Saturday, October 31, 2009

NYT Sunday 11/1/09 - Portmanteaux

We tried to squeeze solving and blogging about this Sunday New York Times crossword into the gap between its publication online and the start of the World Series game. I'm running late, but it looks like the baseball is too, thanks to rain delays.

The theme struck us as being very neatly executed, and I was particularly enthused by the two vertical thematic answers, both of which cross with three other thematic answers: the odds would seem to be strongly against that being possible, so kudos to the constructors for achieving it.

There is just one oddity: all but one of the theme answers have a five-letter overlap between the two words that make up the portmanteau ... all except 108a centipedestrian {Bug that never takes a ride?}. Could it be that the clue started out as {Bugs that never take a ride?} and somehow the intention to have a consistent overlap got forgotten along the way?
Solving time: 34 mins (with Magdalen, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 5d by sea {What "two" meant, historically}
Solution

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

Theme

Novel portmanteau words (the overlap between the two words forming the portmanteau is in red below):
22a retrospectacles {Eyewear providing hindsight?}
29a elephantom {Peanut-loving ghost?}
32a sporadical {Intermittent revolutionary?}
43a psychedelicacy {Rare mushroom?}
56a contrabandon {Give up smuggled goods?}
71a rouletterman {High-school athletic star at a casino?}
81a guitaristocrat {Noble Les Paul?}
99a perhapsody {"Maybe" music?}
101a foreveries {Dreams that don't die?}
108a centipedestrian {Bug that never takes a ride?}
21d Wikipediatric {Like online medical advice for kids?}
44d cathartichoke {Vegetable that gives you an emotional release?}
 Crucimetrics
Compilers
Matt Ginsberg and Pete Muller / Will Shortz
Grid
21x21 with 69 (15.6%) black squares
Answers
136 (average length 5.47)
Theme squares
142 (38.2%)
Scrabble points
613 (average 1.65)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

Skat
26a Skat {Game in which a player may be schneidered}. "schneidered" is a clue of sorts, as Skat is a trick-taking card game that was devised in Germany in the early 19th century. Along with Doppelkopf it is the most popular card game in Germany and Silesia; it's also played in areas of America with large German populations. I haven't worked out if being "schneidered" is a good thing or a bad thing (probably the latter, since schneider is German for "tailor", a proverbially poor person).

Snow White and Rose Red13d Rose Red {Fairy tale sister}. A reference to the fairy tale Snow-White and Rose-Red, recorded by the Brothers Grimm. Rose Red and and Snow White are sisters in a story that bears no relation to the Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Neuman61d Neuman {Mad man?}. I sussed that this was a reference to Mad magazine, but only Magdalen could come up with the name of Alfred E. Neuman, the image that graces the covers of the magazine. Neuman's precise origin is shrouded in mystery and may never be fully known.

Noteworthy

Twitter20a tweet {Post a modern status update}. Please God, don't let me ever get caught up in the madness that is Twitter. Magdalen got suck(er)ed in a few days ago and she's now tweeting non-stop (seemingly).

5d by sea {What "two" meant, historically}. The most inventive clue I've seen in quite a while. The reference is to the famous "one if by land, and two if by sea" signal that Paul Revere relayed via his "midnight ride". In Duck Soup, there are three lamps in the steeple - the double-crossers are coming by land AND sea!



103d Esth. {Job precursor: Abbr.}. Neat clue, with the initial capital disguising Job the book of the Bible, which follows Esther.

The Rest

1a caps {Tops}; 5a batt {Quilt filler}; 9a abhor {Detest}; 14a CDs {Some I.R.A.'s}; 17a apocrypha {Some extra books}; 19a piano {Softly}; 24a ville {French town}; 25a bate {Restrain}; 27a flew a kite {Repeated a Benjamin Franklin electrical experiment}; 33a ails {Afflicts}; 34a Yan {"___ Can Cook" (onetime PBS show)}; 35a Cortés {Leader against the Aztecs}; 36a PAs {Hearing aids, briefly}; 37a rel. {Christianity, e.g.: Abbr.}; 38a crag {Bluff bit}; 40a wadi {Desert stream}; 41a dote {Emulate a grandparent, maybe}; 47a no dice {"Uh-uh"}; 51a aah {Backrub response}; 52a à la {It comes before the carte}; 53a eat {Put away}; 55a misos {Some sushi bar orders}; 62a lip balms {Guards against chapping}; 64a Utah {Area code 801 area}; 65a sedge {Swamp thing}; 66a E-File {Use www.irs.gov, say}; 68a tame {Not exciting}; 69a Oh Father {1989 Madonna hit}; 74a metro {___ area}; 75a Raj {Indian government of 1858-1947}; 77a amo {Word from Antony to Cleopatra}; 78a ici {Parisian roll call response}; 79a orator {Barack Obama, for one}; 88a I Lay {"As ___ Dying"}; 90a Sven {Man's name meaning "young man"}; 91a Noel {Coward with a pen}; 92a ego {___ gratification}; 93a REC {Boombox button}; 95a Lecter {Hannibal of "The Silence of the Lambs"}; 97a STL {Old TWA hub: Abbr.}; 98a a few {Three or four}; 104a Hiroshima {1946 John Hersey book}; 105a Zola {Runner Budd}; 106a as an {Simile words}; 107a Osaka {Japanese financial center}; 113a têtes {Deux of these are better than one}; 114a Arden {"As You Like It" setting}; 115a make haste {Hustle}; 116a ora {60 minuti}; 117a N'sync {"This I Promise You" group, 2000}; 118a Nyes {"Bill ___ History of the United States"}; 119a thaw {Détente}.

