Monday, September 28, 2009

NYT Tuesday 9/29/09 - The Main Idea

This Tuesday New York Times crossword was another one where I tried manfully to crack the theme quickly by homing in on the bottom right hand corner, but found it difficult to get at sea without all the answers that led into it, such as less fat and hard and fast. This didn't really matter too much, as the theme clues were helpful enough on their own.

The theme answers were nicely colorful examples of nautical phrases that have survived as idioms we're all familiar with. The one that I found surprising was deep-six, which I'd always assumed referred to land burials (i.e. from six feet under), but the term apparently relates to what was considered a respectable depth for burial at sea ... six fathoms.
Solving time: 8 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 58a allies {They're on your side}

Paula Gamache
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Phrases with a nautical origin, indicated by 71a at sea {Clueless ... or where the answers to this puzzle's starred clues were all first used}.
17a loose cannon {Dangerously unpredictable sort}
39a deep-six {Junk}
61a hard-and-fast {Inviolable, as rules}
11d in the offing {Likely to happen}
25d chock-a-block {Jammed}
CompilersPaula Gamache / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares56 (29.6%)
Scrabble points291 (average 1.54)
New To Me

2d ELO {"Evil Woman" band, for short}. ELO (like Eno and Ono in the same domain) are so ubiquitous that they don't always get a mention. But it's a bit of a quiet day for commentary, so here we go: Evil Woman was a 1975 hit for "The English guys with the big fiddles" and is from the band's fifth album Face the Music. The line "There's a hole in my head where the rain comes in" is a nod to "Fixing a Hole" by The Beatles.

Annie Leibovitz7d Annie {Photographer Leibovitz}. Annie Leibovitz is the American portrait photographer who first became famous for her work in Rolling Stone magazine. She did a photo shoot with John Lennon just hours before he was shot and killed on December 8, 1980; the resulting image appeared on the January 22, 1981 cover of Rolling Stone.

22d Toni {Collette of "The Sixth Sense"}. Toni Collette is an Australian actress and musician. I've seen her in the movie In Her Shoes (2005), but not the referenced thriller The Sixth Sense, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

Bide-A-Wee44d -A-Wee {Bide-___}. Cluing AWEE requires some delicacy. "bide a wee" rang vague bells with me, but I had to look it up to confirm the origin and usage. It's a Scots phrase meaning "stay a while" - a perennial favorite for naming B&Bs, golf courses, animal shelters etc etc.

Bill Blass55d Blass {Bill of fashion}. Bill Blass (1922–2002) has come up at least once already this year in the NYT, but his name didn't spring immediately to mind today. Bill Blass was known for his tailoring and his innovative combinations of textures and patterns; for an update on the fate of the brand that bears his name, see this New York Times article.

59d Edna {___ Krabappel of "The Simpsons"}. I have a working knowledge of characters from The Simpsons, but clearly not a good enough one for NYT puzzles. Edna Krabappel is Bart's teacher in the fourth grade class, being voiced by Marcia Wallace.


67a Ramis {Harold who directed "Groundhog Day"}. I mostly associate Harold Ramis with Ghostbusters (and sequels), and hadn't before appreciated his strengths as a director. When I saw Groundhog Day (1993) back in the UK, I never imagined I'd come to live cheek-by-jowl with the little varmints.

Lend-Lease8d Lend-Lease {War aid program passed by Congress in 1941}. I'm a bit vague on domestic programs from this period, but had of course heard of Lend-Lease - in signing it, the US sided more emphatically with the Allied nations and Hitler consequently stepped up submarine attacks on US merchant shipping. It took until 2006 for the UK to settle its wartime debt.

Mimi's cocked ear40d ear {It may be cocked or cupped}. Neat cluing idea, referencing two ways to make an ear hear more effectively.

TSA65d TSA {Luggage inspection org.}. TSA, short for Transportation Security Administration, will be familiar to anyone who has flown in the last few years. We find their little slips of paper in our luggage about half the time we fly out of the USA - a nice gesture. The TSA is apparently heavily criticized for thefts from baggage, but the only problem (and it was a big one) we had happened flying into the USA: Magdalen and I did many transatlantic flights at the height of the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot scare and the one time we were forced to place laptops in hold luggage at Heathrow, one went missing, assumed stolen.

