Friday, May 7, 2010

NYT Saturday 5/8/10 - I For One ... Had It

I thought this Saturday New York Times crossword a very tough finale to a difficult week. It didn't just involve a long solving time, but required a consultation with Magdalen to negotiate the crux of the grid.

Initial progress was ominously slow, with just a few answers scattered around the grid in the first ten minutes or so. But then things magically started to gel in the SW and I had that corner completed after around 11 minutes. What's more, I could finish 35-Across as holding patterns, making a bridge that allowed the center to be worked on next; that was done after 15 minutes, once I'd abandoned the likely-looking ethanol for butanol at 24-Down.

By now I'd got all the 15-letter answers, so had my pick of the remaining corners: I chose the NW and got close to finishing it, but temporarily gave up on 2-Down (Lahania) and its crossings with Lita and ENE (I don't have a great sense of direction when it comes to place names in the USA).

I did better in the NE, despite complete ignorance of Ralston Purina (16-Down); luckily I either knew each crossing or could infer it, the Îles d'Hyères reference being the main worry. There was a similar story in the SE, which required about 8 minutes on its own, but was eventually fathomable.

This just left the hole in the NW corner. As I'd now spent a little over half an hour on the puzzle and wasn't confident of getting anywhere with the proper names that were causing all the trouble, I asked Magdalen to weigh in with her expertise. Amazingly, she was also stumped by Lita, but used her intuition about Hawaiian naming to pick Lahaina out of the options.

Given the extent of guessing, we were amazed not to have made any errors. Once Magdalen realized the connection with The Runaways, she remembered it was the group which also featured that crossword regular Joan Jett. Can we see the Lita and Joan in action, I wonder? Yes, here's their School Days.

Solving time: 45 mins (with Magdalen, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 46a laced {Like some punches}

Mark Diehl
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersMark Diehl / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 24 (10.7%) black squares
Answers66 (average length 6.09)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points303 (average 1.51)
Video of the Day

49d slum {Trenchtown, for one}. Trenchtown is a neighbourhood of Kingston, the capital and largest city of Jamaica. The area gets its name from its previous designation as Trench Pen, thirty-three acres of agricultural land once used for livestock by James Trench, an Irish immigrant. The Trench Family abandoned the land in the late nineteenth century. It is a common misconception that the name comes from the large open sewer that runs through the neighborhood in the middle of Collie Smith Drive. Trenchtown is known in popular culture due to numerous Reggae musicians, including Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, but most notably Bob Marley, who spent much of his youth in a "government yard" (housing project) on First Street. His songs "Trenchtown", "Trenchtown Rock" and "No Woman, No Cry" make reference to it.

The Doctor is IN

16a Ralston {Purina partner replaced by Nestlé}. The Ralston Purina Company became the Nestlé Purina PetCare Company following a 2001 merger.

23a Lita {Self-titled platinum album of 1988}. Lita is the most successful solo album for Lita Ford, once lead guitarist for The Runaways.

46a laced {Like some punches}. "punches" in the sense of mixed drinks.

50a ser. {Words from M.L.K. Jr.}. ser. = sermon.

59a lithely {Supply}. "Supply" = in a supple manner.

2d Lahaina {Maui locale that was once the capital of the kingdom of Hawaii}. In the 1800s, Lahaina was once the center of the global whaling industry.

9d WAC {Fem. force}. WAC = Women's Army Corps.

47d Marsh {Dame of whodunits}. Dame Ngaio Marsh, the New Zealand crime writer.

53d Ebb {"Chicago" lyricist}. Fred Ebb (1928–2004) of the Kander and Ebb team.

39d nominal {Token}. As in "a nominal/token amount".

Image of the Day

Great Geysir

18a Iceland {Home of the Great Geysir}. I was mildly surprised to see reference to one of Iceland's geological wonders and it not be Eyjafjallajökull. The Great Geysir in the Haukadalur valley, Iceland, is the first geyser known to scholarship, i.e., it is the first geyser ever described in a printed source and the earliest geyser known to Europeans. The English word geyser (a spouting hot spring) derives from Geysir. The name Geysir itself is derived from the Icelandic verb geysa, "to gush", the verb from Old Norse. Eruptions at Geysir can hurl boiling water up to 70 metres in the air. However, eruptions may be infrequent, and have in the past stopped altogether for years at a time.

Other Clues

1a clam bed {Where some diggers dig}; 8a WWII ace {Chuck Yeager, e.g., in brief}; 15a ravioli {Kreplach cousin}; 17a ahead of {Before}; 19a warty {Toadlike}; 20a fat {See 5-Down}; 22a Satie {"Socrate" composer}; 24a beets {Red flannel hash ingredients}; 26a mica {Isinglass}; 27a ENE {Dir. from Asheville to Winston-Salem}; 28a surreal {Like Miró's "The Tilled Field"}; 30a mar {Blemish}; 31a radiation levels {Counter measures?}; 34a transmute {Make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, e.g.?}; 35a holding patterns {They keep airliners aloft}; 41a a no {"So is that ___?"}; 42a notates {Adds to the staff}; 43a cot {Sleeping aid}; 44a neap {___ tide}; 46a laced {Like some punches}; 47a Mama {Elvis Presley's "___ Liked the Roses"}; 48a dines {Takes several courses}; 51a had it {"I've ___!"}; 52a droplet {Crime scene clue}; 54a I for one {"In my mind ..."}; 56a YouTube {Common blog link}; 57a abysmal {Unable to get much worse}; 58a entombs {Lays away for good}.

1d crawler {Night ___}; 3d averted {Fended off}; 4d Miata {Roadster that debuted in 1989}; 5d body {With 20-Across, natural energy source}; 6d ELO {Grp. with the 1977 album "Out of the Blue"}; 7d differing tastes {What food courts aim to satisfy}; 8d written material {Books and such}; 10d Îles {France's ___ d'Hyères}; 11d Islam {"The straight path"}; 12d at a time {Together}; 13d conical {Like a volcano}; 14d endears {Charms}; 21d aerospace {One industry above the rest?}; 24d butanol {Fuel derivable from biomass}; 25d saluted {Tipped one's hat to}; 28d sarin {Lethal compound}; 29d Letts {Neighbors of Belarusians}; 32d it'd {"___ better be good!"}; 33d vee {Notch, e.g.}; 35d hand dye {Produce batik}; 36d one iron {Driving club}; 37d loan out {Give for a while}; 38d RCA Dome {Colts' former home}; 40d stately {Like Buckingham Palace}; 45d Pepto {Rumbly tummy soother}; 51d Hoyt {Wilhelm of Cooperstown}; 55d FBI {Org. in "The Sting"}.

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