Thursday, September 30, 2010

NYT Friday 10/1/10 David J. Kahn - Ring Back

It's been a bit of a funny week, but still it was a surprise to see this themed New York Times crossword on a Friday, when I look forward to some meaty fare. The tie-in with the 35th anniversary of the Thrilla in Manila dictated this departure from the usual routine; and perhaps tomorrow we'll get a themeless that's as difficult as a Friday and Saturday combined ... and then I'll eat my words.

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Philadelphia, PA, 2003Round one went to me, as I had both the top left and top right finished inside three minutes. That told me the arena I was dealing with; but not being much of a boxing fan, I couldn't immediately fill in all the other theme answer like I imagine an aficionado would. I had the advantage of solving at least one other boxing-related puzzle in the last couple of years and that helped out a little ... still, I went to put in Philadelphia at 3-Down on the basis of how it started (thinking of Rocky) and was a bit shocked that wouldn't fit. So it was a while before I arrived at Philippines.

Despite all this evidence of my stupidity, I made such good progress on the non-theme parts of the grid that I eventually chalked up what must be my record time for a "Friday" puzzle. I reckon this crossword would have been ideal for a Wednesday, had the tie-in not called for its publication today.
Solving time: 11 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 31d SPF {Block letters?}
Solution

David J. Kahn
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Answers relating to the 40a Ali-Frazier fight {Memorable 10/1/75 event}.
16a boxing {40-Across activity}
67a/62d Smokin' Joe {40-Across loser's nickname}
71a TKO {40-Across ending, for short}
3d Philippines {Where the 40-Across was held}
7d Thrilla in Manila {40-Across, familiarly}
11d Lip {The Louisville ___ (40-Across winner's nickname)}
27d The Greatest {40-Across winner's nickname}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersDavid J. Kahn / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 32 (14.2%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 5.08)
Theme squares65 (33.7%)
Scrabble points306 (average 1.59)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
FeatureLipogram (U absent)
Video of the Day



25d Godzilla {164-foot-tall movie star}. Today's theme reminded me of another epic battle: King Kong vs. Godzilla ... see trailer above for the third installment in the Japanese series of films featuring the monster Godzilla. Godzilla is a daikaijū, a Japanese movie monster, first appearing in Ishiro Honda's 1954 film Godzilla. Since then, Godzilla has gone on to become a worldwide pop culture icon starring in 28 films produced by Toho Co., Ltd. With the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still fresh in the Japanese consciousness, Godzilla was conceived as a monster created by nuclear explosions and a metaphor for nuclear weapons in general. As the film series expanded, the stories took on less serious undertones portraying Godzilla in the role of a hero, while later movies returned to depicting the character as a destructive monster.

The Doctor is IN

8a Amelia {Henry Fielding title heroine}. Reference to the 1751 novel Amelia.

30a Epps {"House" actor}. I.e. Omar Epps, who plays Dr. Eric Foreman.

37a dance {Pony or alligator}. References to the Pony and the Alligator - a dance form inspired by Bachman–Turner Overdrive's Takin' Care of Business and involving "a lot of clapping and rolling on the floor". I'd love to have shown a video, but couldn't find one that does this terpsichorean institution justice.

48a Elmer {Bugger of Bugs}. I.e. Elmer Fudd of the Looney Tunes.

12d -ine {Carol ending?}. Reference to -ine as a suffix in the name "Caroline".

31d SPF {Block letters?}. SPF = sun protection factor, the effectiveness measure for sunblock.

Image of the Day

mooneyes
21d mooneyes {Silvery fish}. The mooneyes are a family (the Hiodontidae) of primitive ray-finned fish comprising two living and three extinct species in the genus Hiodon. They are large-eyed, fork-tailed fish that physically resemble shads. Their common name comes from the metallic gold or silver shine of their eyes.

The mooneye, Hiodon tergisus, is widespread across North America, living in the clear waters of lakes, ponds, and rivers. It consumes aquatic invertebrates, insects, and fish. Mooneyes can reach 47 centimetres (19 in) in length. Mooneyes feed readily on terrestrial insects, and will provide fine sport for an intrepid flyrod angler. They will also take small lures and natural baits with gusto. Mooneyes are frantic, hyperactive fish and their impressive leaps and passionate fighting style has earned them the nickname "Freshwater Tarpon".

Other Clues

1a alp {Monte Leone, for one}; 4a asst. {Secy., e.g.}; 14a Nehemiah {Hebrew leader who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem}; 17a agitator {Troublemaker}; 18a bopper {Big home run hitter, in slang}; 19a Leni {Director Riefenstahl}; 20a image {Likeness}; 22a so I {"___ heard"}; 24a Anglo {White, in a way}; 26a Srtas. {Sp. misses}; 32a Solon {Statesman of old Athens}; 34a Thro' {"Comin' ___ the Rye"}; 35a nappy {British diaper}; 39a Emo {Funny Philips}; 43a tin {Tobacco holder}; 44a spiny {Like some anteaters}; 45a Stroh {Brewer Bernhard}; 46a oner {Humdinger}; 50a dele {Take out}; 51a reset {Change, as a watch}; 53a laser {Kind of printer}; 55a aer- {Atmosphere: Prefix}; 56a titan {Giant}; 58a past {History}; 60a pajama {Bed piece?}; 63a Ironhead {Nickname for racer Dale Earnhardt Sr., so called because of his stubbornness}; 68a largesse {Generosity}; 69a speeds {Does 85, say}; 70a ante {"___ up!" (game cry)}.

