Thursday, December 31, 2009

NYT Friday 1/1/10 - First Footing

A very happy new year - I hope you all have a wonderful solving year in 2010! I was half-expecting a thematic puzzle for 01/01/10, but this New York Times crossword seemed regular Friday fare. I got off to a great start guessing withers for 1-Across, which helped me land the whole NW corner in three minutes or so. This helpful picture on flickr labels 25 of the horse parts for you.

That stroke of luck didn't last: seeing that the NE corner was going to be a minefield, I worked my way steadily clockwise, getting a leg-up every time I cracked one of the long down answers in the middle section. After 27 minutes, I just had the top right bit to do and was very apprehensive about it all until I managed to guess Perot and then Pfizer.

With all those new initial letters, I was able to get the problem down to just what to do with 9-Down F-AN-, specifically the crossings with 15-Across PE-RINE and 23-Across AL RIT-. Not knowing any of these three, I simply had to make calculated guesses and eventually concluded Franz was most likely, and if there was any justice in the world I'd have got the puzzle right. I was relieved to check Wikipedia and confirm my hunches were A-OK this time.
Solving time: 32 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 55a Ali Baba {His opening statement is famous}

Brad Wilber
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Brad Wilber / Will Shortz
15x15 with 32 (14.2%) black squares
70 (average length 5.51)
Theme squares
0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points
314 (average 1.63)
Letters used
New To Me

15a Perrine {Valerie of "The Electric Horseman"}. There was some blind guesswork here, as Hans and Franz were unfamiliar. Valerie Perrine is an actress and model notable as the first person to display herself nude on American television by completely baring her breasts during the May 4, 1973 broadcast of Bruce Jay Friedman's Steambath. In The Electric Horseman (1979), she plays the minor role of Charlotta Steele, ex-wife of the rodeo champion played by Robert Redford.

21a Nat {Basketball Hall-of-Famer Holman}. Nat Holman (1896–1995) was an early pro basketball player and one of its great innovators. After retiring in 1930, he took over the head coaching position at the City College of New York in 1920. Known as "Mr. Basketball", Holman guided CCNY to the so-called grand slam of college basketball, winning both the NCAA and NIT titles in 1950, a feat that has never been achieved since.

22a Erno {Resistance leader in Woody Allen's "Sleeper"}. Well Sleeper (1973) is one of my favorite early Woody Allen movies, but there's no way I'd remember Erno unless I'd rewatched the film in the preceding week ... Erno shmerno.

23a Al Ritz {Eldest of a trio of comic brothers in 1930s-'40s films}. Until considering 9-Down, I had Al Ritt here, but was convinced to go with the Z ending to make the SNL character a more likely one. The Ritz Brothers have parallels with the Marx Brothers, not least in the shape of their surname: there were four brothers, sons of an Austrian-born haberdasher, but only Al, Jimmy and Harry performed, the fourth brother George becoming their manager. Here they are in The Goldwyn Follies (1938).

24a I Go {Neil Sedaka's "___ Ape"}. I Go Ape was a hit for Neil Sedaka in 1959, the year I was born. A clip says it all.

25a Nicol {Williamson who played Hamlet and Macbeth on Broadway}. I've a feeling I'll recognize Nicol Williamson when I see a clip of him, as he's the British actor that John Osborne described as "the greatest actor since Marlon Brando". Ah yes, I know the face from such movies as The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976), the Sherlock Holmes pastiche in which Nicol plays the Great Detective. This shows the swashbuckling Holmes didn't start with Robert Downey, Jr..

Great Dark Spot60a Neptune {Great Dark Spot locale}. Stupidly had Jupiter here for a while: stupid not least because there's no way a 14-letter answer would have a J in the penultimate position (well I suppose it could have been somebody Jr. but that is highly unlikely). Like Jupiter's Great Red Spot, a Great Dark Spot on Neptune is a massive anticyclonic storm. However, the Great Dark Spots are comparatively short-lived, dissipating once every few years. Jupiter's Red Spot has lasted several hundred years.
7d Steel Magnolias {Play set entirely in a beauty parlor}. I was happy to get this from about half the crossings: although I know absolutely zilch about the play, the title is so striking that it has stuck in the mind. Steel Magnolias is probably better known as a 1989 movie, originally a 1987 Robert Harling play. The drama concerns a group of Southern women in northwest Louisiana and is based on the playwright's experience with the death of his sister. The movie action seems to have been moved out of the beauty parlor to a large extent.

