Wednesday, February 17, 2010

NYT Thursday 2/18/10 - Key Lines

There seems to be a big step up in difficulty with this Thursday New York Times crossword, which took me nearly twice as long as Wednesday's. That wasn't a consequence of the theme, as it might have been on some other Thursdays, but due to a toughening up of the cluing.

I have a small issue with the theme, which I reckon betrays a bias towards Apple computer hardware: there is no Option key on the IBM PC keyboard and derivatives. This didn't hold me up particularly, but it might have been better to go for Delete or Tab instead, assuming that were possible. At any rate, I rather envied those solvers typing in the solution at an actual Mac keyboard (it wasn't that much harder solving on paper though).

The real difficulties of the puzzle lay, for me, in the SW and NE corners. What these have in common is answers with unexpected letter sequences: PG-Thirteen and St. John - such entries always present a bit of a nightmare for the solver and the constructor seems to be wise to this. Net Wt. might have also caused trouble at one time, but I've now seen it enough not to be fazed.
Solving time: 19 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 24d role {King Henry V, e.g.}

Caleb Madison
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Long answers start with the name of a key on a computer keyboard, as indicated by 56d keys {PC things, which can be found at the starts of 14-, 22-, 37-, 46- and 61-Across}.
14a shift gears {Go into a new mode}
22a escape artist {One in chains, maybe}
37a Return of the Jedi {1983's highest-grossing film}
46a control freak {Bossy sort}
61a option play {Gridiron ploy}
CompilersCaleb Madison / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers74 (average length 5.11)
Theme squares62 (32.8%)
Scrabble points301 (average 1.59)
New To Me

senioritis17a senioritis {Almost-grad's "disease"}. It helped that the clue pretty much spelled out what was required: apparently senioritis is a term for the decreased motivation exhibited by seniors at high school, college and graduate school. "Senior" isn't used in this sense in the UK, but in the boarding school where I was incarcerated we had end-of-term-itis - the feeling that you could break the rules with greater abandon just before going home, because of the reduced chance of any consequences.
34a Tim {Title twin brother of 15-Down};  15d Topsy {Title twin sister in a series of children's books by Jean and Gareth Adamson}. The Topsy and Tim books first appeared in 1960; since then over 130 titles have been published with sales of more than 21 million. 
5d agric. {U.S.D.A. part: Abbr.}. I thought I knew what USDA was about, so first put in dairy and then assoc ... wrong on both counts. USDA is short for the United States Department of Agriculture. I must have had USDA beef grading in mind ... about the only context in which USDA impacts me.


Bodmin Moor28a moor {Cornwall feature}. A raised eyebrow from this Brit for cluing moor with respect to Cornwall, when moors are (to my mind) more associated with next-door Devon, which has the famous Dartmoor and a lot of Exmoor. I certainly had rias to begin with, as that seemed the most likely four-letter feature of the county. Actually I see I'm wrong about this, as we'll no doubt discover when we visit Cornwall in just over two weeks: Cornwall has Bodmin Moor in the northeast of the county; we will be staying on the ria-girt Roseland Peninsula.

57a NATO {Intl. group whose initials in English and French are reversed}. "French" in the clue made me think of Médecins Sans Frontières. I couldn't imagine anyone wanting to change the NATO acronym, but it appears the backward-thinking French like to call it Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique Nord (OTAN). Kudos to the constructor(s) for exploiting this neat cluing opportunity.

Tino Martinez3d Tino {Ex-Yankee Martinez}. In theory I knew Tino Martinez from when he was featured last March. However, I didn't recall the name and had to deduce it from crossings. BUT at least I got the forename right ... last time I had him as Nino! Tino Martinez is a retired first baseman who played for several teams over his career, notably the New York Yankees from 1996-2001 and the 2005 season. During his career, he  scored over 900 runs, drove in 1271 runs, and hit 339 home runs. He has had 100 RBIs in six seasons and has been on the All-Star team twice. My lack of sports knowledge is what worries me the most heading into the ACPT this weekend.

