Saturday, July 3, 2010

NYT Saturday 7/3/10 Joe Krozel - Per Ardua Ad Astra

This Saturday New York Times crossword is a nice half-way-house between yesterday's grid dominated by the 15-letter answers and a conventional "open" grid with large areas of white space. Having just six 15-letter entries allowed a much wider range of answer lengths: the resulting average answer length is a very high 6.41.

It's interesting that the constructor expanded the grid to have 16 columns, rather than 15. It suggests what was brought off here was close to unachievable. The need for each long across answer to intersect with four other long answers (the same case as yesterday) is a horrendous constraint.

Having suffered for his art, maybe Joe thought it was our turn as solvers. I certainly found clue solving painfully slow and in the early stages thought I'd go well over a 30 minute solving time. But I reached a certain critical mass of answers after about 20 minutes and managed a sprint to the finish.

Unlike yesterday, I had real problems getting the first few long entries and had been going 15 minutes before seeing Swimsuit Edition at 13-Down. This helped push things along, but very slowly and the next long answer to come was eat one's heart out five minutes later, followed almost immediately by in all probability across the top.

Universal Studios MonstersThe whole top half of the grid was completed around this time and I worked down the left hand side via plant in one's mind and penalty declined (inferrable from the clue, but not a term I'm familiar with). Finally I got Universal Studios {"Dracula" and "Frankenstein" producer} to help mop up some of the difficult areas at the bottom.

The cluing is about as difficult as I can remember and there were at least two examples I didn't understand until after I put down my pencil: I couldn't see how {Start of the second half?} gave NOP until noticing the letter sequence, and had to ask Magdalen which senate was involved in {Senate stars?} leading to astra (I knew the Latin, but thought the reference might be to a U.S. Senate motto).

The areas around those two answers obviously came under close scrutiny, but I was reasonably sure of them even without understanding the clues. Another dodgy area was everything crossing the ʻalala {Brown-tinged Hawaiian crow}, especially Neales {Tennis's Fraser and others}, which I also had to guess at. My unreliable memory had led to charos at 39-Across, but I reconsidered when faced with the unlikely AHALA. I was happier with ʻalala ... perhaps from memories of it in an earlier puzzle? I was certainly much more confident about claros too.

How about 46d guns {Magazine contents}? I started out with the answer ammo here and I'm not convinced the clue is right ... do guns ever get stored in magazines in any of the contexts (army/navy/etc) they might be used?
Solving time: 30 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 29a dynamites {Levels with sticks?}

Joe Krozel
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersJoe Krozel / Will Shortz
Grid15x16 with 22 (9.2%) black squares
Answers68 (average length 6.41)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points291 (average 1.33)
Video of the Day

27a Ernies {Keebler's head elf and others}. The animated Keebler Elves, led by "Ernest J. Keebler", or "Ernie", rank among the best-known characters from commercials. The elves have appeared in countless television advertisements throughout the years, shown baking their unique products. The Keebler tree logo reflects this characterization. Burnett's company created the elves in 1968, calling the bakery "The Hollow Tree Factory." J.J. Keebler was the "blustery" original head elf in 1969. Ernie Keebler became "head elf" in 1970. White-haired Ernie wears a green jacket, a white shirt with a yellow tie, a red vest, and floppy shoes. The Hollow Tree motif was repeated at Keebler/Kelloggs factories in Columbus, Georgia and Elmhurst, Illinois, whose street address or employee entrance is at 1 Hollow Tree Lane. Many of the Keebler commercials were narrated by the announcer Danny Dark.

The Doctor is IN

22a Mor. {It's south of Sp.}. Mor. = Morocco and Sp. = Spain.

23a alts. {Tree line stats.}. alts. = altitudes.

31a Arliss {Sitcom sports agent Michaels}. Arliss Michaels, played by Robert Wuhl, in the HBO show Arliss.

34a centre {Bath hub?}. Bath indicating the British English spelling of center.

35a Appleseed {Sowing pioneer}. I.e. Johnny Appleseed.

38a acers {Court whizzes}. acers = those making an ace on the tennis court.

43a Dirs. {47-Across personnel: Abbr.}. Dirs. = directors in the sense of film-makers.

44a Sim {Screened city dweller?}. Sims are the virtual people in video games such as SimCity.

46a Gotti {High-profile defendant of 1992}. John Gotti (1940-2002) aka "The Dapper Don" and "The Teflon Don".

6d NOP {Start of the second half?}. The second half of the alphabet starts NOP.

5d isla {Gran Bretaña, e.g.}. island = isla is in Español para los crucigramistas.

11d Elis {Participants in the annual Safety Dance}. Reference to the largest dance at Yale University, held at Silliman College.

12d syl. {One of four in Mississippi: Abbr.}. syl. = syllable, of which Mississippi has four.

