Wednesday, July 21, 2010

NYT Thursday 7/22/10 Jeremy Horwitz - Neo-Presbyterians

The theme of this Thursday New York Times crossword held little interest for me, but that perhaps says more about my tastes - it may have brought music to the ears of pop-loving solvers? Also, I wonder if something was lost in translation from the print edition: the treatment of the isolated central square seemed rather gratuitous.

Britney Spears - 3I had been warned that the numbering in the online and print editions would be different, so knew to look at the Across Lite "notepad" before I started. I had no ideas about Britney Spears's song that was also the shortest title of a hit, but the lengths of the starred clue answers was always 3, so I assumed that must go in the central square.

After that, the theme made little impact, the clues mostly being of as much use as {Random three-letter word}. Ok, I confess I did recognize three of the eight as I completed the answers - ABC, Ben, and Bad - memories of two of these being reinforced by other crosswords.

I think musical themes like this have the danger of alienating some proportion of solvers, unless general enough to encompass all genres; and unless the titles themselves have some crossworthy property like being palindromic, mutual anagrams, or the like. Just being three-letter words doesn't cut it in a form notorious for its bias towards such.

As often, the problems in the grid didn't come from the theme, however: I comfortably negotiated first the NW, then the NE and finally the SE corners, with 13 minutes on the clock. I was looking forward to finishing quickly, but ended up spending as long on the bottom left corner as the rest of the puzzle put together.

I had some ideas about answers - 35a aromas, 40a snit, 43a Elis, 54a sabot, and even remembered 29d Irene Cara from other puzzles, without whom I'd have had no downs in that area. These weren't enough to overcome the stuff I didn't know and I kept wanting 30d to be Manila Bay ... not unreasonably: I discovered (after the fact) that it was a battle, so there was method in my madness.

The two answers that locked in Mobile Bay were well-nigh impossible to guess, and it didn't help to have a clue like {Kids} for 28d tads. It took a lot of pencilings and erasings to end up with a corner I was happy with and could consider done.
Solving time: 29 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 9d re-examine {Check over}
Solution

Jeremy Horwitz
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Three-letter hits from the Billboard Hot 100, indicated (in the Across Lite version online) by the clues in the notepad - {Shortest title of any #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 [Britney Spears, 2009]} and {Length of the eight runners-up to the Across answer, all of which are answers to starred clues in this puzzle} - to which the answer is 3.
5a ABC {*Jackson 5, 1970}
22a OMG {*Usher feat. will.i.am, 2010}
45a Ben {*Michael Jackson, 1972}
59a Why {*Frankie Avalon, 1959}
12d Bad {*Michael Jackson, 1987}
32d War {*Edwin Starr, 1970}
34d Low {*Flo Rida feat. T-Pain, 2008}
54d SOS {*Rihanna, 2006}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersJeremy Horwitz / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers68 (average length 5.47)
Theme squares25 (13.4%)
Scrabble points306 (average 1.64)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



11d Mt. Everest {Subject of the 1997 best seller "Into Thin Air"}. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster is a bestselling non-fiction book written by Jon Krakauer. It details the author's May 10, 1996 ascent of Mount Everest, which turned catastrophic when eight climbers were killed and several others were stranded by a 'rogue storm'. The author's expedition was led by the famed guide Rob Hall, and there were other groups trying to summit on the same day, including one led by Scott Fischer, whose guiding agency, Mountain Madness, was perceived as a competitor to Rob Hall's agency, Adventure Consultants. Above is the account of Ken Kamler, the only doctor on the mountain when the storm hit.

The Doctor is IN

26a Miró {"Harlequin's Carnival," for one}. A reference to one of Joan Miró's most famous surrealist works.

37a Deborah {Book of Judges judge}. Deborah was the fourth, and the only female, Judge of pre-monarchic Israel in the Old Testament.

41a Lumet {"Network" director}. The movie Network (1976) was directed by Sidney Lumet.

43a Elis {Taft and Bush, collegiately}. U.S. presidents that went to Yale University.

50a CeCe {Gospel singer Winans}. CeCe Winans was born Priscilla Marie Winans Love.

3d Peale {"Positive thinking" exponent}. Norman Vincent Peale, a progenitor of the theory of "positive thinking". 

