Thursday, June 24, 2010

NYT Thursday 6/24/10 - Droop Noses

It's starting to look like Thursday is the new Saturday in the New York Times crossword. This puzzle was quite a struggle until I saw what was going on with the gimmick, and only then seemed tractable. It ended up taking around the same time as last Thursday's toughie.

At the start, I struggled in vain to get going at the top of the grid, hampered - when I did think of answers - by having wrong ones (macho at 11-Down and heeds at 13-Down, for example). Working my way slowly down the grid, I only really got a momentum going in the SW, where I eventually worked out the beginnings of the critical-looking 61-Across ... but couldn't see how it would end. Perhaps not too surprising given the peculiarities of the idea?

I wasn't sure what to make of the hyphens as clues, and familiarity with previous appearances of such might have helped, if they consistently mean "no clue here - look elsewhere". In the absence of any other evidence, I assumed a hyphen, in various interpretations, might act as the definition, leading to less for example.

Eventually, I saw what was going on back where I started in the NW corner: the more I looked at it, the more 1-Across seemed it should be diagnose. My first thought was we must be dealing with a rebus again. Then I saw how neatly diagnose would fit, if it just bent down at the N. Very soon I had sussed out the whole idea and filled in each of the theme entries with 20 minutes on the clock. Mopping up the remaining unfilled areas was then a lot easier, but still took a good six minutes.

One clue I had great difficulties researching was 46-Down {"Mangia!" dish} for lasagna. This had the feel of a reference to an advertising campaign, but I struggled to pin down the reference. Eventually I consulted with Magdalen, who thinks the clue is just meant to suggest a likely dish in an Italian family meal.

To return to the idea: I like it in principle, but am not sure about take a steep nose-dive as the basis. The tautology makes me skeptical you'd ever say that, as opposed to take a nose-dive. I can't help wondering if there's another idiom out there that would have made more sense: obviously it needs the four-letter down leg of the answer to have some significance in the vertical orientation (as it does in the presented implementation).

By the way, today's grid needed to be in the slightly larger 16 row by 15 column configuration to accommodate the idea, the centrally symmetrical four-letter down entry dictating an even number of rows. I didn't notice the anomaly until creating the grid artwork, which clearly wasn't the usual square shape.
Solving time: 26 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 58d amici {Friends of Florence}

John Farmer
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


18-letter answers are inserted into three linked entries, with a drop where they contain NOSE, that treatment being inspired by the third example.
1a/5d/20a diagnose the problem {Find out what's wrong}
30a/33d/47a it makes no sense to me! {"Huh?!"}
61a/63d/72a take a steep nose-dive {Plummet ... or what this puzzle's theme answers do?}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersJohn Farmer / Will Shortz
Grid16x15 with 34 (14.2%) black squares
Answers79 (average length 5.22)
Theme squares54 (26.2%)
Scrabble points334 (average 1.62)
Video of the Day

1d Demme {"Philadelphia" director Jonathan}. I can't pass up this opportunity to reference Hub 1.0's city and profession (and Magdalen's former ditto). Philadelphia (1993) tells the story of Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks), a senior associate at the largest corporate law firm in Philadelphia. It was one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to acknowledge HIV/AIDS, homosexuality and homophobia. It was written by Ron Nyswaner, directed by Jonathan Demme and also stars Denzel Washington. It was inspired by the story of Geoffrey Bowers, an attorney who in 1987 sued the law firm Baker & McKenzie for unfair dismissal in one of the first AIDS discrimination cases. Hanks won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance.

The Doctor is IN

18a Dante {"A great flame follows a little spark" writer}. A quote from Paradiso, Canto I, line 34 ... Poca favilla gran fiamma seconda in the original Italian.

19a MLK {Monogram of 1964's Nobel Peace laureate}. I.e. Martin Luther King.

43a ansa {Jug handle, in archaeology}. ansa ("handle" in Latin) is the term for the engraved and ornamented handle of a vase, often surviving when the vase itself, being less durable, has disappeared.

29d St. Peter {Subject in many a joke}. As in the following, which - to judge by the hits - is a staple for Frank and Ernest.

