Wednesday, December 2, 2009

NYT Thursday 12/3/09 - Iter-ation

It looks like we may be in for a difficult week, as this Thursday New York Times crossword scotched any ideas of my breaking the 30 minute barrier for each puzzle this sennight. I think this is just down to some very hard cluing and not my lateness in exploiting the thematic diagonals, which you can hardly be expected to spot early on.

I got off to a slow start, taking nearly 15 minutes to notice that there was a rebus square in the middle of the grid. This spooked me a lot, as I then started looking for more rebus squares all over the place. If I'd just treated the rest of the puzzle normally, I'd have done a lot better. For example, I was convinced for a long time that 65-Down was petit(e), with a rebus square in the SE corner.

After 25 minutes, I had completed the bottom two-thirds of the grid and finally managed to spot the diagonal "roads" after just under half an hour. This helped me break into the more difficult NE and NW corners and it was particularly useful to have the extra checking for unfamiliar answers like no soup and SCTV.
Solving time: 35 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 45a Krishna {Hare follower}

Matt Ginsberg and Pete Muller
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


The saying "All roads lead to rome". Four types of road lead to Rome (central rebus square) from the corners of the grid. Clockwise from the northwest corner, these are: logging, private, unpaved, winding. The theme is indicated by 7d roads {There are four hidden in this puzzle, which together suggest a familiar five-word saying (3,5,4,2,4)}.

Matt Ginsberg and Pete Muller / Will Shortz
15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
76 (average length 4.92)
Theme squares
34 (18.2%)
Scrabble points
282 (average 1.51)
Letters used
New To Me

8a no soup {"___ for you!" ("Seinfeld" refusal)}. I'm starting to get Frasier and Seinfeld sorted out in my mind ... I think. Frasier's the one about psychiatrists and Seinfeld's the one (as Magdalen puts it - she's not a fan) about nothing. The quoted catchphrase comes from an iconic episode, The Soup Nazi, featuring a culinary artist {Temperamental one, supposedly} who has views on how his patrons should behave. Six-letter "partials" aren't usually desirable as an answer, but with a strong association like this they don't seem so bad.

22a Voit {Big brand in basketballs}. Founded in 1922, Voit is one of the oldest brands of sporting goods; it's named after founder William J. Voit (1881-1958) of Worthington, IN. Voit made a number of significant inventions which he patented: the first full-molded, all-rubber inflatable balls; the first needle-type air retention valves; and the process of icosahedron winding, which allowed balls to be machine wound with nylon threads over the bladder.

mi casa es su casa
71a es su {"Mi casa ___ casa"}. I assumed this was the equivalent of "my house is your house" in Spanish, but knowing that didn't help much, especially when I suspected there'd be a rebus in the corner square.

4d stogy {Howard the Duck prop}. I'm re-reading all Bill Bryson's books about America and by happy coincidence discovered the etymology of stogy in Made in America. Conestoga, PA it seems was famous not only for making those wagons, but for cigars too. Back to Howard the Duck, who is a Marvel Comics character that is almost always found smoking a cigar. A famously bad movie was released in 1986.

10d SCTV {Old sketch comedy show}. The northeast corner must have been a real struggle to fill, as SCTV is apparently a Canadian sketch comedy show that ran from 1976-1984. The performers all came from a Toronto-based offshoot of the improvisational comedy enterprise called The Second City (hence the SC of the title).

38d Nehi {Radar selection}. I wondered if "Radar" would be the Radar from M*A*S*H, but that didn't help any: I didn't remember his predilection for Nehi, even though I saw a lot of episodes back in the day. Radar's favorite flavor is Grape Nehi.

46d Renoir {"La Grenouillère," e.g.}.  La Grenouillère rang bells, and I assumed it was a work of art of some kind ... Renoir was still hard to come by. It turns out both Renoir and Monet painted the same scene side-by-side, as they were buddies at the time ... La Grenouillère ("The Froggery") being a restaurant and bathing place on a small branch of the Seine at Croissy. Renoir's painting hangs in the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm; Monet's in the MOMA. Here they are together (can you tell which is which?):




Mary II
23a Mary II {English monarch who shared the throne}. In theory I knew this, but those Roman numerals really mess up recognition of the answer, and I always think of William and Mary ... or as 1066 and All That has it, Williamanmary. William of Orange overthrew the Catholic James II of England in the Glorious Revolution and reigned jointly with his wife Mary, who was James II's Protestant daughter. After Mary died in 1694, William ruled alone until his death in 1702; whereupon Mary's younger sister Anne took the throne.

