Tuesday, January 12, 2010

NYT Wednesday 1/13/10 - Flower Power

I think Kevan Choset must be a like-minded person, as this Wednesday New York Times crossword played to all my strengths. I knew the author of The Sea, The Sea, because I remember it winning the Booker Prize all the way back in 1978. I also knew the title to derive from Thalatta! Thalatta!, the shout of joy when the Greeks see the Black Sea in Xenophon's Anabasis. Smug, moi?

Plus I've read a fair amount of Henry James, so Daisy Miller came easily enough. Only Rose Kennedy caused any difficulty among the "flower girls", but it was easy to guess that she was the mother of JFK and RFK amongst others. A simple, but attractively neat, theme today.

The cluing outside of the thematic answers seemed freer of tough cultural references than usual: when they did occur they were often of the thoroughly familiar kind like Iona, Otos, Arlo and Peri ... all old friends. My only trouble spot was at the intersection of 10d exhibit A and 41a Arnie: here I had to guess but on a sound basis.
Solving time: 8 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 68a roadie {Band aide}

Kevan Choset
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Women with forenames that are also names of flowers, indicated by 62a flower girls {Certain wedding participants ... or a hint to 17-, 28- and 46-Across?}.
17a Iris Murdoch {Author of "The Sea, the Sea"}


28a Daisy Miller {Henry James heroine}


46a Rose Kennedy {Noted mother of nine}

CompilersKevan Choset / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.97)
Theme squares44 (23.3%)
Scrabble points286 (average 1.51)
New To Me

brr!25a brr! {[It's chilly!]}. This week I finally came across an authoritative explanation for the significance of square brackets in clues ... describing Tuesday's puzzle in the Wordplay blog, Patrick Merrell explains that a clue in square brackets indicates a non-verbal utterance, rather than a word said. I'll use his example (brr! being onomatopoeic isn't such a clear-cut case): [Oh my stars!] leads to gasp (which you wouldn't say when in shock, but describes the sound you make) whereas "Oh my stars!" leads to gosh (something you might actually say when in shock).
Morton's steakhouse41a Arnie {Morton who founded Morton's steakhouses}. Yesterday, we had Arby's and I've seen lots of those around the place, but I've never noticed a Morton's before. Looking at their locations, I see the nearest one is at King of Prussia, PA ... about 140 miles away. Not knowing the history of the chain, the answer was a toss-up between Arnie and Ernie and I had to decide based on the crossing answer (see below). Arnie Morton (1922-2005) turns out to be right and I see his children have also had success in the same trade, son Peter Morton, e.g., being the owner of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and the co-founder of the Hard Rock Cafe.

49a OTs {Notations on some game scores}. This was difficult to research, but I think OT in this context stands for overtime and presumably the clue relates to a sport, or sports, that can have multiple overtime periods to settle ties, the number required being reported with the score. Looking at the Wikipedia page, I'm guessing that the clue is meant to refer to basketball, which seems to allow unlimited overtimes in more contexts that other sports. Other candidates are ice hockey (post-season) or conceivably American football.

Wayne Gretzky65a Oilers {Gretzky's team from 1979 to 1988}. Gretzky rang vague bells and I recognized the Oilers as a team, but I could certainly do with refreshing my memory on this one: Wayne Gretzky is a famous, famous, Canadian ice hockey player ... maybe even as famous as Bobby Orr. How is it that an Edmonton team is called the Oilers? Not so surprising when you hear that Edmonton is a major center for the oil and gas industry in Canada, the place being nicknamed "Oil Capital of Canada" and "Oil City" inter alia.
Denis' Garden/A Girl Scout Gold Award/Sponsored by M.A.D.D./Dedicated to anyone who has lost someone due to drunk driving18d M.A.D.D. {Org. with a "Designate a Driver" program}. I had no clue about this one and had to rely on crossings for it: Mothers Against Drunk Driving is based in Irving, TX and was founded in 1980 by Candice Lightner after her 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver. M.A.D.D. is a non-profit organization that seeks to stop drunk driving, support those affected by drunk driving, prevent underage drinking, and push for a stricter alcohol policy. The Designate a Driver initiative encourages partying groups to designate a non-drinking driver before the festivities begin. This reminds me of an impish invention of Garrison Keillor (I think): D.A.M. (Mothers Against Dylslexia)!

26d Russo {Gibson's "Ransom" co-star, 1996}. Rene Russo seems to crop up with some regularity. In the thriller Ransom, she plays the wife of multimillionaire airline owner Tom Mullen (Mel Gibson) - it's their son that gets kidnapped, resulting in a ransom demand. Another Ron Howard movie.

47d Emilio {James Bond antagonist ___ Largo}. Emilio Largo is the criminal mastermind in Thunderball. He is played by Adolfo Celi (1922–1986) in the movie of the same name. The character reappears (this time played by Klaus Maria Brandauer and renamed Maximilian) in the unofficial James Bond movie Never Say Never Again, which is a remake of Thunderball.


PEZ dispensers11a Pez {Candy in a dispenser}. I wouldn't normally comment on this routine answer, except for what I heard on Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! last Saturday: Curtis Allina, the man credited with inventing the heads on Pez candy dispensers, died last month at the age of 87. The New York Times's obituary says that in 1955 Allina, VP in charge of US operations for the staid Austrian firm, persuaded The Powers That Be to try remarketing Pez in whimsical containers, starting with a Santa Claus and a Space Trooper design. The rest is history ...

