Sunday, January 31, 2010

NYT Monday 2/1/10 - Tricky

I found this Monday New York Times crossword more difficult than usual: it seemed to start off OK, and I figured out fairly quickly that the first words of the long answers all rhymed (with different spellings of the -icky ending, it was good to see).

But things went off the rails in the southeast corner, not helped by having on end for {Interminably} ... no, I wasn't crazy, it does fit the clue just as well. I compounded that mistake with sign for {The Olympic rings, e.g.}. It took a couple of minutes to disentangle the mess I got into there, not helped by a strange inability to spell Mickey Mouse.

Anyway, I thought it a great achievement to implement the theme with six differently spelled examples ... until the arrival of the indispensable Wikipedia, I imagine it would have been tough to reach that number.
Solving time: 9 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 17a picky eaters {They're choosy about what they chew}
Solution

Scott Atkinson
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Different ways the "icky" sound can be spelled:
17a picky eaters {They're choosy about what they chew}
37a Ricki Lake {Sensational 1990s-2000s talk show host}
42a Wikipedia {Popular online reference}
62a Mickey Mouse {Walt Disney creation}
11d Kwik-E-Mart {Store on TV that sells KrustyO's cereal}
36d Vikki Carr {"It Must Be Him" singer, 1967}
Crucimetrics
CompilersScott Atkinson / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares56 (29.6%)
Scrabble points331 (average 1.75)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

Avila39a Ávila {Walled city near Madrid}. Although this rang vague bells, it's decidedly not at the forefront of my mind: Ávila is certainly a walled city, but I don't know that it's particularly close to Madrid ... it's in the next-door province. The other notable thing about the city is its elevation: at 3665 feet it experiences very hard and long winters. It was the city that Orson Welles always wanted to live in, for unusual reasons. "Horrible climate, too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, very strange tragic place. I don't know why I want to live there."

Monroe61a Era {___ of Good Feelings, 1817-25}. Here's a surprise ... there was a period of American History when the nation wasn't politically divided ... perhaps because everyone was united in their hatred of the British after the War of 1812? The term Era of Good Feelings was coined by Benjamin Russell, following the good-will visit to Boston of President James Monroe. The Federalists had largely dissolved and were no longer attacking the president and the nation united behind the Democratic-Republican Party.

66a Ogden {Nash who wrote "I don't mind eels / Except as meals"}. I've encountered a lot of Ogden Nash (1902–1971) poems over the years, but not this one. It's so short the clue just about has the whole thing (brevity is the soul of wit).
I don’t mind eels
Except as meals,
And the way they feels.
The Eel by Ogden Nash
Mayan parrot3d macaw {Bird important in Mayan symbology}. The Maya associated parrots, especially macaws, with fire, and the sun, because of their bright colors. The hero twins of the Popul Vuh trick the death gods by placing macaw feathers at the end of cigars to make them appear to be burning.

52d Maude {Bea Arthur role}. If I've come across Bea Arthur (1922–2009) before, then I'm sorry to say that my memory let me down today. Bea achieved fame as the character Maude Findlay on the 1970s sitcoms All in the Family and its spin-off Maude. Maude was an outspoken, middle-aged, politically liberal woman living in suburban Tuckahoe, Westchester County, NY with her fourth husband. She embraced the tenets of women's liberation, always voted for Democratic Party candidates, strongly supported legal abortion, and advocated for civil rights and racial and gender equality. However, her overbearing and sometimes domineering personality often got her into trouble when speaking out on these issues.



Noteworthy

1a Ramis {Harold of "Ghostbusters"}. I doubt I'd have heard of Harold Ramis if Ghostbusters (1984) hadn't been one of my favorite comedies. I see that Ramis also directed Groundhog Day (1993), coming up on Tuesday ... though why any groundhog should want to come out of hibernation at the beginning of February I don't know - in our corner of PA, we experienced a low of -1°F last night. Anyway, it's very refreshing to sit down to do a crossword and be able to solve 1-Across right away ... hello Monday!



MRE52a MRE {G.I. grub}. With 54-Down being potentially amend or emend, you had to be sure of this one. I finally remembered the expansion as Meal, Ready-to-Eat and so knew to go with emend. Here is the typical contents of an MRE:
  • main course
  • side dish
  • dessert or snack (often commercial candy, fortified pastry, or HOOAH! Bar)
  • crackers or bread
  • spread of cheese, peanut butter, or jelly
  • powdered beverage mix: fruit flavored drink, cocoa, instant coffee or tea, sport drink, or dairy shake.
  • utensils (usually just a plastic spoon)
  • flameless ration heater (FRH)
  • beverage mixing bag
  • Accessory pack:

    • xylitol chewing gum
    • water-resistant matches
    • napkin / toilet paper
    • moist towelette
    • seasonings, including salt, pepper, sugar, creamer, and/or Tabasco sauce
Krazy Kat11a Kat {Krazy ___}; 22d cool cat {Beat Generation persona}. I'm cool about Kat and cool cat as answers in the same puzzle. cool cat was an expression tossed around ironically at school, but I've never really been sure what it meant and so I was intrigued by the Beat Generation reference. According to Partridge, the term was originally applied to jazz addicts and then rock-and-rollers. Then there was a Cool Cat cartoon series on TV. Krazy Kat was a comic strip whose biggest fan was its publisher William Randolph Hearst.


The Rest

6a steel {"Stainless" metal}; 14a alack {"Alas and ___"}; 15a no way! {"You gotta be kidding me!"}; 16a woe {Misery}; 19a inn {Quaint lodging}; 20a in a year {12 months from now}; 21a smocked {Dressed in lab attire}; 23a dew {Morning droplets}; 24a sew {Use a Singer machine}; 26a aloe {___ vera}; 27a SST {Mach 1 breaker}; 29a Hur {"Ben-___"}; 31a Omsk {Siberian city}; 34a Javan {Certain Indonesian}; 40a enl. {Blown-up photo: Abbr.}; 41a acred {Many-___ (large, as an estate)}; 44a mates {Couples (with)}; 45a sake {Drink at a sushi bar}; 46a MSN {AOL alternative}; 47a fat {Round about the belly}; 48a in re {Concerning, on a memo}; 50a Gro {Miracle-___ (garden care brand)}; 55a lectern {Speaker's stand}; 58a exclaim {Say "Holy cow!" or "Hot dog!"}; 64a air {Tire fill}; 65a e-tail {Sell online}; 67a Her {"On ___ Majesty's Secret Service"}; 68a tarts {Small baked desserts}; 69a no end {Interminably}.