1d an A {"Wheel of Fortune" purchase}; 2d leg {Advantage, with "up"}; 4d Amana {Big appliance maker}; 5d sit-ins {March alternatives}; 6d São {Brazil's ___ José Bay}; 8d ABBA {Pop group whose first Top 40 album was, appropriately, "Arrival"}; 9d Moogs {Musical equipment popularized in the 1960s}; 10d expert {Pro}; 13d Agr. {Cabinet dept.}; 15d été {Time spent on la Côte d'Azur}; 22d senator {Cicero or Publius}; 23d opaline {Iridescent}; 28d armhole {Tee shirt opening}; 29d soother {Balm}; 33d NCR {A.T.M. maker}; 36d yrs. {Decade parts: Abbr.}; 38d efs {Flunking grades}; 41d ape {Big lug}; 42d it'd {"___ be my pleasure"}; 47d retake {Second shot}; 49d report {Bang or boom}; 52d timid {Meek}; 54d range {The Rockies, e.g.}; 57d tans {Gets some color}; 59d She {"___ Walks in Beauty" (Byron poem)}; 60d PSs {Letter endings: Abbr.}; 61d amp {Speaker's place}; 64d ran {Published}; 65d ask {Expect (of)}; 66d Deo {"In excelsis ___"}.

NPR Puzzle 9/26/10 -- Stationary Stationery

Here's this week's puzzle:
Take the phrase "patron saint," remove a letter, then rearrange the letters to create a new, familiar two-word phrase that names something important in life. Hint: The first word has three letters, the second word has seven.
The answer is NPR STATION.  And from the reactions of some of our readers/commenters, I wouldn't advise that anyone use the puzzle as a fundraising ploy.  However, I thought it was cute.  It succeeded in forcing us to solve it the old fashioned way: with letter tiles from the Bananagrams bag.  And we worked as a team: I saw STATION, and ROSS figured out the NPR part (because I was too flipping blind to see the obvious).

For my photo array, I wanted NPR stations.  Here's the one I found that was safe to show:
 

That is Carver Center Public Radio, which means it's probably KUAF in Fayetteville, Arkansas and not WFSS, in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  While I like the photo, though, it just didn't seem all that puzzling.

So Ross went through the list of NPR stations, and came up with call letters that spell out words.


WILL in Urbana, Illinois


WEFT in Champaign, Illinois.  (Which Wikipedia led us to believe was an NPR Station, only now we're not so sure.  Sorry, everyone, if we misled you.)

And the really buzz-worthy challenge:


WABE in Atlanta, Georgia.  (The photo is of "Wabe mit pollen und nektar"; wabe is the German word for honeycomb.)

Time for ...


P I C K   A   R A N G E

Here are this week's picks for the ranges:

Fewer than 100 -- Mendo Jim
100 - 200
200 - 300
300 - 400
400 - 500

500 - 600
600 - 700
700 - 800
800 - 900 -- Ross
900 - 1,000 -- Magdalen

1,000 - 1,100 -- Jordan
1,100 - 1,200 -- Tom
1,200 - 1,300 -- Dave
1,300 - 1,400 -- Ben
1,400 - 1,500

1,500 - 1,600 -- David
1,600 - 1,700
1,700 - 1,800
1,800 - 1,900
1,900 - 2,000

2,000 - 2,100
2,100 - 2,200
2,200 - 2,300
2,300 - 2,400
2,400 - 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, September 29, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Theme

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



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

The Doctor is IN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image of the Day

L'eggs

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

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

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

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

Other Clues

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

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

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

NYT Wednesday 9/29/10 Charles Gersch - The Magnificent Seven

The theme of this Wednesday New York Times crossword is simply stated: movie titles. But we get seven full-size ones ... amazing! That makes close on half the squares thematic and I'd heard of every title, so no barrels had to be scraped in the making of this grid (which incidentally breaks the mold by extending to 16 rows).

The only thematic aspect I can see to fault is the one case (37-Across) where the movie is not quite complete, having an article missing. A tiny flaw and I would not have wanted to miss this puzzle for the sake of awaiting new movies that would have allowed only complete titles.

There seems to be a little subtheme involving boxing (see Video of the Day below), which might explain why Mr. T is clued with reference to his Rocky associations, and not in the A team context ... that answer at 30-Across being beautifully, but elusively, clued as {Starters}.

romantic bathMy 6 minute time is pretty exceptional for a midweek puzzle and my feeling totally at home with the theme made all the difference. I only really stalled at the middle left, where 25d bath {Setting for candlelit romance} completely defied my expectations ... that's a bit steamy for the NYT isn't it? This area also had that tough A team clue and a reference to one of the more obscure state mottoes esto perpetua ("let it be perpetual").
Solving time: 6 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 25a baa {It may make a ewe turn}
Solution

Charles Gersch
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Movie titles:
14a Anger Management {2003 Sandler/Nicholson comedy}
17a Road to Singapore {1940 Crosby/Lamour/Hope film that was the first of a "travel" series}
37a Last Picture Show {1971 film that was Cybill Shepherd's debut, with "The"}
41a On the Waterfront {1954 Elia Kazan Oscar winner};
59a Horton Hears a Who! {2008 film derived from Dr. Seuss}
62a The Color of Money {1986 film for which Paul Newman won his only Oscar}
7d A Night at the Opera {1935 Marx Brothers romp}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersCharles Gersch / Will Shortz
Grid16x15 with 38 (15.8%) black squares
Answers77 (average length 5.25)
Theme squares100 (49.5%)
Scrabble points314 (average 1.55)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



42a TKO {Bout stopper}; 46a WBA {Pugilists' grp.}; 5d Mr. T {"I pity the fool" speaker}. TKO = technical knockout. WBA = World Boxing Association. Since there's something of a boxing subtheme in this puzzle, I'm going with Rocky III for today's video ... the movie in which Mr. T first uttered his oft-repeated catchphrase. Rocky's opponent this time is James "Clubber" Lang, played by Mr. T. Lang is a younger and more aggressive boxer than Rocky. He is brash, arrogant, outspoken, and immensely strong. This role made Mr. T an icon, leading to him being one of the first elements outlined for The A-Team television series.

