Thursday, June 3, 2010

NYT Friday 6/4/10 - Puzzle Taming

My result for this Friday New York Times crossword has to set a new end-of-week record for me: I haven't exactly been keeping a close eye on this, but my times for all such puzzles recently have seemingly been around the 25 minute mark. Today's 16 minuter is more typical for a Thursday.

I didn't sense I was getting off to a good start for the first couple of minutes, making few dents in the first dozen or so downs. But then I noticed 14-Across {Dangerous thing, supposedly}. I knew the referenced Pope quotation of old, as Evelyn Waugh borrowed from it for the title of his first (and only, it turned out) volume of autobiography A Little Learning. As a proverb, Pope's sentiment is often rendered "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing", but I wasn't to be fooled.

Having this 15-letter answer made a huge difference and I generally feel there's more advantage in getting traction at the top of a grid than the bottom. I couldn't complete 17-Across immediately, but could see how it would end and so moved along to the NE corner in order to get the next pair of 15s going down.

From here I proceeded in a clockwise direction, never really pausing for a moment. The Scotia Sea at 60-Across was unfamiliar, so I was very glad to have done the work on Alphabet Soup recently: FCC (55-Down) locked in the second letter of Scotia, making me more comfortable with guessing Bret Boone for 51-Down.

Towards the end, I tackled the center and center-left more-or-less simultaneously, to deal with a smattering of answers I had to make educated guesses at: I'm not much of a Mimosa drinker and couldn't immediately think who the Moran was that gunned for Capone ... my best guess was law enforcement personnel - far from it!

cat tamingOne clue that I completely failed to understand was {Chair person?} at 15-Down. I was very careful to check every crossing, and was sure tamer had to be the answer, but still couldn't fathom why and had to just cross fingers on it. Googling "tamer" with "chair" reminded me that lion tamers are often caricatured as wielding chairs, but is this a common enough image to be referenced in a clue for just tamer (as opposed to lion tamer)? From my point of view no, as the clue fell flat for me; but maybe I'm the odd one out here?
Solving time: 16 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 32d Sgt. {One may demand attention: Abbr.}

Martin Ashwood-Smith
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersMartin Ashwood-Smith / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 28 (12.4%) black squares
Answers70 (average length 5.63)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points316 (average 1.60)
Video of the Day

39a Sing a {"I Can ___ Rainbow" (classic kids' tune)}. I Can Sing a Rainbow is a popular children's classic song written by Arthur Hamilton. The song has been used to teach children names of colours. However, despite the name of the song, not all the colors mentioned are actually colors of the rainbow. Above is a clip of the song in a medley with Love is Blue by the Dells, which reached number 22 in the US pop charts in 1969.

The Doctor is IN

14a a little learning {Dangerous thing, supposedly}. Reference to "A little learning is a dang'rous thing" - an oft-misquoted line from Alexander Pope's Essay on Criticism.

23a César {Ritz of the Ritz}. César Ritz (1850–1918), "king of hoteliers, and hotelier to kings," founded the Hôtel Ritz, in Paris and The Ritz Hotel in London.

33a Moran {He tried to have Capone killed in 1926}. Bugs Moran (1891-1957) made several attempts to kill rival gang leader Al Capone.

37a Orel {Oblast between Kursk and Tula}. Orel is an alternative spelling of Oryol, a city and oblast (administrative district) in Russia.

42a booze-up {Brit's bender}. Americans don't have booze-ups? A booze-up is a drinking spree, equivalent to a bender.

59a EEE {Oxford letters}. EEE = a wide shoe size, Oxford being a type of shoe.

15d tamer {Chair person?}. The image of a lion tamer using a chair for protection may have begun with Clyde Beatty (1903-1965).

21d mimosa {It may create a buzz in the morning}. Referencing the Mimosa cocktail, a brunch favorite.

28d Lange {"Tootsie" Oscar winner}. Not Teri Garr for a change: Jessica Lange won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing the role of Julie Nichols in Tootsie (1982).

43d pekoe {It's superior to bohea}. Pekoe and bohea are varieties of black tea.

