Saturday, December 26, 2009

NYT Sunday 12/27/09 - Countdown to 2010

This is an abbreviated form of my usual crossword post, as I'm in vacation mode for a few days. The appearance of the grid and title gave much away about the subject of this Sunday New York Times crossword, although we didn't expect so much attention to be given to Dom Pérignon when we started solving. The long answers relating to his "discovery" of champagne were among the toughest in the puzzle.

Dom Pérignon (c. 1638–1715) made important contributions to the production and quality of champagne, but definitely wasn't its inventor, nor did he make the quote attributed to him, but (to be fair) the crossword acknowledges all this in its use of "purported" in 25-Across. The evidence is that sparkling wine was first intentionally produced by the Englishman (!) Christopher Merret (1614/5–1695).

As usual, I solved this as a joint effort - today with my wife Magdalen and friend Henry. Many hands don't make light work when it comes to Sunday puzzles and we were also hampered by trying to eat cheese quesadillas while solving. Our time as a threesome was about the same as our usual Sunday time as a pair.

There was one particular crossing that gave trouble: none of us knew Russian figure skater Ilia Kulik for 14-Down; we didn't know the Hollis neighborhood of Queens for 20-Across either. Fortunately, only one letter looked at all likely at the crossing.

It seems a little early to be celebrating the new year, but I guess that running this puzzle on Sunday January 3rd would have seemed a bit late.What's your favorite movie with a new year theme? Mine is the Billy Wilder-directed film The Apartment (1960), which deservedly won five Oscars.

Solving time: 32 mins (with Magdalen and Henry, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 69a narc {Person on the alert for snow?}

Elizabeth C. Gorski
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


"Toasting the New Year". Some thematic answers relate closely to Dom Pérignon's supposed discovery of champagne; other symmetrical answers relate peripherally to this theme and its connection with New Year celebrations. The central part of the grid is shaped like a glass with champagne in the bottom and bubbles floating up (see circled letters).
1a cheers {Common toast}
12a clinks {Sounds accompanying toasts}
25a I am drinking the stars {Purported cry from 100-Across upon discovering this puzzle's subject}
75a bottoms up {Alternative to 1-Across}
77a wine lover {Connoisseur of this puzzle's subject}
100a Dom Pierre Pérignon {See 25-Across}
119a salut {Common overseas toast}
34d Benedictine monk {100-Across, for one}
39d it's twelve o'clock {Cry before "Happy New Year!"}
Elizabeth C. Gorski / Will Shortz
21x21 with 80 (18.1%) black squares
139 (average length 5.19)
Theme squares
147 (40.7%)
Scrabble points
571 (average 1.58)
Letters used
Other Clues

7a a crab {Be ___ (constantly complain)}; 18a hallow {Make sacred}; 19a Maura {Actress Tierney}; 20a Hollis {Neighborhood in Queens}; 21a arsenal {Store}; 23a Obies {Cousins of Drama Desk Awards}; 24a rosiest {Most hopeful}; 28a Omni {Bygone Dodge}; 29a Ngo {Vietnamese leader ___ Dinh Diem}; 30a abet {Help out in a bad way}; 31a stabs {Tries}; 35a ELO {"Livin' Thing" band, for short}; 37a Phi {Honor society character}; 38a oil up {Prepare for a bodybuilding competition}; 43a Ione {Actress Skye}; 44a one to {11:59 p.m., e.g.}; 46a lead a {___ double life}; 48a tans {Summer shades}; 49a not now {Later}; 51a sissies {Cream puffs}; 53a gasket {Joint seal}; 55a Kiefer {Sutherland of "24"}; 57a champ {Titleholder}; 58a sun tea {Beverage brewed naturally}; 59a lah-di-dah {Hoity-toity}; 61a agn. {Once more: Abbr.}; 62a goes west {Follows the path of 19th-century pioneers}; 64a ace it {Nail the test}; 65a coo {Sweet talk}; 67a qua {Sine ___ non}; 68a Aerie {Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Eagles}; 69a narc {Person on the alert for snow?}; 70a Merce {Late choreographer Cunningham}; 72a bunko {Swindle}; 74a lien {Mechanic's ___}; 79a in heels {Dressed up, maybe}; 80a average {C}; 81a Magnus {Name of seven Norwegian kings}; 84a Lao {Thai's neighbor}; 85a Ned {Beatty of "Superman"}; 86a neocon {Ex-lib, perhaps}; 90a a poet {"___ can survive everything but a misprint": Oscar Wilde}; 91a firm {Al dente}; 92a arfs {Terriers' warnings}; 94a Econo {___ Lodge}; 95a doom {Bad end}; 96a oak {Symbol of strength}; 97a -ola {Pay back?}; 99a L. Ron {Scientologist ___ Hubbard}; 108a phonies {Fakes}; 110a bated {Restrained}; 111a gnocchi {Italian dumplings}; 114a junk DNA {Genetic material with no known function}; 115a Imari {Japanese porcelain}; 116a hulk out {Become enraged, as a comic book figure}; 117a she {Miss, e.g.}; 118a isl. {Alcatraz, for one: Abbr.}; 120a Tso {General name on menus}; 121a bet {Jump into a pool?}.

