Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NYT Wednesday 9/23/09 - 2-H Club

This Wednesday New York Times puzzle made a neat history lesson for me and I wasn't aware until today of the quatercentenary of Henry Hudson's exploration of the river that bears his name.

The motivation for Hudson, like so many explorers of his day, was a faster trade route to South East Asia - America was just something that got in the way. So he only spent a day admiring what's now New York City before pushing on up the Hudson in the hope that it would lead to somewhere interesting. He got to the Albany area, where the Hudson became too shallow for further progress, and had to turn back.

This puzzle's grid is very impressive in the amount of thematic material squeezed in - close to half the squares are involved in the theme and they are all symmetrically disposed. The (4,4) and (5,5) pairings of Half Moon and spice trade at the corners are particularly neat.
Solving time: 9 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 35a Seiko {Citizen alternative}
Solution

Jonathan Gersch
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Hudson 400: the quatercentenary of Henry Hudson's arrival in (what is now known as) New York Harbor on September 11, 1609. Various across entries relate to this:
1a; 69a Half Moon {Ship of 55-Across}
67a; 8a spice trade {Business of 55-Across's backers}
18a Discovery {Aptly named ship on a later voyage of 55-Across}
20a Arctic Ocean {Body of water sailed in by 55-Across}
26a transatlantic {Like most of the voyages of 55-Across}
46a New York Harbor {See 55-Across}
55a Henry Hudson {Explorer who sailed into 46-Across in 1609}
61a Amsterdam {55-Across's destination when returning to Europe}
Crucimetrics
CompilersJonathan Gersch / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 44 (19.6%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.76)
Theme squares84 (46.4%)
Scrabble points292 (average 1.61)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

23a Eso {"Quíen Te Dijo ___?" (2003 Latin hit)}. Didn't know the song, but was fairly sure the missing word would be an innocuous one - indeed it turns out to be "that" in Spanish. The song's title (according to Babelfish) means "Who Said That To You?"; it's on Luis Fonsi's fifth album Abrazar la Vida.



Argo24a Argo {Cornstarch brand}. Magdalen said we had some of this product in the kitchen, although she does (almost) all the cooking, so I had to go check. In fact, we have CREAM cornstarch (although Magdalen assures me it could equally well have been Argo, which is a brand of Associated British Foods). Not knowing this answer, and not knowing Paul Tsongas, I had grave doubts about the G where they cross, but was reassured that a non-nautical reference for Argo was reasonable given the overall theme of the puzzle.

Eric Holder6d Eric {Attorney General Holder}. Somehow Eric Holder's name hadn't registered with me, although I must have heard about Obama's appointee as Attorney General a few times. Eric is the first African American to hold the position.

Paul Tsongas8d Tsongas {1992 presidential aspirant Paul}. Another pol I had difficulties with, and this one was much more dangerous because Tsongas is a relatively unusual name and crossed with an unfamiliar brand name (Argo). Paul Tsongas (1941–1997) was a Massachusetts senator who became a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992, losing out to Bill Clinton. Paul sadly died relatively young of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a disease which he was first diagnosed with in 1983.

Horace Mann32d Mann {Educator Horace}. Hey, isn't it time we had the awesome Aimee Mann again? Horace Mann (1796–1859) last came up in April - he's regarded as the "father of American public education", influencing policy through his work in Massachusetts. His commencement message at Antioch College was "be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity".

49d Bauer {"24" agent Jack}. 24 isn't a TV program I've ever watched. So this held me up, but ultimately the name was clear from crossings. Jack Bauer is Kiefer Sutherland's character on the spy show.



59d Otto {Hall-of-Fame QB Graham}. Graham Otto? No, Otto Graham (1921–2003), who played American football for the Cleveland Browns and basketball for the Rochester Royals.



Noteworthy

genuine fake watches35a Seiko {Citizen alternative}. Nicely misleading reference to Citizen watches. Strangely, spam trying to sell me fake watches has grown to be a significant part of my postbag - peddling watches is a trade with a long tradition of reinventing itself.

37a A-team {Top players}; 63a elite {Top players}. It seems like clues doing double (or more) duty may be coming back into style after a bit of a lull. I got A-team very easily, but elite was much tougher for some reason.

40a mea {Apology starter}. As in "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa" ... an apology of sorts, one heard less on the streets than in Roman Catholic churches.

cute, cuter, cutest64a cuter {More precious}. Tough to get precious meaning "valuable" out of your head, and I had to think hard to appreciate in what sense clue and answer equate - it looks like precious in the sense of "affected" is intended, which cute can also mean (as in "don't get cute with me").

