Tuesday, December 8, 2009

NYT Wednesday 12/9/09 - CHANGE

I really enjoyed this Wednesday New York Times crossword, which has "new world order" as its basis: I worked this part out very early on, helping me fill in all the other thematic answers fairly quickly. The puzzle's difficulties seemed to lie outside the theme, but I still managed to complete the grid in a reasonable time for midweek, with no particular trouble spots that I could see.

Immigration Update. Good news in my inbox this morning:
The last processing action taken on your case

Receipt Number: EAC0000000000


Current Status: Card production ordered.

On December 8, 2009, we ordered production of your new card. Please allow 30 days
for your card to be mailed to you.
In other words, my green card has been renewed and the conditions on my permanent residency in the USA has been removed: USCIS have satisfied themselves my marriage to Magdalen isn't fraudulent; that I don't have a criminal record; that I'm not a terrorist, polygamist etc etc. All this was done without the need for a face-to-face interview, which we're thankful for.

The next step in my assimilation is to apply for naturalization as a US citizen, which I can do as early as September 2010. I'll try to write about this in some detail as I go through the process ... step 1, to work out why I want to be a US citizen in the first place.
Solving time: 9 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 19a aren't {Ain't how it should be?}

Peter A. Collins
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Jumbles of world appear in four long answers, hinted at by 38a new world order {Shake-up in the global balance of power ... and a hint to the circled letters}.
17a sword lily {Gladiolus}
23a blowdryers {They're usually aimed at heads}
53a feel drowsy {Need a nap}
63a fieldwork {It's done outside a lab}
Peter A. Collins / Will Shortz
15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
78 (average length 4.79)
Theme squares
51 (27.3%)
Scrabble points
307 (average 1.64)
Letters used
New To Me

Bart Starr
9d Starr {M.V.P. of the first two Super Bowls}. Definitely a good time of year to see Starrs. This one is Bart Starr, QB of the Green Bay Packers from 1956 to 1971. His number 15 was retired by the Packers in 1973 and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

Roger Maris
38d nine {Roger Maris, for the Yankees}. From a football number to a baseball number: Roger Maris was a right fielder and is primarily remembered for hitting 61 homers for the New York Yankees during the 1961 season. This broke Babe Ruth's single-season record of 60 home runs (set in 1927) and set a record that would stand for 37 years. His number 9 was retired in 1984.

63d Fay {Former baseball commissioner Vincent}. I suspect I've come across this reference before ... if so I'm ashamed today I couldn't recall if the name was Vincent Fay or Fay Vincent. Yes, the latter, even though the nickname (he's really Francis Thomas) doesn't look like a man's name. Fay was the predecessor of Bud Selig, whom we met at the beginning of the month.


16a Tomei {Oscar-winning Marisa}. I'm getting gradually better at remembering Marisa Tomei after seeing her a few times in this year's crosswords. She won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as Vinny's girlfriend in the comedy My Cousin Vinny (1992).

20a Pine-Sol {Spic and Span competitor}; 3d Lionel {Train company founded in 1900}. I'm linking these two answers because my knowledge of both these American icons comes down to one man: the great Garrison Keillor. I was a big fan of Keillor's humor years before arriving in the USA and have heard a great many of his monologues about Lake Wobegon and read most of his books. My impressions of rural life in the Midwest come in large part from his stories, so I hope they're accurate! Anyway, his monologues over the years have involved products as diverse as Pine-Sol and Lionel model trains. Thank you Mr. Keillor.

Fort Dix
42a Dix {New Jersey's Fort ___}. I also know of Fort Dix from American comedy, but didn't get the joke until I saw signs for the place. The reference that always used to puzzle me was "Our fathers came across the prairies, fought Indians, fought drought, fought locusts, fought Dix... remember when Richard Dix came in here and tried to take over this town? Well, we didn't give up then... and by gum, we're not going to give up now!" from Blazing Saddles (1974). I gather the army base was constructed in 1917 and is named for John Adams Dix, a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

68a Mary's {"The Bells of St. ___"}. Wanted to put in Trinian's, as in The Belles of St Trinian's (1954), but doubt such a reference would make it into an NYT crossword even if it were the right length. The Bells of St. Mary's is a Bing Crosby / Ingrid Bergman movie from 1945, often associated with this time of year because of a Christmas pageant scene. St. Mary's clips are playing hard-to-get, so here's St. Trinian's - note the appearance of that crossword regular Alistair Sim as the headmistress (sic).

