Monday, May 31, 2010

NYT Tuesday 6/1/10 - Taking the Pledge

This Tuesday New York Times crossword rings the changes nicely: it's been over six months since I last used the label. I gather putting one-word theme clues in capitals is a historical convention - it really helps to do so in this case, as they would otherwise be very tough to spot.

Although I had no doubts what was going on with the theme, I found the thematic clues among the hardest to solve ... this has a lot to do with the answers being (in most cases) somewhat removed from the definition you might expect to see in a dictionary. I invariably needed half or more of the crossings to get each theme answer.

There was one crossing that gave me a lot of grief: I wasn't sure what was going on with 44-Across {"Animal House" beanie sporters} and hadn't heard of 44-Down {___ Vallarta, Mexico}. Although I instinctively reached for a P at the crossing, I realized I had little basis for that and had to run through the alphabet to check for other possibilities.

Doing this, I couldn't completely rule out Suerto/sledges and Fuerto/fledges even though neither looked particularly convincing. What I should have remembered is that Puerto is Spanish for "port" and therefore a point strongly in favor of that as the correct answer. It's time to add port = Puerto to Español para los crucigramistas.

Eventually I decided to go with my gut feeling and it finally dawned on me what a "pledge" must be when checking through the Wikipedia entry for Animal House. My difficulties over the 44a/44d crossing are very likely unique to me.
Solving time: 8 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 63a pen {Place that's "up the river"}
Solution

Sarah Keller
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

A "reverse" theme, in which the clues (rather than the answers) are related. In this case, differing just by the vowel:
17a mischievous {BAD}
23a place to sleep {BED}
37a offer {BID}
46a person's build {BOD}
56a future bloom {BUD}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersSarah Keller / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.79)
Theme squares51 (27.3%)
Scrabble points289 (average 1.55)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



44a pledges {"Animal House" beanie sporters}. I was doubly disadvantaged here, not knowing the required meaning of pledge and being unfamiliar with the movie. National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) is a 1978 American comedy film directed by John Landis. The film is about a misfit group of fraternity men who challenge their college's administrators. I'm not sure where the beanie hats come in, but I'm hoping someone who knows the movie will explain.

The Doctor is IN

6a Olsen {Late football star and FTD pitchman Merlin}. Merlin Olsen, who played his entire 15-year career with the Los Angeles Rams, died on March 11, 2010.

15a Nancy {Sluggo's comics pal}. Reference to Sluggo Smith in the comic strip Nancy.

31a Greta {Van Susteren of Fox News}. Greta Van Susteren hosts On The Record with Greta Van Susteren.

51a Lena {Late singer Horne}. Lena Horne - singer, actress, civil rights activist and dancer - died on May 9, 2010.

52a TVA {F.D.R. power project: Abbr.}. TVA = Tennessee Valley Authority is in Alphabet Soup.

63a pen {Place that's "up the river"}. "up the river" is slang for "in prison", hence pen = penitentiary.

5d Ophelia {Shakespeare character who goes insane}. Ophelia from Hamlet.

11d indie {The movie "Wordplay," for one}. Wordplay (2006) is the documentary featuring Will Shortz et al.

32d CFL {North-of-the-border grid org.}. CFL = Canadian Football League.

44d Puerto {___ Vallarta, Mexico}. Puerto Vallarta is a resort city on the Pacific Ocean's Bahía de Banderas.

54d Ames {Spy Aldrich}. Aldrich Ames, a former CIA counter-intelligence officer and analyst, who was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and later Russia.

57d UVA {Sch. founded by Thomas Jefferson}. UVA is in The Crucy League.

Image of the Day

The Birth of Old Glory by Edward Percy Moran

35d Ross {Woman depicted in "The Birth of Old Glory"}. I first encountered my namesake Betsy Ross (1752–1836) soon after arriving in Pennsylvania: one of the biggest bridges out of Philadelphia is named after her and I wondered who this Betsy was to be so honored. It turns out she is widely but probably erroneously credited with making the first American flag. The Birth of Old Glory by Edward Percy Moran (c. 1917), depicts the imagined presentation by Betsy Ross of the first American flag to George Washington.

Other Clues

1a taboo {No-no}; 11a IDs {Driver's lic. and such}; 14a usurp {Take forcibly}; 16a nit {Thing to pick}; 19a doe {Buck's mate}; 20a say {Two cents' worth}; 21a Esai {Morales of "La Bamba"}; 22a aide {Capitol Hill worker}; 27a appoint {Name to the cabinet, say}; 30a idea {Comic-strip light bulb}; 32a cleanser {Ajax or Bon Ami}; 36a hoer {Weed whacker}; 39a Lilo {Movie pal of Stitch}; 40a abnormal {Strange}; 42a banks {River pair}; 43a a hat {At the drop of ___}; 50a omit {Exclude}; 55a pos. {Blood-type abbr.}; 60a ute {Versatile vehicle, for short}; 61a overt {For all to see}; 62a ovate {Not quite round}; 64a X-Acto {Hobbyist's knife brand}; 65a rides {Doesn't hoof it}.

1d Tums {Rolaids alternative}; 2d Asia {Province of ancient Rome}; 3d busy {Like the proverbial beaver}; 4d orc {Tolkien beast}; 6d one-act {Having no intermission}; 7d La Vie {"___ en Rose" (Edith Piaf song)}; 8d sno {___-cone}; 9d écu {Old French coin}; 10d NYS {Albany is its cap.}; 12d diode {L.E.D. part}; 13d steep {High, pricewise}; 18d is an {"This ___ outrage!"}; 22d Alan Ladd {"Shane" star}; 23d pot-roast {Slow-cooked beef entree}; 24d tile {Some flooring}; 25d Oder {Wroclaw's river}; 26d sea {Neptune's realm}; 27d agha {Ottoman Empire chief}; 28d prob {"No ___!" ("Easy!")}; 29d peen {Hammer part}; 33d sing {Rat on the Mob}; 34d Elke {Sommer in cinema}; 37d Oman {Neighbor of Yemen}; 38d fats {Some are saturated}; 41d rho {Letter after pi}; 42d belabor {Beat to death, so to speak}; 45d line {Checkout annoyance}; 46d pop-up {Like some toasters and children's books}; 47d emote {Overdo it onstage}; 48d risen {"Christ is ___!" (Easter shout)}; 49d blurt {Say without thinking}; 52d toad {Fly-catching creature}; 53d vote {Show of hands, e.g.}; 56d fox {Symbol of slyness}; 58d 'tec {Gumshoe}; 59d LVI {56, in old Rome}.

NYT Monday 5/31/10 - Hey Mr. DJ

I didn't get to solve this Monday New York Times crossword until the morning, as we spent Sunday evening watching our local AA baseball team, the BMets, trounce those sporters of Chief Wahoo (first encountered in a recent puzzle), the Akron Aeros, in a lively match with several homers.

