Thursday, February 4, 2010

NYT Friday 2/5/10 - As Easy As Falling Off a Log?

This Friday New York Times crossword didn't go well for me: it looked really easy to start with and I had the grid about 80% done after 15 minutes or so. I had great hopes of a correct solution in around 20 minutes, but it was not to be.

The area I got stuck on (and I imagine this was true for a lot of other solvers) was the diagonal stripe from roleo up to auras. There is a high density of problem answers here (say to, roleo, Royko, Selena, Romas) and even when I saw through {Lane in a mall} to be confident of Bryant, it was still a struggle.

Getting broth from {Stock option} was another critical answer: it took ages to fathom this misleading clue, and when I finally did it, the grid could be completed. But I was overconfident about rodeo for 42-Across and after the struggles to get as far as I did, too jaded to even think about the options for its intersection with Selena at 36-Across (not that roleo would have been easy to recognize amongst the options).

So solving this crossword wasn't a very happy experience for me, because of what appears to be a huge imbalance between one nightmarish part and the generally easy areas elsewhere. I admit this is partly my bad, since I did actually write about Selena before - it looks like hers may be a "two post" name. Hopefully the mistake will cement it into my mind.

Incidentally, this is another low block count crossword: it has 19 blocks and 64 answers ... similar in structure to the September 4, 2009 crossword that won a 2009 Griddie Award.
Solving time: 35 mins (solo, no solving aids, two wrong answers)
Clue of the puzz: 4d tee up {Start a hole}

Joe Krozel
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersJoe Krozel / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 19 (8.4%) black squares
Answers64 (average length 6.44)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points282 (average 1.37)
New To Me

35a orbed {"O naked Moon full-___!": Browning}. This is from Pan and Luna (1880) - Robert, not EBB. Here's the verse it's in:
Orbed--so the woman-figure poets call
Because of rounds on rounds--that apple-shaped
Head which its hair binds close into a ball
Each side the curving ears--that pure undraped
Pout of the sister paps--that . . . once for all,
Say--her consummate circle thus escaped
With its innumerous circlets, sank absorbed,
Safe in the cloud--O naked Moon full-orbed!
From Pan and Luna by Robert Browning
Ines Suarez40a Inés {Spanish conquistadora ___ de Suárez}. This was surprising, as I wasn't expecting a girl's name, not noticing the big hint in "conquistadora ". Inés Suárez (c. 1507-1580) participated in the conquest of Chile and became the mistress of its conqueror Pedro de Valdivia. She successfully defended Santiago against an attack of Mapuche people in 1541, and was eventually married to Rodrigo de Quiroga, Royal Governor of Chile.
42a roleo {Loggers' contest}. Couldn't get beyond rodeo here, thinking that the constructor(s) had just gone for a more obscure meaning of the word. Even if I'd gone through all the letters at the intersection with Selena, it would have been hard to see the connection with logging, given the single L. Anyway, I see now that a roleo, patterned on rodeo, is a log-rolling competition. Two people stand on a floating log and attempt to dislodge each other while spinning it. Victory is achieved by being the last one standing. Something like this ...

16d LuPone {"Gypsy" Tony winner}. Close enough to Lupino that I toyed with that for a bit, though I felt she was probably too early. Patty LuPone has had multiple Tony awards, winning one for her performances as Eva Perón in the 1979 musical Evita. The award for Gypsy, in which Patty played Rose, was as recently as 2008. Here's Everything's Coming up Roses from the award ceremony.

32d good men {Marine Corps candidates, it's said}. "Good men and true" rang bells for me. Is that it? No, that's a jury. Apparently "We're looking for a few good men" (to which "and women" is now added) has been used as an advertising slogan for the Marines for over 200 years. It began on 20 March 1779 in Boston, when Capt. William Jones, USMC, advertised for "a few good men" to enlist in the Corps for naval duty. The term seemed ideally suited for Marines, mainly because of the implication that "a few" good men would be enough. The slogan was used for the title of a 1989 play and subsequent movie A Few Good Men (1992).

latent fingerprint33d latent {Scarcely visible fingerprint}. Given the general meaning of latent, I had no problem believing it to be the answer here. In forensics, a latent is a scarcely visible, or invisible, fingerprint that can be developed for study using electronic, chemical and/or physical processing techniques.
36d Selena {1993 Grammy winner for Best Mexican-American Album}. Unfortunately, although I'd come across Selena's tragic life story last September, I had forgotten this when it really mattered; and in deciding her third letter, went with what made sense (to me) for 42-Across. Once again, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, "The Queen of Tejano music", became very famous very young, but was murdered at the age of 23 by the president of her fan club. Jennifer Lopez portrays her in Selena (1997), a biopic about her life and career.