1d car {Limo, e.g.}; 2d ape {Form of the Egyptian god Thoth}; 3d pot-belly {Paunch}; 4d scraps {Gives up on}; 6d app {iPhone download}; 7d The Stage {Broadway, say}; 8d tack on {Append}; 9d a pat {Give ___ on the back}; 10d Bic {Inexpensive pen}; 11d half-price {Greatly reduced}; 12d one lot {Trading unit}; 14d Celica {Sporty Toyota}; 15d deltas {River areas named for their shape}; 16d steel {Mettle or metal}; 18d Roth {"The Human Stain" novelist}; 20d TV ad {Big Super Bowl expense}; 23d tam {Pompom holder}; 28d was on {Had as a base}; 29d Earp {One of three brothers in the Old West}; 30d lies {White ones are little}; 31d Nyad {Swimmer Diana}; 32d soda {Fountain order}; 35d cacao {Kind of bean}; 38d char {Blacken}; 39d rehash {Go over and over}; 40d Wilder {Director, writer and actor in "The Woman in Red," 1984}; 42d tomb {Age-old robbers' target}; 45d lang. {Eng. or Span.}; 46d Yalie {"Lux et Veritas" collegian}; 48d Islam {Belief of about 1 1/2 billion}; 49d comma {Pause producer}; 50d Essen {City near Düsseldorf}; 54d tilt {Bias}; 56d Cuomo {New York politico Andrew}; 57d other {Follower of each or no}; 58d NAFTA {Source of a "giant sucking sound," according to Ross Perot}; 59d beer {Common cause of a 3-Down}; 60d a drag {Not fun at all}; 63d petite {Opposite of plus}; 67d Flor {"Dona ___ and Her Two Husbands"}; 70d tool {Lever or level}; 72d oater {"The Big Country," for one}; 73d ecol. {Sci. specialty}; 76d just dandy {Peachy-keen}; 80d Ralph {"Happy Days" role}; 82d Ivey {Poker star Phil}; 83d intraday {Like some stock market highs and lows}; 84d sole {Lone}; 85d refinish {Strip, sand and stain}; 86d Agee {Tommie of the Amazins}; 87d tows {Tugboat services}; 89d Yes I Can {Sammy Davis Jr. autobiography}; 93d Reiser {Hunt's "Mad About You" co-star}; 94d errata {Slips}; 96d comers {They've got promise}; 97d solemn {Like many an oath}; 98d Ararat {Dormant Turkish volcano}; 99d photo {Candid, maybe}; 100d Asas {Botanist Gray and others}; 101d fop {Popinjay}; 102d vases {Mings, e.g.}; 105d zinc {97.5% of a penny}; 109d ten {X}; 110d eke {Manage, with "out"}; 111d at a {___ premium}; 112d new {Mint}.

Friday, October 30, 2009

NYT Saturday 10/31/09 - A Game of Four Halves

One glance at the grid for today's New York Times crossword, and I realized it was scheduled to contrast with yesterday's. Whereas Friday's puzzle had answers of only 3, 5 and 15 letters, this one has answers predominantly in the 6 to 8 range and approximates four word squares stuck together at the middle.

Those long tees of blocks really separate out the four corners and that is one drawback compared to yesterday's design, which was highly integrated thanks to all those grid-spanning answers. By about five minutes, I'd got all the central answers and then just set about solving the mini-puzzle in each corner: the SE was the first to fall after 9 minutes or so; the NE was done 2 minutes later, then the NW and SW took a further 6 minutes.

This puzzle is closer to my ideal for an end-of-week puzzle, but in its attempt to reduce the answer count (58 answers isn't a record, but is pushing the limits) goes over the line again. The consequences of such a grid can be seen in the colors in the Solution grid below: there is only one letter with a Scrabble value over 4 (the lone K in the southeast) and large chunks of the fill are white, featuring dullish words like serener and sneerers.
Solving time: 17 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 10d rioter {Tears may be brought to one's eyes}
Solution

Robert H. Wolfe
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
Compilers
Robert H. Wolfe / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 35 (15.6%) black squares
Answers
58 (average length 6.55)
Theme squares
0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points
248 (average 1.31)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

4d Travolta {He played a governor in "Primary Colors"}. Primary Colors (1998) is not a movie I've watched, but I was reassured to see the familiar name of John Travolta appear as the answer. He plays the charismatic governor of a Southern state (supposedly based on Bill Clinton), who decides to run for President.



Elaine37d Elaine {Unrequited lover of legend}. I vaguely remembered Elaine as having some romantic entanglement in legend, but had to look her up to pin down the story. Turns out Elaine of Astolat is the unrequited lover of Lancelot in Arthurian legend. Versions of her story appear in Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur and Alfred Tennyson's Idylls of the King. Elaine's story is also the inspiration for Tennyson's poem The Lady of Shalott. Elaine has the hots for Lancelot, but he only has eyes for Guinevere. Elaine dies of a broken heart: as per her instructions, her body is placed in a small boat, clutching a lily in one hand, and floats down the Thames to Camelot.

Noteworthy

Endicott, NY17a Endicott {Upstate New York town where I.B.M. was founded}. I had a bit of an advantage here, as we quite often visit Endicott, NY: we see productions at the Cider Mill Playhouse and I go to the occasional yoga session at Binghamton Yoga. We know so many ex-IBM staff who live round there, that I just guessed Endicott was the answer. Luckily for me, it is indeed known as the "Birthplace of IBM": IBM was established there in 1924 when three smaller companies merged; Endicott was the original location of all research and development from the early 1900s through World War II.

Royal Hussar23a hussars {Brilliantly dressed cavalrymen}. My background was also helpful here, as my late father was in the 13th/18th Royal Hussars (Queen Mary's Own); though by the time he got to serve, they had dropped horses in favor of tanks and the colorful uniforms (except perhaps ceremonially) in favor of khaki. Nevertheless, pictures of the hussars of yesteryear dotted the family home, so I knew enough to solve this clue right away.

28a Ed Wood {Johnny Depp title role}. I started with Edward, thinking of Edward Scissorhands (1990). That got me close, and I eventually realized the required role was as Edward Wood, Jr., in Ed Wood (1994). All this reminds me of a neat series of "What do you call?" jokes:
Q. What do you call a man with a piece of wood on his head?
A. Ed Wood.
Q. What do you call a man with two pieces of wood on his head?
A. Edward Wood.
Q. What do you call a man with three pieces of wood on his head?
A. Edward Woodward.
Q. What do you call a man with four pieces of wood on his head?
A. I don't know, but Edward Woodward would.



45a Eres Tú {1974 pop hit with Spanish lyrics}. A bit of crossword lore, into which I was initiated on April 1st this year. Eres Tú means "you are" in Spanish and was Spain's entry in the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest in the hands of Mocedades, with Amaya Uranga on lead. They didn't win though - the contest was held in Luxembourg, so of course the winning song was the Luxembourg entry Tu te reconnaîtras - but there was only one winner as far as crosswords are concerned and that was Eres Tú.



