Monday, February 22, 2010

NYT Tuesday 2/23/10 - Ups and Downs

The unusual thematic implementation of this Tuesday New York Times crossword was very refreshing. I've not been solving the NYT puzzle for long, so I hesitate to say this is completely original idea, but I don't remember anything like it in the last year or so. I've tried to give the different landform shapes the prominence they deserve with a change to the usual grid illustration below.

Spotting 68-Across quite quickly (it's orphaned at the top of a column in the AcrossLite printout, so stands out) I decided to start in the SE corner and fairly soon got landforms. Working to the left, mountain was the first shape I got and seeing what was afoot, I correctly predicted plain and cliff. I got the other three shapes from regular solving, but mesa, valley and plateau seemed completely reasonable. What a great idea!

Apropos of 42a yenta, I was surprised to learn the other day that yenta in the clued sense isn't an old Yiddish term, but originated as recently as the 1920's: the humorist Jacob Adler, writing under his pen name B. Kovner, created the archetypal yenta in a Broadway play entitled Yenta Telebenta (Yenta being a Yiddish female name).

I uncharacteristically knew the traitorfounding father Richard Henry Lee (see 45-Down) through 1776, The Musical. Mr. Lee gets one of the most memorable songs in the show. We saw it first at the Cidermill Playhouse and then watched the DVD with our British friend Henry.

It was also amusing to see my name in the grid via Ross Sea (59d and 46a). I can trace my ancestry back to Rosses on my mother's side (how I came to be called Ross in the first place), but I'm not sure how (if at all) I'm related to the Antarctic explorer Sir James Clark Ross.
Solving time: 8 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 1d Avis {Dollar competitor}
Solution

Joanne Sullivan
Grid art by Sympathy 

Theme

The squares with circles (green in the above grid) approximate the shape of various 68a landforms {Geographical features ... or what the circled squares in this puzzle represent}. From top to bottom, cliff, plateau, valley, mesa, plain, mountain.

Crucimetrics
CompilersJoanne Sullivan / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares(not meaningful)
Scrabble points267 (average 1.41)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



18a Alfie {"What's it all about, ___?"}. Not having seen either the original 1966 Alfie starring Michael Caine, or the recent remake with Jude Law, this had to come from crossings. The clue quotes a lyric from the title song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Originally sung by Cher, the later movie features Joss Stone with a new version of the song - I assume that's the one behind the above slide show.

The Doctor is IN

31a mat {Grappling site}. Wrestling.

52a Alouette {Song whose title is repeated before and after "gentille" in its first line}. Alouette.

56a Muir {John who wrote "My First Summer in the Sierra"}. John Muir, Sierra Club founder.

1d Avis {Dollar competitor}. Car rental companies Dollar and Avis.

3d Ella {First name of the First Lady of Song}. Ella Fitzgerald.

22d Vic {Trader ___ (restaurant eponym)}. Trader Vic's is named after the supposed inventor of the Mai Tai.

30d estate {Brideshead, for one}. The Flyte family home in Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.

31d Maria {Mrs. Arnold Schwarzenegger}. Maria Shriver.

45d Lee {Founding father Richard Henry ___}. "My name is Richard Henry Lee; Virginia is my home".

51d Celia {Salsa singer Cruz}. Celia Cruz.

53d Lema {Champagne Tony of golf}. Tony Lema died tragically young in an aircraft accident.

62d Lon {Cambodia's ___ Nol}. The palindromic Lon Nol.

Image of the Day

25a yin {Half of the tai chi symbol}. The black and white symbol seems oddly appropriate for referencing in crosswords, and yin and yang references do occur aplenty in the cruciverse. The name tai chi (chuan) supposedly derives from the Taijitu symbol shown above and commonly known in the West as the "yin-yang" diagram. Tai chi chuan is therefore said in literature preserved in its oldest schools to be a study of yin (receptive) and yang (active) principles.

Other Clues

1a apertures {Camera openings}; 10a sabot {Wooden shoe}; 15a Valentine {Patron of the hearts?}; 16a clime {Weather of a region}; 17a ill at ease {Fidgety}; 19a spam {Too much of e-mail}; 20a updrafts {They lift kites}; 22a vase {Bouquet holder}; 26a et eliae {And other women: Lat.}; 30a e'en {Day's end, to a poet}; 34a mess calls {"Come and get it" signals in the Army}; 36a glacé {Candied, as fruits}; 38a MPAA {Org. that approves trailers}; 39a seats {Is a maître d' for, say}; 41a Erin {Hibernia}; 42a yenta {Busybody}; 44a chaplains {Service leaders in the service}; 46a sea {See 59-Down}; 47a not {"Ready or ___ ..."}; 49a teenage {Like most promgoers}; 50a gnu {Wildebeest}; 51a cede {Grant}; 60a Leo IX {Sainted 11th-century pope}; 61a alludes to {References}; 65a ample {Having plenty to spare}; 66a lionesses {Den mothers}; 67a SASEs {Wedding invitation encls.}.

2d palp {Sensory appendage}; 4d ream {500 sheets}; 5d TNT {Blast producer}; 6d Ute {Colorado tribe}; 7d ria {Narrow inlet}; 8d ensue {Come after}; 9d seep {Trickle (through)}; 10d scaring {Halloween activity}; 11d Allan {Edgar ___ Poe}; 12d Biff {"Back to the Future" bully}; 13d omit {Not mention}; 14d tees {Caddie's bagful}; 21d dye {Tint}; 23d AAAs {Some batteries}; 24d select {Grade of beef}; 26d Emmys {Outstanding Miniseries and Outstanding Drama Series}; 27d tepee {Conical dwelling}; 28d asana {Yoga position}; 29d LSAT {Exam with sections known as "arguments," for short}; 32d acing {Getting an A+ on}; 33d tense {Uptight}; 35d lah {"Well,___-di-dah!"}; 37d lean {Meager}; 40d sped {Hightailed it}; 43d annexes {Extensions}; 48d out {No longer fashionable}; 50d guile {Slyness}; 52d alas! {"Lackaday!"}; 54d oops! {"Well, that was stupid of me!"}; 55d tall {Like most N.B.A. players}; 56d meso- {Prefix with -zoic}; 57d USSR {CCCP, in English}; 58d item {Line-___ veto}; 59d Ross {With 46-Across, Antarctic waters}; 63d und {"Tristan ___ Isolde"}; 64d DEF {3, on a telephone}.

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