Thursday, August 5, 2010

NYT Thursday 8/5/10 Gary J. Whitehead - Ain't Afraid of No Coast

I love themes where the disposition of thematic material in the grid corresponds to some real world object or concept; so this Thursday New York Times crossword - which has you generate a map of the twelve Midwestern states, complete with Old Man River down the center - really appealed to me.

My first realization that states were involved came after five minutes, when SD popped up in adjacent circles. Up to this point, I thought the circled letters might spell a message, quotation, or the like, but SD looked like nothing else but South Dakota. Once I detected Mississippi at 18-Down a couple of minutes later, it convinced me I should be looking for other states in the circles.

That challenged my fledgling geographical knowledge of the USA a little, but I knew to put ND above SD, at least, and thematic awareness certainly accelerated progress on grid filling, which had been fairly pedestrian in the early stages.

The solving order was a little odd today: I seemed to solve from the inside out, and after 11 minutes, noted I'd completed the middle seven rows approx; given Mississippi splits the grid in two, I now had four isolated sections to deal with in the four corners.

Supergirl by Art Baltazar
Supergirl by Art Baltazar
The NW was the first to be finished, and fairly straightforward. The SW had one troublesome crossing: 53a Saks {Bergdorf competitor} and 55d Kara {___ Zor-El, Supergirl's birth name}. Are we really expected to know Supergirl's birth name?! I'm guessing not, and that most solvers wouldn't have the trouble I did recognizing the context of Bergdorf Goodman.

Hence to the SE, which was all about the weird 52d Op'nin' {"Another ___, Another Show" ("Kiss Me, Kate" song)}, which doesn't make sense until you realize it's doubly apostrophized. The NE has another nasty crossing: 8a Stellas {Painters Frank and Joseph} and 9d Tisha {___ B'Av, Jewish day of fasting}. I suspect this will be a guess for many solvers: as usual, I was strongly inclined to go with Stellas, purely because it's a recognizable word, albeit the plural of a forename.
Solving time: 18 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 53d stag {One way to go to a party}
Solution

Gary J. Whitehead
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

The two-letter abbreviations for the twelve states of the American Midwest are embedded in the grid, in a geographically authentic manner. This is referenced in 66a Midwest {What the circled parts of this puzzle comprise} and 18d Mississippi {It runs through the middle of the 66-Across}.

The Mighty Midwest
The Mighty Midwest - "I ain't afraid of no coast"
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersGary J. Whitehead / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 32 (14.2%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 5.08)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points308 (average 1.60)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



17a A Christmas Story {1983 Jean Shepherd film memoir}. On the way to eat out the other night we heard part of a hilarious radio monologue about a guy's experiences at Morse code school; the narrator turned out to be Jean Shepherd, aka Shep, and I've been trying to source a decent collection of his monologues since that night.

I gather that Shepherd is best known to modern audiences for the 1983 film A Christmas Story based on his short stories and semi-fictional anecdotes, including material from his books In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, and Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories. The film has become a holiday classic and is known to be shown numerous times on television during the Christmas season, usually in a 24-hour marathon.

The Doctor is IN

22a Edy {Last name in ice cream}. Reference to Dreyer's founder Joseph Edy, whose name is used on their products in the Eastern and Midwestern United States.

46a Haydn {"The Palindrome" Symphony composer}. Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 47 in G is nicknamed "the Palindrome" because the third movement - a minuet and trio - is a musical palindrome.

53a Saks {Bergdorf competitor}. Luxury stores Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman.

2d Once {First word of "The Raven"}. The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe starts "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, ...".

5d Eri {Verdi's "___ tu"}. Eri tu ("it was you") is the famous baritone aria from Un ballo in maschera.

10d EPs {Some records, for short}. EPs = extended play disks.

14d Styx {Milton called it "The flood of deadly hate"}. Referencing a line from Paradise Lost.

28d Sonny {One of the Corleones}. Sonny Corleone in The Godfather.

57d Uomo {L'___ Vogue, Italian fashion magazine}. Uomo is "man" in Italian.

63d sol {G}. In the solfège starting on C, sol corresponds to the note G.