5d superior {Like the 2 in "x squared"}. Did the version in the paper have a superscript 2, as in {Like the 2 in "x²"}? That would have made more sense, and I know that the version I solve (Across Lite) has some limitations that require clues to be changed.

14d Senta {Wagnerian heroine}. I thought I knew all the Wagner heroines pretty well, but Senta from The Flying Dutchman (opera) is one of the more obscure ones and took a few crossings to suss out. Senta saves the ghostly figure of the Dutchman by throwing herself off a cliff, after which they are both seen ascending into that resting place of the good, heaven.



The Rest

1a facts {It's usually good to stick to them}; 6a disarms {Makes less offensive}; 13a Icarus {Escapee who fell to his death in the sea}; 15a gantries {Spanning frameworks}; 16a scrape {Fix}; 18a heaven {Good resting place?}; 19a isolates {Cuts off}; 20a in port {Harbored}; 21a serener {Less agitated}; 22a et alia {Plus other things}; 24a recto {One side of a leaf}; 25a SASE {Aid in answering: Abbr.}; 26a dearth {Opposite of a surplus}; 33a hoes {Things that turn up in gardens?}; 35a après {French following?}; 37a empires {They rise and fall periodically}; 41a sterna {Axial skeleton parts}; 42a largest {Like the lion's share}; 43a aerial {Kind of view}; 44a marinate {Imbue with flavor, in a way}; 46a air motor {Pneumatic power producer}; 47a not out {Yet to hit the shelves}; 48a sneerers {Disdainful bunch}; 49a satire {Biting writing}; 50a terrene {Earthly}; 51a kales {Mustard family members}.

1d fishier {Comparatively shady}; 2d accented {Spotlit, say}; 3d carapace {Shell}; 6d danseuses {Frequent Degas subjects}; 7d indorsed {Supported: Var.}; 8d stiles {Subway station sights}; 9d arcana {Secrets}; 10d rioter {Tears may be brought to one's eyes}; 11d meters {Curbside lineup}; 12d SSTs {They had adjustable noses}; 15d geisha {Companion abroad}; 25d shoe store {Establishment with many horns}; 27d threaten {Be imminent}; 29d water oak {Tree of Southeastern swamplands}; 30d operetta {Johann Strauss work}; 31d orris oil {Perfume ingredient}; 32d denature {Change the essence of}; 34d esters {Ingredients in essences}; 36d salutes {Pays tribute to}; 38d marrer {Graffitist, e.g.}; 39d primer {It may be under enamel}; 40d ignore {Slight}; 41d Saens {Saint-___ (Fauré contemporary)}; 44d mast {Yard supporter}.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

NYT Friday 10/30/09 - Over the Line?

Well this Friday New York Times crossword is a record-breaker in one way: the solving time of 20 minutes is I think my fastest for a Friday. I understand the grid also breaks the record for the number of 15-letter answers ... twelve of them spaced out in a neatly symmetrical pattern.

Progress at the top of the grid was hampered by the two 15-letter song titles at the top, so I had to work from the bottom up, getting the long down answers from the endings one by one till I could sort out the top five rows or so.

I've voiced my concerns in the past about large numbers of 15-letter answers requiring too many short answers to make that possible, and this is a kind of extreme example of that. There are 44 three-letter answers and the task of deciphering their clues does rather dominate the solver's experience.

I think there's a place for this kind of experimentation occasionally, but I hope such distorted grids don't appear more than a few times in a year. 9d gone over the line {Taken things a bit too far} looks self-referential and seems to invite solvers to consider if this "takes things too far"; I would have to say yes to that.
Solving time: 20 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 8d national anthems {Country music}
Solution

David Levinson Wilk
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
Compilers
David Levinson Wilk / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 29 (12.9%) black squares
Answers
72 (average length 5.44)
Theme squares
0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points
295 (average 1.51)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

17a One Moment In Time {Whitney Houston hit recorded for the 1988 Summer Olympics}. The 1988 Summer Olympics were held in Seoul (hidden in Stephen Douglas, as we discovered from last week's NPR puzzle). I thought knowing this might help with the song title: no, One Moment in Time just had to be worked out the hard way.



21a Cal {One of Steinbeck's twins}. A reference to East of Eden, which has many parallels with the Book of Genesis. Steinbeck's counterparts to the biblical Cain and Abel are the twin sons of Adam Trask, Cal and Aron. Cal is played by James Dean in the 1955 movie, his first significant film role.



24a Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo {1974 Rolling Stones hit}. I thought voodoo or hoodoo might be involved, but the song ultimately turned out to be very regular in its spelling. Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) is the fourth track on the album Goats Head Soup.



Children of Lir
39a Ler {Celtic sea god}. Lir or Ler ("the sea" in Gaelic) is an ocean-god in Irish mythology and is famously the basis for Shakespeare's King Lear. Since I hadn't come across him before, I was a little surprised not to see lar (another god) and DAR, which I assume are better known and would prettify this little section. One of the legends associated with Lir is The Children of Lir, in which his children are transformed into swans for 900 years.

47a Her {"___ Town Too" (1981 hit)}. Her Town Too is a duet between J. D. Souther and James Taylor, which reached number 11 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart.



64a Noone {"I'm Henry VIII, I am" singer}. I was thinking back to I'm Henry VIII, I am's origins in music hall, and its associations with Harry Champion (1866–1942). But the clue actually references the song's 1965 revival by Herman's Hermits, whose "Herman" was Peter Noone.



10d Ott {Diamond figure on a 2006 postage stamp}. I wouldn't normally have commented on a Mel Ott reference, but I was interested in seeing the stamp. I also wondered who else was commemorated: Mickey Mantle, Hank Greenberg, and Roy Campanella it seems - all "sluggers".
Lineup for Yesterday
O is for Ott
Of the restless right foot.
When he leaned on the pellet,
The pellet stayed put.
By Ogden Nash, from Sport magazine

35d Ron {"Bull Durham" director Shelton}. Seem to be a lot of baseball references today ... maybe the World Series effect. The Ron Shelton-directed movie Bull Durham was released in 1988: it's based on the director's own experiences as a player in minor league baseball.