48d Mamas {Half of a 1960s pop group}. Reference to The Mamas & the Papas.

55d FCC {TV monitor}. FCC = Federal Communications Commission is in Alphabet Soup with virtually this clue.

Image of the Day

sumo wrestling

34a sumo {Mawashi wearer's activity}. In sumo, a mawashi (Japanese: 廻し) is the belt that the rikishi (or sumo wrestler) wears during training or in competition. For top, sekitori, ranked professional rikishi it is made of silk and comes in a variety of colors. It is approximately 30 feet (9.1 m) in length when unwrapped, about two feet wide and weighs between eight and eleven pounds. It is wrapped several times around the rikishi and fastened in the back by a large knot. A series of matching color, stiffened silk fronds, called sagari are inserted into the front of the mawashi. Their number varies from 13 to 25, and is always an odd number. If these fall out during competition the gyoji (or referee) will throw them from the ring at the first opportunity.

Upper ranked professional wrestlers wear a keshō-mawashi (see below) as part of the ring entry ceremony or dohyo-iri. This silk 'belt' opens out at one end into a large apron which is usually heavily embroidered and with thick tassels at the bottom. The keshō-mawashi may advertise the produce of a sponsor of the rikishi (For example Bulgarian Ozeki Kotooshu is sponsored by a Japanese brand of yogurt, "Bulgaria", which is prominently displayed on the front of his keshō-mawashi) or be a gift from one of the rikishi's support groups. Popular rikishi may be given many of these keshō-mawashi.

Other Clues

1a mats {Gym equipment}; 5a Swayze {People magazine's 1991 "Sexiest Man Alive"}; 11a mia {Parmesan possessive}; 17a compared against {Vis-à-vis}; 18a team {See 41-Across}; 19a D'oh {Spoken word that's a sound trademark of 20th Century Fox}; 20a spits {They may rotate at luaus}; 21a mooted {Brought up for discussion}; 24a in F {Like Beethoven's Symphony No. 8}; 25a ruffles {Irritates}; 29a tun {Vintner's vessel}; 31a mods {Adjustments, informally}; 35a O neg {Blood designation, briefly}; 36a plant {One that shoots}; 38a sept {A third of vingt-et-un}; 40a xeno- {Prefix with phobia}; 41a as a {With 18-Across, how some people work}; 44a cts. {Short change?}; 45a preen {Be a dandy}; 47a remaps {Adds roads to, say}; 49a altar {Last place to be single?}; 50a CBS {Former "Reach for the stars" sloganeer}; 53a Kama {Hindu love god}; 54a pause for a moment {Take five}; 58a stretcher-bearer {Battlefield attendant}; 60a Scotia {___ Sea (part of the South Atlantic)}; 61a sale {Crowd draw, maybe}.

1d Mac {Desktop option}; 2d a lot on ones plate {Many things to juggle}; 3d time of departure {It's often pushed back before taking off}; 4d St. Pat {Green party V.I.P.?}; 5d SLR {Canon shooter, briefly}; 6d weed {Unwanted 36-Across}; 7d Aldo {Lt. Raine of "Inglourious Basterds"}; 8d yeah {"___, you!"}; 9d zag {Veer}; 10d erases {"Only the hand that ___ can write the true thing": Meister Eckhart}; 11d miniature camera {Spying aid}; 12d instrument panel {Flying aid}; 13d agts. {They get cuts: Abbr.}; 16d nips {Thimblefuls}; 22d dumps on {Criticizes severely}; 23d centaur {Horseback figure?}; 26d folio {Page number}; 27d Franz {Liszt or Schubert}; 30d no loss {"I won't miss it"}; 32d Sgt. {One may demand attention: Abbr.}; 34d Sox {White ___}; 42d berets {Special Forces trademarks}; 46d ease {Luxury}; 49d apse {Oratory projection}; 50d coho {Silver salmon}; 51d Bret {Second baseman Boone}; 52d sari {Pakistani fashion}; 56d MBA {Many an exec}; 57d tre {Low numero}.

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