Wednesday, January 13, 2010

NYT Thursday 1/14/10 - Interruptions

My admiration for this Thursday New York Times crossword increased considerably during my analysis for this post: I was amazed to see the grid contains 74 theme squares (nearly 40% of them); even more gobsmacked to discover that all the phrases on which the puns are based are also film titles. Given the constraints, the puzzle is exceptionally well executed.

Although I am now familiar with the young constructor Caleb Madison, I had to turn to Wordplay's post for an explanation of the second half of the byline: J.A.S.A. is the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged, which has a crossword construction class that Caleb volunteered to take over from veteran constructor Mel Taub. Great stuff - I can't imagine how they're going to top this effort in future semesters. The only thing I would quibble about is the AD that appears at the beginning of Dressed to Kill - given "interruption" was used in the clue to 61-Across, it would have been slightly neater to have an AD in the middle of each film (perhaps "A Bridge Too Far" for this idea!).

I got off to a fairly slow start with this one, not seeing what was going on until about 11 minutes had gone by, when I recognized the first interrupting AD. By this stage I'd already got commercial break, so I was prepped for an insertion and pun idea. Things went a bit quicker after that, but I didn't realize the theme answers were all based on movies ... not while I was solving, at least ... I don't think that helps you much, but it's a wonderfully neat touch.

My one trouble spot was at the middle left: we have Brut in the UK, but I wasn't aware it was a Fabergé brand; I didn't know the UConn Huskies and found both tell and mace meanly clued. I recognized BMI as an American performing rights organization, but would their initials necessarily have appeared on every issue of a Beatles's single or album, even a British one? I'm not qualified to answer this and don't have the physical objects to hand to disprove the clue.
Solving time: 17 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 17d deb {Miss out?}

Caleb Madison and J.A.S.A. Crossword Class
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


An ad is inserted into movies, making a pun, as indicated by 61a commercial break {TV movie interruption ... or feature of 16-, 21-, 31-, 43- and 49-Across?}.
16a addressed to kill {Like a poison pen letter?} cf Dressed to Kill

21a space ballads {"Fly Me to the Moon" and others?} cf Spaceballs

31a radio bravo {Ham operator's "Hurrah!"?} cf Rio Bravo

43a toady story {Yes-man's biography?} cf Toy Story

49a best in shadow {Like a superlatively sneaky sleuth?} cf Best in Show

Caleb Madison and J.A.S.A. Crossword Class / Will Shortz
15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
76 (average length 4.97)
Theme squares
74 (39.2%)
Scrabble points
312 (average 1.65)
Letters used
New To Me

1a that's hot {Paris Hilton catchphrase}. I've managed to get through life having just a vague notion of who Paris Hilton is. I've got beyond thinking "Paris Hilton" is a hotel in the French capital, but not accumulated enough knowledge of her achievements to deal with this clue. If you think her antics would repay closer attention, please let me know! I gather that Paris says that's hot so much that she trademarked the quote in 2004. Talking of quotes, my researches reveal that Paris has made it into the latest edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, not for that's hot, but for "Dress cute wherever you go, life is too short to blend in".

Jonathan the Husky39a UConn {Huskies' home}. UConn doesn't come up enough to be in The Crucy League and I was surprised that a sled dog should be associated with a Connecticut institution. I haven't been able to find out why the Huskies are so called - if you have any info, please comment. What I have discovered is that their mascot is named Jonathan the Husky in honor of Jonathan Trumbull, the first governor of Connecticut.

68a Ryan's {"___ Hope," long-running ABC soap}. I could only think of Chicago Hope here, which was unhelpful. Ryan's Hope was an earlier show that originally aired from 1975 to 1989. A total of 3515 30-minute episodes were broadcast ... wow! The soap concerned the trials and tribulations of a large Irish American family in New York City.

Texas tea69a Texas tea {Black gold}. Texas tea is apparently another slang term for crude oil; and a lovely one at that ... I'll try to remember it. It's also an alternative term for Long Island Iced Tea (a drink not actually involving tea, so of little interest) and Purple Drank, a drug composed of Sprite and prescription cough syrup. With stardate, this makes for a great little corner, fillwise.

6d His {Bill Haley and ___ Comets}. I imagine lots of people put in the here. I certainly did, my memory of the actual title of Bill Haley and His Comets being erratic. Can't not have Rock Around the Clock here.

Dakota Territorial Seal10d Dak. {___ Terr., 1861-89}. Time for another history lesson for yours truly (everyone else knows this stuff, right?). The Dakota Territory was an organized incorporated territory of the United States. It corresponded geographically to the northernmost part of the land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase and became necessary when Minnesota, previously part of a larger territory, became a state in 1858. The Dak. Terr. ceased to be when the states of North and South Dakota were admitted to the Union, other bits of the territory having become bits of Montana and Wyoming.

38d Styx {Hit 1970s-'90s band with a mythological name}. The puzzle creators must have thought the corner with this clue a potential trouble spot: why otherwise add "with a mythological name"? I was certainly glad of the help, and it may well have been necessary given the way A to M was clued ... volume 1 of 2 could conceivably end in letters in a wide range, making it harder to be sure about the country hosting the 1970 and 1986 World Cups (see 48-Across). Styx is apparently still active as a rock group, though there have been two periods where the band split up - Wikipedia has a timeline with all the details.

