Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NYT Wednesday 11/25/09 - Worn to a Frazzle

After a tough start to the week, this Wednesday New York Times crossword seemed relatively straightforward. It's one of those ideas where the theme isn't very noticeable when solving, although I just managed to work it out towards the end. My early analysis didn't include the central down answer 25d tree sap, which is much less obvious than the four symmetrically disposed long entries.

The one reservation I have about the theme is the inclusion of flag. It seems to me that flag can only be an intransitive verb - you can flag (get tired), but not flag someone else (tire them out). The other words are either only transitive in this context (drain, exhaust, sap) or both transitive and intransitive (tire). Since it's unusual to see this kind of inconsistency in an NYT puzzle, I wonder if I've misinterpreted the theme in some way: perhaps you're meant to consider tire as the key answer, which everything else is synonymous with?
Solving time: 9 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 40d rotation {Pitchers are often put in this}
Solution

Allan E. Parrish
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Phrases ending with synonyms for "wear out".
17a radial tire {Goodyear offering}
61a pirate flag {Blackbeard flew one}
10d dual exhaust {Feature of many muscle cars}
24d shower drain {Where lost hair may accumulate}
25d tree sap {Syrup source}
Crucimetrics
Compilers
Allan E. Parrish / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 34 (15.1%) black squares
Answers
76 (average length 5.03)
Theme squares
49 (25.7%)
Scrabble points
312 (average 1.63)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

Carrie Chapman Catt
6a Catt {Suffragist Carrie Chapman ___}. Carrie Chapman Catt (1859–1947) was president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) from 1900 to 1904 and 1915 to 1920. NAWSA was by far the largest organization working for women's suffrage in the U.S. I wondered where women got the vote first: the UK or the USA? It looks like American women won the race via the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. British women didn't obtain full equality with men until 1928, although there was a strange first step: the 1918 Qualification of Women Act enfranchised women who were over the age of 30; providing they were householders, married to a householder or holders of a university degree.

Rudi Gernreich
3d Rudi {Gernreich of fashion}. Rudi Gernreich (19221985) was an Austrian-born fashion designer who fled Nazism at the age of 16 and settled in Los Angeles. As a designer, he was noted for some controversial concepts such as the monokini and the thong swimsuit. He was also a strong advocate of unisex clothing, dressing male and female models in identical clothing and shaving their heads and bodies completely bald. He was also known as the first designer to use vinyl and plastic in clothes, and designed the Moonbase Alpha uniforms on the television series Space: 1999.

18d Lum {Abner's radio partner}. In the sort of cryptic crosswords I solve, lum is inevitably defined as a chimney (or a chimney-pot hat) as that's its meaning in Scots dialect. Nice to have this alternative: Lum and Abner was a 15-minute serial comedy created by Chester Lauck (who played Columbus "Lum" Edwards) and Norris Goff (Abner Peabody), hillbillies always stumbling upon moneymaking ideas only to get themselves fleeced by their nemesis Squire Skimp.



stickball
53d lot {Place to play stickball}. Stickball is apparently the street version of baseball, a broom handle serving as the bat and some kind of rubber ball in lieu of a baseball.

62d ROK {"M*A*S*H" extra}. This was a tough one to research and I'm still not 100% sure about it. It looks like ROKs was the slang term for Republic of Korea troops in the Korean War, though I'm not sure to what extent the term was used in the singular. Vietnam Veteran's Terminology and Slang lists it, but there are few if any other glossaries to back it up. Anyway, here's the obligatory M*A*S*H clip:



FHA
63d FHA {Shelter financing org.}. The Federal Housing Administration was created during the Great Depression as part of the National Housing Act of 1934. It seems to be both an insurer of mortgages and a provider of mortgages and its business has grown significantly as a result of the Subprime mortgage crisis. With many of the riskiest borrowers requiring help from FHA, it's been estimated that eventual government losses from the FHA could reach $100 billion.

Noteworthy

16a unto {Golden rule preposition}. This was fresh in my mind after a discussion on Saturday night: we'd been discussing a notice in the school where the G&S concert had been held. The notice started with the usual "walk, don't run/pick up after yourself/...", then a mysterious last line "self-to-self". Someone suggested this might be a shorthand for the Golden Rule. The clue seems to assume the wording attributed to Jesus of Nazareth - "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Luke 6:31, Matthew 7:12) - though the Golden Rule predates Christianity and has its roots in a wide range of world cultures.

