Saturday, August 28, 2010

NYT Sunday 8/29/10 Derek Bowman - Alphabetti Spaghetti

The theme for this jumbo New York Times crossword seemed most mysterious: I can't remember another instance where we'd worked out nearly half the answers before deducing what was going on. Seeing "run" in the title, I wondered if gray hairs might involve and pun on hares; I also had to run back to the computer to see if the Across Lite puzzle was accompanied by the famous "notepad". We finally got the idea after spotting the juxtaposition of inside job and kitty litter ... a sequence that could be no accident.

The penny now having dropped, we could write in the initial letters for the remaining theme answers; their clues became a whole lot easier too. But the theme rather lacked entertainment value vis-à-vis the usual punny fare on a Sunday, where each theme answer involves some new twist on the joke: today's crossword seems more of a constructor's puzzle, to be admired for the achievement of thinking up a novel idea and pulling it off with some Flair - note that the grid has a highish 129 theme squares, apart from the central mixed nuts, disposed in rows with just a single black square.

Writing up this report, I note that Winter X Games isn't quite consistent, being three "words" (at least according to Wikipedia ... other sources might well hyphenate X-Games). The difficulty could perhaps have been worked around if the WX answer had been nine-letter, allowing the familiar Windows XP as an answer; perhaps that was considered, but created other worse problems elsewhere? An amusing 12-letter alternative I came across was Wonka Xploder, but I'm guessing that obsolete candy bar is even less familiar than the Winter X Games.

to talk with God, you don't need a cellphoneDespite the grid size, there were few trouble spots today ... but then it's rare for Magdalen and I to both be ignorant of both answers confirming a square. The trickiest crossing was that of 53a Neale {"Conversations With God" author ___ Donald Walsch} and 37d Benigni {Oscar winner for "Life Is Beautiful"}; seeing how the area was shaping up, I guessed Peale and we needed to be on our toes to later notice that Bepigni was highly unlikely and make the correction.
Solving time: 30 mins (with Magdalen, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 106a used vehicle {It's got some miles on it}

Derek Bowman
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


"Going for a Run". Theme answers are two-part phrases whose initial letters form an alphabetical sequence from AB through to YZ:
22a army brat {Kid constantly switching schools, maybe}
23a carbon dating {Age-revealing method}
29a exhaust fans {Stale air removers}
33a gray hairs {Supposed results of stress}
58a inside job {Embezzlement, e.g.}
60a kitty litter {Pet shop purchase}
68a mixed nuts {Party bowlful}
78a outer planet {Pluto, e.g., before it was plutoed}
81a quick read {Harlequin romance, e.g.}
101a speed trap {Leadfoot's downfall}
106a used vehicle {It's got some miles on it}
117a Winter X Games {Annual sports event since 1997}
120a year zero {Beginning of time?}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersDerek Bowman / Will Shortz
Grid21x21 with 76 (17.2%) black squares
Answers136 (average length 5.37)
Theme squares129 (35.3%)
Scrabble points636 (average 1.74)
Video of the Day

77a Ain't I {"___ a Woman?" (Sojourner Truth speech delivered in 1851 in 71-Across)}. Ain't I A Woman? is the name given to a speech, delivered extemporaneously, by Sojourner Truth, (1797–1883), born Isabella Baumfree, a slave, in New York State. Some time after gaining her freedom in 1827, she became a well known anti-slavery speaker. Her speech, which became known as Ain't I a Woman?, was delivered at the Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio on May 29, 1851. Truth argued that while American culture often placed white women upon a pedestal and gave them certain privileges (most notably that of not working), this attitude was not extended to black women. Above it's read by Alfre Woodard.

The Doctor is IN

26a KSU {The Wildcats, for short}. KSU = Kansas State University really ought to be in The Crucy League.

89a Sheba {Title dog in an Inge play}. Sheba of Come Back, Little Sheba is a Cruciverbal Canine.

4d Ebb {"Cabaret" lyricist}. Fred Ebb (1928–2004) of Kander and Ebb.

9d Mr Big {"Sex and the City" character also known as John}. John Preston, played by Chris Noth.

34d HSN {Cable inits. for sales pitches}. HSN = Home Shopping Network.

37d Benigni {Oscar winner for "Life Is Beautiful"}. Actor, comedian, screenwriter and director Roberto Benigni.

80d Ned {Nancy Drew's beau}. I.e. Ned Nickerson.

83d IGA {Supermarket with a red oval logo}. IGA = Independent Grocers Alliance.

Image of the Day

an unknown Humber Humberette from about 1912
an unknown Humber Humberette from about 1912
84d cyclecars {Low-cost, lightweight autos of the 1910s-'20s}. Cyclecars were small, generally inexpensive cars manufactured mainly between 1910 and the late 1920s. They were propelled by single cylinder, V-twin or more rarely four cylinder engines, often air cooled. Sometimes these had been originally used in motorcycles and other components from this source such as gearboxes were also employed. Cyclecars were half way between motorcycles and cars and were fitted with lightweight bodies, sometimes in a tandem two-seater configuration and could be primitive with minimal comfort and weather protection. They used various layouts and means of transmitting the engine power to the wheels, such as belt drive or chain drive often to one rear wheel only to avoid having to provide a differential.

