Wednesday, December 16, 2009

NYT Thursday 12/17/09 - As Flies to Wanton Boys

The Crossword Gods have a sense of humor this week. After my gaffe yesterday over a suspected duplication, today's New York Times crossword has deliberately doubled answers, inspired by the Noah's ark story.

I was slow to see the full implications of the theme: I actually got both seals early on, but failed to notice the oddity. Then after about six minutes, I got Noah's ark, two-by-two and flood in quick succession, but still didn't notice the pair of seals.

So I continued to potter around the grid not exploiting the duplicate answer feature for many minutes. In fact, having got one of the animals in an area, I consciously suppressed the possibility that an adjacent answer might be the same. Eventually, I cottoned onto the idea in a second place where the crossings were obvious, finally realized what was happening and then completed all the areas with animals very quickly.

My greatest difficulties lay outside the theme: having to make a guess for 22-Down, I chose otter pie rather than Otter pop - I should really have guessed the pop bit from popsicle=frozen treat. It's not been a great week for me and I just hope Friday and Saturday turn out better.
Solving time: 21 mins (solo, no solving aids, three wrong answers)
Clue of the puzz: 43a floss {It may get food away from a canine}

Francis Heaney and Patrick Blindauer
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Animals appear in pairs in the grid:
14a cat {Hipster}
17a cat {Tractor make, briefly}
38a mole {Spicy sauce}
41a mole {Marilyn's mark}
60a dog {Frank}
64a dog {Follow relentlessly}
65a Lion {Viking foe?}
68a Lion {Louis VIII nickname, with "the"}
2d seal {It makes an impression}
3d SEAL {Navy commando}
33d horse {Basketball shooting game}
34d horse {Gymnast's equipment}
as indicated by these theme clues:
21a Noah's ark {Craft that's the subject of this puzzle}
51a two-by-two {How the passengers went in 21-Across}
31d flood {Reason for 21-Across}
Francis Heaney and Patrick Blindauer / Will Shortz
15x15 with 40 (17.8%) black squares
78 (average length 4.74)
Theme squares
67 (36.2%)
Scrabble points
288 (average 1.56)
Letters used
New To Me

5a a BA {"What Do You Do With ___ in English?" ("Avenue Q" song)}. I'm ignorant on several levels here: haven't heard of Avenue Q; don't know the song What Do You Do with a BA in English?; and I can't answer the question it poses. Avenue Q is apparently a recent musical inspired by Sesame Street ... but not as we know it ... there's adult language and content and "full puppet nudity" (including puppet sex). The title of the musical is a fictional outer-outer borough of NYC and the song in the clue is sung by a recent Princeton graduate trying to find his purpose in life.

23a LSD {Subject of "Hofmann's Potion"}. Hofmann's Potion (2002) is a documentary on the origins of LSD, the Hofmann of the title being Albert Hofmann, who first synthesized the drug in 1938 from the grain fungus ergot. Thanks to the National Film Board of Canada for allowing the documentary to be included in full here.

36a Clem {___ Haskins, 1960s-'70s N.B.A. player}. That's going back a bit for a cager, unless he's very famous. Clem Haskins is famous ... firstly for being at the forefront of the integration of college basketball teams in the South. He and star player Dwight Smith became the first black athletes to integrate the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers basketball program in the Fall of 1963. Unfortunately his name is now associated with scandal: after serving 13 years (1986-1999) as head coach of the University of Minnesota's men's basketball team, Clem was forced to resign due to one of the worst academic fraud scandals in the history of NCAA sports.

45a Gordo {Mercury and Gemini astronaut, informally}. Ignorance cost me here when I was prepared to accept Gordi as an astronaut's nickname. Gordo is Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr. (1927–2004), who flew the longest spaceflight of the Mercury project, was the first American to sleep in orbit, and was the last American to launch alone into Earth orbit and conduct an entire solo orbital mission.

