Saturday, December 12, 2009

NYT Sunday 12/13/09 - Cruciverbal Hide-and-Seek

I solved this Sunday New York Times crossword with Henry in the midst of "cookie weekend", which Magdalen may elaborate on in her NPR post. We booted the occasional clue about actors/actresses over to her to elucidate, and she came up with the answer every time. Under the circumstances, we were very pleased to get the puzzle done in just over half an hour.

The implementation is impressive, with each of the fifteen words in the quotation either spanning two words of an answer (mostly) or being a part of an answer word (five times). There can't be many quotations that are amenable to this kind of treatment, so congratulations to the constructor for finding one. And a very appropriate quote it is, certainly applying in my experience to making crosswords: the hardest part is always coming up with the new ideas.

the best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas
The British Design Council apparently latched onto the same quotation for one of their articles, but goofed when they attributed Linux to Dr. Pauling. Linus Pauling did many things in his lifetime, but the creation of a Unix-like operating system wasn't one of them.

I've not yet been able to track down where Linus Pauling (1901–1994) wrote or said these famous words. It's easier with the title of the puzzle, which originates in an American folk standard called Goodnight, Irene, first recorded by Lead Belly in 1932. Several verses of the song make explicit reference to suicidal fantasies, most famously in the line "sometimes I take a great notion to jump in the river and drown", which was the inspiration for the 1964 Ken Kesey novel Sometimes a Great Notion.

Solving time: 31 mins (with Henry and Magdalen, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 19a toolbars {Rows of buttons}

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


"Sometimes a great notion". The Linus Pauling quotation "the best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas" is hidden a word at a time, in order, in symmetrically disposed across answers:
1a at heart {Intrinsically}
24a don't be stupid! {"That's patently ridiculous!"}
27a Lew Ayres {He played Dr. Kildare in 1930s-'40s films}
39a Hector {Victim of Achilles}
53a Flatbush Avenue {It borders the Brooklyn Botanic Garden}
58a Aladdin {Wishful thinker of story}
59a Goo Goo Dolls {Band with the 1998 #1 hit "Iris"}
66a hide-and-seek {Activity for good-looking people?}
76a lapis-lazuli {Rich blue stone}
79a stint on {Hold back}
84a with a vengeance {All out}
94a ratted {Turned informer}
111a bolo ties {Western accessories}
115a potato famine {Cause of Irish emigration in the 1840s-'50s} 
125a Mideast {Frequent Security Council topic}

Mike Shenk / Will Shortz
21x21 with 72 (16.3%) black squares
140 (average length 5.27)
Theme squares
141 (38.2%)
Scrabble points
546 (average 1.48)
Letters used
New To Me

26a I'm a {The Beatles' "___ Loser"}. Seems a bit of a downbeat title for The Beatles. I'm a Loser was written by John Lennon in 1964 and included on the group's fourth album, Beatles for Sale. Apparently a misprint on the original pressings rendered the title I'm a Loseer.

50a Ribisi {Giovanni of "Lost in Translation"}. Magdalen obliged with the answer to this one. Giovanni Ribisi might well make the shortlist of daft names which we started yesterday. In Lost in Translation (2003), he plays celebrity photographer John, the husband of Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) who strikes up a friendship with Bill Murray's character, Bob.

96a Fri. {Night "The Wild Wild West" was shown in 1960s TV: Abbr.}. I've seen this formula a couple of times and I'm still not convinced it's any improvement on {Day of the week: Abbr.}. Obviously I don't know what day of the week The Wild Wild West was shown in the 1960s, but I'd be surprised if many Americans of the right generation would either. I gather the show centered on two secret agents assigned to protect Ulysses S. Grant from all manner of threats.

Cain and Abel
5d Abel {Early shepherd}. Guessed a biblical answer from the "Early", but was Abel really a shepherd? Yes, and it seems Cain was a crop farmer - Genesis 4:2. In fact, a few scholars suggest the Cain and Abel passage may have been based on a Sumerian story representing the conflict between nomadic shepherds and settled farmers. Others think that it may refer to the days in which agriculture began to replace the ways of the hunter-gatherer.

42d Linda Hunt {She won her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing a man}. This all had a familiar ring to it, but I had to look up Linda Hunt after Magdalen obliged again. She won the award for playing the male dwarf Billy Kwan in The Year of Living Dangerously (1982). Her small stature (she is 4'9") no doubt helped her secure this unusual role.

44d Olen {Author Robert ___ Butler}. Looks like this reference is the only option if you're forced into cluing OLEN: it's been in three NYT puzzles in the modern era and this exact clue has been used each time. Robert Olen Butler has written 11 novels, but may be best known for the 1992 short story collection A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain which won a Pulitzer prize. Each story in this collection is narrated by a different Vietnamese immigrant living in the Louisiana. The stories are largely character-driven, with cultural differences between Vietnam and the United States as an important theme.

60d Diane {Lane in Hollywood}. Neat concealment of the proper name at the start of the clue; we saw through that easily enough, but only Magdalen could tell us which actor or actress might have the surname "Lane". Diane Lane's most famous role is as Connie, the adulterous wife in Unfaithful (2002), which earned her numerous award nominations.