1d rapid {Swift}; 2d A-line {1950s Dior dress style}; 4d icky {Very unpleasant}; 5d Skye {___ terrier}; 6d snare {Trap}; 7d tot {Tyke}; 8d ewes {Providers of sheep's milk}; 9d earmark {Politician's add-on}; 10d Lysol {Disinfectant brand}; 12d A-one {Super-duper}; 13d tend {Care for, with "to"}; 18d east {Sunup direction}; 25d whining {Annoying complaining}; 27d salient {Noteworthy}; 28d snap {Lose it}; 30d UCLA {The Bruins of the N.C.A.A.}; 32d Skee {___-Ball (arcade game)}; 33d keds {Some colorful sneakers}; 34d Jaws {Highest-grossing film before "Star Wars"}; 35d Avia {Adidas alternative}; 37d reds {Ruby and scarlet}; 38d I Am a {"___ Rock" (Simon & Garfunkel hit)}; 43d emerita {Retired, as a female professor}; 47d foxy {Cunning}; 49d remet {Convened anew, as the Senate}; 51d reels {Projector items}; 53d risen {No longer in bed}; 54d emend {Alter, as text}; 55d Leah {Sister of Rachel}; 56d Erie {Upstate New York's ___ Canal}; 57d NCAR {Raleigh's home: Abbr.}; 59d c'mon {"Get the lead out!"}; 60d logo {The Olympic rings, e.g.}; 63d kit {Collection of items for a modelist}.

NPR Puzzle 1/31/10 -- Say What?

Here's this week's puzzle:
Take four words: Croquet; Lunette; Renoir; Turnstile. They are all two-syllable words, but aside from that, they all have something unusual in common: a property that virtually no other words have. What property is it?
I have solved this, and even thought of another word that fits the pattern:  Chitin (the hard outer body of some insects) (also Chiton -- the loose tunic worn by Greek statues -- would work).

And -- because I know someone's keeping score -- no software was used in the solving of this puzzle.  Score one for the old noggin.

Here's some English croquet for our ex-pat friends:


Back on Thursday with the answer.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

NYT Sunday 1/31/10 - The Is to the Right ...

Unusually for us, Magdalen and I settled down to solve this Sunday New York Times crossword before eating supper on Saturday night. Given we weren't handicapped by the feedbag, our solving time is a longish one, and there were definitely many times when we couldn't solve clues and had to revisit them with more crossing letters.

We sorted out the theme early ... or thought we did ... Magdalen confidently put Is at the end of each long answer, only to discover with taxi evasion that the I was sometimes added after a word other than the last. This feature kept us on our toes themewise.

The constructors are nothing if not ambitious: you wouldn't have thought puns with words ending I would give you a lot of options, but this idea was implemented convincingly and often very amusingly too, particularly in the central answer open wide and say ahi!
Solving time: 36 mins (with Magdalen, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 95a Leia {Film character known for her buns}
Solution

Tony Orbach and Andrea Carla Michaels
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

"Keep an eye on it!". An I is tacked onto the end of a word in a phrase, making a pun:
23a The Wizard of Idi {Sorcerer behind Amin's rise to power?}
33a taxi evasion {Dodging midtown traffic?}
41a You Can Call Me Ali {1964 Cassius Clay announcement?}
57a Common Sensei {Average karate instructor?}
66a open wide and say ahi {"Yummy! Here comes your tuna sashimi!"?}
76a Jedi Clampett {Lightsaber-wielding hillbilly of TV?}
91a Martini and Lewis {Invitation to cocktails with pianist Ramsey?}
100a Lanai Turner {Rotisserie on a Hawaiian porch?}
118a are we there yeti? {Cranky question on the Himalayan trail?}
Crucimetrics
CompilersTony Orbach and Andrea Carla Michaels / Will Shortz
Grid21x21 with 78 (17.7%) black squares
Answers140 (average length 5.19)
Theme squares121 (33.3%)
Scrabble points588 (average 1.62)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

38a RBI {Suicide squeeze result, for short}. Time for another lesson in baseball terminology: Watching Baseball Smarter says the suicide squeeze is a more aggressive version of the squeeze play: rather than wait till the batter has bunted, the man on third breaks towards home plate even before the ball has been pitched. The maneuver relies on the batter making contact with the ball, otherwise ... well, that's why it's called a "suicide" squeeze.

40a La-La {"___ Means I Love You" (1968 Delfonics hit)}. Haven't heard of either the group or the title this time: The Delfonics are a pioneering Philadelphia soul group, which is still touring and recording. It was formed in 1965, originally as The Four Gents. La-La (Means I Love You) was the title track on their first album. If that's what La-La means, what does it say about Tinky-Winky, Dipsy and Po?



Ann Taylor71a Ann {Taylor of apparel}. I can rely on Magdalen's knowledge with a clue like this: Ann Taylor is a clothing retailer headquartered in New York City. The stores offer classic styled suits, separates, dresses, shoes and accessories. It looks like the nearest ones to us are in Syracuse, NY and Whitehall, PA - nothing within 100 miles or so of where we live (but that's hardly surprising).

74a Orr {"Catch-22" bomber pilot}. It's got to be worth knowing this one, as constructors occasionally want to make a foray away from Bobby (or even Bob the CBS News guy). Orr is a bomber pilot in Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. He is continually being shot down and having to crash land in the sea and is the only person in the Group considered to be crazier than the protagonist Yossarian, with whom he shares a tent. In the 1970 movie, Orr is played by Bob Balaban.