Wave FieldI considered the possibility that today's puzzle would tie in with Memorial Day, but didn't really expect a relevant theme. Was the cluing nevertheless adjusted to fit the occasion? There's Maya Lin at 31-Down and that Key verse at 37-Across, but perhaps that's just my take on the clues ... if you go looking for references to past wars in any given puzzle, you'll undoubtedly find them.

For contrast, then, here's another striking Maya Lin installation, the Wave Field in memory of François-Xavier Bagnoud at the University of Michigan (1995).

The DJ theme was evident almost immediately, from dirty jokes, and I kept it firmly in mind as I worked through the grid. This may account a record-equally solving time, or maybe it was just that most of the answers seemed to offer themselves up without the usual hesitations and workings around.
Solving time: 4 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 17a dirty jokes {Blue things that make some people turn red?}
Solution

Oliver Hill
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Two-part answers starting D and J, as indicated by 25d deejays {Record spinners ... or a hint to 17-, 25-, 38-, 48- and 61-Across}.
17a dirty jokes {Blue things that make some people turn red?}
25a desk jobs {Nine-to-five gigs, often}
38a Don Juan {Womanizer}
48a Dow Jones {Company with an industrial average}
61a denim jeans {Wrangler product}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersOliver Hill / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares47 (24.9%)
Scrabble points324 (average 1.71)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



65a A Trip {"___ to the Moon" (first science fiction film, 1902)}. A Trip to the Moon (French: Le Voyage dans la lune) is a 1902 French black and white silent science fiction film. It is based loosely on two popular novels of the time: From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells. The film was written and directed by Georges Méliès, assisted by his brother Gaston. The film runs 14 minutes if projected at 16 frames per second, which was the standard frame rate at the time the film was produced. It was extremely popular at the time of its release and is the best-known of the hundreds of fantasy films made by Méliès. A Trip to the Moon is the first science fiction film, and utilizes innovative animation and special effects, including the well-known image of the spaceship landing in the moon's eye. It was named one of the 100 greatest films of the 20th century by The Village Voice, ranking in at #84. The above version is narrated by Matthew Hawes, reading from "the actual script that Méliès wrote to be read along with the film".

The Doctor is IN

21a Mos {Actor/rapper ___ Def}. Mos Def is the stage name of American actor and MC Dante Terrell Smith-Bey.

54a Sal {"My gal" of song}. Paul Dresser's song My Gal Sal is also the title of the musical based on his life.

Image of the Day


Vietnam War Memorial

31d Lin {Architect Maya}. Maya Lin is an American artist and architect who is known for her work in sculpture and landscape art. Her best-known work is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. which was ranked tenth on the "List of America's Favorite Architecture" by the American Institute of Architects in 2007.

Other Clues

1a aging {Growing older}; 6a rasp {Tool for horses' hooves}; 10a bibs {Protective wear for lobster eaters}; 14a Ionia {Region of ancient Asia Minor}; 15a I see {"Hmm ..."}; 16a amat {Amo, amas, ___ ...}; 19a Abby {"Dear ___"}; 20a stereos {Sound systems}; 23a rye {Seedy loaf}; 24a ore {Metal in a mountain}; 27a oft {Frequently, to Donne}; 30a bled {Ran, as colors}; 32a Iago {"Othello" villain}; 33a HRH {Title for a prince or princess: Abbr.}; 34a Ilie {Tennis's Nastase}; 35a en bloc {As one}; 37a o'er {"___ the ramparts we watched ..."}; 40a I'm a {"___ Loser" (Beatles song)}; 41a heehaw {Donkey's sound}; 43a a try {"Give it ___!"}; 44a OED {20-vol. reference work}; 45a Leah {Jacob's first wife}; 46a dyed {Not the original color}; 47a Srs. {Soon-to-be grads: Abbr.}; 50a rut {Relentless nine-to-five gig, e.g.}; 53a Rae {"Norma ___"}; 55a puniest {Easiest to beat up}; 59a Aden {Yemeni seaport}; 63a peke {Toy dog, briefly}; 64a état {Coup d'___}; 66a erst {Formerly, in old usage}; 67a Reba {Singer McEntire}; 68a molts {Sheds feathers, e.g.}.

1d aids {Helps}; 2d go it {___ alone (have no help)}; 3d in re {Concerning, in a memo}; 4d nitro {Explosive compound, in brief}; 5d gayer {More festive}; 6d rios {Spanish rivers}; 7d ask {Request}; 8d seemed {Appeared to be}; 9d pesos {Cuban coins}; 10d baa {Ewe's cry}; 11d imbroglios {Confused situations}; 12d baby boomer {Bill Clinton was the first one elected president}; 13d styes {Eye woes}; 18d Joe Blow {Ordinary fellow}; 22d skinny {Thin}; 26d jab {Quick boxing punch}; 27d oh! oh! {Cry of anticipation}; 28d freeloader {One who mooches}; 29d three weeks {How long the N.C.A.A. basketball tournament lasts}; 34d Idahos {Some potatoes}; 35d eardrum {It protects the tympanic cavity}; 36d cads {Rascals}; 39d Ute {Colorado tribe}; 42d haj {Journey to Mecca}; 46d delete {Undo, on a computer}; 48d drape {Hang loosely}; 49d Nader {Perennial presidential candidate Ralph}; 51d unjam {Fix, as a printer's feeder}; 52d tie to {Connect with}; 55d pita {Falafel bread}; 56d Earl {___ of Sandwich}; 57d snit {Vexed state}; 58d tsps. {Baking soda amts.}; 60d net {Mesh}; 62d nab {Arrest}.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

NPR Puzzle 5/30/10 -- From the UN Collection of Puzzles?

This week's puzzle is:
Take the name of a nationality and write it in lower case letters. Remove the first letter and rotate one of the remaining letters a 180 degrees. The result will be another nationality. What nationalities are these? 
Pretty easy, especially for us.  I'll explain why on Thursday.

But you know what these international puzzles mean, don't you?  Yup, more carefully selected photos from Flickr to illustrate but not reveal the answers! First up, three things with [Nationality #1] in the name.  Please note: these photos may not have been taken in the country in question.




Now, if you recognize any of these items/places, congratulations.  I'm guessing it's still easier just to solve the puzzle.

Nationality #2:






Finally, here is a woman who claims to be [Nationality#1]-[Nationality#2], so if facial features and physiognomy are your thing, maybe you can tell from her what the puzzle answers are:


(And yes, I suspect -- but don't know for sure -- that this is Photoshopped.  But I didn't do it, and when I provide all the attributions on Thursday, you can check out this woman's own explanation for this photo.)

We have a winner!  With just over 1,000 entries, our winner this week is Roxie!  Congratulations, Roxie -- send your email address to either Magdalen or Ross at Crosswordman.com so we can get this prize to you.