Images of the Day

Frank Stella: The Science of Laziness
Frank Stella: The Science of Laziness
8a Stellas {Painters Frank and Joseph}. Apparently these two painters aren't related - odd, given their unusual surname. Frank Stella is an American painter and printmaker. He is a significant figure in minimalism and post-painterly abstraction. He was born in Malden, Massachusetts. After attending high school at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, he went on to Princeton University, where he met Darby Bannard and Michael Fried; his work was influenced by the abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline. Early visits to New York art galleries influenced his artistic development. Stella moved to New York in 1958 after his graduation. He is one of the most well-regarded postwar American painters who still works today. Frank Stella has reinvented himself in consecutive bodies of work over the course of his five-decade career.

Joseph Stella: Brooklyn Bridge
Joseph Stella: Brooklyn Bridge
Joseph Stella (1877-1946) was an Italian-born, American Futurist painter best known for his depictions of industrial America. He is associated with the American Precisionism movement of the 1910s-1940s. He was born in Muro Lucano, Italy but came to New York City in 1896. He studied at the Art Students League of New York under William Merritt Chase. His first paintings are Rembrandtesque depictions of city slum life. In 1908, he was commissioned for a series on industrial Pittsburgh later published in The Pittsburgh Survey.
It was his return to Europe in 1909, and his first contact with modernism, that would truly mold his distinctive personal style.

Returning to New York in 1913, he painted Battle of Lights, Mardi Gras, Coney Island, which is one of the earliest American Futurist works. He is famous for New York Interpreted, a five-paneled work patterned after a religious altarpiece, but depicting bridges and skyscrapers instead of saints. This piece reflects the belief, common at the time, that industry was displacing religion as the center of modern life. It is currently owned by the Newark Museum.


Other Clues

1a condemn {Denounce}; 15a Ontario {Its official bird is the great northern loon}; 16a wipeout {Nasty fall}; 19a lest {Out of concern that}; 20a saith {Doth speak}; 21a MMIX {Year of the swine flu epidemic}; 24a shade {Summer refuge}; 26a misdo {Botch}; 29a ass {Pompous sort}; 30a Ricoh {Canon competitor}; 34a IPO {Wall St. happening}; 35a rani {Hindu noble}; 37a binary {Kind of code}; 38a can {Preserve}; 39a miasmal {Noxious}; 41a pie {Slapstick prop}; 42a anneal {Temper, as metal}; 44a sill {Place for a pot}; 45a Ron {Silver of the silver screen}; 47a QIX {Popular 1980s arcade game based on simple geometry}; 48a Edina {Minnesota city where part of "Fargo" was filmed}; 50a ate up {Really enjoyed}; 52a or I {"Either you ___ ..."}; 56a mop up {Finish cleaning, say}; 58a Shia {Branch of Islam}; 62a transition point {Segue}; 65a aureole {Halo}; 67a gnarled {Knobby}; 68a on and on {At great length}.

1d coal {Kentucky resource}; 3d Nths {Unspecified degrees}; 4d darted {Moved like a minnow}; 6d missy {Young girl}; 7d not a {"___ chance!"}; 8d swaths {What lawn mowers make}; 9d Tisha {___ B'Av, Jewish day of fasting}; 11d let me in! {"Open up!"}; 12d loom {Hang over}; 13d auri- {Hearing: Prefix}; 23d dormant {Inactive}; 25d driller {Dentist, at times}; 26d Micah {Prophet who prophesied that the Savior would come from Bethlehem}; 27d Ipana {Classic toothpaste brand}; 29d ana {Literary olio}; 31d Capri {Italian tourist destination}; 32d Orion {Whom Artemis loved and unwittingly killed}; 33d hyena {Coyote relative}; 36d ail {Not be well}; 37d bal {French court event}; 40d mix {This and that}; 43d Ed Asner {"Rich Man, Poor Man" Emmy winner}; 47d quoted {In Bartlett's, e.g.}; 49d disown {Cast off}; 51d Emile {Actor Hirsch of "Into the Wild"}; 52d Op'nin' {"Another ___, Another Show" ("Kiss Me, Kate" song)}; 53d stag {One way to go to a party}; 54d a run {Make ___ for it}; 55d Kara {___ Zor-El, Supergirl's birth name}; 59d hied {Got a move on}; 60d in so {"___ doing ..."}; 61d attn. {Memo heading}; 64d PDA {iPhone, e.g., briefly}.

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