Friday, December 10, 2010

NYT Saturday 12/11/10 Paula Gamache - Under Control

This Saturday New York Times crossword worked out at average difficulty, but was uneven for me, both geographically (the top half was much the easier) and in the cluing (the clues ranged from the unbelievably easy to the unbelievably hard ... though I suppose that may be par for the course at the end of the week).

Another oddity about the puzzle is the number of foreign words and phrases worked in, which accounts in part for the longish list of explanations today. Perhaps so many started appearing in the fill that it was decided to make a virtue out of a necessity?

Working along the top, I started off well in the northeast especially, getting that little corner done in the first five minutes and then finding I could work back to the northwest corner and finish that a couple of minutes later, with the help of Lucrezia Borgia to bridge from one section to the other.

For once, I had got such a good start in a single area of a themeless, that I hadn't even bothered to scan through the clues as a whole: when I did look further down the grid, I found I wasn't so lucky making inroads: it took a lot of tinkering around to get a proper start again ... when it happened it was in the southeast and I had that area done with 21 minutes on the clock. southern accent was all I needed to break open the southwest corner and that section fell almost instantly at the end.

Ren & StimpyI had to ponder the bottom right square carefully (the intersection of 52d Rex and 57a Tex). I hadn't come across the movie Tex before and had thoughts of Ren (of Ren and Stimpy) being a playmate for Spot. But that didn't satisfy and I fairly soon settled on the generic Rex ... at least I assume there's no specific Rex that's a friend of Spot. Readers?

News of my Naturalization Interview with USCIS this morning. I passed the English reading and writing tests :-) and also the history and civics test, for which I had to prepare more diligently. My application for US citizenship has been recommended for approval, the final step being the oath ceremony for which there may be a couple of months to wait.
Solving time: 23 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 55a styles {They go in and out}

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

Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersPaula Gamache / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 29 (12.9%) black squares
Answers70 (average length 5.60)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points344 (average 1.76)
Video of the Day

57a Tex {Matt Dillon title role of 1982}. Tex is a 1982 Disney drama film released by Buena Vista Distribution Company and directed by Tim Hunter based on the novel of the same name by S. E. Hinton. Tex is about the life of two brothers after their mother dies, and their father walks out on them. They continue to struggle financially and mentally.

The Doctor is IN

1a cts {Abbr. for change}. cts = cents.

4a bebé {One who's just arrived in Mexico?}. baby = bebé is now in Español para los crucigramistas as an alternative to nene.

16a oceano {Setting of muchas islas}. "ocean" and "many islands" in Spanish.

17a clemenza {What Tito shows, in opera}. I.e. "clemency" in Italian, a reference to the Mozart opera La clemenza di Tito.

21a estos {These, on Ibiza}. these = estos/estas is in Español para los crucigramistas.

23a genl {One with star power?: Abbr.}. genl = general in the military sense, typically sporting a number of stars as an indication of their rank.

24a Sahl {Comic with the 1955 album "At Sunset"}. I.e. Mort Sahl.

32a job {Bread source}. Bread = money had better go into Pavlov's Guide to Crosswords.

42a taco {Quinceañera treat}. See Quinceañera.

44a Oman {Country whose name is occasionally used as an exclamation?}. Oman might be heard as "O man!"

45a Zeit {Time, to Freud}. Zeit is "time" in German.

51a Mercator {Projection creator}. I.e. Gerardus Mercator (1512–1594), the Flemish cartographer.

53a Endora {Sitcom witch}. Endora (Agnes Moorehead) is Samantha's mother in Bewitched.

56a NTSB {Wreck-checking org.}. NTSB = National Transportation Safety Board is in Alphabet Soup.

1d CDC {Flu-fighting org.}. CDC = Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also in Alphabet Soup.

5d eine {Stern article}. eine is German for "a", Stern being the German weekly magazine.

9d ocho {A third of veinticuatro}. "eight" and "twenty-four" in Spanish.

21d Espo {Boston Garden nickname}. I.e. Phil Esposito, former Boston Bruins player.

29d XOXO {Love letters?}. XOXO = kisses and hugs.

45d zetas {Some Greek sisters}. Reference to Zeta as used in sorority names.

48d hare {Storied slacker}. As in the fable of The Tortoise and the Hare.