44d Meg {Stewie's sister on "Family Guy"}. Does anyone really know this stuff, or does such a clue just amount to {Girl's name in three letters}? For what it's worth, the Family Guy family consists of dad Peter Griffin, mom Lois, and children Meg, Chris, and Stewie.



Noteworthy

38a tep {Im-ho-___, Boris Karloff's role in "The Mummy"}. I don't know that much about The Mummy (1932), but I got by assuming that Imhotep in the movie was based on the historical Imhotep (fl. 27th century BC), who is famously the first engineer, architect and physician to be known by name. In reality, the location of Imhotep's tomb is still unknown, though it is probably well hidden at Saqqara.



56a HAL {Anthropomorphic film villain}. HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, of course ... an inspiring movie for me as a kid.



The Rest

1a franc {It no longer circulates around the Seine}; 6a fin {Skate part}; 9a gotta {Must, informally}; 14a Torah {Rite reading for some 13-year-olds}; 15a in a {___ state}; 16a other {One may be significant}; 20a RDA {Fat standard, say: Abbr.}; 22a -ine {Salt additive?}; 23a rps {Turning meas.}; 28a fil {Thread: Fr.}; 29a cen. {Long time: Abbr.}; 30a vig {Bookie's charge, for short}; 31a The Sahara Desert {Home for an addax and dorcas gazelle}; 37a OOX {Tic-tac-toe loser}; 40a non {Vote in une législature}; 41a duplex apartment {Maisonette}; 45a eek {Cartoonish cry}; 46a can {Behind}; 48a Strait is the Gate {André Gide novel whose title comes from Matthew 7:14}; 54a oat {Kind of flakes}; 55a sat {Went nowhere}; 57a toi {Parisian pronoun}; 58a swimsuit edition {Big newsstand seller for some magazines}; 62a ansae {Looped handles}; 63a Ed.M. {Teacher's deg.}; 65a dyers {Some lock changers}; 66a SSS {Deflation indication}; 67a ernes {Kite relatives}.

1d Ft. Ord {Mil. base until 1994}; 2d rondo {Concerto component}; 3d area of expertise {Bailiwick}; 4d 'Nam {Site of many '60s tours}; 5d chocolate kisses {Sweet little things with points to them}; 6d field capacities {Soil water saturation limits}; 7d inn {Travel guide listing}; 8d national anthems {Country music}; 9d gone over the line {Taken things a bit too far}; 11d third-generation {Like grandchildren}; 12d tempo {A musician might pick it up}; 13d are so {Childish comeback}; 18d Mao {He said "Learn from the masses, and then teach them"}; 19d Ind {Like some candidates: Abbr.}; 25d dis {Slam}; 26d o'er {Canto contraction}; 27d -ois {French suffix with Québec}; 31d Tod {Death, in Deutschland}; 32d HOU {The Astros, on scoreboards}; 33d hex {Spell}; 34d der {Austrian article}; 36d TNT {Charge stuff}; 42d lea {Green land}; 43d PAs {Hearing aids, briefly}; 48d so sad {"A pity"}; 49d tawny {Like a lion's coat}; 50d tau {Cross character}; 51d had {Ate}; 52d to one {Odds' end?}; 53d eines {German indefinite article}; 59d mar {Nick, say}; 60d TDs {Bears make them, in brief}; 61d TOR {The Blue Jays, on scoreboards}.

NPR Puzzle 10/25/09 -- A Capital Notion!

Here's this week's puzzle:
Take the name "Boris Karloff." It contains the letters of "Oslo" in left-to-right order (although not consecutively). Now write down these three names: Leonardo da Vinci, Frank Sinatra, Steven Douglas. Each conceals the name of another world capital in left-to-right order, although not in consecutive letters. What capitals are these?
LeONarDO da viNci (London, England)

frANK sinAtRA (Ankara, Turkey)

StevEn dOUgLas (Seoul, South Korea)

Did you enjoy these? Here are a few more:

Writer Ring Lardner
Artist Pierre Auguste Renoir
Actress Nicole Sullivan
Founding Father Ben Franklin

(I'll stop there because otherwise I'll be at this all day...)

This is Mimi, completely bored, waiting for new and exciting photos for my portion of this blog. (Coming next week, hopefully.)

Here's this week's value-added puzzle. Will's on-air puzzle made me think of Garanimals clothing for kids. Here are some clues to two-word phrases in the form "G-- An--". So if the clue were "Biting creature," the answer would be "Gnawing animal."

Celebrates 50 years of marriage
Golden Anniversary

Protective entity
Guardian Angel

Hit TV show
Grey's Anatomy

Reaction to being provoked
Get Angry (also Got/Getting, etc.)

Can consume up to 30,000 insects in a day
Giant (or Great) Anteater

"YMCA" or "It's Raining Men"?
Gay Anthems

Vital part of an operation
General Anesthesia

Conventional response to a question?
Given Answer

Subject in medical school
Gross Anatomy

Heartburn relief
Gastric Antacid

Needs to be optimized in a parasailing competition
Gliding Angle

(This one's for Ross)
A set of methods in chemistry for the quantitative determination of an analyte based on the mass of a solid
Gravimetrical Analysis (nope, me neither -- but he supposedly has a master's in physical Chemistry, so I thought I'd poke him a little) (he got it very nearly right, the rotter)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

NYT Thursday 10/29/09 - Aero Smith

It's been a bit of a topsy-turvy week: this Thursday New York Times crossword was done in two minutes less than yesterday's ... and that was despite having no idea what the theme involved (another illustration of my difficulties with aural themes).

Given I'd not heard Eero Saarinen pronounced authentically, my best guess at what was going on was that two pairs of answers sounded the same at the start: air offensive with aerosol can and Arrowsmith with Eero Saarinen. No, Magdalen says, they all start the same in American English ... unbelievable!

