Thursday, November 19, 2009

NYT Friday 11/20/09 - Déjà Vu

I couldn't believe my luck with this Friday New York Times crossword: 4-Down looked to end -esque ... it couldn't be Zolaesque (the answer made famous by the Wordplay movie), could it? But it was. Then there was the Brit-centric Chas and Dave reference at 4-Across that gave me the initial letters for four downs.

So I got off to a great start and for once didn't get significantly blocked, though I suspected there would be trouble in both the SW and SE corners. These ultimately yielded with a little patience and I wrapped up the whole puzzle in what may be a Friday record for me.

Neat to have another pangrammatic grid - all the letters are represented at least once and I applaud the effort to get in 10-point letters: I count three Qs and three Zs.
Solving time: 22 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 54a antes up {Indicates that one is in}

Alan Olschwang
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Alan Olschwang / Will Shortz
15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
72 (average length 5.25)
Theme squares
0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points
330 (average 1.75)
Letters used
New To Me

Cape Cod house
17a gable roofs {Cape Cod components}. It took a long time to see through this one, and I even considered fish fingers at one point. Once I'd got virtually all the crossing letters, I remembered Cape Cod is an architectural style. Originating in New England in the 17th century, the Cape Cod design is traditionally characterized by a low, broad frame building, generally a story and a half high, with a steep, perfectly pitched roof with end gables, a large central chimney and very little ornamentation.

Lech Walesa
22a Walesa {Only private non-American to address a joint session of Congress (1989)}. I was surprised Lech Wałęsa was the only person with this distinction: didn't Churchill address joint sessions of Congress from time to time? I guess he did, but not as a private citizen. Here are more fascinating facts about addresses by foreign leaders and dignitaries.

34a smut {Net Nanny no-no}. Easy enough answer, but the reference to Net Nanny intrigued me. Who or what is "Net Nanny"? It seems a brand of content-control software which supposedly allows parents to block access to websites with objectional content, such as pornography.

53a Trixie {TV neighbor of Ralph and Alice}. Ralph and Alice Kramden presumably, hence The Honeymooners. That much I remembered, but I'd forgotten Trixie Norton, married to Ralph's best friend Ed ... good to have another reminder.

Erskine Bowles
10d Erskine {1990s White House chief of staff Bowles}. The only Erskine I knew before today is Erskine Childers, Irish nationalist and author of Riddle of the Sands. That's who I'd have chosen if I were cluing the answer, but Erskine Bowles may be better known to Americans: he was White House Chief of Staff in 1997–98 and ran unsuccessfully for a North Carolina Senate seat in 2002 and 2004.

24d Liam {Irish statesman Cosgrave}. Liam Cosgrave was the Taoiseach of Ireland between 1973 and 1977, the son of W. T. Cosgrave, who was Head of Government in Ireland from 1922 to 1932.

Buffalo National River
45d Ozarks {Buffalo National River locale}. Tried Oregon for quite a while here, but it didn't work out. The Buffalo River originates in the highest part of Boston Mountains of the Ozarks, flows out onto the Springfield Plateau near the historic community of Erbie, and finally crosses the Salem Plateau just before joining the White River. It was the first National River to be designated, meaning it's administered as a distinct unit of the National Park Service. There are now fifteen National Rivers.

Sainte Suzanne, Reunion
59d Ste. {Suzanne, e.g.: Abbr.}. After getting all the crossings I became reconciled to this being a reference to Sainte Suzanne. Anyone get this without crossing letters? It seems unlikely. There have been several Sainte Suzannes apparently and at least six places in France have been named after them; there's also a Sainte-Suzanne in Réunion.


1a Jazzercise {Tae Bo alternative}. Neat way to kick the puzzle off: Tae Bo is an exercise routine that derives from taekwondo, the name being a portmanteau of tae kwon do and boxing. Jazzercise is clearly also a portmanteau, the regime being a fusion of jazz dance, resistance training, Pilates, yoga, and kickboxing.

