Thursday, April 30, 2009

NYT Friday 5/1/09 - TGIF

I still remember Joon Pahk's Friday 13th March puzzle, which took about 40 minutes and defeated me with a Toots Shor reference. This Friday, I was luckier and managed to get the puzzle right and in a shorter time - a sign of improvement?

This is a good example of my favorite type of New York Times crossword: the difficulties come more from delightfully subtle clueing than obscure cultural references; the grids abound in low frequency letters and unexpected letter sequences (coq and DNA sequence being causes for surpise in this crossword). It's still a toss-up whether I manage to complete a puzzle of this difficulty: it can be really frustrating to get stuck on them, but it's wonderful when I finish one.
Solving time: 35 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 28a narcs {They're not exactly user-friendly}
Solution

Joon Pahk
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersJoon Pahk / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 29 (12.9%) black squares
Answers72 (average length 5.44)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points331 (average 1.69)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

Major League Baseball Players Association57a Fehr {Donald of the Major League Baseball Players Association}. I had to guess this one, but didn't have much doubt about it as the crossings seemed unambiguous. Don Fehr has been the Executive Director Major League Baseball Players Association since 1986. In this role, he represents the interests of the players in negotiations with the team owners.

59a He's {"___ in Love" ("Kismet" song)}. The 1953 musical Kismet is based on Borodin's music (principally the opera Prince Igor) - "a lot of borrowed din" as one critic put it. It was made into a movie in 1955.



Gridiron boo-boo13d turnover {Gridiron boo-boo}. I can usually recognize an American football reference now, but rarely know what it means. Time to learn: when the offense loses possession of the ball through a fumble or interception, that's a turnover. I'm not sure what's happening in this picture, but it doesn't look like things are going right!

Noteworthy

stump speech27a pol {Stumper?}. I like the colorful shortening pol, which doesn't seem to get used in Britain. The question mark suggests "stumper" is the compiler's fanciful coinage for a politician on the stump - that term derives from the days when the stump of a felled tree was the most convenient platform for a pol to orate from.

blue screen of death28a narcs {They're not exactly user-friendly}. A beautifully deceptive clue calling to mind DOS command lines and the blue screen of death - yes, narcs are decidedly unfriendly to any drug users they find.

Chicago Cubs3d roster {Diamond information}. After thinking of carat, cut and purity, I finally remembered Magdalen's tip that any mention of diamonds in a clue probably refers to baseball. I gather a baseball roster typically consists of 25 players.

Bessemer converter37d Bessemer {Big name in steelmaking}. Sir Henry Bessemer (18131898) came up with the first industrial-scale process for the mass production of steel. The Bessemer process purifies pig iron by blowing air through the molten metal, oxidizing the impurities which becomes the slag.

58d rash {Precipitate}. I discovered the many meanings of precipitate recently while trying to write a cryptic clue for it. My clue was "What some drops are", which might pass muster in an American puzzle: it simultaneously alludes to the vertiginous and meteorological meanings.

The Rest

1a carjack {Take the wheels out from under?}; 8a muskets {Arms on shoulders}; 15a arousal {Opposite of depression}; 16a antique {Object of many an appraisal}; 17a festive {Like wingdings}; 18a procure {Win}; 19a tot {Add (up)}; 20a sept {Nombre after six}; 22a in kind {Way to repay}; 23a ales {They may create a buzz}; 25a stodgy {Hidebound}; 30a own {Completely dominate}; 31a wave {50-Across sight}; 32a OPEC {Venezuela is in it}; 34a alleges {Claims}; 37a barrier {Block}; 40a sealers {Polar bears, e.g.}; 41a Electra {Subject of plays by Sophocles, Sartre and O'Neill}; 42a exit {Turnoff}; 43a sigh {Indication of longing}; 44a coq {Poule's partner}; 46a cecum {The appendix extends from it}; 50a sea {Hydrospace}; 51a lay-out {Arrangement}; 54a rose {Mounted}; 55a entrap {Catch}; 60a matador {Guy making passes}; 62a neatens {Picks up}; 64a étagère {Stand against a wall, perhaps}; 65a cashier {One who's registered for work?}; 66a resents {Doesn't take well}; 67a exhorts {Presses}.

1d caftan {Unisex wear}; 2d areola {Small hollow in a surface, in biology}; 4d jut {Protuberate}; 5d as is {Just like that}; 6d caves {Relents}; 7d kleptocracy {Government marked by rampant greed and corruption}; 8d map {It may contain the whole world}; 9d unrig {Strip of gear}; 10d stony {Expressionless}; 11d kick {What a spiked drink has}; 12d equipage {Army outfit}; 14d seedless {Like ferns}; 21d tow {Request after breaking down}; 24d scorch {Assail scathingly}; 26d DNA sequence {Biochemical arrangement}; 29d spit {Stick in the fire}; 31d welter {Tumble and toss about}; 33d e'er {"Most miserable hour that ___ time saw": Lady Capulet}; 35d lex {Imperator's law}; 36d laic {Flock member}; 38d alienate {Put off}; 39d regattas {Meets near the shore?}; 45d oof {Reaction to a slug}; 47d coheir {Sibling, often}; 48d Usenet {Predecessor of Web forums}; 49d Messrs {Quaint letter opener: Abbr.}; 51d laden {Afflicted (with)}; 52d aport {Left on board}; 53d the ax {Bad thing to get from your boss}; 56d rage {Be uncontrolled}; 61d res {Image specification, for short}; 63d tho {However briefly?}.

NPR Sunday Puzzle (4/26/09) Solution

So here's what Ross said to me over the phone that helped me solve this puzzle:

Me: How'd you solve it?

Ross: I just wrote out all the equations. Oh, and we were right that Roman numerals are involved.

