Saturday, January 2, 2010

NYT Sunday 1/3/10 - Cometh the H

This Sunday jumbo New York Times crossword seemed a lot harder than usual. I don't think it was the theme, although it took a while to work out what was going on there and each thematic answer required a bit of work to disentangle.

No, what seemed different was the number of clues using deceptive wording ... I can't remember being held up so many times for this reason, examples being {They're dedicated} for odes and {Western capital: Abbr.} for USD. Nice in moderation, but did things go a little too far today?

Maybe it's just that we were busy trying to eat while solving again: cheese quesadillas ... didn't we have those last Saturday night too? Seems like there's the start of a tradition.

One thing that's neat about the implementation of this idea is that the affected phrases are consistently of two words. Note also that the H is added to the end of the first and last word in equal numbers.
Solving time: 41 mins (with Magdalen, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 123a obit {It has an expiration date}

Jeremy Newton
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


"Antique finish". An -et ending is transformed into an -eth ending in a phrase, making a pun (always based on a would-be archaic third person singular ending).
23a trumpeth players {Wins a bridge hand?}
33a celebrity dieth {Fame fades?}
51a rocketh scientists {Stuns experts after new findings?}
64a litter basketh {Newborn puppies enjoy the sun?}
74a picketh fences {Recruits people to sell stolen goods?}
86a shoestring budgeth {A lace starts to come undone?}
101a Afghan blanketh {Words escape President Karzai?}
117a bucketh brigades {Rebels against military forces?}
Jeremy Newton / Will Shortz
21x21 with 82 (18.6%) black squares
140 (average length 5.13)
Theme squares
118 (32.9%)
Scrabble points
591 (average 1.65)
Letters used
New To Me

Stoa of Attalos45a Stoa {___ of Attalos (Greek museum site)}. I knew the general meaning of stoa (a portico or covered colonnade) from other crosswords, but not this specific example. The daddy of all stoae was the Stoa Poikile (or "painted porch") where Zeno of Citium taught Stoicism (hence the name of that philosophy). The Stoa of Attalos was built in Athens circa 150BC, but destroyed in 267AD. It was reconstructed in the 1950s and now houses the Museum of the Ancient Agora.

68a spastic {Not moving smoothly}. When Magdalen suggested spastic as the answer, I was skeptical. This word has been so tarnished by use as offensive slang in the UK that I doubt it would be allowed in a British crossword (even with the definition given). If this hasn't happened in the US, then I'm glad for it. To exemplify the controversy over this word, the British charity for cerebral palsy sufferers changed its name from The Spastics Society to Scope. For much more on this subj, see the Wikipedia article relating to spastic.

85a 'Nam {Setting in the film "Tropic Thunder"}. Tropic Thunder (2008) is an action satire comedy movie directed and produced by Ben Stiller. The film stars Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey, Jr. as a group of prima donna actors making a Vietnam War film. When their frustrated writer and director decide to drop them in the middle of a jungle, the actors are forced to portray their roles without the comforts of a film set.

53d Chloe {Actress Webb or Sevigny}. Chloes Webb and Sevigny are both American actresses. Chloe Webb received the Best Actress award from the New York Film Critics Circle for her film debut in the 1986 cult classic feature film Sid and Nancy, and has since worked in many independent films. Chloe Sevigny has also appeared in many independent movies after starting out as a fashion model ... the "it girl" of her day; she's also been seen on TV in Big Love, playing Nicki Grant, a fundamentalist Mormon woman married to a polygamist. In order to become a permanent resident, I've repeatedly had to answer the question "Do you plan to practice polygamy in the United States?" ... I think they're looking for the answer "No", which thankfully is the truth.

71d Ski {Sea's partner, commercially}. We tried sky here at first, but solving 77-Across as Eloi made us rethink (there's also a sky at 120-Down, but we didn't know that at the time). Magdalen thought the product referred to is a sunscreen: yes, Sea & Ski it is and the brand is apparently an endangered species.


40a USD {Western capital: Abbr.}. Pavlov's Guide to Crosswords would actually have been quite useful here ... if only we'd followed its advice!

123a obit {It has an expiration date}. Is it my imagination, or are there a lot more misleading context clues than normal. This certainly had me fooled for a while, expiration date needing to be read as the date of death. Neat clue, even though the subject can be a sensitive one.

Amish17d Amish {People without power, often}. Another great misleading clue, referencing the Amish people and their rejection of high voltage electricity. As the clue points up, the Amish do use electrical power in some restricted circumstances, such as for welding and powering milk stirrers. There is a large Amish community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, though I have yet to visit their part of the state, or see evidence of their bygone modes of transport or traditional dress.

