Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NYT Thursday 9/30/10 Victor Fleming - Discouraging at Best

This Thursday New York Times crossword continues the trend of rather spare - let's call them "streamlined" - themes. I swept past the first two theme answers and had got to 34-Across by the time I realized the {"Uh-uh!"}s were thematic. I'm not complaining, as the various {"Uh-uh!"} answers are a nice tight set.

Mina HarkerThe top half of the grid seemed particularly straightforward, but I got slowed down more towards the bottom. The only really tricky intersection was between 39-Down FNMA, which I'm used to hearing of as Fannie Mae and 52-Across Mina.

I paused over that one for a few seconds, trying to recall who {___ Harker, wife in Bram Stoker's "Dracula"} was in the story: I've never read the book, but have listened to it on tape a few times - I eventually realized the character I'd always heard as Minna must be the answer, actually spelled Mina. Mina Harker doesn't become such until halfway through the book, being engaged to the main protagonist Jonathan Harker at the start of the story.

Incidentally, today's constructor Victor Fleming had the idea for the "five-letter countries" conundrum that featured as the NPR Sunday Puzzle on September 19. There's maybe the beginning of a trend here too, as that puzzle was followed by one dreamed up by constructor Elizabeth Gorski - I know Magdalen's agog to write the solution post for that September 26 puzzle!
Solving time: 11 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 55a HOV {Letters on the road}
Solution

Victor Fleming
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Colloquial expressions of discouragement, all clued the same:
16a/24a I wouldn't/if I were you! {"Uh-uh!"}
34a bad idea! {"Uh-uh!"}
36a back off! {"Uh-uh!"}
49a think again! {"Uh-uh!"}
58a don't do it! {"Uh-uh!"}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersVictor Fleming / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 35 (15.6%) black squares
Answers74 (average length 5.14)
Theme squares50 (26.3%)
Scrabble points304 (average 1.60)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



64a Enola {Girl in "Waterworld"}. Waterworld is a 1995 post-apocalyptic science fiction film. The film was directed by Kevin Reynolds and co-written by Peter Rader and David Twohy. It is based on Rader's original 1986 screenplay and stars Kevin Costner, who also produced it. The setting of the film is the distant future, although no exact date is given, and the year the film takes place is suggested as 2500. The polar ice caps have completely melted, and the sea level has risen many thousands of feet, covering virtually all the land. The film illustrates this with an unusual variation on the Universal logo, which begins with the usual image of Earth, but gradually shows the planet's water levels rising until virtually all land is gone. The plot of the film centers on a nameless antihero - played by Costner - a drifter who sails the Earth in his trimaran. Enola is an orphan girl played by Tina Majorino as a child actor.

The Doctor is IN

15a MacRae {He played opposite Jones in "Carousel" and "Oklahoma!"}. References to Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones.

52a Mina {___ Harker, wife in Bram Stoker's "Dracula"}. Mina Harker's first name is short for Wilhelmina.

55a HOV {Letters on the road}. HOV = High-occupancy vehicle.

65a tallest {Guinness superlative}. Guinness = records is in Pavlov's Guide to Crosswords.

6d COD {Mail order option}. COD = Collect on Delivery, also known as cash on delivery.

9d TCU {Fort Worth sch.}. TCU = Texas Christian University is in The Crucy League.

27d Bede {Eliot protagonist}. I.e. Adam Bede, the title character of an 1859 novel by George Eliot.

39d FNMA {Low-cost home loan corp.}. FNMA = the Federal National Mortgage Association, commonly known as Fannie Mae.

59d NBA {Jazz group, for short}. Jazz = basketball team is in Pavlov's Guide to Crosswords.

Image of the Day

L'eggs

40a L'eggs {Brand associated with Everyday Knee Highs}. I'm not often in the market for pantyhose, so I was curious about this brand, which has apparently been around some time without my knowledge.

In 1969, L'eggs introduced a unique trade dress by placing its product in white plastic chicken egg-shaped containers egg (albeit much larger) and garnering shelf space in supermarkets and drugstores, most frequently on revolving carousel L'eggs displays, designed to house and draw customer attention to the product. Though the egg became integral to the brand and their marketing and advertising, in more recent years, parent company HanesBrands Inc. has ceased packaging the hosiery in the hard plastic shells. Notwithstanding the secondary uses for the eggs by crafters, artists, and hobbyists, the plastic eggs were seen as an example of wastefulness.

