Tuesday, September 1, 2009

NYT Wednesday 9/2/09 - On Broadway

I didn't appreciate the concept behind this Wednesday New York Times crossword until late in the solving process. In fact, the puzzle is unusual in not having a clue that explains the significance of the circled letters or the thematic down answers.

I was lucky in entering Broadway fairly early on, after getting the first three or four letters, However, I patiently solved most, if not all, of the "avenue" clues without realizing their geographical significance in relation to the diagonally placed Broadway.

I wondered if the grid might be centered on Times Square, with some additional thematic material relevant to that, but it seems not: I gather Times Square is at the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue.

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Part of the fun with this puzzle is spotting the theatrical references, such as 1a Abba {Source of the music for a 2001 theatrical hit}, 24a shh! {Admonition to a cell phone user in a theater}, 53a SRO {Theater sign}, etc. However, why was 62a merman not clued with reference to The Grande Dame of the Broadway stage?
Solving time: 12 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 38a Ott {Giant slugger}

The grid approximates a map of an area of Manhattan, showing Eighth Avenue in the west to Fifth Avenue in the east, in the area where they cross Broadway (marked by the circled squares):
27d eighth note {Quaver}
13d seventh-day {Like some Adventists}
24d sixth sense {Intuition}
9d fifth wheel {Superfluous person}

Jim Hyres
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersJim Hyres / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 37 (16.4%) black squares
Answers74 (average length 5.08)
Theme squares48 (25.5%)
Scrabble points312 (average 1.66)
New To Me

18a Schaefer {"The one beer to have when you're having more than one" sloganeer}. Don't think I've come across this beverage: apparently Schaefer was the world's best-selling beer at one point early in the 20th century, but this accolade has been ceded to Budweiser. The quoted slogan is the famous jingle that ran from the 1950s to the 1970s.

25a cleanser {Comet, for one}. Initial capital neatly concealing a trade name. Most cleansing products have different trade names in the UK, even if they're made by the same multi-nationals, so I've a lot to learn. Comet is a powdered cleanser used for "all those tough cleaning problems around the house such as kitchen surfaces, tubs, basins, and toilet bowls". It had a popular series of TV ads in the 1960s-70s featuring "Josephine the Plumber" (played by actress Jane Withers) ... so that's where the nickname Joe the Plumber came from! Failed to find the actual ad, but this musical tribute to it is even better.

Tyra Banks65a Tyra {Banks on TV}. Another concealed proper name, though this clue is a little more obvious. Tyra Banks is the former model who hosts America's Next Top Model and her own chat show.

16d Heche {Anne of HBO's "Hung"}. I don't feel too bad about not knowing Anne Heche, as I don't think I've seen any of her movies, Psycho being the remake. In the referenced TV show Hung, she plays Jessica Haxon, the ex-wife of the basketball coach, turned male prostitute Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane).

57d Enna {Sicilian resort city}. Enna is situated high on a mountain in the center of Sicily, earning it the nickname "belvedere" and the "ombelico" (navel) of Sicily. Somewhat obscure, though, and I'm not sure why it was clued in preference to -enne (requiring Tyre at 65-Across) - the sort of curve ball one expects in a Wednesday puzzle I guess. Whatever the case, it looks spectacular.



C as in cat20a C as {___ in cat}. I can imagine a lot of head-scratching around the country about this one: it's easy to parse the phrase as "Cas in cat", but you needed to think alphabetically ... "C as in cat".

54a on hire {Available, as a London limo}. This one had us rushing to dictionaries to check the official definition, because "on hire" could ostensibly mean either "available for hiring" or "being hired". British dictionaries only give the former meaning, though, so the clue is (of course) fine.

eagle29d eagle {Colonel's insignia}. Magdalen pointed out that full colonels are nicknamed "bird colonels", after the insignia. My dad was a Lieutenant Colonel when he retired, not quite becoming the equivalent of "bird colonel", the insignia in Britain being the less remarkable crown and two pips.

Amelia Earhart44d Earhart {Lady Lindy}. I thought at first this might refer to Anne Morrow Lindberg, but later realized the clue called for a female equivalent of Lindy, Amelia Earhart fitting the bill admirably.

52d Shue {Actress Elisabeth}. At last an actress I can recall, Elisabeth Shue being in movies I've actually seen such as Leaving Las Vegas and Deconstructing Harry.

55d is my {"The Lord ___ shepherd ..."}. I remember being read a great parody of the 23rd Psalm at school, and have only recently come across the words again thanks to NPR's Car Talk.
The Ford is my Car;
I shall not want another.
It maketh me to lie down in wet places;
It soileth my soul;
It leadeth me into deep waters;
It leadeth me into paths of ridicule for its name's sake;
It prepareth a breakdown for me in the presence of mine enemies.
Yea, though I run through the valleys, I am towed up the hill;
I fear great evil when it is with me.
Its rods and its engines discomfort me;
It anointeth my face with oil;
Its tank runneth over.
Surely to goodness if this thing follows me all the days of my life,
I shall dwell in the house of the insane forever.
The Rest

1a Abba {Source of the music for a 2001 theatrical hit}; 5a dirt {Partner of grease}; 9a fax {Business card number}; 12a Caruso {Legendary opera star}; 15a in a while {Shortly}; 17a adorer {Rabid fan}; 19a rewove {Fixed, as a tapestry}; 21a ctrs. {Hubs: Abbr.}; 22a reopen {Come back following renovations, say}; 24a shh! {Admonition to a cell phone user in a theater}; 28a viewed {Seen}; 31a heist {Bank job}; 32a annex {Wing, perhaps}; 34a har {Laugh syllable}; 35a avg. {E.R.A. part: Abbr.}; 36a hoc {Ad follower}; 38a Ott {Giant slugger}; 39a ego {Something to stroke}; 40a Neh {O.T. book}; 41a dread {Fear}; 43a heels {Part of dressy attire for a woman}; 45a tetrad {Foursome}; 47a net sales {Some revenue}; 49a hay {Contents of a hoedown seat}; 50a answer {Echo}; 51a SSNs {Identity theft targets: Abbr.}; 53a SRO {Theater sign}; 58a chop suey {Stir-fried entree}; 60a as a son {How a particularly close nephew may be treated}; 61a outshine {Upstage}; 62a merman {Mythical sea creature}; 63a tee {Starting point for a long drive?}; 64a a tad {Not much}.

1d -A-Car {Rent-___}; 2d bade {Wished}; 3d brow {Arch above the eye}; 4d auroras {Night lights}; 5d discern {Tell apart}; 6d Incan {Like the sun god Inti}; 7d rahs {Sounds from a 50-Down}; 8d TWA {Old carrier inits.}; 10d ALer {Yank or Ray}; 11d Xers {Gen ___}; 14d Oreos {Round snack items}; 23d peace {Cry in "Hair"}; 25d chant {Sound from a monastery}; 26d levee {Army Corps of Engineers construction}; 28d vet {Dog doc}; 30d dross {Refuse}; 33d nodes {Bumps}; 37d Ord {California's Fort ___}; 42d annoyed {Ticked off}; 46d rasps {Certain filers}; 48d two am {Bar closing time, often}; 50d arena {Sports venue}; 51d Scot {Highlander, e.g.}; 53d suit {Dressy attire for a man}; 56d roar {Enthusiastic audience response}; 59d Sha {___ Na Na}.

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