Monday, January 11, 2010

NYT Tuesday 1/12/10 - Bird of Another Feather

This Tuesday New York Times crossword was another nightmarish one for me, but that was due to just one square, the result of not knowing someone that I assume is a household word throughout America - Larry Bird.

It all started reasonably well. I got cootie pie after a couple of minutes, but I had to deduce another example before seeing the YOU to OO transformation that was involved in generating today's puns. I didn't realize till after the grid was completed that each phrase before the transformation has a different spelling of the YOU sound (U, EU, UE, and EAU to be specific). That's a neat touch.

I had the grid finished after around nine minutes, except for dealing with 24-Across; this seemed to be larjy from crossings, but I had erased that as I knew it couldn't be right. I pondered the options for several minutes before deciding the across word must be the obvious one of larry, even though I had no idea what kind of avian might be called a larry bird. That resulted in the plausible RFK for the down, so I decided to go with it and got lucky.
Solving time: 12 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 40d serenade {Play to the balcony?}
Solution

Patrick Blindauer and Rebecca Young
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

A YOU sound (four different spellings) is turned into an OO sound in a phrase, making a pun:
17a cootie pie {Germy dessert, to a five-year-old?} cf cutie-pie
30a family food {Grub consumed around the dinner table?} cf Family Feud
46a fossil fool {One who's daft about archaeology?} cf fossil fuel
64a booty mark {X, to a pirate?} cf beauty mark
Crucimetrics
Compilers
Patrick Blindauer and Rebecca Young / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers
78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares
38 (20.1%)
Scrabble points
328 (average 1.74)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

19a aloha! {"Hello, Don Ho!"}. The answer is straightforward enough, but the wording of the clue meant nothing to me. Ah, it seems Don Ho (1930–2007) was a famous Hawaiian singer, chosen as an "Ambassador of Aloha" (I've not been able to find an official site about this honor). Here he is singing on a 1967 episode of I Dream of Jeannie.



Larry Bird24a Larry {Bird known for making baskets}. This clue had me completely, as I never got beyond thinking of our feathered friends here. Although the surname Bird is fairly common, it looks like only Larry Bird is famous enough to be referenced in this way. He's definitely going into Pavlov's Guide to Crosswords ... you can only fool somebody once like this!
Argo cornstarch51a Argo {Cornstarch brand}. We had this last September, but my brain never got further than Karo today, although I knew that couldn't be right, as it's corn syrup. The products are not unrelated, as both are brands of Associated British Foods, although I don't remember seeing either Karo or Argo in British supermarkets (I may be wrong about that).
Satchel Paige53a Paige {Pitcher Satchel}. I'd have seen Satchel Paige (1906–1982) in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but my memory of that experience had faded too much to help with this clue. Paige's professional playing career lasted from 1926 until 1966, starting in the Negro leagues. When he was signed to the Cleveland Indians, Paige became the first Negro pitcher in the American League and was - at the age of 42 - the oldest "rookie" to debut in the major leagues.

RFK Bridge25d RFK {___ Bridge, connecting Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx}. I started with JFK here, of course ... thought there had to be a bridge named after John F. Kennedy because other presidents seem to be well represented. But larjy for 24-Across made no sense, so I had to consider other possible initials, and I kept my options open as I didn't know Larry Bird. Eventually I went with RFK, recognizing this was likely Bobby Kennedy, without quite knowing why larry should be the crossing answer. The RFK Bridge has, it seems, only been named that since 2008, the bridge complex being formerly dubbed the Triborough Bridge, or just the Triboro.

Noteworthy

Arby's9a Arby's {Restaurant chain whose logo features a western hat}. We see lots of Arby's signs off the highway, so this clue wasn't a problem. Those signs on stalks are fairly ugly and their absence in the UK suggests planning restrictions outlaw them (above a reasonable height). Arby's was founded in 1964 by the Raffel brothers. "Big Tex" was the name they first wanted, but that was already taken, so they chose Arby's based on their initials (and "Roast Beef", supposedly ... roast beef sandwiches being a popular menu item).

26a Ameche {Best Supporting Actor for "Cocoon"}. Cocoon (1985) is a fun film with a plethora (is there a better collective noun?) of veteran actors and actresses, including Don Ameche. The movie was filmed in and around St. Petersburg, Florida and was directed by crossword regular (as in Opie and Richie) Ron Howard.



