Sunday, November 8, 2009

NYT Monday 11/9/09 - Five Downs

This Monday New York Times crossword is the classic example of a theme that hides its light under a bushel. I got the grid filled without noticing a theme and then mentally checked for things the answers had in common ... nothing. Ok, is it anything to do with the first words? No. How about the second words? Aha!

Although the theme wasn't anything special, I did enjoy the solving process and what I like even more is the amount of new things to learn, even on a Monday. Today was my introduction to Mary Mapes Dodge and her bestseller Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates - the origin of the dike-plugging boy myth, famous in America, but not widely known in Holland.
Solving time: 5 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 20a Eli {Gin-touting Whitney}
Solution

Lynn Lempel
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Two-part answers that end with a synonym for "go down".
18a cough drop {Throat soother}
23a nightfall {Time just after sunset}
36a kitchen sink {Where dishes may pile up}
51a skinny-dip {Go in without a suit}
57a think-tank {Problem-solving research institute}
Crucimetrics
Compilers
Lynn Lempel / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers
78 (average length 4.79)
Theme squares
47 (25.1%)
Scrabble points
286 (average 1.53)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

35a Alda {Alan who directed and starred in "Betsy's Wedding"}. Alan Alda was easy enough to guess, which I had to do because this was the first I'd heard of Betsy's Wedding (1990) - his last directing credit to date. This comedy, apparently inspired by the marriage of Alda's youngest daughter, was not well-received critically, but is notable as launching the career of Anthony LaPaglia.



28d Lea {"Back to the Future" actress Thompson}. In this case, I'd seen the movie for sure, but Lea Thompson somehow left an indelible blank on my mind. Ah, I see she plays Lorraine Baines McFly, the mother of Michael J. Fox's character, in all three of the Back to the Future movies.



dike
37d Hans {Brinker with storied skates}. Wonderful ... how would I find out about this stuff without crosswords?! Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates is an 1865 novel by the American author Mary Mapes Dodge. It is set in Holland, where the silver skates are awarded to the winner of an ice-skating race. The book has two claims to fame: it introduced the sport of Dutch speed skating to Americans; it also popularized the story of the little Dutch boy who plugs a dike with his finger (many wrongly assume Hans Brinker was the name of the boy).
 
spare
48d spares {Bowling scores inferior to strikes}. Ten-pin bowling is definitely not my area of expertise. Now that I've got "turkey" (three consecutive strikes) under my belt, it is time to learn what a spare is. Also known as a "half strike", a spare is awarded when no pins are left standing after the second ball of a frame (obviously inferior to a strike, in which all the pins are knocked down by the first ball).

Noteworthy

Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin
20a Eli {Gin-touting Whitney}. This made no sense to me when solving, and I think I may have even misread it as {Gin-toting Whitney}. Anyway, it got bypassed and I only realized after the puzzle was completed that Eli Whitney (1765–1825) - the inventor of the cotton gin - was being referenced. Eli is also famous as a pioneer in the use of interchangeable parts in machinery.

ESL
30a ESL {Class for U.S. citizens-to-be}. I've seen this clue before a few times, and I'd like to point out it's a bit of a generalization: I'm a citizen-to-be but I don't expect to attend an English as a Second Language course. [On second thoughts, maybe I do need it, or rather an AESL (American English as a Second Language) course!]

Ivan Pavlov
38d Ivan {Nobelist Pavlov}. I had my doubts that this was the famous Pavlov: was he around that late? were Nobel prizes awarded that early? Yes, the prizes were first awarded in 1901 and Ivan Pavlov (1849–1936) was among the first winners, getting his Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1904. Pavlov's primary research interest was gastric function, but he noticed that the dogs he was experimenting on tended to salivate before food was actually delivered to their mouths; he got sidetracked into investigating this "psychic secretion", as he called it, and so did the first experiments on classical conditioning.

The Rest

1a agent {Actor's representative}; 6a cast {Group of actors}; 10a ogle {Eye desirously}; 14a toner {Copy machine powder}; 15a Otto {German king who became an early Holy Roman Emperor}; 16a lies {Whoppers}; 17a hasty {Rushed, as a decision}; 21a AOL {I.M. provider}; 22a atilt {Slanted}; 27a metal {Almost any element whose name ends in -ium}; 29a seniors {12th graders}; 32a are {"___ you kidding?!"}; 33a tri- {Three: Prefix}; 34a tau {Letter after sigma}; 39a emit {Give off}; 41a AAA {Motorists' org.}; 42a pvt. {Lowest-ranking G.I.}; 43a pen {Paper Mate product}; 44a CNN {"Larry King Live" channel}; 45a weasels {Sneaky types}; 49a Anglo {Latino's Yankee buddy}; 53a tsars {Rulers until 1917}; 55a and {"What's more ..."}; 56a in a {All ___ day's work}; 59a amber {Shade of yellow}; 61a ooze {Slime}; 62a edge {Boundary}; 63a Milne {"Winnie-the-Pooh" writer}; 64a oles {Cheers for the matador}; 65a toad {Warty hopper}; 66a press {Newspapers collectively}.

1d Athens {Parthenon's site}; 2d goalie {Only soccer player who can throw the ball}; 3d ensign {Junior naval officer}; 4d net {Kind of profit or loss}; 5d try {Take a stab at}; 6d cocoas {Hot winter drinks}; 7d atoll {Ring-shaped island}; 8d Stu {Disco guy on "The Simpsons"}; 9d toga {"Animal House" garb}; 10d oldie {Radio blast from the past}; 11d girl talk {Chitchat at a sweet sixteen sleepover}; 12d leotard {Ballerina's tight-fitting attire}; 13d ESP {Meeting of the minds, for short?}; 19d html {WWW letters}; 21d African {From Niger or Nigeria}; 24d hit it {Bandleader's "Let's go!"}; 25d tort {Wrongful act}; 26d lean {Low in fat}; 31d suspend {Discontinue for now}; 34d tea {Black or green drink}; 35d antsy {Restless}; 36d king-size {Really big, as a mattress}; 39d EPA {Clean Air Act org.}; 40d menthol {18-Across ingredient}; 44d cork {It's popped on New Year's Eve}; 45d winked {Sent an eye signal}; 46d edible {Fit for consumption}; 47d linens {White sale items}; 50d lanes {Places to make 48-Down}; 52d Kanga {Roo's mom in "Winnie-the-Pooh"}; 54d stet {"Do not change," to an editor}; 57d too {Likewise}; 58d ado {Hustle and bustle}; 59d amp {Measure of electric current}; 60d Mir {Onetime space station}.

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