Me: {thinking} Oh. I get it.

fIVe = 4
seVen = 5
eIght = 1
twenty-sIX = 9

tweLVe = 55

Here's what we had thought about with this one: We knew it wasn't that old favorite, where the second value is the number of letters in the words for the first value. Five = 4 (letters), Seven = 5 (letters), etc., because although twenty-six is 9 letters, eight isn't 1 letter long. Next, the guy credited with this puzzle is from Argentina, so it's not somehow the numbers of letters in the Spanish word for the first value. (That's one of my puzzles from yesterday.) Also, although the use of 26 suggests an alphabet of some sort, it's not the Alpha Bravo . . . Zulu sequence. (That's the other puzzle from yesterday.)

That left Roman numerals. We fished around here, obviously, and I'd not seen it by the time I left on Monday morning for my overnighter to get all my CLE credits. But Ross has more stick-to-it-iveness than I do, and he saw that by writing out the first values as words and thinking about the second values as Roman numerals, you get there.

Such a clever man, my husband.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NYT Thursday 4/30/09 - To Cap It All

This wonderful puzzle rounds off a theme of punning capitals with the punning "capital offenses" - great fun! What might they have left out? Bangkok {Shoot the rooster?}, Jakarta {How did ya get 'er 'ome?}, Mogadishu {Cat sneeze?}.

I seemed to really breeze through this Thursday crossword: I got the basic idea after seeing Dublin/doublin' within 5 minutes - homing in on all the other capitals helped break into every corner of the grid.
Solving time: 13 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 7d thumb {Big print maker}
Theme

Puns on capital cities, this being punningly indicated by 36a capital offenses {Pun-crimes committed by the answers to the six starred clues?}:
15a Khartoum {Final resting place for old autos?} car tomb
24a Baghdad {Father of the Ziploc?} bag dad
49a Tripoli {Wide shoe specification?} triple E
63a New Delhi {Recently opened sandwich shop?} new deli
2d Dublin {Multiplyin' by 2?} doublin'
48d Beirut {Base of a fragrant tree?} bay root
Solution

Greg Kaiser and Steven Ginzburg
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersGreg Kaiser and Steven Ginzburg / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers74 (average length 5.05)
Theme squares57 (30.5%)
Scrabble points303 (average 1.62)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

Oriana Fallaci33a Oriana {Author Fallaci}. Oriana Fallaci (1929-2006) was an Italian journalist and author. In her final years, she aroused controversy with her critical stance on Islam.

Tom Ridge16d Ridge {First secretary of homeland security}. Tom Ridge was head of the Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005. The department was created under George W. Bush in response to the 9/11 attacks.

Sawtooth Range50d Idaho {Home of the Sawtooth Range}. The Sawtooth Range is part of the Rockies close to Stanley, ID.

Noteworthy

6a OTs {Reasons some games run long: Abbr.}; 9a mtge. {You can get one on the house: Abbr.}; 12d EMT {R.N.'s colleague}. This corner is unfortunately rather overloaded with abbrs., which get progressively less interesting for me as they become second nature. Ones in the plural like OTs seem particularly undesirable.

space-bar57a space-bar {Long key}; 7d thumb {Big print maker}. A couple of wonderful misleading definitions - funny how the latter depresses the former (thumb: I just love to dance; space-bar: I'm feeling so depressed).

okra6d okra {Food whose name comes from a language of West Africa}. Specifically from the Nigerian language Igbo. It's also known as gumbo (a Bantu word) and lady's fingers. okra pods look really beautiful in cross-section.

darts23d dart {It has feathers and flies}. I thought the flies were going to be of the buzzing variety, as in Q: what has four wheels and flies? A: a garbage truck!. Darts used in the pub game don't tend to be fletched with real feathers these days.

28d duds {Bombs}. Not the exploding bombs, but the miserable failures at the box office. The biggest ever bomb in terms of dollars spent on production and not recouped was Alexander, which lost $120m.



The Rest

1a addle {Discombobulate}; 13a queues {Lines}; 17a Ubangi {Congo tributary}; 18a ruminant {Cow or goat}; 19a alfa {Preceder of bravo in a radio alphabet}; 20a beamed {Showed joy, in a way}; 22a sit {Canine command}; 23a Dem. {Person on the left?: Abbr.}; 29a no carbs {Extreme Atkins diet credo}; 32a see you {"Ta-ta!"}; 35a fend {Repel, with "off"}; 41a open {Like some primaries}; 42a morale {Team esteem}; 43a sarong {Island attire}; 46a Pan-Arab {Like Gamal Abdel Nasser's movement}; 51a man {Work, as a battle station}; 52a Sep. {Wm. H. Taft was the only U.S. president born in this month}; 54a fidget {Show unease, maybe}; 56a Asia {___-Pacific}; 61a inborn {Natural}; 64a cirrus {It's white and fleecy}; 65a laws {Parts of codes}; 66a yon {Thataway}; 67a batty {Crackers}.

1d aquas {Pool shades}; 3d deaf to {Not heeding}; 4d luna {___ moth}; 5d EEG {REM researcher's tool}; 8d same as {Interchangeable with, with "the"}; 9d mtn. {Atlas abbr.}; 10d to a {___ degree}; 11d gun {Rev}; 14d Siberia {Home of the 2,700-mile-long Lena River}; 21d embalm {Mummify}; 25d Hefner {Original "Playboy"}; 26d dyes {Reddens, maybe}; 27d a one {Tiptop}; 30d coin-op {Pinball machine, e.g.}; 31d snoop {Listen in (on)}; 34d A-frame {Simple building}; 36d cost {Outlay}; 37d a par {On ___ with}; 38d Peri {Actress Gilpin of "Frasier"}; 39d fanatic {Extremist}; 40d élan {Personal flair}; 44d no fee {Like many checking accounts}; 45d glibly {With a silver tongue}; 47d assort {Categorize}; 53d pansy {Violet variety}; 55d grin {Sign of sheepishness}; 56d abra {Start of a magic incantation}; 57d SNL {___ Digital Short}; 58d pea {Bit of a stew}; 59d aww! {"How cute!"}; 60d CDs {Bank offerings, in brief}; 62d nib {Penpoint}.