The Doctor is IN

34a tic {First X or O, say}. Reference to tic-tac-toe.

49a Hoch {Mystery writer Edward D. ___}. Edward D. Hoch (1930–2008) wrote over 900 short stores in the detective genre.

64a seas {Proverbial heptad}. Reference to (sailing the) Seven Seas.

4d Reds {N.L. Central team}. I.e. the Cincinnati Reds baseball team.

13d Stes. {Fr. holy women}. Stes. = Saintes (female saints in French).

15d moola {Lettuce or kale}. kale = money is in Pavlov's Guide to Crosswords; I guess lettuce had better go in too now.

28d Parr {Henry VIII's sixth}. I.e. Catherine Parr, the "survived" of "divorced, beheaded, died; divorced beheaded, survived".

58d Laos {Vientiane's country}. Vientiane is the capital and largest city in Laos.

61d SMU {Dallas sch.}. SMU = Southern Methodist University is mysteriously not in the The Crucy League.

Image of the Day

L'homme à la houe

60d hoe {Implement in a Millet painting}. Jean-François Millet (1814–1875) was a French painter and one of the founders of the Barbizon school in rural France. Millet is noted for his scenes of peasant farmers; he can be categorized as part of the naturalism and realism movements. Millet's painting L'homme à la houe inspired the famous poem "The Man With the Hoe" (1898) by Edwin Markham.

Other Clues

1a rearm {Supply with more ammo, say}; 6a Babe {Term of endearment}; 10a îles {Bits of land in la Seine}; 18a Elis {Yalies}; 19a Org. {Part of NATO: Abbr.}; 20a stenos {"Mad Men" extras}; 21a ran {Conducted}; 22a Lahr {Actor Bert}; 24a Len {Mystery writer Deighton}; 25a baa {It may make a ewe turn}; 27a Topps {Big name in baseball cards}; 30a A team {Starters}; 33a agar {Gelatinous ingredient in desserts}; 43a Roth {Author Philip}; 44a Atras {Some razors}; 45a hence {Ergo}; 47a ABO {Blood-typing syst.}; 51a To A {Ode title starter}; 54a olé olé {World Cup chant}; 57a Pia {Singer/actress Zadora}; 58a loch {Lomond, e.g.}; 63a oath {Inauguration Day highlight}; 65a users {Addicts}.

1d rarer {Less well done}; 2d Enola {___ Gay, historic plane displayed by the Smithsonian}; 3d again! {"Encore!"}; 6d Basra {Mideast city whose name, coincidentally, is an anagram of ARABS}; 8d ban {Proscribe}; 9d eggs {Drives (on)}; 10d impels {Drives}; 11d Leone {Sierra ___}; 12d Enron {Bankrupt company in 2001-02 news}; 16d eat {Corrode}; 23d rogue {Ne'er-do-well}; 25d bath {Setting for candlelit romance}; 26d ampere {Current unit}; 29d prefab {Like some suburban homes}; 30d a lot {Scads}; 31d tank {Go south}; 32d esto {"___ perpetua" (Idaho's motto)}; 34d Thor {Thursday's eponym}; 35d Iona {College in New Rochelle, N.Y.}; 36d cwts {100-lb. units}; 38d I won! {Triumphant cry}; 39d catch {Fisherman's 10-pounder, e.g.}; 40d Srta. {Mex. miss}; 45d hootch {The sauce}; 46d wharf {Fisherman's spot}; 47d aloha {Lei-person's greeting?}; 48d beret {Covering for la tête}; 50d ciaos {Pietro's ta-tas}; 51d Towne {Olde ___ (historic area, quaintly)}; 52d ocher {Orangish shade}; 53d ahoys {Shipboard cries}; 54d Oh to {"___ be in England ..."}; 55d Loo {Old card game with forfeits}; 56d enls. {Photo blowups: Abbr.}.

Monday, September 27, 2010

NYT Tuesday 9/28/10 Michael Torch - Para Gone

I thought this Tuesday New York Times crossword rather tricky for this stage of the week, due in large part to the theme: while not conceptually difficult, the entries resulting from the puns were hard to parse, particularly the two across ones.

pear amountSo I'd spent maybe half of my solving time on the grid before getting a complete theme entry (pair a graphs at 20-Across) and then didn't see the pattern the constructor was going for until finishing pear amount at 11-Down. I then realized different homophones would be needed for the final two theme answers, and pare + père came very easily.

Interesting that the puns work differently across and down, and I haven't figured out if that was by necessity or choice. Whatever the case, doing things half one way and half the other seems like a virtue, whereas having just one answer different would seem flawed. I think we crossword solvers are hungry for patterns and to have only one example of a particular treatment in a puzzle makes us unsatisfied and uneasy.
Solving time: 8 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 9d bus stop {Point on a line?}
Solution

Michael Torch
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Puns on words with the para- prefix:
20a pair a graphs {Two charts?} cf paragraphs
58a pare a phrase {Edit?} cf paraphrase
11d pear amount {A bushel of Boscs?} cf paramount
29d père amours {French father's affairs?} cf paramours
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersMichael Torch / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares42 (22.2%)
Scrabble points298 (average 1.58)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



70a pine {"Lonesome" tree}. The Trail of the Lonesome Pine is a popular song published in 1913, with lyrics by Ballard MacDonald and music by Harry Carroll. In the song the singer expresses his love for June who lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

"The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" has been recorded numerous times, probably most notably by Laurel and Hardy, and was featured in their 1937 film Way Out West. This version was also released as a single in 1975 in the UK, where it reached number 2 in the charts, which is how I came to hear about the Blue Ridge Mountains and the "lonesome" tree long decades before visiting there. I know I've featured this video before, but it's a good'un, so why not?

The Doctor is IN

19a Sears {What to "Come see the softer side of," in a slogan}. Wikipedia attributes the “Come See the Softer Side of Sears” advertising jingle to both Joey Levine and Jake Holmes ... anyone know what's going on with that?

