Wednesday, December 9, 2009

NYT Thursday 12/10/09 - Take Notes (Reprise)

I thought this Thursday New York Times crossword was going to work out better than it did: although I didn't understand how the thematic answers were connected, I made great progress until I approached the SE corner and the mysterious answer that would unlock the riddle of the theme.

Unfortunately, that bottom right hand corner took about 8 minutes on its own at the end. Two difficult long answers sampler and Allegro stood like Scylla and Charybdis, guarding the entrance to the last area of white. Having 53-Across as dips caused most of the problems and once I'd worked out that was the root of the trouble, I managed to finish the corner off fairly quickly.

The only other real difficulty was the intersection with 2d Devers and 14a lentando. I had to make a guess here, but I assumed that the latter answer, clued as {Becoming slower, in music}, would have the same root as lento (slow in music). Indeed the -ando suffix possibly means "progressively" in this context, as in ritardando (progressively held back); perhaps the musicians among the readers can speak to this?

This theme calls to mind the Thursday puzzle of September 10th, which also featured the solfa syllables, but using rebus squares. Today's implementation was more subtle and held its secrets right to the end notes.
Solving time: 22 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 51d hunter {Person who might take a bow}

Trip Payne
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


The solfa syllables do re mi fa sol la ti appear, in sequence, as the ends of the starred clue answers. This is indicated by 68a endnotes {What some scholarly texts (and the 10-Downs to all the starred clues) have}.
14a lentando {Becoming slower, in music}
17a overture {First track on many a Broadway album}
32a pastrami {Deli choice}
37a alfalfa {Role played by child star Carl Switzer}
41a parasol {Shade provider}
47a panatela {Long smoke}
65a literati {Book reviewers, for example}
Trip Payne / Will Shortz
15x15 with 35 (15.6%) black squares
76 (average length 5.00)
Theme squares
62 (32.6%)
Scrabble points
275 (average 1.45)
Letters used
New To Me

8a beanie {Jughead's topper}. A bit of a hornet's nest of unfamiliar slang: a jughead is an idiot and a beanie is a small close-fitting hat, according to my dictionary. But the real explanation comes from Wikipedia, which points me to Jughead Jones, wearer of a gray crown beanie and best friend to Archie Andrews. These are characters in Archie Comics, later found in animated form in The Archie Show.

30a sneer {Billy Idol expression}. I was never a fan of punk rock so didn't pay too much attention to Billy Idol, but I could imagine sneers were in keeping with the genre. I'll see if I can find a relevant clip. Here's White Wedding.

61a Gino {Soft-rock singer Vannelli}. Gino Vannelli is an Italian-Canadian singer, songwriter, musician and composer. Vannelli was commissioned by the Vatican to perform for Pope John Paul II no less; one of JP II's favorites was a tribute to Gino's father titled "Parole Per Mio Padre".

Washington Duke
62a Durham {Duke's home}. Aaaaargh! I shouldn't have fallen for this: Duke is a university; any time Duke appears at the start of a clue it's always a university. That's the Fourth Law of Crosswords. But I had to look up the Wikipedia entry to confirm my guess that Duke is based in Durham, NC. Maybe it would help if I knew why Duke is called Duke: apparently because of Washington Duke a benefactor who had made it big in the tobacco industry. They're not used to the snow down there in the Carolinas, not like us tough northern folks.

67a Astors {Rich couple on the Titanic}. Great way to clue the answer. I'd forgotten that the Astors featured in Titanic (1997). John Jacob Astor IV (1864–1912, played by Eric Braeden in the movie) died on the ship; his 18-year-old wife Madeleine (1893–1940) survived.

2d Devers {Three-time Olympic gold medalist Gail}. This was tough, given the crossing with lentando, but could you clue Devers any easier way? Gail Devers is an American athlete and won her golds in the 100m at the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta games, and the 4x100 m relay also in Atlanta. Here she is talking about the economics of training for the Olympics.

42d Allegro {1947 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical}. A title befitting the subject of the puzzle: Allegro was the fourth Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II collaboration and one of their less successful ventures. It apparently had a legendarily disastrous opening night: falling flats; falling actors; and a fire in a local alley causing many in the audience to leave in a panic. The plot follows the life of "Everyman" protagonist Joseph Taylor, Jr. in a series of vignettes from birth to age thirty-five.


16a Arnold {"Dover Beach" poet}. Knew Dover Beach, because its metaphor of The Sea of Faith was used as the title of a notable British TV documentary by the theologian Don Cupitt, focusing on how Christianity has responded to challenges such as scientific advances, political atheism and secularization in general.

