Thursday, December 24, 2009

NYT Friday 12/25/09 - What the Dickens?

I turned out to be right in predicting that this New York Times crossword for December 25th would not be the normal Friday fare, although it turned out to be slightly harder than I thought at the outset, there being two notable trouble spots for me. Tomorrow I suspect, we'll be back to normal Saturday difficulty level, Boxing Day not being associated with any particular traditions in the USA (as far as I can tell).

The grid shaped like a Christmas tree didn't give too much away about the theme. As an avid Dickens reader and collector, bells only started ringing for me with {One who worked in a "dismal little cell"}, and it wasn't till my eyes lighted on the {1843 work in five "staves"} that I realized the work and hence could write in all the thematic answers.

I noted numerous other seasonal references among the clues, but didn't include these in the analysis below:  toy, elf, yule logs, etc seem insufficiently connected to the Dickensian theme to count, although it was still fun (as it has been all week) to spot the subsidiary yuletide references.

There were two difficult areas for me at the right hand side of the grid: on the second branch down, it took a while to rationalize 40d Hef {Hutch's head, briefly} as a reference to Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, whose bunny collection is seemingly known as his "hutch".

The branch of the tree at the top right was even tougher, despite Tiny at 24-Across being a given. I'd forgotten And Winter Came... even though that Enya album was in the NYT puzzle twice earlier in the year. Silly me. And I hadn't heard of impresario Ahmet Ertegun (1923–2006). Time to educate myself about this significant figure in the modern recording industry ...


Solving time: 15 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 36d hoe {Groundbreaking invention?}
Solution

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

Theme

Dickens's most famous Christmas story and its principal characters:
10d A Christmas Carol {1843 work in five "staves"}
9a Bob Cratchit {One who worked in a "dismal little cell"}
24a Tiny 35d Tim {Brother of Master Peter}
26a ghost of 32a Jacob Marley {One subjected to "incessant torture of remorse"}
53a Ebenezer Scrooge {One who saw his name upon the stone of a neglected grave}
Crucimetrics
Compilers
Paula Gamache / Will Shortz
Grid
16x15 with 48 (20.0%) black squares
Answers
76 (average length 5.05)
Theme squares
61 (31.8%)
Scrabble points
321 (average 1.67)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Other Clues

1a VAIO {Sony computer brand}; 5a Saar {River of Germany}; 12a social climber {A-list wannabe}; 14a Savannah {Georgia border river}; 15a decree {Order in the court}; 17a scald {Blanch}; 18a NRA {"Piece" org.}; 20a Turin {Italy's first capital}; 21a grrs {Canine warnings}; 22a OD'ing {Taking too much, briefly}; 25a toy {Stocking stuffer}; 28a FAA {Org. with inspectors}; 29a DUI {Cause for weaving, for short}; 30a tee up {Prepare to drive}; 35a think {Something to do twice?}; 37a oat {It may be rolled}; 38a laugh {"Ho, ho, ho," e.g.}; 41a Iona {Burial place of Macbeth}; 42a dosed {Apportioned, as medicine}; 44a Klee {Noted Bauhaus teacher}; 45a Meg {"Little Women" woman}; 46a pit crew {Quick-change artists?}; 48a elf {25-Across maker}; 49a La-la-la {Repeated part of "Deck the Halls"}; 51a soil {Agrarian concern}; 58a Korda {Michael who wrote "Charmed Lives"}; 59a goo {It's gross}; 60a engel {Tannenbaum topper}; 61a easy {Gradual}; 62a sly {On the ___}; 63a SSTs {Tupolev Tu-144s, e.g.}.

1d vocals {Sung parts, as of carols}; 2d a bind {Trapped, after "in"}; 3d I can {Optimistic assertion}; 4d Orlando {"As You Like It" hero}; 5d St. L. {Mo. town}; 6d acid {Kind of rock}; 7d Ahmet {Ertegun who co-founded Atlantic Records}; 8d rib cut {Club steak, e.g.}; 9d Bovary {Emma of fiction}; 11d terrif! {"Super!"}; 12d sacro- {Pelvic prefix}; 13d reina {Spanish royal}; 14d SSgt {U.S.A.F. E-5}; 16d Enya {"And Winter Came ..." artist}; 19d ant-eater {Termite tormentor}; 22d Ohio {1970 hit by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young}; 23d -goer {Suffix with party}; 26d guck {It's gross}; 27d full {Like Santa's bag on Christmas Eve}; 29d Dana {___ Perino, George W. Bush's last White House press secretary}; 31d peak {Prime}; 32d jinglers {Sleigh bells and such}; 33d bootlegs {Pirates}; 34d yule logs {Iconic flamers}; 36d hoe {Groundbreaking invention?}; 39d gel {Foam alternative}; 40d Hef {Hutch's head, briefly}; 42d Diaz {Junot ___, 2008 Pulitzer winner for "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao"}; 43d desc. {One with an ancestor: Abbr.}; 46d plea {S O S, e.g.}; 47d wore {Sported}; 50d Andy {"The ___ Williams Christmas Album"}; 52d ions {Na+ and Cl-}; 53d eke {Manage, with "out"}; 54d boa {Fancy wrap}; 55d soy {Protein source}; 56d get {Secure}; 57d els {Chicago runners}.

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