Monday, October 5, 2009

NYT Tuesday 10/6/09 - Best of Three

Despite the terseness of the thematic clues in this Tuesday New York Times crossword, I made reasonably good progress. I mostly couldn't guess the theme answers just on the basis of the clue; but once the three-letter sequence was positioned, it was usually easy to think of the complete answer.

There seemed to be an unusual number of trouble spots for a puzzle this early in the week: at the Eris/Rama crossing, I was thankful I remembered the former; the Thro/Hoag crossing could also have presented problems, given Thru is the more usual shortening.
Solving time: 8 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 61d Smee {Right-hand man for a man with no right hand}
Solution

Matt Ginsberg
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Words containing unusual three-letter sequences:
18a campground {Only common word in the English language with the consecutive letters MPG}
28a headquarters {... ADQ ...}
48a thanksgiving {... KSG ...}
62a blitzkrieg {... ZKR ...}
2d raspberry {... SPB ...}
35d crankcase {... NKC ...}
Crucimetrics
CompilersMatt Ginsberg / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 34 (15.1%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 5.03)
Theme squares60 (31.4%)
Scrabble points325 (average 1.70)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

1a Erik {Christine's lover in "The Phantom of the Opera"}. I've not seen the The Phantom of the Opera, apparently the longest-running musical in Broadway history; but that may not have helped - I'm not sure the name of the "Opera Ghost" is ever used in that show. In the original book, the ghost/phantom in love with the soprano Christine Daaé is named as Erik.



14a Rama {"___ Lama Ding Dong," 1961 hit for the Edsels}. Difficult to be sure of that first letter ... was it Lama, Bama, Rama, etc? So crossing this with Eris was particularly tough. The Edsels were originally called The Essos, but the doo-wop group changed their name when the ill-fated Ford model came out.



31a Art {Carney of "The Honeymooners"}. Art Carney (1918–2003) played Ed Norton, Ralph Kramden's best friend on the classic 1950s sitcom. Art won the Best Supporting Actor Emmy for the role in 1956.



42a Thro' {"Comin' ___ the Rye"}. I might have guessed Thru if I wasn't completely sure about Tami Hoag at 36-Down. The line comes from the chorus of a Robert Burns poem: it provided the title for The Catcher in the Rye as a result of Holden Caulfield mishearing the lyrics.



66a La Rue {Cowboy star Lash, who taught Harrison Ford how to use a bullwhip}. Nice example of the sort of trivia that livens NYT cluing and would presumably have been rare under previous editorships. Lash La Rue (19171996) was a star in Westerns of the 1940's and 1950's and his trademark weapon was the bullwhip. Harrison Ford made good use Lash's training in the Indiana Jones movies.



Boston Celtics12d Ainge {All-Star Danny who played for the 1980s Celtics}. I'm sorry to say I had to look up what sport is involved here. Danny Ainge played both basketball and baseball professionally, but the clue clearly refers to his more famous career in the NBA, as the Celtics are the Boston basketball team. Danny is now in management at the same team, being the President of Basketball Operations.

RHE44d RHE {Baseball summary inits.}; 46d hits {The middle part of 44-Down}. I was expecting RHE to be the initials of a baseball stat like RBI, and so was surprised not to find it in the redoubtable Wikipedia. RHE it seems are the letters at the right had side of a typical baseball scoreboard, standing for runs, hits, errors. I guess I've not been to enough games for this to register in my brain.

Noteworthy

Omni5a Omni {Onetime science magazine}. I recalled Omni from way back, but it was news to me that it ceased publication in 1995, moving briefly to the internet before closing for good in 1998. Omni started in 1978 and was aimed at educating armchair scientists during a time of major advancements in science and technology. It also published science fiction stories such as William Gibson's Burning Chrome, in which the term Cyberspace was used for the first time.