This license with pronunciation certainly makes it easier to come up with puzzles involving homophony. I mustn't take this for granted, however: I once got into trouble for a cryptic clue that implied "thaw" and "Thor" sound alike; they do to me, but I gather these are distinct in American speech, not just Scots. This area is a minefield I'd be unwise to try to negotiate.
Solving time: 12 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 56d knit {Work on a muffler, say}
Solution



Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Four different spellings of the AIR-OH sound at the beginning of an answer:
18a Arrowsmith {Sinclair Lewis novel}
26a air offensive {Series of sorties}
46a Eero Saarinen {Gateway Arch designer}
57a aerosol can {Bomb}
Crucimetrics
Compilers
Joe Krozel / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 30 (13.3%) black squares
Answers
70 (average length 5.57)
Theme squares
44 (22.6%)
Scrabble points
271 (average 1.39)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

17a esto {___ perpetuum (let it be everlasting)}. Had to look up the context in which these words are used: the obvious one is in the state motto of Idaho, but they use esto perpetua ("may she be everlasting"); these were also the dying words of Paolo Sarpi, said of the eternal city Venice. esto perpetuum means "let it be everlasting") and it's harder to find a context in which that is used. I went looking for a picture of Idaho, but found this, which is much cooler:

Old License plate Map

assist39a assist {Set on the court}. As I start to write, I'm still unfolding the mysteries of this clue ... could it be to do with basketball (tennis seems unlikely, Magdalen thinks volleyball a possibility)? Research is made more difficult by the myriad meanings of the word set. My best theories are that: (1) "set" is equivalent to "set up" and would merit an assist in basketball; (2) "up" was accidentally omitted from the clue. Anyone got any better ideas?

62a Rani {"Doctor Who" villainess, with "the"}. My Doctor Who knowledge is perhaps a bit dated: I know about Daleks, Cybermen and Yetis, for example - they're what had me hiding behind the sofa as a kid. The Rani made a comparatively recent appearance in the Doctor's life, vying with his sixth and seventh incarnations ( Colin Baker and  Sylvester McCoy); she is a renegade Time Lord played by Kate O'Mara.



Noteworthy

15a Notre {First word of the Lord's Prayer in French}. A no-brainer for me, as the French teacher I had at the age of 12 or so thought the Lord's Prayer in French worthy of rote learning - a party piece I used to some effect in later interviews (I guess it beats Frère Jacques). Here's the whole kit and caboodle:
Notre Père, qui es aux cieux,
Que ton nom soit sanctifié,
Que ton règne vienne,
Que ta volonté soit faite
Sur la terre comme au ciel.
Donne-nous aujourd’hui notre pain de ce jour
Pardonne-nous nos offenses,
Comme nous pardonnons aussi à ceux qui nous ont offensés
Et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation,
Mais délivre-nous du mal.

actuary3d actuaries {Insurance company employees}. At school we did a sort of psychology quiz called a "Birkbeck Test". The results came back and said that with my analytical genius and absence of social skills I should be an actuary. I rebelled against this and became a computer programmer instead.

21d sofa {Coin "swallower"}. Lovely clue!! I thought I'd put this to the test and reach into the gaping maw that is the one sofa in our house (the many large armchairs we have are more likely candidates for swallowed coins, but the clue says sofa). I found a skyr clothes label and piece of wrapping paper - just goes to show that the most exciting thing that sofa is used for is unwrapping presents. Coin theory debunked. Here, though is a picture of a sofa made of nickels (with - by the look of it - a cushion made of ones).

sofa

27d Noras {Charles and others}. A reference to Nora Charles, the wife in The Thin Man books and movies. You'd have thought that Thin Man references would be reserved for the many appearances of Asta, but maybe their dog has been banished now that everyone knows about him thanks to Cruciverbal Canines.



37d Alastair {Actor Sim who played Ebenezer Scrooge}. The wonderful Alastair Sim (1900–1976) was ubiquitous in the British comedy movies of my childhood, such as the St. Trinian's movies in which he played both the headmistress Miss Fritton and her brother Clarence Fritton. The referenced movie Scrooge (1951) is one of the best-known film adaptations of A Christmas Carol.



The Rest

1a agas {They're akin to khans}; 5a scows {Punts, e.g.}; 10a have {Maintain}; 14a pact {Joining of opposite sides}; 16a omit {Drop}; 20a soup spoon {Setting piece}; 22a tetra {Exotic fish}; 23a lagoon {Venetian feature}; 24a grate on {Rankle}; 28a uni- {Half of bi-}; 29a afro {Big do}; 30a beagle {Tricolor pooch}; 34a reed {Wind element}; 36a Sra. {Title not acquired by Miss Spain?: Abbr.}; 38a mood {___ ring}; 42a Alta {Utah ski resort}; 45a -ive {Mass ender?}; 49a castled {Made a switch in a game}; 52a slings {Carriers of arms}; 53a Elise {Beethoven dedicatee}; 54a dates back {Has been around since, with "to"}; 59a Owen {Funny Wilson}; 60a sued {Went after}; 61a not it {Tag words}; 63a Etna {Italian rumbler}; 64a stirs {Big ados}; 65a nyet {Putin input?}.

1d apes {Galoots}; 2d gasolines {Refinery products}; 4d stop-go {Like some traffic}; 5d snap off {Suddenly break, as a twig}; 6d coroners {Ones examining bodies of evidence?}; 7d otro {Juan's other}; 8d wrongs {Betrays, say}; 9d sew {Finish (up)}; 10d home team {They're out standing in their field}; 11d a mite {Somewhat}; 12d vitro {Not natural, in a way, after "in"}; 13d Ethan {___ Allen furniture}; 19d stave {Hold (off)}; 25d rib {Trunk part}; 26d aura {Goddess of breezes}; 31d going away {Kind of party}; 32d love scene {What's barely done in movies?}; 33d Eden {First couple's home}; 35d diet soda {Tab, for one}; 40d Seles {1991 and 1992 U.S. Open champ}; 41d tre {III in modern Rome}; 43d talents {Biblical money units}; 44d Aris {Fleischer and others}; 47d odd lot {It doesn't end in 00}; 48d inborn {Natural}; 49d cease {Quit}; 50d Aleut {Unalaska native, e.g.}; 51d siren {It may precede a storm}; 55d Act I {Play start}; 56d knit {Work on a muffler, say}; 58d ons {Walk-___}.

NYT Wednesday 10/28/09 - Of Kin

I made rather heavy weather over this Wednesday New York Times crossword. Without any specific clue to explain the workings of the theme, I footled around for quite a while before finally completing the first long answer and realizing silent Ks were being inserted.