NPR Sunday 4/26/09 -- What Twelve Equals

Ross figured this out while I was on the road, getting educated. (I'm a part-time attorney, so I have to do annual continuing legal education, which -- for now -- is all down near Philadelphia.) A gentle suggestion by him (maybe not even elevated to the level of a hint) and I got it too. Whew! My second week on the job, and I was really afraid I'd let Crosswordman down by not solving one of Will Shortz's puzzles.

We eliminated several possibilities in the course of solving this one. Here are a couple:

6 = 7
10 = 6
14 = 8
18 = 5

2 = 3
3 = 4
4 = 6
5 = 5

It will be a lot easier to solve those two puzzles if you've already tried hard to solve this week's on-air puzzle. In effect, they're dead ends for this week's puzzle! Have fun, and I'll be back tomorrow with all the answers.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

NYT Wednesday 4/29/09 - Aprrill Carroll

Barry C. Silk has been featured six times so far this year and I normally associate him with the tougher end-of-week puzzles. This one seemed about right for a Wednesday: knowing that a word ladder was involved didn't help as much as I hoped - the puzzle was almost done by the time I got 38-across and so realized what the two ends of the ladder were.

Lewis Carroll had a huge influence on English language wordplay and came up with the word ladder form. I had fun unpicking a couple of other connections he has with the puzzle (see Theme below). When introducing doublets in March 1879, Carroll gave readers three challenges (drag the mouse over the line below to see the official solution):
1. Drive PIG into STY
PIG,WIG,WAG,WAY,SAY,STY
2. Raise FOUR to FIVE
FOUR,FOUL,FOOL,FOOT,FORT,FORE,FIRE,FIVE
3. Make WHEAT into BREAD
WHEAT,CHEAT,CHEAM,CREAM,BREAM,BREAD
Solving time: 18 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 68a ones {Change components, often}

Theme

How to get from nine to five (38a standard workday) in 9 easy steps:
1a nine {Start of a 38-Across}
15a tine {Small part of a spork}
18a tone {Musical quality}
22a tore {Made tracks}
35a sore {Teed off}
44a sort {Put into piles}
56a fort {Locale in a western}
64a fore {It may precede a stroke}
67a fire {Ax}
71a five {End of a 38-Across}
sporkA spork (sometimes called a "runcible spoon", a Lewis Carroll coinage) is a combined spoon and a fork. Lewis Carroll also gave us the term "portmanteau word" for such hybrids of two existing words. And he invented the word ladder form exemplified in the puzzle, which he called "doublets".

I was a little surprised that 64-across suggests fore precedes a stroke - maybe by the pessimistic golfer?

Solution

Barry C. Silk
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersBarry C. Silk / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.92)
Theme squares55 (29.4%)
Scrabble points278 (average 1.49)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

5a O-Lan {"The Good Earth" heroine}. The Good Earth (published in 1931) is the first novel in a trilogy by Pearl S. Buck about family life in a Chinese village. O-Lan is the slave girl who marries the hero of the book. There was a movie adaptation in 1937.



65a Dino {Rat Pack nickname}. I had to confirm the details here: Dino was Dean Martin's nickname - interestingly, he was born Dino ... Dino Paul Crocetti. You'd better know the lyrics of this song, as fazool and the like are often referenced in crossword clues.



Orkin victim9d pest {Orkin victim}. I first thought this must be another Mork & Mindy reference, but Mork is Orkan. No Orkin is a pest-control company, presumably a rival to Ehrlich, which we use.

36d Eds {Wynn and Harris}. These two Eds are American actors of different generations: Ed Wynn (1886-1966) started in radio and later had a successful movie career; Ed Harris is a movie actor who played John Glenn in The Right Stuff.



Illini49d Illini {"Fighting" athletes}. Not a reference to the Fightin' Tigers, whose myriad crossword references put them at the top of The Crucy League. The Fighting Illini have a cool name, but don't come up very often; the name Illini derives from an alternative name for the Illinois Confederation of Native American tribes.

Noteworthy

27a Ira {Good name for an investment adviser?}. Difficult to know whether to list this as Ira or IRA - the clue seems to allude to both Individual Retirement Accounts and the forename.

barnacles29a sessile {Permanently attached, in zoology}. I word whose meaning hadn't sunk in very well: sessile (from the Latin word for "seated") in zoology means fixed to a particular spot, like a barnacle.

Napster32a Napster {Early MP3-sharing Web site}. Considering its influence, it is amazing that the Napster file sharing service operated just over two years: from June 1999 to July 2001. It was shut down to comply with a court injunction and now exists only as a pay service, a subsidiary of Best Buy. The Napster name came from founder Shawn Fanning's hairstyle-based nickname.

8d Neeson {"Kinsey" star, 2004}. Last Friday's Barry C. Silk puzzle also referenced Alfred Kinsey in defining zoology. Although Kinsey (1894–1956) was a professor of entomology and zoology, he's much better known for his pioneering research into human sexuality.



The Rest

9a passé {So last year}; 14a on or {___ about}; 16a empty {Recyclable item}; 17a lama {Prayer wheel user}; 19a smite {Strike down}; 20a ETAs {Cockpit announcements, briefly}; 21a onus {Millstone}; 23a sinew {Strength}; 25a log {Cord unit}; 37a latest {Up-to-date}; 43a period {"... and that's final!"}; 45a isthmus {Canal site, maybe}; 47a peevish {Showing irritation}; 52a nth {Last in a series}; 53a PCB {Toxic pollutant, for short}; 55a dolce {Sweet, in Italy}; 59a orbs {Many Christmas ornaments}; 62a ilex {Holly}; 63a cluer {Crossword maker or editor, at times}; 66a oeste {Dirección sailed by Columbus}; 68a ones {Change components, often}; 69a Swede {Dag Hammarskjöld, for one}; 70a SLRs {Some cameras, for short}.

