Wednesday, February 10, 2010

NYT Thursday 2/11/10 - Happy Birthday, Mr. President

I got off to a great start with this Thursday New York Times crossword, spotting the key clue at 62-Across early on and guessing Abraham Lincoln from the first few letters of the diagonal. Then, even with my limited knowledge of American History, I was able to fill in the other theme answers ... incorrectly in the case of 60-Across (Abe had to be a Democrat, surely?) but I corrected that ere long.

Proud of myself for that, I thought I'd finish in under 10 minutes. But it seems The Powers That Be expected everyone to do what I did and made the other clues tougher accordingly. It was interesting to see a smattering of Presidential references elsewhere ... let's see how well I do here: Eugene V. Debs (10-Across), 2000 Presidential election (17-Across), outvote (38-Across), Ross Perot (56-Across). What did I miss?

There were a couple of potential trouble spots: not knowing Debs at 10-Across, I contemplated Dens instead, as nurl is certainly in my dictionary as a variant of knurl, hence plausibly definable as {Knot}. But I figured burl more likely (also Debs seemed a more likely surname than Dens, but not by much).

I also considered the possibility of Sis for the Mamma Mia! song at 44-Across, requiring opti- as the {Vision: Prefix} at 31-Down. Here I went by vague memories of the ABBA song S.O.S. and the thought that there are many more forms with opto- as a prefix than opti-.
Solving time: 13 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 53d hello {Cry at a canyon}

Peter A. Collins
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Long answers are clued via 62-Down and relate to Abraham Lincoln, who appears on the NW-SE diagonal.
62d Abe {Nickname of the man (born 2/12/1809) who gave the address at 18A (Gettysburg), issued the 28A/45A (Emancipation Proclamation), was the first elected president of the 60A (Republican) Party, and whose name can be found in this puzzle's main diagonal}
CompilersPeter A. Collins / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 37 (16.4%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.82)
Theme squares58 (30.9%)
Scrabble points289 (average 1.54)
New To Me

Debs10a Debs {Third-place presidential candidate of 1920 who ran his campaign from jail}. Had to consider the options here carefully in conjunction with 12-Down. Debs and Dens seemed more likely than Deps (always favor a dictionary word answer) but burl trumped nurl in the down (the latter being a variant spelling of the more common knurl). Eugene V. Debs (1855–1926) was an American union leader and the standard-bearer for socialism in the US. He ran for President in every election from 1900 to 1920; Debs ran his 1920 campaign from jail because he had been imprisoned after being arrested and convicted under the Espionage Act of 1917 during the First Red Scare for speaking against American involvement in World War I.
17a Dern {2009 Golden Globe winner for "Recount"}. I should know Laura Dern's name a lot better than I do, as I'm familiar with her roles in Blue Velvet (1986), and Jurassic Park (1993). In Recount (2008), a political drama about the 2000 Presidential election, she portrays Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris.

25a Ian {___ Hunter, leader of rock's Mott the Hoople}. I'm familiar with Mott the Hoople mainly for All the Young Dudes which was commonly heard through study walls during my teen years at school. I wasn't aware of the personnel behind their songs: Ian Hunter was their lead singer throughout the band's history, including a 2009 reunion. You have to wonder how a name like "Mott the Hoople" came about ... oh yes, the Willard Manus novel of the same name, which producer Guy Stevens wished on the group; the same guy named Procol Harum after a friend's Burmese cat. With the benefit of hindsight, I can't say these were bad names at all.

Mercedes SL43a SLs {Classic Mercedes roadsters}. Had to get this one from crossings, as a Mercedes SL wouldn't really be our style (or more to the point, would be out of our price range). This roadster has been manufactured since 1954 and gone through numerous engine configurations spanning five design generations. It is considered one of the world's safest sport vehicles.
44a S.O.S. {Song from "Mamma Mia!"}. Another one from crossings, though here I had vague memories of S.O.S. as an ABBA hit, which makes sense in terms of Mamma Mia! the musical. In the 2008 Mamma Mia! film adaptation, the song is performed by the unlikely pairing of Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan.

