Tuesday, May 25, 2010

NYT Wednesday 5/26/10 - From B to A

The week seems to be approaching normality now with this Wednesday New York Times crossword: a neat pun-based idea with a typical mid-week solving time.

It took a while to see what was going on with the theme: after working for three minutes, I had about half the letters in both 20-Across and 29-Across, but still couldn't make sense of things. As I had more towards 29-Across, and could see the second word was chops, I made a big effort there and soon came up with lama chops: I immediately realized Bs were becoming As (without quite seeing why at that stage).

This big effort turned out to be well spent, as I found the remaining theme answers much easier to deal with. Once I got to 56-Across, I was delighted to see a perfect justification for the shenanigans in the form of grade inflation - a hot issue not just in the USA, but in the UK, where GCSE and A-level exams have become "markedly" easier, it seems.

Although I felt I had this puzzle right, there were some areas where I trod very carefully: in the SE corner, I'd quite forgotten about the embarrassment caused by Levi Johnston and have only lately learned about Dred ... so I double- and triple-checked the answers to the down clues there. It was a similar story with El Toro at the bottom middle.
Solving time: 8 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 15a rename {Dub over}
Solution

Anna Shechtman
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

B is elevated to A in a phrase, making a pun ... this treatment being inspired by 56a grade inflation {Modern educational phenomenon ... or a hint to 20-, 29-, 38- and 45-Across}.
20a goes out on a lima {Chokes after bean eating?} cf goes out on a limb
29a lama chops {Monk's karate blows?} cf lamb chops
38a Vera endings {Movie finales featuring actress Miles?} cf verb endings
45a honey coma {Result of a sweetener overload?} cf honeycomb
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersAnna Shechtman / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 40 (17.8%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.87)
Theme squares57 (30.8%)
Scrabble points277 (average 1.50)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



9d Emma {Novel on which "Clueless" is based}. It's Jane Austen, but not as we know it. The movie Clueless (1995) is loosely based on Emma; it's set in a Beverly Hills high school and was written and directed by Amy Heckerling and produced by Scott Rudin. The movie stars Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash and Brittany Murphy. The film spun off a television show and a series of books.

The Doctor is IN

5a Glover {Actor Danny of "The Color Purple"}. Danny Glover plays Mr. Albert Johnson in The Color Purple.

15a rename {Dub over}. Neat misdirection: "Dub over" = "name again" = rename.

16a Ann {English novelist Radcliffe}. Ann Radcliffe (1764–1823) was a pioneer of the gothic novel.

24a RPI {The Engineers of the N.C.A.A.: Abbr.}. RPI, Tyler Hinman's alma mater, is in the The Crucy League.

48a Helga {Wife of Hägar the Horrible}. Hägar the Horrible 101: wife = Helga, daughter = Honi, dog = Snert, duck = Kvack; creator Dik Browne.

67a Levi {Johnston in 2008-09 news}. Levi Johnston, former fiancé of Bristol Palin.

70a Dred {Harriet Beecher Stowe novel}. Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp was Harriet Beecher Stowe's second novel.

39d EEO {Abbr. in help-wanted ads}. EEO = equal employment opportunity.

Image of the Day

El Toro

63a El Toro {Fearsome wooden roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure}. El Toro ("The Bull" in Spanish) is a wooden roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure. It opened to the public on June 11, 2006. It was designed by Intamin AG of Switzerland. It had the steepest drop of any wooden roller coaster in the world, at 76 degrees, until this record was broken by T Express in 2008. It is the third tallest (188 ft; 57 m) and third fastest (70 mph; 113 km/h) wooden roller coaster in the world. It is also the first wooden roller coaster to use a cable lift hill instead of the traditional chain lift. Because of the extreme negative g-forces (airtime) on the ride, the lap-bar restraints are very tight, causing some problems for older and larger riders. El Toro is the main attraction of a new Mexican-themed section, Plaza Del Carnaval. Some of the ride's track is located in Rolling Thunder's infield. It is the steepest lifted (as opposed to launched) roller coaster in the park.

Other Clues

1a twit {Ninny}; 11a boa {Jungle menace}; 14a Reno {"___ 911!" (former Comedy Central show)}; 17a attn. {Abbr. before a name in a memo}; 18a on time {Promptly}; 19a dry {Like zinfandel wines}; 23a inn {No room at the ___}; 25a some {Not all}; 27a ceded {Gave up}; 34a Tel. {Business card abbr.}; 36a navy {Shade of blue}; 37a DST {When clocks are set ahead: Abbr.}; 41a Sri {___ Lanka}; 43a lieu {In ___ of}; 44a Ste {Fr. holy woman}; 52a hues {Tints}; 53a Lai {China's Chou En-___}; 55a ore {Metalliferous rock}; 62a Chi {The Windy City, briefly}; 64a Otoe {Plains Indian}; 65a hip {Cool, man}; 66a eleven {Nearing midnight}; 68a ate {Broke a fast}; 69a remade {Newly fashioned}.

1d tragic {Like some irony}; 2d wet one {Sloppy kiss}; 3d intend {Mean}; 4d tons {Lots and lots}; 5d group {Congregation}; 6d lentil {Soup bean}; 7d onto {Not duped by}; 8d vain {Futile}; 10d reel {Recite rapidly, with "off"}; 11d bad moods {Peevish states}; 12d on-ramps {Interstate entrances}; 13d any {"Pick a number, ___ number"}; 21d orderly {Hospital attendant}; 22d -ish {Noncommittal suffix}; 26d est. {Approx. number}; 28d été {Time off from l'école}; 30d annum {Per ___}; 31d Mad {Magazine featuring 47-Down}; 32d Avis {Alamo competitor}; 33d Cynthia {"Sex and the City" actress Nixon}; 35d laic {Not of the cloth}; 38d vine-ripe {Like some tomatoes}; 40d gee! {Exclamation before "I didn't know that!"}; 41d shh! {Library admonishment}; 42d rough it {Camp in the wild}; 46d esa {That, to Juanita}; 47d Alfred {___ E. Neuman}; 49d loiter {Hang around}; 50d groove {Pronounced rhythm, in music}; 51d Aeneid {Origin of the phrase "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts"}; 54d alone {Unassisted}; 57d deer {___ Xing}; 58d elle {She, in Cherbourg}; 59d item {Twosome}; 60d Nova {___ Scotia}; 61d told {Tattled}; 62d cha {When doubled, a dance}.

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