And for the rest of you, what are your guesses for the number of entries NPR will receive for the puzzle this week?  You know the drill:  leave your guess in a comment.  First come, first serve, so read the preceding comments before picking -- or get here earlier!

Here are the divisions:

Fewer than 100
100 - 200
200 - 300
300 - 400
400 - 500
500 - 600
600 - 700
700 - 800
800 - 900
900 - 1,000
1,000 - 1,100
1,100 - 1,200
1,200 - 1,300
1,300 - 1,400
1,400 - 1,500
1,500 - 2,000
2,000 - 2.500
2,500 - 3,000
3,000 - 3,500
3,500 - 4,000
4,000 - 4,500
4,500 - 5,000
More than 5,000
More than 5,000 and it sets a new record.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

NYT Sunday 5/30/10 - Double Trouble

This Sunday New York Times crossword defied our thematic expectations and we liked the concept and implementation of the idea very much.

We've seen several themes involving word chains in the answers and half-expected today's puzzle to be another of those, based on "Full Circle" as the title. So having got roast turkey for 22-Across, we looked for 24-Across to start turkey. Not at all! ... the chain is in the clues, with each doing "double duty" for two answers. Very neat!

The strongest theme clues seem to be at the top, where they are reasonably helpful, despite having to serve for two answers. At the bottom we groaned a little over {Two things that are red} - which does cover a lot of ground - but that was just one clue among ten and we admire the skill involved in bringing this idea off so well.

Aside from the theme, we had very few difficulties today and turned in a reasonably good solving time for a Sunday. We got a kick out of 80d talc {Rash soother} followed by 81d aloe {Rash soother}. Seeing the clue first for 80-Down, I was adamant the answer could only be aloe ... which of course didn't fit there, but next door!
Solving time: 30 mins (with Magdalen, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 75d acorns {They're nuts}
Solution

Eric Berlin
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

"Full Circle". Each theme clue does "double duty" indicating its answer and also the next theme answer; cyclically, so the last theme clue also indicates the first theme answer.
22a roast turkey 24a scarecrow {Two things that are stuffed}
24a scarecrow 36a haystack {Two things on a farm}
36a haystack 38a record-player {Two things associated with needles}
38a record-player 55a Ferris wheel {Two things that spin}
55a Ferris wheel 82a cotton candy {Two things at an amusement park}
82a cotton candy 95a rubber cement {Two things that are sticky}
95a rubber cement 99a muralist {Two things with brushes}
99a muralist 115a fire truck {Two things with ladders}
115a fire truck 117a cranberries {Two things that are red}
117a cranberries 22a roast turkey {Two things associated with Thanksgiving}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersEric Berlin / Will Shortz
Grid21x21 with 71 (16.1%) black squares
Answers140 (average length 5.29)
Theme squares124 (33.5%)
Scrabble points546 (average 1.48)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



65d Ella {"Enchanted" girl of children's lit}.  Ella Enchanted is a Newbery Honor book written by Gail Carson Levine and published in 1997. It is also the title of the American movie based on the novel and released in 2004; it was directed by Tommy O'Haver and stars Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy. The story is a retelling of Cinderella featuring various mythical creatures including fairies, elves, ogres, gnomes, and giants.

The Doctor is IN

10a Boone {Cumberland Gap explorer}. Daniel Boone led the team of loggers that make the Cumberland Gap accessible to pioneers.

27a APs {Tests for college credit, briefly}. AP = Advanced Placement - I relied on Magdalen for that one.

68a et tu {Accusatory words}. As in et tu Brute?, the "famous last words" of Julius Caesar.

76a Cleon {Opponent of Pericles}. Cleon (d. 422 BC) was an Athenian statesman and a Strategos during the Peloponnesian War.

79a état {___ de malaise}. Seems to translate literally as "state of malaise"... I have yet to detect an idiomatic meaning or allusion to help explain its appearance in the clue. Readers?

87a soda {Egg cream component}. An egg cream contains neither eggs nor cream.

92a Liotta {"No Escape" star, 1994}. Ray Liotta plays Robbins in the action/science film No Escape.

106a Bohr {1922 Physics Nobelist}. Danish physicist Niels Bohr (1885–1962).

113a teenie {Adjective for a bikini, in a 1960 song}. Reference to the novelty song Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.

77d Nye {Scientist with multiple Emmys}. Bill Nye the Science Guy, my nemesis in ACPT 2009.

117d CCC {XXX x X}. 30 times 10 in Roman numerals.

118d BCE {Letters in an old date}. BCE = Before the Common Era, equivalent to BC.

Image of the Day


55a Ferris wheel {Thing that spins/thing at an amusement park}. Magdalen specially requested a Ferris wheel as the IOTD, so here goes. A Ferris wheel (also known as an observation wheel or big wheel) consists of a rotating upright wheel with passenger cars (sometimes referred to as gondolas or capsules) attached to the rim. The original Ferris Wheel was designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. as a landmark for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The term Ferris wheel later came to be used generically for all such structures. Since the original Ferris Wheel of 1893, there have been eight subsequent world's tallest-ever Ferris wheels. The current record holder is the 165-metre (541 ft) Singapore Flyer, which opened to the public in March 2008. The 208 m (682 ft) Beijing Great Wheel, under construction since 2007 and originally planned to open in 2008, has been delayed until 2010.

For the illustrative picture, I selected the Wiener Riesenrad, an example of a nineteenth century Ferris wheel, and still in operation today. Erected in 1897 in the Prater park in Vienna, it has a height of 64.75 metres (212 ft) and originally had 30 passenger cars. A demolition permit for the Riesenrad was issued in 1916, but due a lack to funds with which to carry out the destruction, it survived. The Riesenrad famously appeared in the post-war film noir The Third Man.

