Friday, April 30, 2010

NYT Friday 4/30/10 - Hidden Oona Trick

I can't believe it! It's the third week in a row I've broken 30 minutes on a Friday New York Times crossword. I didn't have much confidence I'd achieve it today, as I got off to a horribly slow start: I was uncharacteristically aware of Björn Again, so did get ABBA right away, but couldn't develop from there.

After an unproductive first pass through all the clues, I revisited the NW corner and finally got somewhere at the second attempt. The long downs barhopping and blueprints enabled progress into the middle, but it was annoying not to get either of the two 15s in the top section from just the starts (there are rather a lot of book titles starting The).

Finally, after getting somewhere in the NE, I got 17-Across (hmm ... I must watch the Jeopardy! DVD I was given for Xmas) and 20-Across in quick succession. The whole of the top section was done after 15 minutes and I just had most of the bottom section and a bit around 29-Across to go.

The larger area of emptiness was actually the quicker to resolve: I had the bottom done to my satisfaction after a further 6 minutes, despite being a little hazy on the Superman lore needed for Kal-El at 49-Down.

The two squares at the start and end of 29-Across were the crux for me and took 5 minutes on their own to deal with. Not seeing the connection with Oona, Lady Chaplin, I only considered Mona, Rona, Iona and Dona as potential forenames. I was also not familiar with the slang meaning of ten required at 31-Down.

Eventually, having considered each of the four forenames in turn and gotten nowhere, I then just assumed 31-Down had to be ten and worked through the alphabet for the first letter of 29-Across. Eventually I got to O, realized that finally resulted in the sensible Oct. for {Campaign crunch time: Abbr.} and recognized who Oona O'Neill must be.

I liked this puzzle a lot as I was solving ... a good level of challenge for me. At first glance, the grid didn't look much like a normal Friday/Saturday themeless; it nevertheless played out like one from the solver's point of view. It was great to negotiate the tougher areas successfully ... it helped today that I'd come across (and blogged about) Bob Saget (5-Across) and Tino Martinez (34-Down) in past puzzles.
Solving time: 26 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 30d crop circle {Crushed corn creation}

Natan Last
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersNatan Last / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 32 (14.2%) black squares
Answers72 (average length 5.36)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points299 (average 1.55)
Video of the Day

29d Oona O'Neill {Debutante who dated J. D. Salinger and Orson Welles}. You've got to know Oona, Lady Chaplin (1925–1991) for crosswords. Usually she is the four-letter answer Oona, but today we get her full name before marriage as the answer, and a more-obscure-than-usual reference as the clue. Oona was the daughter of  playwright Eugene O'Neill and writer Agnes Boulton. She dated cartoonist Peter Arno, director Orson Welles, and author J. D. Salinger. To Salinger's disappointment, however, their relationship ended when she met Charlie Chaplin, after having been suggested to him for a part in one of his films. Despite the 36-year age difference, Chaplin wrote in his autobiography that he was instantly smitten by Oona's "luminous beauty and sequestered charm."

The Doctor is IN

10a echo {Waves back?}. An echo is sound waves returning.

14a calc. {It has many functions, briefly}. calc. = calculator.

23a lap {Heat unit?}. Presumably a heat in a race long enough to require more than one lap.

29a Oct. {Campaign crunch time: Abbr.}. Elections being held on the first Tuesday after November 1.

43a loads {Gets charged up?}. Equivalent in the sense of "fills up".

50a Nia {Main role on "My Big Fat Greek Life"}. Nia Miller née Portokalos, played by Nia Vardalos.

63a NLer {Red, e.g., for short}. Red = player in the Cincinnati Reds should be in Pavlov's Guide to Crosswords.

1d Act Two {Drama center, often}. Act Two is the center act of a three-act play.

25d a toi {Tours "yours"}. Tours = place in France was already in Pavlov's Guide to Crosswords.

31d ten {Total hottie}. ten = "one deserving the highest rating; specifically an exceptionally attractive person" is in MWCD11.

37d Ena {Disney doe}. Bambi's Aunt Ena.

44d seller {Bear, say}. A bear is a seller of stock.

47d Ogden {Setting of Hill Air Force Base}. Hill Air Force Base is located just south of Ogden, UT.

49d Kal-El {Lara's son, in DC Comics}. Superman was born Kal-El, the son of Kryptonians Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van.

54d ebon {Like death's dart, in Shakespeare}. References "Love's golden arrow at him should have fled/And not Death's ebon dart, to strike him dead" from Venus and Adonis.

56d tren {Tampico track transport}. train = tren is in Español para los crucigramistas.

Image of the Day

MG Midget

42a MGs {Midgets of the 1960s-'70s, e.g.}. There was a time when Britain had a significant motor manufacturing capability and cars cost $300 or so. The MG Midget referenced in the clue was a small two seat sports car produced by MG division of the British Motor Corporation from 1961 to 1979. The name in fact originated in pre-war MG "Midgets" such as the MG M-type Midget, MG D-type Midget, MG J-type Midget (pictured above) and so on.

Other Clues

1a ABBA {Inspiration for Björn Again}; 5a Saget {Bob of stand-up comedy}; 15a Prado {Art center since 1819}; 16a quad {Risky thing to try in figure skating}; 17a true Daily Double {Risky thing to try for on "Jeopardy!"}; 20a The Sun Also Rises {Novel whose title comes from Ecclesiastes}; 21a Wop {"Doo ___ (That Thing)" (#1 hit for Lauryn Hill)}; 22a con {Nonpro?}; 24a Oprah {Player of Sethe in "Beloved"}; 26a email {It might go through a filter}; 32a pity {Opposite of schadenfreude}; 33a UPS Store {Offerer of package plans}; 35a dino {Source of jumbo eggs, in brief}; 36a beset {Hound}; 38a in on {Complicit with}; 39a Antigone {Subject of a Sophocles tragedy}; 41a snap {Result of excessive bending}; 45a pooch {Hound}; 47a oak {Image on Connecticut's state quarter}; 48a eke {___ out a profit}; 51a The Green Lantern {Justice League member}; 57a hidden ball trick {Diamond deception}; 58a urge {Drive}; 59a donee {Gifted individual?}; 60a Elle {Fashionista's read, maybe}; 61a seen {Like some bets and patients}; 62a snarl {Bottleneck}.

2d barhopping {Lush travel plan?}; 3d blueprints {Detailed outlines}; 4d aces {Hotshots}; 5d Spano {"Apollo 13" actor Joe}; 6d Ariane {1906 Massenet opera}; 7d gall {Brass}; 8d Edy's {Brand with the flavor Fudge Tracks}; 9d to-do list {It might include check boxes}; 10d equip {Outfit}; 11d cubs {Litter lying around a den}; 12d hale {Fit}; 13d Odes {Pablo Neruda's "Elemental ___"}; 18d duchy {Brunswick, e.g., once}; 19d orals {Grad students often dread them}; 27d mused {Said reflectively}; 28d ape {Make like}; 30d crop circle {Crushed corn creation}; 34d Tino {Martinez of the diamond}; 35d dam {Clog}; 36d book-ends {Title holders}; 40d glare {Driving problem}; 41d spent {Ready for retirement}; 46d hanker {Long}; 51d thus {So}; 52d hire {Give a name badge, say}; 53d edge {Work (in)}; 55d Nana {Family moniker}.

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