Thursday, May 27, 2010

NYT Friday 5/28/10 - Fearful Asymmetry

I had a lot of fun with this Friday New York Times crossword, enjoying the usual tussle with gnarly end-of-week cluing and the bonus of a mini theme referencing the (hard to detect) asymmetrical grid.

Not expecting a theme, I didn't go looking for one and just made my usual walk through the first dozen or so down clues. I got my break in the NE corner, where, having thought of isolate for 13-Down, I paired it up with chela at 21-Across and had some confidence in this beginning. Oddly enough, I'd just been listening to a tape of Kim with its frequent use of the other obscure meaning of chela as disciple - that may have helped me out in some strange way.

Soon I got to the point of looking at 17-Across and found that it immediately gave me my first 15-letter answer with six minutes on the clock. I generally worked counter-clockwise from this point: I had 3-Down in a further three minutes and 56-Across five minutes after that.

Progress was never easy, though, and there were several places where I left isolated blocks unfilled when I found both relevant clues troublesome. The crossing of 1-Across and 5-Down was one difficulty, but eventually yielded to a trial-and-error process right at the end.

Another problem arose at the crossing of 35-Across and 29-Down, where I jumped to the conclusion that {First name among linguists} must be Noah (Webster). Is a lexicographer a linguist? Perhaps not, but in the thrill of the chase, you can easily make mistakes like this. But I knew lehon couldn't be right for 29-Down and eventually spotted where things had come off the rails.

Eventually I had every last square filled to my satisfaction and was very confident of a correct grid - a great feeling with a far from easy puzzle. I was pleased with my 22 minute solving time, which has to be one of my fastest for a Friday.
Solving time: 22 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 61a set shot {Alternative to a jumper}

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


17a optical illusion {Thing that may appear to be symmetrical but isn't ... like this puzzle's grid}. The grid has perfect symmetry except for its three-block groupings: those in the NW and SE have rotational symmetry, while those in the NE and SW have reflectional symmetry. Together they result in an asymmetrical grid, although the eye is easily deceived into thinking the grid is symmetrical.

Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersJoe Krozel / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 25 (11.1%) black squares
Answers68 (average length 5.88)
Theme squares15 (7.5%)
Scrabble points276 (average 1.38)
Video of the Day

26a Dan {Blocker of 1960s TV}. Dan Blocker (1928–1972) was an American actor best remembered for his role as Eric "Hoss" Cartwright, the "middle son", in the NBC western television blockbuster Bonanza. Blocker said he portrayed the Hoss character with a Stephen Grellet quotation in mind: "We shall pass this way on Earth but once, if there is any kindness we can show, or good act we can do, let us do it now, for we will never pass this way again".

The Doctor is IN

20a tema {Melodic subject, in music}. tema = theme in Italian, the language of musical directions.

21a chela {Lobster claw}. The claw of an arthropod is called a chela (from the Greek chele).

27a Fey {"30 Rock" creator}. Tina Fey.

28a Alexei {Tolstoy's Vronsky}. Count Alexei Vronsky, lover of Anna Karenina.

33a Arlenes {TV's Francis and others}. Arlene Francis (1907–2001), What's My Line? regular.

35a Noam {First name among linguists}. Noam Chomsky, American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and political activist.

49a lid {Topper}. Specifically, these are both slang words for "hat".

52a Atra {Blade handle?}. Atra is a model of safety razor produced by the Global Gillette company.

56a dollars-and-cents {Considered financially}. dollars-and-cents, used adjectively, means "dealing with or expressed in terms of money, sales, or profits" (MWCD11).

5d Mac {Bub}. Both terms of address to a man whose name you don't know.

6d erat {"Hoc ___ in votis": Horace}. "Hoc erat in votis" comes from a passage in the Satires that translates as "This was among my prayers: a piece of land not so very large, where a garden should be and a spring of ever-flowing water near the house, and a bit of woodland as well as these".

9d enl. {Development order: Abbr.}. enl. = enlargement, a possible request when developing a film.

23d Natalie {Merchant selling records}. Natalie Merchant, American singer-songwriter and musician.

29d lemon {One might show up in a casino}. Reference to the lemons in a slot machine.

37d estados {Chihuahua and others}. state (exemplified by Chihuahua) = estada is in Español para los crucigramistas.

58d cam {Nanny ___}. A nanny cam is another name for a spy camera, from one of its main uses.

Image of the Day

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott

30a Mott {19th-century women's rights advocate}. Lucretia Mott (1793–1880) was an American Quaker, abolitionist, social reformer, and proponent of women's rights. She is credited as the first American "feminist" in the early 1800s but was, more accurately, the initiator of women's political advocacy. She is celebrated in The Woman Movement (above), a sculpture by Adelaide Johnson, unveiled in 1921 at the United States Capitol; it features (from left to right) Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony with Lucretia Mott.

Other Clues

1a spasmed {Was jerky}; 8a keep fit {Stay in shape}; 15a to spare {Left over}; 16a indorse {Support: Var.}; 19a peut {___-être (perhaps, to Pierre)}; 22a olden {Immemorial}; 24a taupe {Hose shade}; 31a foisted {Introduced surreptitiously}; 36a aeri- {Gas: Prefix}; 37a epsilon {Symbol of electromotive force}; 40a at a loss {Buffaloed}; 43a sac {Egg holder}; 44a inurned {Buried}; 46a nit {Little beef}; 47a trace {Draw very uncreatively}; 50a sorer {More likely to blow up}; 53a algae {Potential pond poisoner}; 55a Pisa {See 53-Down}; 59a one-lane {Narrow, in a way}; 60a tear gas {Demonstrating control?}; 61a set shot {Alternative to a jumper}; 62a en masse {How hordes move}.

1d stop off {Tarry for a bit}; 2d Pope Leo {One of 13 religious leaders}; 3d A Study in Scarlet {Seminal mystery of 1887}; 4d spite {Venom}; 7d deleted {Dropped}; 8d Kilauea {World's most active volcano}; 10d educe {Develop}; 11d posh {Far from shabby}; 12d fried onion rings {Burger accompaniment}; 13d isolate {Maroon}; 14d tenants {Flat population}; 18d IMAX {Means of seeing the big picture?}; 25d pirate {Take the wrong way?}; 30d merl {European black thrush}; 32d so I {"___ see!"}; 34d leads {Results of "Unsolved Mysteries" airings}; 38d part one {Succession starter}; 39d null set {It has zero measure, in math}; 40d andante {Slowly scored?}; 41d siestas {Occasions to close up shop}; 42d Strasse {Berlin boulevard}; 45d Riga {European capital}; 48d calls {Decisions on the field}; 51d opera {Work on a grand scale}; 53d Arno {It flows through 55-Across}; 54d Eden {Starting point?}; 57d aah! {"Feels so good!"}.


Daniel Myers said...

Nowhere can I find that "merl" 30D is anywhere used as a variation of "merle" for blackbird or thrush, not in the unabridged OED, not in wikipedia. I simply can not find any instance of this as a variant spelling.

If thou find'st one, let me know (apologies to John Donne).

Crossword Man said...

I didst find one! The Chambers Dictionary has merle or merl (archaic or literary Scot) n the blackbird. Familiarity with that work made me comfortable with the four-letter spelling. One wonders if the clue started out as a reference to Mr Reagle.

Daniel Myers said...

I bow to Chambers, though one can't help but wonder if "Simpsonian cruciverbalist Reagle" might not have been a better clue:-)