Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NYT Thursday 9/17/09 - Rhein Gold

The theme of this Thursday New York Times crossword seems particularly appropriate for a week where all the constructors have 50 or more years of NYT puzzlemaking under their belt. Arthur Schulman debuted in 1954 under the editorship of Margaret Farrar and may well have had puzzles published under the aegis of all four NYT crossword editors.

This is significant because in former times, the inclusion of obscure three-letter dictionary words (the worst kind of crosswordese?) in grids was more acceptable than it is today; today's theme wittily reverses things so that the crosswordese words are the clues, with the answers their meanings. This levels the playing field a little for newer solvers unused to such horrors (oh no!) as the ai, Ara and Oca.

Funnily enough, four of these are still seen in the more difficult British cryptic crosswords, probably because they don't crop up quite enough to be annoying. I also knew Ara, but not from cryptics. The only example that was completely new to me was Eri the Assam silkworm.
Solving time: 18 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 29d Seuss {Children's doctor?}

Arthur Schulman
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


A "reverse" theme in which the clues are "crosswordese" words rarely encountered in today's puzzles, the answers being the way they would have been clued.
37a three-toed sloths {Ais}
3d wood sorrels {Ocas}
7d flightless birds {Moas}
9d Assam silkworm {Eri}
18d constellation {Ara}
27d bitter vetch {Ers}
CompilersArthur Schulman / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.97)
Theme squares73 (38.6%)
Scrabble points300 (average 1.59)
New To Me

Palazzo Orsini in Pitigliano23a Orsini {Noble family name in medieval Italy shared by two popes}. Three popes, according to Wikipedia: Celestine III (1191–1198), Nicholas III (1277–1280), and Benedict XIII (1724–1730). The Orsini family had a dominant place among the Roman aristocracy for many centuries, the only surviving line being the dukes of Gravina.

Keukenhof41a Lisse {Tulip-growing center of Holland}. Lisse is at the center of the Duin- en Bollenstreek, Holland's flower-growing region. Here you can find the Keukenhof, the world's largest flower garden and there's an annual flower parade in the spring, the Bollenstreek Bloemencorso.

Kauai55a Kauai {Westernmost of the major Hawaiian islands}. With a name like Kauai you have to fairly sure of the crossings - the vowel sequences in Hawaiian names defy normal spelling patterns. Kauai is the fourth largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago and is known as the "Garden Isle" because of its great beauty.

shaving creams61a Edge {S.C. Johnson shaving gel}. You'd have thought Edge would be the blade, but apparently someone in S.C. Johnson thought it would be a good name for a range of shaving gels and creams.

1d Sapho {Massenet opera based on a Daudet novel}; 5d Amelia {Renato's wife in Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera"}. A brace of obscure opera references: Sapho is never performed; Un Ballo in Maschera certainly is, but to compensate, you had to know the lead soprano's character. I've heard my recording of Un Ballo in Maschera a few times, but never seen it staged - I live in hope that the Met will do the right thing before too long.


9a Aqaba {Jordan's only seaport}. The name will be familiar to anyone who has seen Lawrence of Arabia or otherwise knows about the exploits of T.E.Lawrence. Aqaba was taken by a daring overland attack in 1917, a feat that made Lawrence's name.

Paul Klee42a Klees {"Fish Magic" and "Viaducts Break Ranks"}. "Fish Magic" was used to clue Klee last week, making it easier to get this answer. It's a work from 1925 in the Philadelphia Museum of Art; "Viaducts Break Ranks" is from 1937 and hangs in the Kunsthalle Hamburg.

Dr. Seuss Memorial29d Seuss {Children's doctor?}. A nicely misleading clue that was for me the key to getting the block of answers at the mid-right. I somehow missed out on Dr. Seuss as a kid, although my parents had caught on to him by the time my younger siblings came along.

34d Rhein {River through Köln}. I got this in the end, but realized much too late that the use of Köln rather than Cologne in the clue called for a German name (in this case the Rhine).

Abbey Theatre45d O'Casey {Abbey Theater playwright}. For some reason I thought this had to be Oscar Wilde. No doubt he's performed at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, but Sean O'Casey has the stronger association: his first three plays opened there, but the Abbey rejected The Silver Tassie, after which O'Casey moved to England. Incidentally, after noting in a previous post that American theaters are liable to style themselves "theatres", it's odd that "Theatre" has been Americanized in this clue.

59d amo {"Yo te ___"}. "I love you" in Spanish and part or all of many song titles, such as this one from Raphael.

The Rest

1a sews {Finishes, with "up"}; 5a AM-FM {Like most radios}; 14a Arod {#13 in the Bronx, informally}; 15a mile {Fair distance}; 16a sunup {Daybreak}; 17a proscenia {Stage arches}; 19a say-so {Unsupported assurance}; 20a hod {Mason's trough}; 21a Oleg {Designer Cassini}; 22a way {Very, informally}; 25a harm {Mischief}; 27a BBs {Shot}; 30a Ossa {Mountain near Pelion}; 31a très {Considerably, in Cannes}; 32a Ire {U.K. neighbor}; 33a arrêt {Stop, in Montréal}; 35a blini {They're often served with caviar}; 36a tau {19th of 24}; 40a tee {Place-kicker's aid}; 43a ail {Suffer}; 44a less {More limited}; 45a o'war {Man ___}; 46a RNs {They hook up IVs}; 47a Arab {9-Across native}; 48a convex {Rounded out?}; 51a it's {"___ time"}; 52a I-bar {Construction piece}; 54a Eva {"Uncle Tom's Cabin" girl}; 58a prismatic {Refractive}; 60a I'll go {Volunteer's declaration}; 62a MCAT {Future dr.'s exam}; 63a tie on {Attach, as a ribbon}; 64a Issy {___-les-Moulineaux (Paris suburb)}; 65a oh no! {"Horrors!"}.

2d error {Slip}; 4d SDS {1960s activist org.}; 6d mine {Tram locale}; 8d mea {___ culpa}; 10d quay {Landing place}; 11d any {At all}; 12d bus {Clear, as tables}; 13d APO {Abbr. on a letter to a soldier}; 22d wrens {Small songbirds}; 24d I see {"Mm-hmm"}; 26d a ride {Take for ___}; 28d Brahe {Danish astronomer who followed Copernicus}; 33d attar {Fragrance}; 35d bossa {___ nova}; 38d tiers {Ziggurat features}; 39d O-Lan {Slave in Buck's House of Hwang}; 49d Evian {Perrier rival}; 50d X-Acto {Blade maker}; 51d Iago {Literary character who says "O, beware, my lord, of jealousy"}; 53d Bigs {Major leagues, slangily, with "the"}; 55d kit {Modelist's purchase}; 56d Ali {World champion of 1964-67, 1974-78 and 1978-79}; 57d -ule {Diminutive suffix}; 58d Pei {J.F.K. Library architect}.

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