98a Syd {Hoff who wrote and illustrated "Danny and the Dinosaur"}. I don't recall seeing any of his books in the UK ... Syd Hoff (1912-2004) maybe started just too late to impact my childhood. Syd wrote and illustrated over 60 volumes in the HarperCollins "I Can Read" series for beginning readers, most notably Sammy the Seal and the popular Danny and the Dinosaur (1958), which sold 10 million copies and has been translated into a dozen languages.

Rik Smits24d Rik {7'4" former N.B.A. star Smits}. I continue to comment on basketball clues at every opportunity in the hope that something will stick in the bean for when I really need it. Rik Smits is a retired Dutch basketball player who spent his entire professional career with the Indiana Pacers ... a team based in the state capital, Indianapolis. Nicknamed "The Dunkin' Dutchman", Rik was drafted in 1988 and retired at the conclusion of the Pacers' 1999–2000 season, after Indiana was defeated by the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals 4 games to 2.
33d Tim {Comic Conway}. Another one in Magdalen's domain. Tim Conway is best-known for playing Ensign Charles Parker in the popular 1960s WWII sitcom, McHale's Navy, and for co-starring alongside Carol Burnett on The Carol Burnett Show.



72d Nero {Lancelot portrayer, 1967}. This looks to be a reference to the film version of the musical Camelot, since Franco Nero only appeared in the former. Film trivia: the movie features a scene of King Arthur (Richard Harris) wearing a 20th century Band-Aid on the back of his neck.



Noteworthy

55a ays {Calls of port?}. I get that this is a play on "ports of call", but can't quite fathom the intention of the clue: does it mean "port" in the sense of the left side of a ship, or as in a harbor (the ays are presumably acknowledgments of a command?). Anyway, in their desire to use the inversion, the constructors have maybe stretched the clue wording beyond my capacity to understand it (even allowing some leeway due to the question mark).

55d Arnel {Synthetic fiber}. When we got to this clue, we just had the second letter and I knew the answer would be either Orlon or Arnel. I just hoped it was the former, as I'm campaigning to outlaw the other one  through my On Notice! list. Argh! Enough with the Arnels ... Celanese stopped making the fiber in 1986 because of toxicity concerns and the only reason anyone remembers it is because of crosswords. I've even got another Arnel for you ... Arnel Pineda, lead vocalist of the American rock band Journey.




The Rest

1a Sinatra {Ol' Blue Eyes}; 8a bereft {Forlorn}; 14a gas-bag {Chatty Cathy}; 20a smother {Overdress, maybe}; 21a as ever {"Yours" alternative}; 22a Emeril {"Bam!" chef}; 25a no name {Brand X}; 26a Solon {Sage}; 27a MiGs {"Top Gun" planes}; 28a tender {Sore}; 30a sta {"Come ___?" ("How are you?," in Italy)}; 31a khaki {Military wear}; 35a Taipei {___ 101, world's tallest building, 2004-07}; 46a LSAT {Aspiring atty.'s hurdle}; 50a added {Put in}; 51a USO {Kind of tour, for short}; 52a Ara {Coach Parseghian}; 53a pouch {Something under a tired eye, maybe}; 54a -zoic {Suffix on era names}; 61a afros {The Jackson 5 had five}; 63a Poe {"The Black Cat" writer}; 64a ATT {Long-distance call letters}; 65a hrs. {"48___"}; 73a nez {It's just below les yeux}; 75a Acela {Boston-to-Washington speedster}; 80a LPs {CD predecessors}; 81a ciné {Place to watch Truffaut, e.g.}; 85a arise {Get up}; 86a 'tec {Private eye}; 87a ifs {Conditions}; 89a skoal! {"Cheers!"}; 90a roto {___-Rooter}; 95a Leia {Film character known for her buns}; 99a feudal {Like medieval Europe}; 106a gulag {Solzhenitsyn topic}; 108a iso- {Equal: Prefix}; 109a Gideon {Judge of Israel, in Judges}; 110a test {Eye ___}; 111a flask {It might hold the solution}; 116a sylphs {Graceful women}; 121a plaits {Pigtails, e.g.}; 122a parole {Out for someone on the inside}; 123a Austria {1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics host}; 124a Sancho {Don Quixote's squire}; 125a shooed {Ran off}; 126a meteors {Showy streakers}.

1d SSTs {Jet-setters' jets, once}; 2d IMHO {Blogger's preface}; 3d noel {"The Seven Joys of Mary," e.g.}; 4d a-two {Part of Lawrence Welk's intro}; 5d Thinkpad {Popular laptop}; 6d rez {Tract for a tribe, briefly}; 7d Aramaic {"The Passion of the Christ" language}; 8d Bad Girls {Donna Summer #1 hit}; 9d esos {Those muchachos}; 10d ref {Call, as a game}; 11d Evita {"On This Night of a Thousand Stars" musical}; 12d Fedex {UPS rival}; 13d Trini {Certain Caribbean, for short}; 14d Geneva {Home of the Palace of Nations}; 15d amoral {Like the stranger in Camus's "The Stranger"}; 16d sen. {D.C. V.I.P.}; 17d Brasi {Luca ___, "The Godfather" character}; 18d aim to {"We ___ please"}; 19d glean {Collect slowly}; 29d deli {___ meat}; 32d hen {Farm layer}; 34d salon {Art exhibition hall}; 35d to-do {List heading}; 36d Audi {Autobahn auto}; 37d ice-cap {Global warming panel concern}; 39d bloc {Faction}; 41d Yaz {1960s-'80s Red Sox nickname}; 42d aussi {Too, in Toulon}; 43d Eamon {Former Irish P.M. ___ de Valera}; 44d armed {Having heat?}; 45d Lao {Thai neighbor}; 47d sushi {Offering at some bars}; 48d Acer {Taiwanese computer maker}; 49d this {"Get ___!"}; 53d petal {Corolla part}; 56d yowza! {"Holy cow!"}; 58d op art {Eye-twisting display}; 59d NAACP {Civil rights org.}; 60d styes {Sights on sore eyes?}; 62d fence {One running a hot business?}; 66d on-dit {Bit of gossip}; 67d doper {One who may have red eyes}; 68d erect {At attention}; 69d salsa {Chip dip}; 70d hacked {Got in illicitly}; 71d ajar {Almost closed}; 77d isola {Capri, e.g.}; 78d MTA {N.Y.C. bus insignia}; 79d tiny {Baby}; 82d Iowa {"The Bridges of Madison County" setting}; 83d nail {Get exactly right}; 84d els {Loop loopers}; 88d fidgeted {Had ants in one's pants}; 89d slugfest {High-scoring baseball game}; 91d Maud {Adams of "Octopussy"}; 92d Isr. {Land that's largely desert: Abbr.}; 93d NFL team {Lions or Bears}; 94d DEA {Narc's org.}; 96d eighth {Pizza slice, usually}; 97d it is so {"Yes, indeed"}; 100d lisps {Features of Castilian speech}; 101d asyla {Refuges}; 102d Nolan {"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" family name}; 103d reaps {Brings in}; 104d Norah {Jones who sang "Sunrise / Looks like morning in your eyes"}; 105d Enero {January, in Jalisco}; 107d ush {Seat, slangily}; 110d tele- {Marketing leader?}; 112d -lyte {Suffix with electro-}; 113d aero {Sleek, for short}; 114d stir {Ado}; 115d Kias {Big Korean exports}; 117d pic {It may have redeye}; 119d woo {Try to win}; 120d rue {Morgue, for one}.

