Tuesday, November 17, 2009

NYT Wednesday 11/18/09 - I'm All Wrong Jack

This Wednesday New York Times crossword was a bit of a disaster for me. The problems lay not so much in the theme (although I struggled with the end of Jacks to open), as with the larger than usual incidence of answers I'd no idea existed until today.

After I'd got most of the theme answers, it seemed reasonable that 60-Across would start with Jack, but I really struggled to complete it. It didn't help that I had house cat rather than house pet for 39-Down. Having been lured into the wrong way of thinking by 2d present {Roll call response}, it also didn't occur to me that nay could be the answer to the same clue. Dealing with the SE corner took about 8 minutes.

But at least once that area was filled in, I was sure it was right. I had little confidence in the NW corner, where there is a series of obscure and unlikely-looking downs (Hialeah, Remy, Prell). It so happens that my grid was correct there, but that was maybe more by luck than judgment.

In the NE corner, I thought I had a 50/50 call between BFA/Baalox and MFA/Maalox and unfortunately called it wrong. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have guessed the ad slogan involved alliteration, making Maalox more likely, but I still think that in a Wednesday puzzle, MFA might have been clued as {Musician's grad. deg.} or the like, to rule out BFA.
Solving time: 20 mins (solo, no solving aids, two wrong answers)
Clue of the puzz: 35a de-ice {Make ready for winter flight}
Solution

Paula Gamache
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Phrases starting with words that can follow jack, indicated by 60a Jacks to open {Five-card draw variation ... or a hint to 17-, 30-, 36- and 44-Across}.
17a hammer throw {Olympic track-and-field event} cf jackhammer
30a Frost/Nixon {Play and film about a noted 1977 series of interviews} cf Jack Frost
36a cheesecloth {Loosely woven cotton fabric} cf Jack cheese
44a rabbit ears {Indoor dipole antenna, colloquially} cf jackrabbit
Crucimetrics
Compilers
Paula Gamache / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers
74 (average length 5.05)
Theme squares
53 (28.3%)
Scrabble points
314 (average 1.68)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

Elena Dementieva
66a Elena {Dementieva of tennis}. Would have been handy to have known Elena Dementieva, to get away from house cat for 39-Down and assist with the second {Roll call response} clue at 63-Down, which I had difficulties with. Elena has a very good record at the Olympics, winning the gold medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing.

Hialeah Park Race Track
2d Hialeah {Historic racetrack site}. The first of a series of impossible clues for down answers along the top edge, resulting in a bit of a black hole in the NW corner. Hialeah seemed such an unlikely name that I suspected I had an across or two wrong. If I had to guess the location, I'd have said Hawaii, but it seems Hialeah is in Florida ... the home of the Hialeah Park Race Track (nicknamed the "Grand Dame"), a venue for horse racing since 1921. It closed to the public in 2001 for restorations and will reopen on November 28.

4d Remy {"Ratatouille" rat chef}. We enjoyed this animated movie on first release, but there was no chance I'd remember the name of the protagonist. Ratatouille is a Pixar film from 2007.



5d Prell {Green shampoo brand}. Is that "green" as in the color, or as in eco-friendly? It seems the former, since the shampoo was dreamed up well before ecology was invented. Prell is manufactured by Prestige Brands and "...contains a unique “rinse clean” formula that provides a thick, rich lather for clean, healthy hair".



11d Maalox {"___ moment" (ad catchphrase)}. My nemesis, since I couldn't differentiate between BFA and MFA for 11-Across and Baalox and Maalox seemed equally likely as moment-worthy brands. I tossed a coin and it came up heads for Baalox. I gather Maalox is an antacid and "Maalox moments" are more about stomach-churning situations than eating too much. In writing this, I realize that Baalox/Maalox wasn't really a 50/50 call ... if you have to guess, go for alliteration ("Maalox moment" trumps "Baalox moment").