1d no less {At minimum}; 2d in a tie {How baseball games rarely end}; 3d no-man's {Kind of land}; 4d erases {Undoes}; 5d Otto {Camp Swampy dog}; 6d lion {Symbol of courage}; 7d annul {Undo}; 10d ammo {Survivalist's stockpile}; 11d spirited {Full of energy}; 12d St Teresa {"The Way of Perfection" writer}; 13d eye {Word after red or dead}; 24d wisdom {Solomon's asset}; 26d galore {In profusion}; 28d arty {Pseudo-cultured}; 30d load up {Stockpile}; 31d err {Muff one}; 33d parted {Like some men's hair}; 34d stk. {Nasdaq buy: Abbr.}; 38d spin {Quick drive}; 39d test-flew {Tried out at an Air Force base}; 40d art house {Theater for niche audiences}; 41d NIH {Medical research org.}; 42d wop {Doo-___}; 46d scoffs {Shows scorn}; 48d void of {Lacking}; 50d Scene V {Part of an act, perhaps}; 51d hexose {Simple sugar}; 54d broil {Range setting}; 57d retd. {On Soc. Sec., say}; 58d tree {Trap, in a way}; 60d brrr {Winter exclamation}; 61d sees {Goes with}; 63d Cos. {Orgs. with "Inc." in their names}.

Monday, April 27, 2009

NYT Tuesday 4/28/09 - As You Like It

The compiler managed to get close to half of the letters in this grid involved in the theme (closer still if you count on a par as thematic). This is quite an achievement, even though the set of thematic answers is more open-ended than usual. It was good to see that there were no fill-in-the-blank clues outside of the thematic ones.

Despite being able to guess most of the similes without any help from cross-checking, there were enough "New to Me" answers that I ended up with a fairly slow time for a Tuesday New York Times puzzle.

A quick update on the Wired puzzles: I've solved Digidoku (fun, not too difficult) and Pick Nine (easy). Thanks for the Memories is a beautiful idea, but I'm not sure it will be that much fun to solve, so I've skipped it for the mo.
Solving time: 12 mins (no cheating)
Clue of the puzz: 26d saws {Fellers in the woods?}
Theme

51a similes. The answer immediately beneath - 55a on a par {Like, with "with"} - could also be regarded as thematic.
10a deaf {___ as a post}
20a straight {___ as an arrow}
24a neat {___ as a pin}
25a cunning {___ as a fox}
26a strong {___ as an ox}
37a wise {___ as an owl}
41a sick {___ as a dog}
56a slippery {___ as an eel}
66a sober {___ as a judge}
67a dead {___ as a doornail}
68a hard {___ as a diamond}
6d tight {___ as a drum}
25d clean {___ as a whistle}
27d thin {___ as a rail}
29d clear {___ as a bell}
34d high {___ as a kite}
51d solid {___ as a rock}
54d blind {___ as a bat}
Solution

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

Crucimetrics
CompilersMatt Ginsberg / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares88 (46.6%)
Scrabble points290 (average 1.53)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

19a Lori {Actress Singer of "Footloose"}. Lori Singer played the role of Ariel Moore opposite Kevin Bacon in Footloose. The compiler could have been a little more cryptic by deleting "Actress" ... but perhaps not for a Tuesday puzzle.



Black Panther Party31a Seale {Newton's Black Panther Party co-founder}. If, like me, you didn't know this, you had to be on your toes with 5-down to get the first letter right. Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party with Huey P. Newton in 1966. It was a militant organization for the promotion of black rights, which had little influence after the 1970s.

54a Bana {Eric who played 2003's Hulk}. Likewise, you were in trouble if you didn't know this and had to guess 40-down. Eric Bana is an Australian actor who began his career as a comedian. In Hulk, he plays the eponymous superhero.



57d Erbe {Kathryn of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent"}. Kathryn Erbe plays Det. Alexandra Eames in the series.



Noteworthy

Grant's Tomb6a tomb {Grant's is in New York}. Probably a gimme to Americans, but I had to consider Park and Club as possible answers before Grant's Tomb rang vague bells with me.

29a Clyde {Outlaw Barrow}. Another clue where I turned out to know the answer (if not the surname used in the clue) through the movie Bonnie and Clyde. For future reference, her full name was Bonnie Parker.



Romano cheese4d Romano {Italian cheese}. I once made the mistake of buying Romano (literally "from Rome") instead of Parmesan cheese. They look similar and both tend to be grated, but Magdalen will accept no substitutes.

Homo sapiens5d sapiens {Latin for 37-Across}. The Latin for "wise"? Not as difficult as it looks, once you remember what species you belong to.

Hank Aaron12d Aaron {Baseball All-Star every year from 1955 to 1975}. Hey, I remembered Hank Aaron - some of this baseball lore is sticking.

26d saws {Fellers in the woods?}. I was wondering if this would be a reference to the Ax Men themselves, rather than their tools. I cut down 20 or so trees a year, so have an interest in this stuff, but Magdalen has surprised me by watching some episodes on her own - the producers have a very nice line in animated accidents, there being insufficient gore in what they actually get to film?



Kenai Peninsula40d Kenai {Alaskan peninsula where Seward is located}. And I must have had a keen ear the day we came through it, as I remembered the name. I also remember the town of Moose Pass, where there is no gas station - the name Moose Pass Gas somehow didn't appeal, according to our bus driver. The Kenai Peninsula was essential knowledge if you were sadly ignorant of Eric Bana.

