Monday, August 2, 2010

NYT Tuesday 8/3/10 Paula Gamache - In Full Swing

This Tuesday New York Times crossword is a nice example of one of my favorite kinds of theme - answers that fit a common definition in wildly different ways. In this case, "things that swing". The grid also manages to squeeze in an impressive five theme answers (67 squares in all) without showing much strain (the cut-off blocks of three-letter answers at NE and SW are one small price to pay?).

I got off to a reasonable start, despite still being fairly clueless about the US Monopoly Board, and had the first obviously thematic answer - baseball batters - after a couple of minutes. When I got stock prices, I didn't see how that might be connected, so wasn't immediately sure if it was thematic or not.

After around six minutes, and with a fair number of gaps around the middle of the grid, I reached 56-Across and finally understood what was going on. It was now easy to see how the other two theme answers should be completed, and I finished the whole grid in short order. I think this kind of experience is about ideal: you don't want to spot the key thematic answer too early, nor too late - after half the regular theme answers is about perfect.

sled dogs
sled dogs
I wasn't quite sure what to make of 41a rear {Beta dog's view}. Is that in reference to sled dogs, the butt of jokes like "if you ain't the lead dog, the scenery never changes"? If so, it's a pity there isn't a term for a non-lead dog that could have been used in place of "Beta dog" - that would have made things clearer. If I've missed a more obvious explanation, please let me know readers!
Solving time: 7 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 9a hatch {Opening in the Navy?}
Solution

Paula Gamache
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

56a things that swing {Category for 17-, 31-, 35- and 43-Across}.
17a baseball batters {They're up}
31a stock prices {Some Wall Street Journal charts}
35a undecided voters {They're waiting to be persuaded}
43a saloon doors {Western entrances}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersPaula Gamache / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers74 (average length 5.11)
Theme squares67 (35.4%)
Scrabble points274 (average 1.45)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



7d Nell {1994 Jodie Foster title role}. Nell is a 1994 drama film starring Jodie Foster as a young woman who has to face other people for the first time after being raised by her mother in an isolated cabin. The film was directed by Michael Apted, and was based on Mark Handley's play Idioglossia. The original music score is composed by Mark Isham. Foster was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for her role, and won a Screen Actors Guild Award.

The Doctor is IN

47a SLR {Shooter's choice, briefly}. SLR = single lens reflex, so "Shooter" in the sense of photographer.

50a Alyssum {"Sweet" bloomer}. Sweet Alyssum is the common name of Lobularia maritima.

63a ounce {Proverbial prevention portion}. Reference to the proverb "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".

40d osso {Italian bone}. osso is "bone" in Italian, as in osso bucco.

54d Theo {Dutch film director van Gogh}. Theo van Gogh was assassinated on 2 November 2004.

61d tra {Refrain syllable}. Part of the classic "tra la la" refrain.

Image of the Day

moon pie
moon pie
51a moon pie {Chocolate-coated marshmallow sandwich}. A moon pie or MoonPie is a pastry which consists of two round graham cracker cookies, with marshmallow filling in the center, dipped in chocolate or other flavors. The traditional pie is about the diameter of a hockey puck. A smaller version exists (mini MoonPie) that is about half the size, and a Double-Decker MoonPie of the traditional diameter features a third cookie and attendant layer of marshmallow. The four main flavors are chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and banana. Six newer flavors, lemon, orange, peanut butter, mint, blueberry and green tea are also available.

Other Clues

1a psi {Pressure meas.}; 4a fiend {One who's devilishly devoted?}; 9a hatch {Opening in the Navy?}; 14a Tennessee {Orange Monopoly avenue}; 16a Opium {Yves Saint Laurent fragrance}; 19a One-A {Ready to serve}; 20a Luna {___ Park (Coney Island destination)}; 21a accrual {Kind of basis in accounting}; 25a naiveté {Gullibility}; 30a Tet {Asian holiday}; 33a amour {Topic for Madame de Pompadour and Louis XV}; 34a scat! {"Begone!"}; 41a rear {Beta dog's view}; 42a does a {___ 180 (about-faces)}; 53a at it {Working hard}; 55a Troi {"Star Trek: T.N.G." counselor Deanna}; 64a rewritten {Not in its original form, as an article}; 65a pesos {Argentine money}; 66a Iowan {Herbert Hoover, by birth}; 67a Els {Ernie on a green}.