49a PBA {Group of pin-heads?: Abbr.}. My guess at 22-Down resulted in EBA for this answer. Did I even attempt to justify it? No, I just hoped for the best and that's never a good sign. I did think of ten-pin bowling but imagined the group would then be called ABA (American Bowling Association) and I even doubted that bowling would have professional players. PBA stands for Professional Bowlers Association which has almost 4,300 members worldwide and oversees competition in the sport via tours such as the PBA Tour.

Rue de Rivoli
59a Rivoli {Paris's Rue de ___}. The Rue de Rivoli is named for the battle of Rivoli, one of Napoleon's victories against Austria. It's a shopping street which includes the most fashionable names in the world.

62a TCBY {National frozen dessert chain}. I didn't think this a likely answer, but once I'd worked out that the corner would contain two lions, it looked secure. TCBY stands for The Country's Best Yogurt, a franchise of frozen yogurt store. I'd never have guessed this in a million years from the acronym. As usual, I'll see just how close the nearest branch of this national chain is: not bad ... only 22.8 miles (Scranton, PA) and there's another branch right opposite the movie theater we're going to on Saturday in Moosic, PA. I can see frozen yogurt in our future.

1d Elba {Hundred Days campaign planning site}. "Able was I ere I saw Elba". The Hundred Days marks the period between Napoleon Bonaparte's return from exile on Elba to Paris on 20 March 1815 and the second restoration of King Louis XVIII on 8 July 1815 (a period of 111 days). Napoleon gathered a huge army, but was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo and sent into exile again, this time on the more remote Saint Helena, where he died in May 1821.

9d Rossi {Allen and ___, old comedy duo}. Allen & Rossi was a comedy duo active from 1957 until 1969, composed of Marty Allen and Steve Rossi. They appeared on over 700 television shows including 44 appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show. It's hard to describe comedy in words, so I'll try to find a clip. Here's their What's My Line appearance in 1967.

22d Otter Pop {Sweet frozen treat}. Otter Pop? That's the most ridiculous product name I've ever heard. In combination with 45-Across and 49-Across, I really struggled here and my best guess was otter pie. Less ridiculous than the real answer, but that doesn't make it right. Otter Pops are popsicles in a tube rather than on a stick and have colorfully named flavors ... which I'll list because one day these might get mentioned in a clue:
  • Blue Louie-Bloo Raspberry (Berry Punch)
  • Red Strawberry Short Kook (Strawberry)
  • Green Sir Isaac Lime (Lemon Lime)
  • Light Red Poncho Punch (Tropical Punch) (originally Rip Van Lemon until the mid-1970s)
  • Purple Alexander the Grape (Grape)
  • Orange Little Orphan Orange (Orange)

  • Light Blue Berry Punch
  • Red Watermelon
  • Pink Tropical Punch
  • Orange Pineapple
  • Light Green Citrus Punch
  • Yellow Banana
24d Doctorow {"Billy Bathgate" novelist, 1989}. Knew of the American novelist E. L. Doctorow, but not this specific book. Billy Bathgate (1989) tells the story of a fifteen-year-old boy who becomes a gofer and then a surrogate son to a mobster. It won the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction for 1990 and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

rainbow flag
45d gay lit. {Works stocked by a bookstore with a rainbow flag}. I gather that the Rainbow flag has been used as a symbol of the LGBT community since the 1970s in the USA and that it has now caught on worldwide. As Wikipedia puts it, the flag's symbolism to LGBT people is often not understood so [it] is seen as a safer expression of LGBT pride.

For Better or for Worse
58d Lynn {"For Better or for Worse" cartoonist Johnston}. I had grave doubts about this answer until the pair of lions made it feel secure. Lynn Johnston is a Canadian cartoonist best known for the For Better or For Worse strip.


15a Soon-Yi {A Previn}. Neat that the A looks to be André's initial (though I suspect that would in reality be presented as "A."), but is in fact the indefinite article, the reference being to André's adoptive daughter Soon-Yi Previn, who married Woody Allen in 1997.

