Thursday, December 10, 2009

NYT Friday 12/11/09 - Christmas Boxes

This Friday New York Times crossword again seemed fairly straightforward, going by past experiences. I got a great start in the northeast corner, guessing a -ness ending to 5-Across and then seeing Nome (from which Russia is clearly visible as we all know).

A bit more work and that corner was finished. I then proceeded down to the SE and up the diagonal to the NW. The bottom left corner was a little tricky at the end, and with very few downs to go on, it took a while to get the tricky long acrosses there.

The crossing of 23a cat and 23d cedes took some thought, even with every other letter known ... {Lets go} being capable of multiple interpretations and {One often planted on a window ledge?} not immediately suggesting feline plantees. After that, the one remaining danger zone was David Sedaris, especially at the intersection with DEA, but it turned out my vague memory of the humorist's name was reliable.

There seem to be plenty of reminders of the holiday season in the puzzle, not least the long answer next day delivery, which comes into its own at this time of year. I guess you can find yuletide references in any puzzle if you go looking for them ... it's just that we're more attuned to them now (and need a hook for a blog title).
Solving time: 18 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 50a record book {Logging tool}

Mike Nothnagel
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Mike Nothnagel / Will Shortz
15x15 with 32 (14.2%) black squares
70 (average length 5.51)
Theme squares
0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points
326 (average 1.69)
Letters used
New To Me

17a Ian Fleming {"The Diamond Smugglers" author, 1957}. Since all twelve of Ian Fleming's Bond books were made into movies, the constructor had to choose between the too obvious, or the obscure. It being a Friday, we get the obscure: The Diamond Smugglers, a non-fiction work of 1957 describing a huge diamond smuggling operation responsible for smuggling 10 million pounds sterling worth of gems out of Africa every year. Fleming's fascination with diamond smuggling is also evident in the plot of Diamonds Are Forever (1956).

Motel 6
3d Motel Six {Chain whose name derives from its original room rate}. Kind of the constructor to suggest there'd be a number somewhere in the answer; my money was originally on a number at the start, but once I got the X at the end, thinking of Motel Six was easy enough. So when did a motel room cost around $6? It seems 1962, when the first Motel 6 was founded in Santa Barbara, CA. The chain now has over a thousand locations. It is apparently known for its humorous radio and TV ads featuring NPR commentator Tom Bodett. Let's see if I can find one ... hmm ... a tough assignment: it seems YouTube users don't like Motel Six much. OK just a pic then.

19d David Sedaris {"When You Are Engulfed in Flames" essayist}. I thought this was going to be someone more familiar to me, like Spinoza. Eventually I had to rely on very vague memories of the humorist David Sedaris, the crossing with DEA at 43-Across being the only doubtful square. David, it turns out, was born in Binghamton, NY, which is one of the places where we do our grocery shopping. Being from an IBM family, David got moved and was brought up in Raleigh, NC. He got his break via NPR's Morning Edition doing a piece entitled "SantaLand Diaries", a true account of his stint working as a Christmas elf in "SantaLand" at Macy's.

36d Ynez {California's Santa ___ Valley}. The Santa Ynez Valley is located in Santa Barbara County: a center of the wine industry, it was the setting for the 2004 film Sideways. Fans have taken to making pilgrimages to the valley that recreate the experiences of Miles and Jack in the movie.

41d oinks {See 'n Say sounds}. I got the idea here, but didn't know whether "See 'n Say" was a specific product, TV show or something else. See 'n Say (why only one apostrophe?) is a Mattel product that makes the sound the pointer is moved to. There are several types ... I think the constructor must have the Farmer Says See 'n Says model. The toys apparently use a phonograph record to produce the sounds and hence don't need batteries. The pigs in the UK version have an English accent.


18a headers {Results of bad trips?}. I saw the deception easily enough, but it was still tough to get headers, or headlong falls.

Polly planted on a window ledge?
23a cat {One often planted on a window ledge?}. I see what this clue is getting at, but I think it a less successful attempt to be guileful, perhaps because a cat on a window ledge is not ubiquitous and "planted" seems just a bit unfair. If our 11-year-old cats Linus and Polly were on a window ledge, it would be an inside one - they're mostly indoor cats. Today they've been packed off to the vet for dental hygiene after being denied food and water since the previous evening - hopefully no more stinky breath.

Le Monde
28a Le Monde {Daily reading for many Parisians}. Hedged on the gender of the world before remembering that I'd clued the same answer for Magdalen's "paper" anniversary puzzle via it being LEMONADE minus the A. Of course Le Monde is masculine - how could I doubt that?