Friday, January 29, 2010

NYT Saturday 1/30/10 - The Real Diehl

Ow! Ow! Ow! I came in for heavy punishment from this Saturday New York Times crossword. It seemed to start OK in the NE corner, but then I got completely bogged down in the center and couldn't get a toehold in any of the other corners until I had cracked those long answers.

I must have footled around for about half an hour getting nowhere until, after 45 minutes, things suddenly began to gel and I had the NW unexpectedly finished around the hour and the SW two minutes later. This gave me hope that I could complete the horrible bottom right section, and I happily did after a further ten minutes.

It's hard to say why this puzzle caused so much trouble: maybe the number of ambiguities in the cluing ... there is evidence of crossings out like never before. For example, I had all-out assault at 33-Across, aqua at 5-Down, goes away/awol at 55-Across, etc etc. Only the NE corner went in cleanly, although it was ironic {Like Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard"} that this was where my only uncertainty lay ... the Cav and Caniff crossing was a worry.

I think this may be the first time that the fabled increase in difficulty through the week has actually been evident in my solving times. Let's see ... we had 6 mins (Monday), 7 mins, 14 mins, 16 mins, 29 mins, 72 mins (Saturday). It's often the case that the Saturday puzzle is easier for me than Friday's ...certainly not this week!
Solving time: 72 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 31d army {Major employer}
Solution

Mark Diehl
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersMark Diehl / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 32 (14.2%) black squares
Answers64 (average length 6.03)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points292 (average 1.51)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

19a Steely Dan {Group whose 1972 debut album "Can't Buy a Thrill" went platinum}. After yesterday, I feel I need to be clearer about this: I had heard of the group Steely Dan, but everything else about the clue is New To Me today. The American rock group is centered on core members Walter Becker and Donald Fagen and continues to tour. Here's their hit single "Do It Again" from that debut album.



Orly35a Orly {Alternative to Beauvais}. Notwithstanding my former relative proximity to Paris, I don't know the airports there at all well. There are apparently four Parisian airports: Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (the main international airport); Paris-Orly Airport (the second international airport); Paris Beauvais Tillé Airport (the city's airport for budget airlines); Paris - Le Bourget Airport (the original city airport). A little unkind to clue Orly with respect to the third biggest, and not the biggest, one!

43a Gödel {Co-winner of the first Albert Einstein Award, 1951}. Yes, I'd heard of Kurt Gödel, not least because of  Douglas Hofstadter's Godel, Escher, Bach. I hadn't previously encountered the Albert Einstein Award, which was endowed by the Lewis and Rosa Strauss Memorial Fund in honor of Albert Einstein's 70th birthday. In fact Gödel was the first honoree, with theoretical physicist Julian Schwinger.

45a Ed McMahon {Late entertainer who was known for his laugh}. Now if the clue had said something about "Here's Johnny", I might have known the context, even if I couldn't remember who Johnny Carson's announcer was. So Ed McMahon (1923–2009) had a famous laugh too? I'll see if I can find a clip (I wonder if it's all it's cracked up to be?!). Here is also a good reminder of that cheer occasionally featured in crosswords, which Johnny in the guise of Carnac the Magnificent defines as "the sound made when a sheep explodes".



Certs54a Retsyn {Certs ingredient}. I thought Certs was a brand name of some kind, but couldn't pin it down during solving and just had to trust to the crossings here. I see now it's a breath mint and Retsyn is the trademarked name for the combination of copper gluconate and partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil that is apparently effective against breath odors. The copper gluconate is also responsible for Retsyn's green color.

2d Anita {One of the Pointer Sisters}. Again, I'd heard of The Pointer Sisters, but could I name any of them? No. And I didn't realize until today that Pointer is their actual surname. Sisters June and Bonnie Pointer began performing in 1969 as "Pointers, a Pair". They became a quartet when Anita Pointer joined, followed by Ruth, right before they recorded their debut album. They achieved their greatest commercial success later as a trio consisting of Anita, June, and Ruth, after Bonnie left the group to commence a solo career. Here's I'm So Excited from 1982.