1d cha {When said three times, a dance}; 2d Hari {Spy Mata ___}; 3d Elsa {Mrs. Albert Einstein}; 4d elem. {Na, Ne, Ni or No}; 5d rondos {Some Mozart works}; 6d swarm {Hive mentality?}; 7d amok {Berserk}; 8d cabin {Part of a plane}; 9d ruing {Having certain misgivings}; 10d are go {"All systems ___"}; 11d bast {Rope fiber}; 12d chose {Went with}; 13d lost to {Was beaten by}; 14d Ilia {1998 Olympic figure skating gold medalist ___ Kulik}; 15d NLer {D-back, e.g.}; 16d kiss {New Year's Eve action}; 17d SST {Grounded flier}; 22d linen {Napkins and such}; 24d rebid {Up an offer, e.g.}; 26d Niles {"Frasier" role}; 27d ha-has {What the Laugh Factory produces}; 31d sin {Do bad}; 32d took a cab {Skipped the subway, say}; 33d antihero {Raskolnikov in "Crime and Punishment," e.g.}; 36d otic {Of the ears}; 37d peep {Slightest protest}; 40d Lake Erie {Discovery of the explorer Louis Joliet}; 41d uneasier {More restless}; 42d PST {LAX setting}; 44d owed {Due}; 45d OSHA {Workplace watchdog grp.}; 46d limn {Describe}; 47d ague {The chills}; 50d of it {The wonder ___ all}; 52d sage {Wise}; 54d ansa {Looped handle, in archaeology}; 56d raceme {Flower arrangement}; 58d Soaker {Super ___ (water shooter)}; 59d LAN {Office PC hookup}; 60d horselike {Equine}; 62d gunned for {Pursued tenaciously}; 63d Ten {Big ___}; 66d ocular {Of the eyes}; 67d quiver {It may be taken with a bow}; 70d Mohs {___ scale}; 71d Epsom {English Derby site}; 72d bwana {Swahili honorific}; 73d O-Lan {"The Good Earth" wife}; 76d T nut {Carpentry fastener}; 78d ogee {S-shaped molding}; 81d mad {"Are you ___?"}; 82d APO {Mil. address part}; 83d good one {"Funny!"}; 87d corn-cob {Biodegradable pipe material}; 88d Ono {Lennon's lady}; 89d non {French vote}; 91d Faisal {Former Saudi king}; 93d slight {Cold-shoulder}; 96d opens {Taps, in a way}; 98d Agnus {"___ Dei"}; 101d midi {Skirt length}; 102d RBIs {Diamond stats}; 103d Rama {"___ Lama Ding Dong" (1961 hit)}; 104d et al {Series ender: Abbr.}; 105d Peru {Arequipa is its second-largest city}; 106d edit {Make a long story short?}; 107d nolo {Start of a plea}; 108d PJs {Comfy evening wear}; 109d huh {"You talkin' to me?"}; 112d hue {Shade}; 113d Itt {Cousin ___ of "The Addams Family"}.

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