Friday, October 23, 2009

NYT Saturday 10/24/09 - Express Letters

This Saturday New York Times crossword ended up taking me just a couple of minutes less than Friday's: that's often the way for me, and I haven't figured out if it's the consequence of the eccentricities of my background, or if everyone is having nightmares on Friday (or at least has nothing worse to fear from a Saturday puzzle).

I got off to a slow start, filling the SW corner fairly easily, but then was a bit stuck after 15 minutes or so. The NW corner looked really problematic, but I got lucky by guessing Tina Turner and then that fell into place. The SE and NE corners were the last to go in, with the intersection of Xtina and express the final challenge.

I'm used to seeing a lot of deceptive wording in end-of-week puzzles, but this one seemed to have a superfluity of examples of how to mislead ... and still be entertaining. I've highlighted some of the finer ones below.
Solving time: 31 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 25d express {Station skipper}

Paula Gamache
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersPaula Gamache / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 27 (12.0%) black squares
Answers70 (average length 5.66)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points304 (average 1.54)
New To Me

17a Eddie Money {"Baby Hold On" hitmaker, 1978}. Eddie Money (real name Edward Joseph Mahoney) is an American singer-songwriter who had a string of hits in the 1970s and 1980s. A point of interest about Baby Hold On is that Money was sued for plagiarizing the lyrics of the song Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) in it, paying damages as a result.

Edwin Meese22a Meese {Cabinet chief between Smith and Thornburgh}. I see that Edwin Meese was United States Attorney General from 1985 to 1988, a Reagan appointee. I'm not quite sure what the "cabinet chief" business is getting at: the Attorney General is in the cabinet, but not in charge of it, surely? Perhaps Magdalen can explain.

27a SDS {It spawned the Weather Underground Org.}. With both 1-Down and 3-Down looking like plurals, I guessed the Students for a Democratic Society might be the answer, but the Weather Underground Organization hadn't come to my attention before. The Weathermen derived their name from the Bob Dylan song Subterranean Homesick Blues, which has the lyric "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows"; the radical left organization conducted a campaign of bombings in the 1970s, aiding the jailbreak and escape of Timothy Leary. A documentary film - The Weather Underground - was released about the organization in 2002.

30a Xtina {Singer Aguilera, self-referentially}. I couldn't help thinking of I, Tina here, but surely that couldn't coexist in a grid with Tina Turner? Eventually, I got 25-Down and (after finishing the grid) checked Wikipedia to confirm Xtina was Christina Aguilera's monicker of choice in the era of the Stripped album, even getting it tattooed on the back of her neck.

33a Spader {"The Practice" and "Boston Legal" Emmy winner}. James Spader in fact plays the same character in both these series (the colorful attorney Alan Shore) since Boston Legal is a spin-off of The Practice. He won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Emmys in 2004, 2005 and 2007, all for this one role.

Sea Hag soaps42d sea hag {Ugly Dungeons & Dragons figure}. I wasn't aware of the clued meaning of sea hag. We know the Sea Hag as a great local store which sells hand-made soaps and the work of local artists.

49d Hynde {Chrissie of the Pretenders}. I may have come across Chrissie Hynde at some point in my life, but didn't remember her surname in time to be useful for this crossword. She has been the leader of The Pretenders through its many many iterations.


18a exes {Item of the past}. Great deceptive clue: exes were presumably once an "item".

48a She-Ra {Her alter ego is Princess Adora}. Education is a wonderful thing: I learned all about She-Ra back in August and remembered her today. Mattel hoped She-Ra (Princess Adora) would appeal to girls in the same way He-Man (Prince Adam) appealed to boys. They both had animated series to promote the toys.

hailing a taxi12d taxi ride {It begins where a person hails from}. Another awesome clue, calling to mind obituary, which I tried. It took almost all the crossings to get the real answer and hence see through the misleading wording of the clue.

station skipper25d express {Station skipper}. Another amazingly misleading clue. It was tough to fathom, even with everything but the second letter and I tried to justify the answer as empress for a minute or so before the light dawned. Express trains of course skip the smaller stations.

teevee41d teevee {Nonhuman baby sitter?}. Ah yes, what Coffee Jones calls alternatively Vitamin T, or the Neglect-O-Matic. When is TV ever spelled out like this, however? Someone, somewhere, must be doing it, as teevee is in The New Oxford American Dictionary at least.

one dollar bill47d crisp {Like new ones}. One of the first clues I got, but this is another really neat one: you had to realize the emphasis is on "ones", not "new".

The Rest

1a Blu-ray Disc {High-definition storage medium}; 11a stop {With 28-Across, like some traffic}; 15a Tina Turner {Singer born Anna Mae Bullock}; 16a mano {Ranchero's hand}; 19a ad in {Situation before many a game is won}; 20a anise {Cookie flavoring}; 21a wilt {Word before thou}; 24a Entre {___-Deux-Mers (Bordeaux wine appellation)}; 26a rim {Glass top}; 28a and go {See 11-Across}; 32a Treos {Alternatives to iPhones}; 34a Jacobin {French Revolution radical}; 37a berserk {Wild}; 38a oil gun {Gadget for a grease monkey}; 39a fêtes {Big dos}; 40a broad {Like some shoulders}; 41a tadas {Triumphant cries}; 42a sod {It may thicken the plot}; 45a CDs {Some orders}; 46a scent {Calvin Klein offering}; 54a Yann {"Life of Pi" author ___ Martel}; 55a riot {Real joker}; 56a I've been had {Dupe's exclamation}; 58a peur {Fear, to François}; 59a sell-by date {Time to pull a product}; 60a SSTs {Out-of-commission cruisers}; 61a Pete Seeger {"Turn! Turn! Turn!" songwriter}.

1d B-teams {Sub squads}; 2d lidded {Like 57-Downs}; 3d undies {Brief briefs?}; 4d rains {Farmers' needs}; 5d ate {Got fed up?}; 6d Yuma {Where César Chávez was born}; 7d droned on {Talked and talked and talked}; 8d innings {They have tops and bottoms}; 9d sees to {Minds}; 10d cryer {Old yeller?}; 11d smew {Old World duck}; 13d one-liner {Routine delivery}; 14d postmark {Prepare for delivery}; 23d earbuds {iPod attachments}; 29d nein {Prussian prohibition}; 31d TASS {Soviet agency created from Rosta}; 32d toga {Cover of the Colosseum?}; 33d set a {___ goal}; 34d Job Corps {Creation of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964}; 35d air-dries {Hangs up after agitating?}; 36d closeout {Bargain hunter's bonanza}; 37d bedtable {Stand where you lie}; 39d fan-belt {Alternator driver}; 43d ornate {Busy}; 44d dander {Irish}; 50a ores {Contents of some deposits}; 52a re-bar {Foundation strengthener}; 51d Strs. {Navigation rtes.}; 53d Rebs {Lee side}; 57d eye {It has a ball}.

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