1d Loca {"Livin' la Vida ___"}. I reckon to have seen this somewhere before, as I certainly knew the title of this Latin pop hit from singer Ricky Martin. Livin' la Vida Loca (i.e. "living this crazy life") is also apparently notable as the first No. 1 song to be recorded, edited, and mixed totally on a DAW (digital audio workstation). It is seen by audio-production enthusiasts everywhere as the song that marked the shift from analog recording to digital recording.



39d stage mom {Parent in the wings, perhaps}. Terms like this don't get used in the UK, so I have to think twice before realizing what they mean. A soccer mom doesn't play soccer, but provides a kind of taxi service. A stage mom must therefore shepherd her actor child(ren) to auditions, performances etc. I gather the term has negative connotations, suggesting that the mom is prone to obnoxiously demanding special treatment for her child, or suggesting that she has placed inappropriate pressure on her child to succeed. Some believe that a "stage mom" is vicariously living out her own dreams through her child.

Tennessee45d Ala. {One of the eight states bordering Tenn.}. Fascinating fact of the day: the record for the number of US states bordering another is eight, shared by Missouri (Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa) and Tennessee (Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri).

63d Dey {Susan of "L.A. Law"}. More than any other show, L.A. Law gave me my impression of law firms in the USA and the romance and drama of life in and out of court. I gather from Magdalen that the legal life is not quite as exciting as shown on TV, involving quite a lot of sitting around that doesn't make it onto the screen. I doubt we'll ever see a Montrose Law, or even a P.A. Law! Susan Dey's first role was as Laurie Partridge on the 1970s sitcom The Partridge Family. She played Grace Van Owen, a California assistant DA and judge on L.A. Law from 1986 to 1992.



The Rest

1a lobe {Ear part}; 5a appt. {Date with an M.D.}; 14a okra {Gumbo vegetable}; 15a Paar {Carson predecessor}; 16a heron {Long-legged fisher}; 20a a kiss {Part of S.W.A.K.}; 21a Ares {Greek god of war}; 23a in or {"Are you ___ out?"}; 28a a few {Not many}; 33a Barack {Sasha and Malia's father}; 35a amen {Prayer's end}; 36a easy A {No-brainer in school}; 37a oms {Meditation syllables}; 38a asset {It might be fixed or frozen}; 43a scab {Picket line crosser}; 45a asters {October blooms}; 52a ahchoo {Sound before a blessing}; 55a tsar {Peter the Great, for one}; 56a gasp {[Oh, my stars!]}; 59a venti {Twenty : English :: ___ : Italian}; 62a cured {No longer sick}; 66a are we {"___ having fun yet?"}; 67a base {Hard-core followers, in politics}; 68a Odie {"Garfield" canine}; 69a Teddy {Good name for a lingerie salesman?}; 70a apex {Zenith}; 71a mega- {Prefix with phone}.

2d OK, OK {"Enough already!"}; 3d broilers {Young chickens suitable for dinner}; 4d eats away {Erodes}; 5d ape {Monkey's uncle?}; 6d papaya {Mango alternative}; 7d pair {Ark unit}; 8d tree {Genealogy chart}; 9d aha {Cry of discovery}; 10d relief {Help from a bullpen}; 11d bronco {Rodeo horse}; 12d yo-ho-ho {Start of a pirate's chant}; 13d snared {Caught in a trap}; 18d Isr. {Mideast land since 1948: Abbr.}; 22d sale {"Dollar days" event}; 27d mynas {Mocking birds?}; 28d Abe {Prez on a penny}; 29d FAA {Air safety grp.}; 31d mambo {"West Side Story" shout during "The Dance at the Gym"}; 32d IMs {Sends an OMG or LOL, say}; 34d Casio {Tokyo-based synthesizer maker}; 37d oaf {Big galoot}; 40d serenade {Play to the balcony?}; 41d erg {Bit of energy}; 42d Tso {General on Chinese menus}; 44d clog {Drano target}; 46d fat cat {Influential moneybags}; 47d oh sure {"And I'm the queen of England"}; 48d scared {Yellow}; 49d shrewd {Cunning}; 50d oppose {Stand against}; 54d ivy {It climbs the walls}; 57d Abba {Pop group whose name is coincidentally a rhyme scheme}; 58d soap {Ivory, e.g.}; 60d trig {Math subj. with many functions}; 61d Ikea {Big furniture retailer}; 65d Tex {Many a cowpoke's handle}.

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