Thursday, January 28, 2010

NYT Friday 1/29/10 - Dig Doug Day

I really love this Friday New York Times crossword: it was one of those themeless puzzles that seems impossible as you start to solve it, but eventually gives way; clues which you think you've no chance of rationalizing eventually make sense once you get the answer. So it was another Dig Doug Day for me.

The southwest corner was the first to fall into place, helped by knowledge of Nietzsche as the originator of the Übermensch even if it took several attempts to spell him right. From there I could progress into the center and gradually complete the other corners in a counter-clockwise fashion.

After 25 minutes, I just had the tough NW corner to finish, and I seriously thought I'd go over the 30 minute barrier (I'm still chuffed if I break that) because I only had the endings of the long answers as a way in. Eventually I guessed Zinfandel for 1-Across (I'm always anticipating Scrabbly letters in puzzles like this) and so broke the logjam.

One reason for problems in this corner is the conjunction of two of the most misleading clues in the puzzle: {Appropriate game} for poach and {Spoilers, often} for nanas ... delightful once you work them out, but nothing that's likely to help you get started! In the end, there were no areas where I had to make more-or-less blind guesses, which is great to see.
Solving time: 29 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 19a poach {Appropriate game}

Doug Peterson
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersDoug Peterson / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 28 (12.4%) black squares
Answers70 (average length 5.63)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points332 (average 1.69)
New To Me

15a Ida Lupino {"The Hitch-Hiker" director, 1953}. Seeing the -INO ending, I wanted Tarantino, but that wouldn't wash with the 1953 date. Ida Lupino (1918–1995) was a pioneer among women filmmakers. In her forty-eight year career, she appeared in fifty-nine films, and directed nine others. The Hitch-Hiker is a film noir directed by Ida Lupino about two fishing buddies who pick up a mysterious hitchhiker during a trip to Mexico. The film is based on the true story of Billy Cook, a psychopathic murderer; it's considered the first film noir directed by a woman.

Statue of Dostoyevsky in Omsk22a Omsk {Dostoyevsky's exile city}. Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881) was incarcerated on 23 April 1849, for being part of a liberal intellectual group, the Petrashevsky Circle. Tsar Nicholas I after seeing the Revolutions of 1848 in Europe was harsh on any sort of underground organization which he felt could put autocracy into jeopardy. On November 16 of that year, Dostoyevsky, along with the other members of the Petrashevsky Circle, was sentenced to death. After a mock execution, in which he and other members of the group stood outside in freezing weather waiting to be shot by a firing squad, Dostoyevsky's sentence was commuted to four years of exile with hard labor at a katorga prison camp in Omsk.

Sir Kay breaketh his sword at ye Tournament41a Kay {Sir ___, foster brother of King Arthur}. In Arthurian legend, Sir Kay is Sir Ector's son and King Arthur's foster brother and later seneschal, as well as one of the first Knights of the Round Table. In later literature he is known for his acid tongue and bullying, boorish behavior, but in earlier accounts he was one of Arthur's premier warriors.

62a Eliot Ness {Noted Volstead Act enforcer}. I'd find these puzzles a lot easier if I knew stuff like the Volstead Act. I expect every American remembers it as the legislation that reinforced the prohibition of alcohol by properly defining "intoxicating liquors". The Act aimed to:
  1. prohibit intoxicating beverages,
  2. regulate the manufacture, production, use and sale of high-proof spirits for other than beverage purposes, and
  3. insure an ample supply of alcohol and promote its use in scientific research and in the development of fuel, dye and other lawful industries.
Eliot Ness (1903–1957) it turns out was brought up on the Sherlock Holmes stories and after joining the 300-strong Bureau of Prohibition in Chicago, was chosen to head the operations under the Volstead Act, targeting the illegal breweries and supply routes of Al Capone (1899–1947). I'll always think of Ness as portrayed by Kevin Costner in The Untouchables (1987).

27d trio {The Jimi Hendrix Experience, e.g.}. Another clue I was very apprehensive about, because The Jimi Hendrix Experience could have been a theme park ride for all I knew. In fact they were an English-American rock band from the 60s, featuring the eponymous singer-songwriter and guitarist Jimi Hendrix (1942–1970), bassist and backing vocalist Noel Redding (1945–2003) and drummer Mitch Mitchell (1947–2008). All three of the band's studio albums are featured in the Rolling Stone list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and in 1992, The Jimi Hendrix Experience were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Here's Purple Haze (the song with the famous mondegreen "Scuse me, while I kiss this guy").

