Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NYT Wednesday 10/21/09 - Pop Boys

For once I cottoned on to the theme of this Wednesday New York Times crossword within a minute or so, helped by the explanatory clue appearing prominently at the top of column 2 in the printed version I worked from.

So when I saw George and Michael, I realized a chain of names was involved and extended it to Boy at 1-Across and Jackson at 46-Across. The only singer I wasn't completely familiar with was Jackson Browne. I like the way the chain wraps around, with pop boy being a potential definition of all the artists, but Browne Pop stops any thought of the chain coming full circle.

The theme occupies relatively few squares of the grid and one wonders if the same idea would have worked better in other genres (actors and actresses spring to mind), perhaps allowing for eight theme answers and maybe even a complete cycle of names. I'm sure that would be possible if you didn't try to limit the names to a single genre, but the advantage of the chosen implementation is the admirably tight association of all the names.
Solving time: 9 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 59d hat {It may be felt on your head}

Peter A. Collins
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


The theme answers form a chain of male popular singers: Boy George, George Michael, Michael Jackson, Jackson Browne. This feature is indicated by 65a pop {Genre for 1- & 22-Across, 22- & 26-Across, 26- & 46-Across and 46- & 49-Across}.
1a boy! {"Whew!"}
22a George {Dragon-slaying saint}
26a Michael {Archangel in Daniel}
46a Jackson {Mississippi's capital}
49a Browne {"Hägar the Horrible" creator Dik}
CompilersPeter A. Collins / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares32 (16.9%)
Scrabble points307 (average 1.62)
New To Me

impeachment29a senator {Judge in an impeachment trial}. This is a good opportunity to learn another area of US politics: impeachments. Impeachment in the US is a formal charge against a civil officer of government for conduct committed in office, analogous to indictment in regular court proceedings (so distinct from the subsequent trial). The House of Representatives has the sole power of impeaching, while the United States Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments. I was surprised not to see Richard Nixon on the shortish list of those impeached (mostly federal judges), but it seems he resigned in the face of the near certainty of his impeachment, which had already been approved by the House Judiciary Committee. Only two US presidents have been impeached - Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton - both were acquitted at trial.

Hump Day5d mid-week {Hump day, to an office worker}. I'd never heard Wednesday called hump day before, apparently an allusion to getting through the middle of the week being equivalent to "getting over the hump". A new comedy film called Humpday opened in July this year, but that appears to reference a whole other meaning of hump.

22d Greg {Dharma's sitcom spouse}. A reference to Dharma and Greg, which I kinda sorta knew, but need a reminder of. It was a Chuck Lorre sitcom originally airing from 1997 to 2002 - a culture-clash comedy centered around uptight lawyer Greg married to ditzy flower child Dharma. The series featured the vanity cards that can still be seen at the end of Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory.

Cleveland Indians32d Rosen {Baseball's Al a k a the Hebrew Hammer}. Being given the nickname was particularly helpful on this occasion: Al Rosen (not to be confused with the Al Rosen who played Al on Cheers) was one of the best Jewish baseball players of all time, playing his entire 10-year career (1947-1956) for the Cleveland Indians.

Tequila42d Jalisco {Guadalajara's state}. Do Americans know all the Mexican states? There are 31 of them and I've only heard of ones that have lent their names to other things like Chihuahua and Tabasco. Jalisco doesn't have that distinction, but is the fourth most populated, bordering on the Pacific. It is the center of the tequila industry, the drink being named after the town of Tequila, Jalisco.


Council of Trent19a Trent {Council of ___, 1545-63}. Time to look up the Council of Trent, as I'd quite forgotten what it was all about. It was the Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church that kicked off the Counter-Reformation, a reaction to the advances made by Protestantism. It would be 300 years before the next Ecumenical Council, Vatican Council I of 1869-70. The Council of Trent issued numerous decrees and specified the Catholic doctrine on salvation, the sacraments, and the Biblical canon.

37a 'Tis {Frank McCourt memoir}. I gimme for me, as 'Tis was much in the news in Britain when it was first published in 1999. It's a sequel to Frank McCourt (1930-2009)'s memoir Angela's Ashes, describing the time after his arrival in America. The earlier book is somewhat better known, as it won a Pulitzer and was made into a movie.