The Rest

1a icers {They put the frosting on the cake}; 14a Samoa {Pacific archipelago nation}; 15a Inga {"Young Frankenstein" role}; 16a UCAL {Golden State sch.}; 17a primp {Fix the hair just so, say}; 18a gird {Bind with a band}; 22a gallon {Jug capacity}; 30a aha! {"Bingo!"}; 33a ashes {Barbecue remnants}; 39a speak {Command to a dog}; 42a snack {Some chips, maybe}; 44a saner {Less loony}; 46a GHI {4 on a telephone}; 47a loser {Bottom dog}; 49a nachos {Some chips}; 60a lugs {Chowderheads}; 61a Asti {Sparkling wine locale}; 63a atria {Indoor trees may grow in them}; 64a is me {Words after "woe"}; 65a peen {One end of a hammer}; 69a trend {The way things are going}.

1d ISPs {AOL and others}; 2d cart {Auto denter in a supermarket parking lot}; 3d emir {Leader in a robe}; 7d on it {Doing the job}; 8d mgr. {Apartment bldg. V.I.P.}; 9d bad guy {The Joker in Batman movies, e.g.}; 10d dullness {Tedium}; 11d E. coli {Gastroenteritis cause, maybe}; 13d fling {Impulsive indulgence}; 21d gages {Light green plums}; 23d and a {Lawrence Welk's "one"/"two" connector}; 28d rasa {Literally, "scraped"}; 32d apses {Cathedral recesses}; 35d echo {Repetitive reply}; 36d skis {Nordic runners}; 38d eclipsed {Overshadowed}; 43d kola {Nut for caffeine?}; 45d ran past {Told to in order to get an opinion}; 48d seraph {Angelic figure}; 50d captor {Prisoner's opposite}; 52d in use {Busy}; 53d magma {Volcanic buildup}; 56d -ster {Suffix with pun}; 58d rien {It means nothing to Sarkozy}; 59d yard {Area within a picket fence, say}; 62d sea {Pirate's realm}.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

NYT Monday 4/27/09 - The Same Middle Name

This Monday New York Times crossword seems to be a variant of one of my favorite jokes: what do Dora the Explorer, Joe the Plumber and Rosie the Riveter have in common? Answer: the same middle name!

It was a surprise to see the byline Joe Krozel on a Monday puzzle, as all three of his puzzles so far this year have been of the super-fiendish Saturday variety. But there wasn't a mistake in the scheduling: this Monday puzzle was among the easiest I have solved - miraculously, there was only one answer (Kasem) I didn't know.
Solving time: 6 mins (no cheating)
Theme

Characters, real and imaginary, known by their trades:
24a Dora the Explorer {Animated TV character whose best friend is Boots}. Dora debuted in 1999 and has the monkey Boots as her best friend. She is a Latina and helps children to learn Spanish - sounds like I could benefit from watching from her tuition!



35a Joe the Plumber {2008 campaign personality}. It was hard to escape Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher aka Joe the Plumber in the recent election campaign. Turns out his name isn't Joe, he isn't a plumber and he owes taxes.



50a Rosie the Riveter {Norman Rockwell painting subject of W.W. II}. Although Rosie the Riveter became an iconic figure that transcended any one individual, she was originally based on the real riveter Rose Will Monroe, who worked at the Willow Run Aircraft Factory in Ypsilanti, MI.

Solution

Joe Krozel
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersJoe Krozel / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.92)
Theme squares43 (23.0%)
Scrabble points320 (average 1.71)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

32a Kasem {Casey of "American Top 40"}. Casey Kasem has hosted the radio chart countdown show American Top 40 for much of its existence, but isn't currently at the helm. Seems to be equivalent to the weekly Chart Show on BBC Radio 1.



Noteworthy

10a E for {Get an ___ effort}. I charitably had the answer A for to start with. It seems an "E for Effort" is used by teachers with a sense of irony (which I sensed from mine was a qualification for the job).

be mine22a Be Mine {Valentine candy message}. This was definitely one of the messages on the Love Hearts I liked as a kid. But at the age I enjoyed Love Hearts, I wasn't about to give them away to anybody ... "candy, be mine ... mmm"!

tin hat55a tin hat {Helmet from W.W. I or W.W. II}. Magdalen claims to have had difficulty with this one. It's a misnomer, because tin hats are made out of steel - a hat made out of tin wouldn't be much protection for lead coming your way, now would it?

The Rest

1a mask {Part of a Halloween costume}; 5a humus {Rich soil component}; 14a unto {"Do ___ others as ..."}; 15a unapt {Not appropriate}; 16a trio {Duo plus one}; 17a scar {Mark left from an injury}; 18a say 'no' {Refuse a request}; 19a held {Detained}; 20a thresh {Separate grains from wheat, e.g.}; 28a -ory {Suffix with access}; 29a pup {Young dog or seal}; 30a Tse {China's Mao ___-tung}; 31a Iwo {___ Jima}; 34a Aden {Main port of Yemen}; 40a hung {Like paintings and some juries}; 41a hence {As a result}; 42a ade {Fruity cooler}; 43a sac {Animal pouch}; 46a ETD {Plane takeoff guess: Abbr.}; 47a à la {Chicken ___ king}; 54a lock in {Fix permanently, as an interest rate}; 56a is in {"Beauty ___ the eye ..."}; 58a Intel {Semiconductor giant}; 60a dope {Idiot}; 61a deci- {Tenth: Prefix}; 62a nurse {Hospital attendant}; 63a emir {Kuwaiti leader}; 64a exec {Business V.I.P.}; 65a speed {Velocity}; 66a deny {Say "No, I didn't"}.