Late 1780s diagram of Galvani's experiment on frog legs.29d frog {Parts of it may be revealed in biology class}. I had to check with Magdalen about the frogs. Yes, she says she dissected frogs, possibly more than one, around the same age that I had to dissect a white rat. I wonder which is grosser? Apparently the great thing about frogs is that you can cause their legs to twitch with the application of electricity, an experiment originally performed by Luigi Galvani (1737–1798).
butyl48d butyl {Tear-resistant synthetic rubber}. I didn't know this meaning of butyl, which wasn't covered in chemistry classes. Butyl rubber is used to make (amongst other things) inner tubes, basketballs, gas masks, and sealants for roof repairs.
Todd Lodwick54d USOC {Org. with a SportsMan of the Year award}. Ignoring case, it seems there is more than one such award, a more famous one being presented by Sports Illustrated magazine. However, that capital M tells you to look elsewhere to the US Olympic Committee: the USOC's SportsMan of the Year for 2009 is the American nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick.


spoiled by nana19a poach {Appropriate game}; 3d nanas {Spoilers, often}. There's some neat misleading cluing in this puzzle. These are two of my favorites, the first being a good example of a misleading part of speech ("Appropriate" is an imperative verb disguised as an adjective), the second relying on "Spoilers" being much more recognizable in the context of puzzle answers being given away. Great stuff!
Happy Ho Ho59a Ho Hos {Tubular snacks}. Ok, I remembered Ho Hos from a previous encounter, but they're still not as recognizable to me as the ubiquitous Oreos. As far as I can tell, Ho Ho is American for Swiss roll (well, the chocolate variety at least). They are made by the Hostess company.
Los Altos9d Los Altos {City near San Jose}. This was one of the gatekeepers to the NW corner, and I suspected I was going to be in trouble, but in fact knew Los Altos of old for its high-tech connections. It's home to Steve Jobs, John Warnock, Jerry Yang and Scott McNealy inter alia. I thought the city was also headquarters to one of their companies, but I've not been able to confirm that.

31d Nietzsche {"Übermensch" originator}. Isn't Nietzsche the worst surname to spell? Ever? Herr N introduced the concept of the value-creating Übermensch in the 1883-5 novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra ... cue the Richard Strauss.

The Rest

1a Zinfandel {Red choice}; 10a adopt {Decide to use}; 16a sepoy {Old Indian infantryman}; 17a pine-trees {Resin sources}; 18a twerp {Weenie}; 20a smash into {Ram}; 23a key limes {Dessert fruit}; 24a El Al {It's grounded on the Sabbath}; 26a trash TV {Many reality shows}; 29a fandom {Star followers}; 32a hon {Precious}; 33a tore {Streaked}; 34a RBI {Nat stat}; 35a lives on {Endures}; 38a pin {Spare part?}; 39a oleo {Pat makeup}; 42a Samson {Hero described as "Eyeless in Gaza"}; 44a get real! {"Are you nuts?!"}; 46a nine {Right fielder, on a scorecard}; 47a Zanzibar {It merged with Tanganyika in 1964}; 49a gulp {Get down quickly}; 53a rustled up {Managed to obtain}; 55a ratio {One thing on top of another?}; 56a ASCII {It has 95 printable characters}; 57a at one time {Not currently}; 60a Tylenol PM {What might come as a relief at night?}; 61a scent {Tracking aid}.

1d zippo {Diddly}; 2d idiom {Hit the ceiling, say}; 4d flecked {Like a strawberry roan's coat}; 5d auth. {Bibliography abbr.}; 6d NPR {"Science Friday" carrier}; 7d diesel {Motor ship driver}; 8d enemy {Hostile}; 10d asthma {Breathtaking condition?}; 11d dewiest {Most childishly pure}; 12d open shops {Results of some labor laws}; 13d port {Computer connection}; 14d typo {Four for for, for one}; 21d sir, no sir {Loud drill bit?}; 23d kamikaze {Vodka cocktail}; 25d LOL {Electronic gag reflex?}; 28d Venn {A diagram bears his name};  30d able {Fit}; 32d hey! {"Watch it!"}; 36d validate {Confirm}; 37d nan {Chicken tikka go-with}; 40d oration {Keynote, e.g.}; 43d megaton {4.184 petajoules}; 45d enlist {Win the support of}; 46d Napoli {Campania's capital, in Campania}; 50d utile {Worth keeping}; 51d limps {Has a hitch}; 52d poems {Metric system output?}; 53d rahs {Words of support}; 55d rent {Digs cash?}; 58d neo- {Conservative front?}.


Anonymous said...

Sorry I mistakenly posted this in the previous blog entry. But I am still fascinated to hear if today's crossword is your first exposure to the obscure Jimi Hendrix.

Crossword Man said...

:-) No, not the first I'd heard of Hendrix himself ... but the name of the band was new to me, so I was thinking the JHE was either a tribute band or a theme park ride, etc. Scuse me while I go and hide ...

Doug P. said...

Thanks for the fun write-up. Many solvers liked "Appropriate game," and I must admit that was one of Will Shortz's clues. He never fails to make my puzzles more clever!

As for NIETZSCHE, no way I could spell that one without peeking. :)

Crossword Man said...

Hi Doug, thanks for dropping by. We're your number one fans here! It's good to make the editor feel useful from time to time :-)