Friday, July 2, 2010

NYT Friday 7/2/10 Paula Gamache - Low Hanging Fruit

With today's Friday New York Times crossword, we return to a 15-heavy grid and this one, where each long answer intersects with four others, is certainly an impressive construction. This comes at the price of an excess of very short entries - 44 of the 72 clue answers are three- and four-letter - but I enjoyed the overall effect a lot and found my reasoned approach to two trouble-spots worked out fine.

The story with such grids usually depends on the speed and order you get the long answers. I wasn't having much success working along the first few downs (my usual tactic) until I got to 6-Down, which I recognized as meat thermometer (Magdalen couldn't live without one).

I decided to work along that backbone, making considerable progress in the donut-shaped middle of the grid; but my second long answer - spur-of-the-moment at 58-Across - came when I worked further down  towards the bottom. The lowest four rows then filled easily enough and I got bridge to nowhere and then gentleman farmer as I worked back up towards the middle.

Complete success at this stage was hampered by an unfamiliarity with the kind of sauce you eat with oysters at 33-Across - I wanted vinaigrette, but that was too long, of course. Instead I bridged back up to the top with low hanging fruit and mind your manners. I then realized that 17-Across must be Hawaiian Islands - I'd seen through the deception early on, just couldn't recall the details of Captain Cook's demise.

Hence back to the middle left and I eventually twigged to mignonette sauce just before completing the puzzle. The same area had a square I wasn't certain of - the crossing of 36-Across and 27-Down. Here the problem is Ari Graynor isn't well known and I would have expected an Ari to be an actor, not an actress; also {Originated} is potentially open to more possibilities than just sired. I eventually settled for that option after considering every other letter and finding nothing approaching the merits of the R at the intersection.

Similar problems at 37-Across and 34-Down, but here I switched horses and was completely satisfied I had the right choice of letter when I found it. My first thought was an H based on Tell Her Mama as the song; however, Ohl worried me as a surname and I decided to consider every other letter here also. When I arrived at Y, I realized that "Thimble Theatre" must have some connection with Popeye and Olive Oyl. Tell Yer Mama also seemed likely for a song title, given I'm now used to Yer Blues.

Based on my solving time, this crossword seems itself to qualify as low hanging fruit ... relative to other end-of-week puzzles at least!
Solving time: 19 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 35d sea {Something with many arms}
Solution

Paula Gamache
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersPaula Gamache / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 29 (12.9%) black squares
Answers72 (average length 5.44)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points298 (average 1.52)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



48d Rio {Setting for Hitchcock's "Notorious"}. Alfred Hitchcock's 1946 Notorious, not the 2009 biopic about The Notorious B.I.G.. This the first time I've noticed that RIO is embedded in NOTO-RIO-US and I wonder if that's a complete accident? Notorious stars Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains as three people whose lives become intimately entangled during an espionage operation in Rio de Janeiro. The movie features a legendary on-again, off-again kiss between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman which got around the then-current Production Code regulations that restricted the length of kisses to only a couple of seconds each.

The Doctor is IN

17a Hawaiian Islands {Cook's final setting}. Captain James Cook died in Hawaii in 1779.

36a Ari {Actress Graynor}. Ari Graynor is a recurring guest star on the Fox series Fringe, Ari being short for Ariel.

46a Eads {St. Louis landmark designer}. James Buchanan Eads (1820–1887) designed and built the first road and rail bridge to cross the Mississippi River at St. Louis.

60a Erie {County west of Wyoming}. References to Erie County and Wyoming County in New York State.

61a Peary {"Northward Over the Great Ice" writer}. I.e. Robert Peary, supposedly the first man to reach the geographic North Pole.

65a DSOs {U.K. decorations}. DSO = Distinguished Service Order, a military decoration awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the British armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat.

2d amat {Part of a loving threesome?}. Reference to "amo, amas, amat", the start of the conjugation of the verb "to love" in Latin.

9d also- {"Ran" preceder}. Reference to "also-ran".

34d Oyl {"Thimble Theatre" surname}. Popeye and Olive Oyl first appeared in E. C. Segar's Thimble Theatre comic strip.

42d Abe {Phiz on a five}. The United States five-dollar bill features Abraham Lincoln's portrait on the front.

51d msec {How long it takes light to travel 186 mi.}. msec = millisecond (light travels at 186,000 miles per second).

53d SFPD {Org. in "Monk"}. Monk is a "Former Detective" in the SPFD, although it turns out the rank of Detective isn't used in that force.

57d Stes. {Women with auréoles: Abbr.}. Stes. = Saintes, "auréoles" being "halos" in French.

59d hai {Asian affirmative}. hai means "yes" in Japanese.

Image of the Day

oysters with mignonette and cocktail sauce

33a mignonette sauce {Accompaniment for oysters}. Mignonette sauce is a condiment usually made with minced shallots, cracked pepper, and vinegar. It is traditionally served with raw oysters. The name "mignonette" originally referred to a bundle of peppercorns, cloves, and spices used to flavor dishes, but now simply means cracked pepper. Though different mignonette sauces use different types of vinegar, all contain pepper.

Other Clues

1a hall {Where a lecture may be given}; 5a ameba {Biology class topic}; 10a T-man {One trying to eliminate bad notes}; 14a à moi {French possessive}; 15a pearl {Beauty}; 16a Sino- {___-American relations}; 20a athirst {Eager}; 21a do or die {Desperate}; 22a ask {Charge}; 23a tag {Graffitist's trademark}; 25a DIY {Like much home improvement, for short}; 26a is no {"The answer ___"}; 28a shied {Drew back}; 30a Noah {One who brought together many couples}; 37a Yer {"Tell ___ Mama" (2009 Norah Jones song)}; 38a Ole {With 52-Down, a "grand" place}; 39a RNA {Biology class topic}; 40a gentleman farmer {One with a growing hobby}; 44a edge {What a jumpy person is on}; 45a robot {Steel worker?}; 47a far {Substantially}; 49a mew {Sound that might indicate hunger}; 50a inn {Maid employer}; 51a mortise {Dovetail part}; 54a Havanas {Select smokes}; 58a spur-of-the-moment {Snap}; 62a erne {Kite's kin}; 63a -cyte {Suffix with adipo-}; 64a dries {Gives some air time?}.

1d ha-ha {Crack response}; 3d low hanging fruit {It may be picked first}; 4d liaison {Link}; 5d Apis {Honeybee genus}; 6d meat thermometer {It helps show you when something is done}; 7d -ean {Suffix with Mozart}; 8d bridge to nowhere {Symbol of pork}; 10d tsarina {Sovereign of yore}; 11d mind your manners {Social admonition}; 12d and I {"You ___" (2004 Celine Dion hit)}; 13d nose {One can get stuffy}; 18d irk {Test the patience of}; 19d Lod {City in the Plain of Sharon}; 24d ait {Land in a stream}; 26d image {Projected thing}; 27d sired {Originated}; 28d sneer {Grinch's expression}; 29d Delft {Vermeer's home}; 31d acned {Having a spotty situation to face?}; 32d hears {Learns (of)}; 35d sea {Something with many arms}; 41d tea tree {Source of an essential oil with medicinal properties}; 43d renamed {Superficially updated}; 50d Ivo {Pianist Pogorelich}; 52d Opry {See 38-Across}; 55d Amys {Actress Poehler and others}; 56d anno {Dating word}.

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