51a hem {Hesitate in speaking}. As in to "hem and haw".

52a ref {Call}. A horribly open-ended clue, eventually seen to refer to umpiring. To "call" a game is to rule on the status of a player's action.

6d Iler {"The Sopranos" actor}. I know I've come across Robert Iler before, but it took ages for my brain to recognize that's who I was dealing with here, not helped by the difficult PLO reference at 15-Across and the possibility of strain for 5-Down. If you land up with Iler in a grid, there's no option but to clue the actor, whose only really known for his portrayal of A.J. Soprano on The Sopranos. With Edie you have a bit more choice, but the clue de nos jours is {Falco of "The Sopranos"}.

40d Eohippus {Ancestor of the modern horse}. By no means a gimme, I was still glad to recognize this after a few crossings. Eohippus was a very small (60 cm or so long) ungulate that lived about 60 to 45 million years ago. The clue may not be au fait with the very latest theories, as Eohippus is no longer believed to belong to the Equidae and has been reclassified as a palaeothere, which may or may not have been ancestral to modern horses.

44d ems {Medium on the outside?}. The type of clue that you don't get any earlier than a Thursday ... there are ems at the start and end of the word "Medium".

The Rest

1a ltrs. {Contents of many files: Abbr.}; 5a Sir {McCartney, e.g.}; 14a poet {Virgil, for one}; 15a PLO {U.N. observer since '74}; 16a secure {Lock up}; 17a no-go area {Restricted zone}; 19a artist {Temperamental one, supposedly}; 20a laggards {Slowpokes}; 24a Shea {Citi Field predecessor}; 27a une {A, in Alsace}; 28a it'd {"___ be my pleasure"}; 29a on a {___ budget}; 31a itchier {More eager}; 33a deem {Hold as}; 35a Goethe {Author of "Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship"}; 37a Denver omelette {Dish with ham}; 41a sea-god {Trident wielder, typically}; 42a hone {Improve}; 45a Krishna {Hare follower}; 48a set {Volleyball action between bump and spike}; 53a ISPs {Connection means, for short}; 55a avails {Uses}; 57a a nod {"And giving ___, up the chimney ..."}; 59a star-maps {Observatory references}; 61a Konica {Classic camera}; 64a urban pop {Michael Jackson genre}; 66a oil-rig {It's well-positioned}; 67a NCO {Base figure, for short}; 68a dune {Buggy locale?}; 69a wryest {Most twisted}; 70a gob {Lot}.

1d LPN {I.C.U. worker}; 2d too late {"You missed it"}; 3d regarded {Seen}; 5d sprain {Sidelining cause}; 8d NSA {Code-breaking central, in brief}; 9d o'er {"___ the hills and far away"}; 11d oui, oui! {"Absolument!"}; 12d ursine {Bearish}; 13d petter {Attentive dog owner}; 18d agio {Exchange premium}; 21d shields {U.S.S. Enterprise defenses}; 23d mid- {Night's start?}; 25d -ette {Little: Suffix}; 26d acht {Zwei x vier}; 30d age gaps {Features of May-December marriages}; 32d heth {The "H" in Hanukkah}; 34d mess {Play (with)}; 36d O Romeo {Cry from Juliet}; 39d vans {Hotel transportation}; 43d nelsons {Holds on a mat}; 45d Kraków {Polish capital, 1038-1596}; 47d if only {Words of regret}; 49d earbob {Bit of jewelry}; 50d TV-MA {Adult rating for the small screen}; 54d stung {Scammed}; 56d A and E {Cable choice}; 58d dire {Presaging disaster}; 60d arco {Not pizzicato}; 62d CIS {U.S.S.R.'s successor}; 63d agt. {Bond, e.g.: Abbr.}; 65d peu {Little, in Lille}.

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