47d Alph {Coleridge's sacred river}. The Alph is the fictional river mentioned in the third line of Kubla Khan:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
Image of the Day

Raggedy Ann and Andy

21d Anns {Raggedy ___ (dolls)}.  Raggedy Ann is a fictional character created by American writer Johnny Gruelle (1880–1938) in a series of books he wrote and illustrated for young children. Raggedy Ann is a rag doll with red yarn for hair and has a triangle nose. The character was created in 1915 as a doll, and was introduced to the public in the 1918 book Raggedy Ann Stories. A doll was also marketed along with the book to great success. A sequel, Raggedy Andy Stories (1920) introduced the character of her brother, Raggedy Andy, dressed in sailor suit and hat.

Other Clues

1a caws {Cornfield sounds}; 5a wool {Scarf material}; 9a biped {Any member of the genus Homo}; 14a as it {"___ happens ..."}; 15a inky {Black}; 16a utero {In ___ (not yet born)}; 17a rife {Prevalent}; 18a norm {Having two or three kids in a family, nowadays}; 23a Roe {___ v. Wade}; 24a Ens. {Nav. rank}; 25a hit hard {Severely affected}; 27a Hop on Pop {Dr. Seuss title}; 32a doom {Gloom's partner}; 33a ore {Shipment to a smeltery}; 34a sat in {Audited a class, say}; 36a plows {Winter highway department needs}; 39a carb {See 43-Across}; 41a no-par {Like some stock}; 43a dual {With 39-Across, kind of engine}; 44a knead {Massage}; 46a sepia {Retro photo tone}; 48a NNE {New Orleans-to-Detroit dir.}; 49a arrs. {Some airport data: Abbr.}; 51a depleted {Drained}; 53a sambaed {Danced at Rio's Carnival, maybe}; 56a Apu {Homer Simpson's Indian friend}; 57a PLO {Mideast grp.}; 64a acute {Sharp}; 66a add a {Recipe step starter}; 67a okay {Approve}; 68a corer {Implement for an apple}; 69a Meir {Israel's Golda}; 71a eases {Lets (up)}; 72a Anat. {Basic subj. for a surgeon}; 73a ends {Goals}.

1d carp {Fault-find}; 2d Asia {Large part of a world atlas}; 3d Wi-Fi {Coffee shop convenience for a laptop}; 4d stereo {Not mono}; 5d wingspan {Bird spec}; 6d on or {___ about (approximately)}; 7d okra {Gumbo staple}; 8d lymph {___ node}; 9d bus stop {Point on a line?}; 10d -ite {Suffix with suburban}; 12d error {Boo-boo}; 13d dosed {Gave medicine}; 22d hid {Concealed}; 26d hold {Full or half nelson}; 27d hock {What a debtor might be in}; 28d Oran {Algerian port}; 30d Otos {Western tribe}; 31d piped {Spoke (up)}; 35d nape {Back of the neck}; 37d wane {Ebb}; 38d sled {Toboggan, e.g.}; 40d barb {Cutting remark}; 42d rip apart {Shred}; 45d drapers {Fabric dealers, to Brits}; 50d sea {Large quantity}; 52d Europe {One side of "the pond"}; 53d space {Gap}; 54d Alcoa {Foil-making giant}; 55d drama {Comedy alternative}; 59d Eden {Fall place}; 60d Adia {1998 Sarah McLachlan song}; 61d akin {Related}; 62d sand {Hourglass fill}; 63d eyes {Prominent features of a "Cats" poster}; 65d tee {Plumbing fitting}.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

NYT Monday 9/27/10 Janice M. Putney - Blogged Down

eyelashesThis Monday New York Times crossword didn't take me very long; and I like the thematic implementation (nice to have five theme entries over 63 squares), which I had no problem recognizing involved baseball. The one theme answer that slowed me down was 51a bats an eyelash {Reacts slightly} as I think of the idiom as involving an eyelid ... is it possible to bat a single eyelash?

By comparison, the blogging process seems to taking forever - one of those days when the right video clip is really hard to come by. I wanted to feature 29a she {"Here ___ comes, Miss America"}, but completely failed to track that down. People seem to believe if comes from the Bernie Wayne theme song, but that always uses the wording "There she is Miss America". If you know how the wording in the clue originated, please let me know!

Failing on that one, I considered The Church Lady (41-Down) and Sha Na Na (63-Down), but I think I've featured both before and the available YouTube material really does neither justice ... Justice! Instead of making Elena Kagan my Image of the Day, my original intention, I'll make her the Video of the Day. Luckily I found a suitably short and sweet clip for her pronto.

My difficulties in remembering Kagan's forename today is a reminder that I definitely need to brush up on my US history and civics in time for the USCIS naturalization interview and test, which has been scheduled for October 29. I probably won't get asked about Elena, but I'm definitely expected to know there are nine Supreme Court Justices and that John G. Roberts is the Chief Justice.
Solving time: 5 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 52d aisle {Window or middle alternative}
Solution

Janice M. Putney
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Long answers start with what a baseball player does.
17a pitches a fit {Shows petulant anger}
23a catches a break {Gets lucky}
40a fields a question {Doesn't stonewall, say}
51a bats an eyelash {Reacts slightly}
63a steals a kiss {Shows affection unexpectedly}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersJanice M. Putney / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares63 (33.3%)
Scrabble points305 (average 1.61)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



54d Elena {Justice Kagan}. A timely clue, as Associate Justice Elena Kagan has her formal investiture this Friday before a special sitting of the Supreme Court of the United States. Kagan is the Court's 112th justice and its fourth female justice.

Kagan was born and raised in New York City. After attending Princeton, Oxford, and Harvard Law School, she completed federal Court of Appeals and Supreme Court clerkships. She began her career as a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, leaving to serve as Associate White House Counsel, and later as policy adviser, under President Clinton. After a nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which expired without action, she became a professor at Harvard Law School and was later named its first female dean.