23a Araby {Sheik's home}. Easy if you knew the 1921 song The Sheik of Araby, which was composed in response to the popularity of the Rudolph Valentino film The Sheik. It quickly became a jazz standard and earned a mention in The Great Gatsby. Here's Elijah Wald's version - in his intro, Elijah says the song came before the movie ... I guess he's just going to have to duke it out with Wiki.

49a Selah {Frequent word in Psalms}. I've come across this mysterious "Psalms interjection" a few times this year, but it hasn't stuck to the point where it's a gimme. Selah is apparently difficult to translate into English ... it's probably either a liturgico-musical mark or an instruction on the reading of the text, something like "stop and listen". Thirty-one of the thirty-nine psalms with the caption "To the choir-master" include the word "Selah".

53a dims {Turns down}. I got fixated on dips here: that made it a whole lot harder to recognize 45d sampler, which turned out to be the gateway into the SE corner.

8d bam {Carpenter's sound, at times}. With the "carpenter" at the start of the clue, I wondered if this related to the musical Carpenters. I conclude no, the "bam" just being an onomatopoeic word that suggests a sudden loud noise. That's the sound you want to hear from a carpenter. The kind that says "you won't know we're here" probably isn't going to be there.

40d Allie {Title role in a 1980s sitcom}. This became a toss-up between Alice and Allie, as I'd forgotten that Alice was a little earlier. Kate and Allie originally aired from 1984 to 1989.

45d sampler {It may display the alphabet}. This answer took me ages to get ... amazing considering how many samplers we have hanging in our house - the product of Magdalen's cross-stitch craze. Here's a beautiful example nicknamed "The Green Monster", for which Magdalen won first prize at the local county fair.

The Rest

1a ado {Flap}; 4a Hoag {Best-selling author Tami}; 18a misses {Department store department}; 19a hemi- {Prefix with sphere}; 20a suss {Figure (out)}; 22a ewe {Baa-aad mother?}; 25a mace {Its punch is spiked}; 27a egad {G-rated oath}; 34a CLI {Mid second-century year}; 35a else {It can follow anything}; 36a Yma {Singer Sumac}; 43a lei {It's often given in greeting}; 44a all's {"___ well ..."}; 46a YSL {High-fashion inits.}; 52a open {Break the seal on}; 55a rev up {Accelerate sharply}; 57a aye {Backer's word}; 59a épée {Descendant of the smallsword}; 69a masons {Members of Grand Lodges}; 70a rest {Quietude}; 71a ere {Before, in a ballade}.

1d Aloha {"Hawai'i ___" (island song)}; 3d one-man {Kind of band}; 4d hat {Baldness remedy?}; 5d onus {Millstone}; 6d a drum {Tight as ___}; 7d goes ape {Pops one's cork}; 9d Erie {Pennsylvania county or its seat}; 10d answer {See 68-Across}; 11d nosegays {Aromatic arrangements}; 12d île {Corsica, par exemple}; 13d eds. {Self-appointed group, for short?}; 15d Tribeca {Setting for an annual New York film festival}; 21d scalp {Charge 200% for, maybe}; 24d yell at {Severely chastise}; 26d essays {Pieces by Thomas Paine}; 28d ammo {Bandoleer contents}; 29d dial {Oven feature}; 31d rifled {Rummaged (through)}; 33d terser {Comparatively clipped}; 37d Alpo {Food brand that was the sole sponsor of the first "60 Minutes" broadcast}; 38d leap {___ second}; 39d fine arts {Bachelor's area, perhaps}; 48d anyhoo {"Changing the subject ..."}; 50d aviate {Head in the clouds?}; 51d hunter {Person who might take a bow}; 54d Seine {The Pont Royal spans it}; 56d poise {Grace under fire}; 58d earn {Fetch}; 60d ETDs {Nos. on terminal monitors}; 62d dam {It goes against the flow}; 63d USA {G8 member}; 64d mss. {13-Down piles: Abbr.}; 66d -ent {Suffix with exist}.


Gareth Bain said...

Also spent about half my time trying to figure out the bottom right, though in my case got SAMPLER and ALLEGRO, but couldn't come up with the 50, 51, 56D rows!. Admittedly, there were also a few stray bits in the bottom-left and top-right...

Crossword Man said...

SAMPLER was key for me ... I couldn't get 65a and 68a until I had their initial letters. Shame it took me 8 minutes to get SAMPLER!