Wednesday, October 21, 2009

NYT Thursday 10/22/09 - Shot Holes

With this Thursday New York Times crossword, you really have to understand the workings of the theme - otherwise nine of the clues are just not going to make sense. I suppose that's what makes a Thursday idea a Thursday idea - you're forced (whether you like it or not) into unfamiliar territory.

The sorts of tricks pulled in Thursday puzzles are fairly tame compared to what's perpetrated at the bleeding edge of British cryptic crosswords. It also helped here that I lighted on the explanatory answers a shot in the dark after a couple of minutes. That proved illuminating and I realized that a "shot" was implied in the remaining thematic clues, but missing in the grid.
Solving time: 11 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 8d Santa {Nick name?}

Joel Fagliano
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


The word shot is missing in nine grid entries, the answer being clued as if it were present. This treatment is suggested by 27a a shot in; 52a the dark {Wild guess ... or what the answer to each starred clue has?}.
5a shot glass {Jigger}
17a not by a long shot {"That's way off"}
38a snapshot {Photo}
39a jello shot {Colorful party drink}
40a shot down {Rejected}
62a shotgun wedding {Quick hitch-up}
71a sling-shot {Y-shaped item}
10d tee shot {What "fore" may precede}
61d shot-put {Track-and-field event}
CompilersJoel Fagliano / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 40 (17.8%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.74)
Theme squares63 (34.1%)
Scrabble points290 (average 1.57)
New To Me

20a Sara {1986 #1 hit for Starship}. Both Starship and their hit Sara are unfamiliar. I've tried to get to grips with the origins of the band name, but it's complicated ... involving legal wranglings that meant the personnel couldn't use "Jefferson" in their name (the group being a spin-off from pioneers of psychedelic rock Jefferson Airplane). The music video features the song's vocalist Mickey Thomas with actor Rebecca De Mornay.

21a TNT {"Saving Grace" airer}. It's still a struggle for me to find meaning all the different channels, cable and otherwise. But at least I should have had an idea what this show is about, as I've seen the occasional promo for it. Saving Grace is a crime drama with some fantasy elements, starring Holly Hunter as Grace Hanadarko of the Oklahoma City police department. Despite the setting, it's mostly filmed in Vancouver and Los Angeles.

70a spot {Give a handicap of}. I've not come across this meaning of spot before, but it's right there in my British dictionary, so I can't have been paying attention all these years.
spot vt to allow or yield an advantage, concession, etc to, esp in order to give (an opponent) an even chance of winning (inf)
From The Chambers Dictionary
Dixie, Linus and Polly11d Emmett {Daniel Decatur ___, composer of "Dixie"}. Dan Emmett (18151904) started as a printer's devil (an apprenticeship he shares with such notables as Ambrose Bierce, Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman and Mark Twain) before serving in the US Army and joining the circus. He founded the first troupe of the blackface minstrel tradition, the Virginia Minstrels. His song Dixie was composed in New York City and first performed by Emmett as a member of Bryant's Minstrels. To me Dixie will always be the senior of the trio of Magdalen's cats that I became a stepdad to, and who was put to sleep in 2007. She was the ultimate lap cat and would wait patiently for you and be up on your lap seconds after you sat down. Rest in peace Dixie.

Ratna sen yai22d Thai {Cuisine with sen yai noodles}. It's been many years since I tried Thai cuisine, so sen yai noodles didn't directly suggest the answer, but how many four-letter Asian cuisines are there? Sen yai apparently means "large rice noodles" in the Thai language.

37d Norvo {Red of early jazz}. Norvo is an unlikely-sounding name, so I was glad of helpful crossings ... SUVs being the only one to give me any pause for thought. Red Norvo (1908–1999) was an early vibraphonist, known as "Mr. Swing". I'm familiar with later exponent Milt Jackson (19231999), so know how hypnotic a great vibes player can be.