1d Eris {Goddess of discord}. Eris is the goddess of strife, the Latin translation of the name being Discordia. The solar system's largest known dwarf planet (bigger even than Pluto) is now officially named Eris, after the goddess, although it had a short existence nicknamed Xena, in honor of the TV series. Has Xena been banned from grids - haven't seen her in ages?

Eris and friends

Lake Mead at Hoover Dam6d Mead {Lake ___, created by Hoover Dam}. Uncharacteristically, I knew this answer, having traveled to Nevada with wife-to-be Magdalen and Hub 1.0. Lake Mead was very evident from the air when flying into Las Vegas and we enjoyed seeing the sights at Hoover Dam - the world's largest concrete structure when it was completed in 1936. Lake Mead is named for Elwood Mead, who oversaw the construction of the dam.

36d Hoag {Romance/suspense novelist Tami}. Tami Hoag has had enough bestsellers that I've seen her name in bookshops and libraries, though I've not been lured into reading any yet.



61d Smee {Right-hand man for a man with no right hand}. Nicely enigmatic clue, referencing the Peter Pan characters Captain Hook and his second mate Smee. We're wrestling with very similar conundrums in the latest Rainbow Charity Puzzles offering called "A Thoroughly Bad Lot" ... which I encourage all crossword-loving Brits to try (a few clues are a little parochial for solvers outside the UK - I suspect that will be the case for me in a couple more years). In the 1953 Walt Disney feature, Smee is portrayed as the dogsbody on the pirate ship.



The Rest

9a Occam {Philosopher with a "razor"}; 15a ream {Paper purchase}; 16a Ellis {Best-selling author Bret Easton ___}; 17a is my {"The Lord ___ shepherd ..."}; 20a spoor {Wild animal track}; 22a deal {Command to a person holding a deck of cards}; 23a Sego {___ lily}; 24a bleed {What colors may do in hot water}; 26a recedes {Moves back, as a hairline}; 32a doze {Catch some Z's}; 33a yecch! {"This tastes horrible!"}; 37a ired {Really ticked}; 39a stilt {Circus stick}; 43a Ryder {Actress Winona}; 45a Noah {Captain for 40 days and nights}; 47a AAA {"___ approved" (motel sign)}; 52a spare me {"I don't want to hear about it!"}; 55a stink {Perform really badly}; 56a Aoki {Golfer Isao}; 57a outs {Escape clauses, e.g.}; 60a specs {Pair of lenses}; 65a Edam {Cheese sold in red paraffin}; 67a orca {Boat in "Jaws"}; 68a ruse {Trick}; 69a erase {Rub out}; 70a nets {Butterfly catchers' needs}; 71a Spee {German admiral Maximilian von ___}.

3d immolated {Burned ceremonially}; 4d kayoed {Walloped but good}; 5d orc {"The Lord of the Rings" baddie}; 7d name {ID}; 8d impart {Bestow}; 9d o'er {Not 'neath}; 10d close-set {Narrowly spaced, as the eyes}; 11d clued {Aware, with "in"}; 13d MS-DOS {PC platform released in 1982}; 19d glee {Mirth}; 21d reqd. {Necessary: Abbr.}; 25d duos {Pairs}; 27d cry {What Evita asked Argentina not to do for her}; 28d hair {Fur}; 29d AZT {First anti-AIDS drug}; 30d re-ink {Freshen, as a stamp pad}; 34d chained up {Fettered}; 38d detritus {Rubble, e.g.}; 40d Los {The "L" in L.A.}; 41d tags {Marks with graffiti}; 49d amok {Crazedly}; 50d neuron {One of about 100 billion in the human brain}; 51d vipers {Snakes}; 52d sable {Expensive fur}; 53d polar {Arctic or antarctic}; 54d Akira {"Seven Samurai" director Kurosawa}; 58d tire {Tucker out}; 59d sect {Zen Buddhism, e.g.}; 63d zee {Capital of Zambia?}; 64d gas {Tankful}.

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