Monday, February 8, 2010

NYT Tuesday 2/9/10 - Hot Cha Cha Cha

This Tuesday New York Times crossword was another nice straightforward one to continue the easier than average start to the week. The thematic repetition really helped you make ground quickly: I realized what was going on very early and used the knowledge aggressively, targeting the theme answers immediately (if I don't see a theme early, my strategy is usually to give priority to solving downs as the best means of progress).

Even with my limited experience of puzzles in the US, I reckon I've seen at least one with a similar theme, but I think it's one that bears repeating. I wonder if it would be possible with repeating four-letter groups ... viscous couscous anyone?

There was one particular trouble spot with this grid, caused (as usual) by crossing proper names: my first instinct about 37-Across {Mississippi senator Cochran} and 32-Down {Lesley of "60 Minutes"} was to put a C at the crossing, but that was entirely based on the across answer; when I considered both, it really had to be a T. This was a case where I made a guess but was still 99% confident of being right.
Solving time: 8 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 12d eye {Part of a storm or a potato}
Solution

Robert Cirillo
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Two word phrases in which the same three-letter fragment is doubled in the second word and appears at the end of the first word:
20a Lisbon bonbon {Chocolate candy from Portugal?}
32a sober Berber {African nomad who hasn't had a thing to drink?}
41a Incan cancan {Lively Indian dance?}
54a bottom tomtom {Drum that's under all the others?}
Crucimetrics
CompilersRobert Cirillo / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.92)
Theme squares46 (24.6%)
Scrabble points298 (average 1.59)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

Thad Cochran37a Thad {Mississippi senator Cochran}. My first thought was Chad, but that made the unlikely surname Scahl for 32-Down. I quickly saw Thad would work great and didn't consider any other letters at the crossing. Thad Cochran is the senior Senator, a Republican.
46a Cahn {"High Hopes" lyricist Sammy}. A case where I'd heard of the song, but am much less familiar with the lyricist. High Hopes was introduced in the 1959 film A Hole In The Head, winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song in the same year. It was popularized by Ol' Blue Eyes. This was just one of four Oscar-winning songs for Sammy Cahn (1913–1993).



8d A Son {"___ of the Sun" (Jack London novel)}. I mainly think of Jack London (1876–1916) as writing stories about animals, from the one book of his I've read (or heard an adaptation of) - The Call of the Wild. However, it seems the author also wrote sea stories, a staple of literature of the period and A Son of the Sun is in that category, being eight short stories centering on "the thrilling exploits of Captain David Grief in the dangerous and exotic South Seas".

11d sax {Instrument for Kenny G}. Kenny G sounded like a jazz man, so I tried sax, the only three-letter jazz instrument I could think of and it worked! Kenny G is the stage name of Kenneth Bruce Gorelick whose fourth album, Duotones, brought him breakthrough success in 1986. His main instrument is the soprano sax, but he also plays alto and tenor. Here's The Moment, which seems well removed from mainstream jazz - Kenny G is usually classified as smooth jazz.



32d Stahl {Lesley of "60 Minutes"}. Potentially troublesome given the crossing with Thad at 37-Across, I ended up with few doubts about my guess at T for the crossing letter - it just felt perfect for the two names. Lesley Stahl is an American TV journalist who has worked on the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes since 1991. Here's her interview for the Archive of American Television:



53d Emmet {Irish patriot Robert}. Robert Emmet (1778–1803) led a rebellion against British rule in 1803 and was captured, tried and executed for high treason. I get a sense of having written this before, but since there was a succession of such incidents during Ireland's troubled history, it could be I'm thinking of Erskine Childers or indeed someone else. Emmet is remembered for his Speech from the Dock, delivered after he was sentenced to death, which ends thus:
Let no man write my epitaph; for as no man who knows my motives dare now vindicate them, let not prejudice or ignorance, asperse them. Let them and me rest in obscurity and peace, and my tomb remain uninscribed, and my memory in oblivion, until other times and other men can do justice to my character. When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then and not till then, let my epitaph be written. I have done.
57d Las {The Shangri-___ ("Leader of the Pack" group)}. Another song I knew, thanks to its characteristic motorcycle revving sound, but I had no clue about the group and was surprised to find Leader of the Pack was recorded as early as 1964. The Shangri-Las was a girl band whose members all went to High School in Cambria Heights, part of Queens, NY.  Legend has it that a motorcycle was driven through the lobby of a hotel and up to the floor of the recording studio for authenticity, but lead singer Mary Weiss admitted decades later that the motorcycle sound was taken from an effects record.



