Thursday, October 29, 2009

NYT Friday 10/30/09 - Over the Line?

Well this Friday New York Times crossword is a record-breaker in one way: the solving time of 20 minutes is I think my fastest for a Friday. I understand the grid also breaks the record for the number of 15-letter answers ... twelve of them spaced out in a neatly symmetrical pattern.

Progress at the top of the grid was hampered by the two 15-letter song titles at the top, so I had to work from the bottom up, getting the long down answers from the endings one by one till I could sort out the top five rows or so.

I've voiced my concerns in the past about large numbers of 15-letter answers requiring too many short answers to make that possible, and this is a kind of extreme example of that. There are 44 three-letter answers and the task of deciphering their clues does rather dominate the solver's experience.

I think there's a place for this kind of experimentation occasionally, but I hope such distorted grids don't appear more than a few times in a year. 9d gone over the line {Taken things a bit too far} looks self-referential and seems to invite solvers to consider if this "takes things too far"; I would have to say yes to that.
Solving time: 20 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 8d national anthems {Country music}

David Levinson Wilk
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

David Levinson Wilk / Will Shortz
15x15 with 29 (12.9%) black squares
72 (average length 5.44)
Theme squares
0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points
295 (average 1.51)
Letters used
New To Me

17a One Moment In Time {Whitney Houston hit recorded for the 1988 Summer Olympics}. The 1988 Summer Olympics were held in Seoul (hidden in Stephen Douglas, as we discovered from last week's NPR puzzle). I thought knowing this might help with the song title: no, One Moment in Time just had to be worked out the hard way.

21a Cal {One of Steinbeck's twins}. A reference to East of Eden, which has many parallels with the Book of Genesis. Steinbeck's counterparts to the biblical Cain and Abel are the twin sons of Adam Trask, Cal and Aron. Cal is played by James Dean in the 1955 movie, his first significant film role.

24a Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo {1974 Rolling Stones hit}. I thought voodoo or hoodoo might be involved, but the song ultimately turned out to be very regular in its spelling. Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) is the fourth track on the album Goats Head Soup.

Children of Lir
39a Ler {Celtic sea god}. Lir or Ler ("the sea" in Gaelic) is an ocean-god in Irish mythology and is famously the basis for Shakespeare's King Lear. Since I hadn't come across him before, I was a little surprised not to see lar (another god) and DAR, which I assume are better known and would prettify this little section. One of the legends associated with Lir is The Children of Lir, in which his children are transformed into swans for 900 years.

47a Her {"___ Town Too" (1981 hit)}. Her Town Too is a duet between J. D. Souther and James Taylor, which reached number 11 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart.

64a Noone {"I'm Henry VIII, I am" singer}. I was thinking back to I'm Henry VIII, I am's origins in music hall, and its associations with Harry Champion (1866–1942). But the clue actually references the song's 1965 revival by Herman's Hermits, whose "Herman" was Peter Noone.

10d Ott {Diamond figure on a 2006 postage stamp}. I wouldn't normally have commented on a Mel Ott reference, but I was interested in seeing the stamp. I also wondered who else was commemorated: Mickey Mantle, Hank Greenberg, and Roy Campanella it seems - all "sluggers".
Lineup for Yesterday
O is for Ott
Of the restless right foot.
When he leaned on the pellet,
The pellet stayed put.
By Ogden Nash, from Sport magazine

35d Ron {"Bull Durham" director Shelton}. Seem to be a lot of baseball references today ... maybe the World Series effect. The Ron Shelton-directed movie Bull Durham was released in 1988: it's based on the director's own experiences as a player in minor league baseball.

44d Meg {Stewie's sister on "Family Guy"}. Does anyone really know this stuff, or does such a clue just amount to {Girl's name in three letters}? For what it's worth, the Family Guy family consists of dad Peter Griffin, mom Lois, and children Meg, Chris, and Stewie.


38a tep {Im-ho-___, Boris Karloff's role in "The Mummy"}. I don't know that much about The Mummy (1932), but I got by assuming that Imhotep in the movie was based on the historical Imhotep (fl. 27th century BC), who is famously the first engineer, architect and physician to be known by name. In reality, the location of Imhotep's tomb is still unknown, though it is probably well hidden at Saqqara.

56a HAL {Anthropomorphic film villain}. HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, of course ... an inspiring movie for me as a kid.

The Rest

1a franc {It no longer circulates around the Seine}; 6a fin {Skate part}; 9a gotta {Must, informally}; 14a Torah {Rite reading for some 13-year-olds}; 15a in a {___ state}; 16a other {One may be significant}; 20a RDA {Fat standard, say: Abbr.}; 22a -ine {Salt additive?}; 23a rps {Turning meas.}; 28a fil {Thread: Fr.}; 29a cen. {Long time: Abbr.}; 30a vig {Bookie's charge, for short}; 31a The Sahara Desert {Home for an addax and dorcas gazelle}; 37a OOX {Tic-tac-toe loser}; 40a non {Vote in une législature}; 41a duplex apartment {Maisonette}; 45a eek {Cartoonish cry}; 46a can {Behind}; 48a Strait is the Gate {André Gide novel whose title comes from Matthew 7:14}; 54a oat {Kind of flakes}; 55a sat {Went nowhere}; 57a toi {Parisian pronoun}; 58a swimsuit edition {Big newsstand seller for some magazines}; 62a ansae {Looped handles}; 63a Ed.M. {Teacher's deg.}; 65a dyers {Some lock changers}; 66a SSS {Deflation indication}; 67a ernes {Kite relatives}.

1d Ft. Ord {Mil. base until 1994}; 2d rondo {Concerto component}; 3d area of expertise {Bailiwick}; 4d 'Nam {Site of many '60s tours}; 5d chocolate kisses {Sweet little things with points to them}; 6d field capacities {Soil water saturation limits}; 7d inn {Travel guide listing}; 8d national anthems {Country music}; 9d gone over the line {Taken things a bit too far}; 11d third-generation {Like grandchildren}; 12d tempo {A musician might pick it up}; 13d are so {Childish comeback}; 18d Mao {He said "Learn from the masses, and then teach them"}; 19d Ind {Like some candidates: Abbr.}; 25d dis {Slam}; 26d o'er {Canto contraction}; 27d -ois {French suffix with Québec}; 31d Tod {Death, in Deutschland}; 32d HOU {The Astros, on scoreboards}; 33d hex {Spell}; 34d der {Austrian article}; 36d TNT {Charge stuff}; 42d lea {Green land}; 43d PAs {Hearing aids, briefly}; 48d so sad {"A pity"}; 49d tawny {Like a lion's coat}; 50d tau {Cross character}; 51d had {Ate}; 52d to one {Odds' end?}; 53d eines {German indefinite article}; 59d mar {Nick, say}; 60d TDs {Bears make them, in brief}; 61d TOR {The Blue Jays, on scoreboards}.


Anonymous said...

Nor did I enjoy this puzzle.

Crossword Man said...

You and me both, Anon.