Wednesday, September 9, 2009

NYT Thursday 9/10/09 - Take Notes

I started this New York Times crossword at a cracking pace, getting all of the NW corner in a minute or so. Then I started to get stuck: hmmm, there's something odd going on all around the SW-NE diagonal.

Once I got Waldo and dong, I realized "rebus" squares were involved and from past experience knew to expect notes of the tonic solfa scale. In fact it was soon clear that the notes must go in alternate spaces along the diagonal.

The only surprise was that sol was necessary instead of so - many of the notes come in different spelling variants and I assumed (often a bad thing) that two-letter notes would be used consistently. I think that's what I'd have done as a constructor, but it might have been regarded as wrong in some other regard.
Solving time: 14 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 59a easel {Stand for something?}

The notes of the scale are shown in rebus squares using the solfa syllables do re mi fa sol la ti do. This is indicated by two other answers: 4d eight notes {Composition of a 30-Down}; 30d major scale {Theme of this puzzle}. The answers with hidden notes are (ascending the scale):
61a Doyle {Last name in mystery}
53d judo {Olympic sport since 1964}

53a Jeremy Irons {Voice of Scar in "The Lion King"}
55d Reel {Rod's partner}

46a mitt {Ball catcher}
43d amity {Friendliness}

40a a fast {On ___ track}
34d in fact {Actually}

34a insole {Shoe part}
24d Absolut {Smirnoff competitor}

24a alla {"___ salute!" (Italian drinking toast)}
19d ill at {___ ease}

18a oil painting {"Mona Lisa," e.g.}
11d anti {Not pro}

10a Waldo {"Where's ___?"}
13d dong {Half a ring}
Here's the obilgatory song:


Kevan Choset
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersKevan Choset / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares74 (39.2%)
Scrabble points281 (average 1.49)
New To Me

Sonics5a Sonic {Player on the 1979 N.B.A. championship team, for short}. A reference that may eventually die out, as the Seattle SuperSonics aka the Sonics are no more - at the end of the 2007-2008 season they relocated to Oklahoma City and now play as the Oklahoma City Thunder.

15a Trish {CNBC host ___ Regan}. I gather Trish Regan specializes in financial matters, being the anchor for the business program The Call. This is not something we'd normally watch, but we might see her occasional reporting on the NBC nightly news show. Here is a conveniently autobiographical clip:

wishbone formation20a wishbone {Football formation}. This has to be something like sweeper system or flat back four? Oh no, I've fallen into the usual trap: "football" is not football, but American Football. The wishbone formation was an innovative of college football in the 1970s and 1980s. It apparently forces the defense to make a 50/50 choice about which offensive player to eliminate, allowing the ball to be passed to the other offensive player.

Theodore Olson31a Olson {Bush solicitor general Theodore}. Some coincidence: discovered him in a crossword last night and heard about him on the radio this morning, only now he's Ted Olson - Ted/Theodore is arguing in the Supreme Court that corporate-funded attack ads should be allowed in the run-up to elections.

35a agua {Lago composition}. The answer was easy enough to guess, but I still don't know what "Lago" refers to: time to look it up. Ok, "Lago" is Spanish for lake - now added to Español para los crucigramistas.

Chip Reese62a Reese {Chip ___, whom many consider the greatest cash game poker player of all time}. The aptly named Chip Reese (19512007) won the $1,716,000 first prize at the 2006 World Series of Poker. His total live tournament winnings exceeded $3,500,000 - sounds like a great player to me. As with the sabe clue, we couldn't have a Reese's Pieces reference because that was used yesterday.


indri1a sabe {"Quién ___?" (Spanish "Who knows?")}. Normally this would be {Kemo ___}, but we had that two days ago, hence the other sabe clue. Apparently there's a Quien Sabe Glacier in the North Cascades National Park. I'm not sure if this arose because of language difficulties or is just a joke. I was telling Magdalen about the name of a lemur resulting from a genuine language difficulty: indri means "there it is!" in Malay... the naturalist who named the animal thought the Malagasy pointing it out was saying its name in the local lingo.