2d Edwina {Currie who wrote "A Parliamentary Affair"}. I might well have been the only solver to find this clue a gimme. I well remember the surprise when Edwina Currie's diaries were published in 2002 and revealed a hitherto secret affair she had had with John Major from 1984 and 1988 (this was when Major was a whip in Margaret Thatcher's government). Perhaps we should have suspected something, as Edwina had been writing "raunchy" novels of parliamentary life for some years before the revelations, including A Parliamentary Affair - nice of the constructor to choose a title that prompts the right associations in the solver's mind.

8d Edy {Joseph ___, who lent his name to some ice cream}. Did Joseph Edy really lend his name, or have it borrowed? And just who was Mr. Edy? It seems he was the co-founder with William Dreyer of the Dreyer's ice cream brand. Edy left the company in 1947 and didn't get his name recognized on the labels till the 1980s when the Oakland, CA-based company expanded throughout the continental USA and needed a name well-differentiated from the Boston based Breyers ice cream.

46d O'Leary {Famed Chicago livestock owner}. I learned this piece of folklore early on in my quest to master American puzzles: Mrs O'Leary's cow allegedly started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The cow was framed: in 1893, the reporter Michael Ahern admitted making up the story to add color to a piece in the Chicago Tribune (which I discovered recently is nicknamed the "World's Greatest Newspaper" making WGN radio and TV easier to remember).

The Rest

1a helms {Pilots}; 6a age {Biographical info}; 9a smock {Lab wear}; 14a adieu! {"Farewell, François!"}; 15a Xed {Marked, on a ballot}; 19a aren't {Ain't how it should be?}; 21a Aral {Asia's ___ Sea}; 22a ENE {Rome-to-Belgrade dir.}; 28a dales {Areas between hills}; 31a arid {Like Death Valley}; 32a stoa {Ancient Greek portico}; 33a won {Captured}; 35a also {Furthermore}; 37a tap {Beer may be on it}; 43a Shel {Author Silverstein}; 44a née {Originally}; 45a into {Digging}; 47a alai {Jai ___}; 49a staph {Health menace, briefly}; 56a Nia {Actress Peeples}; 57a ream {Copier unit}; 58a luckier {Doing better at the casino, say}; 61a briar {Kind of patch}; 65a adore {Idolize}; 66a art {School department}; 67a lance {Renaissance faire sight}; 69a yes! {"You got it!"}; 70a vised {Gripped on a bench}.

1d hasped {Latched, in a way}; 4d mere {Piddling}; 5d suds {Some cold ones}; 6d axilla {Armpit}; 7d gel {Solidify}; 10d morays {Some eels}; 11d omelette {Dish that may be prepared in a special pan}; 12d cen. {1900-99, e.g.: Abbr.}; 13d kit {Do-it-yourselfer's purchase}; 18d lob {It's a long shot, usually}; 21d adds on {Builds an extension}; 24d oral law {Unwritten rules}; 25d wild {Wacky}; 26d roar {Jet engine's output}; 27d sap {Spring run}; 29d eww! {"How disgusting!"}; 30d sows {Scatters seeds}; 34d no harm {Something a doctor should do}; 36d ores {Tram loads}; 39d exterior {Like some paint}; 40d relo {Move, to a real-estate broker}; 41d DET {The Pistons, on a scoreboard}; 42d dif {"What's the ___?"}; 48d islets {Keys}; 50d anions {Negatively charged particles}; 51d Pierce {Buchanan's predecessor}; 52d harked {Listened, poetically}; 54d dares {Challenges}; 55d Yul {Actor Brynner}; 59d CDLV {Year the Vandals sacked Rome}; 60d Kwai {River in a 1957 film}; 61d bam {Impact sound}; 62d RDA {Vitamin no.}; 64d ire {Tick off}.

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