24a NTs {Windows options}. Presumably different versions of Windows NT are being referred to? Rather a weak answer and clue, especially as the NT brand is no longer used, even though it is the basis for e.g. Windows Vista and Windows 7. But what is the alternative? ... a reference to the Nevada Test Site (NTS) would be even more outdated.

Lane Bryant31a Bryant {Lane in a mall}. Lane Bryant is very familiar to me, as it's one of the places Magdalen shops for clothes, and they're always sending us stuff in the mail. Although I liked this misleading clue, Magdalen says the chain is gradually moving away from its traditional mall locations to standalone stores. I was surprised to see that Lane Bryant was founded as early as 1904 by Lena Himmelstein Bryant Malsin, becoming Lane Bryant as the result of a misspelling by a bank officer on their loan application.
25d Ahmad {Jamal of jazz}. As a big fan of Oscar Peterson, I've listened to many other jazz pianists over the years, including Ahmad Jamal. Jamal was one of Miles Davis's favorite pianists and was a key influence on the trumpeter's "First Great Quintet". Since the 1980s Jamal has regularly toured the major clubs of the United States and the large European jazz festivals. He is generally accompanied by bassist James Cammack and drummer Idris Muhammad

The Rest

1a teatros {Mexican play places}; 8a we did it! {Cry of accomplishment}; 15a once in a lifetime {Very rarely indeed}; 17a street musicians {They're often tipped on sidewalks}; 18a Seoul {Home of Samsung Tower Palace}; 19a Opels {Astra and Antara}; 20a lot {Often-improved thing}; 21a Insp. {P.D. rank}; 22a a vote {"Let's take ___"}; 23a Asti {Italian province or its capital}; 25a Adano {Title town in a 1945 Pulitzer-winning novel}; 26a run in {Drop by quickly}; 27a get there {Arrive}; 29a boring {[Yawn!]}; 30a champs {They may get belted}; 32a goes at {Charges}; 33a look-sees {Quick surveys}; 36a say to {Tell}; 37a or I {"... ___ will!"}; 38a odor {Podiatric problem}; 39a retch {Heave}; 41a Dir. {Mgmt. member}; 43a A Nest {"___ of Simple Folk" (Seán O'Faoláin novel)}; 44a made a mental note {Stored something for future use?}; 47a elephant trainer {Big-top worker with a big responsibility}; 48a Nerissa {Maid in "The Merchant of Venice"}; 49a screeds {Drawn-out dissertations}.

1d tossing {Sign of fitful sleep}; 2d entente cordiale {Summit success}; 3d across the border {Like an extradition transition}; 4d tee up {Start a hole}; 5d riel {Indochinese currency}; 6d Ont. {Bruce Peninsula locale: Abbr.}; 7d samovars {Some tearoom equipment}; 8d wise to {Hardly ignorant of}; 9d E-File {Option for one's return}; 10d Decs. {Fourth qtr. enders}; 11d it, I {"That's ___ quit!"}; 12d dials nine one one {Calls for a quick dispatch}; 13d I'm not interestd {"Try someone else"}; 14d testing {"1, 2, 3" lead-in}; 22d adept {More than capable}; 23d auras {Unseen surroundings}; 26d Royko {1972 Pulitzer winner for Commentary}; 28d Taser {Current device for a cop?}; 29d broth {Stock option}; 31d boycotts {Doesn't buy, in a way}; 34d sisters {Residents of some campus houses}; 39d Romas {Some tomatoes}; 40d innie {About 90% of people have one}; 42d rahs {Fan sounds}; 43d Alar {Poison apple creator?}; 45d epi- {Something left of center?}; 46d arc {Compass creation}.

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