Tuesday, January 26, 2010

NYT Wednesday 1/27/10 - Rogue States

I reckon this Wednesday New York Times crossword is my favorite of the year so far: a neat thematic idea, well executed. Some of the references were lost on me: I had to ask Magdalen if there was actually a place called Rye, NY (yes); and Down East didn't mean anything to me until I checked Wikipedia and confirmed it relates to the coast of Maine. But it was still a great feeling to work out what was going on (after about 10 minutes had gone by) and then deduce the anagrams in the remaining theme answers.

This week seems a little odd in that there appear to be fewer encyclopedic references than usual: normally I'm struggling to cut down on the clues I want to write about, but so far this week that hasn't been a problem. I find the non-dictionary references often reach a climax on Wednesday and then tail off on Thursday (when the difficulties tend to come from an unusual theme) and Friday/Saturday (when misleading cluing and more obscure vocabulary are the order of the day).

What encyclopedic references there were fortunately got spread out evenly through the grid. If Zahn and Doren had crossed, I might have been in trouble, but the constructor contrived to disperse the proper names and/or clue them in a friendly manner.

Linus and RossI'll leave you with a picture of how I solve the crosswords, which explains why I'm not the fastest (OK, I admit, I'm not the fastest anyway, as you can tell from my ACPT performance). Linus seems to have an uncanny ability to sense when I'm about to settle in to doing the NYT crossword and chooses that moment to use me as "cat furniture"; last night he was doing his best to stop me writing in the NW corner of the grid.
Solving time: 14 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 29d drink {Have trouble passing the bar?}
Solution

Alan Arbesfeld
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Improvised phrases including a state in one half and an anagram of the state in the other:
17a Texas taxes {What helps pay the governor's salary in Austin?}
26a dial for Florida {Try to telephone some snowbirds?}
42a know Rye, New York {Be familiar with a city near White Plains?}
54a Maine anime {Some film work Down East?}
Crucimetrics
Compilers
Alan Arbesfeld / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers
76 (average length 4.97)
Theme squares
48 (25.4%)
Scrabble points
317 (average 1.68)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

6a Groh {Actor David of "Rhoda"}. Not a likely surname, to my mind, so I had to rely on crossings for every letter. David Groh (1939-2008) played Joe Gerard in the 1970s Mary Tyler Moore spinoff series Rhoda, opposite Valerie Harper.



15a Lola {"Damn Yankees" woman who gets what she wants}. I only recognized the reference to "whatever Lola wants Lola gets" once I'd got the answer from crossings, but still didn't understand the connection with the baseball team. It seems Lola is the lead character in the musical comedy Damn Yankees; she's a seductive temptress supposedly based on Lola Montez (1821–1861), who inspired the saying (as often, it's not clear if she actually uttered the words). Here's Gwen Verdon as Lola in the film version (1958).



25a autos {Hudson and LaSalle, once}. Two bygone brands of automobiles, both named after explorers (though I only realize this now): Hudsons were made in Detroit, Michigan, from 1909 to 1954, the name traceable back to English explorer Henry Hudson (ca. 1550-1611). LaSalle was a companion marque of Cadillac from 1927 to 1940, its name deriving from the French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (1643–1687).

Hudson Hornet

LaSalle

46a Zahn {Journalist Paula}. Paula Zahn is an American newscaster, a former news anchor on ABC News, CBS News, Fox News and CNN. She now profiles real crime stories on the Investigation Discovery cable channel via the newsmagazine series, On the Case With Paula Zahn.



26d Doren {Quiz show scandal figure Charles Van ___}. I knew of the quiz show scandals from previous posts, but couldn't remember the role Charles Van Doren played. Ah, he was one of the contestants who cheated on the show Twenty One, being given the correct answers by the producers. An assistant professor at Columbia University, Van Doren entered a winning streak in January 1957 that ultimately earned him more than $129,000 and made him famous, including an appearance on the cover of TIME on February 11, 1957. When allegations of cheating were first raised, Van Doren denied any wrongdoing, saying "It's silly and distressing to think that people don't have more faith in quiz shows." But on November 2, 1959, he admitted to the House Subcommittee on Legislative Oversight that he had been given questions and answers in advance of the show. In Quiz Show (1994), the movie about the scandal, he was played by British actor Ralph Fiennes.



Gil Hodges52d Mets {Team Gil Hodges both played for and managed}. Must have had Gil Hodges (1924–1972) before, but I need another reminder. Hodges was a first baseman who played most of his career for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. He managed the New York Mets from 1968-1971, taking them to the 1969 World Series title, one of the greatest upsets in Series history.

Noteworthy

14a Irene {Cara of "Fame" fame}. This came soon enough after Irene Cara's last mention in the Monday 18th crossword that I actually remembered her. Yay! Here she is singing Fame's second hit single Out Here on My Own.



38d Aram {Composer Khachaturian}. Aram Khachaturian is known to me only for the ballet Spartacus. "I'm Spartacus" ... "I'm Spartacus" ... "I'm Spartacus" ... no, not that one. The score became well-known in the UK when it was used as the opening theme of The Onedin Line.



The Rest

1a B and B {Intimate inn, familiarly}; 10a abab {Common rhyme scheme}; 16a mace {Mug spray?}; 19a -ible {Suffix with convert}; 20a eat {Mother's urging at the dinner table}; 21a tidy {Like some sums}; 22a pony up {Pay}; 24a gift {"It's a ___"}; 31a hotels {Monopoly purchases}; 32a URLs {Modern addresses, for short}; 33a Tru {Broadway play about Capote}; 34a Ursa {Major in astronomy?}; 35a ano- {Calendario span}; 36a it in {"Put ___ writing"}; 37a net {Back of a soccer goal}; 38a anti {Con}; 40a absent {Whimsical roll-call response}; 45a orate {Be grandiloquent}; 47a salami {Deli offering}; 49a hike {Explore Yosemite, perhaps}; 50a jam {Pickle}; 53a trap {It may be sprung}; 57a et tu {Rebuke from Caesar}; 58a Elle {Vogue competitor}; 59a robot {Unthinking servant}; 60a weep {Have a bawl}; 61a sets {Hollywood constructions}; 62a treks {Journeys}.

1d bite {Fall for something}; 2d area {Figure in geometry}; 3d next {On deck}; 4d DNA {Kind of sample}; 5d be still! {"Hush!"}; 6d glad to! {"My pleasure!"}; 7d Roxy {Classic theater name}; 8d olé {Corrida cheer}; 9d has pull {Knows people, say}; 10d A minor {Key of Beethoven's "Für Elise"}; 11d baby-sitter {Occasional role for a 30-Down, maybe}; 12d ACLU {Rights grp.}; 13d beep {Audible warning on the road}; 18d tiffs {Spats}; 23d Otos {Platte River people}; 24d Gaea {Earth goddess}; 25d afro {Retro hairstyle}; 27d it's too late {"You had your chance"}; 28d run-in {Unpleasant encounter}; ; 30d aunt {Family member}; 31d hunk {Playgirl calendar type}; 35d a tee {Perfectly, after "to"}; 36d is on {Airs}; 39d NY Times {Daily since 1851, briefly}; 40d awake {"Are you ___?"}; 41d by heart {From memory}; 43d wrap up {Finish}; 44d e-zines {Online reads}; 47d stew {Worry (over)}; 48d Arte {"Laugh-In" comedian Johnson}; 49d hilt {Sword handle}; 50d jibe {Agree}; 51d amok {Wild}; 55d ale {Bass, for one}; 56d nor {Neither's partner}.

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