Other Clues

1a Agra {City SE of New Delhi}; 5a skoal! {"To your health!"}; 15a Vol. {iPod control: Abbr.}; 18a felon {Supermax resident}; 19a Vanya {Chekhov's "Uncle ___"}; 20a arrow {Instructional tool}; 21a ETO {W.W. II command}; 26a oldish {Getting up there in years}; 28a realm {Domain}; 29a riot {Laugh ___}; 30a tile {Word game component, sometimes}; 31a eso {Tijuana "that"}; 33a ired {Seeing red}; 35a fella {Guy}; 42a tarred {Like some roofs and roads}; 44a gondolas {Balloonists' baskets}; 45a Ont. {Que. neighbor}; 48a PTA {Fund-raising grp.}; 49a Ivan {Scientist Pavlov}; 51a anapests {Some poetic feet}; 58a ists {Believers}; 59a Air {"Hair" song with the lyric "Hello, carbon monoxide"}; 60a tween {Many a Miley Cyrus fan}; 61a lectern {Speaker's spot}; 63a Mt Etna {Sicilian tourist attraction}; 66a lest {Out of concern that}; 67a spat {Little argument}; 71a Oleg {___ Kalugin, former K.G.B. general with the 1994 book "Spymaster"}; 72a pistol {Vivacious person}; 74a seasons {Annual foursome}; 78a Ana {Santa ___}; 84a reproval {Admonishment}; 88a tía {Argentine aunt}; 89a SSE {Edinburgh-to-London dir.}; 90a I'm a Loser {Second track on "Beatles '65"}; 103a union {Bargaining group}; 104a apse {Church recess}; 105a era {Noted period}; 107a ergs {Physics units}; 108a iMacs {Certain Apples}; 111a RCA {HDTV brand}; 119a UPI {Wire service inits.}; 120a Roche {Drug company behind Valium}; 121a comic {"Pearls Before Swine," e.g.}; 122a itals. {What some titles are written in, briefly}; 123a leg {Standing need}; 124a inked {Signed}; 125a Crete {"Zorba the Greek" setting}; 126a sand {Smooth}.

1d Aeolia {Region in ancient Asia Minor}; 2d gladly {With a smile}; 3d rosiest {Most promising}; 4d ants {Certain soldiers}; 5d SVU {"Law & Order" spinoff, for short}; 6d karaoke {Draw of some bars}; 7d on KP {Being punished, military-style}; 8d aye sir! {"O.K., captain!"}; 9d lay {Not ecclesiastical}; 10d based on {Inspired by}; 11d orca {Deep-sea predator}; 12d oral {Spoken}; 13d norm {Usual}; 14d ewe {Woolly one}; 15d verily {In truth, in Shakespeare}; 16d O'Toole {Peter with four Golden Globes}; 17d low-tar {Claim in a cigarette ad}; 18d froth {Latte topper}; 23d the Arts {Juilliard's focus}; 25d crease {Hockey goalie's area}; 28d recon {Scout's job, briefly}; 32d scrawls {Hasty signatures}; 34d regale {Entertain}; 35d flap {To-do}; 37d tap into {Use as a resource}; 39d RDAs {Nutritional stds.}; 40d don't {Word of warning}; 41d -plasm {Ending with proto-}; 43d die-cast {Like some metal toys}; 45d oft {Many times, in verse}; 46d New Line {Studio that produced the Austin Powers movies}; 47d tree sap {Source of some resins}; 50d Vette {American sports car, for short}; 52d sateens {Shiny fabrics}; 53d tin gods {Small-time tyrants}; 54d Sra. {Mexican Mrs.}; 56d rest {Others}; 57d hep {In the know, in old slang}; 58d in total {Counting everything}; 62d resod {Put new turf on}; 64d toccata {Improvisatory piece of classical music}; 69d TNT {"Southland" airer}; 70d USO tour {Shows near the front?}; 72d par {Target for certain athletes}; 73d LeVar {Actor Burton}; 75d acorns {They're nuts}; 80d talc {Rash soother}; 81d aloe {Rash soother}; 83d nitrate {Fertilizer ingredient}; 85d ribose {Biochemical sugar}; 86d omen {Sign}; 87d seeps {Gets through slowly}; 91d smacked {Kissed noisily}; 93d I mean it! {"Honest!"}; 94d Alberta {Neighbor of Montana}; 95d rueful {Very sorry}; 96d unripe {Green, say}; 97d big rig {18-wheeler}; 98d terror {Real brat}; 100d Ionian {Sea between Italy and Greece}; 101d shield {Protect}; 102d tress {Long lock}; 108d iron {Monopoly token}; 109d muck {Gooey dirt}; 110d ache {Workout aftereffect}; 112d came {Arrived}; 114d Eris {She threw the apple of discord}; 116d tri- {Not quite quadri-}.

Friday, May 28, 2010

NYT Saturday 5/29/10 - Eek-A-Crossword

Although this Saturday New York Times crossword ended up taking about the same time as yesterday's (aren't Saturday puzzles supposed to be a lot harder!?), my experience was somewhat different, in that I didn't get off to a solid start and wasn't filling confidently until over half the solving time had elapsed.

Part of the problem was scattered red herring answers, which blocked progress in a lot of areas. Maybe this is a counter-productive tactic, but I tend to pencil in a lot of guesses at the start - on a bad day many turn out to be wrong. Perhaps I shouldn't do this, but I feel that without the guesses, I wouldn't be entering in anything at all and I don't like staring at a blank grid waiting for divine intervention!

Anyway, today's plausible, but wrong, answers were: hours for 30a {9 to 5, e.g.} (I did better with the other answer to the same clue at 54d); dead march for 3d {Passing burden?} (particularly problematic because it was so long); and pause for 34d {Let up}.

When I did get a proper start on filling, it was in the SE - everything below and to the right of the diagonal from square 56 to square 33 had gone in with 14 minutes on the clock. I then got to grips with the NW corner, being surprised to ultimately recognize Moe Szyslak.

From there I completed what was still unfilled in the middle and dealt with the SW ... the Minnie Miñoso reference at 52-Across was a slight worry, particularly the crossing with jives at 47-Down, but I was comforted by a feeling that I'd come across the left fielder before (indeed, twice last year).

All but the NE had been done after 24 minutes and I had some trepidation about dealing with what was presumably the toughest area. In fact it was finished very quickly, the only doubtful answer being exes at 16-Across, which I'm more used to seeing as Xes. But there seemed to be no doubt about any of the down answers crossing it, so I didn't take too long to consider the puzzle done and dusted and felt confident in a correct grid again.
Solving time: 25 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz:  17a aftertaste {It might be evaluated along with the nose}
Solution

Caleb Madison
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersCaleb Madison / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 32 (14.2%) black squares
Answers72 (average length 5.36)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points336 (average 1.74)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



36a I Wanna Be Sedated {Classic 1978 punk song}. I Wanna Be Sedated is one of the best known songs by the punk rock group the Ramones. It was originally released on their fourth album, Road to Ruin, in September 1978 and was the b-side of the "She's the One" single released on January 10, 1979. I Wanna Be Sedated was written by Joey Ramone. In an interview about the song, Joey explains the chorus:
"It's a road song. I wrote it in 1977, through the 78. Well, Danny Fields was our first manager and he would work us to death. We would be on the road 360 days a year, and we went over to England, and we were there at Christmastime, and in Christmas time, London shuts down. There's nothing to do, nowhere to go. Here we were in London for the first time in our lives, and me and Dee Dee Ramone were sharing a room in the hotel, and we were watching The Guns of Navarone. So there was nothing to do, I mean, here we are in London finally, and this is what we are doing, watching American movies in the hotel room."

The Doctor is IN

1a Moe Szyslak {Surly TV bartender}. Moe Szyslak of The Simpsons voiced by Hank Azaria.