President Obama appointed her Solicitor General on January 26, 2009. On May 10, 2010, Obama nominated Kagan to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy from the impending retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens at the end of the Supreme Court's 2009–2010 term. After Senate confirmation, Kagan was sworn in on August 7, 2010, by Chief Justice John Roberts.

The Doctor is IN

1a Lola {Name repeated in the lyric "Whatever ___ wants, ___ gets"}. A reference to Whatever Lola Wants from the 1955 musical Damn Yankees.

6d ETS {Co. that oversees the 21-Across}. ETS = Educational Testing Service, which administers tests such as the TOEFL and the GRE.

60d isla {Cuba, por ejemplo}. isle = isla is in Español para los crucigramistas.

Image of the Day

Dom Perignon

48a Dom {___ Pérignon}. Dom Pérignon (c. 1638–1715) was a Benedictine monk who made important contributions to the production and quality of Champagne wine in an era when the region's wines were predominantly still and red. Popular myths frequently, but erroneously, credit him with the invention of sparkling Champagne, which didn't become the dominant style of Champagne until mid-19th century. The famous champagne Dom Pérignon, the préstige cuvée of Moët & Chandon, is named after him.

Other Clues

5a seesaw {Teeter-totter}; 11a Des {___ Moines}; 14a iMac {Apple computer}; 15a stroke {Hitting of a golf ball}; 16a all {Nothing's opposite}; 19a fie {"Fee, ___, foe, fum"}; 20a Oteri {Cheri formerly of "S.N.L."}; 21a SAT {Exam for H.S. seniors}; 22a ooze {Seep}; 27a goo {Hot tar, e.g.}; 29a she {"Here ___ comes, Miss America"}; 30a son {Heir, but not an heiress}; 31a alma {___ mater}; 33a Amis {"Lucky Jim" author Kingsley}; 36a Pablo {Painter Picasso}; 43a forma {Pro ___ (perfunctory)}; 44a nsec {Tiny time unit: Abbr.}; 45a eggy {Like an omelet}; 46a Ont. {Toronto's prov.}; 50a Tex {Lone Star State nickname}; 57a riot {Run amok}; 58a olé {Cheer for a matador}; 59a Maria {"Ave ___" (Latin prayer)}; 62a USA {Fourth of July celebration inits.}; 66a ils {They, in Marseille}; 67a Henrys {Eight English kings}; 68a Ella {Fitzgerald known as the First Lady of Song}; 69a net {Volleyball court divider}; 70a as a set {How china may be sold}; 71a slap {Possible response to a grabby boyfriend}.

1d lipo {Quick weight loss option, informally}; 2d omit {Leave out}; 3d late-comer {Recent arrival}; 4d Accra {Ghana's capital}; 5d SSE {Opposite of NNW}; 7d erase {Rub out}; 8d sofas {Couches}; 9d Akitas {Dogs whose tails curl up the back}; 10d wet {Rainy}; 11d Dafoe {Actor Willem}; 12d Eliza {Doolittle of "Pygmalion"}; 13d sleek {Streamlined}; 18d hits {Chart-toppers}; 22d ornate {Highly decorative}; 24d Chas {Addams who created "The Addams Family"}; 25d he-man {Muscular fellow}; 26d bops {Knocks on the noggin}; 27d gaff {Large iron hook}; 28d olio {Medley}; 32d almost {Not quite}; 34d IQs {100 is average for them}; 35d suede {Soft leather}; 37d big thrill {Cause of goose bumps, perhaps}; 38d loge {Pricey seating section}; 39d onyx {Gem with colored bands}; 41d Dana {Carvey who used to say "Well, isn't that special?"}; 42d Ecol. {Environmental sci.}; 47d T-Notes {Gov't securities}; 49d Mama {Papa's partner}; 51d Bruin {Boston N.H.L.'er}; 52d aisle {Window or middle alternative}; 53d toast {Raise a glass to}; 55d years {Senior, junior and sophomore}; 56d sakes {Rice wines}; 61d ASAP! {"Rush!," on an order}; 63d Sha {___ Na Na}; 64d lye {Soapmaker's need}; 65d SST {Fast jet, for short}.

NPR Puzzle 9/26/10 - Who is the Patron Saint of Puzzles?

Here's this week's puzzle:
Take the phrase "patron saint," remove a letter, then rearrange the letters to create a new, familiar two-word phrase that names something important in life. Hint: The first word has three letters, the second word has seven.
Not all that easy to solve in the conventional methods, although we've managed it.

If you have the answer, send it in to NPR here -- and please do not post it in the comments!  Thanks.

This puzzle was sent in by Will's friend (in a fairly loose sense of the word "friend") Elizabeth Gorski.  She's got the Crossword City blog, and has even featured a photo of Ross solving a crossword with the sort of "help" that doesn't actually improve one's statistics.

And who is the Patron Saint of Puzzlers?  I'm guessing Saint Peter might be your man -- he's the patron saint of lost things, as in, "What's the word again?  Oh, it's just on the tip of my tongue..."







Alas, the photo section won't be as much fun this week, but with Ross's awesome help, I'm found some good stuff.

I should explain that if I were to do my usual thing, you'd get this:

(You'll have to wait for Thursday to be able to click on it.  But trust me, it's the answer.)

Okay, so that's no fun.  Here's another photo of "the answer":


Yes, that's Will Shortz.  And yes, Will is the answer.  (If you've solved puzzle, you can work this one out in your head.)

Here's another one:


And another:


Now, come on -- you have to have solved it by now!

Time for ...

P I C K   A   R A N G E

This is where we ask you how many entries you think NPR will get for the challenge above.  If you want to win, leave a comment with your guess for the range of entries NPR will receive.  First come first served, so read existing comments before you guess.  Ross and I guess last, just before we publish the Thursday post.  After the Thursday post is up, the entries are closed.

