Wednesday, December 30, 2009

NYT Thursday 12/31/09 - Piglet Trio

This Thursday New York Times crossword went fairly well, even though there's a lot of stuff in the New to Me section today. When progressing down the grid, I got stuck in the vicinity of each rebus square, so my first insight into the theme came when I solved 60a Three Little Pigs after 10 minutes or so.

I initially thought the pigs might be diagonally hidden, but eventually spotted the first rebus square in the northeast and then was able to finish off the grid reasonably quickly. I was lucky to have met Hogan's Heroes in a puzzle in March.

I'm used to seeing a few more than three theme squares in rebus puzzles and then often in a specific arrangement. So I wondered for a while why this idea merited its appearance ... until I noticed the extra significance of the "little" in suggesting the pigs should occupy a single square (and hence appear very small) - neat idea! If you were artistically inclined, you could even draw little pigs in the squares instead of trying to write in boar, sow and hog.
Solving time: 19 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 71a were {Be in a certain mood?}
Solution

Frank Longo
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

60a Three Little Pigs {Storybook group residing in this puzzle?}. The three "little" pigs - boar, sow and hog - appear in rebus squares (hence necessarily in a smaller font), affecting the following answers:
17a chairman of the board {Person making firm decisions}
12d Cobo Arena {Detroit venue for sporting events and concerts}
Cobo Arena

22a to each his own {"Different strokes for different folks"}
25d so what {"Big deal"}

55a Hogan's Heroes {1960s sitcom set at a camp}
37d quahog {Thick-shelled seafood selection}

Crucimetrics
Compilers
Frank Longo / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 37 (16.4%) black squares
Answers
78 (average length 4.82)
Theme squares
50 (26.6%)
Scrabble points
322 (average 1.71)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

Hannibal Hamlin5a Hamlin {Vice president after Breckinridge}. My knowledge of US political history hasn't yet extended to veeps, so I struggled here, needing all the crossings to be sure of Hannibal Hamlin (1809–1891). When I saw that Hamlin had been vice president under Abe, I wondered how come he didn't become prez #17 after the assassination. Apparently Hamlin - a Mainer - was so unsuccessful in the job that he wasn't nominated for a second term, Andrew Johnson being chosen instead.
Sasha Vujacic29a Sasha {Vujacic of the Los Angeles Lakers, who's nicknamed "The Machine"}. The Los Angeles Lakers came up in a trivia question over Christmas: "where are the lakes in the team name?". I gather Minnesota, "Land of 10,000 Lakes", as the basketball team made Minneapolis its home from 1947–1960. Sasha Vujačić is a Slovenian who currently plays for the team, at the shooting guard spot in the Lakers' triangle offense.
Jean Lafitte47a Jean {Pirate Lafitte}. I thought this was probably to do with baseball, as I now know all about the Pittsburgh Pirates. Today, however, a Pirate is just a pirate: Jean Lafitte (ca. 1776 – ca. 1823) filibustered around the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century. He briefly helped General Andrew Jackson defend New Orleans against the British in 1815, but subsequently became a Spanish spy, moving to Galveston Island to help develop the colony there.
Parris Island54a USMC {Parris Isl. outfit}. This time I successfully guessed the US Marine Corps based on just the last two crossings. Parris Island is near Beaufort, South Carolina and is used for the training of enlisted Marines. Male recruits living east of the Mississippi River and female recruits from all over the United States report here to receive their initial training (male recruits living west of the Mississippi River receive their training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, but may train at Parris Island by special request).

67a Monroe {"Niagara" star, 1953}. Niagara is a film noir thriller directed by Henry Hathaway. A big hit at the time, it features Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotten and Jean Peters. Given the title, it's no surprise that Niagara Falls is an important setting in the drama.



Pachacuti70a Incans {Pachacuti's people}. Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui was the ninth Sapa Inca (1438-1471/1472) of the Kingdom of Cusco, which he transformed into the empire Tawantinsuyu, or the Inca Empire. In Quechua, Pachakutiq means "He who remakes the world". During his reign, Cuzco grew from a hamlet into an empire that could compete with, and eventually overtake, the Chimu.

