Thursday, September 3, 2009

NYT Friday 9/4/09 - City Limits

Although I solved this Friday New York Times crossword at the usual time on Thursday night, I was on the road all Friday morning returning from an overnight stay in Philadelphia - this delayed the addition of commentary.

We were in town primarily for a Phillies - Giants game courtesy of Hub 1.0 - thanks Henry! Sitting high in the stands facing Center City, we had a bird's-eye view of the field and found it a much more intense experience than we're used to at the Binghamton Mets. At the end, the bell-that's-not-all-it's-cracked-up-to-be rang out for a Phillies victory, albeit a close one.

I had expected to be joined by Henry in solving this crossword after he'd finished his London "Times 2" puzzle, but amazed myself by completing it solo in just over a quarter of an hour - perhaps a record for me? Those long answers seemed to drop into place very easily, and their arrangement means that solving one gives you a leg-up with another four intersecting ones.
Solving time: 18 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 30a cities {They have their limits}

Joe Krozel
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersJoe Krozel / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 19 (8.4%) black squares
Answers64 (average length 6.44)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points281 (average 1.36)
New To Me

bateau8a batteau {Small river craft: Var.}. I know bateau as the French for boat, but haven't come across this usage in English, which I suspect is peculiar to North America. The Chambers Dictionary says the word is especially used in Canada. Apparently a specific design, the James River bateau, was patented (all of which are believed lost).

35a Tisn't {"___ beauty, so to speak, nor good talk ...": Kipling}. I wondered why this quote from an obscure Kipling novel of 1904 was chosen. Apparently, the full quote is the first recorded instance of "it" being used to mean "sex appeal" - a usage famously associated with the 1920s and Clara Bow.
That's the secret. 'Tisn't beauty, so to speak, nor good talk necessarily. It's just It. Some women'll stay in a man's memory if they once walk down a street.
From Mrs. Bathurst (1904) by Rudyard Kipling
S23 Molodets1d rail car {Part of a track team?}. Easy enough to guess, though I had no idea what rail car is used for - that's more Hub 1.0's domain. My guess was it had something to do with laying track, as I know there is specialized rolling stock for that. However, dictionaries suggest a rail car, in the US at least, is any kind of railroad car. Among the wackiest uses of rail cars are mobile missile launchers, such as the Russian R-23 Molodets, now thankfully decommissioned. A powdered gas charge had to blow the 100 tonne missile 30 metres into the air, where the first of three rocket stages could ignite - as one description puts it "the missile guidance system had to ensure that the missile exhaust did not strike critical areas of the train".

40d Matts {Swimmer Biondi and others}. Matt Biondi is the American swimmer who competed in three Olympic games (1984, 1988 and 1992), winning a total of 11 medals. He's now a math teacher on Hawaii's Big Island.

Ballantine Books45d Ian {Publisher Ballantine}. Ian Ballantine (19161995) was a pioneer in publishing science fiction books, through the Ballantine Books imprint which has a logo of back-to-back Bs. Ian's company also famously won the battle to publish The Lord of the Rings in paperback form in the US.


17a isolation booths {They were used on old TV's "Twenty One"}. Isolation booths were a staple of game shows, so the answer wasn't too surprising, even though I didn't recall the referenced title. It turns out that the booths were largely unnecessary, as Twenty One ended up being a rigged show in search of better ratings. The scandal that erupted when this was exposed became the subject of the 1994 movie Quiz Show.

25a holed {Sank on a course}. This golf reference is beautifully disguised - neat clue.

Sen-Sen31a Sen-Sen {Freshener since the 1890s}. I managed to remember Sen-Sen from its last outing in January. The friendly letters make Sen-Sen a popular answer in puzzles. Sen-Sen's manufacturers claim it to be America's oldest breath freshener, but can't shed any light on the origins of the name. In Japanese, it means "glistening", "shiny" or "bright", but there's know evidence this is to the point.

33a Nintendo {Punch-Out!! maker}. Nintendo is a more surprising common answer, but I've had it twice within a day (one being in an anthologized New York Sun puzzle). Punch-Out!! is a boxing game, originally released in 1984.

34d orients {Breaks in}. I found this clue harder to justify than most. Presumably orients is being defined in the sense of acclimation into a new role; in which case, I'm not sure "breaks in" is an exact equivalent, because it sounds like what you'd do to a physical object or animal rather than a person.

The Rest

1a rip-saws {Wood cutters}; 15a antidepressants {Psychiatrist's arsenal}; 18a lulls {Welcome things on hectic workdays}; 19a codas {Concluding notes}; 20a rot {Start making a stink?}; 21a cres. {Increase in volume, in mus.}; 22a nuked {Zapped}; 23a neue {Modern, in Münster}; 24a arm {Timor Sea, vis-à-vis the Indian Ocean}; 26a copse {Little wood}; 27a reasoned {Well-thought-out}; 29a neural {Kind of network}; 30a cities {They have their limits}; 32a at cost {Economical way to buy}; 36a modes {Styles}; 37a ear {It might get a plug}; 38a l'Oye {Ravel's "Ma Mère ___," a k a "Mother Goose"}; 39a poses {Model's series}; 40a Muni {Bond variety, briefly}; 41a 'uns {Little or wee follower}; 42a salad {Restaurant opener?}; 43a tarde {Late, in León}; 44a nationalization {Process associated with socialism}; 47a crease-resistant {Having no pressing needs?}; 48a hymnals {Service staples}; 49a hassles {Annoyances}.

2d insurrectionary {Rebel}; 3d Ptolemaic system {Long-disproven scientific theory}; 4d sills {Framework components}; 5d ADAs {Some prosecutors: Abbr.}; 6d wet {Not ideal for a picnic}; 7d spicules {Sponge skeleton parts}; 8d bended {___ knee}; 9d as bad {"That's just ___!"}; 10d Tso's {Chinese menu possessive}; 11d tao {Asian way}; 12d entrepreneurial {Launching a start-up, say}; 13d a thousand and one {Number of nights in old stories}; 14d U.S. Steel {Pittsburgh giant}; 16d rooked {Hornswoggled}; 22d nonet {Small choir, maybe}; 23d no use {Pointless}; 25d hoist {Jack, e.g.}; 26d cents {Decimal point follower}; 28d stone {Attack barbarously}; 29d nenes {Iberian infants}; 31d side-dish {Course component}; 32d at lunch {Out around midday, say}; 33d no sale {Register button}; 36d molars {Toddlers cut them}; 39d panel {Instrumentation location}; 42d Sosa {Hitter of 66 in '98}; 43d tass {Old propaganda source}; 46d Zia {He overthrew Bhutto}.

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