Sunday, June 27, 2010

NYT Monday 6/28/10 Joel Fagliano - Gaga Over It

This Monday New York Times crossword makes a cracking start to the week: the idea is straightforward (phrases with a tightly constrained pattern), but there are six examples, with two pairs crossing. The really unusual feature of the grid is the plethora of rarer letters (six X's!!!!!!, three J's!!! and a Q!) raising the average Scrabble value per letter to 1.87.

It seemed about average difficulty for the day: one thing that held me up was being a little confused about the pattern of the theme answers. From a few early examples like la-la Land, I wrongly assumed letters 1, 3 and 5 would be the same - in that way I ended up with Mama Maid at 38-Down, which took a few extra seconds to remedy.

One other oddity about the grid is the orientation: the grid could have been flipped around the diagonal to have four theme answers across and two down (rather than the other way round). I'm not clear why this wasn't done ... maybe because rara avis is one of the least spicy examples and it was thought preferable to kick off with la-la land as the first across thematic.

Tata NanoI thought I'd use TEA to see what might have been left on the cutting room floor: a few alternatives in Mama Bear (but Papa's there already), Papa John and Mama Cass, but nothing terribly exciting ... the constructor seems to have scraped the barrel fairly dry in his choices. I was amused to discover that there's an Indian car maker called Tata and a few of its models fit the puzzle mold including the Tata Nano, the "cheapest car in the world today".
Solving time: 5 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 47a oxymoron {Clearly confused, e.g.}
Solution

Joel Fagliano
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

(4,4) phrases in which the first and third letters are the same and the second and fourth letters are A. Harder to explain than show the examples:
20a la-la land {Dreamy state}
56a Baba Wawa {Gilda Radner character on "S.N.L."}
5d rara avis {One in a million}
10d va-va voom! {"Hubba hubba!"}
38d Mama Said {1961 hit for the Shirelles}
40d Papa Bear {Owner of the largest bed Goldilocks tried}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersJoel Fagliano / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares46 (24.3%)
Scrabble points353 (average 1.87)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



25a Liev {Schreiber who won a Tony for "Glengarry Glen Ross"}. Glengarry Glen Ross is a 1982 play written by David Mamet. The play shows parts of two days in the lives of four desperate Chicago real estate agents who are prepared to engage in any number of unethical, illegal acts—from lies and flattery to bribery, threats, intimidation, and burglary—to sell undesirable real estate to unwilling prospective buyers. The play draws partly on Mamet's experiences of life in a Chicago real estate office, where he worked briefly in the late 1960s. The title of the play comes from the names of two of the real estate developments being peddled by the salesmen characters, Glengarry Highlands and Glen Ross Farms. Liev Schreiber won the Tony for his portrayal of Richard Roma in the 2005 Broadway revival, the part played by Al Pacino in the 1992 movie (trailer above).

The Doctor is IN

1a Jags {Some British sports cars, briefly}. I.e. Jaguars.

47a oxymoron {Clearly confused, e.g.}. "clearly confused" is a contradiction in terms, aka an oxymoron.

2d aria {Mozart's "Il mio tesoro," e.g.}. Il mio tesoro is Ottavio's aria from Don Giovanni.

7d LAPD {"Columbo" org.}. Lieutenant Columbo was a homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department.

50d jewfro {Curly ethnic hairstyle, colloquially}. The term jewfro is a portmanteau of Jewish and Afro.

Image of the Day

veery

28d veery {Small American thrush}. Seems a veery obscure reference for a Monday? The veery, Catharus fuscescens, is apparently a small species of thrush, which is what I'd have taken it for. It is occasionally called Willow Thrush or Wilson's Thrush. This bird has a breezy downward-spiralling flute-like song, often heard from a low but concealed location. The most common call is a vee-er, which gave this bird its name. Although they breed in Canada and parts of the northern USA, they don't show up in Pennsylvania according to our bird book; veeries migrate to eastern South America.

Other Clues

5a rules {Contest specifications}; 10a vest {Third piece of a three-piece suit}; 14a Iraq {Baghdad's home}; 15a apart {Separately}; 16a axis {x or y, on a graph}; 17a lieu {In ___ of (replacing)}; 18a repro {Copy, for short}; 19a Vera {Wang of fashion}; 22a phaser {"Star Trek" weapon}; 24a Road {The Beatles' "Abbey ___"}; 26a live TV {Broadcast with little room for mistakes}; 29a let loose {Unshackle}; 33a ace {Card that may be "in the hole"}; 34a six am {Early morning hour}; 36a Mobil {Exxon merged with it}; 37a seem {Appear}; 39a set up {Provide with a blind date, say}; 41a mace {Anti-attacker spray}; 42a Sarah {Politico Palin}; 44a reran {Aired again}; 46a men {Stag party attendees}; 49a pajama {___ party (sleepover)}; 51a apex {Pinnacle}; 52a jade {Green gem}; 53a fits in {Isn't an odd one out}; 60a area {Side x side, for a 4-Down}; 61a adobe {Hacienda material}; 63a flat {Fizzless, as a Coke}; 64a maxi {Long skirt}; 65a mamba {Lethal cousin of the cobra}; 66a rent {$50 for Boardwalk, in Monopoly}; 67a estd. {Founded: Abbr.}; 68a embar {Put in prison}; 69a oxen {Pair with a plow}.

1d Jill {Jack's partner in rhyme}; 3d Gael {Celt or Highlander}; 4d square {Equilateral quadrilateral}; 6d upend {Overturn}; 8d err {Make a boo-boo}; 9d stop it! {"Cut that out!"}; 11d exes {They've gone their separate ways}; 12d sire {Retired racehorse, maybe}; 13d tsar {Peter the Great, e.g.}; 21d lots {Oodles}; 23d helm {Captain's place on a ship}; 25d lemur {Ring-tailed primate}; 26d lasso {Rodeo ring?}; 27d ice ax {Mountaineer's tool}; 29d laten {Go past midnight, say}; 30d Obama {First president not born in the continental U.S.}; 31d sic 'em {Words to an attack dog}; 32d Elena {2008 Olympics tennis champion Dementieva}; 35d Xerox {Copy, of a sort}; 43d Hopi {Pueblo Indian}; 45d nada {Zilch}; 48d rename {Put a new title on}; 52d Jabba {"Star Wars" villain ___ the Hutt}; 53d fame {Renown}; 54d IRAs {401(k) cousins}; 55d text {Communicate like many teens}; 56d bomb {Fail miserably}; 57d Alex {Trebek of "Jeopardy!"}; 58d wane {What moons do after full moons}; 59d attn. {Abbr. before a name on a memo}; 62d dam {Beaver's construction}.

2 comments:

Occasional Constructor said...

Great Monday puzzle fill, really. VEERY is a bit obscure, but then again, it made my little dictionary, while JEWFRO did not. Both words have reasonably gettable crosses, tho -- BABAWAWA possibly being the most challenging. Wonder if there's ever been a NYT puzzle theme of OXYMORONs; would seem to be right up their alley.

Nice writeup, as always.

Crossword Man said...

Thanks Occasional. That was the first I'd heard of Jewfros, which I gather from other blogs is considered veery edgy for the NYT. Long live Shortz. Baba Wawa, like Shamu, is parochial; but now that I've learned them, they work in my favor.