Sunday, January 3, 2010

NYT Monday 1/4/10 - Fruit Salad

I got the fruity theme of this Monday New York Times crossword early on and took what advantage I could of the knowledge. Still, there were a half-dozen or so clues which I couldn't answer right away and had to bypass - that was enough to add a minute or so to the solving time.

I like that the thematic fruit is 50% at the left of the answer and 50% at the right of the answer - that seems to give a good balance ... when all the key words of a theme are at the start or at the end of the answers, that can distort the solving experience, making one side of the grid a lot easier than the other.

There are some great blocks of seven-letter down answers in the corners, but I wonder if that's made the fill more difficult overall, because of the incidence of words like oohs, aws, wah and tadas (OK in moderation, but have them all together in the same 15x15 and they start to stick out).
Solving time: 5 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 5d spry {Energetic for one's age}
Solution

Paula Gamache
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Long answers contain fruit, as indicated by 37a bear fruit {Be productive ... or what the answers at 17-, 25-, 53- and 63-Across do?}.
17a sour grapes {Reaction of a sore loser}
25a top banana {Head honcho}
53a lemon laws {They protect car buyers}
63a cherry-pick {Select the best and leave the rest}
Crucimetrics
Compilers
Paula Gamache / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 34 (15.1%) black squares
Answers
78 (average length 4.90)
Theme squares
47 (24.6%)
Scrabble points
311 (average 1.63)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

Oscar De La Hoya19a De La {Boxer Oscar ___ Hoya}. Oscar De La Hoya, nicknamed "The Golden Boy", is the American boxer who won the USA's only boxing gold medal at the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992. De La Hoya runs a promotional firm called Golden Boy Promotions and himself retired from boxing in April 2009. Not to be confused with designer Oscar de la Renta.
Aristide and Clinton22d Haiti {Jean-Bertrand Aristide's country}. Had forgotten Jean-Bertrand Aristide's place in history ... time for a recap. Aristide was president of the troubled country of Haiti briefly in 1991, then in 1994 to 1996 and 2001 to 2004. He was ousted in the February 2004 rebellion. He alleged that he was kidnapped by the United States military and forced into exile in South Africa.

38d Erins {Brockovich and Moran}. Here it was enough that I knew Erin Brokovich, the environmental activist whose story was made into a movie starring Julia Roberts; I should have remembered Erin Moran too, as she came up just days ago - why is it that some names register with me (see below) and some never do. Once again, Erin Moran played Joanie Cunningham on Happy Days and its spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi.



Noteworthy

27a Ode {Shelley's "___ to the West Wind"}. Interesting to get this after recent discussion of Shelley and his contemporaries. Ode to the West Wind was written near Florence in 1819 and contains the famous line that gives hope at this time of year ‘If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?’. Here's what seems the pick of the YouTube readings:



48a Travis {Country music's Tritt}. Somehow remembered Travis Tritt, despite very few encounters in crosswords last year. Can't explain why his name stuck, but some others didn't. Here's It's a Great Day to Be Alive from his 2000 album release Down the Road I Go.



Ocala56a Ocala {City NW of Orlando}. Another answer that I was thankful to recall. Ocala, FL of course has a great vowel-consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel pattern that means it's dandy for filling around; Orono, ME likewise. As we discovered last October, Ocala is the seat of Marion County. The name derives from the Timucua word "Ocali" which is believed to mean the "Big Hammock". Ocala is known as the "Horse Capital of the World" (this has to be in a crossword clue some day) because its county is one of the major thoroughbred centers of the world, with over 1,200 horse farms in total and about 900 thoroughbred farms.

60a Brady {"The ___ Bunch" of 1970s TV}. This definitely wasn't new, but I feel on shaky ground with The Brady Bunch - any other day of the week and we'd have needed to know the forenames of the nine bunchees. So Mike Brady (Robert Reed), has sons Greg (Barry Williams), Peter (Christopher Knight) and Bobby (Mike Lookinland); Carol Martin (née Tyler) (Florence Henderson), has daughters Marcia (Maureen McCormick), Jan (Eve Plumb) and Cindy (Susan Olsen). Hmm ... who's the ninth character in the 3x3? Why, the housekeeper Alice (Ann B. Davis) of course.