The NE corner proved problematic and I eventually bypassed and came back to it when I'd filled in everything else. It didn't help that I ran into two red herrings in the same area: locusts instead of cicadas at 7-Across and adopt instead of act on at 12-Down.
Solving time: 14 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 3d trick {What a king may win}
Solution


Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

A silent K is inserted in front of an N in five phrases, making puns:
15a old Knick {Retired Big Apple basketball player?}
21a knew testament {Was well-versed in a will?}
38a lady of the knight {Guinevere, to Lancelot?}
48a knot for profit {Macramé company's goal?}
64a knit pick {Select a sweater?}
Crucimetrics
Compilers
Mike Torch / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 40 (17.8%) black squares
Answers
74 (average length 5.00)
Theme squares
57 (30.8%)
Scrabble points
311 (average 1.68)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

63a Call Me {Theme song from "American Gigolo"}. There have been a number of songs with this name: this Call Me is by Blondie and released in 1980. It was composed specifically for the soundtrack of American Gigolo (1980), and was played over the opening titles.



30d Wyatt {Jane of "Father Knows Best"}. Father Knows Best started as a radio show in 1949 before moving to TV in 1954. Jane Wyatt played Margaret Anderson, the wife of the eponymous father, on the TV show.



49d No One {"___ Is to Blame" (1986 hit)}. No One Is to Blame was a hit song for Howard Jones in 1986. Howard was once pointed out to me in a pub in High Wycombe in the late 80s - I wouldn't have recognized him otherwise. Wikipedia confirms this was the town he grew up in.



62d LPN {Hosp. staffer}. I'm still a bit confused about nursing qualifications in the USA. I've gotten used to seeing RNs as an answer, and have worked out that RN is short for Registered Nurse. I see LPN is short for Licensed Practical Nurse, a lower rung on the nursing ladder: LPNs must operate under the supervision of an RN or a physician.

Noteworthy

Randy Jackson
1a pitchy {Slightly sharp or flat, as a voice}. I associate this meaning of "pitchy" exclusively with American Idol and, not finding it in dictionaries, I wonder if Randy Jackson actually coined the term?

20a gor {Brit's oath}. In the nineteenth century maybe? Sorry, I can't say I've heard gor (or gorblimey for that matter) used in my lifetime except ironically. They reek of faux Cockney, like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins (1964).



10d an I {"Gimme ___!" (repeated cry of a University of Mississippi cheerleader)}. I assume Ole Miss was just chosen for this clue as having a superfluity of Is. Cheerleaders must cry themselves hoarse over such a long name.



63d CTA {Windy City transportation org.}. I was lucky to have encountered the same answer early in the day, clued as {Overseer of els: Abbr.}. So I had no problem with this reference to the Chicago Transit Authority.


The Rest

7a cicadas {Insects in swarms}; 14a inroad {Encroachment}; 16a skills {What tests test}; 17a goes into {Expounds upon}; 18a Ascot {English racing site}; 19a Erda {"Das Rheingold" goddess}; 25a doc {Sawbones}; 26a été {Hot time in la cité}; 27a brew {Make in a cauldron}; 31a lewd {R-rated, maybe}; 34a tress {Lock}; 41a usual {Like some suspects}; 42a café {Lunch site}; 43a toys {Kids' stuff}; 44a tan {What you might get in a booth}; 46a Eno {Roxy Music co-founder}; 55a Ios {Cyclades island}; 56a woes {Sorrows}; 57a flies {Bloopers, e.g.}; 60a come late {Miss the start, maybe}; 65a tied-up {Even}; 66a secants {Trigonometric ratios}; 67a arrest {Run in}.

1d Pisa {Torre Pendente city}; 2d inks {Prepares, as the presses}; 3d trick {What a king may win}; 4d colon {List preceder}; 5d halted {Stopped}; 6d yds. {Upholsterer's meas.}; 7d clods {Oafs}; 8d ideate {Think up}; 9d cks. {Bank drafts: Abbr.}; 11d dinge {Griminess}; 12d act on {Follow, as advice}; 13d skort {Woman's golf wear}; 15d ogre {Meanie}; 19d etc etc {Blah, blah, blah}; 22d wolf {Woman-chaser}; 23d attn. {Ltr. routing aid}; 24d merit {Earn}; 27d Blu {___-ray Disc}; 28d RAs {Dorm heads, for short}; 29d .edu {E-mail address ending}; 32d wha? {"Huh?"}; 33d defers {Puts off}; 35d ego {Kind of boost}; 36d shy {Short}; 37d Sts. {Many figs. on stained-glass windows}; 39d Olaf {Norwegian king}; 40d keno {Numbers game}; 45d no, wait! {"Uh, hold on! That's wrong!"}; 47d off-air {Like things said after cutting to a commercial}; 48d kicks {Fun}; 50d osmic {Of element #76}; 51d ROTCs {University mil. programs}; 52d peek {Look through half-closed blinds, e.g.}; 53d iller {Less healthy}; 54d tilde {Type squiggle}; 58d emus {Aussie runners}; 59d sept {Number of dwarfs with Blanche Neige}; 61d eta {Theta preceder}.

Monday, October 26, 2009

NYT Tuesday 10/27/09 - What Cheer?

Did the Monday and Tuesday puzzles get muddled up this week? I found this Tuesday New York Times crossword really straightforward compared to yesterday's and was amazed to see a solving time of five minutes.

I guess it helped that I'd learned all about the chant in question from a June crossword, and remembered it not least for Carnac the Magnificent's explanation for the meaning of the chant ("the sound made when a sheep explodes"). In fact the series of sounds is supposed to evoke the noise a steam locomotive makes when moving off, the original cheer being called the Princeton Locomotive and dating to the late 1870s or early 1880s.
Solving time: 5 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 23d swig {Big swallow}
Solution


Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

The elements of a cheer are hidden in five theme answers, as indicated by 57a cheer-leader {Shouter of this puzzle's circled sounds}.
17a tetrahedron {Solid with four triangular faces}
25a Rahm Emanuel {Chief of staff in the Obama White House}
35a Genesis {Start of the Bible}
37a boomers {Post-W.W. II demographic, informally}
49a Grand Poobah {High muck-a-muck}
Crucimetrics
Compilers
Chuck Deodene / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 35 (15.6%) black squares
Answers
76 (average length 5.00)
Theme squares
58 (30.5%)
Scrabble points
311 (average 1.64)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

63a Karma {John Lennon's "Instant ___!"}. Instant Karma! was John Lennon's third solo single ... one of three of his solo efforts in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was one of the fastest-released songs in history, being available to purchase 10 days after it was written. So Ono doesn't hog the cruciverbal limelight today, though she is visible in this video, knitting blindfolded - an art installation ... apparently.