1d must-do {High-priority item}; 2d anchor {Katie Couric, for one}; 3d starry {Like the night sky}; 4d Korea {Seoul's home}; 5d hush-hush {Top-secret}; 6d una {Italian article}; 7d maybe {Answer that's between yes and no}; 8d up next {Coming immediately after, as on TV}; 9d stomps {Leaves in a huff, with "out"}; 10d ethno- {Prefix with -centric}; 11d free ride {Something for nothing, as what a hitchhiker seeks}; 12d oil {OPEC product}; 13d rod {Fishing pole}; 21d St. Pat {March 17 honoree, for short}; 23d ile {___ de France}; 25d épée {Sword of sport}; 26d ewer {Fancy pitcher}; 27d Ron {Politico ___ Paul}; 32d keg {Beer blast centerpiece}; 33d mph {Measure of a car's 65-Across: Abbr.}; 34d Abe {Lincoln, informally}; 35d judo {Cousin of karate}; 36d one slice {Minimum pizza order}; 37d leer {Lusty look}; 38d untitled {Like the Beatles' White Album}; 39d MCDVI {The year 1406}; 40d har {Part of a guffaw}; 43d sec. {1/60 of a min.}; 44d Atkins {Diet doctor}; 45d chin up! {"Don't let it get you down!"}; 47d at home {Comfortable (with)}; 48d leap in {Go right at it, as work}; 49d artery {Vein's counterpart}; 51d ionic {Kind of column, in architecture}; 52d entre {___ nous (between us)}; 53d ended {Kaput}; 56d -ide {Suffix with chlor-}; 57d sex {It sells in advertising, they say}; 59d ESE {180 degrees from WNW}.

NPR Sunday 4/26/09 -- Two Currently Equals Zero

After a very easy puzzle, given that they got over 2,500 entries for Consumer Reports, we have a slightly tougher one. I think it's slightly tougher because neither Ross nor I have managed to get it yet... Your mileage might vary.

Here's the puzzle:

5 = 4
7 = 5
8 = 1
26 = 9
12 = ?

Now, the answer would be 6 and we'd all sleep well at night, if only 8 = 5 (or was left out of the list!). (If you can't see what we're getting at, let that be an extra puzzle to gnaw on.) But 8 = 1, which really complicates things. I'll continue to mull this over -- no hints, please! -- and will report on my progress on Thursday.

NYT Sunday 4/26/09 - Bumper-to-bumper

Magdalen and I solved this Sunday New York Times crossword en route to The Woman in Black at the Cider Mill Playhouse. In London, I'd been past the Fortune Theatre (where this show had a long run) many times, but not dared step in to see this ghost story adaptation. I really enjoyed the Cider Mill's production, though it seemed to leave some of the Americans in the audience cold (and not in the intended way) - for once I could pick up on all the references (to train stations, British actors etc) that no-one else did.

The puzzle by 2009 ACPT finalist Trip Payne was a lot of fun to solve - answers involved in the rebus theme seemed to be bumper-to-bumper in the grid, which kept us on our toes when solving.
Solving time: 45 mins (no cheating, collaborative effort)
Clue of the puzz: 109a stripper {One who's barely working?}
Theme

A "rebus" theme in which the hesitations er and um occupy a single cell.

Solution

Trip Payne
Grid art by Sympathy

Crucimetrics
CompilersTrip Payne / Will Shortz
Grid21x21 with 77 (17.5%) black squares
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

1a SLC {2002 Winter Olympics host: Abbr.}. I correctly guessed Salt Lake City right away, but hadn't met this TLA before. Here's the short program from Men's figure skating gold medal winner Alexei Yagudin:



105d Eris {Largest known dwarf planet}. I assumed this must be a reference to the asteroid Eros, which is annoyingly only one letter out. No, Eris is the ninth-largest body orbiting the sun, bigger even than Pluto, which has been demoted to a dwarf planet. In Greek mythology, Eris is the goddess of strife (Discordia in Latin).

Noteworthy

Wired7a Abrams {J. J. ___, co-creator of "Lost" and director of 2009's "Star Trek"}. The timing of this clue is perhaps no coincidence: J. J. Abrams is the guest editor of this month's Wired magazine, a "mystery issue" featuring puzzles by such luminaries as Will Shortz and Martin Gardner. We've barely begun to explore the challenges and will report back on our progress if/when we make any!

33a old man {Santiago, to Hemingway}. Santiago is the "old man" of The Old Man and the Sea, a novella that made a vivid impression on me when I studied it at school at the age of 13 or 14. This title has the interesting property (to word-lovers) of having all the words the same length. The book was made into a movie starring Spencer Tracy.



stripper109a stripper {One who's barely working?}. I have to confess to seeing through this one immediately - nonetheless a beautifully worded and fun clue.

9d Rys {Guitarist Cooder and others}. I don't know much about Ry Cooder's genre of American folk music, but his soundtrack to Paris, Texas was really memorable and so well suited to the movie's atmosphere.



veni, vidi, vici70d vici {End of a famous claim}. The claim being Julius Caesar's much referenced Veni, vidi, vici. Philip Morris cheekily adopts it as their motto.

104d tre {III, today}. A neat clue - it took us a while to see the connection between the Latin III and the Italian tre.