David won a copy of the new prize -- Les Foeldessy's cool book, Gryptics.  (David -- could you email us with your address so that we can forward that on to Les?  He'll send out the book directly to you.  Magdalen or Ross at Crosswordman.com.  Thanks.)  
Les is willing to give another copy of Gryptics, so guess hard this week.  [Remember, troublemakers risk winning the American Girl puzzle book, so play nice.  :-)]

Here are the ranges:

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 - 1,600
1,600 - 1,700
1,700 - 1,800
1,800 - 1,900
1,900 - 2,000

2,000 - 2,100
2,100 - 2,200
2,200 - 2,300
2,300 - 2,400
2,400 - 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, September 25, 2010

NYT Sunday 9/26/10 Pamela Amick Klawitter - Shape Shifting

Now that Magdalen has returned from a short trip away, we were able to solve this Sunday New York Times crossword together and made fairly short work of it. The note said "each set of circled letters is described by an answer elsewhere in the grid" and it didn't take long to figure out the eight long entries were the "elsewhere".

It took a while, though, to start pairing up the circled areas and theme answers and when we did, we found the title "Location, Location, Location" a little misleading. Yes, in some cases the description is based on the location of the shape, but not always.

corner stoneWe particularly like the corner-stone clue, as it had us first thinking of romantic dates (coffee house), then dates you eat (corner store) before we finally got the sense of "date" that was required.

The theme answer that had us scratching our heads a little is the man in the middle, which clearly refers to Aaron, but why that forename in particular and not a synonym like bloke (would that work in America?). Magdalen had a working theory that Hank Aaron was being referenced again, with 115-Across being one of his many nicknames, but I've not been able to justify that.
Solving time: 30 mins (with Magdalen, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 15d corner-stone {Place for a date, frequently}
Solution

Pamela Amick Klawitter
Grid art by Sympathy

Theme

"Location, Location, Location". The theme answers suggest the features indicated by the circled letters, either referencing their location in the grid, or the shape they assume.
22a dressing on the side {Specification in a salad order} => mayo to the left of the grid
34a square mile {Unit in measuring population density} => mile in a square shape
57a room at the top {Opening for an aspiring leader} => den at the top of the grid
75a slanted lines {Diagonals} => lines in a slanted shape
97a bottom fish {Carp or flounder, typically} => eel at the bottom of the grid
115a the man in the middle {Go-between} => Aaron at the center of the grid
15d corner-stone {Place for a date, frequently} => stone at the SE corner of the grid
67d mental block {Cause of thoughtlessness?} => mental in an oblong shape
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersPamela Amick Klawitter / Will Shortz
Grid21x21 with 74 (16.8%) black squares
Answers140 (average length 5.24)
Theme squares[not calculated]
Scrabble points554 (average 1.51)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



37d Anspach {Susan who co-starred in "Five Easy Pieces"}. Five Easy Pieces is a 1970 American drama film written by Carole Eastman (as Adrien Joyce) and Bob Rafelson, and directed by Rafelson. The film stars Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, and Susan Anspach. The cast also includes Billy 'Green' Bush, Fannie Flagg, Ralph Waite, Sally Struthers, Lois Smith, Toni Basil, and Helena Kallianiotes. The film tells the story of a surly oil rig worker, Bobby Dupea, whose blue-collar existence belies his privileged youth as a child prodigy at the piano. When word reaches Bobby that his father is dying, he reluctantly takes his girlfriend, Rayette (Black), a dimwitted, pregnant waitress, back home to make peace with his family. The "easy pieces" of the title refer to the five classical piano pieces which are played in the film.

The Doctor is IN

29a chis {XXX}. The Greek letter chi looks like a capital X.

68a Aaron {First name alphabetically in the Baseball Hall of Fame}. I.e. Hank Aaron.

114a oso {Spanish bruin}. bear = oso is in Español para los crucigramistas.

122a Enid {"Idylls of the King" lady}. Alfred, Lord Tennyson based two of his Idylls of the King on Geraint and Enid.

2d Atri {Italian bell town}. A reference to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Bell of Atri, set in Atri, Italy.

3d dees {Dead ends?}. Either end of the word "Dead" is a dee (D).

19d and I'm {"... ___ the queen of England!"}. Referencing an expression of incredulity, akin to "pull the other one".

65d sher {"Fer ___!"}. fer sher is a slang rendering of "for sure".

68d Asta {Dog of old films}. Asta is a Cruciverbal Canine.

Image of the Day

Ratel (Mellivora capensis) or Honey Badger

57d ratel {Honey badger}. The honey badger (Mellivora capensis, Ratel) is a member of the Mustelidae family. The honey badger is distributed throughout most of Africa and western and south Asian areas of Baluchistan (eastern Iran), southern Iraq, Pakistan and Rajasthan (western India). It is the only species in the genus Mellivora and the subfamily Mellivorinae. The underparts, sides of its body and face are usually dark brown or black in color, while the top of its head, neck and back are light gray or white. This coloration makes the honey badger particularly conspicuous in daylight. Some honey badgers, especially in the Ituri Forest of the Democratic Republic Of Congo, are wholly black.