4d soilage {Green crops cultivated for fodder}. A new one on me, although my first guess of silage came close. Soilage seems to derive from an etymologically distinct meaning of soil, viz to fatten livestock with green food:
soil vt to feed (livestock) on fresh-cut green food; to purge by so doing; to fatten.
soilage n green fodder for livestock.
From The Chambers Dictionary
23d O God {Psalm start}. This made me think more of a hymn, viz O God, Our Help in Ages Past, and that turns out to be a paraphrase of Psalm 90. But this is probably not what the clue is getting at. How about Psalm 63, which starts:
O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul
thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and
thirsty land, where no water is;
From The King James Bible
38d Sara {Tony-winning "Spamalot" actress Ramirez}. Sara Ramirez, known for her appearances in The OR (official name Grey's Anatomy) won the Tony for playing The Lady of the Lake in Spamalot. Her role is described as "An aquatic diva. Part fairy, part diva and all woman.". Here she is singing Find Your Grail at the awards show.



44d Len {"Live Free or Die Hard" director Wiseman}. Live Free or Die Hard (2007) is the fourth installment of the Die Hard series. The producers must have doubted certain audiences would get this, as the film was released as "Die Hard 4.0" outside of North America.



UNLV61d Lon {Hoops coach Kruger}. "Hoops" means basketball ... maybe that should go into Pavlov's Guide to Crosswords? Lon Kruger is head coach at UNLV, and took the Runnin' Rebels to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2007.

Noteworthy

71a were {Be in a certain mood?}. Nicely misleading use of mood in the grammatical sense, were being the verb "(to) be" in the subjunctive mood (hope I got that right).

Ashton and Demi51d Ashton {"Punk'd" host Kutcher}; 58d,1d demi sec {Moderately sweet, to a vintner}. I covered the Punk'd show back in October, so I wasn't going to comment on this until my eye lighted on Demi, ie Mrs Kutcher, at 58-Down. Strange to see these answers so close in the grid and yet not linked through the cluing.

The Rest

1a sips {Small drafts}; 11a FCC {Govt. media monitor}; 14a echo {Return from a mountain?}; 15a ugsome {Dreadful, old-style}; 16a Loa {Mauna ___}; 20a slept {Wasn't up}; 21a -soxer {Bobby-___}; 27a bone {Radius, e.g.}; 28a agog {Intensely interested}; 30a bras {Cup holders?}; 31a cones {Alternatives to cups, in dessert orders}; 33a patty {Something to throw on the BBQ}; 35a ode {Salute in stanzas}; 36a IQs {Mental figures}; 39a tsk {Click of condescension}; 40a per {On the authority of}; 43a usual {It's nothing new, with "the"}; 45a of use {Not worthless}; 50a areas {Country statistics}; 53a Otto {Maestro Klemperer}; 57a scold {Chew out}; 59a haven {Place to escape to}; 66a sea {It has a very large bed}; 68a acre {Plot piece}; 69a owl {Athena's symbol}.

2d ich {Potsdam pronoun}; 3d phase one {Multistep process starter}; 5d humphs {Snorts of disdain}; 6d Agatha {She created Hercule}; 7d MSN {Alternative to AOL or Juno}; 8d loo {Bath bathroom}; 9d IMF {Global lending org.}; 10d nets {Cross-court items?}; 11d flexor {Limb bender}; 13d cadres {Training groups}; 18d rec. {It's done for fun, for short}; 19d hobby {It's done for fun}; 22d Taco {___ Bell}; 24d ISP {AOL or Juno}; 26d Nats {D.C. diamond squad}; 32d sis {Granny, to a great-aunt}; 34d TKO {Ref's call}; 40d put on ice {Shelve for a while}; 41d Este {City in Padua province}; 42d REOs {Antique autos}; 43d uncle {Cry when you've had enough}; 46d forepaw {What Fido "shakes hands" with}; 47d just so {To a T}; 48d eschew {Abstain from}; 49d amoral {Unconcerned with scruples}; 52d shales {Some are bituminous}; 56d eve {Brink}; 62d Inc. {Magazine with an annual "500"}; 63d tra {La-la lead-in}; 64d grr {[Mumble, mumble]}; 65d see? {"Comprende?"}.

4 comments:

Gareth Bain said...

I first met Hogan's Heroes via a Mad Magazine parody myself. Had heard of Jean Lafitte the pirate, but had myself confused between him and Jacques Laffite the Formula 1 great.

Of course not only is there Ashton and Demi, but also an oblique reference to ex Bruce via Len...

Crossword Man said...

So where is Freddy Moore?

Anonymous said...

This isn't the one I have in front of me!!!!

Crossword Man said...

Anonymous, are you perhaps solving a syndicated puzzle? If so, you need to look at the post for five weeks earlier, in this case the one for November 26.