Thursday, September 10, 2009

NYT Friday 9/11/09 - Finger Trouble

The grid for this Friday New York Times crossword is one of the oddest-looking I've seen this year. Those long "fingers" of black squares look really ugly to me and effectively split the crossword up into four mini-puzzles, when I really hope that by solving one part of a grid, I get a leg-up into another. Here, the only real link between the parts is those three long answers - very strange.

So throughout the solving process, I wondered "what kind of constraints would result in a grid like this?". I searched for messages on diagonals, links between answers in rows/columns, and even the possibility of a di- or -tri-pangrammatic grid. I'm still looking, and this left me feeling a bit disappointed.

However, in terms of the actual solving experience, the time it took and enjoyment factor were about the same as usual ... suggesting that the editing process overcame any dangers there were in the nature of the grid. I did get stuck in a minor way after 20 minutes or so, with the small NE block unfilled and the bottom left and bottom middle blocks largely empty - luckily, I managed to break into those areas without too much frustration.
Solving time: 30 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 47a speeder {One hoping not to be cited}

Caleb Madison
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersCaleb Madison / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 42 (18.7%) black squares
Answers70 (average length 5.23)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points305 (average 1.67)
New To Me

10a Fess {Parker of "Old Yeller"}. Neither Fess Parker nor Old Yeller meant anything to me, so I just had to look them up. That era of Disney feature films is a little before my time, but I'm willing to forgive anything for a movie about a dog.

Ares54a Ares {Hawk with a crested helmet}. Never shook the impression that the clue's "Hawk" was the bird. It's clear after some research that this hawk is the figurative war-mongering kind and the reference is probably to Ares the DC Comics character.

Portrait of Lucas De Clercq61a Hals {"Lucas de Clercq" portraitist, ca. 1635}. Worked this out from just the terminal S, knowing that 43-Down was likely a regular plural. Wouldn't have got it from the name of the picture, which is definitely new to me. This Frans Hals oil is in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

13d swans {Group of "nine-and-fifty" in a Yeats poem}. The poem is The Wild Swans at Coole. I think poetry readings are one of the greatest things about YouTube - words like these are meant to be read aloud:

22d Is I {"Woe ___" (Patricia T. O'Conner best seller)}. With a title like that, I expected the book to be about grammar, and indeed Woe Is I is subtitled "The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English". Patricia O'Conner is an editor at The New York Times Book Review. A new edition is due out next week, so this is timely (one wonders if Will had a review copy on his desk when faced with the task of cluing ISI).

39d Not {Jimmy Dorsey's "___ Mine"}. Not Mine was a 1942 hit for Jimmy Dorsey, brother to Tommy. Can't find a clip of that, so will have to make do with the King Porter Stomp from Hollywood Canteen (1944).

Tropfenwagen53d Benz {Maker of the 1923 "Teardrop" racecar}. I'm not familiar with the car, but knew Benz to be a very early maker of automobiles. The Tropfenwagen, with it's "teardrop" body was innovative in its mid-engine layout and aerodynamic shape.


Mustache hat17a Arps {The lithograph "Mustache Hat" and others}. I'm now so used to seeing Jean Arp (1886–1966) in crosswords that I expect him to be the three-letter answer to any clue with a whiff of Dadaism about it. "Mustache Hat" was one of a series of "object pictures" (eg Mustache Hat, The Navel Bottle, Mustache Watch, Eggbeater) that combine allusions to body parts and everyday things. The original can be seen at the MOMA site, but here's a contemporary interpretation in wool.

19a Java {Joe}; 29d mud {Joe}. A neat pairing - I wonder what they'd have done if they needed a fourth slang term for coffee? Diner lingo can't help on this one.

21a Boyz II Men {"I'll Make Love to You" Grammy winners}. I've come a long way since I started on New Year's Day and thought this was Boyzii Men. I'll Make Love to You is a hit single from 1994 by the R&B group Boyz II Men.

Ye Olde Shoppe48a olde {Word on many medieval signs}. I'm not sure if "medieval" is intended literally here or ironically to the fayres celebrating times of yore. I'm sure there would be more Oldes on signs at the latter than in a real medieval setting - I doubt there were many Ye Olde Shoppes in the 16th century!

55a amens {They're often directed at shepherds}. Another highly misleading clue, with "shepherds" needing to be understood as clergymen before the answer makes any kind of sense.

Wars of the Roses57a rose {Either of two opposing war emblems}. A reference that's slightly easier for me to get: the emblems are the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster, representing the houses that fought in the Wars of the Roses. The names refer to the dukedoms, so have little geographical relevance to the current English counties, but Lancashire and Yorkshire nevertheless use the roses as their emblems. We're definitely Yorkists, as my brother's family lives in Naburn near the City of York, and Magdalen and I got married in the county.