22a RLS {Literary inits.}. Robert Louis Stevenson. The other literary monograms that come up are:
EAP (5 times) Edgar Allan Poe
EBW (8 times) E. B. White
ERB (1 time) Edgar Rice Burroughs
GBS (3 times) George Bernard Shaw
RWE (2 times) Ralph Waldo Emerson
TSE (11 times) T. S. Eliot
36a Matts {TV's Houston and Dillon}. Isn't the clue really mixing "apples and oranges" here as Matt Houston is a title character and Matt Dillon is an actor? My bad, Matt Dillon is also a fictional character ... the U.S. Marshall portrayed by James Arness on the show Gunsmoke.

easel59a easel {Stand for something?}. Nothing to do with the national anthem or a lady coming into the room ... this stand is for a work of art in progress.

9d Charlie {Bravo follower}. I'm pretty good at recognizing Nato Phonetic Alphabet letters as they're dandy in cryptic crosswords. It's clear they're effective in standard US puzzles too.

pinto beans21d beans {Pintos, e.g.}. I could only think of pinto horses, which was unhelpful. Pinto (Spanish for "painted") beans are also so-called because of their mottled appearance.

The Rest

14a heli- {Prefix with port}; 16a in on {Zero ___}; 17a orig. {First: Abbr.}; 23a nest-egg {Individual retirement account, e.g.}; 25a has {Must, with "to"}; 28a nae {Scottish refusal}; 29a a bit much {Somewhat overdone}; 37a No U {___-turn}; 38a fjord {Geographical finger}; 39a Eyre {Fictional governess}; 41a Rosas {Parks and others}; 42a nuisance {Pain}; 44a hor. {Vert.'s opposite}; 45a spa {Place to get a 47-Across}; 47a massage {Work for a certain therapist}; 51a Sts. {Some sweepers sweep them: Abbr.}; 52a last call {Bartender's announcement}; 57a Aral {Asia's ___ Sea}; 58a Ulee {Big-screen beekeeper}; 60a Loni {Actress Anderson}; 63a ends {Remnants}.

1d shown {Aired}; 2d aerie {Raptor's roost}; 3d bliss {Cloud nine}; 5d stooge {Pie-in-the-face giver or receiver}; 6d O-ring {Circular seal}; 7d Nile {Memphis's locale}; 8d ISP {AOL, e.g.}; 10d wins {First number in a record}; 12d Lon {Chaney of horror}; 25d Hugos {Sci-fi awards}; 26d Acura {Honda division}; 27d shads {Herringlike catch}; 29d a nose {Narrowly, after "by"}; 31d omens {They can be read by the illiterate}; 32d lay-up {Easy shot}; 33d stria {Small groove}; 38d Frost {Nixon interviewer}; 40d antsier {More nervous}; 44d hassle {Pain}; 47d manes {They're located behind the ears}; 48d Aaron {Claire's boy on "Lost"}; 49d gland {Sweat ___}; 50d Ellis {___ Island}; 51d Smee {Portly pirate}; 52d lose {Get checkmated}; 54d Ely {Old bridge expert Culbertson}; 56d Rae {Actress Charlotte}.


Whitey said...

Wow, you're good. Thanks for explaining this one.

I had the puzzle with me on the subway for about 30 minutes on the way to work. Could not get "Mona Lisa." Thought of the song first, because of the musical them of the puzzle.

Then thought of "oil painting", "oil portrait", and "oil on canvas". Nothing fit -- at least with one letter per square.

I would have never gotten the theme, so I'm glad that I found your site to explain it. I'll stop by again.

Crossword Man said...

Glad to be of help, Whitey - many thanks for the feedback.

Charles Oliver Bookman said...

I don't think crosswords should ever have double letters in single boxes.

Crossword Man said...

Hi Charles. A reasonable position, but there seems to be something of a craze for "rebus" squares a the moment. However, you should (I think) be able to avoid them by not solving Thursday puzzles in the NYT, which is when the more outlandish puzzles get printed.