Thursday, December 16, 2010

NYT Friday 12/17/10 Patrick Berry - Oiling the Wheels

I think this Friday New York Times crossword was close to average in difficulty, but had a bit of a sting in the tail for me, pushing the time closer to the half hour than I like these days.

With a grid like this, you tend to tackle individual corners and then at some point crack the long answers joining them at the center ... that hopefully gives you a leg up with any more troublesome areas towards the end.

After a slow first pass through all the clues, the northeast corner clearly had possibilities: I saw through 18-Across immediately (but still love the clue) and liar and ops came easily enough at 9- and 10-Down. This little area was done after about five minutes.

The southeast corner then appealed, as I could visualize the embossed rose (53-Across) on American Greetings envelopes; with ego at 49-Down suggesting egg-teeth at 51-Across, I was off. This section was completed with around 10 minutes on the clock.

coconut oilAt this point, the center started to crumble and that really helped with the rather tougher areas on the left-hand side. The crux for me was the area close to 4-Down: I had the tempting ESP instead of psi at 6-Down and wasn't too familiar with the trade names Orkin and Tinactin. Nor did Joe Btfsplk ring strong enough bells to help out. Nor did I appreciate that the "Caddy" in the clue to 5-Down wasn't a golfing caddy - the slang meaning has to go in Pavlov's Guide to Crosswords right now.

After working hard on a theory that 4-Down's {Natural skin moisturizer} must lead to some one-word biological term, the light finally dawned that we were dealing with coconut-oil and with that all the other pieces fell smoothly into place, leaving no doubts as to correctness.
Solving time: 25 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 18a easels {Things holding up the works?}

Patrick Berry
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersPatrick Berry / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 32 (14.2%) black squares
Answers66 (average length 5.85)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points284 (average 1.47)
Video of the Day

15d HATE {Word on Harry Powell's left fingers in "The Night of the Hunter"}. The Night of the Hunter is a 1955 American thriller film directed by Charles Laughton and starring Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters. The film is based on the 1953 novel of the same name by Davis Grubb, adapted for the screen by James Agee and Laughton. The novel and film draw on the true story of Harry Powers, hanged in 1932 for the murders of two widows and three children in Clarksburg, West Virginia. The film's lyric and expressionistic style sets it apart from other Hollywood films of the 1940s and 50s, and it has influenced later directors such as David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Terrence Malick, Jim Jarmusch, the Coen brothers, and Spike Lee.

In 1992, The Night of the Hunter was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in its National Film Registry.

The Doctor is IN

4a Capp {Joe Btfsplk's creator}. Joe Btfsplk was a character in Li'l Abner by Al Capp (1909–1979).

28a Mamet {"The Cryptogram" playwright, 1995}. I.e. David Mamet.

36a Bryn {Welsh word in a Pennsylvania college name}. A reference to Bryn Mawr College, in Bryn Mawr (literally "big hill").

38a Simba {"I Just Can't Wait to Be King" singer}. Reference to Simba in The Lion King.

5d auto {Caddy, e.g.}. "Caddy" being a nickname for Cadillac.

6d psi {Clairvoyance and such}. psi is a term from parapsychology.

12d Ellsberg {Analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers}. I.e. former US military analyst Daniel Ellsberg.

25d Satie {"Vexations" composer}. I.e. Erik Satie (1866–1925).

28d Morissette {Canadian singer with a 1995 album that went 16x platinum}. Alanis Morissette, the album being Jagged Little Pill.

41d Bluto {Comic strip bully}. Bluto (also known as Brutus) of the Thimble Theatre comic strip (later renamed Popeye).

47d Ono {1969 bed-in participant}. I.e. Yoko Ono, whose bed-ins with  John Lennon protested the Vietnam War.

Image of the Day

Malayalam script

29d Malayalam {Language that reads the same backward and forward}. The clue is a reference to Malayalam being a palindrome in English (it is not a palindrome in its own script).

Malayalam is one of the four major Dravidian languages of southern India. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India with official language status in the state of Kerala and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Mahé. It is spoken by 35.9 million people. Malayalam is also spoken in the Nilgiris district, Kanyakumari district and Coimbatore of Tamil Nadu, Dakshina Kannada, Bangalore and Kodagu districts of Karnataka. Overseas it is also used by a large population of Indian expatriates living around the globe in the Middle East, United States, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and Europe.

Other Clues

1a lag {Progress too slowly}; 8a closer {Effective salesman}; 14a ale-house {Tavern}; 16a ripple {Micro wave?}; 17a Tinactin {Popular name for tolnaftate}; 18a easels {Things holding up the works?}; 19a tattoo {Image that stays with you}; 20a CBer {Traffic reporter, you might say}; 22a CSI {TV show whose opening music is the Who's "Who Are You"}; 23a Essen {Where Alfred Krupp was born}; 24a bird {Frequent flier}; 25a sibs {What an only child lacks}; 26a uvula {Lump in one's throat?}; 29a motor scooters {Noisy vehicles}; 32a parole hearing {Meeting in which one person is anxious to leave}; 33a walkie-talkies {Staples of old police work}; 34a e-tail {PayPal transactions, e.g.}; 35a tress {Lock}; 37a kept {Held back}; 43a CIA {Subj. of Stansfield Turner's "Burn Before Reading"}; 44a rise {Attain success}; 45a recall {A term may end with one}; 46a all-out {Full-blown}; 48a neaten up {Declutter}; 50a meanie {Malicious sort}; 51a egg-teeth {Aids in breaking shells}; 52a Symons {Arthur who wrote "The Symbolist Movement in Literature"}; 53a rose {Part of the American Greetings logo}; 54a D.O.A. {1950 film noir}.

1d latte {Milky drink}; 2d alias {Cover}; 3d GENTS {Bathroom door sign}; 4d coconut-oil {Natural skin moisturizer}; 7d pencil-sharpener {Means of getting the lead out}; 8d creed {Ecclesiastical council's formulation}; 9d liar {Embroidery expert}; 10d ops {Black ___}; 11d specimens {Lab stock}; 13d resists {Puts up a fight}; 21d bracelet {Common glow-in-the-dark item}; 24d burettes {Liquid dispensers in laboratories}; 27d vole {Mouse lookalike}; 30d Orkin {___ Man, commercial symbol since the 1950s}; 31d Oaks {Dumbarton ___ Conference (1944 meeting that laid the groundwork for the U.N.)}; 32d Pat Riley {Three-time N.B.A. Coach of the Year}; 33d webcams {Monitor toppers}; 37d kites {High-strung items?}; 39d ICEE {Slush Puppie alternative}; 40d maned {Like horses}; 42d alpha {Series opener}; 44d ruin {Leave destitute}; 45d rags {Unimpressive attire}; 49d ego {Roman I}.

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