Sunday, October 25, 2009

NYT Monday 10/26/09 - Xample

Was this New York Times crossword really a Monday one? It seems to have way more new stuff than I expect at the beginning of the week. Luckily those answers didn't ever cross with each other, so I got away with my comparative ignorance again.

By the time I'd solved the central (in several senses) answer X-factor, I was already aware of there being quite a high incidence of Xs in the grid. It wasn't until I finished the puzzle that I realized the theme answers didn't just contain an X at random, but that they were specifically at the third letter, each being the end of the relevant person's forename.

It's interesting that there is a sixth X not explicitly part of the theme, at the crossing of saltbox and extra (just a coincidence? I doubt it!).
Solving time: 8 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 26d acre {Field unit}

Mike Nothnagel
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Four answers are people, two real and two fictional, that have a three-letter forename ending X, and a six-letter surname; this is indicated by 36a X-factor {Mystery quality ... or what 18- and 55-Across and 3- and 32-Down have?}.
18a Fox Mulder {Dana Scully's sci-fi partner}
55a Max Yasgur {Owner of the farm where Woodstock took place}
3d Lex Luthor {"Superman" villain}
32d Tex Ritter {Cowboy who sang the title song from "High Noon"}
Mike Nothnagel / Will Shortz
15x15 with 32 (14.2%) black squares
74 (average length 5.22)
Theme squares
43 (22.3%)
Scrabble points
338 (average 1.75)
Letters used
New To Me

John Rolfe
1a Rolfe {John of colonial Jamestown}. Our travels in Virginia haven't yet encompassed Jamestown, though I think I might have read about John Rolfe at some point. Rolfe sailed to America in the Third Supply fleet, arriving in 1610. He was tasked with cultivating a sweeter tobacco than the native variety, which he did with great success. He is also famous for his marriage in 1614 to Pocahontas, daughter of the local Native American leader Powhatan.

10d saltbox {House style with a long pitched roof in back}. My British English dictionary lists this as a US meaning, so I assume the style is either unknown in the UK or called a different name. Saltbox houses have two stories at the front and one at the back, taking their name from a resemblance to the wooden lidded box in which salt was once stored. The style originated in New England, and became popular during the time of Queen Anne, as they were taxed as one-story buildings.

11d Audie {Actor Murphy of old westerns}. American actor Audie Murphy (1926–1971) was first known as one of the most-decorated soldiers of World War II, receiving the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle at Holtzwihr. He appeared in 44 films and had some success as a country music composer. One of Audie's films was To Hell and Back (1955), based on his own autobiography.

Donna Karan New York
13d Karan {Designer Donna}. Ever wondered what DKNY signifies? You're about to find out: the DK stands for Donna Karan, and NY for ... well I think you can guess that one. Donna Karan is an American fashion designer, nicknamed The Queen Of Seventh Avenue.

Art Spiegelman
33d Rego {___ Park (Queens neighborhood)}. I think we had Rego Park back in May, but I'd forgotten it, so need this reminder. Rego Park was named after the Real Good Construction Company, which began development of the area in the mid-1920s. Like its neighbor, Forest Hills, Rego Park has long had a significant Jewish population. Cartoonist Art Spiegelman grew up in Rego Park and made it the setting for significant scenes involving his aged father in Maus.

34d alif {A, in Arabic}. I'm familiar with aleph, but as for alif, I just had to have faith that the crossings were OK. alif (Arabic) and aleph (Hebrew) are both descendants of the same letter, being derived from the West Semitic word for "ox" (the heiroglyph for the letter looks like an ox's head).

50d verse {Esther 8:9 is the longest one in the Bible}, News to me, though an easy-to-guess answer. Here it is (incidentally, the shortest verses are of two words).
Then were the king's scribes called at that time, in the third month, which is the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded concerning the Jews, even to the satraps, and the governors and princes of the provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia, a hundred twenty and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language.
Esther 8:9

52d punk {Play a practical joke on, slangily}. A "candid camera" style show called Punk'd seems to have popularized punk as a verb - I can't find this in any of my American dictionaries, so it could be the meaning started with the show - does anyone know? Apparently the British English term is to merk, there being a UK show called Merk'd - here's an example.