4d So Cal {Setting for "The O.C.," for short}. I.e. Southern California, the O.C. of The O.C. being Orange County, California.  

6d booboos {Faux pas}. The plural of "faux pas" is also "faux pas".

24d nasal {Like the first of May or the end of June?}. A reference to the nasal speech sounds of the M in "May" and the NE in "June".

53d Arlo {Janis's comic-strip husband}. Arlo and Janis, written and drawn by Jimmy Johnson.

Image of the Day

Battle of Mobile Bay, by Louis Prang

30d Mobile Bay {1864 battle site that was the source of the quote "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!"}. The Battle of Mobile Bay of August 5, 1864, was an engagement of the American Civil War in which a Federal fleet commanded by Rear Adm. David G. Farragut, assisted by a contingent of soldiers, attacked a smaller Confederate fleet led by Adm. Franklin Buchanan and three forts that guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay. The battle was marked by Farragut's seemingly rash but successful run through a minefield that had just claimed one of his ironclad monitors, enabling his fleet to get beyond the range of the shore-based guns. This was followed by a reduction of the Confederate fleet to a single vessel, ironclad CSS Tennessee. Tennessee did not then retire, but engaged the entire Northern fleet. The armor on Tennessee gave her an advantage that enabled her to inflict more injury than she received, but she could not overcome the imbalance in numbers. She was eventually reduced to a motionless hulk, unable either to move or to reply to the guns of the Union fleet. Her captain then surrendered, ending the battle. With no Navy to support them, the three forts within days also surrendered. Complete control of the lower Mobile Bay thus passed to the Union forces.

Most popular accounts of the battle relate that when Brooklyn slowed when Tecumseh crossed her path, Farragut asked why she was not moving ahead. When the reply came back that torpedoes were in her path, he is said to have said, "Damn the torpedoes." The story did not appear in print until several years later, and some but not all historians ask whether it happened at all. Some forms of the story are highly unlikely; the most widespread is that he shouted to Brooklyn, "Damn the torpedoes! Go ahead!" Men present at the battle doubted that any such verbal communication could be heard above the din of the guns. More likely, if it happened, is that he said to the captain of Hartford, "Damn the torpedoes. Four bells, Captain Drayton." Then he shouted to the commander of Metacomet, lashed to Hartford's side, "Go ahead, Jouett, full speed." The words have been altered in time to the more familiar, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

Other Clues

1a yips {Pups' complaints}; 8a crumb {Soupçon}; 13a one o'clock {Time it is when daylight saving time ends}; 16a yenta {Dirt accumulator?}; 17a guacamole {Salsa partner?}; 18a ceded {Gave up}; 19a Islamabad {Capital whose name is Urdu for "place of peace"}; 20a LXIV {Year of the Great Fire of Rome}; 21a eels {Unagi sources}; 23a eave {Gutter site}; 24a nopes {Informal denials}; 28a time was {Nostalgist's opening words}; 33a solider {More substantial}; 35a aromas {Bouquets}; 36a honest! {"I swear!"}; 39a bowed to {Greeted deferentially}; 40a snit {Foul mood}; 46a shag {Catch, as flies}; 51a Cleopatra {Earliest million-dollar movie role}; 54a sabot {Wooden-soled shoe}; 55a alabaster {Gypsum variety used in carvings}; 56a orant {Worshiping figure}; 57a potential {What a talent scout looks for}; 58a say-so {Authority}; 60a octo- {Numerical prefix}.

1d Yogi {Hanna-Barbera bear}; 2d in use {Occupied}; 5d Alma {Longest book of the Book of Mormon}; 7d C-clamp {Workshop device}; 8d cycle {Bike}; 9d re-examine {Check over}; 10d undivided {United}; 14d cams {Wheels inside a car}; 15d kedges {Small anchors}; 25d so hot! {"Smoking!"}; 27d or to {"For here ___ go?"}; 28d tads {Kids}; 29d Irene Cara {"Fame" actress}; 31d emoticons {They often begin with colons}; 38d hubcap {Outer covering for some nuts}; 39d beneath {Unworthy of}; 42d mellow {Tone down}; 44d set-to {Brawl}; 46d span {Stretch over}; 47d has to {Can't not}; 48d attic {Lofty story}; 49d great {Word repeated before some relatives' names}; 52d obey {Succumb to mind control}.

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