11d PG-Thirteen {Like the movies "10,000 B.C." and "2012"}. futuristic fitted, which would work for the latter movie, and I wondered if there was a general term for a drama set in a different time period. When it looked like the answer would start PGT, I was momentarily concerned, but then saw what was going on. However, I'm not a big fan of this answer, because the film rating would normally be rendered PG-13, right? Hence the answer PG-Thirteen seems inferior and I have the same objections to US-One as an answer. 10,000 BC is a 2008 historical film and 2012 is a 2009 sci-fi disaster movie; both were directed by Roland Emmerich.

27d Pat Benatar {Singer with the second video ever played on MTV}. Not knowing Pat Benatar well really held me up in the SW corner, though I recognized the name eventually. Her music video You Better Run was the second video aired by MTV; its debut video being an apt selection, The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star". Pat is one of music's top-selling female artists with hit songs such as "Love Is a Battlefield", "Hit Me with Your Best Shot", "We Belong" and "Heartbreaker".

44d St. John {Bond girl Jill}. Another answer with a surprising start, but I was onto this one faster than PG-Thirteen. Jill St. John played Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever (1971), one of my fav Bond movies ... Charles Gray, cars driving on their sides, Bambi and Thumper, a moon buggy chase ... what more could you want?

58d Doc {"Recipient" of a Bugs Bunny question}. As in "what's up Doc?" of course. How did that catchphrase come about? It was included by director Tex Avery in his first Bugs Bunny short, 1940's A Wild Hare. Avery explained later that it was a common expression in his native Texas and that he did not think much of it. When the short was first screened in theaters, the "What's up, Doc?" scene generated a tremendously positive audience reaction. As a result, it became a recurring element in subsequent films and cartoons, accompanied by the ubiquitous carrot-chewing.

The Rest

1a Act I {Start in literature}; 5a arête {Alpine feature}; 10a span {Stretch}; 16a ogle {Leer at}; 18a at it {Have ___}; 19a two {"Table for ___?"}; 20a pin-up {Bunny photo}; 21a Shaw {Who wrote "Hell is full of musical amateurs"}; 25a empty {Like some promises}; 29a beat {Bushed}; 30a amoral {Unconcerned with scruples}; 40a OTB {Alternative to a day at the races?: Abbr.}; 41a E-ZPass {Northeastern toll road convenience}; 42a eens {Poetic times}; 43a Esai {Morales in Hollywood}; 45a or not {Second-guessers' words}; 52a E maj. {What Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 is written in: Abbr.}; 53a doest {Execute, archaically}; 54a A-OK {Swell}; 58a don't tell me {"Shh! I know this"}; 60a shah {Onetime Asian autocrat}; 62a earn {Net}; 63a cases {Social worker's workload}; 64a sirs {Formal letter opening}.

1d asst. {___ prof.}; 2d chew {Consider, with "on"}; 4d If I {Elvis Presley's "___ Can Dream"}; 6d reina {Isabel, por ejemplo}; 7d eat up {Avidly accept}; 8d tripe {Rubbish}; 9d -ess {Quaint occupational suffix}; 10d so as to {Such that one might}; 12d alias {Handle}; 13d net wt. {Food box abbr.}; 22d et tu {Words from the betrayed}; 23d amahs {Asian nannies}; 24d role {King Henry V, e.g.}; 25d Ebro {River through Logroño and Aragon}; 26d meet {Have an engagement (with)}; 30d Anzio {W.W. II battleground}; 31d mop {Challenge for a hairstylist}; 32d of A {U.S. ___}; 33d RTs {Some linemen: Abbr.}; 35d I'd no {"___ idea!"}; 36d mist {Spray setting}; 38d rear {Full moon view?}; 39d Jerk {Steve Martin comedy, with "The"}; 45d oaten {Like some straw}; 46d cense {Perfume}; 47d Omaha {Nebraska tribe}; 48d L-dopa {Treatment for Parkinson's}; 49d fonts {Times and others}; 50d retie {Fix, as a knot}; 51d estos {These, to Julio}; 54d All I {"___ Have" (#1 Jennifer Lopez hit)}; 55d Omar {___ Little, "The Wire" antihero}; 59d LPs {Wax things, for short}.


Anonymous said...

53A: Shouldn't that have been "executes"? And 61A/56D: There is no Option key on a PC; that's a Mac feature.

Crossword Man said...

Hi Anon. Thanks for the info on the Option key.

Isn't doest second person singular, so the clue is saying "thou doest" is equivalent to "you execute"? I'm no expert on this, so you may be right (but if so, I don't understand how).