Saturday, November 7, 2009

NYT Saturday 11/7/09 - Under the Lash

After yesterday's straightforward puzzle, I rather suspected we'd get a stiff workout with today's Saturday New York Times crossword. So it turned out to be. I managed to make reasonable progress in several parts of the grid, but every time I made forays into the NW, I came up with nothing.

With half an hour or so gone, I had shoeshine and Ariadne as my only ways in to the top left and top middle, with the rest of the grid done. After a considerable effort, I recalled Anitra for 2-Down and so broke into the corner block. This still left the top middle and with an hour gone, and no end in sight, I called for Magdalen's assistance.

She agreed this was a tough puzzle and we were getting close to googling something in that area ("Cheyenne Kid" looked the best prospect) when Alice was recalled, which finally allowed pale and nuclei to be fathomed ... hence the rest of that area fell out.
Solving time: 70 mins (with Magdalen, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 54a brrr {Remark from a draft dodger?}

Bob Klahn
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Bob Klahn / Will Shortz
15x15 with 29 (12.9%) black squares
70 (average length 5.60)
Theme squares
0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points
319 (average 1.63)
Letters used
New To Me

5a spang {Squarely}. One of those words I know to exist, but which I couldn't define for you to save my life. So I'll let Messrs Merriam and Webster do it:
spang adverb
2 : in an exact or direct manner : SQUARELY
From Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 11th Edition
18a Alice {___ blue, color named after a first daughter}. This was the only way we could break into the top middle: Magdalen had a hunch the clue referred to Theodore Roosevelt's first daughter and eventually came up with a name for her. Alice blue is the light or steel blueish-cyanish color that was favored by Alice Roosevelt Longworth and which sparked a fashion sensation in the US. The hit song "Alice Blue Gown", inspired by Longworth's signature gown, premiered in the 1919 Broadway musical Irene.

24a démarche {Appeal from a diplomat}. Like spang, I knew démarche to exist and just assumed it was the answer once I'd got it down to one unknown letter. A démarche is a formal diplomatic representation of the official position, views, or wishes on a given subject from one government to another government, or to an intergovernmental organization.

George Washington by Rembrandt Peale
48d Peale {Artist Rembrandt}. Rather a cheeky clue, as the Rembrandt in question isn't Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn but Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860), an American painter known for his portraits of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. You might think his parents had considerable foresight to give their third child the forename "Rembrandt", but the father Charles Willson Peale was also a notable artist and perhaps just assumed the gift would be passed on.


15a LaRue {Cheyenne Kid portrayer}. Magdalen thought this related to a recent movie, positing Nick Nolte, but he didn't work out. I realized much too late this was a reference to our old crossword friend Lash LaRue, expert wielder of the bullwhip and sidekick to singing cowboy hero Eddie Dean in the cited role.

30a octopi {Well-armed predators?}. The conventional plural is octopuses, but dictionaries have been weakening and allowing that octopi does get used a lot. I see that MWCD11 lists both plurals without comment, but The Chambers Dictionary and The New Oxford American Dictionary continue to explain that octopi is wrong (because it is a Latin plural form, when octopus in fact comes from the Greek ... octopodes is the Greek plural).

2d Anitra {Dancer in a suite}. Anitra's Dance from Peer Gynt is another old chestnut from crosswords. I doubt I'd have broken into the NW corner if I hadn't dredged up that answer - the other clues in that area were well-nigh impossible for me.

6d pale {Cadaverous}. I got considerably held up by the possibility of bony here, but had to give that up when 20-Across was clearly it's a steal.

7d Ariadne {Strauss heroine from classical myth}. Elektra also fits, and naturally I had that until evidence from 24-, 27- and 28-Across pushed me towards Ariadne auf Naxos. My relatively good knowledge of Richard Strauss operas was about the only thing I had going in the top middle.

The Rest

1a Maas {Peter who wrote "Underboss"}; 10a Mali {Landlocked Muslim land}; 14a On Me {"Down ___" (1967 Janis Joplin song)}; 16a Eton {Where Aldous Huxley taught George Orwell}; 17a Dion {"Little Diane" singer, 1962}; 19a fast {Like some friends}; 20a it's a steal {"That's really cheap!"}; 22a Niner {West Coast N.F.L.'er}; 23a frothy {Insubstantial}; 26a Yazoo {Mississippi river named by La Salle}; 27a union shop {Local operation?}; 28a règle {En ___ (by the rules: Fr.)}; 31a set {Sink}; 34a sum {Base of a column}; 35a wry {Lopsided}; 36a red {Flushed}; 37a cliché {As different as night and day, e.g.}; 39a Leeds {The Who's "Live at ___," 1970 double-platinum album}; 41a odalisque {Harem slave}; 43a rafts {A slew}; 47a romantic {Don Quixote type}; 48a pellet {Single shot}; 49a crate {Flivver}; 50a give way to {Reluctantly accept}; 52a Hart {See 55-Across}; 53a Sofia {World capital at the foot of Mount Vitosha}; 54a brrr {Remark from a draft dodger?}; 55a Edie {With 52-Across, lead female role in TV's "Peter Gunn"}; 56a knell {Dead ringer?}; 57a loam {Wall-plastering material}; 58a roar {Hubbub}; 59a agree {Harmonize}; 60a eddy {It may be found near a drain}.

1d modify {Reshape}; 3d Amos Oz {"A Tale of Love and Darkness" author, 2003}; 4d Senator {"Damn Yankees" chorister}; 5d slaty {Dull blue-gray}; 8d nuclei {Cores}; 9d gee {"Oh, I don't know"}; 10d me-first {Selfish}; 11d at anchor {Not likely to go with the flow}; 12d lose hope {Despair}; 13d intrepid {Doughty}; 21d shoeshine {Low finish?}; 22d Nancy Drew {"The Bungalow Mystery" solver}; 25d Moore {English sculptor Henry}; 27d Ulm {1805 Napoleonic victory site}; 29d guest {Partygoer}; 31d scorcher {Hard-hit line drive}; 32d Eldorado {The first complete navigation of the Amazon was in search of this}; 33d Tia Maria {Liqueur reputedly named for a noblewoman's chambermaid}; 35d wee {Baby}; 38d clatter {Racket}; 39d Lucifer {"Doctor Faustus" character}; 40d salable {Ready to move}; 42d qi gong {Chinese meditative practice}; 44d fly rod {Casting option}; 45d tetrad {Four-note chord}; 46d stormy {Not at all fair}; 51d vile {Flagitious}; 53d ska {Music genre of the English Beat and the Specials}.

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