Saturday, February 6, 2010

NYT Sunday 2/7/10 - Going Bowling

This supersized New York Times crossword puzzle for Super Bowl Sunday is a real tour de force of construction. Getting a sequence of 14 football terms that could work within a crossword grid and be woven into a narrative can't have been easy.

It reminds me a little of a bygone Listener Crossword style in which all the clues were fill-in-the-blanks (but the blanks in the narrative corresponded to the answers in a random order). Non-standard cluing like that has pretty much disappeared from the series of late, with cryptic clues of some kind being the norm.

I solved this crossword on my own, as Magdalen is away for the weekend in the 76d San {Francisco, e.g.} area. The puzzle seemed to take ages to finish, though I suspect that this was largely a result of the larger grid size ... 23x23 rather than the usual 21x21. The average difficulty level of the clues seemed about usual for a Sunday.

I found the NW and SW corners the most troublesome. It's not clear why, now that I look at them: 115-Across looks so straightforward and yet it took me ages to see quarterback ... an answer that unlocked the corner for me. In the NW it came down to some unfamiliar stuff and ambiguities like moth-eaten at 3-Down.

There were a few ancillary football references that I noticed (which probably means there are even more I'm unaware of): 54a Eli {N.F.L.'er Manning} references Eli Manning, younger brother of the Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning; 63a center {Hiker?} also seems significant. What did I miss?
Solving time: 46 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 15d dyed {Gone platinum?}

Patrick Berry
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


"The Football Fan". Theme clues form a narrative with fill-in-the-blank answers punningly derived from American football terminology. I'm using a slightly different clue format, with the answers shown in red, so you can read the complete story:
25a  The football fan is fingering the buttons on the remote ... he pushes the first down and the game is on!
28a He's prepared a Super Bowl of popcorn for himself ...
31a ... and he's got Budweiser and Michelob on tap - excellent draft picks!
48a Now he remembers setting $10 aside for pizza - he searches his jacket and finds it in the pocket
50a But he forgot to place the order - we may be looking at a late call here, folks
67a He phones the pizzeria and tells them he wants full cheese and mushroom coverage
73a The pizzeria's out of mushrooms, though, so he'll need to make a substitution
89a O.K., he's ordered the pizza - but now his wife is moving around in front of the TV, making screen passes!
96a He's looking for an opening, but she's doing a tremendous job of blocking!
113a Now he's spotted the pizza delivery boy, who's through the gate and crossing the yard line!
115a The pizza is $9.75 ... he hands the $10 off to the boy and waits for the quarter back
132a Now he's got the pizza - but the TV's showing nothing but snow! He quickly gives it an onside kick  ...
137a ... and it works - the reception is good!
141a His posterior goes all the way back into the easy chair - touchdown!
CompilersPatrick Berry / Will Shortz
Grid23x23 with 81 (15.3%) black squares
Answers170 (average length 5.27)
Theme squares136 (30.4%)
Scrabble points721 (average 1.61)
New To Me

78a Judd {Film producer Apatow}. Judd Apatow is an American film producer, director and screenwriter; particularly working in the comedy genre. His production company Apatow Productions also makes the critically acclaimed cult television series Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. Among his film work, I've seen The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) and Knocked Up (2007), which Judd also wrote and directed.

5d Mudd {Newsman Roger}. Roger Mudd is a veteran American journalist and news anchor. He's currently the primary anchor for The History Channel. Mudd is the recipient of the Peabody Award, the Joan Shorenstein Award for Distinguished Washington Reporting, and five Emmy Awards. Here he is talking about his first big break.

13d Abu {"Aladdin" monkey}. I gather Abu is a Disney monkey and not actually in the One Thousand and One Nights. He's a kleptomaniac sidekick to Aladdin, with a high-pitched voice done by Frank Welker. Here's the Much Abu About Something episode from the animated television series.

33d Kenner {Easy-Bake Oven introducer}. This had me fooled completely: unaware of the Kenner toy company, I thought the Easy-Bake Oven was a real one, even after solving the clue! Well it is actually real, in a way, since the product is a working oven, using an incandescent light bulb as the heat source. I do hope I can find a clip of this ... it sounds awesome:

93d Dirae {Another name for the Furies}. How many different names can the Furies have? I already knew of the Erinýes and the Eumenídes, both Greek forms. I gather Dirae is in fact "furies" in Latin, but why they should be less well known than their Greek counterparts I don't know. Where's DM when you need him ... hopefully fully recovered by now?

