Wednesday, October 28, 2009

NYT Thursday 10/29/09 - Aero Smith

It's been a bit of a topsy-turvy week: this Thursday New York Times crossword was done in two minutes less than yesterday's ... and that was despite having no idea what the theme involved (another illustration of my difficulties with aural themes).

Given I'd not heard Eero Saarinen pronounced authentically, my best guess at what was going on was that two pairs of answers sounded the same at the start: air offensive with aerosol can and Arrowsmith with Eero Saarinen. No, Magdalen says, they all start the same in American English ... unbelievable!

This license with pronunciation certainly makes it easier to come up with puzzles involving homophony. I mustn't take this for granted, however: I once got into trouble for a cryptic clue that implied "thaw" and "Thor" sound alike; they do to me, but I gather these are distinct in American speech, not just Scots. This area is a minefield I'd be unwise to try to negotiate.
Solving time: 12 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 56d knit {Work on a muffler, say}
Solution



Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Four different spellings of the AIR-OH sound at the beginning of an answer:
18a Arrowsmith {Sinclair Lewis novel}
26a air offensive {Series of sorties}
46a Eero Saarinen {Gateway Arch designer}
57a aerosol can {Bomb}
Crucimetrics
Compilers
Joe Krozel / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 30 (13.3%) black squares
Answers
70 (average length 5.57)
Theme squares
44 (22.6%)
Scrabble points
271 (average 1.39)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

17a esto {___ perpetuum (let it be everlasting)}. Had to look up the context in which these words are used: the obvious one is in the state motto of Idaho, but they use esto perpetua ("may she be everlasting"); these were also the dying words of Paolo Sarpi, said of the eternal city Venice. esto perpetuum means "let it be everlasting") and it's harder to find a context in which that is used. I went looking for a picture of Idaho, but found this, which is much cooler:

Old License plate Map

assist39a assist {Set on the court}. As I start to write, I'm still unfolding the mysteries of this clue ... could it be to do with basketball (tennis seems unlikely, Magdalen thinks volleyball a possibility)? Research is made more difficult by the myriad meanings of the word set. My best theories are that: (1) "set" is equivalent to "set up" and would merit an assist in basketball; (2) "up" was accidentally omitted from the clue. Anyone got any better ideas?

62a Rani {"Doctor Who" villainess, with "the"}. My Doctor Who knowledge is perhaps a bit dated: I know about Daleks, Cybermen and Yetis, for example - they're what had me hiding behind the sofa as a kid. The Rani made a comparatively recent appearance in the Doctor's life, vying with his sixth and seventh incarnations ( Colin Baker and  Sylvester McCoy); she is a renegade Time Lord played by Kate O'Mara.



Noteworthy

15a Notre {First word of the Lord's Prayer in French}. A no-brainer for me, as the French teacher I had at the age of 12 or so thought the Lord's Prayer in French worthy of rote learning - a party piece I used to some effect in later interviews (I guess it beats Frère Jacques). Here's the whole kit and caboodle:
Notre Père, qui es aux cieux,
Que ton nom soit sanctifié,
Que ton règne vienne,
Que ta volonté soit faite
Sur la terre comme au ciel.
Donne-nous aujourd’hui notre pain de ce jour
Pardonne-nous nos offenses,
Comme nous pardonnons aussi à ceux qui nous ont offensés
Et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation,
Mais délivre-nous du mal.

actuary3d actuaries {Insurance company employees}. At school we did a sort of psychology quiz called a "Birkbeck Test". The results came back and said that with my analytical genius and absence of social skills I should be an actuary. I rebelled against this and became a computer programmer instead.

21d sofa {Coin "swallower"}. Lovely clue!! I thought I'd put this to the test and reach into the gaping maw that is the one sofa in our house (the many large armchairs we have are more likely candidates for swallowed coins, but the clue says sofa). I found a skyr clothes label and piece of wrapping paper - just goes to show that the most exciting thing that sofa is used for is unwrapping presents. Coin theory debunked. Here, though is a picture of a sofa made of nickels (with - by the look of it - a cushion made of ones).

sofa

27d Noras {Charles and others}. A reference to Nora Charles, the wife in The Thin Man books and movies. You'd have thought that Thin Man references would be reserved for the many appearances of Asta, but maybe their dog has been banished now that everyone knows about him thanks to Cruciverbal Canines.