68a Rea {Stephen of "V for Vendetta"}. The Irish actor Stephen Rea is having a bit of a resurgence in the squares of the NYT grids this month. In V for Vendetta (2005), Stephen plays Inspector Finch, who leads the investigation into the mysterious freedom fighter V in a dystopian Britain in 2035.



11d Dern {Laura of "Jurassic Park"}. I knew of Laura Dern, though I couldn't have gotten her without a crossing or two. In Jurassic Park (and sequels), Laura plays Dr. Ellie Sattler, graduate student to Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), and her jaw seems to be in a continuous state of descent (as well it might).



33d Opie {Mayberry boy}. I'm really proud when I manage to recognize references like this, even though it may take me a few puzzles for such trivia to register. Opie Taylor is of course Ron Howard's character in The Andy Griffith Show and spin-offs.



52d macs {Bubs}. "Mac" and "bub" are roughly equivalent forms of address for a man, but both have a dated feel - who uses these nowadays?
A punk stopped me on the street.
He said "Have you got a light Mac?"
I said: "No, but I've got a dark brown overcoat."
From Big Shot by the Bonzo Dog Band
The Rest

5a jeu {___ d'esprit (witty remark)}13a icier {Less receptive}; 15a urn {Part of some garden statuary}; 16a seven {Sum of any two opposite faces on a standard die}; 17a yenta {Gossipy type}; 22a RNA {Genetic letters}; 32a Mohs {___ scale}; 34a gel {Salon supply}; 36a Apr. {Vernal mo.}; 41a Niels {Copenhagen's ___ Bohr Institute}; 44a PDA {Palm Pilot, e.g.}; 45a hoax {Bigfoot photo, e.g.}; 50a étui {Pins and needles holder}; 51a São {___ Carlos, Brazil}; 52a MIA {War stat}; 65a etc {Series ender: Abbr.}; 66a run to {Reach in total}.

1d hiya {Informal greeting}; 2d acer {Expert server}; 3d Linc {Nickname for someone who shares a name with the 16th president}; 4d fetters {Chains}; 5d judo {Sport with throws}; 7d unseat {Defeat, as an incumbent}; 9d rev {Excite, with "up"}; 10d aver {Declare}; 12d Enya {"A Day Without Rain" singer}; 14d Raisa {Mrs. Gorbachev}; 19d Carl {Psychologist Jung}; 21d conga {It might produce a line at a party}; 25d one {Cosine of zero degrees}; 26d threw {Hosted}; 27d set {Having everything needed}; 28d aleph {Hebrew leader?}; 29d Timor {Island east of Java}; 30d Ikea {Swedish retail giant}; 31d coax {Say "Pretty please?," say}; 38d Ada {Nabokov title heroine}; 39d marsh {Fen}; 42d lye {Caustic substance}; 43d so there! {"Told ya!"}; 45d hoodlum {Tough}; 47d ruer {Regretful type}; 48d kinder {German children}; 53d I'm up {"You don't need to wake me"}; 54d Asti {Italian wine region}; 56d rate {Miles per gallon, e.g.}; 57d YMCA {"A place you can go," in a 1979 #2 hit}; 58d Sino- {___-Tibetan languages}; 60d neon {___ lamp}; 62d 'tec {Gumshoe}.

7 comments:

Magdalen said...

Okay, so at lunch, Ross asks about PRECIOUS qua CUTE, and we have a spirited discussion of the various meanings of CUTE. I keep saying, "Babies. Kittens," but he's not buying it. He insists he would never say to the parent of a cute baby, "Oh, s/he's precious." (Well, okay, so maybe he wouldn't. But ONE could.)

And then I get to the blog, and he has a picture of adorable baby ducks! Dude -- are they not precious enough for you?

Jared said...

I'm glad to see that I am not the only one who gets lots of spam regarding watches.

liquidSQL said...

Hi Ross, I didn't realize you were a fellow developer until I read your bio. That said, I would rather see 38D clued as Lord Byron's daughter and first programmer.
Cheers

Crossword Man said...

Jared, do you get stuff in Cyrillic too? I get a ton at my business address, but not the personal one. At least you can tell at a glance what it is.

Crossword Man said...

Nabokov references are still way the most popular for Ada, and I agree Lovelace could get more of a look-in. Saw it clued as {Computer language similar to Pascal} in a New York Sun anthology, which surprised me a little - like saying lilac is similar to red.

Bisonwerks said...

Can you tell me where the portrait/sculpture of Horace Mann is from? Could it be from a public school in New Haven?

Thanks,
Greg Harm
Austin

Crossword Man said...

Hi Greg. This takes me back a bit. It looks like the Horace Mann bust is by Thomas A. Carew and in the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. There may be a copy in the Concord Free Public Library. By the way, the pictures are normally set up so that clicking on them will give some provenance (usually via flickr).