Rat Island36d Aleut {Rat Island resident}. I was going to pass this one by, but noticed there's a Rat Island in Long Island Sound. If this was an attempt to mislead, then I'm afraid it went right over my head. The Rat Island of the answer is in the western Aleutian Islands of Alaska, so called because of a heavy infestation of Norway rats due to a Japanese shipwreck in the eighteenth century. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has successfully rid the island of the vermin in the last few years, declaring the island rat-free in June of this year.

Hajj 200856d hadji {Completer of the fifth pillar of Islam}. Before writing this, I had to clear up one misapprehension: T. E. Lawrence's title Seven Pillars of Wisdom bears no direct relation to Islam, being a reference to a line from the Book of Proverbs, 9:1: "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars". The Five Pillars of Islam are five duties that unite Muslims into a community; they are (in brief):
Shahada (Profession of Faith)
Salah (prayers)
Zakah (Giving of Alms)
Saum (Fasting during Ramadan)
Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca)
Glo n Mop66d Glo {Mop & ___}. I thought this might relate to a kind of hairdo ... Mop & Gel maybe? No, Mop & Glo is a brand of Reckitt Benckiser, seemingly a liquid product for cleaning floors. Still makes me think of hairdos.


The Swede-ish Chef3d rutabaga {Vegetable that's peeled}. For some reason vegetables are subject to some extreme language differences, making it problematic for me to shop solo: parsley and cucumbers are a bit of a minefield, and you won't find a courgette in our local Wegmans, let alone the salad veg Brits call rocket. We don't usually buy rutabaga, which I gather is American for swede ... the root vegetable that's boiled into submission at British schools and served as a slop with an unconvincing orange color.

The Rest

1a ecru {It's similar to cream}; 10a teem {Crawl (with)}; 14a alum {'08 classmate, now}; 15a Sinai {1967 war locale}; 16a Emma {Title heroine who says "One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other"}; 19a emir {Arabic for "commander"}; 23a Eli {"The Whiffenpoof Song" singer}; 24a Lebanon {Mideast's Mount ___}; 29a Ada {Nabokov novel}; 30a Guam {Stop on Magellan's circumnavigation of the world}; 32a auto {Camera setting}; 33a giga- {Prefix denoting 10 to the ninth power}; 35a I mean it! {"For real!"}; 44a hoarder {Pack rat}; 46a ocho {El número de agosto}; 47a ship {FedEx, say}; 49a SUVs {Explorer and Navigator}; 51a cig {Butt}; 55a top-hats {Many magicians wear them}; 57a hut {QB's cry}; 58a Han {Solo in science fiction}; 59a ease {Nonchalance}; 60a UTEP {Sch. located on the Rio Grande}; 67a guru {Maven}; 68a aroar {Creating a din}; 69a Joel {Book before Amos}; 72a Indo- {___-Aryan}.

1d -ean {Suffix with Euclid}; 2d closed in {Trapped}; 4d umbra {Shadow}; 5d GSA {Federal management agcy.}; 6d Lil {Rapper ___ Jon}; 7d a no {"Is that ___?"}; 8d Santa {Nick name?}; 9d signs {Omens}; 12d Emilio {Actor Estevez}; 13d Marin {San Rafael's county}; 18d yang {Masculine side}; 24d lags {Is seconds behind}; 25d ouija {Spiritualist's tool}; 26d namer {Whistle-blower}; 28d outdo {One-up}; 31d melds {Pinochle combos}; 34d aphid {Insect called a greenfly in Britain}; 41d occasion {Reason to celebrate}; 42d whitened {Bleached}; 43d nogs {Often-ladled drinks}; 45d opah {Mako shark prey}; 47d shut up! {"Shhh!," not so politely}; 48d hetero {Straight}; 50d sped {Earned a citation?}; 52d thugs {Some riffraff}; 53d ragas {Sitar pieces}; 54d knurl {Small ridge on the edge of a button or dial}; 63d no I {"___ won't!"}; 64d wan {Pale}; 65d erg {.0000001 joule}.

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