Nash Ambassador51a Nash {Ambassador of old autodom}. "autodom" is a nice coinage ... I've not seen that before. The Nash Ambassador was the senior line of Nash automobiles from 1932 until 1957. From 1958 until the end of the 1974 model year, the Ambassador was the product of American Motors Corporation (AMC), which continued to use the Ambassador model name on its top-of-the-line models. From 1927 through the mid-1932 model year, the Ambassador name was applied to a high trim club sedan body style, one of Nash's most prestigious senior models.
6d Ere {"Maid of Athens, ___ We Part" (Byron poem)}. Another boost to the theory that poetry is only dragged in to clue poetical forms ... waiting for the double bluff with a fill-in-the-blank leading to a totally innocuous word like are or use or the. Maid of Athens, ere we part was written in 1810 and is dedicated to a young girl of Athens. Each stanza ends with a Greek refrain, translating as "My life, I love you!". According to one researcher, the Maid was the 12-year-old Teresa Macri, the daughter of Mrs. Tarsia Macri, at whose house Byron lodged briefly in 1809 and in February 1810.
Maid of Athens, ere we part,
Give, oh, give back my heart!
Or, since that has left my breast,
Keep it now, and take the rest!
Hear my vow before I go,
Ζωή μου, σᾶς ἀγαπῶ.
From Maid of Athens by Lord Byron
27d Être {Sartre's "L'___ et le Néant"}. The English version is Being and Nothingness. I can't say a title like that inspires me to dip in for a closer look.

39d voce {Mezza ___}. Mezza voce is a term I'd heard of, but would have struggled to define. It means "half voice", a direction to sing at half strength. Not to be confused with messa di voce ("placing the voice") which is a vocal technique involving a gradual crescendo and decrescendo while sustaining a single pitch. Here are some exercises to help your mezza voce from tenor Franco Tenelli.

52d shogi {Japanese chess}. I hadn't realized until today just how many different variants of chess there are and how many are still popular. Shogi (rhymes with yogi) is the most popular of several Japanese versions of the game. It includes a rather handy "drop rule" that allows captured pieces to be returned to the board on your side. Shogi is played on a 9x9 board.


Timothy Leary5a Leary {1960s trip taker}. I knew Timothy Leary (1920–1996) not least because of him being the subject of a Listener Crossword during my time as editor, his catchphrase Turn on, tune in, drop out being the inspiration for thematic transformations of answers.
19d St Paul {Home for "A Prairie Home Companion"}. A Prairie Home Companion is one of my favorite shows and I was listening to recordings of it on tape, and anthologies of "News from Lake Wobegon", many years before arriving in the US. I gather the program is usually recorded in Saint Paul, Minnesota, though it often seems to be on the road. Here's the trailer for the 2006 movie, which I remember seeing with Magdalen. Wow, I see the cast includes Meryl Streep again ... she gets everywhere!

The Rest

1a atmo- {Spherical beginning?}; 14a CBer {Handle user}; 15a Artoo {Character in all six "Star Wars" films, informally}; 16a aqua {Shade at the beach?}; 20a cacaos {Tropical trees}; 22a riot {Hoot}; 23a ale {Pub pour}; 24a myth {What unicorns live in}; 26a pet {Kind of project}; 33a HRs {DH's often have many}; 36a EMT {First responder, for short}; 37a Europa {Moon of Jupiter}; 38a outvote {Beat in a race}; 41a aplenty {Galore}; 42a shoo-in {Lock}; 49a der {Article in the German constitution}; 50a Ira {He wrote lyrics, by George!}; 54a ASU {Pac-10 sch.}; 56a USNA {H. Ross Perot's alma mater: Abbr.}; 58a itches {Yens}; 63a hole {Course component}; 64a mats {Small rugs}; 65a ameba {One-celler}; 66a ogle {Eye}; 67a sloe {___-eyed}; 68a wanes {Ebbs}; 69a Sion {Capital of Valais}.

1d AC/DC {"___ Live," 1992 multiplatinum album}; 2d T-beam {Letter-shaped bridge support}; 3d mercy {It's sometimes given to prisoners}; 4d ornate {Florid}; 5d lags {Problems in synchronization}; 7d attract {Draw}; 8d rotini {Twists in a trattoria}; 9d yo-yo {Fluctuate}; 10d dab {Bit}; 11d equations {Some memorization for a physics test}; 12d burl {Knot}; 13d sage {Stuff in stuffing, often}; 21d ohm {Measure of resistance}; 25d in Me {"She Believes ___" (Kenny Rogers hit)}; 29d Aetna {Insurance giant}; 30d Pepsi {Brand whose ads once featured Michael Jackson}; 31d opto- {Vision: Prefix}; 32d nays {Bill blockers}; 33d hosp. {I.C.U. locale}; 34d Ruhr {Essen's region}; 35d stood up to {Challenged}; 40d oil rub {Masseuse's offering}; 41d Alta {Utah ski resort}; 43d Saracen {Crusader's foe}; 46d minima {Nadirs}; 47d Ont. {Mich. neighbor}; 48d nachos {Bowl game bowlful, maybe}; 53d hello {Cry at a canyon}; 54d arms {Venus de Milo knock-offs?}; 55d seal {Caulk}; 57d slaw {Salad alternative}; 58d in as {Much precedent?}; 59d seen {Eyed}; 61d use {Milk}.

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