Friday, October 16, 2009

NYT Saturday 10/17/09 - Tough to (Re)solve

Phew! I consider this Saturday New York Times crossword one of the toughest for a long time. I found myself starting in the middle and working down to the bottom right and up to the top left. This took a fair amount of time and the SW and NE corners were still completely blank.

I eventually found a toehold in the SW corner somehow, but it took such a long time to get that filled in that I was losing patience, and appealed for Magdalen's help in the NE. She got 9-Across as sugar, a critical answer (I had seen through the deception, but could only think of salt). With that we got 9-Down as sumac and those two answers were enough to get a proper start in that area.

The surprising thing about this puzzle is that there really wasn't much that was new to me - it seemed to require less popular culture knowledge than usual. So all the difficulties lay in deception and lack of specificity in the cluing. I get the feeling I shouldn't have made such heavy weather and hope I was just having an off day.
Solving time: 60 mins (with Magdalen, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 40a bathtub {It may have clawed feet}

Chuck Deodene
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersChuck Deodene / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 31 (13.8%) black squares
Answers70 (average length 5.54)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points304 (average 1.57)
New To Me

39a Ivan {"Rocky IV" villain ___ Drago}. One of the few forays into popular culture in a crossword where the cluing generally has loftier aspirations. Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) is a 6 ft 5 in amateur boxing champion from Russia who speaks only six times in the whole film.

Dick Lugar60a Lugar {Sen. Bayh's senior counterpart}. Dick Lugar is the senior Senator from Indiana. A Republican, Lugar was first elected in 1976: he is now the most senior Republican in the U.S. Senate. He has been particularly concerned with the dismantling of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons around the world.

Ken Auletta5d Ken {The New Yorker writer Auletta}. Ken Auletta has written the "Annals of Communications" column for The New Yorker since 1992, specializing in profiles of the leading figures and companies of the Information Age.

Piazza de Ferrari50d Genoa {Piazza de Ferrari setting}. I wondered if this was going to relate to Enzo Ferrari, the racing car man. It seems not, since the Piazza de Ferrari has been called that since the 19th century, being dedicated to the Duke of Galliera, Raffaele De Ferrari.


Acela21a Acela {Track speedster beginning in 2000}. I'd come across the Acela tilting train before in a crossword, but it didn't immediately spring to mind based on this clue. Even Magdalen was fooled into thinking of athletes, suggesting Apolo Anton Ohno (whose first and last name come up occasionally in crosswords, so he's worth learning anyway). Acela operates along the Northeast Corridor (NEC) between Washington, D.C. and Boston. Its average speed is around 70 mph, modest compared to Eurostar's average London to Paris end-to-end speed of over 100 mph.

Hel25a Hel {Underworld goddess}. Hel I knew from British cryptic crosswords. She is a goddess from Norse mythology, presiding over a realm also called Hel - the final destination of those who do not die in battle, but of old age or disease.

snow fence61a snow fence {Guard against drifting}. I've often wondered if those zigzag sections of split-rail fence are snow fences - apparently not, since fencing just used to be made that way for stability and simplicity of construction; the more modern split-rail fencing we have around our property runs in straight lines. A snow fence needs to present more of a barrier than a typical split-rail fence: temporary ones can be made of perforated orange plastic, while permanent ones are constructed of larger wooden planks.

USOC10d USOC {Natl. athletics supporter}. Guessing the first two letters as US was helpful here, though I didn't think to do this until Magdalen started helping out. The USOC is of course the United States Olympics Committee.

no more ladders54d snag {It might result in a run}. Being now more confident about my baseball terminology, I tried bunt, but that didn't work out. It turned out the clue wasn't about baseball anyway, these runs being the ones caused by snags in stockings.

56d Brel {Belgian balladeer}. Whoever said there are no famous Belgians is a liar. Jacques Brel (1929–1978) was a great singer-songwriter, who composed and recorded his songs almost exclusively in French. I think of him has having an exaggerated delivery full of rolled Rs, but he's toned it down a bit for this song.

The Rest

1a thanks to {Through the efforts of}; 9a sugar {Crystals used for dishes}; 14a Soviet Era {Sputnik launch time}; 16a usage {Meter reading}; 17a took notes {Didn't rely just on memory}; 18a moved {Tearful}; 19a Odie {Pooch in panels}; 20a lost {Not comprehending at all}; 22a rid {Unburdened}; 23a benthic {Of the seafloor}; 26a messy {Tough to resolve}; 28a eon {It's a real stretch}; 29a rove {Drift}; 30a loads up {Gorges (on)}; 33a aper {One making a good impression?}; 34a potable {Unlike seawater}; 37a gun belt {Piece keeper?}; 40a bathtub {It may have clawed feet}; 42a next {Soon to be up}; 43a err {"Do they not ___ that devise evil?": Proverbs 14:22}; 44a bitsy {Minute}; 48a ord. {Municipal reg.}; 49a resigns {Bows out}; 52a hue {Cast}; 53a chose {Went with}; 55a idée {Bit of ingéniosité}; 56a Brno {Moravian capital}; 57a hadn't {Lacked}; 58a rent a room {Get some quick lodging}; 62a elegy {Passing lines?}; 63a tattle on {Rat out}.

1d T'storm {Brief weather phenomenon?}; 2d hoodie {Hip-hop top}; 3d avoids {Bypasses}; 4d Nike {Brand that may be worn with a 2-Down}; 6d stole {Pirated}; 7d Teton {County in Idaho, Montana or Wyoming}; 8d Orestes {Matricidal figure of myth}; 9d sumac {Cause of a rash response?}; 11d gave hope {Offered a way out}; 12d age level {What pupils are separated by}; 13d red alert {Klaxon-sounding occasion}; 15d as though {Like}; 23d BYOB {Invitation notation}; 24d input {Keypad's function}; 27d slant {Editorial feature}; 29d rabbi {Literally, "my master"}; 31d Albee {He said "If Attila the Hun were alive today, he'd be a drama critic"}; 32d Dear Sirs {Fusty greeting}; 34d pinochle {Double-decker?}; 35d overhaul {Remake}; 36d tax dodge {Bit of trickery on the schedule}; 38d nubs {Lumps}; 41d trident {Fishing weapon}; 45d throne {It's definitely a reserved seat}; 46d Sunoco {BP competitor}; 47d yeomen {Tower of London figures}; 49d retry {Second shot}; 51d net wt. {Wrapper stat.}; 59d aft {Tailward}.

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