16a exed {Stricken}. Another rendering of the more common Xed = crossed (out).

46a Pisa {Camposanto Monumentale locale}. Camposanto Monumentale ("monumental cemetery") is at the northern edge of the Cathedral Square in Pisa.

49a MIT {Alma mater for Buzz Aldrin and Kofi Annan: Abbr.}. MIT is in The Crucy League.

52a Miñoso {1950s-'60s left fielder selected for nine All-Star Games}. Minnie Miñoso, nicknamed "The Cuban Comet" as well as "Mr. White Sox".

55a Aviv {Hebrew for "spring"}. As in Tel Aviv, literally "Spring Mound".

2d oaf {Yo-yo}. A yo-yo is "a stupid or foolish person"(MWCD11).

5d zeros {"2001" characters}. Forget the ape-men, "2001" has two zeros in it.

9d AST {Bermuda hrs.}. Bermuda uses the Atlantic Time Zone (UTC-4).

21d de nada {"Don't mention it"}. "don't mention it" = de nada has just been added to Español para los crucigramistas.

23d Ozawa {1976 Emmy winner for "Evening at Symphony"}. Evening at Symphony was a PBS television series featuring the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Seiji Ozawa .

25d Ures {Actress Mary and musician Midge}. Mary Ure and Midge Ure.

39d Arp {Creator of the bronze "En Songe"}. En Songe ("in a dream") by Jean/Hans Arp.

53d roar {Sound heard before some films start}. Presumably the roar of the projector starting up? Postscript: no, a reference to the roar of the MGM Lion!

59d RRs {Yards are part of them: Abbr.}. RRs = railroads, which have railroad yards.

Image of the Day

Martin B-10

38d B-ten {Old Martin bomber}. The Martin B-10 was the first all-metal monoplane bomber to go into regular use by the United States Army Air Corps, entering service in June 1934. It was also the first mass-produced bomber whose performance was superior to that of the Army's pursuit aircraft of the time. The B-10 served as the airframe for the B-12, B-13, B-14, A-15 and O-45 designations. The B-10 included several revolutionary features, and won the Collier Trophy in 1932 for the Martin Company, recognizing its landmark design. The Martin Model 139 (pictured above) was the export version of the Martin B-10.

Other Clues

11a rove {Cover lots of ground}; 15a basket case {Nervous wreck}; 17a aftertaste {It might be evaluated along with the nose}; 18a wild {Like some pitches}; 19a adorns {Decks}; 20a P. Diddy {"Bad Boy for Life" performer at the 2004 Super Bowl}; 22a pot {It grows during game play}; 24a sit {Interviewer's invitation}; 25a Usenet {Web forums' ancestor}; 26a Ezek. {Dan. preceder}; 28a Ayn Rand {Author who wrote "Anyone who fights for the future, lives in it today"}; 30a ratio {9 to 5, e.g.}; 32a Eek-A- {Reggae artist ___-Mouse}; 33a sci. {It may be applied: Abbr.}; 40a lax {Hardly firm}; 41a estd. {Abbr. sometimes before a date}; 42a arras {Alcove-hiding hanging}; 43a bug-eyed {Agog}; 47a jump on {Eagerly criticize}; 51a key {Organ piece}; 53a reshoe {Fix à la a farrier}; 56a door-to-door {How some selling is done}; 60a yeti {Asian of legendary status?}; 61a Ava Gardner {"The Snows of Kilimanjaro" co-star}; 62a I see {Explanation follower}; 63a sore losers {They're often ticked after being licked}.

1d MBA {Many a mgr. holds one}; 3d estate tax {Passing burden?}; 4d sked {Slot holder, for short}; 6d yttria {Powder used in lasers}; 7d scanty {Like thongs}; 8d Lass {Burns's "The Lovely ___ o' Inverness"}; 10d keepsake {Lock of hair, maybe}; 11d rewind {Go back to the start, in a way}; 12d oxide {6-Down, for one}; 13d veldt {Outback relative}; 14d eddy {Dust devil, e.g.}; 22d peril {Daredevils are often in it}; 27d kin {Branches of some trees}; 29d needy {Broke}; 31d one-ups {Tops}; 33d strike one {First of three to be put out}; 34d cease {Let up}; 35d I'd say {"If you ask me ..."}; 37d as good as {Virtually}; 43d B movie {People may act terribly in it}; 44d emerge {Surface}; 45d distal {Situated away from the point of origin}; 47d jives {Kids}; 48d unite {Ally}; 50d thoro' {Utter, briefly}; 52d may I {Start of a request}; 54d odds {9 to 5, e.g.}; 57d ovo- {Egg opener?}; 58d o'er {"___ the towering steep" (anthem lyric)}.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

NYT Friday 5/28/10 - Fearful Asymmetry

I had a lot of fun with this Friday New York Times crossword, enjoying the usual tussle with gnarly end-of-week cluing and the bonus of a mini theme referencing the (hard to detect) asymmetrical grid.

Not expecting a theme, I didn't go looking for one and just made my usual walk through the first dozen or so down clues. I got my break in the NE corner, where, having thought of isolate for 13-Down, I paired it up with chela at 21-Across and had some confidence in this beginning. Oddly enough, I'd just been listening to a tape of Kim with its frequent use of the other obscure meaning of chela as disciple - that may have helped me out in some strange way.

Soon I got to the point of looking at 17-Across and found that it immediately gave me my first 15-letter answer with six minutes on the clock. I generally worked counter-clockwise from this point: I had 3-Down in a further three minutes and 56-Across five minutes after that.

Progress was never easy, though, and there were several places where I left isolated blocks unfilled when I found both relevant clues troublesome. The crossing of 1-Across and 5-Down was one difficulty, but eventually yielded to a trial-and-error process right at the end.

Another problem arose at the crossing of 35-Across and 29-Down, where I jumped to the conclusion that {First name among linguists} must be Noah (Webster). Is a lexicographer a linguist? Perhaps not, but in the thrill of the chase, you can easily make mistakes like this. But I knew lehon couldn't be right for 29-Down and eventually spotted where things had come off the rails.

Eventually I had every last square filled to my satisfaction and was very confident of a correct grid - a great feeling with a far from easy puzzle. I was pleased with my 22 minute solving time, which has to be one of my fastest for a Friday.
Solving time: 22 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 61a set shot {Alternative to a jumper}
Solution

Joe Krozel
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

17a optical illusion {Thing that may appear to be symmetrical but isn't ... like this puzzle's grid}. The grid has perfect symmetry except for its three-block groupings: those in the NW and SE have rotational symmetry, while those in the NE and SW have reflectional symmetry. Together they result in an asymmetrical grid, although the eye is easily deceived into thinking the grid is symmetrical.

Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersJoe Krozel / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 25 (11.1%) black squares
Answers68 (average length 5.88)
Theme squares15 (7.5%)
Scrabble points276 (average 1.38)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



26a Dan {Blocker of 1960s TV}. Dan Blocker (1928–1972) was an American actor best remembered for his role as Eric "Hoss" Cartwright, the "middle son", in the NBC western television blockbuster Bonanza. Blocker said he portrayed the Hoss character with a Stephen Grellet quotation in mind: "We shall pass this way on Earth but once, if there is any kindness we can show, or good act we can do, let us do it now, for we will never pass this way again".

The Doctor is IN

20a tema {Melodic subject, in music}. tema = theme in Italian, the language of musical directions.

21a chela {Lobster claw}. The claw of an arthropod is called a chela (from the Greek chele).

27a Fey {"30 Rock" creator}. Tina Fey.

28a Alexei {Tolstoy's Vronsky}. Count Alexei Vronsky, lover of Anna Karenina.

33a Arlenes {TV's Francis and others}. Arlene Francis (1907–2001), What's My Line? regular.

35a Noam {First name among linguists}. Noam Chomsky, American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and political activist.

49a lid {Topper}. Specifically, these are both slang words for "hat".

52a Atra {Blade handle?}. Atra is a model of safety razor produced by the Global Gillette company.

56a dollars-and-cents {Considered financially}. dollars-and-cents, used adjectively, means "dealing with or expressed in terms of money, sales, or profits" (MWCD11).

5d Mac {Bub}. Both terms of address to a man whose name you don't know.

6d erat {"Hoc ___ in votis": Horace}. "Hoc erat in votis" comes from a passage in the Satires that translates as "This was among my prayers: a piece of land not so very large, where a garden should be and a spring of ever-flowing water near the house, and a bit of woodland as well as these".

9d enl. {Development order: Abbr.}. enl. = enlargement, a possible request when developing a film.

23d Natalie {Merchant selling records}. Natalie Merchant, American singer-songwriter and musician.

29d lemon {One might show up in a casino}. Reference to the lemons in a slot machine.

37d estados {Chihuahua and others}. state (exemplified by Chihuahua) = estada is in Español para los crucigramistas.

58d cam {Nanny ___}. A nanny cam is another name for a spy camera, from one of its main uses.

Image of the Day

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott

30a Mott {19th-century women's rights advocate}. Lucretia Mott (1793–1880) was an American Quaker, abolitionist, social reformer, and proponent of women's rights. She is credited as the first American "feminist" in the early 1800s but was, more accurately, the initiator of women's political advocacy. She is celebrated in The Woman Movement (above), a sculpture by Adelaide Johnson, unveiled in 1921 at the United States Capitol; it features (from left to right) Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony with Lucretia Mott.

Other Clues

1a spasmed {Was jerky}; 8a keep fit {Stay in shape}; 15a to spare {Left over}; 16a indorse {Support: Var.}; 19a peut {___-être (perhaps, to Pierre)}; 22a olden {Immemorial}; 24a taupe {Hose shade}; 31a foisted {Introduced surreptitiously}; 36a aeri- {Gas: Prefix}; 37a epsilon {Symbol of electromotive force}; 40a at a loss {Buffaloed}; 43a sac {Egg holder}; 44a inurned {Buried}; 46a nit {Little beef}; 47a trace {Draw very uncreatively}; 50a sorer {More likely to blow up}; 53a algae {Potential pond poisoner}; 55a Pisa {See 53-Down}; 59a one-lane {Narrow, in a way}; 60a tear gas {Demonstrating control?}; 61a set shot {Alternative to a jumper}; 62a en masse {How hordes move}.

1d stop off {Tarry for a bit}; 2d Pope Leo {One of 13 religious leaders}; 3d A Study in Scarlet {Seminal mystery of 1887}; 4d spite {Venom}; 7d deleted {Dropped}; 8d Kilauea {World's most active volcano}; 10d educe {Develop}; 11d posh {Far from shabby}; 12d fried onion rings {Burger accompaniment}; 13d isolate {Maroon}; 14d tenants {Flat population}; 18d IMAX {Means of seeing the big picture?}; 25d pirate {Take the wrong way?}; 30d merl {European black thrush}; 32d so I {"___ see!"}; 34d leads {Results of "Unsolved Mysteries" airings}; 38d part one {Succession starter}; 39d null set {It has zero measure, in math}; 40d andante {Slowly scored?}; 41d siestas {Occasions to close up shop}; 42d Strasse {Berlin boulevard}; 45d Riga {European capital}; 48d calls {Decisions on the field}; 51d opera {Work on a grand scale}; 53d Arno {It flows through 55-Across}; 54d Eden {Starting point?}; 57d aah! {"Feels so good!"}.

NPR Puzzle 5/23/10 -- Is Rain a Problem? YOU Make the Call!

Here's this week's puzzle:
Name a country that is spelled as a solid word. Change two consecutive letters in it to a single R. The result will name a problem that this country has traditionally faced. What's the country and what's the problem? 
Well, here's where we admit that our first answer was this:

which would be rain (or at least rain clouds) in Spain.  Geddit?  Here's another pretty picture:


Very pretty, very rainy, and Flickr assures me it's Spain.  Here's our favorite photo from Spain (non-rainy division):

(My apologies to the photographers: Creative Commons isn't cooperating with proper attribution, but if you click on the photo it will take you back to the Flickr page.)

Spain is, of course, not the answer.  Here's the correct answer:


MALAYSIA - YS + R = MALARIA

So why did we think Spain - sp + r = rain was the answer?  Because of this:



That's "The Rain in Spain" from My Fair Lady, and they certainly don't make the rain sound like a good thing, although we'd all rather have rain than malaria.

Okay, here's the funny thing about this puzzle.  Ross should have gotten it right away because he was born in Malaya back in 1959:
(He's redacted his actual birthday to prevent you all from sending him cards and presents. You know -- British shyness...)

According to Henry, the malaria is actually in Borneo, which is an administrative state of Malaysia.  If this is inaccurate information, we're holding Henry responsible.

Aphis99 commented that maybe WALES and WAR would work.  Again our source for all pointless knowledge, Henry, says that while there were border wars between England and Wales, they weren't much to write home about and they haven't happened for a while.  But I would say that WALES is a better (wrong) answer than SPAIN.  Well done, Aphis99!

Here are our entrants in this week's Guess The Number of Entries game:

Fewer than 100
100 - 200
200 - 300
300 - 400
400 - 500 -- Dan
500 - 600 -- Marie
600 - 700 -- Tom
700 - 800 -- Natasha
800 - 900 -- Dave
900 - 1,000 -- Jordan
1,000 - 1,100 -- Roxie
1,100 - 1,200 -- Mendo Jim (sorry, Ben!)
1,200 - 1,300 -- Ross
1,300 - 1,400 -- Magdalen
1,400 - 1,500
1,500 - 2,000 -- Henry
2,000 - 2,500
2,500 - 3,000
3,000 - 3,500
3,500 - 4,000
4,000 - 4,500
4,500 - 5,000
More than 5,000
More than 5,000 and it sets a new record.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

NYT Thursday 5/27/10 - Seeing Double

This Thursday New York Times crossword has a nicely inventive theme: I tried hard to crack it early by making a frontal assault on 6-Down, but ultimately had to get there the hard way.