The Rest

1a Enya {Singer with the compilation "A Box of Dreams"}; 5a OPEC {Well-running group?: Abbr.}; 9a bass {Boom box setting}; 13a cobra {Charmer's subject?}; 18a moor {Drop anchor}; 19a veto {Block in Washington}; 20a LMNOP {Run in "The Alphabet Song"}; 22a axiom {"Power corrupts," e.g.}; 26a long I {iPod sound?}; 27a dryer {Salon appliance}; 28a Isis {Fertility goddess}; 29a Edsel {Object of many 1950s jokes}; 31a GEs {Whirlpool alternatives}; 32a GTO {Car with "three deuces and a four-speed," in a 1964 song}; 36a strange {Like cases on "The X-Files"}; 41a ein {A in German class}; 42a Iran {Modern home of ancient Persepolis}; 43a été {It ends in septembre}; 47a bijou {Exquisite curio}; 57a cut {Let go}; 58a Tesla {Inventor of alternating current}; 59a ohms {Resistance units}; 60a rah {Cry on game day}; 61a Srta. {Mex. title}; 62a Ana {"S.N.L." veteran Gasteyer}; 72a oasis {Rejuvenation site}; 73a Ottawan {Local fan of the N.H.L.'s Senators}; 76a Tso {General on Chinese menus}; 77a Eloi {H. G. Wells people}; 78a coo {Talk as lovers do}; 79a odes {They're dedicated}; 81a hoars {Winter coats?}; 91a tranq {Real downer, for short?}; 93a then {"All righty ___!"}; 94a tag {Spray-can art}; 95a gnat {Airborne irritant}; 96a tug {Ship-to-shore aid}; 98a Ari {Agent Gold of "Entourage"}; 99a secrets {Exchange of spies, maybe}; 109a lag {Slip behind}; 110a nae {Not, to Scots}; 111a due by {Words before a deadline}; 112a Esau {His twin duped him}; 113a novel {Never-before-seen}; 115a tunic {Viking garment}; 121a Eliza {Fictional Doolittle}; 122a email {Questionnaire line}; 124a took {Shot, as a photo}; 125a steer {Turn left or right, say}; 126a stds. {Govt. bodies may issue them}; 127a eave {Place where leaves are collected}; 128a envy {"As rust corrupts iron, so ___ corrupts man": Antisthenes}.

1d EMT {Mouth-to-mouth pro, briefly}; 2d nord {N, on a French map}; 3d your grace {What to call an archbishop}; 4d army tanks {Periscope users}; 5d over {Just a memory now}; 6d pet {Prized}; 7d ethic {Set of morals}; 8d copse {Thicket of trees}; 9d blasé {Been-there-done-that}; 10d Amy {Grant with Grammys}; 11d sneers at {Pooh-poohs}; 12d sordid {Seamy}; 13d call dibs {Stake a claim}; 14d OXO {Tic-tac-toe line}; 15d binge {Opposite of fast}; 16d Roget {Reference volume, informally}; 21d psst {[Nudge]}; 24d peon {Lowly sort}; 25d li'l {Short, for short}; 30d eye {Size up}; 34d buon {"___ appetito!"}; 35d -ini {Pasta suffix}; 36d sir {U2's Bono, since 2007}; 37d trot {Bring (out)}; 38d get an itch {Start hankering}; 39d Eth. {Neighbor of Sudan: Abbr.}; 44d Eso {Anka's "___ Beso"}; 45d simian {Like chimpanzees}; 46d test score {Datum in a college application}; 48d J.Crew {National clothing chain based in New York's Greenwich Village}; 49d outta {"Get ___ here!"}; 50d Utahn {Many a Mormon}; 52d elate {Tickle to pieces}; 54d irr. {Half-price bin abbr.}; 55d sabot {Footwear that's hard to run in}; 56d that's huge {"Wow, congrats!"}; 61d ska {Reggae relative}; 63d achoo {Allergic response}; 65d tied in {Linked}; 66d Essen {City SSW of Münster}; 67d stood {Endured}; 68d spent {Wiped out}; 69d pilar {Pertaining to hair}; 70d a coma {In ___ (unconscious)}; 75d foe {Bizarro, to Superman}; 80d Sgt. {"Ten-hut!" yeller: Abbr.}; 82d aggravate {Worsen}; 83d reneged on {Broke, as a promise}; 84d stat! {"Like, now!"}; 86d squad car {Black-and-white}; 87d stray cat {Pound escapee, maybe}; 88d thin {Weak, as a plot}; 89d BAs {Degrees in hist. or social sci.}; 90d Hts. {Brooklyn ___, N.Y.}; 92d nth {Ridiculous degree}; 97d gnu {White-bearded Kenyan}; 98d albums {Photo groups on Facebook}; 100d clog {Cousin of a 55-Down}; 101d antes {Gets in the game}; 102d fault {Wimbledon no-no}; 103d genie {Coming-out party?}; 104d bebé {Tiny addition to la familia}; 105d keels {Topples}; 106d est {E, on a French map}; 107d Tahoe {Chevy S.U.V.}; 108d hubba {When repeated, a luster's cry}; 113d nite {When the stars come out, in ads}; 114d Leo V {Benedict IV's successor}; 116d -ize {Suffix with capital}; 118d kid {A little butter?}; 119d riv. {Colorado or Delaware, e.g.: Abbr.}; 120d sky {Where to aim a telescope}.


Anonymous said...

Why are random letters in the crossword print-out in different colors?

Gareth Bain said...

16 minutes for me is on the fast side for a NYT Sunday... Clever slightly different take on the "add-a-letter" pun theme, BTW. Also looked askance @ SPASTIC;

You'll be hearing less of me again; I'm driving back to varsity in Tshwane tomorrow. I mostly use internet @ the varsity then, which due to the timezones is usually out of kilter with your posts...

To anonymous: Just a commentor, but I can tell you the colors correspond to their value in Scrabble. High-Scrabble-value letters are considered to be desirable since they're usually more difficult to place in grids.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled on your very interesting blog. A small suggestion. For those of us who don't get the NYT on a daily basis but are still interested in solving the crosswordd from time to time: could you please consider putting the answer LAST in each para, instead of it being the first word? That way, many of us can have the pleasure of solving at least some of the entries. Many thanks

Crossword Man said...

Hi Gareth, thanks for explaining the grid colors - see also about the grid colors. Have a great time in Tshwane ... we'll miss your input.

Crossword Man said...

Hi Anonymous #2. Do you mean just reverse the answer and clue order for each clue; as in ...; 104d {Tiny addition to la familia} bebé; ...? If not, please clarify.