25d Arlos {Jimmy Johnson title comics character and others}. A reference to Arlo of Arlo and Janis.

Arlo & Janis

30d astra {Senate stars?}. astra is "stars" in Latin (as in per ardua ad astra), "Senate" being the Roman Senate.

46d guns {Magazine contents}. Magazine in the sense of a place for storing munitions?

48d var. {Dictionary abbr.}. var. = variant, as in a variant spelling.

49d 'Tis {"___ so appalling - it exhilarates": Dickinson}. Reference to the title/first line of an Emily Dickinson poem.

Image of the Day

Hawaiian Crow

35d ʻalala {Brown-tinged Hawaiian crow}. The ʻAlalā or Hawaiian Crow (Corvus hawaiiensis) is a species of bird in the crow family, Corvidae. It is about the size of the Carrion Crow at 48–50 centimetres (19–20 in) in length, but with more rounded wings and a much thicker bill. It has soft, brownish-black plumage and long, bristly throat feathers; the feet, legs and bill are black. Some Native Hawaiians consider the ʻalalā an ʻaumakua (family god).

Other Clues

1a appoints {Puts in a seat}; 9a pressed {Like vinyl records}; 16a sells out {Fills all the seats for}; 17a holy war {Faith-based initiative?}; 18a in all probability {Most likely}; 20a Sanaa {Capital 7,200 feet above sea level}; 21a noises {Poltergeist output}; 24a polled {Sought the opinions of, in a way}; 25a as no {___ other (matchlessly)}; 26a it I {"Is ___?"}; 28a cruet {Dressing holder}; 29a dynamites {Levels with sticks?}; 32a dosi-do {What goes around at a hoedown?}; 33a Alioth {Big Dipper star}; 39a claros {Some smokes}; 40a Dae {Peace Nobelist Kim ___ Jung}; 41a Elsa {Italian novelist Morante}; 42a moaner {Bellyacher}; 45a Neales {Tennis's Fraser and others}; 47a Universal Studios {"Dracula" and "Frankenstein" producer}; 50a Renault {Clio maker}; 51a eking out {Struggling to get}; 52a address {What MapQuest requests}; 53a dissents {Some opinions}.

1d as I said {"Again ..."}; 2d penalty declined {Opposing team's turndown}; 3d plant in one's mind {Suggest subliminally, perhaps}; 4d ollas {Cantina cookware}; 7d turn on to {Make like}; 8d stoolie {Sting participant}; 9d phases {First and last quarters, e.g.}; 10d robed {Like many judges}; 13d Swimsuit Edition {Revealing issue}; 14d eat one's heart out {Pine}; 15d dry rots {Some building weakeners}; 19d biles {They were black and yellow in old medicine}; 24d pride {Tough thing to swallow}; 27d emirs {10-Down commanders}; 28d cries {"Help!" and such}; 31d all or {___ nothing}; 33d après-ski {Social time at the lodge}; 34d caesura {Bard's break}; 36d paneled {Like some station wagons}; 37d desists {Cuts it out}; 39d coasts {Doesn't work hard}; 42d merls {Blackbirds}; 43d dodge {Skirt}; 45d Neue {___ Zürcher Zeitung (leading Swiss daily)}.


Daniel Myers said...

I had AMMO for 46D at first too, but the OED defines magazine - among other things - as "a building in which is stored a supply of arms, ammunition and provisions for an army for use in time of war." The best citation in this context, IMHO, comes from lexicographer Samuel Johnson:

1750-"He has stored his magazine of malice with weapons equally sharp."

Btw, the LAST line of that Dickinson (another writer in my pantheon) poem is "Gay, ghastly holiday" which - though Dickinson is, typically, too opaque to pin down anent which holiday of which she writes - tomorrow's certainly was as she describes to early Brits.;-)

Occasional Constructor said...

My Mac's dictionary had this for meaning #3 of magazine:
3. a store for arms, ammunition, explosives, and provisions for use in military operations.
Was struck by two things about this grid:
a. The ginormous areas of white space
b. The word "OUT" being called on three times to complete the fill. Two OUTs actually crossing each other! Kosher? I tend to get nervous, if I have to cross "words of a feather" in one of my puzzles! Could sort of live with it, if they were part of the theme.

Crossword Man said...

Hi Daniel. Thanks for research into the use of "magazines" - I guess they were only strictly for powder/explosives/ammo in circumstances where safety required it (as on board ship). Enjoy the "Gay, ghastly holiday"!

Crossword Man said...

Hi Occasional. Thanks for chipping in on "magazine" also. I didn't notice the crossing outs, which I'd always thought a bit of a no-no too. Given the extremes this grid goes to in other aspects, I'm willing to forgive ... from my point of view as a solver, the infelicity mattered not a whit.