Wednesday, September 1, 2010

NYT Thursday 9/2/10 Patrick Blindauer and Andrea Carla Michaels - Backward Thinking

My idiosyncratic solving order served me well with this Thursday New York Times crossword: I normally start with the down clues in sequence and today confidently entered 1- thru 3-Down. The only problem was they didn't mesh well with my guesses for across answers, but if I just reversed them ... thus in 30 seconds I had figured out what to do (at least as far as the top half of the grid was concerned - I didn't rule out something different lower down).

The irony with puzzles like these is that there's no way you could ever deduce the supposed "instructions" without figuring out what was going on by other means. Well I suppose you could in theory do so by only solving downs until you got enough crossings for 24-, 38- and 47-Across to figure them out, but no solver is going to do that in practice.

This is a trait of many of the thematic cryptic crosswords I've solved all my life, so I'm totally used to it. If the theme clues had been based around the word "explanation" rather than "instructions" that might have been a bit more realistic, but what the hey. In my case, I'd been working on the puzzle for a full 8 minutes before completing any of the theme answers, i.e. three-quarters done.

stressed dessertsI love that the reversed answers are also real words, or at least acceptable entries by US standards. This of course explains the absence of any long non-theme answers across: reversible words become very thin on the ground above five letters and for our purposes stop at eight letters with the lone stressed/desserts. There were some neat long downs to compensate, but the difficulty of pulling off this idea can be seen in the relatively low count of theme letters and somewhat high incidence of abbrs., pre- and suf-fixes.

Another neat touch is the palindromic entries: only two of them (29a rotor and 43a madam), but they're symmetrically disposed.
Solving time: 11 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 5d pressers {Ones whose work is decreasing?}

Patrick Blindauer and Andrea Carla Michaels
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


All across answers are entered in reverse, resulting in real words (or abbreviations etc) except for the three-part instruction:
24a every across {Start of instructions for solving this puzzle}
38a answer reads from {Instructions, part 2}
47a right to left {End of the instructions}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersPatrick Blindauer and Andrea Carla Michaels / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 42 (18.7%) black squares
Answers80 (average length 4.58)
Theme squares37 (20.2%)
Scrabble points266 (average 1.45)
FeatureLipogram (U absent)
Video of the Day

63a Raja {The Blue ___ (Hank Azaria's "Mystery Men" role)}. Mystery Men is a 1999 comedy film based on a Dark Horse comic book series feature in Flaming Carrot Comics, directed by TV commercial director Kinka Usher. It starred William H. Macy, Ben Stiller, and Hank Azaria as a trio of lesser superheroes with fairly unimpressive superpowers who are required to save the day. The film's two great strengths were considered to be the art direction and the dialogue, much of which was improvised by the cast. Despite its list of stars, Mystery Men was widely considered to be a flop with a final box office gross of just $29,762,011 domestically and $3,699,000 outside the USA. It has since been developing something of a cult following. The soundtrack prominently featured the Smash Mouth song "All Star" and clips from the film form the basis of the song's video.

The Doctor is IN

23a ess {Season opener?}. The first letter of "Season" is an S, spelled ess.

32a tops {A number one}. Two slang idioms meaning first-class.

52a bon {Voyage kickoff?}. Referencing the phrase "bon voyage".

35d LSD {Much-discussed initials of a 1967 Beatles song}. See Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

48d Flo-Jo {1988 Olympic track star, informally}. Flo-Jo was the nickname of Florence Griffith-Joyner  (1959–1998).

50d LIRR {One way to N.Y.C.'s Penn Sta.}. LIRR = Long Island Rail Road.

Image of the Day


12d geode {All-natural sparkler}.  Geodes are geological rock formations which occur in sedimentary and certain volcanic rocks. Geodes are essentially rock cavities or vugs with internal crystal formations or concentric banding. The exterior of the most common geodes is generally limestone or a related rock, while the interior contains quartz crystals and/or chalcedony deposits. Other geodes are completely filled with crystal, being solid all the way through. These types of geodes are called nodules. The geode pictured above is on display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.

