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}.


henry.blancowhite said...

In reference to "Is everyone expected to know The Nine by heart?" at 46D, did you ever come across the newspaper report, at the time of Bush v. Gore, that more people could name all seven of the Three Stooges than could name all nine of the Supreme Court?

Crossword Man said...

I think I did hear that. You definitely need to know the seven Stooges for crosswords - the jury's still out on the nine Supremes.

Were you thinking of this Zogby International poll?