Tuesday, February 2, 2010

NYT Wednesday 2/3/10 - Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

Although I don't have kids, the theme of this Wednesday New York Times crossword seems eerily familiar. Did I really say those things? I like the way the theme answers form a dialog, with the parent's lines written across and the child's line written down. A simple, but cute, idea.

The top part of the grid went in relatively smoothly, and having theme answers with a repeating word (your in this case) is always a bonus for the solver. The bottom long answer caused more trouble and the SE corner seemed especially difficult again, as evidenced by all the crossings out: I wanted the 53-Across to be because I say so and couldn't quite see how to extend that by one letter. Also, I saw a five-letter dwarf was wanted for 62-Across and jumped the gun with Dopey.

Nice to see the constructor worked to achieve a pangrammatic grid (all the letters of the alphabet are used at least once), given the theme itself is relatively uncomplicated. There are even more Ys in the grid than you'd expect, which is kind of appropriate - I count ten of them (I'm so glad I don't have kids).
Solving time: 10 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 22d ewer {Vessel by a basin}
Solution

Kristian House
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

A common parent-child exchange:
20a brush your teeth {Parental order #1}
31a pick up your toys {Parental order #2}
39a do your homework {Parental order #3}
13d/57d but why? {Possible response to 20-, 31- or 39-Across}
53a because I said so {Reply to the question in 13- and 57-Down}
Crucimetrics
CompilersKristian House / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 42 (18.7%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.69)
Theme squares62 (33.9%)
Scrabble points355 (average 1.94)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
FeaturePangrammatic
New To Me

dual carb engine10a carb {Dual-___ engine}. What's the point of having a dual carburetor? Just one more thing to go wrong, surely? I'm no expert on this, but I gather that a single carburetor feeding several cylinders has to be tuned to a compromise setting; each half of a dual carb can be tuned more accurately and hence more efficiently. The carburetor was invented by Karl Benz (1844–1929) and further improved into the dual carburetor by the Hungarian Donát Bánki (1859–1922).

14a Ozark {"___ Jubilee," weekly 1950s country music program on ABC}. Ozark comes up surprisingly often as an answer and this kind of clue is symptomatic of constructors trying to ring the changes from Ozark Mountains references. Ozark Jubilee was the first network TV program to feature country music's top stars - apparently an attempt to wrest control of country from Nashville, TN to The Queen City of the Ozarks. I hope there's a clip available of this really early show ... yes, here's Chet Atkins (1924–2001) from 1958.



23a yep! {"Darn tootin'!"}. I turned to the Wikipedia page for the 1928 Laurel & Hardy silent comedy short You're Darn Tootin' for an explanation: basically it's an expression of agreement, yep! being an even terser equivalent. I'll have to work it into my conversations and see if Magdalen notices ... darn tootin' I will! Here's the movie, subtitled "The story of two musicians who played neither by note nor ear -- They used brute strength --".



28a Bea {Actress Benaderet of "Petticoat Junction"}. I guess it couldn't be Bea Arthur again two days after her cluing Maude. Bea Benaderet (1906–1968) starred in Petticoat Junction and was then Jed Clampett's cousin Pearl Bodine in The Beverly Hillbillies. She was also the original voice of Granny of the Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes media franchise and Betty Rubble on The Flintstones. The only other Bea it seems is the comic actress Bea Lillie ... she's emphatically end-of-week material tho. Here's an amazing coincidence: during pre-production, proposed titles for Petticoat Junction were Ozark Widow (cf 14-Across), Dern Tootin' (cf 23-Across) and Whistle Stop (hmm ...can't see a connection yet)!!



fly-out3d tag up {Touch base after a fly-out}. Magdalen has tried to explain tagging up a number of times, and I think I've finally got it today: runners have to tag up on the time-of-pitch base after the ball is first touched by a fielder. Once they have done that can either stay on that base or try to advance, which is possible if the fly-out ball was long enough. My reason for confusion was the assumption that tagging meant one player touching another, as in the game of tag.
Abdul-Jabbar5d skyhook {Abdul-Jabbar's trademark shot}. No idea this related to basketball, in which skyhook means the same as a hook shot: the offensive player, usually turned perpendicular to the basket, gently throws the ball with a sweeping motion of his arm in an upward arc with a follow-through which ends over his head. Unlike the jump shot, it is shot with only one hand; the other arm is often used to create space between the shooter and the defensive player. The shot is quite difficult to block, but few players have mastered the shot more than a few feet from the basket. The hook shot became a trademark of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's all-time leading scorer. It was called a skyhook, because the ball was so high when the 7-foot, 2-inch center released it. Blocking his skyhook was a rare feat, accomplished by few players. 

Rosh Hashanah12d Rosh {___ Hashanah}. I knew this as a phrase, but had forgotten its significance in Judaism. Rosh Hashanah (literally "head of the year") is commonly referred to as the "Jewish New Year". It is observed on the first day of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. In 2010 it will be observed from sunset, September 8 to sunset, September 10. Rosh Hashanah meals usually include apples and honey, to symbolize a sweet new year. 
Yalu River21d Yalu {River to Korea Bay}. Every time I see YALU, I think it should be a shortening of Yale University. The Yalu River runs along the border between China and North Korea, the name coming from a Manchu word meaning "the boundary between two countries". 
32d Ilya {Kovalchuk of the N.H.L.}. There's a nice variety of sporting references today. Ilya Kovalchuk is a Russian professional ice hockey left winger and team captain of the Atlanta Thrashers of the NHL. He is a three-time NHL All-Star and won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league's leading goal-scorer in 2004 in a three-way tie with Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash.

