Monday, December 14, 2009

NYT Tuesday 12/15/09 - Busy Busy

I thought this Tuesday New York Times crossword was going particularly well, until I had to face that central across answer. Dealing with BTU must have taken two to three minutes on its own - I couldn't reliably remember NTSB at 24-Down and got fixated on "A/C" being account rather than air-conditioning.

Apart from that, the cluing and theme seemed typical for a puzzle early in the week. We get two extra long answers (aficionado and aftershave) in the grid at the cost of rather isolating the NE and SW corners and necessitating a stack of three-letter acrosses - never a pretty sight in an American puzzle, but not particularly troublesome to solve either.

The theme is interesting in that the sequence "places to go/things to do/people to see" is familiar enough to be something of a cliché; and yet I've not been able to track down its origin ... either through the internet or my own reference library. It seems the association with eager beaver is a rather loose one and I'm not convinced that's helpful in finding the source - I think of the words as more likely to come from someone that's overbusy than overeager.
Solving time: 11 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 54a loo {London facility}

Steve Dobis
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


The non-specific agenda of the busy, suggested by 17a eager beaver {Zealous sort whose schedule may include 27-, 50- and 64-Across}.
27a places to go
50a things to do
64a people to see
Steve Dobis / Will Shortz
15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares
42 (22.2%)
Scrabble points
282 (average 1.49)
Letters used
New To Me

Sea Ray
15a marina {Where to dock a Sea Ray}. Easy enough answer, but what is a Sea Ray when it's in port? Apparently a brand of pleasure boat and not a specific type: the company manufactures boats ranging from 17 foot power cruisers to 60 foot yachts, including the well-known SunDancer brand. Sea Ray is based in Knoxville, TN and is the title sponsor for the annual AquaPalooza boating festival.

Callaway Big Bertha
43a Elys {Golf innovator Callaway and bridge maven Culbertson}. Ely Culbertson is familiar from a recent attempt to learn (relatively easy) and enjoy playing (the hard part) Contract bridge. Callaway too is familiar from golf coverage, which was frequently seen in this household of Tiger fans (so recent developments may reduce our golf watching considerably). I hadn't before realized that the founder of the Callaway Golf Company was an Ely R. Callaway, Jr. Nor was I aware of his innovations: these seem mostly to have been in club design (resulting in e.g. the "Big Bertha" driver) and golf ball design (resulting in the "Rule 35" ball).

18d raceway {Monticello or Saratoga}. GB is right: I do need a Crucial Post about horse-racing. I sort-of-knew that Saratoga is a racecourse, but not that nearby Monticello "The Mighty M" is also. The pronunciation of Monticello is a puzzle to me: hearing it on NOAA weather radio, I assumed it was always "mon-tah-sell-oh". But our friend Harry patiently pointed to me out that Jefferson's residence is pronounced in the Italian manner. Raceway as a term for race track is also unfamiliar ... Merriam Webster's Collegiate says it's used particularly of harness racing venues like Monticello.

31d bam {Emeril catchword}. I occasionally glimpse Top Chef if Magdalen is watching, but we don't watch much of that ubiquitous TV fare, the cooking show. I gather Emeril Lagasse is known for his flamboyant presentation and multitudinous catchphrases including "Pork fat rules", "Kick it up a notch!", "Oh, yeah babe", and “BAM!”. I just hope I can find a clip of a bam or two. Sorted.

movie camera
52d T-stops {Movie camera lens settings}. I heard plenty about F stops when I learned all about photography (the old fashioned kind - so long ago I can't remember the circumstances). But this clue is to do with movie cameras and T-stops are unfamiliar - since both settings are on the same Wikipedia page, they must be related, right? Yes, T-stops relate to the action of the lens itself (rather than an iris) in reducing transmission of light - every lens transmits less than the perfect 100% of light hitting it, so by using lenses with different amounts of transmission, the exposure can be adjusted (the T in T-stop stands for "transmission").


32a RAF {Spitfire-flying grp.}. Movies about the exploits of Spitfire pilots in the RAF were a staple of my youth: the school I attended from age 7 to 13 seemed to show several war films per term. World War II stayed fresh in the mind for a generation and British movie makers in particular knew what would be a dramatic subject and find a good audience. The culmination of all this effort was Battle of Britain (1969).

33a West {Rapper Kanye}. The appearance of "rapper" in a clue is normally a cause of anxiety, as the answer is likely to be an unconventionally formed word (as in Skee-Lo, which we had on Saturday). Kanye West seems the odd-man-out in rapper naming and I already knew his name from seeing him perform on TV (though I don't recall in what show).

air conditioner
38a BTU {A/C fig.}. Justifying this was a real struggle for me and cost a few minutes of solving time on its own. I didn't immediately fathom that the capitalization meant "A/C" was very likely air conditioning and I'm still unsure if "A/C" could legitimately mean account in such a clue, or if capitalizing the C wouldn't be fair game in that context. Whatever the case, I thought it more likely I was looking for an abbreviation relating to accounts and it took a while to think of British Thermal Unit as an explanation. It doesn't help that air conditioning is very rare in the domestic setting in the UK, as compared to the USA - hence I've not been aware before that air conditioners are rated using BTU.

5d Ambrose {Cynical Bierce}. Ah, the great Ambrose Bierce (1842–1914?) of The Devil's Dictionary (1911) which originated in 1906 as The Cynic's Word Book. Let's see how he defines cynic:
Cynic, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic's eyes to improve his vision.