27a Amahl {Boy soprano in a Menotti opera}. You encounter Amahl in crosswords rather more than real life. Amahl and the Night Visitors was first performed in 1951 and is a Christmas classic, being about a crippled boy (Amahl) who is visited by the Magi en route to Bethlehem and miraculously healed.



Sir George Everest
54a Everest {Mountain previously named Peak XV}. Everest was given its official English name in 1865 by the Royal Geographical Society. Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor General of India recommended the mountain be named Everest after his predecessor in the post, Sir George Everest.

4d Eri {"___ tu" (Verdi aria)}. If you wind up with ERI in a grid, you're not exactly spoiled for options (compared to IRE for example). Since the demise of Eri the Assamese silkworm (see ironic September 17 puzzle), the aria from Un ballo in maschera is about the only respectable option, the Estonian conductor Eri Klas getting just the occasional look-in.



9d Theo {Lt. Kojak}. I was a big fan of Kojak back in the day, and I was asking Magdalen what happened to all the cop series named after their single central character - Columbo and Cannon also spring to mind. Why do most cop shows have ensemble casts these days? Magdalen says that Hill Street Blues is responsible, exposing the phoniness of everything that had gone before and irrevocably changing the way crime series were written.



29d Arab {One with an "al-" in his name, often}. The al- being the equivalent of "the" in English. Surnames beginning with "al-" often refer to the place where the person's ancestors were born. For example, Saddam Hussein's original surname was al-Tikriti, meaning "the person from Tikrit".

The Rest

1a J.Crew {Catalog clothing retailer since 1983}; 10a dish {Signal receiver}; 14a azure {Like a clear sky}; 15a amah {Eastern domestic}; 19a Adam {One cast out of paradise}; 20a Sri {___ Lanka}; 21a sun {Weather map symbol}; 22a hotline {Red telephone's connection}; 24a Semite {Israeli or Palestinian}; 26a ready {Good to go}; 30a prefix {Pro- or con-}; 32a LaRosa {Crooner canned on live TV in 1953}; 34a elephant {Political symbol}; 38a gnaw {Act like a rat}; 39a cress {Salad green}; 41a aloe {Skin cream additive}; 42a asbestos {Litigation-prompting insulation}; 44a Souter {Justice replaced by Sotomayor}; 46a Rastas {Many Marley fans}; 48a psalm {Song of David}; 49a Haydn {"The Creation" composer}; 52a applet {Bit of Java programming}; 56a Lon {Chaney of the silents}; 57a bra {Item with underwires}; 60a Nana {"Peter Pan" dog}; 64a Citi {One of American banking's Big Four, for short}; 65a coos {Talks lovingly}; 66a Rhone {River of Lyon}; 67a élan {Panache}; 68a ankh {Hippie's cross}; 69a sacks {Plays resulting in yardage losses}.

1d jars {Shakes up}; 2d czar {White House policy appointee}; 5d weasels {Sneaky sorts}; 6d catnip {Inside of a toy mouse, perhaps}; 7d ami {Buddy, in Burgundy}; 8d Tar Heels {North Carolina gridders}; 11d India {Destination of Vasco da Gama}; 12d stand {Put up with}; 13d homey {Warm and comfy}; 23d trip {Make a misstep}; 27d alga {Pond organism}; 28d man's {___ best friend}; 31d fess {Come clean, with "up"}; 33d Acts {Bible book after John}; 35d Alta {Utah ski area}; 36d noel {Seasonal air}; 37d term {Kind of life insurance}; 40d rotation {Pitchers are often put in this}; 43d sane {Compos mentis}; 45d openers {Church keys}; 47d splash {Play in the pool, say}; 49d hence {Ergo}; 50d avail {Be of use to}; 51d yenta {Spreader of dirt}; 55d SPCA {Shelter org.}; 57d bloc {Political grouping}; 58d rank {Needing a bath badly}; 59d ages {Seemingly forever}.

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