Monday, October 19, 2009

NYT Tuesday 10/20/09 - New Agers

The first theme answer I got for this Tuesday New York Times crossword was Rose Garden, and with its hidden Segar, I naturally thought we might be in for a puzzle about cartoonists. As I got the other theme answers, it emerged that the unifying theme was Segar's letters, not his trade, explained by GEARS shifting.

Later that day, I saw Craig Sager commenting on the NLCS game and so wondered if it would have been possible for each rearrangement of GEARS to be another word, maybe even a surname. garage sales is a possible (but less colorful) alternative to Chivas Regal and sar Gerónimo would fit the central answer, but I'd guess is too obscure to feature there. I imagine that ensuring high-quality theme answers trumped thematic neatness in this case.
Solving time: 9 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 1d war {It was hell, to Sherman}
Solution

Gary Cee
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Theme answers contain a jumble of GEARS in the squares with circles, this treatment being suggested by 61a shift gears {Make an abrupt change ... and a hint to this puzzle's theme}.
17a Rose Garden {View from the Oval Office}
25a Chivas Regal {Premium Scotch whiskey}
37a Old Timers' Game {Event featuring sports stars of yesteryear}
52a sausage-roll {Pastry sold at pizzerias}
Crucimetrics
CompilersGary Cee / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.92)
Theme squares55 (29.4%)
Scrabble points274 (average 1.47)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

Orel Hershiser28a Orel {Sportscaster Hershiser}. Talking of which, it was quite a coincidence to see Craig Sager (cf 52-Across) pop up as a sideline reporter on last night's NLCS game. Orel Hershiser is another baseball expert, being a former MLB right-handed pitcher and now an analyst on ESPN, as well as a professional poker player. Writing this I now remember encountering him before in the April 21 puzzle.

Herald Square43a Herald {New York's ___ Square}. The answer seemed reasonable, and I assumed the square was named after the newspaper. Yes, Herald Square, at the intersection of Broadway, Sixth Avenue and 34th Street, is where the New York Herald was originally headquartered. It's described as a typical Manhattan "bow-tie" square, formed by Broadway's diagonal path. The paper itself came to an end in 1924, when it was merged into the New York Herald Tribune.

The Great Wallendas56a net {Safety device eschewed by the Flying Wallendas}. Not a difficult clue, but the Flying Wallendas were still a mystery when I'd solved it. The acrobatic troupe apparently started between the wars and were hired by John Ringling to perform in Madison Square Garden. Based on their Wikipedia article, the net wasn't originally eschewed so much as lost in transit, but once they started performing without a net, the press picked up on it and it became their trademark. Karl Wallenda died in 1978, but members of his family still perform today.

68a Ernie {Kovacs of early TV}. Kovács means "smith" in Hungarian, so is a common family name. Ernie Kovacs (19191962) had an uninhibited and visually experimental comic style that supposedly was an influence on iconic shows like Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In and Monty Python's Flying Circus. He's famous for the definition "Television: a medium, so-called because it is neither rare nor well done".



NoDoz71a NoDoz {Aid in pulling an all-nighter}. A product I'd not come across, but the name NoDoz seemed entirely reasonable and a useful confirmation of the Z in the bottom right square. Each NoDoz pill contains 200 milligrams of caffeine - about as much as one cup of coffee.

Carla and Nicolas12d Carlas {France's Bruni-Sarkozy and others}. How unusual it seems for a premier to go through what Nicolas Sarkozy did: Sarkozy finally divorced his second wife Cécilia shortly after his election as President. Meanwhile he entered into a relationship with Italian-born singer Carla Bruni and they married on February 2, 2008 at the Élysée Palace.

46d Rather {Newsman Dan}. I'd better pay close attention to someone with the surname Rather - chances are he'll be used at the beginning of a clue someday and that could be highly misleading. Dan Rather was anchor of CBS Evening News from 1981 to 2005; he now has a weekly news show Dan Rather Reports.



Noteworthy

15a Edna {Dame who's a hoot}. Dame Edna Everage seemed to have been on British TV for most of my lifetime, so I wondered if Barry Humphries was still performing ... and how come he's well-enough known to superstar in the squares of an American crossword? Wikipedia answered both those questions by recounting his very successful Broadway performances in 2000. Humphries, now 75, continues to appear on British TV, doing shows in 2007 and 2008.



1d war {It was hell, to Sherman}. The Yale Book of Quotations comes into its own with a clue like this. The famous quotation "War is hell" may just have been a paraphrase of what William Tecumseh Sherman expressed in speeches. What he's actually documented as saying is "There is many a boy here to-day who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell" (speech to reunion of veterans Aug 11, 1880). Also, the sentiment didn't originate with him, since Napoleon I was reported as using it in February of 1860.

10d Fester {Addams Family uncle}. I must have watched the occasional episode of the The Addams Family on TV, as I just about remember Uncle Fester, though it's clear my knowledge of the series isn't adequate for the purposes of crosswords. The character most likely to haunt the squares of a puzzle is of course the three-letter Cousin Itt.



The Rest

1a Weill {Composer Kurt}; 6a hoop {Basketball backboard attachment}; 10a fact {It's the truth}; 14a am too {"Are not!" retort}; 16a Esau {Jacob's twin}; 19a sirs {Madams' partners}; 20a a bite {Grab ___ (eat on the run)}; 21a totals {Wrecks beyond repair}; 23a dad {Stay-at-home ___}; 30a nip {Sip from a flask}; 31a arose {Greeted the morning}; 32a class A {First-rate}; 35a naan {Tandoori-baked bread}; 42a orig. {Not a copy: Abbr.}; 45a are up {"Your 15 minutes of fame ___!"}; 49a cat {Litter box visitor}; 51a miso {Sushi bar soup}; 57a strata {Levels of society}; 58a fetal {Like an unborn baby's position}; 60a thou {10 C-notes}; 66a deps. {Passbook amts.}; 67a pave {Smooth, as the way}; 69a area {Word after Bay or gray}; 70a stye {Eyelid woe}.

2d Emo {Punk rock subgenre}; 3d it's a deal! {"You're on!"}; 4d Loeb {Leopold's 1920s co-defendant}; 5d logic {Mr. Spock's forte}; 6d herein {Found on this page}; 7d odd {Like a "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" item}; 8d one {Cyclops eye count}; 9d pants {Trousers}; 11d Asiago {Panini cheese}; 13d tussle {Bit of a fight}; 18d ATH {Greece's capital, in its airport code}; 22d orange {Tropicana fruit}; 23d Doc {___ Holliday}; 24d Arlo {Folkie Guthrie}; 26d vinegar {Partner of oil}; 27d a par {On ___ with (equal to)}; 29d LSD {Drug sold on blotting paper}; 33d stop at {Visit while on the road, as a motel}; 34d air {Broadcast}; 36d ash {___ Wednesday}; 38d mice {Prey for owls}; 39d arm {Biceps' place}; 40d mainland {The rest of the U.S., to Hawaiians}; 41d else {"You're something ___!"}; 44d dot {Preceder of com or org}; 45d Asst. DA {#2 in a prosecutor's office: Abbr.}; 47d Europe {Chunnel's home}; 48d USA, USA {Patriotic chant}; 50d toffee {Chewy coating for an apple}; 53d gasps {Says while choking}; 54d let {Tennis do-over}; 55d Lt Gen {Three-star U.S. Army officer}; 59d aero- {Commercial prefix with "flot"}; 62d hat {Busby or derby}; 63d ivy {Wall creeper}; 64d Rio {Ipanema's locale}; 65d sez {"___ who?"}.

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