48d Jeane {Astrologer Dixon}. Magdalen might have known this, as she takes more interest in astrology than I do (I pay it zero attention, so that's not difficult). Jeane Dixon (1904–1997) was one of the best-known American astrologers and psychics of the 20th century, due to her syndicated newspaper astrology column, some well-publicized predictions and a best-selling biography. She is known for allegedly predicting the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In the May 13, 1956, issue of Parade Magazine she wrote that the 1960 presidential election would be "dominated by labor and won by a Democrat" who would then go on to "[B]e assassinated or die in office though not necessarily in his first term." She later admitted, “During the 1960 election, I saw Richard Nixon as the winner.”, and at the time made unequivocal predictions that JFK would fail to win the election. John Allen Paulos, a mathematician at Temple University, coined the term "the Jeane Dixon effect", which refers to a tendency to promote a few correct predictions while ignoring a larger number of incorrect predictions.

54d Erik {Estrada of "CHiPs"}. Erik is always a tough answer, because of the possibility that Eric could equally well be the spelling (and vice versa), if you're unfamiliar with the reference. The crossing was reasonably generous here, as I was 99% sure the laughs are spelled yuks, not yucs. In CHiPs, Erik Estrada starred as macho, rambunctious Officer Francis ("Frank") "Ponch" Poncherello alongside Larry Wilcox as his straight-laced partner, Officer Jonathan "Jon" Baker. CHiPs derives from the initials of California Highway Patrol. THiS has to be one of the coolest show intros ever:



56d Iowa {Where James T. Kirk was born and raised}. Oops ... surely that should be "will be born and raised"??? As Douglas Adams wrote, "One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not that of accidentally becoming your own father or mother. ... The major problem is quite simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr. Dan Streetmentioner's Time Traveler's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations.". James Tiberius "Jim" Kirk will be born in Riverside, IA on March 22, 2228. Residents are so already proud of this they have a plaque to prove it ... I wonder if anyone else in the future has been so honored??

 Future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk

Noteworthy

48a Jay-Z {Rapper with the #1 hit "Empire State of Mind"}. Jay-Z is an artist now on my radar, thanks to crosswords ... along with the ubiquitous Dr Dre. Searching for a list of rappers, I discover that Jay-Z heads the Forbes' 2009 Richest Rappers List. Scanning down the list, I'm surprised that Big Boi doesn't make it into crosswords more - a license to use BOI as an answer.

The Rest

1a Bates {Infamous motel of film}; 6a Enos {Son of Seth}; 15a love {Serenader's subject}; 16a Alou {Baseball family name}; 17a buggy {Amish conveyance}; 18a idée {___ fixe}; 19a gist {Main point}; 24a oath {Inauguration Day words}; 25a hwy. {Rte. 66, e.g.}; 26a AOL {Co. split off from Time Warner in 2009}; 27a Dre {Dr. with several Grammys}; 36a colt {Stallion-to-be}; 37a oar {Sculler's need}; 38a rack {___ of lamb}; 44a spa {Place for a mudbath}; 45a sel {Seasoning for pommes frites}; 46a din {Hubbub}; 47a inq. {Govt. investigation}; 50a air {Put on}; 57a we're {"___ #1!"}; 58a ital. {Emphatic type: Abbr.}; 59a rowel {Wheel on a spur}; 60a Hair {"Flower power" musical}; 61a Tyne {Newcastle upon ___, England}; 62a dwarf {One of a Disney septet}; 63a yuks {Big laughs}; 64a exed {Marked, in a way}; 65a saree {Ranee's wrap}.

1d bobby {Coventry cop}; 2d azure {Fair-weather hue}; 4d ergs {Joule fractions}; 6d Eliot {Silas Marner's creator}; 7d no duh! {Slangy "That's obvious!"}; 8d over {___ easy}; 9d see-thru {Like a sheer nightie}; 10d cagey {Cautious, as a reply}; 11d alit {Touched down}; 22d ewer {Vessel by a basin}; 26d acto {Part of a Spanish play}; 27d dorm {All-nighter site, perhaps}; 28d boar {Wild tusker}; 29d Eyck {Flemish painter Jan van ___}; 30d ask! {"Fire away!"}; 31d poop {Inside dope}; 33d Pohl {Science fiction writer Frederik}; 34d Yao {7'6" N.B.A. star}; 35d Tron {1982 Disney cybermovie}; 36d CDs {Some Amazon.com mdse.}; 40d USNA {Alma mater for Adm. Richard Byrd: Abbr.}; 41d requite {Give in return}; 42d Edy's {"Slow Churned" brand}; 43d wizards {Some Hogwarts students}; 47d icers {Patisserie artisans}; 49d ailed {Felt green around the gills}; 50d ad war {Exchange of TV smears, maybe}; 51d Isère {River of Grenoble}; 52d Rolfe {John who loved Pocahontas}; 53d beau {Steady guy}; 55d Styx {Charon's river}.

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