68a Omoo {Melville work set in Tahiti}. Pity poor Melville, whose obscure work of 1947, Omoo, gets top billing in crosswords, while his masterpiece Moby-Dick only gets an occasional allusion. Something like what happened in his lifetime: Melville's early works Typee and Omoo were great hits at the time, but 19th century opinion was that the poor man went completely off the rails with his later efforts.

The Rest

1a game {Tiddlywinks or tag}; 5a scrap {Leftover cloth bit}; 10a LEMs {Moon-landing vehicles, for short}; 14a Avon {The Bard of ___ (Shakespeare)}; 15a Pietà {Michelangelo masterpiece}; 16a Smee {"Peter Pan" pirate}; 20a crony {Bosom buddy}; 21a rush {___-hour traffic}; 23a rib {Lung protector}; 24a manna {Food from heaven}; 28a wah {Cartoonish baby cry}; 30a yields {Gives in (to)}; 31a soda {Scotch and ___}; 33a loot {Rioter's haul}; 36a tadas {Triumphant cries}; 40a abhor {Hate}; 43a naes {Highlands denials}; 44a oohs {Sounds of amazement}; 50a sag {Mattress problem}; 52a not! {"Just kidding!"}; 58a aws {Reactions to adorable babies}; 59a sash {Accessory that might say "Miss Universe"}; 61a retd. {AARP part: Abbr.}; 66a Grey {Earl ___ tea}; 67a Korea {Seoul's home}; 69a Eyre {Brontë's Jane}; 70a steam {Boiling indication}; 71a sews {Puts in stitches}.

1d gas {Windbag's output}; 2d avocado {Guacamole need}; 3d mourned {Lamented the loss of}; 4d Enron {Energy company that filed for bankruptcy in 2001}; 5d spry {Energetic for one's age}; 6d CIA {Org. in "The Bourne Identity"}; 7d repro {Copy, for short}; 8d ate up {Enjoyed immensely}; 9d pass by {Elapse}; 10d LSD {'60s hallucinogen}; 11d emerald {Valuable green stone}; 12d Melinda {Bill & ___ Gates Foundation}; 13d sea-bass {"Chilean" fish}; 18d gnaw {Munch on like a mouse}; 24d mos. {May and June: Abbr.}; 25d thorn {Locust tree feature}; 26d neato! {"That's swell!"}; 29d à la {Lobster ___ Newburg}; 32d ab ovo {From the beginning, in Latin}; 34d of a {Arthur Miller's "Death ___ Salesman"}; 35d tress {Lock of hair}; 39d USA {It's between Can. and Mex.}; 40d at large {On the loose}; 41d brewery {Anheuser-Busch, for one}; 42d hamster {Pet with cheek pouches}; 45d on a dime {Words after stop or turn}; 46d holy cow! {"My heavens!"}; 47d sta. {RR stop}; 49d slacks {Pants that are dressier than jeans}; 51d gory {Graphically violent}; 54d a shot {___ in the dark}; 55d where {Question of location}; 57d capos {Mafia bosses}; 60d Bram {Stoker who created Dracula}; 62d dye {It may have made a blonde blonde}; 64d Rea {Stephen of "The Crying Game"}; 65d KOs {Bout enders, briefly}.

2 comments:

Daniel Myers said...

Thanks for making my day, Ross, with the reading from Shelley!-----The puzzle as a whole was indeed very literary, with the following incorporated into it: Shakespeare, Shelley, Melville, Charlotte Bronte, Arthur Miller and Bram Stoker. Ms. Gamache would seem to share my literary tastes.

Crossword Man said...

Hadn't noticed how well the literary references cover all the bases. {Stoker who created Dracula} has a nice misleading capital, though I don't suppose many were fooled: we're planning to visit Whitby on our next trip to Northern England, not primarily because of the Dracula associations. Just read that the original 529-page manuscript of Dracula, believed to have been lost, was found in a barn in northwestern Pennsylvania during the early 1980s. Nothing so exciting is lurking in our barn.