10d San Mateo {Redwood City's county}. San Mateo County is in the San Francisco Bay Area, with  Redwood City its county seat.


View Larger Map

Fernando Botero47d Botero {Fernando ___, painter of plump figures}. I was expecting a painter of Rubens's era, so it was a surprise to find out about Fernando Botero, now age 77. He calls himself "the most Colombian of Colombian artists" and is known for exaggeratedly corpulent human and animal figures in his paintings and sculptures. Asked why he does this, Botero says "An artist is attracted to certain kinds of form without knowing why. You adopt a position intuitively; only later do you attempt to rationalize or even justify it".

Roe v. Wade61d Roe {___ v. Wade}. Magdalen the Lawyer gets excited about such landmarks in American jurisprudence, so I suppose I'd better remind myself what this case was all about. Ah yes, Roe v. Wade was a Supreme Court case on the issue of abortion: the court ruled that a woman may abort her pregnancy for any reason, up until the "point at which the fetus becomes 'viable'", thus disallowing many state and federal restrictions on abortion. They arrived at the decision on the basis of a constitutional right to privacy emanating from the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Noteworthy

6a iambs {"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" has five of these}. Lovely way to clue an otherwise rather unlovely word in a grid. An iamb is a short-long foot in classical prosody (i-amb is itself an iamb), and was adopted as the term for an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable in accentual-syllabic verse in English. The lines is from Shakespeare's Sonnet 18; here's David Gilmour's interpretation.



47a Blob {1958 sci-fi classic, with "The"}. I'm not sure if I've seen The Blob - a classic of the sci-fi/horror genre - but it's so famously hokey that I'll not forget the title. It was Steve McQueen's debut performance and only became a hit at drive-ins when McQueen got to be known for Wanted: Dead or Alive on TV. Which reminds me that we must experience a movie at the local drive-in theater in Dickson City, a local institution for 60 years.



54a Lynn {Loretta who sang "Don't Come Home A' Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)"}. My knowledge of country music extends to Loretta Lynn, who dominated the country music charts in the 1960s and 1970s. Her story was made into an Oscar-winning film Coal Miner's Daughter (1980), starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones.



The Rest

1a peaks {Mountains}; 11a rib {"Spare" thing at a barbecue}; 14a Inuit {Eskimo}; 15a viola {Instrument played with a bow}; 16a ETA {Gate guess: Abbr.}; 19a cur {Scoundrel}; 20a Okie {Lone Star Stater's northern neighbor}; 21a someone {Unnamed person}; 23a syl. {Part of a word: Abbr.}; 28a wood {Alternative to an iron, in golf}; 30a duel {Sword fight, e.g.}; 31a tipsy {Midway between sober and drunk}; 32a Irae {"Dies ___" (hymn)}; 33a pew {Seat where people may sing 32-Across}; 34a leg {Knee's place}; 41a pun {Bit of wordplay}; 42a sow {Boar's mate}; 43a axes {x, y and z, in math}; 44a ad-men {Commercial writers}; 48a stat. {Population fig., e.g.}; 52a EMS {Lifesaving team, for short}; 53a hardest {Most difficult}; 56a awl {Cobbler's tool}; 62a see? {"Didn't I tell you?"}; 64a nitro {Explosive}; 65a try {Word repeated after "If at first you don't succeed"}; 66a swoop {Bird of prey's dip}; 67a afore {Previously, in poetry}.

1d pit {Quarry}; 2d -ene {Suffix with propyl}; 3d auto loan {Help in buying a car}; 4d Kirk {Captain for Spock and McCoy}; 5d stair {Series of steps between floors}; 6d I've {"___ been there"}; 7d aid {Reinforcements}; 8d morsel {Tiny bit to eat}; 9d bloom {Flower}; 11d recoup {Win back, as losses}; 12d iTunes {Online music mart}; 13d barely {By a hair}; 18d headpin {First thing usually hit by a bowling ball}; 22d enigmas {Riddles}; 23d swig {Big swallow}; 24d yore {Days of ___}; 26d hues {Colors}; 27d mew {Kitten's plaint}; 29d deep-end {Part of a pool for diving}; 34d lowball {Like an offer that's under actual value}; 36d sun decks {Places for tanning}; 37d boob {Idiot}; 38d extend to {Reach as far as}; 39d ream {500 sheets}; 40d SSTs {Old trans-Atlantic speedsters}; 42d slo {Driver's caution to reduce speed}; 44d aghast {Shocked}; 45d drawer {Bureau part}; 46d Marley {Jacob whose ghost appears to Scrooge}; 50d pshaw {"Nonsense!"}; 51d hyena {Carrion consumer}; 55d naif {Innocent}; 58d emo {Popular music style}; 59d rap {Popular music style}; 60d err {Go wrong}.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

NYT Monday 10/26/09 - Xample

Was this New York Times crossword really a Monday one? It seems to have way more new stuff than I expect at the beginning of the week. Luckily those answers didn't ever cross with each other, so I got away with my comparative ignorance again.

By the time I'd solved the central (in several senses) answer X-factor, I was already aware of there being quite a high incidence of Xs in the grid. It wasn't until I finished the puzzle that I realized the theme answers didn't just contain an X at random, but that they were specifically at the third letter, each being the end of the relevant person's forename.

