Thursday, December 17, 2009

NYT Friday 12/18/09 - Another BEQuest

With this Friday New York Times crossword, I seem to be right back where I started, with solving times of around an hour. Here, I managed to get a start at the top right, with answers like Molière and ariette being the way in. Then I worked steadily counterclockwise from there - never really getting stuck for long, but never finding answers falling into place with the rapidity that they seem to do for others.

I've tried to analyze why this particular puzzle should take way longer than my current average of 30 minutes or so for Friday/Saturday crosswords: I think it comes down to the large number of non-dictionary entries like say what, you jest, amuse me and well yes. It's not at all what I'm used to from the cryptic crosswords I've been doing most of my life. I think this freedom to choose answers from informal speech is great, but it's doesn't play to my strengths and it'll take me a while to get the hang of BEQ's style in particular.
Solving time: 60 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 38a squad car {Place for a collared person}

Brendan Emmett Quigley
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Brendan Emmett Quigley / Will Shortz
15x15 with 27 (12.0%) black squares
72 (average length 5.50)
Theme squares
0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points
341 (average 1.72)
Letters used
New To Me

19a Haj {1984 historical novel, with "The"}. Haj was not what I was expecting for an historical novel of 1984. The Haj is by the American author Leon Uris (1924–2003) and tells the story of a Palestinian Arab family from the 1920s-1950s. The Haj of the title relates figuratively to the journey made by the family as refugees.

Torrey Pines
20a La Jolla {Home to Torrey Pines Golf Course}. I knew roughly where Torrey Pines is for the strange reason that it was the standard course on a computer golf game I played many years ago. I've forgotten what the game was, but remember the course as being on the West Coast overlooking the sea. So as soon as I had a few letters towards it, I penciled in La Jolla, which I gather from Magdalen is pronounced "Lah HOY-ya".

22a Nel {Bellini's "___ furor delle tempeste"}. Opera is the standard recourse when a three-letter Italian word needs to be clued. Nel furor delle tempeste ("in the fury of the storm") is a tenor aria from Il pirata (1827). Bellini's not really our bag, so it's no surprise that we hadn't heard of the aria, nor the opera.

Phoenix Mercury
35a WNBA {The Sun and Mercury are in it: Abbr.}. This clue was mysterious even when I'd finished the crossword to my satisfaction. My best guess was that WNBA was a radio or TV station, but in fact it's the Women's National Basketball Association, which has teams called the Connecticut Sun and Phoenix Mercury. I could only figure this out with Wikipedia's help.

51a cream {Shellac}. Another clue which I couldn't figure out and so had to rely on crossings. Magdalen tells me to "shellac" is to defeat decisively, as is to "cream". The former is specifically North American slang, which explains why I hadn't heard of it before.

Endy Chavez
53a Endy {Outfielder Chávez}. Endy Chávez played for the New York Mets in the 2006-2008 seasons, but was then traded to the Seattle Mariners. An injury caused him to miss much of the 2009 season and he's now a free agent.

Toe Jam
7d toe jam {Digital detritus}. Eww! Toe jam is apparently the lint that accumulates between the toes. We don't need a name for that. It's also a rock-climbing technique - that's much more appealing.

10d olla {Indian water holder}. "Indian"? Really? I thought olla was a Spanish word, as in olla podrida (literally "rotten pot"). I gather that olla is also used for the pots in which Native American tribes in the Southwest store their water - the term presumably being introduced by Spanish settlers. They often have narrow necks to reduce loss from evaporation.

air walk
24d air walk {High passageway between buildings}. An "air walk" is something we're all familiar with, but I didn't realize there was an architectural term for it. This may be one of the less familiar uses of the answer, since there's an Airwalk footwear company and an airwalk is also a skateboarding trick. In fact, researches suggest skyway or skywalk may be the more usual architectural terms.

43d Bon Jovi {First hard rock band to score a #1 country hit}. I knew of Bon Jovi the singer, but I don't think I've been aware until today that his band was called the same thing. Their country hit was presumably Who Says You Can't Go Home, a duet with Jennifer Nettles.

51d Coote {"My Fair Lady" actor Robert}. Vague memories of the English actor Robert Coote (1909–1982) saved me from my difficulties at 51-Across. Coote typically played aristocrats or British military types in many films, and created the role of Colonel Hugh Pickering in the long-running original Broadway production of My Fair Lady. I think of him more for playing the role of Flying Officer Trubshaw in one of my fav movies, A Matter of Life and Death (1946).


Le Malade imaginaire
16a Molière {"The Imaginary Invalid" playwright}. The English title in the clue wrong-footed me: once I'd translated it into Le Malade imaginaire, I got the answer stat and in fact Molière (1622–1673) was my "way in" to the grid. Why this particular translation? Doesn't "hypochondriac" say it all much better?

iPod nanos
25a nanos {Mini replacements}. Have seen something like this before, so worked out this iPod reference after a few crossings.

29a mes {Período de 31 días}. Somehow this escaped mention in Español para los crucigramistas, though the Spanish for month is one of the most worthy candidates for inclusion. It's there now.

65a The Wire {Gritty TV series set in Baltimore}. I think we must have watched an episode or two of The Wire, as the title came fairly easily once I had some crossings. It didn't inspire continued watching, probably because the grittiness isn't that appealing to us.

8d I'm a Loser {Second song on "Beatles '65"}. Helpful to have I'm a Loser again so soon after I'm a {The Beatles' "___ Loser"} in last Sunday's puzzle. That on its own couldn't counteract the overall hostility of the puzzle and after spending an hour on the puzzle, the song title summed up my feelings well.