The right hand side of the grid seemed much the easiest part and I had the NE corner finished in around 3 minutes, then dealt with the SE corner. All this effort wasn't much help in cracking the central columns: a consequence of the theme seems to be lower-than-usual communication laterally. So I next tackled the left hand side and only when I'd done much of that did I finally get answers like 27a oven and 36a extra and hence see that 6-Down must be between the lines.

The unconventional "unchecked" letters in columns 5 and 11 had been evident from the start: I'd initially thought we might have to imagine specific letters in the blocks of those columns; but now I could see that the unchecked letters, reading from top to bottom, spelled DOUBLE and SPACE? (that last letter not being clear until I changed 64-Across from co-opts to what it should have been).

Such self-explanatory themes seem particularly elegant to me. There's also a lot to admire in the non-thematic aspects: to pick just two examples, 17a Hello Kitty is an awesome answer and 56a wine cellar is wonderfully clued.

There were no particular trouble-spots, the theme helping me with the tricky area around 57d CSA (I still haven't caught up with my US History knowledge). I went down some blind-alleys, but resolved them all in the end: 39a started out as hotels, 35d as Internet and 12d as chapters (what was I thinking?!).
Solving time: 13 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 56a wine-cellar {Where cabs wait?}
Solution

Josh Knapp
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

"Double spaced" answers: the (unclued, but self-explanatory) words DOUBLE and SPACED appear in columns 5 and 11, interspersed with black blocks. This unconventional treatment is indicated by 6d between the lines {Where to look for hidden words in this puzzle's fifth and eleventh columns?}.

Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersJosh Knapp / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 38 (16.9%) black squares
Answers70 (average length 5.17)
Theme squares(not calculated)
Scrabble points324 (average 1.73)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



6a BBC {"Fawlty Towers" airer}. Nice to see one of my fav TV comedies getting an airing tonight. Fawlty Towers was produced by BBC Television and first broadcast on BBC2 in 1975. Twelve episodes were produced (two series with six episodes each). The setting is the fictional hotel "Fawlty Towers" in the seaside town of Torquay on the "English Riviera" (where the Gleneagles hotel that inspired John Cleese was situated). The show was written by Cleese and his then wife Connie Booth, both of whom played main characters. In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted by industry professionals, Fawlty Towers placed first.

The Doctor is IN

1a Masada {Israeli tourist attraction on the Dead Sea}. Masada is an ancient fortress famously besieged by the Romans.

19a Amu {___ Darya (river to the Aral Sea)}. Amu Darya, aka the Oxus, was regarded as the boundary between Irān and Tūrān in ancient times.

4d ASL {Communication system for the gorilla Koko: Abbr.}. Koko is able to understand more than 1,000 signs based on American Sign Language.

7d Bataan {1942 Philippines fighting locale}. The Battle of Bataan is famous in history as one of the last stands of American and Filipino soldiers before they were overwhelmed by the Japanese forces in World War II.

31d Samoa {Caramel-coconut Girl Scout cookie}. Magdalen says Samoas (so-named because of the tropical ingredients) are a particularly delish form of Girl Scout cookie.

57d CSA {Jefferson Davis's org.}. Jefferson Davis (1808–1889) served as the President of the Confederate States of America for its entire history, 1861 to 1865.

58d LBO {Certain corp. takeover}. LBO = leveraged buyout, a method of acquiring a company.

Image of the Day

Hello Kitty

17a Hello Kitty {Japanimation character with a line of school supplies}. Hello Kitty is a product of the Japanese company Sanrio, first designed by Yuko Shimizu. She is a staple of the kawaii segment of Japanese popular culture. The character is portrayed as a female white Japanese bobtail cat with a red bow. The character's first appearance on an item, a vinyl coin purse, was introduced in Japan in 1974 and brought to the United States in 1976. This debut came under the Sanrio company lineup, where her various products are still developed and sold. The Hello Kitty trademark has since spread globally and developed licensing arrangements worth more than $1 billion annually. Examples of products depicting the character include dolls, stickers, greeting cards, clothes, accessories, school supplies, dishes and home appliances. Her fame as a recurring Sanrio character has led to the creation of two officially licensed Hello Kitty theme parks, Harmonyland and the indoor Sanrio Puroland.

Other Clues

9a ogle {Look like a creep}; 13a opts {Withdraws, with "out"}; 14a swear {Testify in court}; 16a flip {Smart-alecky}; 18a foci {An ellipse has two}; 20a swap {Switch}; 21a Eros {Winged Greek god}; 22a wake up! {"Get a clue!"}; 25a eats dirt {Takes a spill}; 26a K'Nex {Tinkertoy alternative}; 27a oven {Firing need}; 29a Oil! {1927 Upton Sinclair novel}; 30a Ibsen {"Ghosts" playwright}; 31a spruce {Neat}; 33a Shel {"The Giving Tree" author Silverstein}; 36a extra {One in a crowd}; 38a uses {Resorts to}; 39a motels {Roadside sights}; 40a human {Not perfect}; 41a Ath. {Part of N.C.A.A.: Abbr.}; 42a demo {Handout from an aspiring musician}; 43a Adms. {U.S.N. brass: Abbr.}; 47a she-devil {Total witch}; 50a action {Call before shooting}; 51a hora {Bar mitzvah party staple}; 52a Ovid {Virgil contemporary}; 54a azo {___ dye}; 55a hunt {Event on an estate}; 56a wine-cellar {Where cabs wait?}; 59a I see {"Ahhh, O.K."}; 60a Edens {Shangri-las}; 61a Burt {Reynolds of "Boogie Nights"}; 62a Tets {Asian holidays}; 63a Les {Start of many French titles}; 64a adopts {Takes in}.

1d mohawk {Sighting at a punk rock concert, maybe}; 2d apeman {So-called missing link}; 3d St Luke {Name on many a hospital}; 5d ask! {"Shoot!"}; 8d crypt {Remains here?}; 9d offed {Iced}; 10d glorious {Oh-so-splendid}; 11d licorice {Food that usually comes in red or black}; 12d epistles {The New Testament has 21}; 15d Wis. {Mich. neighbor}; 23d exile {52-Across, e.g., in his later years}; 24d poses {Mannequins are in them}; 28d vex {Puzzle}; 32d run at {Barrel toward}; 33d smash-hit {Sellout}; 34d hothouse {Breeding ground}; 35d Ethernet {Modern means of connecting}; 37d rum {Mojito component}; 42d divide {Undergo mitosis}; 44d dialup {Oldish means of connecting}; 45d Mozart {"Eine kleine Nachtmusik" composer}; 46d snorts {Stifled laughs}; 48d dates {Some history memorization}; 49d vowel {There's one at the end of this clue}; 53d den {Opium ___}.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

NYT Wednesday 5/26/10 - From B to A

The week seems to be approaching normality now with this Wednesday New York Times crossword: a neat pun-based idea with a typical mid-week solving time.