34d Keri {Actress Russell of "Waitress"}. Waitress is another great movie we saw on first release in 2007, Keri Russell plays Jenna, a waitress and maker of pies to die for.



43d sax {Clarence Clemons's instrument}. Sorry, the name Clarence Clemons meant nothing to me. If he'd been a jazz specialist, there'd have been some hope, but Clarence (known to fans as "The Big Man") is prominent in the rock genre, playing for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band since 1972.



Noteworthy

two-l llama
24a llama {Beast in an Ogden Nash poem}. We've seen the Ogden Nash reference a few times this year, but justifiably so. My Dad had a story of a llama at the zoo eating his hat - they're as omnivorous as goats apparently.
The one-l lama,
He's a priest;
The two-l llama,
He's a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
There isn't any
Three-l lllama.
The Lama by Ogden Nash
40a Arnel {Vintage synthetic fabric}. When this came up in the April 16 puzzle I suggested it was a bit dated for crossword use. Its reappearance has prompted a new Crucial Post: Arnel, You're On Notice!  For what it's worth, the sole producer of the fiber, Celanese, stopped making Arnel in the mid 80s because of toxicity concerns.

64a Ero {Leandro's love}. ERO is typically clued with reference to Italian-language reworkings of the Hero and Leander myth such as the Handel cantata Ero e Leandro. (The only other common option is to indicate -ero the suffix, as in ranchero.)



18d Rolf {Massage deeply}. I knew Rolfing of old as a dictionary word, being derived from the founder of the Structural Integration massage system Ida Pauline Rolf (1896-1979).



The Rest

1a sharp {Like some cheddar}; 6a Hunan {Spicy Asian cuisine}; 11a MFA {Musician's deg.}; 14a hirer {Personnel director, at times}; 15a 'O Sole {"___ Mio"}; 16a ait {Small island in a river}; 19a ant {Toiler on a hill}; 20a lay low {Knock to the ground}; 21a et alia {Latin list ender}; 23a peg {Simple hanger}; 27a roti {Roasted, in Rouen}; 28a can I? {Childish plea}; 33a shack {Humble abode}; 35a de-ice {Make ready for winter flight}; 41a stops {Parts of a tour}; 49a aura {Subtle glow}; 50a Omoo {Melville work set in Tahiti}; 51a psalm {"The Lord is my light and my salvation ...," for one}; 53a sex {Census datum}; 54a spydom {World of espionage}; 57a nooses {Causes of some untimely ends}; 59a Tet {Lunar New Year in Vietnam}; 65a osteo- {Bone: Prefix}; 67a rey {Palacio resident}; 68a scram! {"Beat it!"}; 69a ditty {"Mary Had a Little Lamb," e.g.}.

1d shh! {"Zip your lip!"}; 3d Armagnac {Eau de vie from Gascony}; 6d hot war {Korean conflict, for one}; 7d ush {Escort to a seat, slangily}; 8d nor {Fish-fowl connector}; 9d aloe {Soothing succulent}; 10d newt {Small salamander}; 12d finito {Over and done}; 13d attain {Reach}; 22d arietta {Short opera piece}; 23d PCs {Desk toppers}; 25d Model As {1903-04 cars sold only in red}; 26d a sec {"Just ___!"}; 29d Ichabod {Washington Irving's Crane}; 31d 'til {No later than, briefly}; 32d NCOs {Cpls. and sgts.}; 37d ent {"The Lord of the Rings" creature}; 38d seep {Ooze}; 39d house pet {Collar wearer, often}; 42d present {Roll call response}; 44d roster {Team listing}; 45d ampere {Current measure}; 46d boytoy {Young stud}; 47d ransom {Money of exchange}; 48d slot {___ machine}; 52d mooed {Made low noises?}; 55d ojos {Spanish eyes}; 56d masc. {Opposite of fem.}; 58d soli {Star turns in music}; 61d ctr. {Basketball position: Abbr.}; 62d Kea {Mauna ___}; 63d nay {Roll call response}.

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