43a DEA {Traffic reporter?: Abbr.}. For me it was tough to have this crossed with David Sedaris. In the end I trusted my knowledge of the humorist and only figured out the clue after I'd put down my pencil and finally see this is just a reference to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which presumably reports on, as well as combats, drug trafficking.

48a Henry II {"The Lion in Winter" role}. It helped a lot to have had my memory jogged about this movie back on October 1, when  Eleanor was clued as {"The Lion in Winter" queen}. Henry II of England was played by Peter O'Toole and a bushy beard.

50a record book {Logging tool}. This clue had me completely fooled. Probably because of my obsession with logging (which seems to be my full-time job in the spring and fall) I know there are all sorts of specialized tools for logging with fanciful terms. My favorite is the peavey - what a wonderful name that is. I'm not sure how helpful a peavey would be - what I need most is something to hoist a trunk a foot or so off the ground for easier bucking.

4d Elsa {Wagner's ___ of Brabant}. Basically a gimme, tho the "of" threw me at first as I'm used to the "Elsa von Brabant" of the German libretto. Elsa is the ward of the evil Telramund - she is accused of murdering her brother, but dreams of a knight in shining armor that will come to defend her; lo and behold Lohengrin appears under tow by a swan. But who cares about the plot ... let's hear some wonderful music.

29d Niven {"Around the World in 80 Days" star, 1956}. Oddly generous clue for a Friday. David Niven (both on and off screen) personified the English gentleman for me as a kid. Around the World in 80 Days was something of a breakthrough movie for Niven, as in the years leading up to it, he'd been effectively barred from working in Hollywood after a spat with Sam Goldwyn.

tole-painted gnome
47d tole {Old lampshade material}. Hmm. I thought tole was more of a style of decoration, but it seems tole is also the metal (typically tin or thin steel) material, which may or may not be painted. Magdalen has been consulted and approved this message.

The Rest

1a on me {Words of generosity}; 5a stoniness {Lack of pity}; 14a fool {Toy (with)}; 15a snuffboxes {Pinch sources}; 16a Acts {Where the word "Christian" is first used in the Bible}; 20a get at {Determine}; 21a gel {Come together}; 22a age {It may be advanced}; 25a ETs {Doctor Who and others, briefly}; 26a resave {Back up a backup}; 30a is it I? {Question asked 12 times in Matthew}; 31a Lady Di {Celeb once called Her Royal Highness}; 32a next day delivery {Overnight accommodation?}; 37a A-sides {Single halves}; 38a fed on {Used as sustenance}; 39a mired in {Entangled by}; 41a of note {Worth mentioning}; 42a moc {Comfy slip-on}; 44a pie {Kind of filling}; 45a MHz {Radio unit: Abbr.}; 46a Evita {Winner of seven Tonys in 1980}; 53a Atra {Brand in a medicine cabinet}; 55a collisions {Very abrupt meetings?}; 56a wean {With 7-Down, slowly remove from}; 57a knee socks {Athlete's foot applications?}; 58a psst {"Over here ..."}.

1d of a {___ mind}; 2d no cheese {Burger request}; 5d snare {Catcher}; 6d tuns {945-liter units}; 7d off {See 56-Across}; 8d NFL {Org. whose members rush}; 9d I beg to differ {"That's what you think!"}; 10d Nome {U.S. city near Russia}; 11d exited {Ended a scene, say}; 12d senate {Place for a page}; 13d SSgts {Army squad cmdrs.}; 15d siege {Long period, as of illness}; 21d grin {Sign of satisfaction}; 23d cedes {Lets go}; 24d amyl {___ acetate (banana oil)}; 27d attar {Certain perfume}; 28d laden {Packed}; 31d Lydia {Ancient Anatolian kingdom where coins are said to have been invented}; 33d aide {12-Down worker}; 34d Edomites {Petra's population}; 35d Roth IRAs {Suze Orman recommendations}; 39d move on {Continue a trip}; 40d icicle {Danger during a thaw}; 42d Merck {Pfizer rival}; 44d peons {Low class}; 48d hook {What many a pop song has}; 49d yawp {Complain}; 51d DSO {Award instituted by Queen Victoria: Abbr.}; 52d Bic {Glue stick brand}; 54d ant {Leaf cutter, e.g.}.


Gareth Bain said...

Could've gone with "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" for the Ian Fleming clue, or is that still too well known? With the MIN in place it was looking awfully like HOCHIMINH, but with a letter short!

Crossword Man said...

CCBB would have been a gimme for me. {Creator of M and Q} is another great Fridayish cluing idea, due to Randolph Ross. Expecting a -MINH ending requires a lot of imagination ... I see -MIN? and automatically write in a G at the end!