Other Clues

1a booed {Like villains}; 6a Velma {Middleton who sang with Louis Armstrong}; 11a prams {They might carry babies in nappies}; 16a Pooh-Bahs {Muckety-mucks}; 19a alarm {Cell phone feature}; 20a aisles {Auditorium features}; 25a cape {Headless Horseman's wear}; 27a pained {Kind of expression}; 28a riot {Real cutup}; 35a HRH {Danielle Steel novel about a European princess}; 36a Loeb {Lisa with the #1 hit "Stay (I Missed You)"}; 38a arfs {Barks}; 39a och {"Gee," in Glasgow}; 42a late-model {Newer, as a car}; 46a intro {"Ladies and gentlemen ...," e.g.}; 50a Moab {Biblical kingdom}; 52a Dansk {Big name in dinnerware}; 53a Neale {"Conversations With God" author ___ Donald Walsch}; 56a Kent {British American Tobacco brand}; 62a stake {Gamble}; 63a orig. {Not an imit.}; 65a weds {Makes one}; 66a UPI {Reuters competitor}; 67a sic 'em {Words a house burglar doesn't want to hear}; 71a Akron {Highest point on the Ohio & Erie Canal}; 73a in a {"___ moment"}; 74a USAF {Thunderbirds' org.}; 76a vain {Like peacocks}; 85a neck {Isthmus}; 86a liter {Wine order}; 87a bulgy {Protuberant}; 88a set a {___ precedent}; 91a diplomacy {Delicate skill}; 94a sod {Cover some ground}; 95a Otts {Cards once traded for Gehrigs, say}; 98a erat {Part of Q.E.D.}; 99a La-Z- {___-Boy (brand of furniture)}; 112a olés {Some World Cup cheers}; 113a eagled {Was two under}; 115a Ric {Flair of pro wrestling}; 116a grog {Matey's libation}; 122a sesame {Bagel request}; 123a e-zine {Online mag}; 124a stream in {Arrive continuously}; 125a synod {Religious council}; 126a darts {Around the Clock is a version of this}; 127a sages {Solomons}.

1d borax {Antiseptic agent}; 2d oomph {Zip}; 3d oh yeah! {"You bet!"}; 5d dark shade {Navy, e.g.}; 6d vac {Cleaner, for short}; 7d elapsed {Went by}; 8d Lara {Newswoman Logan}; 10d Amon-Ra {Egyptian god of the universe}; 11d paddy-field {Rice source}; 12d ria {Small inlet}; 13d astra {"Per ardua ad ___" (Royal Air Force motto)}; 14d MLIII {900 years before Queen Elizabeth was crowned}; 15d Señor {Mister abroad}; 16d pace {Tempo}; 17d hast {Own, in the past}; 18d Stuf {Double ___ (Oreo variety)}; 21d Sgts. {Some police personnel: Abbr.}; 24d near {About}; 30d URL {Web address}; 31d alms box {Donation location}; 32d nook {Cozy spot}; 39d omission {Skipping}; 40d continues {Carries on}; 41d has a catch {Is not as easy as it seems}; 43d Taj {Atlantic City hot spot, with "the"}; 44d Eno {Musician Brian}; 45d let {Court cry}; 47d tkt {Purchase at a booth: Abbr.}; 48d returnees {Soldiers home from service, e.g.}; 49d one potato {Start of a popular children's rhyme}; 51d bike {Hog}; 54d at. wt. {Elementary figure: Abbr.}; 55d lyes {Corrosive cleaning agents}; 57d Trinidad {Where the limbo dance originated}; 59d demur {Object}; 60d kid at {Be a ___ heart}; 61d Isaak {Chris with the top 10 hit "Wicked Game"}; 64d reverie {Woolgathering}; 68d Mali {Where the Senegal River begins}; 69d if at {"___ all possible"}; 70d unquote {Citation's end}; 72d kirs {White wine cocktails}; 75d splattered {Like aprons, at times}; 79d eke {Squeeze (out)}; 82d Ulm {Locale of an 1805 Napoleon victory}; 87d Blas {Lesage book "Gil ___"}; 90d bod {Gymgoer's pride}; 92d prudent {Sensible}; 93d yah {Derisive call}; 96d Trax {"Time ___" (1990s sci-fi series)}; 97d sagged {Gave under pressure}; 100d zigzag {Many a path up a mountain}; 101d sows {Foments}; 102d plies {Wields}; 103d eensy {Teeny-tiny}; 104d Están {"Dónde ___ los Ladrones?" (1998 platinum album by Shakira)}; 105d plaza {Square}; 107d drys {Temperance proponents}; 108d Viet {___ Cong}; 109d crème {___ de cacao}; 110d Loris {Petty and Singer}; 111d Egon {Von Furstenberg of fashion}; 114d emir {Kuwaiti dignitary}; 118d emo {Alternative rock genre}; 119d ses {Parisian possessive}; 121d Rea {Actor Stephen}.


Evgeny said...

Ross, have you not seen the film or did you just not know Benigni? Because not having seen "Life Is Beautiful" is a real gap in education! Probably one of the most unsettling films to win an Oscar, also the only one I can't force myself to watch a second time despite of it being a masterpiece. What Spielberg does with force and mercilessness in "Schindler's List", Benigni achieves, well, beautifully in his film.

by the way, Roberto Benignis memorable acceptance speech at the 1998 Oscars is priceless,

Crossword Man said...

Thanks for the tip Evgeny, and the link ... we'll look out for the movie. Neither of us have seen it, but we vaguely know of the director - also Benigni looked right as an Italian name.

annik said...

I very much appreciate this blog and I am in near-awe of you two. This puzzle (Aug 29) was particularly difficult for me but like other Saturdays, I came here to fill in what I've missed to learn a thing or two.

We'll see what tomorrow's puzzle brings! Thanks for being here, Englishman. Visit my blog, the Crabby Office Lady, at Http://

P.S. I thought Pluto had been declassified as a planet...

Crossword Man said...

Thanks Annik. Yes Pluto is no longer an outer planet and I think "plutoed" in the clue is meant to reference that. It seems "to pluto" is now in the language as a verb meaning demote, downgrade, etc, although I didn't encounter it until this clue!