1d PT boat {Small craft with launching tubes}; 2d séance {Occasion when everyone holds hands, maybe}; 3d insect {Raid target}; 4d Feb. {Short mo.}; 5d is a {"This ___ test"}; 6d ESL {Subj. for some foreigners}; 8d debunk {Attack, as false science}; 9d hot-air {Gas}; 10d apt {Well-put}; 11d tie {Dead heat}; 12d cur {Dog that should be on a leash}; 13d HMS {___ Beagle}; 15d near {Practically touching}; 18d a nap {Take ___ (snooze)}; 22d USMC {"Semper Fi" grp.}; 23d a toi {Yours, to Yves}; 24d loud {Turned up}; 26d Vista {Windows XP successor}; 27d ecce {"___ homo"}; 28d tear {Symbol of wistfulness}; 29d ests. {Forecasting figs.}; 32d credo {Words to live by}; 33d Aeros {Houston skaters}; 35d Ursa {___ Minor}; 36d Neal {NPR host Conan}; 37d Daly {Tony-winning Tyne}; 38d doom {Awful end}; 39d Vero {___ Beach, Fla.}; 44d Osages {Some Oklahomans}; 45d nuts! {"Phooey!"}; 46d Dmitri {Composer Shostakovich}; 47d sprite {Preternatural creature}; 48d Lionel {Cousin of Lancelot}; 49d reigns {1910-36 for George V, and 1936-52 for George VI}; 52d nt. wt. {Abbr. on a food package}; 56d top {Shirt or blouse}; 57d hue {Photoshop adjustment}; 58d ins {Connected crowd}; 59d NCO {Sgt., e.g.}; 60d aww! {"So cute!"}; 62d sin {Idolatry, for one}.

5 comments:

D_Blackwell said...

Though I don't care for the clue it is legitimate. There are Alpha dogs (leaders) and Beta dogs (calm, submissive). Beta dogs would have a view of the REAR of the Alpha dogs.

Anonymous said...

As far as I'm concerned, the Alpha-, Beta- etc. descriptions of dogs have less to do with sled racing than with general canine pack order. A Beta dog can be an excellent lead dog in sled racing, while the Alpha may run in an other position. Jack London's novels are a bit misleading in that respect at some points.

By the way, a calm and submissive dog is an Omega, not a Beta, which is second in order and takes an Alpha's place when the Alpha departs from the pack.

All that, of course, does not explain the 'rear' as answer for 41a...

There's one aspect of the theme that puzzles me (being a non-native speaker) a bit: Am I wrong to think that batters are persons rather than things? Wouldn't "baseball bats" be "things that swing" or, more correctly, are swung? The same applies to the undecided voters (what a belittlement of the democratic process to call them 'things' :-))

Crossword Man said...

Anon expresses my concern better than I did: I wasn't sure sledding order corresponded to pack order ... despite having visited the Iditarod Trail HQ in 2008.

I think for the purposes of the puzzle, people are things ... there's only so much you can do in 15 letters!

Howard B said...

Exactly. 'Things' can indeed include persons, when referring to people and objects collectively, at least for cluing. In the puzzle, they are using this term to more generally mean 'entities'. I believe it's not the first time such a convention has been used.

The 15-letter length and the rhyming aspect of the theme giveaway make it a more appealing choice of words. Granted, it's an unusual collective, but how many concise ways can such a diverse set be grouped?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the explanations, Ross and Howard. Whenever failed by the feel for the English language one can luckily rely on the expert consultation of crosswordmen :-)