The Rest

1a cedar {Moth-repellent closet material}; 6a talon {Osprey's claw}; 11a IVs {E.R. hookups}; 14a elude {Get around}; 15a Enero {First month in México}; 16a not! {"Just kidding!"}; 19a TWA {Old "Up, up and away" carrier}; 20a placid {Even-tempered}; 21a other {Last choice on a questionnaire}; 23a vice {Nasty habit}; 26a Shel {Silverstein of children's literature}; 27a noels {Christmas carols}; 28a inhale {Take a breath}; 30a econo- {Commercial prefix meaning "low price"}; 32a stoke {Add fuel to, as a fire}; 33a reap {Harvest}; 35a if at {"___ first you don't succeed ..."}; 38a 'tec {Sleuth, slangily}; 42a Fra {Monk's title}; 43a Alka {___-Seltzer}; 45a Abie {Irish Rose's beau}; 46a I lied {Coming-clean declaration}; 48a aware {Clued in}; 50a Vienna {___ Boys' Choir}; 51a saber {Cousin of a foil}; 53a lobe {Bottom of a 40-Down}; 56a Sgts. {Three-stripers: Abbr.}; 57a inlet {Entrance to a bay}; 58a allies {They're on your side}; 60a GTO {Bygone muscle car}; 66a mic {Abbr. on an input jack}; 68a names {May and June, but not July}; 69a ask {"___ and ye shall receive"}; 70a oh yes! {"But of course!"}.

1d cel {Animation frame}; 3d duo {Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, e.g.}; 4d adspeak {Marketers' "language"}; 5d reel {Fishing line holder}; 6d teach {Show the ropes}; 9d oro {Conquistador's quest}; 10d no no no! {"That is completely the wrong way!"}; 12d vowel {One of five different ones in "sequoia"}; 13d stars {Roster at the Oscars}; 18d case {Private eye's project}; 23d vista {Scene from a summit}; 24d Intel {Big chipmaker}; 29d led {Set the pace}; 31d CPI {Cost-of-living stat.}; 33d rebel army {Insurgent group}; 34d epi- {Prefix with center or cycle}; 36d aren't {Ain't right?}; 37d tadas {Triumphant cries}; 41d XII {Noon, on a sundial}; 47d less fat {Healthful claim on labels}; 49d arthro- {Joint: Prefix}; 50d vein {Blood line}; 51d sigma {Summation symbol}; 52d antis {Nay sayers}; 54d oldie {Any Beatles tune, now}; 62d aah! {"That feels so-o-o good!"}; 63d AMs. {Morning hrs.}; 64d see {Visit with}.


momula said...

Hi Ross - I'm enjoying your commentaries. You should try to see "The Sixth Sense" - it's a great movie with just the right tone of sadness and drama, and with a clever twist. Makes you see Bruce Willis in a whole new light.

Magdalen said...

Hi -- I agree that Ross should see The Sixth Sense. He mentioned it and I blithely said, "Oh yeah, we saw it in the theater," meaning me & Hub 1.0, without anticipating Ross's confusion. (He thought I meant he'd seen it with me, and couldn't remember.)

At the time that Hub and I saw it, we lived in Philadelphia, so part of the enjoyment of the movie was playing Spot the Location! I can assure you that what they said was South Philadelphia was NOT South Philadelphia. Somewhere else in the city, to be sure -- M. Night Shyamalan is very good about keeping his location shoots close to home. In fact, he had an interior scene in The Village that we understand was filmed around the corner from Hub's house (previously mine), but as we've never seen inside the building, who can tell?

My one complaint about The Sixth Sense is that it cheats in one way. The "dead people" that the kid sees are all super scary at the beginning of the movie (victims of suicide, murder, etc.) but after he gets sorted out, he only meets happy, contented, good-natured ghosts. Think about it -- the really scary ghosts are still really scary, even if you do know how to deal with them!

Other than that, of course, it's a great film. And yes, Bruce Willis was very good in it. But then I really liked Moonlighting and Die Hard.