Sunday, November 15, 2009

NYT Monday 11/16/09 - Grok the Concept

This Monday New York Times crossword was something of a first for me: I didn't feel the need for a New to Me section in my comments. Not that I knew every last detail, like what Nick Nolte won a Golden Globe award for, but the usual feeling of venturing into a new area of knowledge wasn't there today.

The theme was straightforward enough, but I had to check with Magdalen that I wasn't underselling it: I assumed the vowel sounds in the second words were different, but needed an American speaker to say "bull, awe, roll, load" to be sure. I note that all the theme answers have the (4,3,4) pattern except for shock and awe, but concede that the (4,3,4) options are annoyingly limited to just three.

Fireball CrosswordsHot news (in one sense at least ... I may be the last to notice this): the New York Sun crossword is being reborn as Fireball Crosswords thanks to editor Peter Gordon. The basic subscription is $10 for 50 puzzles by email, but there are imaginative Gold and Platinum options in which you get to choose an answer to put in one of the puzzles. I've really enjoyed the anthologized New York Sun puzzles in e.g. Cranium-Crushing Friday Crosswords, so haven't hesitated to send in my check.
Solving time: 5 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 46d analog {Like a clock with hands}
Solution

James Mulhern and Ashton Anderson
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

11-letter phrases with the "*OCK AND *" pattern.
17a cock-and-bull {Like a story that can't be believed}
27a shock and awe {Military strategy during the 2003 invasion of Iraq}
45a rock-and-roll {Subject of a 1950s "revolution"}
61a lock and load {Prepare to use a rifle}
Crucimetrics
Compilers
James Mulhern and Ashton Anderson / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers
78 (average length 4.79)
Theme squares
44 (23.5%)
Scrabble points
316 (average 1.69)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Noteworthy
prexy
39a prexy {Veep's superior}. I had no problems with this, but wondered in what contexts the definition applies. prexy seems to be slang for a college president, and I thought veeps were only to be found in businesses and of course the White House. But looking at Google, I see lots of job vacancies for "College Vice Presidents", so I guess colleges have veeps as well as prexies. Prexies is also the slang term for the Presidential Issue of stamps, first available in 1938 and featuring all the presidents up to Calvin Coolidge, plus Benjamin Franklin of course, Martha Washington and the White House.

49a Kent {Classic cigarette brand}. Somehow knew this one even though I've never smoked. Maybe they are familiar from newsagents in the UK. Kent Cigarettes was - I'm told - the brand of choice of many of the rich and famous, such as entertainer Dean Martin. With ads like these I can see how earlier generations succumbed to the lure of tobacco.



Yalta
55a Yalta {1945 conference site}. My school study of history was very patchy (a few eras covered in depth, but many not at all); however, World War II is one of the periods I learned and so I knew about the famous Yalta Conference which did much to decide the postwar fate of continental Europe. It was the second of three major wartime conferences between the leaders of the Allies, being preceded by the Tehran Conference in 1943 and followed by the Potsdam Conference, also in 1945.

66a Nolte {Golden Globe winner Nick}. Easy enough to guess Nick Nolte, but I always like to look up what the awards were for. Nolte won his Golden Globe for the portrayal of Tom Wingo in the 1991 movie The Prince of Tides, based on a Pat Conroy novel.



9d ASL {"Talking" done with the hands: Abbr.}. This was one of the toughest clues in the puzzle as it took ages to see the reference to American Sign Language. It's very odd to me that British Sign Language (BSL) is completely different and the two sign languages are mutually unintelligible. There was a time when Britain and America seemed to delight in their differences (like driving on different sides of the road), and I suppose crosswords may be another example of that; I'm just glad that, as far as computers and the internet go, there are world standards.



23d la-di-da {"Well, look at you!"}. Can't think of la-di-da without an image of Annie Hall appearing ... vintage Woody.



29d Kix {Spherical cereal}. Not the first time I've come across Kix the General Mills cereal, but could use this reminder as it's not a UK brand as far as I know. Is Kix really spherical? I guess I'll have to buy some to find out. A minor embarrassment occurred in 1992 when Berry Berry Kix was introduced, sounding all too like the B1 deficiency disease (vitamin B1 was unfortunately not a nutritional constituent).



56d Alex {Trebek who says "And the answer is ..."}. Another clue where I'm glad of a reminder: Alex Trebek is the current host of  Jeopardy! ... a great excuse to see the recent "crossword category" with Will Shortz again.



The Rest

1a lamb's {___ wool (soft material)}; 6a organ {Heart or kidney}; 11a Ltd. {Inc., in England}; 14a USAir {Delta alternative, once}; 15a lease {Rent}; 16a Ira {Lyricist Gershwin}; 19a fur {Mink or ermine}; 20a knee {It's just below the thigh}; 21a opal {Fall birthstone}; 22a sleek {Streamlined}; 24a yes dear {Spouse's servile words}; 26a boas {Fancy items worn around the neck}; 32a Jabba {___ the Hutt ("Star Wars" villain)}; 36a lib {Ad-___}; 37a Ives {Currier's partner in lithography}; 38a Ella {Jazzy Fitzgerald}; 41a deep {Profound}; 42a etas {Greek H's}; 43a AAA {Battery for a camera or phone}; 44a tardy {Late}; 50a fiction {Novels, e.g.}; 57a isle {Skye, e.g.}; 59a afro {Hairstyle that may have a comb stuck in it}; 60a Ali {Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Century}; 64a Les {"___ Miz"}; 65a orbit {Spacecraft's path}; 67a ext {Abbr. after a phone no.}; 68a gimme {One-footer, say, in golf}; 69a Andes {Much of Chile}.

1d lucky {Like a rabbit's foot or four-leaf clover}; 2d as one {Together}; 3d maces {Spiked clubs}; 4d biked {Rode a Schwinn, e.g.}; 5d Sra. {Mrs., in Madrid}; 6d old pro {Veteran}; 7d Reba {Singer McEntire}; 8d Gaul {France before it was France}; 10d Nelson {Mandela of South Africa}; 11d life-saver {Candy with a hole in the middle}; 12d true {T on a test}; 13d dark {Gloomy}; 18d Noah {Ark builder}; 25d esa {Spanish "that"}; 26d baby {Newborn}; 28d clear {Cloudless}; 30d weed {Marijuana, slangily}; 31d espy {Glimpse}; 32d jeer {Give a Bronx cheer}; 33d alto {Midrange voice type}; 34d blacklist {Secretly ban from employment}; 35d basket {Score after dribbling, say}; 39d pant {Huff and puff}; 40d rad! {"Gnarly!"}; 44d TLC {Special attention for a patient, in brief}; 46d analog {Like a clock with hands}; 47d of late {Recently}; 48d lien {Property claim}; 51d talon {Eagle's grasper}; 52d I fold {"Too rich for my blood"}; 53d orate {Give a grand speech}; 54d nodes {Junctures}; 55d Yale {Where the Clintons got law degrees}; 57d ICBM {Long-range weapon, for short}; 58d skim {0% fat, say}; 62d or I {"... ___ quit!"}; 63d DNA {Code of life}.

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