Monday, December 21, 2009

NYT Tuesday 12/22/09 - (S)hopping for the Holidays

This Tuesday New York Times crossword brings us back to a pun theme: I can't get enough of these and enjoyed this (s)election of examples, which seemed to be destined for the run-up to the holidays with its appropriate elf esteem {Personnel concern for Santa?} and mall minded {Addicted to shopping?}.

I'm not exactly addicted to shopping, but am heading out to get some stocking stuffers this pm. As my attempts to get these from malls have been singularly unsuccessful (that is, I didn't get a single one), I'm heading for the small town that is our county capital in the hope of finding the right kind of quirky store.

One thing I like about pun themes is that discovering the mechanism for creating the answers doesn't necessarily give you many insights into the ones you haven't got: uncovering each additional thematic answer is akin to unwrapping another little present.
Solving time: 8 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 52d islet {It might have a single coconut tree}

Robert A. Doll
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


S is deleted from the front of a phrase, making a pun:
17a hop steward {Attendant at a '50s dance?} cf shop-steward
22a elf esteem {Personnel concern for Santa?} cf self-esteem
51a pin doctor {Acupuncturist?} cf spin doctor
57a mall minded {Addicted to shopping?} cf small-minded
10d park plugs {Ads aimed at hikers and picnickers?} cf spark-plugs
32d lush funds {Money for liquor?} cf slush funds
Robert A. Doll / Will Shortz
15x15 with 40 (17.8%) black squares
78 (average length 4.74)
Theme squares
56 (30.3%)
Scrabble points
279 (average 1.51)
Letters used
New To Me

64a adage {Item in "Poor Richard's Almanack"}. It always surprised me in the UK that books such as Old Moore's Almanack, which purports to predict the weather and world events, still sells well in a new edition each year. Poor Richard's Almanack doesn't seem to have had that longevity, but has an impressive pedigree, being written by the great Benjamin Franklin. It appeared continually from 1732 to 1758 and was a best seller for a pamphlet published in the American colonies, print runs reaching 10,000 per year. Franklin's work included the calendar, weather, poems, adages, mathematical exercises as well as astronomical and astrological information.

9d Old {Jolly ___ Saint Nick}. We're playing "spot the holiday reference" again today. This one seems to be a song normally rendered Jolly Old Saint Nicholas and often credited to Wilf Carter. Here's a version from country singer Eddy Arnold (1918–2008).

Ben Roethlisberger
37d Ben {Gridder Roethlisberger}. How come "gridder" isn't used as a term for a crossword constructor? Instead it's constructor, compiler, setter or even cruciverbalist. I suppose gridder leaves out the element of writing clues, but that seems to be the least of a crossword maker's problems these days. Ben Roethlisberger is a current American football player, nicknamed Big Ben; he's QB for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Roethlisberger is often compared to his childhood idol, John Elway, due to their similar styles and fourth-quarter comebacks; he wears number 7 in Elway's honor.


14a Anita {"Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" writer Loos}. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1925) has one of the most memorable titles ever, but how much is the book read these days? Apparently there was a silent film version made in 1928 co-written by Anita that has been "lost" ... no copies are known to exist. You'd hope that this couldn't happen in the modern age, but stories of Nasa losing their Apollo 11 tapes remind us just how ephemeral our cultural images can be. A more famous movie version appeared in 1953 starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe. This is an adaptation of the 1949 musical that brought us Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend.

16a anon {Bartlett's abbr.}. My copy of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations is one I picked up second hand a few years ago and it was old even then ... I see I have the "Thirteenth and Centennial" edition of 1955. I should update my copy, but I think I'll wait for the next major edition so I have the very latest quotations. If the book is still structured like mine - in chronological order - the newest stuff will be easy to find. Bartlett was first issued in 1855 by a John Bartlett, who ran the University Book Store in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was frequently asked for information on quotations and so he began a commonplace book of them for reference. In 1855, he privately printed his compilation as A Collection of Familiar Quotations.

44a Hana {Mandlikova of tennis}. Hana Mandlíková, approx. two years younger than me, is of the generation of tennis players I know about. I was into watching tennis as a kid - particularly Wimbledon - but as the years went by I lost interest. I don't think Hana ever won a singles title at Wimbledon, but she was a runner-up in 1981 and 1986.

 7d erase {Shake an Etch A Sketch}; 52d islet {It might have a single coconut tree}. A couple of nice examples of improvised definitions getting a million miles away from what you might look up in a dictionary. The second one made me laugh, as it immediately calls to mind a classic scenario in cartooning.


50d Idiot {Dostoyevsky novel, with "The"}. By coincidence, today's page of our Worst-Case Scenario Daily Calendar mentions Dostoyevsky: on this day in 1849, he was led before a firing squad and prepared for execution. A reprieve was handed down at the last minute and Dostoyevsky was exiled to hard labor in Siberia. This experience inspired him to write Notes from the House of the Dead (he was released from prison in 1854). The Idiot is a more mature work of 1869. Here's National Lampoon's take on all this.

The Rest

1a denim {Material for informal jackets or skirts}; 6a Lego {Building block brand}; 10a Pisa {City on the Arno}; 15a oral {Like slander, as opposed to libel}; 19a rule {Occupy the throne}; 20a minks {Animals farmed for their fur}; 21a Akron {Goodyear's Ohio headquarters}; 26a spent {Tuckered out}; 27a Sal {Mule of song}; 28a soy {Tofu source}; 29a et al {List-ending abbr.}; 31a stole {Item made from 20-Across}; 33a slip-ups {Goofs}; 36a ecru {Hosiery hue}; 37a bride {One given away by her father, often}; 39a glen {Secluded valley}; 41a has-been {Washed-up star}; 43a usage {Grammarian's concern}; 45a Kat {Krazy ___ of the comics}; 47a NNE {Miami-to-Boston dir.}; 48a waifs {Street urchins}; 54a Indus {Pakistan's chief river}; 55a soapy {All lathered up}; 56a skin {Injure, as the knee}; 62a plod {Walk wearily}; 63a Abel {The brother in "Am I my brother's keeper?"}; 65a sets {Places for props}; 66a pets {Many adoptees}; 67a ninon {Curtain fabric}.

1d dah {Morse T}; 2d Eno {Brian of ambient music}; 3d nip {Sip from a flask}; 4d it's me {Response to "Who's there?"}; 5d Matisse {Henri who painted "The Dance"}; 6d low-key {Subdued in manner}; 8d gar {Needle-nosed fish}; 11d inure {Toughen, as to hardship}; 12d Solon {Athenian lawgiver}; 13d anent {With regard to}; 18d ento- {Inner: Prefix}; 21d asap! {"Chop-chop!," on a memo}; 22d esse {To be, to Brutus}; 23d latch {Gate fastener}; 24d flora {Botanist's study}; 25d meld {Pinochle lay-down}; 30d tie {Gift in a long, thin box}; 33d sin {Break a commandment}; 34d plant {Botanist's study}; 35d segno {Musical repetition mark}; 38d reap {Collect, as rewards}; 40d ne'er {Not e'en once}; 42d bass {Jazz combo member}; 43d utopian {Ideal, but impractical}; 45d knolls {Rounded hills}; 46d Adam {63-Across's father}; 48d wisps {Cirrus cloud formations}; 49d ankle {A spat covers it}; 53d Cyndi {Singer Lauper}; 57d map {Explorer's aid}; 58d Abe {Actor Vigoda}; 59d Dan {Aykroyd of "Ghostbusters"}; 60d ego {Swelled head}; 61d den {La-Z-Boy spot}.

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