Monday, January 4, 2010

NYT Tuesday 1/5/10 - Red-Letter Day

I got the theme of this Tuesday New York Times crossword really quickly and that made for a reasonably good solving time (for me). 4-Down was the first thematic answer I solved and, having got that, I scouted out the explanatory answers at 25a/46a. As fire-drills also has edr in it, I didn't immediately realize that RED would always be in that exact order, but soon figured that bit out and used it to my advantage.

In the end, I was surprised to count up all the theme squares and arrive at the high number of 72 (or 38%). This is good going (I guess words and phrases with RED in aren't that hard to come by, and these letters are reasonably easy to fill around). So the grid's an impressive one, with just the minor flaw that it splits into two halves linked only by the narrow bridge of three-letter words at the center.
Solving time: 7 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 22a iodine {Antiseptic element}

C. W. Stewart 


RED (consecutively and in order) is hidden in the long answers, this being indicated by 25a/46a see red {Be angry ... or what you can do inside the answers to the six starred clues}.
17a store detectives {Antishoplifting force}
26a snare-drums {Marching band percussion}
44a outer edges {Rims}
57a teacher editions {Textbooks for instructors}
4d fire-drills {School evacuation exercises}
30d dare-devils {Evel and Robbie Knievel, for two}
C. W. Stewart / Will Shortz
15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares
72 (38.1%)
Scrabble points
290 (average 1.53)
Letters used
New To Me

6d Trevor {"Key Largo" Oscar winner Claire ___}. Glad this was a fill-in-the-blank as Claire Trevor (1910–2000) is one of those names that could easily have been Trevor Claire (in the absence of any indication of which part is the surname). Claire was nicknamed the "Queen of Film Noir" because of her many appearances in "bad girl” roles in film noir and other black-and-white thrillers. In Key Largo (1948) she played Gaye Dawn, the washed up nightclub singer and gangster's moll.

10d skid {Losing streak}. This slang usage of skid as a noun seems peculiarly American, as I can't find it in my British English dictionary. MWCD helpfully gives a context:
skid n
7 b : a losing streak <a 5-game skid>
From Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition
41d poetess {Anne Bradstreet, for one}. Anne Bradstreet (c. 1612–1672) was an English-American writer, the first notable American poet, and the first woman to be published in Colonial America. Her work was very influential to Puritans in her time. Bradstreet was born Anne Dudley in Northampton, England. At the age of sixteen she married Simon Bradstreet. Anne and Simon, along with Anne's parents, immigrated to America aboard the Arbella as part of the Winthrop Fleet of Puritan emigrants in 1630. Both Anne's father and husband served as governors of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

51d Ochs {Phil who sang "Draft Dodger Rag"}. I gather Phil Ochs (1940–1976) was a protest singer, although his preferred term was topical singer. He wrote hundreds of songs in the 1960s, but declined in the 1970s due to a number of problems including bipolar disorder and alcoholism. He took his own life in 1976. Draft Dodger Rag was originally written in 1965 and quickly became an anthem of the anti-Vietnam War movement. Many different versions on YouTube, but Magdalen said I had to have the original, despite the absence of a picture ...

54d Iola {Seat of Allen County, Kan.}. This one still isn't the gimme that it ought to be: Enid, OK is more familiar for some reason, despite its more varied cluing options. Iola, KS was founded in 1859 as a result of dissatisfaction about the location of the existing county capital county seat at Humboldt. Iola finally became the county capital after a vote in 1865. Looking at past clues for this answer, they relate to the Kansas town except for one example {Neighbor on the 1980s sitcom "Mama's Family"}, which refers to Iola Lucille Boylan.


15a Rita {Beatles meter maid}. Lovely Rita is a Beatles song I have no difficulty remembering because of the unlikelihood of the first line ... meter maids (traffic wardens in the UK) aren't known primarily for their loveliness. According to some sources, the song emanates from when a female traffic warden named Meta Davis issued a parking ticket to McCartney outside Abbey Road Studios.