It took a while to see what was going on with the theme: after working for three minutes, I had about half the letters in both 20-Across and 29-Across, but still couldn't make sense of things. As I had more towards 29-Across, and could see the second word was chops, I made a big effort there and soon came up with lama chops: I immediately realized Bs were becoming As (without quite seeing why at that stage).

This big effort turned out to be well spent, as I found the remaining theme answers much easier to deal with. Once I got to 56-Across, I was delighted to see a perfect justification for the shenanigans in the form of grade inflation - a hot issue not just in the USA, but in the UK, where GCSE and A-level exams have become "markedly" easier, it seems.

Although I felt I had this puzzle right, there were some areas where I trod very carefully: in the SE corner, I'd quite forgotten about the embarrassment caused by Levi Johnston and have only lately learned about Dred ... so I double- and triple-checked the answers to the down clues there. It was a similar story with El Toro at the bottom middle.
Solving time: 8 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 15a rename {Dub over}
Solution

Anna Shechtman
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

B is elevated to A in a phrase, making a pun ... this treatment being inspired by 56a grade inflation {Modern educational phenomenon ... or a hint to 20-, 29-, 38- and 45-Across}.
20a goes out on a lima {Chokes after bean eating?} cf goes out on a limb
29a lama chops {Monk's karate blows?} cf lamb chops
38a Vera endings {Movie finales featuring actress Miles?} cf verb endings
45a honey coma {Result of a sweetener overload?} cf honeycomb
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersAnna Shechtman / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 40 (17.8%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.87)
Theme squares57 (30.8%)
Scrabble points277 (average 1.50)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



9d Emma {Novel on which "Clueless" is based}. It's Jane Austen, but not as we know it. The movie Clueless (1995) is loosely based on Emma; it's set in a Beverly Hills high school and was written and directed by Amy Heckerling and produced by Scott Rudin. The movie stars Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash and Brittany Murphy. The film spun off a television show and a series of books.

The Doctor is IN

5a Glover {Actor Danny of "The Color Purple"}. Danny Glover plays Mr. Albert Johnson in The Color Purple.

15a rename {Dub over}. Neat misdirection: "Dub over" = "name again" = rename.

16a Ann {English novelist Radcliffe}. Ann Radcliffe (1764–1823) was a pioneer of the gothic novel.

24a RPI {The Engineers of the N.C.A.A.: Abbr.}. RPI, Tyler Hinman's alma mater, is in the The Crucy League.

48a Helga {Wife of Hägar the Horrible}. Hägar the Horrible 101: wife = Helga, daughter = Honi, dog = Snert, duck = Kvack; creator Dik Browne.

67a Levi {Johnston in 2008-09 news}. Levi Johnston, former fiancé of Bristol Palin.

70a Dred {Harriet Beecher Stowe novel}. Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp was Harriet Beecher Stowe's second novel.

39d EEO {Abbr. in help-wanted ads}. EEO = equal employment opportunity.

Image of the Day

El Toro

63a El Toro {Fearsome wooden roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure}. El Toro ("The Bull" in Spanish) is a wooden roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure. It opened to the public on June 11, 2006. It was designed by Intamin AG of Switzerland. It had the steepest drop of any wooden roller coaster in the world, at 76 degrees, until this record was broken by T Express in 2008. It is the third tallest (188 ft; 57 m) and third fastest (70 mph; 113 km/h) wooden roller coaster in the world. It is also the first wooden roller coaster to use a cable lift hill instead of the traditional chain lift. Because of the extreme negative g-forces (airtime) on the ride, the lap-bar restraints are very tight, causing some problems for older and larger riders. El Toro is the main attraction of a new Mexican-themed section, Plaza Del Carnaval. Some of the ride's track is located in Rolling Thunder's infield. It is the steepest lifted (as opposed to launched) roller coaster in the park.

Other Clues

1a twit {Ninny}; 11a boa {Jungle menace}; 14a Reno {"___ 911!" (former Comedy Central show)}; 17a attn. {Abbr. before a name in a memo}; 18a on time {Promptly}; 19a dry {Like zinfandel wines}; 23a inn {No room at the ___}; 25a some {Not all}; 27a ceded {Gave up}; 34a Tel. {Business card abbr.}; 36a navy {Shade of blue}; 37a DST {When clocks are set ahead: Abbr.}; 41a Sri {___ Lanka}; 43a lieu {In ___ of}; 44a Ste {Fr. holy woman}; 52a hues {Tints}; 53a Lai {China's Chou En-___}; 55a ore {Metalliferous rock}; 62a Chi {The Windy City, briefly}; 64a Otoe {Plains Indian}; 65a hip {Cool, man}; 66a eleven {Nearing midnight}; 68a ate {Broke a fast}; 69a remade {Newly fashioned}.

1d tragic {Like some irony}; 2d wet one {Sloppy kiss}; 3d intend {Mean}; 4d tons {Lots and lots}; 5d group {Congregation}; 6d lentil {Soup bean}; 7d onto {Not duped by}; 8d vain {Futile}; 10d reel {Recite rapidly, with "off"}; 11d bad moods {Peevish states}; 12d on-ramps {Interstate entrances}; 13d any {"Pick a number, ___ number"}; 21d orderly {Hospital attendant}; 22d -ish {Noncommittal suffix}; 26d est. {Approx. number}; 28d été {Time off from l'école}; 30d annum {Per ___}; 31d Mad {Magazine featuring 47-Down}; 32d Avis {Alamo competitor}; 33d Cynthia {"Sex and the City" actress Nixon}; 35d laic {Not of the cloth}; 38d vine-ripe {Like some tomatoes}; 40d gee! {Exclamation before "I didn't know that!"}; 41d shh! {Library admonishment}; 42d rough it {Camp in the wild}; 46d esa {That, to Juanita}; 47d Alfred {___ E. Neuman}; 49d loiter {Hang around}; 50d groove {Pronounced rhythm, in music}; 51d Aeneid {Origin of the phrase "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts"}; 54d alone {Unassisted}; 57d deer {___ Xing}; 58d elle {She, in Cherbourg}; 59d item {Twosome}; 60d Nova {___ Scotia}; 61d told {Tattled}; 62d cha {When doubled, a dance}.