Wednesday, April 7, 2010

NYT Thursday 4/8/10 - ykcowrebbaJ

After yesterday's experience I thought I'd track down the key clue immediately in this Thursday New York Times crossword. I got really lucky today, as I guessed Lewis Carroll 30 seconds into the puzzle, after briefly considering that other cruciverbal fav Edgar Allan Poe.

If you think about it, there are rather few candidates for writers that could have been the basis for the crossword: Shakespeare definitely, Dickens possibly, but Lewis Carroll is perhaps the most worthy, being a famous puzzlemaker in his own right.

I imagine opinions on this crossword will be polarized: those knowing Jabberwocky will (like me) have reveled in the idea, while those largely ignorant of it will heave a sigh and maybe founder on a few of the tougher crossings like 8a gimble with 11d B-girl.

Further fun came in recognizing the ancillary Alice references, which I haven't considered thematic: I found 47a cake {Wonderland food for Alice}, 10d Mad {___ Hatter} and 29d cry {"Curiouser and curiouser!," e.g.}. What did I miss?

There's evidence of some perversity in the filling and cluing: I was somewhat surprised to see esne at 41-Across, as it's often quoted as an answer that's so dully obscure that it's beyond the pale in recent times ... which oddly has the effect that it's now rather an interesting answer, just like there's no such thing as the smallest uninteresting number.

Then there's 9d irae, which isn't clued with the tried and trusted {Dies ____}, but {___ caelestes (divine wrath: Lat.)}. Words for once have failed the doctor, who merely notes that there are just two Google hits (at the time of writing) for irae caelestes.
Solving time: 11 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 6d ironer {Person whose work is decreasing?}

Matt Ginsberg
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Words found in Jabberwocky by 44a Lewis Carroll {Writer who was the source of all the words with asterisked clues in this puzzle}:
1a brillig {*4:00 in the afternoon}
8a gimble {*To make holes}
19a gyre {*To go round and round}
24a bandersnatch {*Fearsome, swift-moving creature with snapping jaws}
52a wabe {*Grass plot around a sundial}
64a slithy {*Lithe and slimy}
65a beamish {*Smiling radiantly}

Here is the full text of the poem with the clued words highlighted:
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersMatt Ginsberg / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 37 (16.4%) black squares
Answers74 (average length 5.08)
Theme squares58 (30.9%)
Scrabble points296 (average 1.57)
Video of the Day

25d aria {"O patria mia," e.g.}. O patria mia ("Oh, my dear country!") is an aria from the most popular opera in the cruciverse: Aida of course. It is sung by the eponymous slave girl as she pines for her native Ethiopia. The great Leontyne Price sings in the above clip.

The Doctor is IN

20a rye {Catcher's spot?}. Reference to The Catcher in the Rye.

8d -goer {Church annex?}. Cluing -goer the suffix, as in "churchgoer".

9d irae {___ caelestes (divine wrath: Lat.)}. As of now (this will go up a bit tonight), Google only finds two occurrences of "irae caelestes".

11d B-girl {Old-time floozie}. As clued, short for bargirl - slang from the 1940s on for a hostess whose duties (at the very least) are to encourage the sale of drinks.

19d gang {Sharks, e.g.}. The Sharks and the Jets were rival gangs in West Side Story.

28d Tom {Waits in music}. Reference to Tom Waits - neat misdirection.

32d Moto {Mysterious Mr.}. John P. Marquand's fictional secret agent Mr. Moto.

34d sell {Bears do it}. Bears are sellers of a stock.

41d esne {Feudal laborer}. Decidedly retro occurrence of the famously unattractive answer esne.

53d ahoy {Stern cry?}. "Stern" = the rear of a ship.

56d Lani {Lawyer/civil-rights activist Guinier}. Lani Guinier.

Image of the Day

A sample of Linear B script, the earliest Greek writing, 1450 BC, and an adaptation of the earlier Minoan Linear A script

14a Linear A {Form of writing of ancient Crete}. Linear A is one of two linear and possibly syllabic scripts used in ancient Crete before Mycenaean Greek Linear B. In Minoan times, before the Mycenaean Greek dominion, Linear A was the official script for the palaces and cults and Cretan Hieroglyphs were mainly used on seals. These three scripts were discovered and named by Arthur Evans. In 1952, Michael Ventris discovered that Linear B was being used to write the early form of Greek now known as Mycenaean. He and others used this information to achieve a significant and now well accepted decipherment of the script, although many points remain to be elucidated.