9d Franz {Half of a recurring "Saturday Night Live" duo}. SNL history is really tough for me and I'm not sure what I'm going to be able to do about that. Watching the performances is so much better than reading about them, so maybe I should dig out a "best of SNL" collection to view? Anyway, Hans and Franz appeared in a recurring sketch called "Pumping Up with Hans & Franz" and were played by Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon, respectively. YouTube is remarkably deficient in the original Hans and Franz: however, do you really want to see a Hans and Franz tribute made by high school students? No I thought not.


baseball cat14a One o' Cat {Quaint game with a giver and a striker}. I'd luckily met this "quaint" game before somewhere - almost certainly another crossword. I gather One o' Cat, short for One Old Cat, is one of the forerunners of baseball. The "one" refers to the number of batters in the game; if you have enough players for two batters you can play Two o' Cat; even more players and you have the option of town ball.
52a fun {First Across word in the world's first crossword}. A gimme at last! Strangely, the first across word in the world's first crossword was also filled in for you. Englishman Arthur Wynne's first crossword appeared on December 21, 1913 in the New York World. This is the first time I've seen its original appearance and I'm amazed at the size of the numbers ... you're supposed to write letters over those? ... I wonder how long it was before the now standard presentation (single small number marking the start of across or down) was adopted?

 world's first crossword

55a Ali Baba {His opening statement is famous}. Got this once I had the first few letters: Ali Baba's famous opening statement is of course "Open Sesame".

ecu5d écu {Coin depicting Louis XVI}. The ECU (European Currency Unit) was briefly the name of the basket of the currencies of the European Community member states, prior to it being replaced by the euro on January 1, 1999. It is presumably just a coincidence that écu is also the name of several obsolete French coins. I'll see if I can find a picture of a Louis XVI écu. No dice, let's go with Louis XIII.

Harpo Marx20d fright wig {Clown's over-the-top topper}. Don't know how, but I've actually come across fright wig references before. Maybe through reading about Harpo Marx ... a fright wig has hair that sticks out dramatically, like quills upon the fretful porpentine, as the Bard puts it.

The Rest

1a withers {Part of a horse between the shoulder blades}; 8a Pfizer {Xanax maker}; 16a of no use {Like broken things}; 17a orators {Pros at projecting}; 18a load {Ready to be fired}; 19a Teflon {Pot cover}; 27a MIT {Its chapel was designed by Eero Saarinen, briefly}; 28a msec {Processing time unit: Abbr.}; 29a sty {Foul territory?}; 30a adagio {Pas de deux part}; 33a Omsk {Dostoyevsky's exile city}; 34a roughcast {Coarse, as stucco}; 36a bale {Plantation creation}; 39a intake {Dieter's concern}; 40a RAF {Org. whose emblem features an eagle and a crown}; 43a Enid {She's a paradigm of patience}; 44a owl {Notable head-turner}; 45a aïoli {Bouillabaisse go-with}; 47a ego {I}; 48a filial {Like some love}; 51a MMIX {Time of Obama's swearing-in}; 53a émigré {Einstein, notably}; 54a puma {Elk's enemy}; 57a epaulet {Uniform adornment}; 59a Lazarus {New Testament miracle recipient}; 61a or else {Blackmailer's words}; 62a arrests {Record producers}.

1d woolens {Some winter wear}; 2d in for it {Sure to be grounded, say}; 3d tenancy {Matter of lease concern?}; 4d hoodoo {Bring bad luck to}; 6d Rasta {One with a dreaded style?}; 8d Perot {Choate ran with him in 1996}; 10d IRT {N.Y.C. transportation debut of 1904}; 11d Zionism {Movement Herman Wouk called "a single long action of lifesaving"}; 12d enrages {Sets off}; 13d restock {Do a store chore}; 15d political arena {City hall, often}; 26d Lao {Mekong River native}; 28d mot {Zinger}; 31d DUI {Police blotter abbr.}; 32d oak {One of Iowa's state symbols}; 34d Red {With 35-Down, Mocha is on it}; 35d Sea {See 34-Down}; 36d beefalo {Mix on the range}; 37d angular {Far from Rubenesque}; 38d lionize {Put on a pedestal}; 40d Romulus {Abductor of the Sabine women}; 41d aliment {Sustaining stuff}; 42d fixates {Obsesses}; 46d impute {Ascribe}; 48d fears {Psychotherapy topics}; 49d imbue {Suffuse}; 50d leper {New Testament miracle recipient}; 56d bal. {Credit card statement abbr.}; 58d APR {Credit card statement abbr.}.


Paul Keller said...

Thanks as always for the post (mortem for me). I checked the flickr link. The caption assures us there are many horse part names beyond those identified there. Ack!

Crossword Man said...

Hi Paul. Sorry, should have said 25 parts of the horse - will change accordingly. I sometimes wonder if the incidence of horsy references has anything to do with Will Shortz growing up on a horse farm!