105a Sellers {"A Shot in the Dark" star, 1964}; 97d Clare {Quilty of "Lolita"}. Clare Quilty is Humbert Humbert's rival for Lolita's affection in the 1955 novel. In the movie of Lolita (1962), Quilty is portrayed by the great Peter Sellers, who also features in this puzzle as the star of the second Clouseau film.

John Rae17d anorak {Inuit jacket}; 108d Rae {Arctic explorer John}. John Rae (1813–1893) was the Scottish doctor who explored Northern Canada and surveyed parts of a Northwest Passage. Whilst working for the Hudson's Bay Company as a doctor, he became skilled in arctic travel and learned to live off the land like the Inuit. While exploring King William Island in 1853 Rae made contact with local Inuit, from whom he obtained much information about the fate of the lost Franklin Expedition. His report to the British Admiralty carried shocking and unwelcome evidence that cannibalism had been a last resort for some of the survivors.

The Rest

1a low {Despicable}; 4a Amman {World capital once called Philadelphia}; 9a CDs {Computer book inserts, often}; 12a card {Funny fellow}; 16a Dada {"Antiart" art}; 20a oro {Gold, to Goya}; 21a Cuomo {1980s-'90s New York governor}; 22a Lea {Actress Thompson}; 23a obey {Observe}; 24a anat. {Medical sch. topic}; 27a inn {Halfway house}; 30a temp {Crunch-time helper}; 34a ode {Form popular among the Romantics}; 35a RDA {No. on a food label}; 36a Snerd {Bergen dummy}; 38a yaw {Go off course}; 39a steeps {Thoroughly wets}; 41a vials {Perfumery bottles}; 43a t'ai chi {Eastern exercise}; 46a 'til {Up to, in brief}; 52a taloned {Like birds of prey}; 54a Eli {N.F.L.'er Manning}; 55a Utes {Mountain West Conference team}; 56a Ilie {Nastase of tennis}; 58a waned {Lost power}; 59a several {A number of}; 63a center {Hiker?}; 65a plunder {Pirate treasure}; 68a SOS {Castaway's call}; 70a in bed {Not up}; 71a Nader {Green man?}; 72a tom {Male meower}; 79a Spiro {Veep Agnew}; 81a Asia {Big holding in Risk}; 82a lenity {Mildness}; 83a Merrie {Like cartoon "Melodies"}; 85a Joan {Essayist Didion}; 86a hasn't {Lacks, briefly}; 88a apse {Vaulted recess}; 91a IBM {IntelliStation maker}; 92a ad rem {Pertinent, in Latin}; 94a Bucky {1978 World Series M.V.P. Dent}; 95a gin {Bronx cocktail ingredient}; 98a alloyed {Impure}; 100a cajole {Soft-soap}; 106a snafu {Muddled situation}; 107a Vera {Fashion's Wang}; 109a enow {Sufficient, once}; 110a AAA {Battery size}; 111a teacart {Wheeled table}; 119a tad {Wee bit}; 121a epilog {Novel ending}; 122a upper {Amphetamine, slangily}; 123a Ossian {Heroic poet of Gaelic legend}; 125a lid {Ceiling}; 127a ninja {Masked warrior}; 129a ABA {Org. that accredits law schools}; 130a -ist {Suffix with special}; 136a eras {Periods of time}; 140a toe {Corn site}; 143a Kahn {"It Had to Be You" lyricist}; 144a Anne {Sister of Charles}; 145a Abe {Actor Vigoda}; 146a Adlai {'52 campaign name}; 147a Lee {Gettysburg general}; 148a stet {Keep in}; 149a tied {Even}; 150a red {Bloodshot}; 151a tells {Unintentional poker table signals}; 152a ldr. {P.M. or pres.}.