The Rest

4a MRI {It scans for problems}; 13a coopt {Take for one's own}; 18a too soon {Prematurely}; 20a Emmylou {Country singer Harris}; 21a angle {Two lines may make one}; 22a Angela's {"___ Ashes"}; 23a newspaper column {Op-ed piece, e.g.}; 25a serial numbers {Worries for ransom recipients}; 27a Eritrean {Resident of Asmara}; 28a HST {The 33rd pres.}; 29a moose {State animal of Maine}; 31a Vinci {Leonardo's home}; 37a sternums {Parts of some cages}; 39a memo {It may go around the office}; 43a per year {Annually}; 44a podracer {Anakin Skywalker flew one in "Star Wars Episode I"}; 46a Mumbai {Home of the National Stock Exchange of India}; 47a Big Easy {French Quarter's home, with "the"}; 48a umbra {Shadow}; 49a has a ball {Really enjoys oneself}; 51a atolls {Coral Sea features}; 52a hijack {Greeting you shouldn't say at an airport}; 54a rallyes {Driving events that use checkpoints}; 55a Sisler {Baseball Hall-of-Famer George}; 56a maces {Flanged weapons}; 57a noisier {More obstreperous}; 59a serum {Blood bank supply}; 60a not it {Tag line?}; 61a hides {Trappers' trophies}; 62a dev. {Partner of research: Abbr.}; 65a deaden {Blunt}; 67a Sufis {Dervishes, e.g.}; 68a Plummer {Actress Amanda}; 70a volumizer {Salon product for flat hair}; 73a geranium {Possible item in a window box}; 75a cue bid {Bridge tactic}; 76a intoning {Reading without emotion}; 78a Alan {Lyricist Bergman}; 79a hot date {Reason to get all gussied up}; 80a carne {___ picada (burrito filler)}; 81a hissing {Ominous jungle sound}; 83a aligns {Makes true}; 84a inst. {Amer. Film ___ (annual awards grp.)}; 85a bum steer {Lousy tip}; 86a craned {Rubbernecked}; 87a sooty {Like Santa's boots}; 88a it's up {"___ to you"}; 91a dam {Reservoir's edge}; 94a aviator {Professional who may wear goggles}; 98a bumper-to-bumper {Crowded, in a way}; 102a consumer interest {Individual debtors pay it}; 107a lose big {Be routed}; 108a clasp {Hold tight}; 110a easterner {North Carolinian, e.g.}; 111a tents {Pitched quarters}; 112a thesis {Writing that needs defending}; 113a eta {Seventh-brightest star in a constellation}; 114a ergs {Units in physics}.

1d stash {Sock away}; 2d loners {They aren't gregarious}; 3d cogito ergo sum {Statement of philosophy}; 4d moll {Gang hanger-on}; 5d roan {Horse color}; 6d in summary {"To recap ..."}; 7d a mess {Make ___ of things}; 8d BMW {Rolls-Royce's parent company}; 10d alp {High point}; 11d moa {Bird once hunted by the Maori}; 12d supernumeraries {Extras}; 13d cacti {Much Arizona flora}; 14d on or {___ about}; 15d ogle {Eyeball}; 16d pluma {Feather, to Fernando}; 17d Tenn. {State trisected by a river of the same name: Abbr.}; 19d sea {Inland ___}; 20d enero {Madrid month}; 24d Erics {Hollywood's Roberts and others}; 26d bon {___ voyage}; 30d Esdras {Either of two books of the Apocrypha}; 31d Vera {Miles of film}; 32d inch {Unit indicated by "}; 34d Lyell {19th-century geologist Charles}; 35d dealer {Casino employee}; 36d mass {Aggregate}; 38d Trac {___ II razor}; 39d mumbler {Poor orator, perhaps}; 40d eBay {Its first sale was a broken laser pointer}; 41d male {Buck or boar}; 42d oils {"The Blue Boy" and others}; 43d pitier {Compassionate sort}; 44d pumicing {Using a certain abrasive on}; 45d objet {___ trouvé}; 46d Mali {Its capital is Bamako}; 47d bass {Paul Robeson, e.g.}; 50d sass {Cheek}; 52d hate {Detestation}; 53d knifing {Stabber's attack}; 56d Modern Humorist {Comedy webzine founded in 2000}; 58d odium {Detestation}; 60d Nazi {Extra in "The Producers"}; 61d Hunan {Spicy cuisine}; 62d Dumb and Dumberer {2003 sequel to a popular 1994 comedy}; 63d emits {Issues}; 64d Verde {Mesa ___}; 65d Dumont {Groucho Marx foil Margaret}; 66d eine {A in German class?}; 67d Salieri {Teacher of Schubert}; 68d put-in {Contribute}; 69d ledge {Narrow shelf}; 71d Onan {Second son of Judah}; 72d ltrs. {What P.O.'s handle}; 74d erase {Get out of the line?}; 75d cola {Dark quaff}; 77d gist {Heart}; 79d Harper Lee {Alabama-born novelist}; 82d sty {Shoat holder}; 85d booer {Rude audience member}; 86d cup {Demitasse, e.g.}; 87d stumps {What lumberjacks leave}; 89d tbsps. {Recipe amts.}; 90d Sumter {Historic South Carolina fort}; 92d aping {Taking off on}; 93d mergers {Wall Street newsmakers}; 94d acct. {It may require a password: Abbr.}; 95d vole {Relative of a lemming}; 96d in an {___ awkward position}; 97d asst. {___ mgr.}; 99d to a T {Exactly as required}; 100d ossa {Greek peak}; 101d bet {Run a risk}; 103d nth {Kind of power}; 106d epi- {Prefix with glottis}.

Friday, April 24, 2009

NYT Saturday 4/25/09 - It's Tough at the Top

This Saturday New York Times crossword was another typically nightmarish end-of-the-week offering. It began promisingly enough and I completed the bottom two-thirds in a reasonable amount of time.

Unfortunately, I never really broke into the NW and NE corners and finally gave up after 45 minutes or so to consult my Egeria. As often happens, Magdalen had a few critical answers that totally stumped me: Andres and FDR at the top left; and Kanin at the top right. Together we bashed out the rest of the fill by the hour.
Solving time: 60 mins (no cheating, collaborative effort)
Clue of the puzz: 17a oddsmaker {One might create a spread}
Solution

Brad Wilber
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersBrad Wilber / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 29 (12.9%) black squares
Answers70 (average length 5.60)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points322 (average 1.64)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

petcock1a drains off {Runs through a petcock, e.g.}. Here it was essential to know what a petcock is, and I didn't. Magdalen thought they were the taps on burettes, which given my Chemistry background, I should have known. But it seems petcocks are more often the valves for controlling the gasoline supply in engines.

15a Ron Howard {Best Director of 2001}. Ron Howard won for A Beautiful Mind that year. Until solving American crosswords, I wasn't aware Ron had started as a child actor - Opie from The Andy Griffith Show being a cruciverbal stock character.