Rabat57a Rabat {North African capital}. I could only think of Cairo here, perhaps because thoughts of Morocco conjure up its largest city Casablanca and historic Marrakech, but not its capital Rabat.

64a I Shot {Bob Marley's "___ the Sheriff"}. Popular music is not my forte, but I'll always remember I Shot the Sheriff perhaps because of its striking lyrics. The song was first released in 1973 on The Wailers' album Burnin'.

Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea7d Lewis {Explorer with Sacagawea}. I was first introduced to Sacagawea via the Sacagawea dollar in puzzles earlier this year. Our Floridian host of last week is a coin collector and kindly gave me a set of Sacagawea dollars from the Philadelphia and Denver mints - the start of my own collection of US coins. Anyway, this is how I knew to write in Lewis (1774–1809), as Sacagawea's claim to fame is that she accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition, acting as a Shoshone translator and occasional guide. The infant she's portrayed as carrying is her son Jean Baptiste Charbonneau nicknamed Little Pomp or Pompy.

38d vici {End of a Caesarean boast}. The end of veni, vidi, vici, the boast reported in The Twelve Caesars and Parallel Lives.

Oswald44d Oswald {Ruby's live-TV victim}. I was very slow on the uptake with this one, but at least did recognize what the reference was, once I'd got the answer from all the cross-checking. The discussion in the July 16 puzzle blog was a helpful reminder for me of the circumstances of Lee Harvey Oswald's murder by Jack Ruby on live television.

46d J.S. Bach {"Goldberg Variations" composer, in brief}. Strange coincidence, as we were listening to the Goldberg Variations that very morning in the 1981 recording by Glenn Gould (1932–1982). As far as music to be played in the house goes, our tastes don't have a huge overlap, but Magdalen and I do both agree on the genius and palatability of Johann Sebastian mighty Bach.

The Rest

4a I'm all {"___ ears!"}; 9a sable {Weasel-like animal}; 14a Ana {Santa ___, Calif.}; 15a Nivea {Big name in skin care}; 16a auras {Saintly glows}; 17a dumbs down {Oversimplifies, as educational standards}; 20a Esso {Flying A competitor}; 21a WWI {A.E.F.'s conflict}; 23a treasurer {Club official}; 33a on deck {Not quite up yet}; 34a keg {Bud holder, of sorts}; 35a ovo {Ab ___ (from the start)}; 36a barre {Ballet rail}; 38a vinos {Barrio quaffs}; 40a Iwo {Noted 1945 photo site, briefly}; 41a IRA {It might get a 4.0 A.P.R.}; 42a jingle {Ad music}; 43a Le Monde {French newspaper since 1944}; 47a sales slip {Proof of purchase}; 52a obi {Part of a geisha's attire}; 53a ohos {Cries of surprise}; 58a crash-test {Job for a dummy?}; 60a agile {Quick-footed}; 61a Mecca {Pilgrimage destination}; 62a ale {Draft pick?}; 63a deeds {Heroic acts}.

1d bade {Expressed, as a farewell}; 2d onus {Cross to bear}; 3d yams {Thanksgiving dish}; 4d ins {Those with clout}; 6d avowal {Affirmation}; 8d LAN {PC-linking system}; 9d sateen {Lustrous cloth}; 10d aurora {Dawn goddess}; 11d Brer {Uncle Remus title}; 12d lang {January 1 song word}; 13d Este {90 degrees from sur}; 18d bother {"Oh, ___!" (Pooh expression)}; 24d race {5K, for one}; 25d uses {A Swiss Army knife has lots of them}; 26d Mobil {1999 Exxon merger partner}; 27d in awe {Blown away}; 28d CD-ROM {PC backup medium}; 30d tongs {Picker-uppers}; 31d ovolo {Convex molding}; 34d Kia {Sportage automaker}; 37d tree {Cheshire cat's place}; 39d inkpot {Place to dip a quill}; 41d idle {Out of work}; 45d Nantes {City on the Loire with a quarter million people}; 48d sores {Results of abrasion}; 49d brad {Thin nail}; 50d rage {Latest thing}; 51d Obie {Best New American Play award}; 54d heap {Jalopy}; 55d Oslo {Where the traitorous Vidkun Quisling lived}; 56d step {1/12 of a recovery program}; 58d CMI {Early 10th-century year}; 59d hat {It may be felt on your head}.

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