Saturday, March 20, 2010

NYT Saturday 3/20/10 - No Less

As three of Joe Krozel's grids were 2009 Griddie Award winners last year, I knew to look closely at the Crucimetrics for a puzzle with his byline. Yes, this Saturday New York Times crossword is rather special, with just 56 answers and an average entry length of 6.71 letters no less - not a record I gather, but still very impressive.

I knew from past experience that this shape of grid would break up into four mini-puzzles. I got much the best start in the NE and SW corners, with almost all my guesses on the first pass turning out to be correct. In fact the one wrong guess I made and persisted with rather too long (that 7-Down would be of the form stops xxx) meant I got held up in the NE and the SW was finished first after 8 minutes.

The SE was the next to fall, after a further 4 minutes. I had 35-Across as underarm to start with, but was dissatisfied with what that did to 26-Down in particular, and not sure it met the clue anyway. Finally, I saw through "shots" in 35-Across as meaning injections and justified São Pedro at 26-Down as St. Peter.

In the NE, I eventually fathomed 7-Down as squashes, but then had quarks rather than quanta at 15-Across for a while. Stupid, as I know photons not to be quarks. In this corner, it was a relief to have heard of the Nobelist Heaney, whose poetry I studied at school.

That just left the NW corner, which took nearly half the solving time on its own. Although 2-Down was generously clued and I guessed 13-Across might be in a something, everything else played hard-to-get. Eventually I thought of acetones at 21-Across and the rest fell into place within a minute or so.

Incidentally, acetones is one of my least favorite answers. Constructors frequently take liberties with plurals of mass nouns, but it's really hard to justify acetones. I suppose you could say of nail varnish remover that one company's acetone is better than all the other acetones around, but it's a stretch. anilines I mind less, because there is a family of compounds called anilines, but acetone is acetone is acetone.

Aside from that, there's the usual smattering of uglyish answers typical of bleeding edge grids: stressed, reseeded, deserted and desde (huh? a new one for Español para los crucigramistas) stand out as being close together. However, I don't want to complain too much, as I really enjoyed this puzzle and felt very satisfied to complete it in under half an hour.

Talking of challenging crosswords, I treated myself to three new puzzle books today, all of which are shown in the sidebar.
  1. Crosswords to Make You Sweat has 126 10x10 tough puzzles by David J. Kahn, Matt Gaffney and Byron Walden. These have appeared before in the "Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords" series, but will be new to many of you.
  2. Patricks' Puzzle Pandemonium has 123 or so 15x15 puzzles by The Four Patricks (Berry, Blindauer, Jordan and Merrell). These are all New York Sun crosswords, so could have appeared in other anthologies from that series.
  3. The Wrath of Klahn has 72 15x15s by Bob Klahn. I believe this is the first publication of these puzzles (there's no indication otherwise, but do comment if I'm wrong about this).
Solving time: 25 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 50a losers {Ties don't have them}

Joe Krozel
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersJoe Krozel / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 37 (16.4%) black squares
Answers56 (average length 6.71)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points276 (average 1.47)
Video of the Day

24a Heaney {1995 Literature Nobelist}. Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer. Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995 for what the Nobel committee described as "works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past". I remember trying to get my head around his 1966 book of poems Death of a Naturalist for O-level English. Digging, read in the above clip, is from that collection.

The Doctor is IN

20a A-cells {Rare battery varieties}. Obsolete battery size according to The ABCs of Battery Types.

27a Clare {Limerick neighbor}. County Clare and County Limerick.

12d Halsey {Vice admiral on the U.S.S. Enterprise}. William Halsey, Jr. commanded the United States Third Fleet during part of the Pacific War against Japan.

26d São Pedro {Glorified gatekeeper, in Goiás}. São Pedro is Saint Peter (i.e. the bouncer at the pearly gates) in Portuguese, Goiás being a Brazilian state.

28d laxative {Feen-a-mint was one}. Feen-a-mint is an obsolete laxative gum.

29d aces over {Certain full house, in poker lingo}. "Aces over" is slang for a two pair that includes a pair of aces.

36d Pelops {He was served to the Olympians as food}. Tantalus cut his son Pelops into pieces and made his flesh into a stew, then served it to the gods.

39d Adeste {Noel opener}. Adeste Fideles again.

Image of the Day

Annelies, White Tulips and Anemones

33d tulip {White item in a 1944 Matisse painting}. A reference to the Henri Matisse painting Annelies, White Tulips and Anemones. The painting depicts a woman smiling at a table with flowers aligned on it. The painting is currently in the Honolulu Academy of Arts. During the early to mid-1940s Matisse was in poor health. Eventually by 1950 he stopped painting in favor of his paper cutouts. This is an example of one of the final group of oil paintings in Matisse's career.

Other Clues

1a no less {To boot}; 7a splash {Big impression}; 13a in a stir {Worked up}; 15a quanta {Photons, e.g.}; 16a neutered {Made unbearable?}; 18a uncial {Writing style of old Latin manuscripts}; 19a Japanese {Like 1-Down}; 21a acetones {Options for thinning}; 22a shrike {Harsh-sounding bird that immobilizes its prey by impalement}; 23a stressed {Like part of a foot}; 25a deserted {Lonely}; 31a asses {Jerks}; 32a traced to {Had a prior link with}; 34a T. rexes {Some imposing museum displays, briefly}; 35a upper arm {Place for many a shot}; 42a remast {Outfit for a new voyage, say}; 43a leered at {Ogled}; 44a amatol {Explosive stuff}; 45a I'd love to! {"Sure thing!"}; 46a votive {Cathedral candle}; 47a protests {Events with marching bands?}; 48a élèves {People taking les examens}; 49a opiates {Heroin and the like}; 50a losers {Ties don't have them}; 51a sclera {Eye muscles attach to it}.