Frank & Ernest

43d aunts {Clara and Harriet, in 1960s TV}. Aunt Clara (Marion Lorne) of Bewitched and Aunt Harriet (Madge Blake) of Batman.

44d rev {Short circuit?}. Presumably rev as in revolution.

53d Hägar {Viking in a Dik Browne strip}. Reference to the Hägar the Horrible comic strip and principal character.

58d amici {Friends of Florence}. The clue calls for the Italian for "friends", amici.

67d tad {Whisper}. Both meaning a small amount.

Image of the Day

54d Akita {Dog breed Helen Keller introduced to the U.S. in 1937}. The Akita Inu (秋田犬) is a breed of large dog originating in, and uncommon outside of Japan, named for Akita Prefecture, where it is thought to have originated. It is sometimes called the Akita-ken based on the Sino-Japanese reading of the same kanji. In most countries (with the exception of the American and Canadian Kennel Clubs), it is considered a separate breed from the American Akita, as requested by the Japanese Kennel Club. "Inu" means "dog."

When Helen Keller visited Akita Prefecture in July 1937, she inquired about Hachikō, the famed Akita dog that had died in 1935. She told a Japanese person that she would like to have an Akita dog; one was given to her within a month, with the name of Kamikaze-go. When he died of canine distemper, his older brother, Kenzan-go, was presented to her as an official gift from the Japanese government in July 1938. Keller is credited with having introduced the Akita to the United States through these two dogs.

Other Clues

6a NCO {Squad leader, e.g.: Abbr.}; 9a famed {Oft-talked of}; 14a Ethiopian {Like Moses' wife, per Numbers 12:1}; 16a thane {Cawdor title}; 17a mailsacks {Loot in an old train robbery}; 22a eyes {Regards}; 24a to seed {Downhill}; 25a yrs. {Sports seasons: Abbr.}; 26a coil {Wind up}; 28a cigs {Coffin nails}; 34a method {___ acting}; 38a chord {Key combination}; 39a oofs {"Batman" sound effects}; 41a pyro {Ignition system expert?}; 42a bode {Augur}; 44a repel {Turn off}; 45a Mr. Sulu {U.S.S. Enterprise crewman, to Kirk}; 49a pang {Qualm}; 51a Neve {"Scream" actress Campbell}; 52a sha {Doo-wop syllable}; 55a Stevie {Nicks of rock}; 57a rant {Blow a gasket}; 64a MBA {Deg. held by George W. Bush}; 65a aging {Senescence}; 66a semiotics {Robert Langdon's field in "The Da Vinci Code"}; 68a matin {Period before après-midi}; 69a transacts {Conducts, as business}; 70a Prada {Milan-based fashion label}; 71a -ose {Sugar suffix}.

2d Italy {"A Farewell to Arms" setting}; 3d a hike {"Take ___!"}; 4d Gil {Jazz great Evans}; 6d Nicholson {Actor in the Best Picture winners of 1975, 1983 and 2006}; 7d cakes {They're sometimes upside-down}; 8d on spec {Without assignment}; 9d Ft. Dodge {Old Army base on the Santa Fe Trail, briefly}; 10d Ahab {I Kings king}; 11d manly {Butch}; 12d enter {Welcome word}; 13d deems {Regards}; 15d Pattie {Peppermint ___}; 21d Reims {Site of Germany's surrender in W.W. II}; 23d scare up {Get ahold of with effort}; 27d OK'd {Having a permit}; 30d ICBM {Part of the U.S. arsenal}; 31d Thor {Onetime part of the U.S. arsenal}; 32d mods {Some '60s hipsters}; 35d hypo {Needle, informally}; 36d Orem {City near Provo}; 37d Dole {Republican candidate between Bush and Bush}; 40d Fannie Mae {Mortgage giant founded in 1938}; 46d lasagna {"Mangia!" dish}; 48d seep in {Come through slowly}; 50d gets to {Bugs}; 52d stamp {Perforation site}; 56d veers {Changes course}; 58d amici {Friends of Florence}; 59d NBC-TV {"More colorful" sloganeer}; 60d tasse {Café cup}; 62d Enid {Children's author Blyton}.

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