11a Chas {English pop duo ___ & Dave}. For once my background is helpful: Chas and Dave performed what they called "rockney", with a delivery based on old-style pub singalongs. The number I remember best is "Rabbit" from 1980 ("rabbit (and pork)" being Cockney rhyming slang for "talk").

56a cued {Ready to be played}. Anyone else tempted into teed here? Made me wonder why there would be a "no teens" restriction in the rush hour!

9d safe {First call?}. A reference to "diamond" means baseball, as does any mention of "first", "second", "third" or "home". I hope I won't forget this in the eons before the noble game starts up again.

11d crest {Umbrella bird's "umbrella"}. A fairly obvious answer, but it's always nice to dig out a picture. Umbrella birds hang out in the rain forests of Central and South America, where some kind of head protection is very desirable.

21d Equus {1977 Richard Burton film}. Equus (1977) stars Richard Burton as a psychiatrist investigating the savage blinding of six horses. The perpetrator is Alan Strang, an unassuming seventeen-year-old stable boy played by Peter Firth. The movie is based on the play of the same name by Peter Shaffer. Daniel Radcliffe caused quite a stir recently when he performed the role of Alan Strang on the London stage and then Broadway.

44d pee {Top finisher?}. For some reason slightly more tricky than yesterday's {Civic center?} for vee ... the last letter of "Top" is P.

61d TAE {Inits. of a noted "Wizard"}. Lovely clue, and I was grateful for learning The Wizard of Menlo Park from puzzles earlier this year.

The Rest

15a one over par {It's not bad for a duffer}; 16a re-up {Extend one's service life}; 18a ergo {Conclusion lead-in}; 19a anew {Fresh}; 20a ekes out {Just makes}; 25a IQ test {Sharpness gauge}; 26a episode {Season opener, say}; 28a gnu {Lions might score one}; 29a sty {Foul territory?}; 30a Iraq {Baath party place}; 31a store up {Squirrel}; 36a SRO {Breaking capacity, briefly}; 37a sect {Zealots' group, maybe}; 40a eases on {Dons effortlessly, as footwear}; 43a trap {Big mouth}; 45a Oto {Chiwere speaker}; 48a req. {Not elective: Abbr.}; 49a mob rule {Ochlocracy}; 51a Ziploc {Baggie biggie}; 54a antes up {Indicates that one is in}; 57a Rosa {Flower genus that's also a woman's name}; 58a reservists {Ones who might get service calls?}; 63a Kris {Barbra's "A Star Is Born" co-star}; 64a eat one's hat {Be forced to backpedal}; 65a sent {Full of rapture}; 66a dress-shoes {Pair for a suit}.

1d jog {Nudge}; 2d Ana- {Baptist leader?}; 3d Zeb {"The Waltons" grandpa}; 4d Zolaesque {À la the founder of literary naturalism}; 5d even so {Still}; 6d rereads {Proofs, say}; 7d crow {Vaunt}; 8d IPO {Bit of business news, for short}; 12d heroes {Some are decorated}; 13d august {Grand}; 14d spotty {Erratic}; 22d Wei {Early Chinese dynasty}; 23d APRs {Loan figs.}; 27d et seq {Bibliographical abbr.}; 28d groom {Worker in a stable environment?}; 32d ORs {Where some parts are repaired, briefly}; 33d Petri dish {Germs grow in it}; 35d taros {Starch sources}; 38d crux {Central point}; 39d tali {Anklebones}; 41d secured {Locked in}; 42d no turns {Rush hour restriction}; 46d tin ore {Cassiterite, e.g.}; 47d opts in {Doesn't decline}; 50d breves {Double whole notes}; 52d least {Minimal}; 55d pear {Kind of brandy}; 56d CEOs {Firm wheels, for short}; 60d SHO {"The Tudors" airer, in brief}; 62d Sts. {G.P.S. data}.

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