Image of the Day

engraving from an Abrasax stone

28a abraxas {Ancient amulet inscription}. The word Abrasax (Greek ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ, which is far more common in the sources than the variant form Abraxas, ΑΒΡΑΞΑΣ) was a word of mystic meaning in the system of the Gnostic Basilides, being there applied to the “Great Archon” (Gk., megas archōn), the princeps of the 365 spheres (Gk., ouranoi). In Gnostic cosmology, the 7 letters spelling its name represent each of the 7 classic planets—Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

The word is found in Gnostic texts such as the Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit, and also appears in the Greek Magical Papyri. It was engraved on certain antique gemstones, called on that account Abraxas stones, which were used as amulets or charms. As the initial spelling on stones was 'Abrasax' (Αβρασαξ), the spelling of 'Abraxas' seen today probably originates in the confusion made between the Greek letters Sigma and Xi in the Latin transliteration. The word may be related to Abracadabra, although other explanations exist.

There are similarities and differences between such figures in reports about Basilides' teaching, ancient Gnostic texts, the larger Greco-Roman magical traditions, and modern magical and esoteric writings. Opinions abound on Abraxas, who in recent centuries has been claimed to be both an Egyptian god and a demon. The Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung wrote a short Gnostic treatise in 1916 called The Seven Sermons to the Dead, which called Abraxas a God higher than the Christian God and Devil, that combines all opposites into one Being.

Other Clues

8a nothin' {"I got ___"}; 14a delirium {Possible result of high temperature}; 18a thanks {Recipient's reply}; 19a Lucrezia Borgia {Daughter of Alexander VI}; 22a Elle {What an aspiring model may read}; 25a free {Open}; 26a garde {___-robe (Calais closet)}; 27a pled {Didn't just ask}; 30a old {19th-century, say}; 31a lie {Doctored account}; 33a Ibo {Nigerian language}; 36a Miramax {"Emma" studio}; 38a T-MAX {Kodak film used in surveillance}; 39a tamed {Under control}; 43a here {"___ goes!"}; 46a drain {Eddy site}; 47a southern accent {What a Yankee is unlikely to have}; 50a sunhat {Bit of beachwear}; 54a astatine {Element between polonium and radon on the periodic table}; 55a styles {They go in and out}.

2d tells all {Blabs, blabs, blabs}; 3d sleuthed {Did some digging around}; 4d brers {Backwoods sibs}; 6d buzzer beater {Thrilling hoops shot}; 7d e-mailer {One may attach something}; 8d not be {"This should ___!"}; 10d tear-gas {Riot control agent}; 11d hanger {One in the closet}; 12d in kind {One way to respond}; 13d NO SALE {Register message}; 15d I'm cold! {[Brrr!]}; 20d alea jacta est {"The die is cast," to Caesar}; 25d fair {Midway point?}; 26d gab {Tittle-tattle}; 31d lid {Hamper part}; 33d I meant it! {Affirmation of seriousness}; 34d baritone {Military band piece}; 35d oxen {Draft team}; 36d menthol {Tiger Balm ingredient}; 37d main man {Best bud}; 38d threat {Security problem}; 39d tosses {Scraps}; 40d amount {Aggregate}; 41d Maundy {Foot-washing ceremony}; 46d D.C. Cab {1983 Joel Schumacher film}; 49d CRTs {Analog oscilloscope parts: Abbr.}; 52d Rex {Playmate for Spot}.


Beth B. said...

Congrats Ross!

Daniel Myers said...

It took me a while - being the Latin purist that I am - to twig 32A. There is no "J" in Latin, of course, and I learnt that phrase pronouncing IACTA as "Yacta," along with most other Latin students, I imagine.

Along with Beth B., let me add my congrats for your success with the USCIS. I never had to take it to acquire dual citizenship as my father was born here and went through an arcane process of "registering" me at the embassy in London upon my birth.

Crossword Man said...

Thanks to you both. I'll let readers know when and where the oath ceremony will take place, in case anyone's interested in coming along (and assuming there's unlimited room for guests of course). Magdalen says she once went to an oath ceremony in the Courthouse when she clerked for a judge there, but my researches suggest the Philadelphia Convention Center is the more usual location these days.