46d risers {Stage equipment}. I had to turn to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate for the meaning of this stage jargon, which seems to apply more to musical events than drama:
3 : a stage platform on which performers are placed for greater visibility
From Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition

salty dogs34d vodka {Ingredient in a salty dog}. A Salty Dog is apparently a cocktail containing vodka or gin and grapefruit juice, served in a glass with a salted rim. The main difference between a Salty Dog and a Greyhound is the salted rim.
Emory University50d Emory {American university where Desmond Tutu taught theology}. Learning all the American universities poses quite a challenge to the newcomer. Emory University is a private research university in metropolitan Atlanta, originally chartered in 1836 by a small group of Methodists as Emory College in honor of John Emory, a popular bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The school grew significantly as a result of the philanthropy from the Coca-Cola fortunes. Desmond Tutu was appointed as the Robert R Woodruff Visiting Professor at Emory in 1998.


18a ream {"The Office" unit}. I watched quite a bit of the British version of The Office (sometimes behind the sofa because of its cringe-making content). It is set in Slough, the butt of many jokes in England, not least because of Poet Laureate John Betjeman's line Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough!. In the UK, I lived quite close to Slough, so it was odd that when I moved to the USA, it was to a place not far from the setting for the American version of The Office, viz Scranton, PA ... you can see some local landmarks in the opening, though I gather the show is mostly filmed on the West Coast. Here are the two opening sequences for comparison purposes:

20a zee {End of a quiz?}. You know it's late in the week when you see a clue like this one: yes, "quiz" ends in a zee ... I always have to be careful not to write in zed.

55a Yma {Sumac from Peru}. This was a scarily mysterious reference the first time I saw it. I'm going to mention it now only in case this is the first a reader has heard of Yma Sumac (1922–2008) the Peruvian singer with the remarkable 4+ octave vocal range.

11d Eliza {Henry's pupil}. Another familiar reference, where I'll just join the dots: "Henry" is Henry Higgins and Eliza, Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion or My Fair Lady.

28d idol {Kelly Clarkson, once}. A singer Magdalen introduced me to, saying that she'd won the first season of American Idol in 2002, but that I shouldn't hold it against her. Kelly Clarkson's second album Breakaway (2004) was phenomenally successful ... here's the familiar Since U Been Gone.

The Rest

9a Odets {"The Country Girl" playwright}; 14a side with {Be for, in an argument}; 15a Italia {Nazione di Napoli}; 19a meso- {Prefix with -zoic}; 26a BMI {Abbr. on every original Beatles song}; 29a Emu {South Australia's ___ Bay}; 30a geo- {Prefix with political}; 35a fads {They come and go}; 40a Ibo {Writer Chinua Achebe, by birth}; 41a eat it {Suffer ignominy}; 42a tell {"Do ___!"}; 45a 'ere {Not there, to 11-Down}; 47a kts. {Gold stds.}; 48a Mex. {Host of the 1970 and 1986 World Cup: Abbr.}; 56a soie {Silk: Fr.}; 57a anti {Not having gone pro?}; 66a arbors {Garden structures}; 67a stardate {Time on the Enterprise}.

1d tsar {Ukase issuer}; 2d hide {Obscure}; 3d add a {Recipe direction starter}; 4d terms {Contract fine print}; 5d Swe. {Host of the 1912 Olympics: Abbr.}; 7d OTs {They may follow last periods, for short}; 8d theme {This puzzle's is revealed at 61-Across}; 9d O'Toole {He played Lord Jim in "Lord Jim"}; 12d tiled {Put on, as a roof, maybe}; 13d sales {___ slip}; 15d it's a go {"We're on"}; 17d deb {Miss out?}; 22d peon {Drudge}; 23d amb. {U.N. figure: Abbr.}; 24d curio {Tchotchke}; 25d lo-fat {Like some yogurt, informally}; 26d Brut {Fabergé cologne}; 27d mace {It might come with the mail}; 32d inlet {Sound, say}; 33d ABA {Litigators' grp.}; 36d A to M {Volume 1 of a two-volume encyclopedia?}; 37d dire {Not just serious}; 41d Esso {"Happy Motoring" sloganeer}; 43d Tenors {The Three ___}; 44d YTD {Pay stub abbr.}; 49d by car {One way to go}; 51d samba {Bossa nova kin}; 52d sic {[That's what it says]}; 53d heist {Job in "Ocean's Eleven"}; 54d wards {Little Orphan Annie and others}; 58d neat {Swell}; 59d Tate {Thames gallery}; 60d Ikea {Retail giant from 5-Down}; 62d mon {Jamaican fellow}; 63d ate {Ingested}; 64d lax {Loose}; 65d bra {Supporter, of sorts}.


Anonymous said...

UCONN sounds like the Yukon, where huskies pull sleds.

Crossword Man said...

I'd never have imagined that as the explanation, but it has a kind of student logic to it. In Britain, a 2.2 (lower second degree) is nicknamed a "Desmond" on similar grounds (see 50-Down if you don't get it). Thank you so much!

Harry Segal said...

Thanks as always for your wonderful rundown of the puzzle. There was another Americanism you may have missed: "black gold" is part of the famous opening of "The Beverly Hillbillies", a show that ran in the 1960s about a hillbilly family that strikes oil on their property and move to Beverly Hills. Each week the narrator would say "oil, black gold, texas tea ..."

You can see this opening here:

Crossword Man said...

Thanks Harry, that's a great reference and clip. The Beverly Hillbillies are definitely essential knowledge for NYT crosswords!