Friday, February 12, 2010

NYT Saturday 2/13/10 - Something Fresh

I'm writing an abbreviated post today, and for the next few days, as we're off to the Boston area for a short break starting very early tomorrow.

This Saturday New York Times crossword took a lot longer than I feel it should have, given the central long answers now seem so obvious. Familiar with Us being a magazine, I though "You" probably was as well, and confidently put magazine at the end of 36-Across. If there isn't a "You" magazine, well there ought to be.

I eventually made best progress in the lower section, gradually working up from there. I finally got 36-Across and 7-Down in quick succession after 18 minutes. This didn't immediately unlock 20-Across, as I'd hoped, and I still made slow progress to completion, not helped by having into at 22-Across, making it difficult to recognize the obvious Claus at 9-Down (I stupidly assumed {Santa ___} could only refer to a place).

At the end, I had to mop up one trouble spot: allied at 34-Across, specifically the intersections with Edred and ASL. Once I figured Cuba and Venezuela must be allied, I was satisfied but had to check Wikipedia for a reminder that ASL is American Sign Language and not one of a myriad TV channel abbreviations.

honey badger 

There's some mightily obscure vocabulary in this grid, and maybe that's what the constructor is getting at with the clue to 20-Across. I felt lucky to know both zarf (1-Down) and ratel (46-Down) from crosswords in the UK.


I'm somewhat puzzled by 27d five-guinea {Like an old English coin worth 21 shillings}, as I thought a guinea was worth 21 shillings, meaning a five-guinea thing is worth 105 shillings. I may be rushing to conclusions here, but there seems to be something amiss with this clue.

10d hall {Long way?} is another clue I have problems understanding. Initially, I assumed the answer was haul ... another cause for problems in the top section; but once I got past that and realized hall was required, I still found it difficult to justify. Does "Long way?" reference hall as a "corridor or passage in a building"? In which case, I don't find that very convincing, even allowing for the question mark.

Finally, it's lovely to see a new Ott, one befitting an end-of-week puzzle. John Ott (1909-2000) abandoned a career in banking (a wise decision he shares with the great P.G. Wodehouse) to work as a photographer and cinematographer, pioneering many modern practices such as time-lapse photography and full-spectrum lighting. There's not too much of his work on YouTube, so here is some random time-lapse footage for you.

Solving time: 32 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 16a lasso {Stop from running, maybe}

Ashish Vengsarkar
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Three answers reflect on what we value in a grid:
20a fresh vocabulary {What 36-Acrosses and 7-Down appreciate}
36a crossword solver {You, e.g.}
7d cruciverbalists {You and others}
CompilersAshish Vengsarkar / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 34 (15.1%) black squares
Answers72 (average length 5.31)
Theme squares43 (22.5%)
Scrabble points290 (average 1.52)
Other Clues

1a Zorba {1968 hit musical with the song "Life Is"}; 6a ICC {Former transportation regulation agcy.}; 9a chaud {Hot: Fr.}; 14a a will {"Caesar, now be still: / I kill'd not thee with half so good ___": Brutus}; 15a try {Whirl}; 16a lasso {Stop from running, maybe}; 17a radio journalist {One making waves in the news business?}; 21a Asas {Gray and others}; 22a in as {Sworn ___ (officially given the role of)}; 23a OAS {Charter of Punta del Este grp.}; 25a ovo {Omne vivum ex ___ (all life [is] from eggs: Lat.)}; 26a of me {"For the life ___ ..."}; 30a set a date {Make plans to tie the knot}; 34a allied {Like Cuba and Venezuela, e.g.}; 38a aerate {Clear out}; 39a Bel Paese {Mozzarella alternative}; 40a romp {Cavort}; 41a can {Pen}; 42a GED {Community coll. prerequisite, maybe}; 43a coal {Big Utah export}; 45a Urdu {It's written right to left}; 48a mobile libraries {Ones with reading schedules}; 55a opening sentence {"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ...," e.g.}; 56a stein {50-Down holder}; 57a Ott {John who pioneered time-lapse photography}; 58a ewers {Some porcelain}; 59a torte {Patisserie order}; 60a NSA {Intelligence grp.}; 61a luaus {Parties with a whole lot of shaking going on}.

1d zarf {Cup holder}; 2d o' war {Man ___}; 3d ride a storm {Endure difficulties, with "out"}; 4d bliss {Paradise}; 5d aloha {Welcome to paradise?}; 6d I too {"Was ___ hard ...?"}; 8d Cyrano {Rostand hero}; 9d Claus {Santa ___}; 10d hall {Long way?}; 11d Asia {It's west of the Sea of Okhotsk}; 12d USSR {Former part of 11-Down: Abbr.}; 13d doty {Feeble-minded}; 18d JVs {Certain H.S. teams}; 19d NBA {Draft org.}; 23d Oscar {Academy offering}; 24d Aereo {___ di linea (flier to Italy)}; 25d Oto {Iowa relative}; 26d olla {Pot on a fire}; 28d Meese {Reagan cabinet member}; 29d Edred {Conqueror of Northumbria in 946}; 31d ASAP {Express letters?}; 32d DST {It ends in the fall: Abbr.}; 33d awe {Dazzle}; 34d ASL {It's sometimes seen in the corner of a TV screen: Abbr.}; 35d lop {Prune}; 37d den {___ mother}; 41d Calgon {Brand for the bath}; 43d Cline {Singer profiled in "Sweet Dreams"}; 44d oen- {Vintner's prefix}; 45d urn {Holder of a "leaf-fringed legend," to Keats}; 46d ratel {Honey badger}; 47d Drew U {Sch. in Madison, N.J.}; 48d most {___ of all}; 49d opto- {Prefix with -metry}; 50d beer {Contents of a 56-Across}; 51d in it {Questionnaire datum: Abbr.}; 52d beta {Not fully tested}; 53d ecru {Soft shade}; 54d sess. {Part of a committee sched.}.


Paul Keller said...

I laughed when I read this "took a lot longer than I feel it should have". It is now Tuesday, and I have just finished, with seven wrong. This was one of the most satisfying solving experiences I have had. It would not have happened without your blog. Among other points, I believe this is where I first heard the word cruciverbalist.

Please keep blogging. Your victory over the American crossword scene cannot be far off.

Crossword Man said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence Paul. I'm competing in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament next weekend, so we'll see how I actually compare. My ambition is to get into the top third - as a rookie last year I was placed 479 out of 674 competitors.

Glad you really enjoyed the puzzle despite its difficulties ... yes, I intend to continue blogging - comments like yours help me to keep going!

Mick White said...

"I'm somewhat puzzled by 27d five-guinea {Like an old English coin worth 21 shillings}, as I thought a guinea was worth 21 shillings, meaning a five-guinea thing is worth 105 shillings. I may be rushing to conclusions here, but there seems to be something amiss with this clue."

27. Like an old English coin worth 105 shillings : FIVEGUINEA

Maybe it was edited since its publication.

Crossword Man said...

Presumably the five-guinea clue was corrected for the syndicated puzzle. Thanks for letting me know.