Cavs9d Cav {Ohio pro, for short}. Tough, because I kept thinking of Mav and couldn't pin them down geographically (in fact, that answer would be defined as {Texas pro, for short}. In the end, I just had to rely on memory of Milt Caniff to save me, and went with Cav, which I see now is a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Lassen Peak24d Lassen {California peak}. My money was on the seemingly more likely Larsen, which was one of several reasons for a hold-up in the center. Lassen Peak is the southernmost active volcano in the Cascade Range. It is part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc which stretches from northern California to southwestern British Columbia. Lassen Peak has the distinction of being the only volcano in the Cascades other than Mount St. Helens to erupt during the 20th century. On May 22, 1915, an explosive eruption at Lassen Peak devastated nearby areas and rained volcanic ash as far away as 200 miles to the east.

27d Amanda {Cross of mysteries}. Carolyn Gold Heilbrun (1926–2003) was an academic and prolific feminist author who wrote fourteen Kate Fansler mysteries under the pen name Amanda Cross. Heilbrun kept her second career as a mystery novelist secret in order to protect her academic career, until a fan discovered "Amanda Cross"'s true identity through copyright records. The novels, all set in academia, often were an outlet for Heilbrun's view on feminism, academic politics, and other political issues. Death in a Tenured Position (the 1981 Nero Award winner set at Harvard University) was particularly harsh in its criticism of the academic establishment's treatment of women.

Noteworthy

Steve Canyon9a Caniff {"Steve Canyon" cartoonist}. I vaguely remembered Milt Caniff (1907–1988) from one encounter with Steve Canyon last year and the invaluable The Comics Since 1945, which I flip through in idle moments. Essential to know this if you are vague on Ohio basketball teams. Caniff drew the strip from 1947 until his death in 1988, winning the Reuben Award for it in 1971.
Tacoma26a Tacoma {Toyota pickup named for a U.S. city}. Had to get a couple of crossings to secure this, which was a shame as I dearly needed help in the center. The Tacoma is a compact pickup manufactured by the Toyota Motor Company since 1995. Tacoma itself is a port city in Washington state and the county seat of  Pierce County. The name derives from the Native American name for nearby Mount Rainier, which was originally called Mount Tacoma or Mount Tahoma. 
8d strap on a feed-bag {Get ready for chow}. A lovely grid-spanning answer, which has a Wodehouseian ring to my mind (as applied to humans and not horses). Yes, here's an example from Indiscretions of Archie (1921).
There was little conversation. The growing boy evidently did not believe in table-talk when he could use his mouth for more practical purposes. It was not until the final roll had been devoured to its last crumb that the guest found leisure to address his host. Then he leaned back with a contented sigh.


"Mother," said the human python, "says you ought to chew every mouthful thirty-three times...."


"Yes, sir! Thirty-three times!" He sighed again, "I haven't ever had meal like that."


"All right, was it, what?"


"Was it! Was it! Call me up on the 'phone and ask me!-Yes, sir!-Mother's tipped off these darned waiters not to serve-me anything but vegetables and nuts and things, darn it!"


"The mater seems to have drastic ideas about the good old feed-bag, what!"
From Indiscretions of Archie by P.G.Wodehouse
The Rest

1a cat hairs {Allergy source}; 15a onion set {Small planted bulb}; 16a atonal {Lacking a signature, say}; 17a pit-viper {Diamondback, for one}; 18a vestry {Church room}; 21a a heap {Plenty}; 22a Earl {Robin Hood, the ___ of Huntington}; 23a pelt {Indian barter item}; 25a GPA {No. usually figured to two decimals}; 29a fras {Giocondo and Angelico}; 30a warm one's heart {Make a person feel good}; 33a aerial assault {Shock-and-awe strategy}; 34a diamond fields {Sources of some Zimbabwean exports}; 36a doesn't {"Who ___?"}; 37a dbl. {Substantial hit: Abbr.}; 38a sane {Hardly balmy}; 39a paso {Part of una salsa}; 49a ironic {Like Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard"}; 51a bloopers {Overthrows, e.g.}; 52a enigma {Head-scratcher}; 53a à la carte {Not together}; 55a gets lost {Absents oneself}.

1d copse {Small stand}; 3d titer {Strength of a solution}; 4d hovel {Neighborhood eyesore}; 5d anil {Navy relative}; 6d I-spy {Game with a spotter}; 7d reed {English horn, e.g.}; 10d ate at {Worried}; 11d nosh {Little something}; 12d integrals {Limits of some sums}; 13d far apart {Nowhere near an agreement}; 14d flypast {Go by quickly}; 20d nemesis {Macduff, to Macbeth}; 26d trio {The witches in "Macbeth," e.g.}; 28d cold one {Pub pull}; 29d feud {Long row}; 30d we all do it {Blame-diffusing words}; 31d army {Major employer}; 32d halt {Pull up}; 33d airborne {Not grounded}; 34d dodgier {Relatively hard to pin down}; 38d slimy {Vile}; 39d Papal {___ States}; 40d a Hero {Thackeray's "Vanity Fair: A Novel Without ___"}; 41d sorts {What a loser may be out of}; 42d onset {First sign}; 44d engs. {Many Caltech grads: Abbr.}; 46d Mlle. {M.'s counterpart}; 47d coat {Judging point at a dog show}; 48d mocs {Comfy wear}; 50d can {Preserve ... or get rid of}.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

NYT Friday 1/29/10 - Dig Doug Day

I really love this Friday New York Times crossword: it was one of those themeless puzzles that seems impossible as you start to solve it, but eventually gives way; clues which you think you've no chance of rationalizing eventually make sense once you get the answer. So it was another Dig Doug Day for me.

The southwest corner was the first to fall into place, helped by knowledge of Nietzsche as the originator of the Übermensch even if it took several attempts to spell him right. From there I could progress into the center and gradually complete the other corners in a counter-clockwise fashion.

After 25 minutes, I just had the tough NW corner to finish, and I seriously thought I'd go over the 30 minute barrier (I'm still chuffed if I break that) because I only had the endings of the long answers as a way in. Eventually I guessed Zinfandel for 1-Across (I'm always anticipating Scrabbly letters in puzzles like this) and so broke the logjam.