Fala21a Ave. {D.C.'s Pennsylvania, e.g.}. We're off to D.C. with Henry in a few days, and hopefully will get to see Pennsylvania Ave. One of my requests is that we go check out all the famous memorials, including the one to a canine well-known to crossword solvers ... Fala.
shell game41a pea {Shell game spheroid}. Neat original way to clue the answer. I knew roughly what the shell game involved, but it was still interesting to read the Wikipedia article on the way it is practiced and its history. Apparently the scam dates back at least to Ancient Greece and it can be seen in many paintings, such as this one by Hieronymus Bosch.
Osage65a Osage {Missouri Indian}. Have come across the Osage Nation before a few times, mainly through terms named after them, such as the Osage-orange. This five-letter tribe is nowhere near as familiar as the Oto(e) of the Great Plains and I mention the Osage again to make sure they're fixed in my mind. The Osage originated in the Ohio River valley in present-day Kentucky, but migrated west of the Mississippi River to their historic lands in present-day Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma by the mid-17th century. At the height of their power in the early 18th century, the Osages had become the dominant power in their region, controlling the area between the Missouri and Red rivers. They are a federally recognized tribe and based mainly in Osage County, Oklahoma.

Hatfield-McCoy feud5d foe {A McCoy, to a Hatfield}; 38d feud {Hatfield/McCoy affair}; 48d at it {Engaged in a 38-Down}. I'd thankfully come across the Hatfield-McCoy feud (1878–1891) back in May last year; if that hadn't happened, three references in one puzzle might have spelled T R O U B L E for me. The American Civil War was at the root of the trouble between the McCoys and the Hatfields: the McCoys living in Kentucky fought for the Union army; the Hatfields on the other side of the Tug Fork in West Virginia fought for the Confederacy.
croci42d croci {Spring bloomers}. Would you say croci or crocuses? croci seems a regularly formed plural, and (unlike octopi) dictionaries appear happy to support its use, and yet prefer crocuses.

The Rest

1a scoff {Pooh-pooh, with "at"}; 6a T-bar {Way up a ski slope}; 10a slow {School zone warning}; 14a audio {TV signal component}; 16a kepi {Topper for Charles de Gaulle}; 20a here {Roll-call call}; 22a iodine {Antiseptic element}; 23a Dr. No {Early James Bond foe}; 30a Duma {Lower chamber of Russia's parliament}; 34a warily {In a cautious way}; 35a but {Excuse maker's word}; 36a as in {X ___ xylophone}; 37a evils {Satan's doings}; 38a fog {State of confusion}; 39a brink {Verge}; 40a deal {Word with a handshake}; 42a clench {Hold tight}; 43a ells {Some annexes}; 47a lode {Prospector's strike}; 48a afloat {Financially solvent}; 52a pic {E-mail attachment, for short}; 53a visa {MasterCard alternative}; 60a itch {Nagging desire}; 61a sore {In a snit}; 62a Allah {Subject of much Mideast praise}; 63a tees {Pigskin supports}; 64a stud {Manly man}.

1d sash {Window part}; 2d cute {Just adorable}; 3d Odor {___-Eaters (shoe inserts)}; 7d bite {Orthodontist's concern}; 8d ate {Wolfed down}; 9d raciest {Most risqué}; 11d Levi {Jeans maker ___ Strauss}; 12d open {Ready for business}; 13d wise {Like an oracle}; 18d dandy {Foppish dresser}; 19d toe {Tip of a wingtip}; 24d rels. {Reunion group: Abbr.}; 25d smug {Full of oneself}; 26d Swede {Nobel or Celsius}; 27d navel {Orange feature}; 28d Arial {Popular typeface}; 29d U-boat {W.W. II sea menace}; 31d using {Taking habitually}; 32d mince {Cut into tiny bits}; 33d ankhs {Hippies' crosses}; 39d bled {Ran in the wash}; 45d elided {Said "bos'n" for "boatswain," e.g.}; 46d rah {When repeated, gung-ho}; 49d fête {Big bash}; 50d lace {Add a kick to}; 52d Peru {Chile's northern neighbor}; 55d snag {Hang-up}; 56d Ashe {1975 Wimbledon winner}; 58d rot {Pure baloney}; 59d Tao {"___ Te Ching"}.


Daniel Myers said...

Anent "croci" and "crocuses" - Curiously, the unabridged OED does not support either of these plurals - and I looked through every single quotation in every context. What IS accepted - by the OED - is the "collective plural" making it rather like "sheep."

A Tennyson quote from "Oenone": "At their feet the crocus brake like fire."

Oh well, the OED does seem a bit SMUG at times.

Crossword Man said...

Bizarre ... perhaps they'll cover twentieth century usage when the 3rd edition comes out, but we have to wait till 2037 for that.