Friday, March 26, 2010

NYT Friday 3/26/10 - Hooked

I was intrigued to see the byline of Henry Hook on this Friday New York Times crossword: although Henry Hook is something of a legend in the USA as a diabolical constructor (Matt Gaffney devotes a whole chapter to him in Gridlock) I realized this is the first puzzle of his I'd tried.

In truth, I didn't experience anything too different or outrageous in today's puzzle, which may be due to the homogenizing effect of the editing process ... or that constructors know there are limits to what can be perpetrated in the NYT. I certainly enjoyed the solving process very much, despite getting down to it very late (we'd been out on a long day trip).

It helped that I ran into several gimmes in a first pass through the clues: 13d Der Alte, 38d Hutt, 50d/28d Sri Lanka, among them. But building from them to fill complete corners was more of a struggle: I did best in the NE, then tackled the SE and finally worked back to the NW.

You might think that a clue like 4d bowl {Cricketer's action} would be really easy for me. The trouble is that I know too much and {Cricketer's action} could cover a mass of things ... I'm never sure what limited subset of cricketing terms might be known to Americans. I have similar problems with answers that are said to be British slang, because I'm unaware of which of the many slang terms are specific to the UK ... so many have been imported from the US.

The SW corner was the toughest for me, and with hindsight, it's hard to see why it took me so long to get Dr Frankenstein when I had the last seven letters from very early on. I guess that answers preceded by Mr or Dr are always a little surprising as you would either anticipate a 14-letter surname or something like a (6,8) split.

The grid was littered with potential trouble spots where I had to make a guess in at least one direction. I reckon the trickiest crossing was 29a serene intersecting with 23d Verna. I imagine there might be a few Selenes and Velnas around, as I certainly hadn't come across Verna Felton before and had to rely on a rather vague knowledge of what "Apollonian" implied.
Solving time: 38 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 11d luggage {Carousel riders?}

Henry Hook
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersHenry Hook / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 30 (13.3%) black squares
Answers68 (average length 5.74)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points303 (average 1.55)
Video of the Day

4d bowl {Cricketer's action}. I'd say that bowl is usually a verb, and the action is bowling, but "let me have a bowl" is also used, so the clue's passable. There are two main types of bowling in cricket: fast bowling, where the speed of the delivery is the challenge (as in baseball); and spin bowling, where sideways movement when the ball pitches on the ground is the challenge, despite the slow pace of the delivery. The undoubted master of spin bowling (and of bowling full stop) during my time as a spectator is the Australian Shane Warne, shown above.

The Doctor is IN

1a Casbah {Nightclub in the Trump Taj}. Casbah is Atlantic City's "hottest dance club and luxe lounge".

18a Ethel {"On Golden Pond" wife}. Ethel Thayer played by Katharine Hepburn.

19a revue {"Closer Than Ever," e.g.}. Closer Than Ever is a musical revue, with words by Richard Maltby, Jr. and music by David Shire.

20a GSA {Fed. management org.}. General Services Administration, a United States federal agency.

29a serene {Apollonian}. Apollonian = having the characteristics of Apollo, controlled, harmonious, rational, often opp to Dionysian.

35a Meg March {Oldest of a literary quartet}. Reference to the March sisters in Little Women.

41a Eau {___ Claire}. French for "clear water", as in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and other place names.

45a deo {"Laus ___" (words atop the Washington Monument)}. Laus deo ("praise be to God") is written on the East side at the peak of the Washington Monument.

54a dinero {Lettuce}. Slang terms for money.

1d Castile {Vegetable-oil soap}. Castile soap is made with olive oil originating from the Castile region of Spain.

5d Ala. {Mobile home: Abbr.}. Mobile = a place in Alabama is in Pavlov's Guide to Crosswords.

8d annus {CD, e.g.?}. annus = year in Latin, as in CD = 400.

44d paese {Michelangelo's country}. As in Bel Paese, meaning the "Beautiful Country" in Italian.

Image of the Day

luggage carousel

11d luggage {Carousel riders?}. A lovely misleading clue and it's nice to see there are some airport staff who share the constructor's sense of humor (see above). I've been trying to find a history of luggage carousels without success - does anyone know when and where they were first used in an airport? All I can say is that the Oxford English Dictionary's first citation for carousel in the broad sense of assembly line use comes from 1961; the first citation involving a carousel at an airport is as late as 1970.

Other Clues

7a raffled {Like some party prizes}; 14a areola {Part of the iris bordering the pupil}; 15a en route {Getting there}; 16a Schwarzenegger {Famous bodybuilder}; 21a Dian {Zoologist Fossey}; 22a cures {Permanent solutions}; 23a Vail {Resort town on I-70}; 24a Eli {TV lawyer Stone}; 25a camos {Splotchy apparel, familiarly}; 26a begat {Often-used word in Matthew 1}; 27a reclasps {Holds over?}; 30a Arthurian {In days of knights?}; 32a slants {Factors in handwriting analysis}; 39a hulks {Unwieldy ships}; 40a Agony {Song from Sondheim's "Into the Woods"}; 42a UCLA {11-time N.C.A.A. basketball champs}; 43a Swaps {Racehorse whose 1955 Kentucky Derby win kept Nashua from taking the Triple Crown}; 44a pelt {Hide}; 46a Beame {New York City's first Jewish mayor}; 47a Sadat {"In Search of Identity" autobiographer}; 48a Dr Frankenstein {Famous body builder?}; 51a en masse {All at once}; 52a erased {When data's been ___ ...}; 53a re-enter {... you may have to ___ it}.

2d archaic {Old}; 3d sehen {To look, in Leipzig}; 6d harrumph {Disapproving comment}; 7d Reeves {"Speed" star}; 9d free {Priceless?}; 10d fog {Bewilderment}; 11d luggage {Carousel riders?}; 12d etesian {Summer wind in the Mediterranean}; 13d Der Alte {Nickname of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer}; 17d zero-sum game {Balancing act?}; 18d Eder {Broadway star Linda who won $100,000 on "Star Search"}; 22d casts {Flings}; 23d Verna {Actress Felton of 1950s TV's "December Bride"}; 25d carts {Barrows}; 26d beamy {Radiant}; 28d Lanka {See 50-Down}; 29d signs {Makes binding}; 31d reopened {Back in business}; 32d shudder {Some people do it to think}; 33d Lucerne {Swiss canton or its capital}; 34d All of Me {1932 song or 1984 movie}; 36d reedier {More frail}; 37d calando {Gradually quieting, in music}; 38d Hutt {Jabba the ___ of "Star Wars"}; 40d awaker {Reveille, e.g.}; 43d sense {Just know}; 46d bast {Cordage fiber}; 47d Stan {Coveleski of Cooperstown}; 49d ran {Governed}; 50d Sri {With 28-Down, its flag has a lion holding a sword}.

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