39d hat {Skimmer, e.g.}. I suspect I knew about this slang meaning of skimmer from Wodehouse - it sounds like the sort of thing Bertie would wear in a moment of independence, only to give it up to pacify Jeeves. I gather a skimmer is specifically a boater, which has these other nicknames: basher, katie, sennit hat. Partridge suggests the term skimmer derives from the frisbee-like properties of a boater, as one might have guessed.

The Rest

8a papaw {Purple-flowering tree}; 13a deepen {Intensify}; 19a toolbars {Rows of buttons}; 21a elite {Superior group}; 22a Indira {___ Nehru Gandhi}; 23a table-top {Setting setting}; 29a supe {Apartment manager, familiarly}; 30a sea {Leviathan's home}; 31a carb {Atkins diet no-no}; 33a Detoo {Artoo-___}; 34a airers {TV networks, e.g.}; 36a antic {Caper}; 38a Len {Cariou of Broadway's "Sweeney Todd"}; 41a Elmo {Muppet with a goldfish named Dorothy}; 45a tars {Swabbies}; 47a cable {Remote possibility?}; 48a social {Kind of butterfly}; 56a atonic {Unstressed}; 57a Oyl {Olive in the funny pages}; 62a ask {Set the price at}; 64a lea {Where a flock flocks}; 65a ark {300-cubit-long craft}; 69a hip {Femur terminus}; 72a 'tis {Carol contraction}; 75a ass {Muttonhead}; 82a win {Carry the day}; 83a iconic {Easily identifiable}; 89a Nantes {Birthplace of Jules Verne}; 90a I'm late {White Rabbit's lament}; 91a oasis {Spring site}; 92a mere {Piddling}; 93a teen {College freshman, usually}; 98a drama {Pulitzer category}; 102a dowses {Seeks water, in a way}; 104a clans {Related groups}; 106a spot {Dry cleaner's challenge}; 107a ice {Sculpting medium}; 110a trip {Junket}; 114a TNT {Wrecking ball alternative}; 118a impolite {Churlish}; 120a omelet {Dish often served folded over}; 121a delta {Mouth feature}; 122a outlives {Is around longer than}; 123a desire {Yen}; 124a salon {Business that makes the cut?}.

1d Attica {Region of Greece containing the capital}; 2d to a man {Without exception}; 3d Hobart {Tasmania's capital}; 4d ell {Perpendicular wing}; 6d rated {Like bonds and movies}; 7d trowels {Helps in planting}; 8d Pedro {Director Almodóvar}; 9d aloe {Sunscreen additive}; 10d pins {They may be bowled over}; 11d att. {Brief writer, in brief}; 12d websites {Net assets?}; 13d dispersal {Riot police goal}; 14d enter {Key in}; 15d .edu {Part of a dean's address}; 16d pips {Deck spots}; 17d Erie {Niagara River's source}; 18d nada {Squat}; 20d spate {Sudden rush}; 25d euro {100 cents}; 28d yon {Over there}; 32d biting {Heavily satirical}; 34d ACLU {"Because Freedom Can't Protect Itself" org.}; 35d secede {Break off}; 37d Casio {Digital watch brand}; 40d ebb {Lose intensity}; 43d Maui {Haleakala National Park setting}; 46d Ricoh {Big name in copiers}; 47d calla {Lily variety}; 49d oval {Amphitheater shape}; 50d raga {Ravi Shankar performance}; 51d it-or {"Believe ___ Not!"}; 52d book title {Spine feature}; 53d foods {Nutritionists' topics}; 54d Lyles {Actor Waggoner and others}; 55d hakes {Codlike fishes}; 61d SNL {Long-running NBC show, for short}; 62d aspic {Meat-stock jelly}; 63d Seine {The Pont Neuf spans it}; 67d dawns {Begins}; 68d Kline {"In & Out" star, 1997}; 70d Ilie {Netman Nastase}; 71d pics {Snaps}; 73d in hand {Under control}; 74d stat! {"Now!"}; 77d a card {Have ___ up one's sleeve}; 78d zoners {Members of some city commissions}; 79d Swit {"M*A*S*H" co-star}; 80d time {Proctor's call}; 81d overwrote {Replaced, on a hard drive}; 85d notepads {List holders}; 86d gats {G-men's weapons}; 87d -ese {Jargon ender}; 88d aid {Support}; 92d minimum {Low point}; 95d as if {"Like that'll ever happen!"}; 96d Flo {Sitcom waitress}; 97d ratio {Numerical comparison}; 99d Aptiva {I.B.M. computer of the 1990s}; 100d montes {Peaks, to Pedro}; 101d attest {Bear witness}; 103d otter {Web-footed mammal}; 104d clean {All washed up?}; 105d septi- {Three more than quadri-}; 107d iPod {It can carry a tune}; 108d come {Turn up}; 109d étés {Busy times on the French Riviera}; 111d bill {Platypus part}; 112d onto {Aboard}; 113d sold {Cry accompanied by a gavel rap}; 116d Ali {2001 biopic}; 117d mea {___ culpa}; 119d lie {Creative story}.


Gareth Bain said...

Re "Goodnight Irene" - Always find it fascinating that that line isn't omitted from Bowdlerized versions, but "if Irene turns her back on me, I'm gonna take morphine and die" at the end of the song is.

Crossword Man said...

Thanks for the insight. We weren't too familiar with the song and its significance. It looks like The Weavers may have been responsible for "cleaning up" the lyrics.