It's interesting that there is a sixth X not explicitly part of the theme, at the crossing of saltbox and extra (just a coincidence? I doubt it!).
Solving time: 8 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 26d acre {Field unit}
Solution

Mike Nothnagel
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Four answers are people, two real and two fictional, that have a three-letter forename ending X, and a six-letter surname; this is indicated by 36a X-factor {Mystery quality ... or what 18- and 55-Across and 3- and 32-Down have?}.
18a Fox Mulder {Dana Scully's sci-fi partner}
55a Max Yasgur {Owner of the farm where Woodstock took place}
3d Lex Luthor {"Superman" villain}
32d Tex Ritter {Cowboy who sang the title song from "High Noon"}
Crucimetrics
Compilers
Mike Nothnagel / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 32 (14.2%) black squares
Answers
74 (average length 5.22)
Theme squares
43 (22.3%)
Scrabble points
338 (average 1.75)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

John Rolfe
1a Rolfe {John of colonial Jamestown}. Our travels in Virginia haven't yet encompassed Jamestown, though I think I might have read about John Rolfe at some point. Rolfe sailed to America in the Third Supply fleet, arriving in 1610. He was tasked with cultivating a sweeter tobacco than the native variety, which he did with great success. He is also famous for his marriage in 1614 to Pocahontas, daughter of the local Native American leader Powhatan.


Saltbox
10d saltbox {House style with a long pitched roof in back}. My British English dictionary lists this as a US meaning, so I assume the style is either unknown in the UK or called a different name. Saltbox houses have two stories at the front and one at the back, taking their name from a resemblance to the wooden lidded box in which salt was once stored. The style originated in New England, and became popular during the time of Queen Anne, as they were taxed as one-story buildings.

11d Audie {Actor Murphy of old westerns}. American actor Audie Murphy (1926–1971) was first known as one of the most-decorated soldiers of World War II, receiving the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle at Holtzwihr. He appeared in 44 films and had some success as a country music composer. One of Audie's films was To Hell and Back (1955), based on his own autobiography.



Donna Karan New York
13d Karan {Designer Donna}. Ever wondered what DKNY signifies? You're about to find out: the DK stands for Donna Karan, and NY for ... well I think you can guess that one. Donna Karan is an American fashion designer, nicknamed The Queen Of Seventh Avenue.

Art Spiegelman
33d Rego {___ Park (Queens neighborhood)}. I think we had Rego Park back in May, but I'd forgotten it, so need this reminder. Rego Park was named after the Real Good Construction Company, which began development of the area in the mid-1920s. Like its neighbor, Forest Hills, Rego Park has long had a significant Jewish population. Cartoonist Art Spiegelman grew up in Rego Park and made it the setting for significant scenes involving his aged father in Maus.

34d alif {A, in Arabic}. I'm familiar with aleph, but as for alif, I just had to have faith that the crossings were OK. alif (Arabic) and aleph (Hebrew) are both descendants of the same letter, being derived from the West Semitic word for "ox" (the heiroglyph for the letter looks like an ox's head).

50d verse {Esther 8:9 is the longest one in the Bible}, News to me, though an easy-to-guess answer. Here it is (incidentally, the shortest verses are of two words).
Then were the king's scribes called at that time, in the third month, which is the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded concerning the Jews, even to the satraps, and the governors and princes of the provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia, a hundred twenty and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language.
Esther 8:9

52d punk {Play a practical joke on, slangily}. A "candid camera" style show called Punk'd seems to have popularized punk as a verb - I can't find this in any of my American dictionaries, so it could be the meaning started with the show - does anyone know? Apparently the British English term is to merk, there being a UK show called Merk'd - here's an example.



Noteworthy

Nemean lion
43a Nemea {Ancient Greek city with a mythical lion}. I found that thinking of the Labors of Hercules helped here: the first labor is the slaying of the Nemean lion, which had an impenetrable hide. Hercules was forced to stun the beast with his club and strangle it. He then used the lion's own claws to cut off its pelt.

5d easy on {Start of a billboard catchphrase meaning "close to the highway"}. I assume the reference is to "easy on, easy off", which Magdalen uses often, tho I don't remember seeing it on a billboard. I'll keep a look out next time we do a long stretch of interstate.

The Rest

6a Assn. {The first "A" in N.A.A.C.P.: Abbr.}; 10a sack {Bag}; 14a opera {"Tosca," for one}; 15a shoo {"Get out of here, fly!"}; 16a aura {Surrounding glow}; 17a maxes {Completely uses up, as a credit card, with "out"}; 20a alley cat {Prowling feline}; 22a Altima {Nissan sedan}; 23a U bolt {Letter-shaped, threaded fastener}; 24a has-been {Washed-up person}; 25a Latin I {Course in which to conjugate "amo, amas, amat ..."}; 27a aim to {"We ___ please"}; 28a ache {Dull pain}; 29a fall {Autumn}; 31a extra {When repeated, bygone newsboy's cry}; 35a pro {Con's opposite}; 38a eel {Snakelike fish}; 39a Perot {H. Ross ___, candidate of 1992 and 1996}; 41a host {Party giver}; 42a ex-GI {U.S. military vet}; 45a hear of {Learn secondhand}; 47a covered {Having insurance}; 50a Venti {Large, at Starbucks}; 51a osiers {Twigs for baskets}; 52a permit me {"If I may ..."}; 57a entry {Contest submission}; 58a Agee {Writer James}; 59a urns {Vases}; 60a steer {Have the wheel of a car}; 61a send {Transmit}; 62a poke {Jab between the ribs, say}; 63a horde {Mob}.

1d Roma {Capital of Italia}; 2d opal {Milky white gem}; 4d freebie {Something for nothing}; 6d as fat {Equally plump}; 7d shot {Photographed}; 8d Sox {"Red" or "White" baseball team}; 9d no ma'am {Courteous rejection to a woman}; 12d creme {Middle of an Oreo}; 19d ulster {Coat named for an Irish province}; 21d cliff {Steep drop-off}; 24d hilts {Sword handles}; 25d Lapp {Northern Scandinavian}; 26d acre {Field unit}; 27d Alcoa {It acquired Reynolds Metals in 2000}; 30d aahed {Sighed with satisfaction}; 36d Xterra {Nissan S.U.V.}; 37d other {None of the above, on a survey}; 40d one-eyed {Like two jacks in a deck of cards}; 42d eat into {Take away from, as profits}; 44d mess-up {Goof}; 46d enmesh {Tangle up (in)}; 47d comas {Unconscious states}; 48d Osage {Missouri river or Indian}; 49d vixen {Reindeer teamed with Prancer}; 53d Mr Ed {Talking horse of '60s TV}; 54d Eyre {Brontë's Jane}; 56d Gro {Miracle-___ (plant food)}.