37d Alastair {Actor Sim who played Ebenezer Scrooge}. The wonderful Alastair Sim (1900–1976) was ubiquitous in the British comedy movies of my childhood, such as the St. Trinian's movies in which he played both the headmistress Miss Fritton and her brother Clarence Fritton. The referenced movie Scrooge (1951) is one of the best-known film adaptations of A Christmas Carol.



The Rest

1a agas {They're akin to khans}; 5a scows {Punts, e.g.}; 10a have {Maintain}; 14a pact {Joining of opposite sides}; 16a omit {Drop}; 20a soup spoon {Setting piece}; 22a tetra {Exotic fish}; 23a lagoon {Venetian feature}; 24a grate on {Rankle}; 28a uni- {Half of bi-}; 29a afro {Big do}; 30a beagle {Tricolor pooch}; 34a reed {Wind element}; 36a Sra. {Title not acquired by Miss Spain?: Abbr.}; 38a mood {___ ring}; 42a Alta {Utah ski resort}; 45a -ive {Mass ender?}; 49a castled {Made a switch in a game}; 52a slings {Carriers of arms}; 53a Elise {Beethoven dedicatee}; 54a dates back {Has been around since, with "to"}; 59a Owen {Funny Wilson}; 60a sued {Went after}; 61a not it {Tag words}; 63a Etna {Italian rumbler}; 64a stirs {Big ados}; 65a nyet {Putin input?}.

1d apes {Galoots}; 2d gasolines {Refinery products}; 4d stop-go {Like some traffic}; 5d snap off {Suddenly break, as a twig}; 6d coroners {Ones examining bodies of evidence?}; 7d otro {Juan's other}; 8d wrongs {Betrays, say}; 9d sew {Finish (up)}; 10d home team {They're out standing in their field}; 11d a mite {Somewhat}; 12d vitro {Not natural, in a way, after "in"}; 13d Ethan {___ Allen furniture}; 19d stave {Hold (off)}; 25d rib {Trunk part}; 26d aura {Goddess of breezes}; 31d going away {Kind of party}; 32d love scene {What's barely done in movies?}; 33d Eden {First couple's home}; 35d diet soda {Tab, for one}; 40d Seles {1991 and 1992 U.S. Open champ}; 41d tre {III in modern Rome}; 43d talents {Biblical money units}; 44d Aris {Fleischer and others}; 47d odd lot {It doesn't end in 00}; 48d inborn {Natural}; 49d cease {Quit}; 50d Aleut {Unalaska native, e.g.}; 51d siren {It may precede a storm}; 55d Act I {Play start}; 56d knit {Work on a muffler, say}; 58d ons {Walk-___}.

3 comments:

Magdalen said...

You are so right about the Thor/Thaw thing. I still cannot get over an official word puzzle in the London Times, "What three letter word rhymes with the same word reversed?" The answer was WAR & RAW.

I was flaggergasted -- in what universe do those two words rhyme? I still can't figure out if Brits drop the R in WAR or add an R to RAW -- or split the difference and almost sort of pronounce an R where it isn't in the word, and swallow half of the R in WAR.

zafiroblue05 said...

In volleyball you are allowed three hits. The first is a bump (arms in front of you, hands together), which is the strongest but least accurate so best for returning spikes; the second is a set, hands about your head, fingers out, and gently pushing the ball up in the air; and third, the spike. So the assist - if the spike isn't blocked and it hits the ground - is usually the set.

Funny note: one can actually use any part of the body in volleyball, as long as you never catch the ball but only hit it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwsaDnerJ4M

Crossword Man said...

Thanks for the explanation and the astonishing clip - I'm amazed it's OK to keep the ball in play so far outside the area of the court.