Noteworthy

60a unit {See 61-Across}; 61a atom {Molecular 60-Across}; 63a byte {60-Across of computer memory}. Is it my imagination, or is such cross-referencing fairly rare in American crosswords? I think I read somewhere that it can be unpopular, since failure to get the key word (unit here) can really hold you up. That didn't happen in this case for me.

The Rest

1a PSAT {Warm-up for the college-bound}; 5a cava {Vena ___ (blood line to the heart)}; 9a upset {Victory overcoming 100-to-1 odds, e.g.}; 14a hemi- {Prefix with sphere}; 15a odes {Horatian verses}; 16a Playa {___ del Rey, Calif.}; 17a imam {Shiite leader}; 18a roto- {Lead-in to tiller}; 19a taxed {Put a duty on}; 23a essence {Gist}; 24a apeman {Missing link, possibly}; 28a Roo {Milne hopper}; 29a get a {"___ grip!"}; 31a ELO {"Don't Bring Me Down" grp.}; 36a Dem. {Rep. rival}; 38a to a {Generous ___ fault}; 39a iota {Small amount}; 40a abs {Tummy muscles}; 45a hoi {___ polloi}; 47a Hut {Pizza ___}; 48a lycées {French schools}; 50a satiate {Fill and then some}; 57a Lt Gov {No. 2 in the statehouse}; 62a as one {How a bride and groom leave the altar, metaphorically}; 64a tale {"Treasure Island," for one}; 65a satyr {Lecher}; 66a Axel {Required element in many figure skating competitions}; 67a erst {Lead-in to while}.

1d -phile {Lover: Suffix}; 2d semis {They're followed by the finals}; 3d amass {Heap up}; 4d timbered {Filled with trees}; 5d corn-cob {Pipe material for Frosty the Snowman}; 6d Adobe {Acrobat software maker}; 7d veto {Presidential "no"}; 9d up to par {Feeling well}; 10d plane {Vehicle that taxis}; 12d eye {Part of a storm or a potato}; 13d tad {Small amount}; 21d on or {___ about (approximately)}; 22d bate {Diminish}; 25d Médoc {French red wine}; 26d Aleta {Prince Valiant's wife}; 27d no man {"What God has joined together, let ___ put asunder"}; 29d groan {What a lame joke might elicit}; 30d Eban {Israeli statesman Abba}; 33d oh boy! {"Wow!"}; 34d basic {Like the A B C's}; 35d etch {Prepare a commemorative plate, say}; 39d intimate {Very close friend}; 41d ice over {Freeze up}; 42d Nast {Condé ___ (magazine publisher)}; 43d chattel {Movable article of personal property}; 44d auto {Garage occupant}; 49d ebony {Black key material}; 50d smite {Whack, biblically}; 51d attar {Fragrant oil}; 52d tools {What a poor workman blames, in a saying}; 55d tuba {Marching band instrument}; 56d onyx {Common cameo stone}; 58d TSA {Airport screening org.}; 59d got {"___ milk?"}.

5 comments:

Daniel Myers said...

Jack London is an odd sort of author to be in my literary pantheon, yet he is, mostly for two autobiographical works: John Barleycorn and Martin Eden, particularly the latter. It's good to be back.:-)

Crossword Man said...

Glad to have you back :-) Trust the recovery from the op is going OK ... sounds like the convalescence took longer than hoped?

It's coming back to me now that I mentioned John Barleycorn in the August 1, 2009 post as including the first recorded use of "pink elephants". Some claim to fame! Martin Eden sounds the more interesting book of the two.

Daniel Myers said...

Thanks, Ross. Yes, Martin Eden is indeed the much more interesting book of the two and, sadly, the much more neglected.

And yes again, the convalescence took far longer than expected. I developed septicaemia and had to be put back in hospital for an even longer period of time. But all is well at present. The only danger now, I suppose, is that of catching sight of pink elephants as I wean myself from the pain medication the doctors have prescribed!

Magdalen said...

How straitlaced, Daniel -- why can't you be more colorful and develop a discreet drug addiction that doesn't a) break any laws, b) impair your ability to function, and c) ruin your finances, but still makes you much more dark & twisty?

But if you have to be the boy scout and wean yourself from the pain meds, well, then you must. I blame your superior public school education for those squeaky clean values...

Daniel Myers said...

Is there such a drug that meets all the above contradictory criteria? - In any event, I certainly wouldn't blame Winchester for making me strait-laced, if indeed I am.

But I DO have to wean myself from these pain meds, boy scout though it makes me.