40a LIRR {Line to Penn Sta.}. I only learned the Long Island Rail Road recently, but it's been proving one of my most useful knowledge acquisitions. Every time I think a clue refers to a four-letter train line in the vicinity of New York City, I put in LIRR and amazingly it seems to work 100% of the time!

James Doohan
8d Doohan {James of "Star Trek"}. Memorable as one of the answers that temporarily roadblocked Tyler Hinman on his way to winning ACPT 2009. James Doohan (1920–2005) of course played Scotty (not Scottie!) in a memorable Scottish-but-not-as-we-know-it accent. Thanks to the ACPT association, Doohan's a name that I'm unlikely to forget.

20d Ulee {Title role for a 1997 Oscar nominee}. Ulee is in danger of going On Notice! ... this is the seventh Ulee(s) this year and he's starting to bee a bit annoying. It's December and all good bees should be hibernating along with their beekeeper. At least there's now a trailer on YouTube:

48d Eboli {Locale in a Carlo Levi best seller}. A reference to the 1945 memoir Christ Stopped at Eboli, describing the anti-fascist author's exile to Aliano from 1935-1936.

The Rest

1a Esso {Gulf competitor}; 8a dried {Preserved, in a way}; 13a lees {Vat waste}; 16a Baal {Canaanite deity}; 18a posher {More sumptuously furnished}; 19a all-out {No holds barred}; 25a trail {Finish behind}; 26a Caffè {___ Americano}; 30a often {Customarily}; 32a ahh {Physical sound}; 35a O'Hare {United hub}; 37a I too {"___, sing America": Langston Hughes}; 39a store {PX, e.g.}; 42a coop {Kind of board}; 43a floss {It may get food away from a canine}; 44a ate {Had eggs, e.g.}; 46a Renée {Forename meaning "born again"}; 47a Neato {Old-fashioned "Sweet!"}; 54a animal {Brute}; 63a Adélie {Penguin from Antarctica}; 66a merit {Excellence}; 67a shy {Withdrawn}.

4d Oslo {___ City Hall, Nobel ceremony locale}; 5d accts. {Sales off. folders}; 6d baa {Sound made while being fleeced?}; 7d attn. {Envelope abbr.}; 10d inhalation {It fills a chest}; 11d eyer {Loupe user, say}; 12d dirk {Dagger}; 15d spare me! {"Puh-leeze!"}; 26d comma {"New York, New York" has one}; 27d a hoot {"What ___!" ("So funny!")}; 28d fallen over {Toppled}; 29d free {Available}; 37d ille {"Winnie ___ Pu"}; 39d Scottie {Certain terrier}; 43d Fran {Memorable 1996 hurricane}; 50d baggy {Loose}; 51d tram {Vehicle that makes pit stops?}; 52d wide {Like some loads}; 53d odds {2:1, e.g.}; 55d it'll {"___ be all right"}; 56d MCII {Early 12th-century year}; 57d aboo {"Peek-___!"}; 61d ooh! {"That's gotta hurt!"}.


Daniel Myers said...

I crashed and burned on OTTERPOP as well, or rather, the last syllable thereof--"pip"--It looks like only one otter made it aboard the ark this time. But the other one could always swim, one supposes.----The National Film Board of Canada makes great documentaries. Thanks for including this one (which I just finished watching, in toto)! I requested one once, and they refused me - This would have been the early 90s. - That particular documentary - "Volcano: An Inquiry into The Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry" - was finally released on DVD two years ago by the Criterion Collection.

Daniel Myers said...

Other otter killed for sport?

Crossword Man said...

There would have to be an Otter Mom to go with the Otter Pop. Yes, the LSD documentary is fascinating ... I got interrupted about half way through, but hope to finish it this pm.

I forgot to mention, when blogging, the semi-thematic significance of animal and all out (what Noah said - with much relief - on arrival at Ararat).