One reason for problems in this corner is the conjunction of two of the most misleading clues in the puzzle: {Appropriate game} for poach and {Spoilers, often} for nanas ... delightful once you work them out, but nothing that's likely to help you get started! In the end, there were no areas where I had to make more-or-less blind guesses, which is great to see.
Solving time: 29 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 19a poach {Appropriate game}
Solution

Doug Peterson
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics
CompilersDoug Peterson / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 28 (12.4%) black squares
Answers70 (average length 5.63)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points332 (average 1.69)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

15a Ida Lupino {"The Hitch-Hiker" director, 1953}. Seeing the -INO ending, I wanted Tarantino, but that wouldn't wash with the 1953 date. Ida Lupino (1918–1995) was a pioneer among women filmmakers. In her forty-eight year career, she appeared in fifty-nine films, and directed nine others. The Hitch-Hiker is a film noir directed by Ida Lupino about two fishing buddies who pick up a mysterious hitchhiker during a trip to Mexico. The film is based on the true story of Billy Cook, a psychopathic murderer; it's considered the first film noir directed by a woman.



Statue of Dostoyevsky in Omsk22a Omsk {Dostoyevsky's exile city}. Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881) was incarcerated on 23 April 1849, for being part of a liberal intellectual group, the Petrashevsky Circle. Tsar Nicholas I after seeing the Revolutions of 1848 in Europe was harsh on any sort of underground organization which he felt could put autocracy into jeopardy. On November 16 of that year, Dostoyevsky, along with the other members of the Petrashevsky Circle, was sentenced to death. After a mock execution, in which he and other members of the group stood outside in freezing weather waiting to be shot by a firing squad, Dostoyevsky's sentence was commuted to four years of exile with hard labor at a katorga prison camp in Omsk.

Sir Kay breaketh his sword at ye Tournament41a Kay {Sir ___, foster brother of King Arthur}. In Arthurian legend, Sir Kay is Sir Ector's son and King Arthur's foster brother and later seneschal, as well as one of the first Knights of the Round Table. In later literature he is known for his acid tongue and bullying, boorish behavior, but in earlier accounts he was one of Arthur's premier warriors.

62a Eliot Ness {Noted Volstead Act enforcer}. I'd find these puzzles a lot easier if I knew stuff like the Volstead Act. I expect every American remembers it as the legislation that reinforced the prohibition of alcohol by properly defining "intoxicating liquors". The Act aimed to:
  1. prohibit intoxicating beverages,
  2. regulate the manufacture, production, use and sale of high-proof spirits for other than beverage purposes, and
  3. insure an ample supply of alcohol and promote its use in scientific research and in the development of fuel, dye and other lawful industries.
Eliot Ness (1903–1957) it turns out was brought up on the Sherlock Holmes stories and after joining the 300-strong Bureau of Prohibition in Chicago, was chosen to head the operations under the Volstead Act, targeting the illegal breweries and supply routes of Al Capone (1899–1947). I'll always think of Ness as portrayed by Kevin Costner in The Untouchables (1987).



27d trio {The Jimi Hendrix Experience, e.g.}. Another clue I was very apprehensive about, because The Jimi Hendrix Experience could have been a theme park ride for all I knew. In fact they were an English-American rock band from the 60s, featuring the eponymous singer-songwriter and guitarist Jimi Hendrix (1942–1970), bassist and backing vocalist Noel Redding (1945–2003) and drummer Mitch Mitchell (1947–2008). All three of the band's studio albums are featured in the Rolling Stone list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and in 1992, The Jimi Hendrix Experience were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Here's Purple Haze (the song with the famous mondegreen "Scuse me, while I kiss this guy").



Late 1780s diagram of Galvani's experiment on frog legs.29d frog {Parts of it may be revealed in biology class}. I had to check with Magdalen about the frogs. Yes, she says she dissected frogs, possibly more than one, around the same age that I had to dissect a white rat. I wonder which is grosser? Apparently the great thing about frogs is that you can cause their legs to twitch with the application of electricity, an experiment originally performed by Luigi Galvani (1737–1798).
butyl48d butyl {Tear-resistant synthetic rubber}. I didn't know this meaning of butyl, which wasn't covered in chemistry classes. Butyl rubber is used to make (amongst other things) inner tubes, basketballs, gas masks, and sealants for roof repairs.
Todd Lodwick54d USOC {Org. with a SportsMan of the Year award}. Ignoring case, it seems there is more than one such award, a more famous one being presented by Sports Illustrated magazine. However, that capital M tells you to look elsewhere to the US Olympic Committee: the USOC's SportsMan of the Year for 2009 is the American nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick.

Noteworthy

spoiled by nana19a poach {Appropriate game}; 3d nanas {Spoilers, often}. There's some neat misleading cluing in this puzzle. These are two of my favorites, the first being a good example of a misleading part of speech ("Appropriate" is an imperative verb disguised as an adjective), the second relying on "Spoilers" being much more recognizable in the context of puzzle answers being given away. Great stuff!
Happy Ho Ho59a Ho Hos {Tubular snacks}. Ok, I remembered Ho Hos from a previous encounter, but they're still not as recognizable to me as the ubiquitous Oreos. As far as I can tell, Ho Ho is American for Swiss roll (well, the chocolate variety at least). They are made by the Hostess company.
Los Altos9d Los Altos {City near San Jose}. This was one of the gatekeepers to the NW corner, and I suspected I was going to be in trouble, but in fact knew Los Altos of old for its high-tech connections. It's home to Steve Jobs, John Warnock, Jerry Yang and Scott McNealy inter alia. I thought the city was also headquarters to one of their companies, but I've not been able to confirm that.

31d Nietzsche {"Übermensch" originator}. Isn't Nietzsche the worst surname to spell? Ever? Herr N introduced the concept of the value-creating Übermensch in the 1883-5 novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra ... cue the Richard Strauss.



