Sunday, December 20, 2009

NYT Sunday 12/20/09 - The Lowdown

The theme of this Sunday jumbo New York Times was easy to figure out from the title and first answer. Once we got rain forest, the only question was whether there would be different "dope" synonyms in each answer or info consistently all the way through and it didn't take long to find out which.

napkin boat
The predictability of those four interior letters really helped with the remaining long answers, though some such as regain footing and McCain followers seemed a little strained ... evidence perhaps that the choice of info for embedding presented severe problems ... not so much in constructing around those particular letters, as just finding eight worthy examples. We did like napkin folding, though ... an assignment that busboys can turn into a true art form.
Solving time: 31 mins (with Magdalen, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 60d Visa {Discover alternative}

Alan Arbesfeld
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


"Inside dope". Two-word phrases with info spanning the first and last word, "dope" being slang for information.
23a rain forest {It has a large canopy}
25a plain folks {Average Joes};
35a McCain followers {Republicans in 2008}
55a napkin folding {Busboy's assignment}
78a regain footing {Stop a trip?}
96a topspin forehand {Rafael Nadal specialty}
112a bargain for {Expect, everything considered}
114a join forces {Unite}
Alan Arbesfeld / Will Shortz
21x21 with 68 (15.4%) black squares
140 (average length 5.33)
Theme squares
96 (25.7%)
Scrabble points
576 (average 1.54)
Letters used
New To Me

15a sham {Pillow cover}. Magdalen is the expert in this area and seems to have several dozen sets of bed linen hidden away around the house. I gather a sham is an ornamental covering for a pillow which is closed on all four sides, but has a slit at the back to insert the pillow. This needs a picture ... I assume this image is of the back with the slit ... Magdalen?

Renee Vivien
93a Renée {___ Vivien, British poet known as the Muse of the Violets}. Just when I thought I knew all the British poets worth knowing, Renée Vivien (1877-1909) comes along to put me right. A possible reason for her comparative obscurity in England is that she wrote in French, having emigrated permanently to France when she inherited a fortune at the age of 21. She lived a lavish, openly lesbian, life and her dress and lifestyle were notorious even in Paris.

56d Patti {Page of music}. Neatly deceptive, but I'm not sure it's common enough to make the Pavlov's Guide to Crosswords list. Patti Page was the best-selling female artist of the 1950s and has sold over 100 million records. Her signature song, "Tennessee Waltz," recorded in 1950, was one of the biggest-selling singles of the twentieth century, and is also one of the two official state songs of Tennessee.

70d Rex {Reagan White House dog}. How come poor Rex got omitted from the Cruciverbal Canines. This is supposed to be a "no dog left behind" blog. Rex (1984–1998) was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, brought in to replace the unruly Lucky.


33a hos {Christmas sounds}; 108a refrains {"Fa la la la la la la la la" and others}. The NYT crosswords seem to be gradually getting into holiday mood. I thought it funny there were so many "las" in the refrain, but Magdalen nailed it when she recognized it as the one from Deck the Halls (and possibly others). Hmm ... which one to choose ... sorry Dixie Chicks, the puppies win out today.

Abie's Irish Rose
3d Abie {Title fellow in a 1922 Broadway hit}. I came across Abie's Irish Rose earlier this year, but Magdalen still got there first today. Clearly I need some more revision (oops, study) on this one: it was a comedy that ran on the Great White Way from 1922 to 1927 - at the time a record run. The plot, concerning a Jewish boy who marries an Irish Catholic girl, despite the objections of both their families, was much imitated - the playwright Anne Nichols unsuccessfully sued Universal for their movie version The Cohens and Kellys (1926). The official movie version appeared in 1928.

38d Luna {Old Coney Island's ___ Park}. I think we were both a little amazed that I got this before Magdalen. I'm guessing because it was mentioned in one or more Woody Allen movies. The Luna Park at Coney Island was the first of many with that name throughout the world; in fact, "Lunapark" now translates into "amusement park" in several different European languages. The original closed in 1944 following significant fire damage. Here's a fascinating piece of archival footage (watch out for the bicyclist at the end!).

58d Dr. No {1962 film set partly on Crab Key}. With the first three letters from cross-checking, we didn't even need to look at the clue to get that final O. My question was whether "Crab Key" is a real place or fictional. Based on the Wikipedia page for Dr. No, it seems to be fictional, the hideout for Fleming's Fu Manchu-like villain.

