Monday, May 31, 2010

NYT Tuesday 6/1/10 - Taking the Pledge

This Tuesday New York Times crossword rings the changes nicely: it's been over six months since I last used the label. I gather putting one-word theme clues in capitals is a historical convention - it really helps to do so in this case, as they would otherwise be very tough to spot.

Although I had no doubts what was going on with the theme, I found the thematic clues among the hardest to solve ... this has a lot to do with the answers being (in most cases) somewhat removed from the definition you might expect to see in a dictionary. I invariably needed half or more of the crossings to get each theme answer.

There was one crossing that gave me a lot of grief: I wasn't sure what was going on with 44-Across {"Animal House" beanie sporters} and hadn't heard of 44-Down {___ Vallarta, Mexico}. Although I instinctively reached for a P at the crossing, I realized I had little basis for that and had to run through the alphabet to check for other possibilities.

Doing this, I couldn't completely rule out Suerto/sledges and Fuerto/fledges even though neither looked particularly convincing. What I should have remembered is that Puerto is Spanish for "port" and therefore a point strongly in favor of that as the correct answer. It's time to add port = Puerto to Español para los crucigramistas.

Eventually I decided to go with my gut feeling and it finally dawned on me what a "pledge" must be when checking through the Wikipedia entry for Animal House. My difficulties over the 44a/44d crossing are very likely unique to me.
Solving time: 8 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 63a pen {Place that's "up the river"}

Sarah Keller
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


A "reverse" theme, in which the clues (rather than the answers) are related. In this case, differing just by the vowel:
17a mischievous {BAD}
23a place to sleep {BED}
37a offer {BID}
46a person's build {BOD}
56a future bloom {BUD}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersSarah Keller / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.79)
Theme squares51 (27.3%)
Scrabble points289 (average 1.55)
Video of the Day

44a pledges {"Animal House" beanie sporters}. I was doubly disadvantaged here, not knowing the required meaning of pledge and being unfamiliar with the movie. National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) is a 1978 American comedy film directed by John Landis. The film is about a misfit group of fraternity men who challenge their college's administrators. I'm not sure where the beanie hats come in, but I'm hoping someone who knows the movie will explain.

The Doctor is IN

6a Olsen {Late football star and FTD pitchman Merlin}. Merlin Olsen, who played his entire 15-year career with the Los Angeles Rams, died on March 11, 2010.

15a Nancy {Sluggo's comics pal}. Reference to Sluggo Smith in the comic strip Nancy.

31a Greta {Van Susteren of Fox News}. Greta Van Susteren hosts On The Record with Greta Van Susteren.

51a Lena {Late singer Horne}. Lena Horne - singer, actress, civil rights activist and dancer - died on May 9, 2010.

52a TVA {F.D.R. power project: Abbr.}. TVA = Tennessee Valley Authority is in Alphabet Soup.

63a pen {Place that's "up the river"}. "up the river" is slang for "in prison", hence pen = penitentiary.

5d Ophelia {Shakespeare character who goes insane}. Ophelia from Hamlet.

11d indie {The movie "Wordplay," for one}. Wordplay (2006) is the documentary featuring Will Shortz et al.

32d CFL {North-of-the-border grid org.}. CFL = Canadian Football League.

44d Puerto {___ Vallarta, Mexico}. Puerto Vallarta is a resort city on the Pacific Ocean's Bahía de Banderas.

54d Ames {Spy Aldrich}. Aldrich Ames, a former CIA counter-intelligence officer and analyst, who was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and later Russia.

57d UVA {Sch. founded by Thomas Jefferson}. UVA is in The Crucy League.

Image of the Day

The Birth of Old Glory by Edward Percy Moran

35d Ross {Woman depicted in "The Birth of Old Glory"}. I first encountered my namesake Betsy Ross (1752–1836) soon after arriving in Pennsylvania: one of the biggest bridges out of Philadelphia is named after her and I wondered who this Betsy was to be so honored. It turns out she is widely but probably erroneously credited with making the first American flag. The Birth of Old Glory by Edward Percy Moran (c. 1917), depicts the imagined presentation by Betsy Ross of the first American flag to George Washington.

Other Clues

1a taboo {No-no}; 11a IDs {Driver's lic. and such}; 14a usurp {Take forcibly}; 16a nit {Thing to pick}; 19a doe {Buck's mate}; 20a say {Two cents' worth}; 21a Esai {Morales of "La Bamba"}; 22a aide {Capitol Hill worker}; 27a appoint {Name to the cabinet, say}; 30a idea {Comic-strip light bulb}; 32a cleanser {Ajax or Bon Ami}; 36a hoer {Weed whacker}; 39a Lilo {Movie pal of Stitch}; 40a abnormal {Strange}; 42a banks {River pair}; 43a a hat {At the drop of ___}; 50a omit {Exclude}; 55a pos. {Blood-type abbr.}; 60a ute {Versatile vehicle, for short}; 61a overt {For all to see}; 62a ovate {Not quite round}; 64a X-Acto {Hobbyist's knife brand}; 65a rides {Doesn't hoof it}.

1d Tums {Rolaids alternative}; 2d Asia {Province of ancient Rome}; 3d busy {Like the proverbial beaver}; 4d orc {Tolkien beast}; 6d one-act {Having no intermission}; 7d La Vie {"___ en Rose" (Edith Piaf song)}; 8d sno {___-cone}; 9d écu {Old French coin}; 10d NYS {Albany is its cap.}; 12d diode {L.E.D. part}; 13d steep {High, pricewise}; 18d is an {"This ___ outrage!"}; 22d Alan Ladd {"Shane" star}; 23d pot-roast {Slow-cooked beef entree}; 24d tile {Some flooring}; 25d Oder {Wroclaw's river}; 26d sea {Neptune's realm}; 27d agha {Ottoman Empire chief}; 28d prob {"No ___!" ("Easy!")}; 29d peen {Hammer part}; 33d sing {Rat on the Mob}; 34d Elke {Sommer in cinema}; 37d Oman {Neighbor of Yemen}; 38d fats {Some are saturated}; 41d rho {Letter after pi}; 42d belabor {Beat to death, so to speak}; 45d line {Checkout annoyance}; 46d pop-up {Like some toasters and children's books}; 47d emote {Overdo it onstage}; 48d risen {"Christ is ___!" (Easter shout)}; 49d blurt {Say without thinking}; 52d toad {Fly-catching creature}; 53d vote {Show of hands, e.g.}; 56d fox {Symbol of slyness}; 58d 'tec {Gumshoe}; 59d LVI {56, in old Rome}.


Daniel Myers said...


Somewhere in your archives there's a post from me of this very subject; to wit, the movie "Animal House" and the word "pledge." In it, I say, in response to another commentator, something to the effect that my knowledge of American fraternities and students who have been tapped but not yet initiated into the fraternities extends no further than this very funny movie in which said students - called therein "pledges" - are forced to undergo various demeaning initiation rites---such as sporting beanies.

Daniel Myers said...

I found it! The comments section of Saturday 2/27/10 entitled Mad Props

Crossword Man said...

Thanks Daniel, and sorry for not remembering your sage advice on pledges. Clearly Animal House is required viewing for me!

Anonymous said...

You have this labeled as 'Solo, no solving aids', but in your post you state that you used Wikipedia to look up Animal House. Doesn't that count as a solving aid?

Crossword Man said...

Hi Anon. After I've finished the grid to the best of my ability & without solving aids, I check resources like Wikipedia for anything I'm not sure about ... I want to present a correct solution and also fess up to any mistakes. Sorry that wasn't clear!

Anonymous said...

Oh, okay. That makes sense.