The Rest

1a Zinfandel {Red choice}; 10a adopt {Decide to use}; 16a sepoy {Old Indian infantryman}; 17a pine-trees {Resin sources}; 18a twerp {Weenie}; 20a smash into {Ram}; 23a key limes {Dessert fruit}; 24a El Al {It's grounded on the Sabbath}; 26a trash TV {Many reality shows}; 29a fandom {Star followers}; 32a hon {Precious}; 33a tore {Streaked}; 34a RBI {Nat stat}; 35a lives on {Endures}; 38a pin {Spare part?}; 39a oleo {Pat makeup}; 42a Samson {Hero described as "Eyeless in Gaza"}; 44a get real! {"Are you nuts?!"}; 46a nine {Right fielder, on a scorecard}; 47a Zanzibar {It merged with Tanganyika in 1964}; 49a gulp {Get down quickly}; 53a rustled up {Managed to obtain}; 55a ratio {One thing on top of another?}; 56a ASCII {It has 95 printable characters}; 57a at one time {Not currently}; 60a Tylenol PM {What might come as a relief at night?}; 61a scent {Tracking aid}.

1d zippo {Diddly}; 2d idiom {Hit the ceiling, say}; 4d flecked {Like a strawberry roan's coat}; 5d auth. {Bibliography abbr.}; 6d NPR {"Science Friday" carrier}; 7d diesel {Motor ship driver}; 8d enemy {Hostile}; 10d asthma {Breathtaking condition?}; 11d dewiest {Most childishly pure}; 12d open shops {Results of some labor laws}; 13d port {Computer connection}; 14d typo {Four for for, for one}; 21d sir, no sir {Loud drill bit?}; 23d kamikaze {Vodka cocktail}; 25d LOL {Electronic gag reflex?}; 28d Venn {A diagram bears his name};  30d able {Fit}; 32d hey! {"Watch it!"}; 36d validate {Confirm}; 37d nan {Chicken tikka go-with}; 40d oration {Keynote, e.g.}; 43d megaton {4.184 petajoules}; 45d enlist {Win the support of}; 46d Napoli {Campania's capital, in Campania}; 50d utile {Worth keeping}; 51d limps {Has a hitch}; 52d poems {Metric system output?}; 53d rahs {Words of support}; 55d rent {Digs cash?}; 58d neo- {Conservative front?}.

NPR Puzzle 1/24/10 Eric, May I Introduce Ceri?

Here's this week's puzzle:

Think of a common first name for a boy, starting with the letter E, two syllables. Rearrange all of the letters to form a common first name for a girl, also with two syllables. What names are these?
As I pointed out on Sunday, if Will Shortz hadn't included that pesky word "common" we could have had some fun.  We got four, Henry got the fifth.

Here goes:

Eric (common) + Ceri (a Welsh version of Kerry as a girl's name; also maybe the nickname for Cerys, also a Welsh girl's name.  Not common)

Ethan (common) + Netha (one site says it means "leader" in Hindi -- but don't believe everything you read on the Internet; I did find a Netha White who works as a receptionist for the Seattle Seahawks.  Not common)

Edwin (common enough) + Wendi (not so common, but you can see how it might arise)

Ernie (common) + Irene (common) = we have the winner!

Elisha (not very common) + Sheila (common); the real problem here is that Elisha is three syllables and so disqualified.

In honor of Ernie being the answer today, I've decided to show some of Globetrotting Ernie's photos.  Some guy decided to take an Ernie Pez dispenser with him on his travels.  Enjoy!  (Oh, you can click on any of the photos to go to Globetrotting Ernie's Flickr stream, and maybe get more information there.)





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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

NYT Thursday 1/28/10 - Out of the Pink

Although the theme of this New York Times crossword wasn't quite as gnarly as some we get on a Thursday, it still was among the toughest for me to figure out. I did notice flamingo hidden in 17-Across and even carnation and eraser in 24-Down and 10-Down, but still didn't associate them in any concrete way.

After 15 minutes, I was left wondering what the fourth letter of 54-Across was (Lonette McKee being unknown to me) and worked my way through the alphabet to see what made sense. Arriving at pink things was therefore a bit of a kick-self moment.

But I doubt I was the only one to do this: I don't think of carnations as necessarily pink, since cultivars of many different colors have been developed; I certainly don't think of erasers as pink, although the ones at the ends of pencils often are. So I'm left wondering if more decidedly pink things could have been used for the idea ... perhaps not, as the need to embed the thing in another word or phrase is a huge constraint?

Incidentally, I note the three pink examples fall neatly into the categories animal (flamingo), vegetable (carnation) and mineral (eraser) ... which is kind-of nice.
Solving time: 16 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 42a pore {Source of many a bead}
Solution

Raymond C. Young
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Pink objects are hidden in three long answers, as indicated by 54a pink things {What 17-Across and 10- and 24-Down all conceal}.
17a flaming oil {Scalding castle weapon}

flamingo

10d qué será será {Resigned response to tragedy}

eraser

24d incarnation {A pharaoh vis-à-vis Horus, in Egyptian myth}

carnation
Crucimetrics
Compilers
Raymond C. Young / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 32 (14.2%) black squares
Answers
72 (average length 5.36)
Theme squares
42 (21.8%)
Scrabble points
301 (average 1.56)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
New To Me

Prospero and Ariel16a unto {"Come ___ these yellow sands, / And then take hands": Ariel in "The Tempest"}. Ariel's song from Act I scene 2. I know these lines less well than the next bit, Full Fathom Five, thanks to its many musical settings.
Come unto these yellow sands,
  And then take hands;
Curtsied when you have and kiss'd,
  The wild waves whist,
Foot it featly here and there,
And, sweet sprites, the burden bear.
From The Tempest Act I Scene 2
home run28a tater {Four-bagger}. Confident about my new-found expertise in baseball, I wrote in homer here. There are two slang terms for home run matching ---ER? Ouch! It seems more than two, since you could also have goner. Here's Wikipedia's list: big fly, blast, bomb, circuit clout, dinger, ding-dong, dong, donger, four-bagger, four-base knock, four-ply swat, funk blast, goner, gonzo, gopher ball, homer, jack, long ball, moonshot, quadruple, round-tripper, shot, slam, swat, tape-measure shot, tater, wallop, and yakerton. Apparently the term started as long tater in the 1970s, potato/tater being a nickname for the ball itself, and in usage got shortened to just tater.
Picnic57a Inge {"The Dark at the Top of the Stairs" playwright}. Didn't know the play, but experience has proven that a four-letter playwright is Inge 99 times out of 100. In a UK puzzle, the theologian William Ralph Inge, known as "The Gloomy Dean" for his pessimistic views, might get the occasional mention, but not here. The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1957) is Inge's second play after the Pulitzer-winning Picnic (1953); it won a Tony Award for Best Play and was made into a film in 1960.

