Friday, August 6, 2010

NYT Saturday 8/7/10 Joe Krozel - It's a Lulu!

I was struck by the very "open" grid of this Saturday New York Times crossword, thanks in large part to the ring of eight 15-letter answers, but didn't ponder the matter too much as I settled down to try filling it.

Progress at the start was ominously slow and I really got nowhere in the top half of the grid, only making some headway further down with the likes of Tekel at 31-Across, boa at 38-Across and hence Tabitha for 31-Down.

I also landed a number of answers at the bottom right and got my first 15-letter answer 12d transmigrations with very few crossings - a great piece of luck. Soon I was building up 13d ten-year sentence, word by word from the bottom.

I had the NE corner done with 15 minutes on the clock and continued to work counter-clockwise, getting 15a culture vulture and then 17a crease-resistant as the backbone for further effort. After 20 minutes, I had six of the 15-letter answers and just needed to fill in the bottom middle of the grid.

John Stossel
John Stossel
That final section took a disproportionate time at the end. One reason for the hold-up was macho, rather than manly, at 28-Down. There were also two tough crossings for me: 39a lally with 39d Llosa had me thinking for several seconds, but I was confident I'd heard the name Mario Vargas Llosa, so decided fairly quickly to go with that; 48a Stossel and 37d martes took longer to ponder - although an S at the intersection was my first instinct, I ran through the other possibilities before going back to my first thought (it's time days of the week made it into Español para los crucigramistas!).

Once I'd finished, I noted the grid was indeed remarkable for having just 18 blocks, equalling the previous record in the New York Times. Interestingly, the symmetry is not the usual rotational one: instead, there's mirror symmetry in the NW-SE diagonal. The constructor perhaps anticipated solver reaction by including it's a lulu! at 41-Across.
Solving time: 32 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 38a boa {Uncomfortably tight wrapper?}

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

Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersJoe Krozel / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 18 (8.0%) black squares
Answers62 (average length 6.68)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points299 (average 1.44)
Video of the Day

37a Mann {Jazz flutist Herbie}. I find it hard to believe you can spurn cluing Aimee here, but let's give the man his chance. Herbert Jay Solomon (1930–2003), better known as Herbie Mann, was a Jewish American jazz flutist and important early practitioner of world music. Early in his career, he also played tenor saxophones and clarinets (including bass clarinet), but Mann was among the first jazz musicians to specialize on the flute and was perhaps jazz music's preeminent flutist during the 1960s. His most popular single was "Hijack," which was a Billboard Number-one dance hits of 1975 (USA) for 3 weeks. Above is his rendition of Harlem Nocturne, the theme song for the television series Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer.

The Doctor is IN

23a Kasem {Big name in Top 40 countdowns}. Casey Kasem, radio personality and the voice of Shaggy Rogers.

29a taxes {Proverbial certainty}. A reference to "nothing is certain but death and taxes".

31a tekel {Bit of biblical "writing on the wall"}. A reference to "Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin" in Daniel 5:25–28.

39a lally {___ column (concrete-filled steel cylinder)}. Lally columns are named after inventor John Lally.

4d ital. {Leaning, in a way: Abbr.}. ital. as in italic type.

9d Alis {Noted ring family}. Muhammad Ali and daughter Laila Ali.

10d RTs {Football linemen: Abbr.}. RT = right tackle.

22d Hamel {Five-time "Hill Street Blues" Emmy nominee}. Veronica Hamel plays Joyce Davenport in Hill Street Blues.

23d kid is {"But the ___ not my son" ("Billie Jean" lyric)}. Michael Jackson stated that the Billie Jean lyrics were based on groupies he had encountered.

42d arrs. {Musical settings: Abbr.}. arrs. = arrangements.

Image of the Day

Madeira poster
Madeira advertising poster
28a Madeira {Port alternative}. Madeira is a fortified Portuguese wine made in the Madeira Islands. The wine is produced in a variety of styles ranging from dry wines which can be consumed on their own as an aperitif, to sweet wines more usually consumed with dessert. Cheaper versions are often flavored with salt and pepper for use in cooking. The islands of Madeira have a long winemaking history dating back to the Age of Exploration when Madeira was a standard port of call for ships heading to the New World or East Indies. To prevent the wine from spoiling, neutral grape spirits were added. On the long sea voyages, the wines would be exposed to excessive heat and movement which transformed the flavor of the wine as the wine producers of Madeira found out when an unsold shipment of wine returned to the islands after a round trip. Today, Madeira is noted for its unique winemaking process which involves heating the wine up to temperatures as high as 60 °C (140 °F) for an extended period of time and deliberately exposing the wine to some levels of oxidation. Due to this unique process, Madeira is a very robust wine that can be quite long lived even after being opened. Most countries limit the use of the term Madeira or Madère to only those wines that come from the Madeira Islands. In Europe, this principle is enshrined in the European Union by Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status.

Other Clues

1a aspires {Seeks}; 8a garotte {Throttle: Var.}; 15a culture vultures {Some literati}; 17a crease-resistant {Unlikely to be pressed}; 18a Ural {The Sakmara feeds it}; 19a masts {Clipper supporters}; 20a Enya {Singer with the 4x platinum album "Watermark"}; 21a SOS {Help-wanted indication}; 22a hip to {Knowing what's what about}; 24a age-mates {Contemporaries}; 26a bitmap {GIF or JPEG alternative}; 27a LA Times {Longtime "Column One" printer, briefly}; 30a parings {Some kitchen waste}; 32a wonks {Eggheaded experts}; 33a Reo {Old autodom's Model M or Model T-6}; 35a Ames {Columnist and graphic novelist Jonathan}; 36a calls {They're often screened}; 38a boa {Uncomfortably tight wrapper?}; 40a matte {Lacking luster}; 41a it's a lulu! {"This one's incredible!"}; 43a wirier {More lean and muscular}; 44a the Rosetta Stone {Aid in understanding some old pictures}; 46a hearsay evidence {Court no-no}; 47a art sale {It may offer a variety of oils}; 48a Stossel {Former "20/20" co-anchor John}.

1d accusal {Charge}; 2d surrogate mother {One making a special delivery?}; 3d please take a seat {Host's invitation}; 5d Rus. {Bulg. relative}; 6d eremites {Many ascetics}; 7d serapes {Ranchero dressing?}; 8d gusto {Vivacity}; 11d outeaten {Shown up at a restaurant?}; 12d transmigrations {Souls' post-death passages}; 13d ten-year sentence {It's better than life}; 14d estampa {Imprint: Sp.}; 16d vests {Occasional bullet stoppers}; 25d mixes {Is sociable, in a way}; 26d barks {Potential burglary deterrents}; 28d manly {Oozing testosterone}; 30d pollute {Dirty}; 31d Tabitha {"Bewitched" spinoff}; 32d walleye {Pikeperch}; 34d one reel {Length of some shorts}; 36d causal {Leading to something}; 37d martes {Tuesday in Tijuana}; 39d Llosa {Novelist Mario Vargas ___}; 40d misdo {Muff}; 43d wait {Emergency room concern}; 45d TVs {Some surfers' needs}.


Anonymous said...

Just to add... this puzzle ties Keven Der's low-black square record of just 18 blacks in a 15x15 crossword. Congratulations Joe!


Crossword Man said...

Thanks MAS. I see Kevin Der's puzzle was all the way back in 2008, before I started solving.