Nemean lion
43a Nemea {Ancient Greek city with a mythical lion}. I found that thinking of the Labors of Hercules helped here: the first labor is the slaying of the Nemean lion, which had an impenetrable hide. Hercules was forced to stun the beast with his club and strangle it. He then used the lion's own claws to cut off its pelt.

5d easy on {Start of a billboard catchphrase meaning "close to the highway"}. I assume the reference is to "easy on, easy off", which Magdalen uses often, tho I don't remember seeing it on a billboard. I'll keep a look out next time we do a long stretch of interstate.

The Rest

6a Assn. {The first "A" in N.A.A.C.P.: Abbr.}; 10a sack {Bag}; 14a opera {"Tosca," for one}; 15a shoo {"Get out of here, fly!"}; 16a aura {Surrounding glow}; 17a maxes {Completely uses up, as a credit card, with "out"}; 20a alley cat {Prowling feline}; 22a Altima {Nissan sedan}; 23a U bolt {Letter-shaped, threaded fastener}; 24a has-been {Washed-up person}; 25a Latin I {Course in which to conjugate "amo, amas, amat ..."}; 27a aim to {"We ___ please"}; 28a ache {Dull pain}; 29a fall {Autumn}; 31a extra {When repeated, bygone newsboy's cry}; 35a pro {Con's opposite}; 38a eel {Snakelike fish}; 39a Perot {H. Ross ___, candidate of 1992 and 1996}; 41a host {Party giver}; 42a ex-GI {U.S. military vet}; 45a hear of {Learn secondhand}; 47a covered {Having insurance}; 50a Venti {Large, at Starbucks}; 51a osiers {Twigs for baskets}; 52a permit me {"If I may ..."}; 57a entry {Contest submission}; 58a Agee {Writer James}; 59a urns {Vases}; 60a steer {Have the wheel of a car}; 61a send {Transmit}; 62a poke {Jab between the ribs, say}; 63a horde {Mob}.

1d Roma {Capital of Italia}; 2d opal {Milky white gem}; 4d freebie {Something for nothing}; 6d as fat {Equally plump}; 7d shot {Photographed}; 8d Sox {"Red" or "White" baseball team}; 9d no ma'am {Courteous rejection to a woman}; 12d creme {Middle of an Oreo}; 19d ulster {Coat named for an Irish province}; 21d cliff {Steep drop-off}; 24d hilts {Sword handles}; 25d Lapp {Northern Scandinavian}; 26d acre {Field unit}; 27d Alcoa {It acquired Reynolds Metals in 2000}; 30d aahed {Sighed with satisfaction}; 36d Xterra {Nissan S.U.V.}; 37d other {None of the above, on a survey}; 40d one-eyed {Like two jacks in a deck of cards}; 42d eat into {Take away from, as profits}; 44d mess-up {Goof}; 46d enmesh {Tangle up (in)}; 47d comas {Unconscious states}; 48d Osage {Missouri river or Indian}; 49d vixen {Reindeer teamed with Prancer}; 53d Mr Ed {Talking horse of '60s TV}; 54d Eyre {Brontë's Jane}; 56d Gro {Miracle-___ (plant food)}.


Jared said...

I honestly had never heard the word punk'd used in this context until that show.

nsblues said...

I think "punk'd" is derived from the prison concept where one is "made one's punk" (ie. one party has control over the other). To be taken in by the prank makes the victim the prank giver's punk.

Crossword Man said...

Thanks for all the insights. I can see that punk'd might have derived from prison slang, but too recently for that to be in my dictionaries (slang and standard). I wonder if the show popularized punk'd enough for it to get into dictionaries - I somehow doubt it, as I've only seen it used once ... in this puzzle.