks}. I thought the answer might be earbuds - those little fabric covers that protect earpieces are called "socks" right, or did I just invent that? Anyway, the socks in question are quite different.

Dodgertown23a Vero {___ Beach (former home of Dodgertown)}. Last time Vero came up, I mentioned the connection with the Los Angeles Dodgers and this must have helped me remember the place. Looks like we'll be going right through Vero Beach next month on our trip to Florida.

30a read {Enjoyed London or France}. Was taken in by this for a few minutes, but eventually worked out the clue references authors Jack London and Anatole France. Neat clue.

36a rand {Capital of East London}. Joon Pahk played much the same trick in his March 13 puzzle and I wasn't about to be fooled a second time. East London is in South Africa, where the currency is the rand.

54a kaon {Particle named for a letter of the alphabet}. This has to be muon, right? Ok, not that ... perhaps pion? I finally got to kaon, cursing the unhelpfulness of the clue.

bun59a bun {Do without much daring?}. Seemingly a play on derring-do, a bun being among the more conservative hairstyles.

2d anapest {"In the Mood," e.g.}. Nothing to do with the song popularized by Glenn Miller per se, the words themselves exemplifying the short-short-long anapest (as does a-na-pest itself).

Southern Belles26d deb {Miss throwing a ball}. Doubly misleading, with both "Miss" and "ball" apt to be taken the wrong way. The clue (to my mind) refers to a débutante's "coming-out" (though not in the contemporary sense). Hmm ... researches on flickr suggest that the US has its own tradition of débutante balls that is alive and well, especially in the South, where débutantes are also referred to as Southern Belles.

41d litotes {Figure of speech like "no mean feat"}. When I was 12 or so, my English teacher thought it a great idea for our class to learn figures of speech like metaphors, similes, hyperbole and, yes, litotes. He was a bit crazy to think this would be at all helpful to us in life, but that's why I had no difficulty with this clue: in litotes, you deny the opposite of something for rhetorical effect. Another example might be "he's not exactly sober", of someone clearly drunk.

44d diabolo {Game involving spinning a top on a string}. A diabolo is like a yo-yo with the string untied and skilled diabolists can do similarly amazing tricks with them.

Pinta52d Pinta {One of a sailing trio}. I now recognize a clue like this for what it is: a reference to Columbus's three ships, the Santa María, Pinta (the Painted) and Santa Clara, nicknamed Niña.

suds63d pub {Bath suds spot?}. Anyone else try mat here? That question mark should have told me to expect greater deception: in fact, I've only just realized that Bath is the city in Western England and it's only suds that's the slang for beer (presumably of the foamy variety). Too clever by half?

The Rest

10a rivet {Transfix}; 15a in a moment {"Hold your horses!"}; 16a aroma {Cooking product}; 17a sans souci {Carefree}; 18a dates {Takes out}; 19a apt {Right on}; 20a Tut {King ___}; 27a SAE {MS. enclosure}; 28a Isuzu {Axiom producer}; 31a kill {Take out}; 32a St Mark {Patron of barristers and notaries}; 34a big bands {Swing set players?}; 38a dear {Bosom}; 39a folklore {Domain of Paul Bunyan}; 47a iris {Flag in a garden}; 48a Leo X {Pope who excommunicated Martin Luther}; 51a Ret. {Abbr. for some generals}; 52a planes {Nose-in-the-air types?}; 55a egotism {Nathaniel Hawthorne story subtitled "The Bosom-Serpent"}; 57a rue {Part of an Avignon address}; 61a juxtapose {Put together}; 64a inert {Hard to get a reaction out of}; 65a overruled {Judge's cry}; 66a to sea {Where the owl and the pussycat went, in a poem}.

1d vis-à-vis {In relation to}; 3d tantrum {Fit}; 4d IMs {Contacts 21st century-style}; 5d cost {Fare, e.g.}; 6d amour {Dijon darling}; 7d neuter {Like it}; 8d inc. {Business end?}; 9d it is said {"According to some ..."}; 10d radix {Base of a number system}; 11d Iran {Bahai's birthplace}; 12d votes in {Provides with a seat}; 13d emerald {May symbol}; 14d tassels {Clothes hangers?}; 24d Ozarks {Location of the Boston Mountains and Buffalo River}; 29d Ural {Territory east of Ukraine on a Risk board}; 31d Karnak {Egyptian temple complex near Luxor}; 33d knolls {Small rises}; 35d Baez {"And a Voice to Sing With" memoirist}; 37d dream job {Worker's ideal}; 39d firelit {Romantic, perhaps}; 40d oregano {Cousin of catnip}; 42d eon {Gigayear}; 45d aroused {Like a cat playing in catnip}; 49d Xerxes {Victor at Thermopylae, 480 B.C.}; 53d sutra {Hindu maxim}; 56d tire {Flag}.