24d NTSB {Crash-probing agcy.}. I've come across the National Transportation Safety Board a few times before, but not enough for me to be remember the abbreviation with complete confidence, especially when faced with a tough crossing for the end letter, as here. The NTSB is responsible for the investigation of civil transport accidents; also the investigation of hazardous waste releases that occur during transportation.

The Rest

1a simp {Lamebrain}; 5a analog {Kind of TV now converted from digital}; 11a adz {Wood-shaping tool}; 14a Esso {Gas brand in Canada}; 16a Fra {Monk's title}; 19a ion {Cyclotron bit}; 20a mortar {Weapon using high-arcing ammo}; 21a lift {Morale booster}; 22a CII {Early second-century year}; 23a icon {Desktop picture}; 25a Noh {Japanese dramatic form}; 26a -ide {Suffix with chlor- or sulf-}; 31a boss {Head honcho}; 34a T-man {Tax investigator, for short}; 36a Ostia {Port of old Rome}; 40a image {Spin doctor's concern}; 45a osas {She-bears, south of the border}; 47a dog {Barker}; 48a sore {Like bad losers}; 53a ens {Printers' measures}; 54a loo {London facility}; 55a Ares {Greek counterpart of Mars}; 56a ash {Blond shade}; 57a Arno {River of Florence}; 59a entity {Material thing}; 63a Mia {"Mamma ___!"}; 66a ATV {Off-road transport, for short}; 67a purist {One unlikely to compromise}; 68a peat {Fuel from bogs}; 69a née {Word in alumnae bios}; 70a Speedo {Big name in small swimsuits}; 71a semi {Many-axled vehicle}.

1d seem {Appear to be}; 2d Isao {Golf's ___ Aoki}; 3d Msgr. {Roman Cath. title}; 4d poetic {Word with justice or license}; 6d nae {Scot's denial}; 7d Aral {___ Sea (Amu Darya's outlet)}; 8d living {Kind of will}; 9d one foot {What a flamingo might stand on}; 10d Garth {Country's Brooks}; 11d aficionado {Devotee}; 12d droids {Sci-fi automatons}; 13d zanies {Class clowns, e.g.}; 27d pro {Old hand}; 28d las {Refrain syllables}; 29d aftershave {Item in a man's medicine chest}; 30d Otto I {10th-century Holy Roman emperor}; 35d missent {Loaded onto the wrong truck, say}; 37d île {Spot in the Seine}; 39d USNA {McCain's alma mater: Abbr.}; 41d god {55-Across, e.g.}; 42d ego {I, to Claudius}; 44d store up {Save for a rainy day}; 46d agree to {Go along with}; 48d seaman {One on deck}; 49d on-site {Like some job training}; 51d Honoré {Novelist ___ de Balzac}; 54d Lapps {Northern Scandinavians}; 58d Opie {Mayberry boy}; 60d I see {"Gotcha"}; 61d team {Orioles or Cardinals}; 62d yeti {Bigfoot's Asian cousin}; 65d LSD {Tripper's turn-on}.


Daniel Myers said...

I have a nit to pick: Shouldn't clue 5A read, "Kind of TV now converted TO digital" rather than "FROM Digital"?!?----

My father is a retired aeronautical engineer, and I grew up hearing, I kid you not, "Son, you're letting out all the BTUs!" when I inadvertantly left the door ajar in the winter. Also, of course, The Battle of Britain was a favourite in our family.

Gareth Bain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gareth Bain said...

Unlike yourself, I'd manage to memorize the NTSB from my prior encounters, and so didn't even read the BTU clue 'til I got here! I agree that West is pretty normal, but KANYE? He's the only famous KANYE I can name - he's waay more famous than that Skee-Lo okie though, has more Grammy's than you can shake a stick at! Admittedly they're mostly "Best rap artist" or somesuch.

Thank you for pointing out the unusual grid arrangement in the top-right / bottom-left. I don't know how I didn't notice it before. Interesting approach to the grid problems (albeit mild, compared to say 13's) 11-letter entries can cause...

Crossword Man said...

5-Across. Maybe what the clue is saying is that signals have to be converted FROM digital in order for the picture to show on analog TVs. I agree the wording is very unclear.

The idea of something that cools being rated in BTUs is alien to me. Do A/C units have negative BTUs or does the rating express how much the outside is warmed up? Would global warming problems go away if people migrated like birds?

Yes Kanye is the obligatory weird part of KW's nom de rap, which - to his credit - he was born with. Bonus puzzle: are there any other forenames (the weirder the better) that anagram to the names of countries?

Daniel Myers said...

5-Across-Perhaps so. But then, that would make it a very tricksy clue for a Tuesday.

Perhaps I should ring my father and ask him to explicate anent BTUs. Actually, if you look up the Wikipedia article on "heat pumps" - which my father always said was a misnomer of sorts because it just as often heats as cools, the cycle is reversible - and look at some of the diagrams perhaps you'll get the idea, or perhaps it will only obfuscate matters further. I never understood half the things my father used to talk about. But, as I aged, the feeling became mutual. I remember an abortive attempt to explain some of Hamlet's Shakesperean English to him. He finally shook his head and said: "I are an engineer." - a true boffin. We both love(d) aeroplanes though!

The only other country/name anagram that pops to mind is Rani Mukerji, a Bollywood actress - vide Wikipedia

Crossword Man said...

Rani/Iran's a good one. I couldn't think of any, so had to write a program to work this one out (and I can't even claim that this list is comprehensive). Here goes:


Nothing as dramatic as Kanye/Kenya.