Other Clues

1a peels {Skins}; 6a slop {It's hardly haute cuisine}; 10a Gro {Miracle-___}; 13a recap {Go over again}; 14a it's a {"___ girl!"}; 15a Etna {Active volcano near Messina}; 16a Enola {___ Gay}; 17a edit {Move text around}; 18a orig. {Not a dupe: Abbr.}; 19a lam {On the ___}; 20a Eris {Goddess of discord}; 22a decaf {Late-night beverage}; 27a noel {Winter air}; 28a -ish {Relative of -esque}; 29a rotor {Helicopter part}; 34a gals {Misses}; 41a tips {Aids for police detectives}; 42a Erie {Lake bordered by four states}; 43a madam {Female, formally}; 44a Ned {Dashiell Hammett hero ___ Beaumont}; 45a Nemo {Nautilus leader}; 55a Nilla {Brand of wafers}; 56a acro- {Height: Prefix}; 57a -ero {Suffix with ranch}; 58a rood {Cross}; 59a amat {Word from a Latin lover?}; 61a enrol {Matriculate}; 64a pets {Penthouse pinups}; 65a nomad {Rover}; 66a nos. {Figs.}; 67a hoop {Circus trainer's prop}; 68a états {Divisions politiques}.

1d spams {Bombards with e-junk}; 2d la-las {Lots of "Deck the Halls"}; 3d école {Professeur's place}; 4d een {Poet's time of day}; 5d pressers {Ones whose work is decreasing?}; 6d patron saint {Denis, to France}; 7d osier {Flexible weaving material}; 8d Ltd. {British co.}; 9d sie {"Sprechen ___ Deutsch?"}; 10d on ice {Not neat}; 11d Rt Rev {Prelate's title: Abbr.}; 15d Agar {John who co-starred in "Sands of Iwo Jima"}; 21d iso- {Prefix with metric}; 22d FYI {"This might be of interest," on a memo}; 25d choreograph {Stage}; 26d Astr. {College sci. class}; 27d loft {Overhead cost for an artist?}; 29d rms. {Bldg. units}; 30d oop {"Alley ___!"}; 31d tri- {Angular prefix}; 33d per {___ curiam (like some court rulings)}; 34d Swan {Constellation next to the Dragon, with "the"}; 36d -ana {Bibliographic suffix}; 37d gam {Pinup feature}; 39d DEET {It bugs bugs}; 40d emeralds {Green rocks}; 44d don {Opposite of remove}; 46d mic {Bit of A/V equipment}; 47d tadas {Performance fanfares}; 49d E-Loan {Online financial services company}; 51d homeo- {Prefix with -path}; 52d Norma {Bellini opera}; 53d or not {Words after "whether"}; 54d Beene {Designer Geoffrey}; 59d tsp. {Abbr. on a cough syrup bottle}; 60d A to {___ Z}; 62d oat {Kind of bran}.


andrea carla michaels said...

Thanks for the careful analysis and attention to detail and all the nice things you said! Yes, those who solved DOWNS first should have had no/fewer problems! :)

Anonymous said...

I've been venturing over to the Crosswords from the KenKen puzzles, but today's crossword was just unfair to a novice. Who knew you're supposed to do all the downs first? I'm just happy to get anything across or down. Turns out I had a lot of the acrosses correct, but not reversed.


pauer said...

You weren't supposed to know that, Feh, you were supposed to figure it out. It's a puzzle, after all.

It seems to me that nowadays a lot of people give up and run to the blogs much sooner than they should. Being stuck on something isn't always a bad thing, and it makes the "Aha!" moment that much sweeter.

Thanks for the fun write-up.

Crossword Man said...

Thanks pauer. I wonder if Anon/Feh is just unaware of the traditional steep ramp-up in difficulty through the week in the New York Times. Lured into a false sense of security by Mon, Tue and Wed puzzles, a Thursday one could be a bit of a shock.

Although not officially stated anywhere AFAIK, old-timers will know that Thursday is the day for the hardest themed puzzles, often ones "breaking the rules" in some way. Friday and Saturday are usually themeless and by some margin the most difficult puzzles of the week.

pauer said...

You're probably right, Xword Man. And those who do know about the difficulty increase often think (incorrectly) that Sunday is the hardest puzzle. It's the biggest, but Saturday is intended to be the most difficult 15x15 of the week.