Thursday, September 24, 2009

NYT Friday 9/25/09 - Feeling Foolish

I definitely felt fooled a number of times when solving this Friday New York Times crossword. Things got off to a reasonable start in the top half, but I soon got bogged down in a number of areas and the critical long answers were hard to come by.

Progress got really bad in the SW corner, where I seemed to have most of the crossings for 34-Down, but just couldn't see what it should be. Admittedly, I thought 51-Across was Etna and wasn't at all sure of 41-Across; but if I'm confident of 6 out of 8 letters in an answer, I feel I should be able to get it quickly. I definitely felt I been had when I finally got that answer!

The long answers seem apposite in the context of such a difficult puzzle: it's a zoo out there and I definitely (don't tase me bro) felt like firing off the distress signals to Magdalen at various points. The powers that be seemed to have cruel and unusual punishment in mind when coming up with this set of clues!
Solving time: 45 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 63a scolds {Lets have it}

Robert A. Doll
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersRobert A. Doll / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 30 (13.3%) black squares
Answers70 (average length 5.57)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points272 (average 1.39)
New To Me

7a nod {St. Nicholas gives one in "A Visit From St. Nicholas"}. I once constructed a cryptic crossword based on A Visit From St. Nicholas, but didn't get all the way through the 56-line poem to register how it ends:
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”
41a Aéreo {Correo ___}. Not knowing this answer contributed greatly to my woes with 34d I been had. Correo aéreo is Spanish for air mail (time to add it to Español para los crucigramistas) and also a popular world music band, based on all the Google hits I get.

Enna51a Enna {Province between Palermo and Catania}. I stuck with the belief that this answer must be Etna in disguise, but I was definitely barking up the wrong part of Italy, Enna being in Sicily. Since this is the third time this year that Enna has been featured, I should try harder to remember it.

52a albas {Serenades for lovers parting at dawn}. Huh? This one even defeats The Chambers Dictionary, renowned for the obscurity of its entries. I gather alba (meaning "sunrise") is a Provençal genre of lyric poetry, the clue summing things up pretty well. Here's the example from Wikipedia in an English translation.
While the nightingale sings,
both night and day,
I am with my beautiful
beneath the flowers,
until our sentry from the tower
cries: "Lovers, get up!
for I clearly see the sunrise and the day.
3d Ursula {"The Little Mermaid" villain}. References to The Little Mermaid seem fairly common, this one relating to the sea witch Ursula, voiced by Pat Carroll.

42d Étape {L'___ du Tour (annual cycling event)}. I managed to figure out the missing word in L'Étape du Tour, as it crops up fairly regularly in the more difficult British crosswords (see excerpt from Chambers below). The referenced event allows amateur cyclists to race over a day's route of the famous Tour de France.
étape n a storehouse; a halting-place; a day's march; rations; forage.
From The Chambers Dictionary

10a ops {Chances, briefly}. Presumably ops is a colloquial shortening of "opportunities", though I can't say I've heard it much.

30a Aida {Musical featuring Nubians}. Now that I know there's a musical of Aida it's easier to spot the Verdi opera in disguise. We're looking forward to seeing the HD relay of the New York Met's production at our local movie theater on October 28.

40a NEA {Grp. that discourages dropping out}. I assume this refers to school drop-outs and therefore to the oft-featured National Education Association, rather than the National Endowment for the Arts. But isn't the labor union really more concerned about the teachers than the kids?

43a ampersand {Q&A part}. One of a few clues where I felt I been had - yes, "Q&A" does have an ampersand in it, right there in the middle where you can see it!

Robert Louis Stevenson's house, Apia50a Samoa {Robert Louis Stevenson setting}. Luckily, I knew enough about RLS's life to realize this wouldn't be a fictional setting, but the island where he spent the last few years of his life and is buried.

Detroit54a str. {Atlas abbr.}. The abbr. for strait I assume. Looking for something interesting to say about all this, I discover that Detroit comes from détroit, the French for strait - the city lies on the strait that connects lakes Huron and Erie.