Other Clues

1a Baden {When repeated, a resort near the Black Forest}; 6a dimly {How things may be remembered}; 11a dawn {Beginning}; 15a car {Caboose, for one}; 18a utero {In ___ (unborn)}; 19a Aeneas {Homeric hero}; 20a erat {Part of Q.E.D.}; 21a Ole {___ Miss}; 25a rim {A lens fits in it}; 26a distend {Swell}; 27a notarizes {Certifies, in a way}; 28a NCO {U.S.M.C. barracks boss}; 31a epic {Homeric genre}; 32a street {Address part}; 40a en ami {As a friend, to the French}; 42a Erse {Relative of Manx}; 43a Eisner {Michael who once headed Disney}; 44a misc. {Grab bag: Abbr.}; 46a antes {Some stakes}; 48a angst {Dreadful feeling}; 49a tea-taster {Worker who may create a stir?}; 53a after {Following}; 56a gap {Opening}; 59a oke {Fine and dandy, in old slang}; 60a a darn {"I don't give ___!"}; 62a élan {Zing}; 63a Lionel {Writer/critic Trilling}; 65a SimCity {Hit computer game with the original working title Micropolis}; 70a Kennedy {President who said "I'm an idealist without illusions"}; 71a hee-hee {Giggle}; 72a -esce {Suffix with lumin-}; 73a slogs {Hard, boring efforts}; 74a -ern {Directional suffix}; 79a tov {"Mazel ___!"}; 82a retie {Fix, as a shoelace}; 84a head-to-toe {Complete}; 85a Nanci {Country singer Griffith}; 87a Adlai {Name on 1952 campaign buttons}; 89a Omoo {Romance of 1847}; 90a gofers {Errand runners}; 91a MCLI {Mid 12th-century year}; 93a N star {Cool, very red celestial body}; 99a AA bond {Highly rated security}; 101a Eger {Hungarian city}; 103a Sela {Actress Ward}; 104a YSL {Fashion inits.}; 105a other shoe {You might wait for it to drop}; 109a pedicab {Three-wheeled vehicle}; 117a Ric {Rapper ___-A-Che}; 118a même {Same: Fr.}; 119a inmate {Convict}; 120a serin {Relative of a canary}; 121a Sak {Cinch ___ (Hefty garbage bag brand)}; 123a keels {Falls (over)}; 124a masto- {Breast: Prefix}.

1d Budd {Melville's "Billy ___"}; 4d erst {Formerly, once}; 5d no secret {Public knowledge}; 6d deg. {Ph.D., e.g.}; 7d in on {Barge ___}; 8d me no {"Don't give ___ lip!"}; 9d latte {Beverage that may be foamy}; 10d Y shape {A wishbone has one}; 11d de Sica {Director Vittorio}; 12d Ariz. {48th state: Abbr.}; 13d wades in {Begins energetically}; 14d N-test {Explosive trial, for short}; 16d Alice's {"___ Restaurant"}; 17d remote {Not likely}; 23d in her {"And to those thorns that ___ bosom lodge": Shak.}; 24d Erin {St. Patrick's land}; 30d Simeon {One of the 12 tribes of Israel}; 33d reef {Shipwreck locale}; 34d sea {Ship locale}; 35d Qing {Last dynasty of China}; 36d USGA {Links org.}; 38d Liam {Actor Neeson}; 39d esta {"Cómo ___?"}; 41d mart {Shopping locale}; 45d catered to {Indulged}; 47d taping {Pre-broadcast activity}; 49d Tory {David Cameron, e.g.}; 50d St Lo {Normandy battle town}; 51d than {More ___ enough}; 52d een {Dark time, in verse}; 54d eked {Just got (by)}; 55d rely {Trust, with "on"}; 58d oleos {Dinner spreads}; 61d diesel {Engine type}; 64d on staff {Employed}; 66d -iere {French noun suffix}; 69d aced {Didn't just pass}; 70d Klee {Noted Bauhaus artist}; 72d ENE {Dallas-to-Memphis dir.}; 73d snoots {High-hats}; 76d ahis {Large food tunas}; 77d Lomb {Bausch & ___ (lens maker)}; 78d I Too {Langston Hughes poem}; 80d One I {"The ___ Gave My Heart To" (1997 Aaliyah hit)}; 81d VCRs {Tapers, briefly}; 83d idio- {Peculiar: Prefix}; 85d nomadism {Bedouins' trait}; 86d -ish {It's like "-like"}; 88d and then {"Next ..."}; 90d golem {Dimwit}; 91d mayors {City chiefs}; 92d cassia {Cinnamon tree}; 94d teemed {Swarmed}; 95d Agra {Indian tourist city}; 96d Resnik {Challenger astronaut Judith}; 98d tepee {Chief dwelling?}; 100d not me! {"I'm innocent!"}; 102d Rhine {Liechtenstein's western border}; 106d hemi {Certain engine}; 107d on me {"This round's ___"}; 108d et al {List-ending abbr.}; 110d idea {Notion}; 111d Cdrs. {Mil. leaders}; 112d alit {Came to earth}; 113d Be No {"There Shall ___ Night" (Pulitzer-winning Robert E. Sherwood play)}; 116d hts. {Elevs.}.

Friday, September 24, 2010

NYT Saturday 9/25/10 Patrick Berry - Watch Out!

This Saturday New York Times crossword seemed fairly straightforward, but one particular crossing spelled T-R-O-U-B-L-E for me and put an end to a longish run of correct solutions. Boo.

I had some trouble getting a start in the top few rows and was beginning to feel we were in for a tough time when I had a run of success with 22a Deere, 23a Pete, 25a genre. With two of those answers together in the middle, I built from there with 20d tends etc, eventually working my way up into the NW corner, which no longer looked so challenging when approached from below.

With seven minutes gone, I started working down into the SW, finding things surprisingly easy and getting that corner done with 11 minutes on the clock. I was beginning to get cold feet about 45a though and as I completed the SE corner, still had RANCH??UCA?ONGA and left it like that till the end.

The NE corner again fell out in a pleasing way once approached from beneath and with 17 minutes gone, I just had the problem of 45a again. I decided fairly quickly that {Sentimentalize} at 47d must be moon, even though the clue seems a little removed from the straight dictionary meaning; I had the same sort of concerns over at 43d {Seems to indicate}, but could that really be anything other than bodes?

