Monday, November 23, 2009

NYT Tuesday 11/24/09 - All Things Considered

So far, the week's crosswords in the New York Times have been much tougher than usual. This puzzle was challenging for a Tuesday, partly because I ran into {See 34-Across}-type clues all over the place and struggled to get these split-up thematic entries filled ... though it's hard to see why with hindsight.

The idea behind the grid seems really straightforward, until you realize just how difficult it must be to find phrases in the same category that can be split up so perfectly and be arranged symmetrically.

There was one significant trouble spot for me: I knew neither 30a Alan Ball, nor 26d BBB and there were at least two strong candidates for the letter at their intersection, and possibly others on a bad day. In the end, I got the answer right by assuming a "consumer protection org." would most likely employ alliteration in its name. I got lucky ... everything considered, results rule!
Solving time: 11 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 70a IRS {Return addressee?: Abbr.}

Victor Fleming and Bonnie L. Gentry
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Three stock phrases equivalent to "everything considered", symmetrically disposed in the grid:
19a at the end, 64a of the day {Everything considered}
34a when all, 43a is said, 48a and done {Everything considered}
4d the final, 44d analysis {After "in," everything considered}
Victor Fleming and Bonnie L. Gentry / Will Shortz
15x16 with 38 (15.8%) black squares
83 (average length 4.87)
Theme squares
52 (25.7%)
Scrabble points
317 (average 1.57)
Letters used
New To Me

30a Alan Ball {Oscar-winning "American Beauty" writer}. Am I supposed to know this guy? Having no clue about 26-Down, this ultimately became a toss-up between Alan Ball and Alan Hall - I chose the former on the basis that if a famous soccer player had the name, then so could a famous screenwriter. Alan Ball it seems is also acclaimed for his TV work, creating and producing the drama series Six Feet Under and True Blood.

45a Nia {Actress Long of "Are We There Yet?"}. Nia Long looks to be coming in third in the Nia Stakes, a long way behind race leader Nia Peeples - she made all the early running and is still just about holding off Nia Vardalos, who's making a strong challenge just before the finish.

Melvin Laird and Richard Nixon
55a Laird {Melvin of the Nixon cabinet}. Melvin Laird served as Secretary of Defense from 1969 to 1973. Laird urged Nixon to maintain a policy of withdrawing US soldiers from Vietnam. He invented the expression "Vietnamization," referring to the process of transferring more responsibility for combat to the South Vietnamese forces.

Madame de Stael
8d Staël {"Delphine" author Madame de ___}. Stael didn't seem a likely name (Stahl would have been more convincing), but the cross-checking looked solid so I went with it. Madame de Staël (1766–1817) was a French-speaking Swiss author whose first novel was Delphine - an epistolary examination of the limits of women's freedom in an aristocratic society. Although Madame de Staël denied political intent, the book was controversial enough for Napoleon to exile her.

26d BBB {Consumer protection org.}. I had big problems over the middle letter here. It looked to be either B or H from the across answer, but remembering all the recent discussion of alliteration as regards Maalox moments, I leaned towards BBB as the answer. I got lucky, as BBB is short for Better Business Bureau, a North American organization of businesses supporting consumer rights. Businesses supporting consumer rights? That's something new! Apparently not, as the BBB started in 1912 and its early aim was to stamp out "medical quackery and the promotions of nostrums and worthless drugs".


24a Ipana {Toothpaste that Bucky Beaver once pitched}. Ipana seemed an unlikely name for toothpaste when I first came across it in March. I'm still unclear how the brand name came about - if anyone knows, please comment. Ipana was the most popular U.S. toothpaste or powder from 1936 to 1945, but lack of demand later meant the toothpaste was discontinued for a while until it was brought back as a "retro brand".

46a Cosell {Howard who announced "Down goes Frazier!"}. I got off to a bad start with this one, thinking it must be to do with the sitcom (but that has an S not a Z). Once I'd got all the crossings, I realized the clue referred to the sports commentator Howard Cosell (1918–1995) whose name I just about recognized. The quotation in the clue is one of the most famous phrases in American sports broadcasting history; Howard yelled it out at the fight between Joe Frazier and George Foreman for the World Heavyweight Championship in 1973.

Frisbie's Pies
11d pie pan {Tin that inspired the Frisbee}. I remember the puzzlement in our family when we were presented with a Frisbee as a hostess gift. You throw this thing? How? We soon got the hang of it. I wasn't convinced about the claims in the clue, until I read the Wikipedia article on the Frisbie Pie Company. Apparently their pie pans were used as flying discs by Yalies; when a Wham-O exec discovered that their early designs (originally called Pluto Platters) were nicknamed "Frisbies" at Yale, they renamed their product the Frisbee (changing one letter to avoid legal complications).

31d Levin {Ira who wrote "Rosemary's Baby"}. I knew Rosemary's Baby as a famous horror film starring Mia Farrow and had also heard of Ira Levin (19292007). I'm not sure I'd associated the two together before, however. Rosemary's Baby the book was first published in 1967 and when it became a best-seller was quickly adapted into the famous movie.