28d kinds {Stripes}. I figured early on that "Stripes" had to mean sorts or kinds, as in "persons of the same political stripe". It looked like kinds was going to work, but I had doubts when I saw how 35-Across was shaping up. Had to go with it in the end, though.

34d caf {Half-___ (coffee order)}. Kept thinking of demitasse here, which I assumed would translate as half-cup. cup turned out to be only 33% right, so the clue kept me thinking and I eventually worked out half-caf must mean some compromise between regular and decaf coffee.

The Rest

1a say what? {"Huh?"}; 8a iron law{Rule without exceptions}; 15a wrote to {Sent a line, say}; 17a amuse me {Request for entertainment}; 18a all hail {Words of acclamation}; 23a idea {Think piece?}; 26a itty {Tiny opening?}; 27a Lasik {Shortsighted solution?}; 30a T-Note {Fed. bill}; 31a Istria {Peninsula south of the Gulf of Trieste}; 33a recesses {Breaks}; 37a rant {It may come from a loud speaker}; 38a squad car {Place for a collared person}; 42a flybys {Means of obtaining data about planets}; 46a culls {Picks out}; 47a AEF {Gen. Pershing's command: Abbr.}; 49a bloop {Hit to short right, say}; 50a risk {Calculated thing}; 54a ant {One in a long line of workers?}; 55a coal-tar {Certain pitch}; 57a Jew {"The ___ of Malta," Christopher Marlowe play}; 58a pierrot {Comic character in whiteface}; 60a crayola {Marker maker}; 62a en route {Neither here nor there?}; 63a ask over {Offer to host}; 64a desexed {Now gender-neutral}.

1d Swahili {"Kwanzaa" comes from it}; 2d armadas {Forces afloat}; 3d you jest! {"C'mon, that can't be true!"}; 4d wts. {Birth data: Abbr.}; 5d heel {Height enhancer}; 6d atman {Hindu soul}; 9d rolls {Drum set?}; 11d NIH {Biomedical research inits.}; 12d lean-tos {Rough housing}; 13d ariette {Opera quickie}; 14d well yes {"Actually, it's true"}; 21d oner {Standout}; 26d in style {Fashionable}; 30d ten lb. {Like some dumbbells: Abbr.}; 32d ABC {First string?}; 36d AAA-rated {Superior, as an investment}; 38d scraped {Like some elbows and fenders}; 39d quinine {Tonic water ingredient}; 40d ulsters {Wool coats}; 41d reel {Line holder}; 44d yodeler {Producer of high and outside pitches?}; 45d spyware {Virus kin}; 48d fat cat {Deep-pocketed type}; 52d marsh {Place for a crane}; 55d crux {Gist}; 56d rake {Make a pile in a casino?}; 59d roe {Eggs sometimes served on toast}; 61d yow! {"Man, that hurts!"}.


Daniel Myers said...

I love spending an hour on a puzzle like this one, where everything finally comes out right - no miscues! I'm afraid I'm rather the opposite of fast solvers such as yourself and actually handicap myself in various ways - too involved to explain here - so that I won't solve it too soon and have it FLY BY but, rather, savour it and solve it IN STYLE. If I were to come across a competition, I think I should run for my life to a room where I could solve - with handicaps - in quietude. But I'm certainly glad your lot are about, Ross, otherwise I would have nowhere to type superfluous comments! The long and short of it: Nobody's a loser who finishes one of Quigley's Friday crosswords without error.

PS-The "otter killed in sport" quip was a nebulous allusion to the rest of the verse from your King Lear title of yesterday.

Gareth Bain said...

Similar experience of this being an extremely tough Friday, though my actual solving experience was the reverse of yours. I sorted out the top-left relatively quickly, then the bottom-left. Finally remembering the "Shellac" trick, which I'd been fooled by more than once in the past - I think in the LAT (not sure.) Found the top-left brutally hard - after much staring guessed ARIETTE (after previous OPERETE proved unworkable, not surprisingly). Frustrated couldn't come up with 8D - since it's a popular FITB clue for IMA!

Toe Jam is probably the most disgusting clue I've seen in the NYT to date. By miles.

BTW, if you aren't aware of it: BEQ gives away three crosswords a week @ Expect: colloquial phrases galore, lots of contemporary pop culture, and occasionally a TOEJAM or two!

Crossword Man said...

Daniel, I don't feel a puzzle that takes me an hour is flying by exactly. But I'll try to beat myself up less over this (have I said that before?).

Crossword Man said...

Gareth, thanks for the pointer to BEQ's blog. I'd actually done "We Can Work (It) Out" today and will attempt his self-published efforts regularly to try and get into the mindset. ARIETTE eventually caused me trouble because I started out with more usual variant ARIETTA.

Anonymous said...

I got 'a la mode' for 26 down, giving 'probes' for 42 across and making the rest of the puzzle unsolvable.

Anonymous said...

Being from the 'Burbs of Chicago, we get the NYT Crossword puzzle,obviously,a little late in the "Chicago Sun Times". Thank God for the "Englishman" although "toejam" came way too easily for me since my husband is disgusting!

Crossword Man said...

Anonymous 1: both great answers ... so sorry they weren't right this time ... how frustrating it stopped you getting further into the puzzle.

Anonymous 2: always glad to be of service ... maybe get hubby a foot spa? :-)