Other Clues

15a foraged {Sought food}; 16a alcohol {It comes in fifths}; 17a reading {Poetry performance}; 18a season {Add zest to}; 21a recap {Wrap up}; 23a clad {Wrapped up}; 30a Oreo {It's 71% cookie, 29% creme}; 31a ignoramus {Chucklehead}; 35a die out {Emulate the dodo}; 38a Mysore {Indian tourist city}; 39a yard sales {Means of unloading?}; 43a et al {Unnamed others, briefly}; 47a cake {Wonderland food for Alice}; 50a snide {A bit nasty}; 51a huh? {"Say what?"}; 54a jailed {Put away}; 59a Arapaho {Some buffalo hunters of old}; 61a sultana {Variety of grape}; 62a takes on {Confronts}; 63a orients {Positions (oneself)}.

1d Blas {Lesage hero Gil ___}; 2d rile {Make stew?}; 3d Inca {Certain ancient mummy}; 4d Leos {Affectionate, fiery types, supposedly}; 5d Lahore {Pakistan's so-called "Garden of Mughals"}; 6d ironer {Person whose work is decreasing?}; 7d gal {Miss}; 10d Mad {___ Hatter}; 12d Lenya {"From Russia With Love" actress Lotte}; 13d edged {Beaten (out)}; 15d frypan {Browner}; 22d CSI {Long-running CBS hit}; 23d chaser {Beer, sometimes}; 24d body {Vintner's concern}; 26d ne'er {Opposite of alway}; 27d doodle {Drawing in a margin, maybe}; 29d cry {"Curiouser and curiouser!," e.g.}; 33d Ural {Kazakh river}; 36d use {Take advantage of}; 37d taw {Playing marble}; 40d Lisbon {Departure point for explorer Vasco da Gama}; 42d sci {It goes after poli and before fi}; 45d adjure {Urge formally}; 46d realia {Objects employed to show everyday life}; 47d chats {Online discussions}; 48d aural {Not visual}; 49d khaki {Uniform coloring}; 52d wash {Wadi}; 55d item {Detail}; 57d ents {Tolkien creatures}; 58d dash {Tach's location}; 60d pet {Dear}; 61d sob {[I'm heartbroken!]}.


Daniel Myers said...

Fun puzzle---Let's just hope that no constructor ever decides upon Joyce's Finnegans Wake as a theme!

Ethan said...

This one was a lot of fun! I was able to get most of of it through deduction and Google, so by the time I got here I only had three or four clues left unsolved.

Crossword Man said...

The puzzle was more entertaining than I'd have expected from a mere set of words drawn from a single poem. Hard to put a finger on why - perhaps the magic of Lewis Carroll. Next stop Edward Lear?

Anonymous said...

I loved the theme, and had no trouble with the thematic clues, since I love "Jabberwocky."

I had a problem with TAW and WASH, obtained through filling in other clues.

Both new words for me. Wadi = wash? and Playing marble = taw?

Crossword Man said...

Hello Hal. I guess you may have looked these up, but in case someone else is interested ...

wash (Western US) and wadi (Arabia etc) both mean ravines that are dry except when it rains ... not the best places to set up camp.

A taw is a word for a large marble in the toy sense.

Anonymous said...

Gah! The only thematic clue I solved directly was 64a slithy – all the rest I had to "deduce" (i.e., guess) from solving most or all of the crossings.

This despite also figuring out the Lewis Carroll theme quite quickly from the easily crossed 44a – not that it helped much ... Maybe one of these days I should actually read something by Carroll.

So "opinions ... polarized" might be an accurate assessment , and "founder on a few of the tougher crossings" would be to understate the challenge in my case (without solving aids)!!

Crossword Man said...

Thanks for commenting Anon. Try The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition for its commentary by that other master puzzler Martin Gardner.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I've located a copy at a local bookstore, so I'll have a look this weekend.