G(aio) Raio M(arci) f(ilio) / Capitoni / praef(ecto) fabr(um) aed(ili) / IIII vir(o) i(ure) d(icundo) / iter IIII vir(o) quin(quennali) / municip(es) et / incol(ae poserunt)
57d iter {Way of old Rome}. When I started On Notice!, I felt strongly enough about iter to banish it immediately. Previously I've seen it defined on the basis of its anatomical usage; seriously, this definition is no better - we all know via is "way" in Latin (DM help me out here). Begone iter!

66d Ara {Coach Parseghian}. Learned this one early on from that helpful list in Cruciverbalism. If Ara isn't busy being a southern constellation, then it has to be Ara Parseghian, the college football coach of Armenian descent. Ara was most notably the head coach of the University of Notre Dame team from 1964-1974.

68d âme {Soul: Fr.}. Easy for anyone who - like me - followed Twin Peaks: "J'ai une âme solitaire" (I am a lonely soul) were memorably the words of Harold Smith's suicide note.

The Rest

1a gum tree {Eucalyptus}; 8a sly {Not easily tricked}; 11a pica {Typewriter type}; 15a enchant {Cast a spell over}; 16a tee {"Time out" hand signal shape}; 17a idol {Simon Cowell's show, for short}; 18a added in {Introduced to the mix}; 21a Rolf {Use deep massage on}; 22a gave {Donated}; 25a IBM {PC introducer of 1981}; 27a Alaska {Where the North Slope slopes}; 38a rehab {Habit-kicking program}; 39a either {"I have no preference"}; 41a sea {Adriatic, e.g.}; 42a Evel {Stuntman Knievel}; 44a akin {Having similar properties}; 47a V-neck {Pullover style}; 50a keep away {Avoid, with "from"}; 52a unseat {Oust from office}; 54a DSL {Internet access option, for short}; 58a bore {Droner, usually}; 60a Yoda {Luke Skywalker's mentor}; 67a Onassis {The "O" of Jackie O.}; 69a area {Word after gray or Bay}; 70a IRS {Return addressee?: Abbr.}; 71a similes {Phrases with "as a" in the middle}; 72a dorm {Quad building}; 73a gas {Pedal next to the brake}; 74a aces out {Gets the better of, slangily}.

1d gear {First or neutral}; 2d undo {"Go back" computer command}; 3d MCDL {The year 1450}; 5d rad! {"Way cool!"}; 6d enigma {Riddle}; 7d Etna {Sicilian hot spot}; 9d let {Call in tennis}; 10d yet {Up to now}; 12d idea {Inkling}; 13d Conn. {Stamford's state: Abbr.}; 14d Alda {Capt. Pierce player}; 20d hiker {Backpacking sort}; 23d valise {Traveling bag}; 28d awhile {For a short time}; 29d shed {Molt}; 30d arena {Gladiators' venue}; 32d ahead {Leading}; 33d lessee {Rent payer}; 35d askew {Out of whack}; 36d Leica {German binoculars maker}; 37d lanky {Long and lean}; 40d talk to {Converse with}; 43d ions {They carry a charge}; 46d Condé {Publisher ___ Nast}; 47d VPs {#2's, for short}; 49d Durham {City near Raleigh}; 51d Edenic {Like paradise}; 53d abyss {Bottomless pit}; 55d load {Washerful}; 56d afro {Early do for Michael Jackson}; 59d Rosa {Parks who wouldn't sit still for injustice}; 61d Oslo {Capital on a fjord}; 62d dieu {Prie-___ (prayer bench)}; 63d asst. {Deputy: Abbr.}; 65d dig {Use a spade}.


Daniel Myers said...

LOL--This is altogether too funny coming as it does on the heels of recent comments. But I remember well pondering the difference meant by Roman writers between "iter" and the more common "via."

In short, if memory serves, though often interchangeable, "iter" is more often used to mean the journey one takes upon a "via." Julius Caesar, in his Letters (Latin II stuff) uses it to describe forced marches in his Gallic Campaign, where there were no "viae"

"Iter" is also third declension, making its Genetive "Itineris" whence we get the English Itinerary (I checked, just to make sure.) corresponding, as one sees, more to the "journey" or "trip" than to the road on which it is taken.

My crusty Latin master would no doubt be taking me to task right now for some minutiae I have omitted--He used to gall (pun intended) the French master with old jibes like, "Lovely country, France. Pity about the French." etc etc And I've gone on far too long here, Ross.

Class dismissed!

Crossword Man said...

Maybe "iter" is more like a route, with "via" the physical road. Can you get your KIX on Iter LXVI? It really puzzled me when I started driving here how a road could have several different designations (that doesn't happen in the UK). Then I thought about the virtual vis-a-vis real analogy (I am a programmer) and it made sense. When all is said and done, "iter" is still on notice, but I'd move it down the list if it weren't already at the bottom.

Book_em_Danno said...

70a IRS {Return addressee?: Abbr.} And what exactly does IRS stand for here? RS = Return-to-Sender, but what about the "I"? Thanks, Confused in Canada

Daniel Myers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel Myers said...


I was thinking the "route" vs. "road" English analogy as well, but then the "router" attached to my computer got me thinking in all sorts of confused ways.

Confused in Canada,,

IRS = Internal Revenue Service, where Americans send their "TAX RETURNS" yearly.