1d ninjas {Stealthy fighters}; 2d one-act {Like Edward Albee's first five plays}; 3d Lauper {1984 Best New Artist Grammy winner}; 4d estate {One taken care of by a caretaker}; 5d stenos {Attendees at some biz meetings}; 6d sirens {Speeders' dreads}; 7d squashes {Ends abruptly}; 8d punchers {Pugilists ... or stationery store items}; 9d lacerate {Tear}; 10d anilines {Compounds that smell of rotting fish}; 11d stalked {Didn't just follow around}; 14d reseeded {Fixed some greens}; 17d desde {Since: Sp.}; 27d cremates {Burns up}; 30d restless {Always moving}; 32d tremolo {Mandolin effect}; 34d travel {Job requirement, often}; 37d erotic {More than suggestive}; 38d reveal {Leak}; 40d ratter {Certain cat or dog}; 41d Mt. Ossa {It's S. of the Vale of Tempe}.


Daniel Myers said...

Just to say, I loved this puzzle - acetones notwithstanding - and had a great deal of fun today - all very much in contrast to last week's Saturday puzzle.

Heaney is emphatically NOT in my literary pantheon. I understand what he's about, but it just doesn't catch with me. Give me Yeats or Banville any day, perhaps an odd combination as Banville called Yeats a "twit" in an article this past St. Patrick's Day, with the twist of recommending his poetry.

An odd lot, the Irish. Meaning nothing but good, mind you! Only an Irishman can call another one a "twit" and get away with it.:-)

Anonymous said...

I fell into an abyss with "torso" rather than "tulip" -- Matisse is a favorite, but I did not know the painting of Annelies. Obviously I got caught because the more famous torso was a cut-out, not a painting. Aghhh!

Crossword Man said...

I've certainly read more Yeats than Heaney since school. Being forced to study an author at a tender age can put you off their work for life.

Crossword Man said...

Hi Anon ... a little learning can be a dangerous thing. I somehow got to tulips through the circuitous route of thinking of the "black tulip" - a rarity used metaphorically of any hard-to-find item.

Crossword Man said...

Thought it would be fun to swap lists of books studied for English classes at school. In my case for O-level (i.e. approx age range 13-15). The ones I still remember are: The Old Man and the Sea, Julius Caesar, Death of a Naturalist, Coriolanus, Lord of the Flies.

Daniel Myers said...

O-level candidacy-Let's see what I can recall. We share Julius Caesar and Lord of The Flies in common. Liked the former, very much disliked the latter. This still holds. I've never read Death of a Naturalist. Any good? Anyway, for the rest: Great Expectations (Didn't fancy it at the time, but probably should return to it.) The Scarlet Letter (Again, didn't like it at the time, but the memory of it is oddly haunting).

I can't remember if any of the Poe stories were part of the curriculum or not, but everybody read them.

A Tale of Two Cities (good stuff, I thought.)

Mon Dieu! I can't remember anything else. I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. - We didn't get to Eliot in until A-level, but I had already read him.

That's part of the problem, I think. I read so much on my own (not just Tolkien!) that it's hard to remember what I was MADE to read, especially poetry. Heaney I was definately forced to read. But Yeats I discovered on my own, before we read him for A-levels. And that, probably, as you suggest and Frost would say, has made all the difference.

By the bye, "The Road Not Taken" is a very hard poem to twig. If you read the poem carefully, the speaker seems to be saying that the road he took only SEEMED less traveled to him - "the passing there had worn them really about the same." But that when he grows old (and no doubt wears his trousers Prufrock fashion) he shall be deluding himself and others by telling them that he took the road less traveled "with a sigh". In other words (my interpretation), "if only I'd taken the other one my life would have turned up trumps."

Sorry for going on so.

Crossword Man said...

It's easier for me to remember the O-Level stuff, as I didn't do A-Level English; so it's fairly clear-cut what I read for pleasure and what cos I had to. I forgot The Mayor of Casterbridge - our English teachers were a gloomy lot and wouldn't countenance anything too cheery on the curric.

Surprised you got The Scarlet Letter at Winchester. Can see it must be popular over here ... that and Catcher in the Rye natch.

Never had to read Dickens at school, which may explain why I have so much enjoyed him since.

Death of a Naturalist largely went over our tousled teenage heads, but what I got out of it didn't inspire further reading or rereading of Heaney. DOAN was his first published collection, the one Digging comes from.

Daniel Myers said...

Yes, I remember your Heaney video now. It was only a few poems by him we had to memorise, which I have since forgotten. I remember thinking to myself, "But this isn't poetry! It's prose put into a vaguely poetic form. I'm still of that opinion."

LOL-I think we were assigned The Scarlet letter, our beaks being a gloomy lot as well, for our one taste of American Lit. I have never read Catcher in The Rye precisely because of what I suppose is a sort of guilt by association. The book, of course, wasn't required, but everybody seemed to be reading it. A silly and pretentious lot, the literary snob, adolescent moi thought.:-)