Dallas Stars55a NHL {Stars play in it: Abbr.}. A reference to the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League ... or are there other NHL teams with stars in their name (not that it really matters)?

Andrés Galarraga3d Andrés {1993 N.L. batting champ Galarraga}. This was a gimme for Magdalen, but I had no hope of getting it. Andrés Galarraga is a Venezuelan former first baseman, nicknamed The Big Cat (El Gran Gato) for his litheness despite his formidable size.

7d Oakie {"The Great Dictator" Oscar nominee}. You'd have thought this would refer to Chaplin in some way; no, the answer's supporting actor Jack Oakie, who played the Mussolini-like character in The Great Dictator.



9d FDR {Most famous resident of Warm Spr., Ga.}. Another clue that's probably a no-brainer for Americans, but not me. The Little White House in Warm Springs was FDR's personal retreat. He originally came there to seek treatment for his polio-related symptoms.




13d Abie Baby {"Hair" song with birthday wishes to a president}. Abie Baby is a modernized version of the Gettysburg Address in the famous rock musical. Warning: the following clip includes explicit lyrics.



Peppermint Patty14d sandals {Wear for Peppermint Patty}. Magdalen had the brilliant idea of tin foil, but the reference is to the Peanuts character, not the mint and chocolate confection. Peppermint Patty is almost always portrayed wearing sandals, even when sculpted.

Noteworthy

sousaphone10a tubas {They have big bells}. I knew this answer in theory, but the clue is highly deceptive. The term for the flared end of a brass instrument is the "bell" and tubas have the biggest of them all. Since tuba is a Latin word, compilers can give us an even harder time by using the Latin plural tubae. The sousaphone is a tuba adapted for use in marching bands.

spread betting17a oddsmaker {One might create a spread}. I could only think of caterers and got this answer very late - it was hard to make the right connection, despite the ascendancy of spread betting recently.

Cherokee Strip20a Enid {City founded during the Cherokee Strip land run}. A reminder that Enid, OK is one of the most used four-letter words in crosswords, occurring about 8 times a year in the NYT. About half the time it's some variant on this clue and half the time "Geraint's wife". Here's the text from the accompanying sign:
CHEROKEE STRIP
Opened by Run, Sept. 16, 18
93. On line here, 15,000 waited for carbine signal fired by cavalryman at High Noon, Lt. C. A. Hedekin, commanding Troop A., U.S. Cav. Race from land started from post on knoll half mile west, by wagon, buggy, bicycle, horse and train. In 60 by 90 mile area, every acre occupied by nightfall. The first settlers reached Enid from here.
38a The Last Metro {1980 Truffaut film that won 10 César awards}. Truffaut is one of my fav directors, and getting this answer early really helped break into the bottom half of the grid. I think of it more by the French title, so confidently put Dernier Métro in to start with. The Last Metro concerns a Jewish theater director who must be kept hidden during the Nazi occupation of Paris.



Hilary Swank6d swank {Tony}. Nothing to do with Hilary - you need to think about slang terms for fashionable/stylish (although Hilary is undoubtedly that too). A mean clue, the epitome of what Magdalen's family dubbed a CBA ("could be anything") clue.

Bundt pans12d Bundt pan {Thing with a sweet ring to it?}. Magdalen actually has a Bundt pan, which made it easy to justify the answer when we finally worked it out (it was one of the last we got). The term comes from the German word for a gathering and is pronounced "bunt"; Bundt pans have a hole in the middle and are used to make ring-shaped cakes.

The Rest

16a Aruba {Setting of Queen Beatrix Airport}; 18a Kanin {Garson ___, writer and director of Broadway's "Born Yesterday"}; 19a per {Apportionment word}; 21a melded {United}; 22a I beg {"___ of you ..."}; 24a keen on {Fond of}; 26a TBA {Itinerary abbr.}; 27a Tyson {Food giant based in Springdale, Ark.}; 29a biz {Trade, informally}; 30a opal {It has a play of colors}; 31a washboard abs {Desirable trunk feature}; 35a Scipio {He crushed Hannibal at Zama}; 37a brainy {Bright}; 40a hold {Not give way}; 41a lea {Herd locale}; 42a Euler {Introducer of the math symbol "e"}; 46a Eri {European conductor ___ Klas}; 47a eelers {Unagi restaurant suppliers}; 50a sate {Be enough for}; 51a pebbly {Like avocado skins}; 53a wits {Quotable types}; 56a Isaac {Shorthand inventor Pitman}; 57a Henry VIII {Act of Supremacy institutor}; 59a Tutsi {Rwandan people}; 60a assonance {Relative of alliteration}; 61a speed {Track asset}; 62a step class {Health club offering for aerobic workouts}.

1d drop it {Discussion ender}; 2d rode by {Passed, as in a parade}; 4d IHS {Christian trigram}; 5d Nome {City east of Saint Lawrence Island}; 8d Fred Ebb {"New York, New York" lyricist}; 10d taken {Like some seats}; 11d Ural {Orenburg is on it}; 21d Mozart {"The Impresario" composer}; 23d go wild {Lose it}; 25d Niobe {Queen for whom an element is named}; 28d Napa {Vacation spot for some oenophiles}; 30d odious {Repellent}; 32d Sisley {Alfred ___, "Footbridge at Argenteuil" artist}; 33d hotel {Shuttle destination}; 34d rare {Of particular interest to a completist}; 35d shores up {Bolsters}; 36d celibate {Like many clerics}; 38d the pits {Something dreadful}; 39d Mae West {Who said "I'll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure"}; 43d La Niña {Cause of a dry spell in the Midwest}; 44d ethics {Business school course}; 45d relies {Hinges}; 47d El Cid {Battle of Cabra victor, 1079}; 48d rinse {Shampoo shelfmate}; 49d strop {It's often seen next to a chair}; 52d base {Private residence?}; 54d sync {Coordination, briefly}; 57d has {Boasts}; 58d Val {___-de-Marne, France}.