So it just came down to the crossing of 39d Secada and 45a Rancho Cucamonga. Not knowing either, I reckoned there were any number of candidate letters at the crossing and my usual instinct on these matters failed me. I wondered if the (Spanish?) etymology of the place name might be relevant and helpful, but couldn't make any sense of ?UCA as a Spanish word.

I soon realized spending more time on the decision wasn't going to improve my chances, so I just opted for a J at the crossing, reasoning it was possible, and that such a letter would be an attractive reason for including the answer (of course I didn't realize why there was the Jack Benny association until doing the researches for this post). I know these puzzles are carefully edited and that it may just be my bad that I knew neither of these two proper names, so it will be interesting to hear about others' experiences of this one.
Solving time: 20 mins (solo, no solving aids, two wrong answers)
Clue of the puzz: 17a talons {They might grab something to eat}
Solution

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

Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersPatrick Berry / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 25 (11.1%) black squares
Answers64 (average length 6.25)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points296 (average 1.48)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



39d Secada {Two-time Grammy winner Jon}. Jon Secada (born Juan Secada) is a Cuban-American singer and songwriter. Secada was born in Havana, Cuba, and raised in Hialeah, Florida. He has won two Grammy Awards and sold 20 million albums since his English-language debut album Jon Secada (1992, from which the above song comes). His music fuses funk, soul, pop and Latin percussion. Secada also has worked as a songwriter for Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Mandy Moore and other performers.

The Doctor is IN

7a watch out! {"Duck" call?}. You might say watch out! when someone needs to duck to avoid being hit.

22a Deere {Big name in agribusiness}. I.e. Deere & Company, usually known by the brand name John Deere.

26a Ruger {Maker of rifles and revolvers}. I.e. Sturm, Ruger, better known by the shortened name Ruger.

9d trike {Short ride?}. trike, short for tricycle.

47d moon {Sentimentalize}. Presumably moon in the sense of "act in a dreamily infatuated manner".

Image of the Day

Statue of Jack Benny at the main entrance to The Epicenter.

45a Rancho Cucamonga {California city with a statue of Jack Benny}. Rancho Cucamonga is a city in San Bernardino County, California, United States. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 127,743, but a 2009 estimate by the state of California put the city's population at 177,736 people.

In popular media, Cucamonga has been recognized as a funny-sounding place name. One of the catch-phrases of the radio show "The Jack Benny Program" involved a train announcer (Mel Blanc) who said over the loudspeaker, "Train now leaving on track five for Anaheim, Azusa, and Cuc... amonga," taking progressively longer pauses between "Cuc" and "amonga." Part of the joke, for the Los Angeles audience, was that no such train route existed, although all three cities (or at the time, towns) do exist. As a tribute to this 'publicity', the city of Rancho Cucamonga built its minor-league baseball stadium on a street they named Jack Benny Way, and erected a bronze statue of the TV host outside of the building's entrance. The Jack Benny statue has since moved to the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center. (Coincidentally, Jack Benny Way intersects with Rochester Avenue, which is not named for the character portrayed by Eddie Anderson on "The Jack Benny Program", but was named in 1889 after the hometown of three investors, all of whom were brothers from Rochester, New York). In one of his many popular media crossovers, Blanc used that same catch phrase in Daffy Duck's voice in the 1948 Merrie Melodies cartoon "Daffy Duck Slept Here" and later in Bugs Bunny's voice in a 1960s Looney Tunes cartoon.

Other Clues

1a ashlar {Masonry that requires little mortar}; 15a the one {Mr. or Mrs. Right}; 16a Adrienne {___ Shelly, writer/director/co-star of "Waitress," 2007}; 17a talons {They might grab something to eat}; 18a imitates {Draws inspiration from, maybe}; 19a I Like It Like That {1965 top 10 hit for the Dave Clark Five}; 21a caps {Mushroom parts}; 23a Pete {British actor Postlethwaite}; 24a Ala. {Hank Williams's home state: Abbr.}; 25a genre {Heavy metal, e.g.}; 27a addends {Total producers}; 29a demons {Personal problems}; 30a rocs {Birds said to feed their young with elephants}; 31a harp {Instrument capable of glissandi}; 32a secede {Withdraw}; 35a data set {Table of values}; 38a purse {Compact container?}; 39a seven {Common number of spots on a ladybug}; 40a Val {Crime novelist McDermid}; 42a iris {Shade akin to lavender}; 43a bebop {Specialty of Charlie Parker}; 44a gene {There might be one for depression}; 48a as good as {Practically}; 49a loused {Made a hash of, with "up"}; 50a lie-abeds {Reluctant risers}; 51a module {Computer program subsection}; 52a sad to say {"Unfortunately ..."}; 53a snap-on {Attachable by pressing}.

1d Attica {Ancient land on the Aegean}; 2d Sha-La-La {1974 top 10 Al Green hit subtitled "Make Me Happy"}; 3d helipad {Takeoff spot for many a traffic reporter}; 4d looks {Attractiveness}; 5d Anne {James I's queen consort}; 6d residence {Requirement for running for political office}; 7d Wailers {1960s-'70s group originally known as the Teenagers, with "the"}; 8d admire {Prize}; 10d cite {Make an example of}; 11d heat pumps {Alternatives to furnaces}; 12d on the go {Active}; 13d uneaten {Left over, possibly}; 14d testers {Tough questions}; 20d tends {Cares for}; 25d geode {Sparkly rock}; 26d reran {Showed, as a classic}; 28d dress-coat {Tails}; 29d date palms {Oasis sights}; 31d havoc {Devastation}; 32d spirals {Increases alarmingly}; 33d Eurasia {The majority of people live here}; 34d cringed {Drew back}; 35d Debussy {"L'Enfant Prodigue" composer}; 36d evens up {Balances}; 37d tangelo {Juicy fruit}; 41d leaden {Sluggish}; 43d bodes {Seems to indicate}; 44d Gouda {It may be smoked in a supermarket}; 46d hobo {Depression-era traveler}.