The L'eggs naming, package and logo were created by designer Roger Ferriter, working in the design studio of Herb Lubalin Associates in New York City in 1969. On the morning of the scheduled presentation to the Hanes Corporation of the marketing and packaging ideas for the new low cost pantyhose launch, Ferriter was not satisfied that the work was sufficiently creative. In an effort to revisit the name and packaging one last time, he attempted to "experience" the product in some new way, hoping that the exercise would suggest a new creative direction for the branding. Among his efforts, he attempted to compress a pair of pantyhose in his fist, wondering how compact the product could become. Staring at his clenched fist with the pantyhose inside he was struck with the possibility that the package could be an egg. Just as quickly, he realized that egg rhymes with leg, and then adding the popular mid-century marketing boost of giving a product name some French sounding twist, he incorporated the l' (French for "the" when followed by a vowel such as the "e" of eggs) and arrived at L'eggs. Some sketches were prepared in time for the presentation, including a logo that incorporated two egg-influenced letter "g"s and thus was born one of the most successful product launches in history. (This entry is based on recollections by Michael Adams, a designer who studied with Ferriter at the School of Visual Arts several years after the launch. The events of that morning were described by Ferriter.)

In order to compete with the hugely successful L'eggs branding, in 1973 the Kayser-Roth Corporation (then owned by Gulf+Western) introduced No Nonsense pantyhose. The product name was adopted in an attempt to denigrate the perceived "gimmicky" appeal of the L'eggs name, logo and packaging, but to little avail, as the Hanes brand continued to dominate the pantyhose market. This is a testament to the power of creative marketing because in many respects L'eggs and No Nonsense are essentially similar.

Other Clues

1a Mr. Spock {Sci-fi role starting in 1966}; 8a Stacy {Keach of "W."}; 13a decorous {Marked by dignity and taste}; 17a U-turns {Reversals}; 18a rte. {Map line: Abbr.}; 19a godly {Like the devout}; 21a OTB {Wagering locale: Abbr.}; 22a bees {Some socials}; 26a alp {Backdrop for many a Winter Olympics}; 27a Bruce {Wayne or Lee}; 28a root {It may be square}; 29a reamer {It gets the juice out}; 31a serai {Destination for a Near Eastern caravan}; 42a to a man {Unanimously}; 43a Elba {Island in the Tyrrhenian Sea}; 46a oh wow! {"That's amazing!"}; 48a Num. {Deut. preceder}; 53a RAs {Dorm V.I.P.'s, for short}; 54a acorn {Part of a winter stash}; 56a astern {Behind}; 62a dare me! {"You think I won't?!"}; 63a submerse {Put under}.

1d MDI {Year Michelangelo began work on "David"}; 2d REW {VCR button}; 3d scorepad {Bridge need}; 4d pouts {Shows disappointment, in a way}; 5d orle {Heraldic band}; 7d kung fu {Style of fighting}; 8d satyr {Nymph pursuer}; 10d arroyo {Arid region's watercourse}; 11d can too! {Shout in a playground debate}; 12d yes, but {"I'll grant you that. However ..."}; 14d Stoics {Greek philosophical group}; 15d mule {Pack carrier}; 20d dweeb {One who's definitely not in the in-crowd}; 22d barb {Nasty remark}; 23d Elea {Zeno's locale}; 24d irreg. {Sale table notation}; 25d Erika {Actress Alexander of "The Cosby Show"}; 30d Milan {European fashion capital}; 32d rat on {Betray}; 33d a cow {"Don't have ___!"}; 35d à gogo {Disco phrase}; 37d omnivore {Hardly a picky eater}; 38d faun {8-Down's Roman equivalent}; 41d shards {Some broken glass}; 43d E-Trade {Brokerage name since 1992}; 44d Lhasan {Like the Dalai Lama, historically}; 45d bistro {Spot for a bite}; 47d win out {Emerge on top}; 50d karma {Fate}; 51d acne {Teen breakout}; 52d model {Feature at an auto show, in two different ways}; 55d HTML {Webmaster's lingo}; 57d eel {Sushi fish}; 60d iss. {Mag. edition}; 61d Tet {New Year festival overseas}.

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