62a iPods {They might be in docks}. You might say an iPod is "docked", but is "dock" used in place of "docking station"? I'm not sure, and the clue might have been better as just {They might be docked}.

63a Fonz {Old sitcom mechanic, with "the"}. Happy Days, of course, which I watched from time-to-time as a kid. Maybe that's why I'm keen to see a carhop diner - that's the only kind of diner I thought they had in America! Anyone know of one where the waitstaff use rollerskates?

2d Bert Lahr {Noted coward player}. Bert Lahr is another name that's now familiar again thanks to these wonderful crozwords.

TPs4d TPs {Plays a sophomoric prank on, informally}. I was introduced to the term TP by one of the little beans. I gather rolls were sometimes thrown at footballsoccer matches in Britain, but I've never seen them being wielded as a prank. Time for a little Flickr research.

teeth11d enamel {It's found on the cusp}. Another beautifully misleading clue. This cusp is dental, being a pointy bit of a tooth: canines have one, premolars aka bicuspids have two, while molars have four or five.

Moe Szyslak28d Moe {Guy seen in funny shorts}. Another great clue: the shorts in question are not for wearing, but the comedy shorts of The Simpsons.

Postscript: my first reaction to the clue shows just how well I know The Simpsons relative to The Three Stooges, what's really being referred to here. Their films are properly called "shorts" ... Simpsons episodes, while short, aren't shorts in the film sense!

34d Sar. {Mediterranean isl.}. Sardinia, I presume - not the most commonly used abbr.

46d drum up {Successfully solicit}. I put in draw in with a reasonable amount of confidence ... one reason I got held up at the bottom of the grid.

Per ardua ad astra57d RAF {"Per ardua ad astra" org.}. Easier for me than most Americans, I imagine. "Through Struggle to the Stars" was first used by the Royal Flying Corps in 1912 and was kept when the organization became the RAF in 1918.

The Rest

1a I bet {"Uh-huh"}; 5a McJob {Position with no prospects}; 14a re-up {Extend one's service}; 15a Aruba {Part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands}; 16a anew {Way to start}; 18a panel {Game show feature}; 20a nth {Degree of magnitude?}; 23a loam {Brickmaking mixture}; 26a Easters {Churchgoing times for many nonchurchgoers}; 27a car commercials {They may convince people to get rides}; 31a white-out {Blizzard hazard}; 32a trained assassin {One who has practiced his hitting skills}; 40a Italiano {Lingua d'Europa}; 41a Schindler's List {Highest-grossing black-and-white film of all time}; 49a Mario Puzo {Two-time Oscar winner for Best Adapted Screenplay}; 52a nab {Nail}; 58a stat {Trading card figure}; 59a lures {They'll get you biting responses}; 60a a ton {Immensely}.

1d Iran {Home of Sharif University of Technology}; 3d euphoria {High}; 5d map {It might tell you where you stand}; 6d crab {Sourpuss}; 7d Juno {Pantheonic queen}; 8d obeyer {One who's not refractory}; 9d Balzac {"La Cousine Bette" novelist}; 10d fajita {Beef or chicken dish}; 12d severs {Disaffiliates}; 24d Act I {Show opening}; 25d Moen {Big name in faucetry}; 27d cwt {43.359 kg.}; 30d e-tail {Business involving clicking}; 33d Ste. {Part of many Canadian place names: Abbr.}; 35d also {"See" follower in a footnote}; 36d sill {It's often under glass}; 37d said no to {Denied}; 38d in season {Ripe}; 41d Sparta {Domain of King Tyndareus}; 42d cereal {Quaker offering}; 43d heists {Holdups}; 44d I do {Bit of swearing in front of a church leader}; 45d Nepali {Rupee spender}; 47d smash {Bomb's opposite}; 50d zero {Absolute nobody}; 51d one D {Linear}; 56d SSS {Indication of tire trouble}.


cmohr152 said...

I think Moe from 28d "guy seen in funny shorts" is one of the Three Stooges, Curly, Larry, and Moe.

Crossword Man said...

Thanks for the correction ... I've updated the commentary accordingly!

Anonymous said...

TPs(known as TPing)in the states happens every fall on the night before a high school homecomming football game. Trees in front of the houses of the better players will have dozens of rolls thrown numerous times over them by unknown friends/classmates.

Crossword Man said...

Well I hope to see a TPing some day (though not of our house please). Magdalen says I may not see it in these rural parts; I'd have to go to a more cosmopolitan place like, well, Scranton.