50a meme {Unit of cultural information}. I knew of memes through Richard Dawkins's writings, but I still had to check that he'd coined the word. Well sort of: meme itself originated with The Selfish Gene, but a related concept called a "mneme" had been introduced by the Lamarckist biologist Richard Semon, unbeknownst to Dawkins. A meme is a unit of cultural ideas, the cultural analogue to a gene: Dawkins has used as an example the wearing of baseball hats backwards ... a habit that "spread around the Western world like an epidemic".

10d exhibit A {Early trial presentation}. Here's where it helps to know that the constructor and editor actually have your interests at heart. They want you to get the puzzle right. So while in theory exhibit E could be an "early trial presentation" in a trial with 20 or more exhibits, in reality they're not going to try to fool you, and exhibit A is inevitably the answer here. Important to be confident in this given the crossing answer at 41-Across. Incidentally, exhibit A has been used six times as an NYT answer in the last 10 years, exhibit B just once; exhibit C thru exhibit Z never.

The Rest

1a scum {Pond film}; 5a at ease {Relaxed}; 14a Tutu {Noted archbishop}; 15a sin tax {Cigarette additive?}; 16a à la {Like}; 19a sap {One likely to be taken in}; 20a releases {Films have them}; 21a rivals {Harvard and Yale, e.g.}; 23a .edu {Internet address ending}; 24a lube {Friction fighter}; 34a rued {Regretted}; 36a loos {English facilities}; 37a T-cell {Immune system agent}; 38a is not {Playground retort}; 40a DLI {Mid sixth-century year}; 42a astra {Latin stars}; 43a Iona {College in New Rochelle, N.Y.}; 45a Otos {Plains Indians}; 51a vas {Anatomical duct}; 53a Assisi {Francis' home}; 56a open case {Unsolved crime}; 61a joy {Something you might jump for}; 64a Ann {Massachusetts' Cape ___}; 66a flit {Dart}; 67a Xes {Marks (out)}; 68a roadie {Band aide}; 69a iota {Jot}.

1d stir {___-fry}; 2d cure {Fix}; 3d util {Elec., e.g.}; 4d Musee {Paris's ___ d'Orsay}; 5d as usual {By tradition}; 6d tire {Tucker (out)}; 7d ends {What circles lack}; 8d A to {From ___ Z}; 9d sacrum {Pelvis part}; 11d pasa {"Qué ___?"}; 12d El Al {Airline whose meals are all kosher}; 13d zaps {Microwaves}; 22d Velcro {Zipper alternative}; 24d lysine {Certain amino acid}; 25d briar {Prickly shrub}; 27d rents {Flat rates?}; 29d iodine {First-aid item}; 30d Solon {Ancient lawgiver}; 31d lento {Slowly}; 32d Eliot {"Silas Marner" author}; 33d R-less {Like non-oyster months}; 35d do-re-mi {Start of a musical series}; 39d takes for {Assumes to be}; 44d adverse {Opposed}; 48d yang {Masculine side}; 52d sci-fi {Film genre}; 53d Ajax {Role in "Troy"}; 54d sone {Loudness unit}; 55d syns. {Dict. offerings}; 56d owed {Was in the red}; 57d Peri {Actress Gilpin of "Frasier"}; 58d Arlo {Folkie Guthrie}; 59d slit {Narrow cut}; 60d esta {It is, in Peru}; 63d -ola {Suffix with Victr-}.


Daniel Myers said...

There's also the impish D.A.M.M. (coined by I know not whom): Drunks Against Mad Mothers. - Grr! [It's tosh.] That terrible novel won the Booker! You just had to remind me, Ross. I'd rather stick with old Xenophon any day, even if it's his Katabasis.

Crossword Man said...

Sorry Daniel, I didn't start it! I guess the year's Booker panel wanted to continue the tradition of making a daft choice for winner. I only read one Iris Murdoch novel (not TS,TS as it happens) and wasn't encouraged to try any more of hers.

Daniel Myers said...

Quite alright, Ross! Actually, I was thinking, a great novel (in my perhaps not so humble opinion) that recently won the Booker is John Banville's The Sea. Two seas is one sea too many for my taste. The main reason I don't fancy Murdoch - in particular that novel - is that it's tendentious. Murdoch was a philosopher and Professor of Philosophy, not literature. Her fiction, so to speak, has all too obvious designs on you.

Crossword Man said...

If I wanted designs on me, I'd go get a tattoo! Haven't yet tried the Banville - been put off Booker winners (and many shortlistees) for aforesaid reasons. And the prize panels have the habit of giving the award to the right novelists, but not for their best work.

Daniel Myers said...

I couldn't agree more. - Banville's best work is The Untouchable. If they were honest about it, they'd rename the Booker as "Prize for the author whose magnum opus so impressed us "x" number of years ago." Most glaring example: Graham Swift, not for Waterland, but for Last Orders.

Crossword Man said...

Waterland is a great example. I'm intrigued by The Untouchables, as the ground is somewhat familiar from An Englishman Abroad (which might have been my blog's title) etc - will add it to the wish list.

Mario Monroy said...

Please remove my photo of the rose. It is being used without my permission. Thank you.

Mario Monroy

Crossword Man said...

Hi Mario, your photo has now been replaced.

I'm so sorry this happened - I only choose Flickr images for the blog that are Creative Commons-licensed. I either made an error in this case, or the licensing was changed. Anyway the problem has now been corrected - thanks for getting in touch.