The Rest

1a waah {Crib cry}; 5a Isiah {N.B.A. Hall-of-Famer Thomas}; 10a tidal {Like some waves}; 19a Alba {Jessica of "Fantastic Four"}; 20a rodeo {Where to go for the big bucks?}; 21a olive {Item on a toothpick}; 22a Mesa {La ___, Calif.}; 27a tied into {Connected with}; 28a scrum {Rugby action}; 30a Dallas {Where 7-Eleven is headquartered}; 31a stools {Counter view?}; 34a all done! {"Finished!"}; 40a seats {See 104-Across}; 41a Shawn {William ___, longtime editor of The New Yorker}; 42a go up {Increase}; 43a Ekberg {Mastroianni's co-star in "La Dolce Vita"}; 45a dais {V.I.P. locale}; 46a Dayan {Six-Day War hero}; 48a so do I {"Me too"}; 50a AAA {Battery option}; 53a Orr {Bruin great}; 54a vet {Lab inspector?}; 59a stove-pipe {Lincoln trademark}; 62a aide {One who might be left holding the bag?}; 63a Ernie {Sesame Street resident}; 64a inter {Lay to rest}; 65a pts. {N, E, W and S}; 66a Conan {Title role for Arnold Schwarzenegger}; 69a Brest {French seaport}; 72a imit. {Not orig.}; 74a okey-dokey {"You bet"}; 82a des {Avenue ___ Champs-Élysées}; 83a Rae {Charlotte of "Diff'rent Strokes"}; 84a OXO {Big name in kitchen utensils}; 85a Elroy {Boy's name that means "the king"}; 86a odist {Horace, e.g.}; 88a rots {Goes to hell}; 89a claw at {Attack, bear-style}; 92a Sten {British gun}; 94a smear {Makeup boo-boo}; 101a consort {Associate}; 103a aha! {"Gotcha!"}; 104a Senate {With 40-Across, some Election Day prizes}; 105a untame {Wild}; 106a agora- {Lead-in to phobia}; 116a Amin {Whitaker's Oscar-winning role}; 117a Meade {Army of the Potomac commander during the Civil War}; 118a aboil {Seething}; 119a sown {Put in the ground, in a way}; 120a Sica {Director Vittorio De ___}; 121a strad {Prize for Paganini}; 122a Merle {Country singer Travis}; 123a ents {Tolkien tree creatures}.

1d wart {Target of salicylic acid}; 2d alai {Jai ___}; 4d handsaws {Shop tools}; 5d iron-on {Like some transfers}; 6d sort of {In a way}; 7d ideology {Communism, for one}; 8d AES {Two-time loser to D.D.E.}; 9d hots {Intense attraction, with "the"}; 10d top row {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc., on a standard keyboard}; 11d ill-use {Mistreatment}; 12d diam. {Geom. measure}; 13d avi- {Prefix with fauna}; 14d Lendl {Three-time U.S. Open champion}; 15d smolder {Barely contain one's anger}; 16d hello again {"Oh, you're back"}; 17d askant {Obliquely}; 18d masses {Hoi polloi, with "the"}; 24d fit in {Belong}; 26d false {Like some starts}; 29d chop {Dice}; 32d Sloane {Everett of "Citizen Kane"}; 34d ask of {Request from}; 35d MS-DOS {Windows precursor}; 36d chart {Patient record}; 37d Cairo {Home of the mask of King Tutankhamen}; 9d redneck {Frequent Borat target}; 44d bio. {Library section, for short}; 46d dept. {State, e.g.: Abbr.}; 47d a tie {Play to ___}; 48d skis {Takes to the hills?}; 49d -oid {Meteor trailer?}; 51d an I {"Wheel of Fortune" request}; 52d age {Obituary datum}; 54d venti {20-ounce coffee size}; 57d leads {Does Rudolph's job}; 60d Visa {Discover alternative}; 61d prior to {Before}; 65d pity {"A woman's ___ often opens the door to love": Henry Ward Beecher}; 67d OEDs {Lib. references}; 68d nyet {Dmitri's denial}; 69d bro {Good pal}; 71d egocentric {Having I trouble?}; 73d moo {Jersey call}; 74d Ogdens {Nash and others}; 75d króna {Money in Malmö}; 76d eaten {Put away}; 77d yesed {Was sycophantic to}; 79d new {Just out}; 80d Flatt {Scruggs's partner in bluegrass}; 81d not I {"Don't look at me!"}; 87d inferior {Second-rate}; 88d rehearse {Run through}; 90d lasagna {Trattoria offering}; 91d aroma {Kitchen draw}; 92d spar {Lock horns (with)}; 93d retro {Back in}; 94d scubas {Explores with a tank}; 95d mon ami {French term of address}; 97d pagoda {Taoists' locale}; 98d shored {Held (up)}; 99d one-nil {Low soccer score}; 100d raffle {Fund-raising option}; 102d Reims {Old French coronation city}; 106d afar {Miles off}; 107d a jam {Stuck, after "in"}; 109d icon {Che Guevara, e.g.}; 110d Newt {House speaker between Tom and Dennis}; 111d SSNs {Some employment records: Abbr.}; 113d net {It's not gross}; 115d OBE {U.K. award}.


Magdalen said...

The picture of the pillow sham is accurate. You're right to be cautious about Patti Page because Ellen Page (star of Juno) is another option.

And with respect to Abie's Irish Rose, you might need to explain to your American readers that "revision" = "studying" in that context.

Crossword Man said...

Good thing Elaine Paige has an I in the middle, or we'd be thoroughly confused!

Gareth Bain said...

I had SLIP for SHAM for rather a while.

Don't know if you follow cricket, Ross, but I just saw an incredibly nail-biting end to the first test England vs. South Africa... Drawn.

Crossword Man said...

I used to follow cricket in the UK on radio and TV, but emigration has made it tougher to keep up with the national game. I'm having to make do with baseball now, which is like cricket except the batsmen run around a square instead of going up and down the wicket :-)