63a scolds {Lets have it}. This reminds me (again) to read clues properly before I attempt to solve them, registering every capital letter (or the absence thereof) and every punctuation mark (or the absence thereof) - it's quicker that way. I kept reading this one as {Let's have it}, hoping for the answer to be show us, or the like.

4d Ida {Oenone's peak}. Mount Ida - the sacred mountain in Greek mythology - seemed likely, even though I couldn't quite remember who Oenone was. Researches suggest an oread, or mountain (naturally) nymph. Oenone is one of those eco-friendly words, where the second half is recycled from the first half.

15d Shamu {Big name in aquatic tricks}. I can chalk up this one success against my many failures to remember stuff: this is only the second time I've see Shamu in a crossword and I knew him/her already. When Shamu does his/her tricks, does everyone say ShamWow!?

Sbarro23d Sbarro {Italian fast-food chain}. I remember falling off my chair the first time I saw sbirro (Italian for "policeman") in a crossword ... words don't start SB! That helped me remember the Sbarro chain of pizza restaurants when I saw one. Sbarro doesn't mean anything in Italian, AFAIK - it's just the name of the Brooklyn family that came up with the franchise idea. They now have 1,064 locations worldwide.

34d I been had {Gull's cry}. This clue caused about as many problems as all the others put together: I spent maybe 15 minutes at the end trying to make sense of the SW corner of the grid and this answer was critical given the uncertainties over 41-Across and 51-Across. I knew right from the start that "gull" had something to do with duping, but was the gull the duper or the dupee? My other excuse is that the answer isn't a well-formed English phrase - I've been had, I would have recognized, but not I been had ... is it a catchphrase or something?

The Rest

1a cluing {Informing, with "in"}; 13a herder {Collie, e.g.}; 14a dead spot {Where cells don't work}; 16a it's a zoo out there {Frazzled commuter's comment}; 18a edu {Dot follower}; 19a genre {Punk, e.g.}; 20a ante {It may be raised at a table}; 21a films {Flicks}; 24a it on {Lay ___}; 25a maul {Tent erector's tool}; 26a seat-belts {Airplane sign images}; 28a purge {Clear}; 29a sal {___ ammoniac (mineral found around volcanic vents)}; 32a ear {There can be a ring in it or on it}; 33a distress signals {Attempts to get help}; 38a Ibo {Nigerian native}; 39a rate {Insurance shopper's concern}; 48a meet {Wrestling event}; 49a tree {One leaving in the spring}; 55a the powers that be {Big decision makers}; 59a ease into {Take on gingerly}; 60a no dear {Domestic denial}; 61a Rds. {Things often passed on: Abbr.}; 62a Lys {French/Belgian border river}.

1d chiefs {A.F.C. team that has won one Super Bowl}; 2d let die {Not bring up again, as a topic}; 5d nez {Part of a French face}; 6d grog {Crew quaff}; 7d neurosis {Prozac might treat it}; 8d oaten {Like some straw}; 9d DDT {"Silent Spring" subj.}; 10d open area {Clearing}; 11d Portugal {Ancient Lusitania, now}; 12d Steelers {A.F.C. team that has won six Super Bowls}; 14d don't tase me bro {Memorable catchphrase of 2007}; 17d oeil {Part of a French face}; 22d Mt. St. {___ Helens}; 27d Elea {Birthplace of Parmenides}; 28d pagers {They may interrupt meetings}; 31d dine {Enjoy a spread}; 33d diameter {Ball measure}; 35d soreness {Ache}; 36d starlets {They're groomed in Hollywood}; 37d NASA {Grp. famous for its send-ups?}; 44d peas {Shepherd's pie ingredients}; 45d Amstel {Heineken brand}; 46d not bad {"I'm impressed, man!"}; 47d darers {Playground troublemakers}; 49d tawny {Like lions and tigers}; 53d stns. {Dots on some maps: Abbr.}; 56d oil {Loosen, in a way}; 57d hoc {This, to Nero}; 58d ado {Rowdydow}.

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