Thursday, January 21, 2010

NYT Thursday 1/21/10 - Nothing Doing

I'm having to keep the commentary on this New York Times crossword fairly brief, as we're on a trip all day tomorrow. It took quite a while to see the rebus-like theme: both personal and fancy were completed in the NW, but I didn't see the idea from that, only after working down to the SE and finding all or would be very happily completed by ... nothing!

Having just got septets at this stage I optimistically penciled in nothing at the start 36-Across, but that only caused trouble. The explanatory answer turned out to be the more indirect cuts corners, suggesting that the grid in the newspaper will be presented with corners missing. I've assumed that's the case in my solution grid ... it certainly looks neater that way.

The SW and NE corners were the toughest for me, particularly the latter, where I hadn't heard of nothing but net (which I realize now is descriptive of a basketball shot where the ball goes through the hoop without hitting the backboard or rim) and D.C. Cab just had to be guessed at. Deciding on the intersecting letter took a while and partly explains the longish solving time.

I've been waiting for a puzzle from Elizabeth C. Gorski to plug her wonderful new blog called Crossword City. She's come up with a neat original approach to writing about puzzles, mostly riffs around the short answers we see a lot of, such as I saw, Typee and steno. I'm really enjoying her posts and learning a lot too.
Solving time: 26 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 58a lime jello {Green mold in the fridge}
Solution

Elizabeth C. Gorski
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

The grid corners must be imagined as containing nothing, which if added to the edge answers is what their clues lead to. This is indicated by 36a cuts corners {What this puzzle's theme does?}.
1a nothing personal {"Don't take offense at that"}
9a cost nothing {Was free}
64a nothing down {Loan lure, maybe}
65a here goes nothing! {Daring person's cry}
13d nothing fancy {Free of bells and whistles}
15d nothing but net {"Swish!"}
38d next to nothing{A nominal fee}
47d all or nothing {Betting option}
Crucimetrics
Compilers
Elizabeth C. Gorski / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 40 (17.8%) black squares
Answers
74 (average length 5.00)
Theme squares
57 (30.8%)
Scrabble points
285 (average 1.54)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

14a D.C. Cab {1983 Gary Busey comedy}. As I didn't know the expression nothing but net, I just had to grit my teeth and hope my guess of D.C. Cab was right here. Of the 26 options for the intersection, B felt like the correct one, even if I wasn't quite sure why. Odd to see this answer given our recent trip to D.C. which involved several cab trips. None of our drivers was anything like Mr. T.



30a ere {"We shun it ___ it comes": Emily Dickinson}. More support for my theory that poetry is dragged in only for archaisms and poetical forms like o'er, e'er, and the like. Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) was a prolific poetess, so I wasn't suprised to find no YouTube clips of this one ... you'll have to read it out for yourselves.
We shun it ere it comes,
Afraid of Joy,
Then sue it to delay
And lest it fly,
Beguile it more and more —
May not this be
Old Suitor Heaven,
Like our dismay at thee?
We Shun It Ere It Comes by Emily Dickinson
emu41a emu {Brevipennate bird}. "Brevipennate" is what's new today, not our old friend the emu. It means "having short wings", which (given they're flightless) shouldn't worry emus unduly. The emu has a prominent place in Australian Aboriginal mythology, including a creation myth of the Yuwaalaraay and other groups in NSW who say that the sun was made by throwing an emu's egg into the sky.
25d Eric {___ the Midget, regular on "The Howard Stern Show"}. Neither remembered The Howard Stern Show, nor knew Eric the Midget, so was glad of secure crossings. Eric is apparently one of the so-called Wack Pack who enliven the (I'm told famous) radio show with their calls. Can I find a sanitary enough YouTube clip I wonder? No, I give up (comment if you locate one and I'll add it).

Noteworthy

Tris Speaker52a Tris {Speaker in the Hall of Fame}. I couldn't quite believe there'd be a baseballer called Tris Speaker (1888-1958) when I first saw this reference in a crossword. Now I know him, I'll never forget the name ... and the trick used in this clue (in fact he should be in Pavlov's Guide to Crosswords).

caudillo36d caudillo {Authoritarian Spanish leader}. I'm not sure how many solvers would know this, but I got lucky because Caudillo was the pseudonym of a compiler of cryptic crosswords in the early days, when naming oneself after inquisitors and the like was in vogue. Caudillo is usually translated into English as "leader" or "chief," or more pejoratively as "warlord", "dictator" or "strongman"; it is applied particularly to charismatic populist leaders, especially in Latin America. An example is Argentina's Juan Manuel de Rosas.

The Rest

13a five-to-one {Some fairly difficult odds}; 16a Agamemnon {Major role in "Troy"}; 17a Shamu {Performer in a seven-million-gallon tank}; 18a nods {Affirmations to pitchers}; 19a TAs {Univ. helpers}; 21a spat {Dustup}; 22a cue {Stick on a pub wall}; 23a sleep on {Put off till tomorrow, say}; 27a urn {It may have a big mouth}; 28a YTD {Since Jan. 1}; 29a -eer {Ballad's end?}; 31a lie {It's not to be believed}; 32a optic {Microscope part}; 34a errant {Wide of the mark}; 38a nearer {Occurring relatively soon}; 40a oasis {Haven}; 42a tom {Cat on the prowl}; 44a zed {British character in "Zorro"}; 45a is a {1992 hit "Life ___ Highway"}; 48a Xed {Struck (out)}; 49a slovens {Hardly fops}; 51a St L {Lambert Airport's home: Abbr.}; 54a loo {What might charge a going rate?}; 55a KOOL {Brand at a checkout counter that's also the name of a Phoenix radio station}; 56a talls {Seven-footers' jeans sizes, say}; 58a lime jello {Green mold in the fridge}; 62a ollas {Pueblo pottery}; 63a Alexander {"Seinfeld" co-star}.

1d pig out {Eat an entire cake, say}; 2d evaded {Sidestepped}; 3d rems {Bedtime phenomena}; 4d Ste. {Véronique, for one: Abbr.}; 5d oom {___-pah band}; 6d non {Vote in Vichy}; 7d a note {Make ___ of}; 8d Lenape {Delaware tribe}; 9d CDs {Alternatives to downloads}; 10d Ochs {Newspaper publisher Arthur ___ Sulzberger}; 11d scapulas {Shoulder blades}; 12d tamarin {Rain forest monkey}; 20d Sorensen {Author of the 1965 biography "Kennedy"}; 23d septets {Disney's dwarfs and others}; 24d let's roll {"It's game time ...!"}; 26d nereids {50 mythical sea nymphs}; 32d Our {Sinclair Lewis novel "___ Mr. Wrenn"}; 33d COO {Corp. manager of day-to-day affairs}; 35d RRs {Things with xings}; 37d raze {Bulldoze}; 39d emerald {Ring rock}; 43d moolah {Dough}; 45d Isolde {Tristan's love}; 46d stoles {Opera house attire}; 50d voile {Wedding dress fabric}; 53d slaw {Part of many a KFC order}; 55d keno {Numbers game}; 57d SSN {Application datum: Abbr.}; 59d mer {On a map it may be colored bleu}; 60d .EXE {Program file extension}; 61d Jag {XK or XKE, for short}.

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