Queen Sofia of Spain1d Sofia {Queen of Spain's Juan Carlos I}. I had trouble parsing this clue, assuming it to be Queen of Spain's "Juan Carlos I", not Queen of "Spain's Juan Carlos I". So the answer is of course Queen Sofia of Spain (née Princess Sophia Margaret Victoria Frederica of Greece and Denmark). With her background, it's not surprising that Sofia is multilingual, being fluent in English, French, German, Greek and Spanish. It's a puzzle to me why the I is added to Juan Carlos I. I always thought you didn't bother with the Roman numeral until a Juan Carlos II came along to require disambiguation. We don't say Queen Victoria I of England.

2d Orlon {Acrylic fiber}. I feel Orlon is a slightly more respectable answer than the On Notice! Arnel, as it's at least in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and the indispensable Wikipedia. Also Orlon isn't toxic to my knowledge. Orlon is Dupont's trademarked name for acrylic fibers which it first produced in 1941. I've just discovered there was a Philadelphia-based R&B group called the Orlons (who named themselves that as a tongue-in-cheek nod to the friendly rivalry they had with a popular group at their high school, the Cashmeres).



Francis II3d Francis II {The last Holy Roman emperor}. Francis II (1768–1835) was the last because the HRE was dissolved in 1806 after the disastrous defeat of the Third Coalition by Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz. However, he continued to be King of Hungary and Croatia, King of Bohemia and the Emperor of Austria ... so not so bad, all things considered.

46d McKee {Lonette of "The Cotton Club" and "Malcolm X"}. Until I made sense of 54-Across, I would have bet on McNee here. Lonette McKee is an actress, songwriter, screenwriter and director. In The Cotton Club (1984), she played a dancer, and in Malcolm X (1992), Louise Little, Malcolm X's mother.



Edgar Mitchell47d Edgar {Mitchell of Apollo 14}. Edgar Mitchell piloted the lunar module of Apollo 14, and spent nine hours working on the lunar surface in the Fra Mauro Highlands region, making him the sixth person to walk on the Moon.





Noteworthy

Orrin Hatch14a Orrin {Hatch at a hearing}. I met Utah senator Orrin Hatch early on in my forays into American crosswords almost exactly a year ago. I tried to spot him and the crossworthy senators Bayh, Lugar, Gramm, etc, among the audience for the State of the Union Address last night, but they didn't stand out particularly in that setting. What's the "at a hearing" business? I suspect this relates to the hearings concerning people injured by the atmospheric testing of nuclear bombs, which eventually resulted in the passage of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) in 1990.

Ion20a Ion {Former Saturn}. I've seen enough of these on the road to know the answer reasonably well. The Saturn Ion was sold by General Motors between the 2003 and 2007 model years. As of 2006, the Ion was the longest compact car sold in North America.

43d Thaïs {1894 opera set in Egypt}. Saw the clue and thought immediately of Aida. Oops, Aida won't fit! I should have known that 1894 was too late. We saw the Met's HD relay of Thaïs last year, but sadly the work left an indelible blank on my mind except for that lovely Méditation, which involves no singing at all, being an intermezzo for solo violin and orchestra.



The Rest

1a sofas {Lounging sites in lounges}; 6a lait {Chocolat au ___}; 10a quiz {Pump, in a way}; 15a Etna {The Mountain of Fire, to 23-Acrosses}; 19a Esso {Gas brand that's also an Italian pronoun}; 21a pointe {En ___ (on tiptoe)}; 22a semi {Prefinal game}; 23a ancient {Person of olden times}; 25a indexed {Like stocks and reference books}; 27a in re {About}; 29a discs {Spinal parts}; 31a telecasts {Airs}; 35a Asia {It's not Occidental}; 36a tweed {Coarse-woven cloth}; 37a sway {Influence}; 38a third-hand {Not direct at all, as gossip}; 40a heeds {Follows}; 41a nerdy {Square, maybe}; 42a pore {Source of many a bead}; 43a T-shaped {Like a crucifix}; 46a mutated {Not normal, as a gene}; 49a heat {A gun, slangily}; 50a elects {Chooses}; 52a .edu {Follower of harvard. or yale.}; 53a agri- {___-food industry}; 56a Indo- {___-Aryan}; 58a one at {___ a time}; 59a sign {Foreshadowing}; 60a ogre {Villain}; 61a terry {Bathhouse wear}.

4d aim {Marksman's skill}; 5d snipers {Some marksmen}; 6d legit {Kosher}; 7d a ton {Lots}; 8d initialed {Approved, in a way}; 9d talented {Having star potential}; 11d unsex {Emasculate, say}; 12d it's me {Response to "Who's there?"}; 13d zooid {Animal-like}; 18d none {What the "poor dog" had in "Old Mother Hubbard"}; 26d Dec. {Advent mo.}; 28d teeny {Size two, say}; 29d dat {"What's up wit ___?"}; 30d -ish {Suffix with freak}; 31d twaddling {Talking silly}; 32d sweetener {It may help close the deal}; 33d tad {Wee bit}; 34d sys. {M.O.}; 36d Threepio {"Star Wars" droid, informally}; 39d dep. {Passbook abbr.}; 40d hotshot {Real somebody}; 42d putt {Not go for a drive?}; 44d segni {59-Acrosses, in Italian}; 45d hard G {Head of government?}; 48d Dusty {Common nickname for a cowpoke}; 51d engr. {Hwy. planner}; 55d -ine {Suffix with mescal}.