1d lofts {Tosses high}; 2d orientate {Show the ropes}; 3d worm-eaten {Ratty}; 4d act {Play a part}; 6d moor {Shrubby wasteland}; 7d Amway {Direct-sales giant}; 8d non-fat {Light, say}; 9d clip {Movie snippet}; 10d Denis {Leary of TV's "Rescue Me"}; 11d sanctioned {Permissible}; 12d cosseted {Spoiled}; 14d repose {Lie peacefully}; 15d dyed {Gone platinum?}; 16d dab {Lotion amount}; 18d dawdle {Waste time}; 19d at last {After much delay}; 26d spriest {Most agile}; 29d revolvers {They're drawn in western scenes}; 32d twit {Nettlesome person}; 37d DCC {700, once}; 40d Ph.D. {High degree}; 42d icier {Slicker, in a way}; 44d hair-oil {Pomade}; 45d ill {Scarcely}; 47d Lawn-Boy {Brand name acquired by Toro}; 49d peeve {Vexation}; 50d Luc {French director Besson}; 51d lip {Crater's edge}; 53d laden {Carrying a lot}; 57d elitism {Snobbishness}; 59d sodding {Laying down the lawn}; 60d ratios {Sine and cosine}; 61d agorae {Old public squares}; 62d lemons {They may be on the verge of a breakdown}; 64d est {Id follower}; 66d unite {Make one}; 67d cadre {Core military group}; 69d Stearns {Bear's partner in investing}; 71d Nureyev {Frequent partner of Fonteyn}; 73d sahibs {Colonial "masters"}; 74d usable {Aidful}; 75d Bismol {"Pepto" go-with}; 77d unpeg {Remove a fastener from}; 78d jerky {Spasmodic}; 80d PJs {Some loungewear}; 83d McCourt {"'Tis" memoirist}; 84d epicarp {Fruit peel}; 87d take a trip {Vacation}; 89d sulfa {Kind of drug}; 90d Ana {Ivanovic of tennis}; 94d black as tar {Jet}; 98d Anacin {Motrin rival}; 99d dey {Old Ottoman title}; 101d jellied {One way to serve eel}; 102d onion roll {Bialy, e.g.}; 103d long-jawed {Having a big mouth?}; 104d ewe {She that is shorn}; 106d seasoned {Battle-scarred}; 111d TBS {Cable inits.}; 112d tale {Fireside recitation}; 114d din {Ruckus}; 115d quarks {Up and down}; 116d upbeat {Optimistic}; 117d Apache {Iraq War helicopter}; 118d rotini {Salad pasta}; 120d diktat {Harsh decree}; 124d Niobe {Daughter of Tantalus}; 126d diode {Part of L.E.D.}; 128d Asner {Actor Ed}; 131d stat! {"Now!"}; 133d deed {Exploit}; 134d cull {Get the best of}; 135d kcal {Food energy unit: Abbr.}; 138d ent {Talking tree of Middle-earth}; 139d one {Letterless phone button}; 142d his {Greetings}.


Paul Keller said...

Could you say a little more about the heuristics you employ for uncertain crossings? In this grid I stumbled on 55a/50d, 107a/108d, and 92a/93d, not to mention a few I could have more easliy avoided.

In looking up an explanation for the answer to 64d ("[Id] est") I came across a list of latin phrases that could be worth perusing:

Crossword Man said...

If I'm backed into a corner, I just go through all the letters of the alphabet till I find the one that looks best. A letter sequence that makes a real word is much more promising than one that doesn't, even if you can't rationalize the clue. Sometimes in doing this exercise, you finally see through a misleading clue for the first time.

I have to say I got lucky with this particular puzzle and didn't need to do the above (it's so exceptional, I normally mention it in the narrative at the start of the post). I knew Luc [Besson] and Utes (from previous puzzles); I knew ad rem, but not Dirae; I knew Vera [Wang] (from previous puzzles), but not [John] Rae.

Old hands just know the limited number of ways short answers can be clued. I've been gradually assimilating these in the past year.

Thanks for the useful list of Latin phrases.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that 3 down is correct as 'motheaten'. I found 'wormeaten' to work for me.

Crossword Man said...

Yes. My point was that I fell into the trap of putting in moth-eaten - a perfectly reasonable answer to the clue, except that it doesn't fit and worm-eaten does!