LA Times Crossword 30 Jan 20, Thursday

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Constructed by: Dan Margolis
Edited by: Rich Norris

Today’s Theme (according to Bill): That’s a Start

Themed clues are common phrases starting with “That’s …”, with each themed answer being a reinterpretation of the corresponding phrase:
20A “That’s fine” : POWDERED SUGAR
27A “That’s all folks” : THE HUMAN RACE
49A “That’s not the point” : PENCIL ERASER
58A “That’s rich” : CHOCOLATE CAKE

Bill’s time: 10m 15s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1 Healthful berry : ACAI

Açaí (pronounced “ass-aye-ee”) is a palm tree native to Central and South America. The fruit has become very popular in recent years and its juice is a very fashionable addition to juice mixes and smoothies.

5 Sommelier’s concern : NOSE

“Sommelier” is the French word for “wine steward”. If that steward is a female, then the term used in French is “sommelière”.

9 San Antonio cagers : SPURS

The Spurs are the professional basketball team based in San Antonio, Texas. The team was founded as the Dallas Chaparrals of the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1967.

In the early days of basketball, when a ball went out of bounds possession was awarded to the player who first retrieved the ball. This led to mad scuffles off the court, often involving spectators. As the game became more organized courts were routinely “caged”, largely because of this out of bounds rule, to limit interaction with the crowd. It’s because of these cages that basketball players are sometimes referred to today as “cagers”.

14 Bananas : LOCO

In Spanish, if one isn’t “sano” (sane) one might be described as “loco” (crazy).

The expression “to go bananas” is one that I would have imagined had a clear etymology but that doesn’t seem to be the case. A further surprise is that we’ve only been “going bananas” since the sixties, in the days of flower power. One apt theory about the hippy roots of the phrase is that there was an unfounded belief that ingesting roasted banana peels had a similar hallucinogenic effect as magic mushrooms.

15 “… the __ blackness of the floors”: Poe : EBON

“… the ebon blackness of the floors …” is a phrase from the short story “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allen Poe.

“The Fall of the House of Usher” is perhaps the most famous short story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1839. The story is a Gothic tale, an interview with Robert Usher in his house which literally “falls”, breaks into two and is swallowed up by a lake. Some believe that the story was inspired by events at a real Usher House that once stood on Boston’s Lewis Wharf. When the Usher House was torn down, the bodies of a man and woman were found embracing in a cavity in the cellar, a fact reflected in the story as Robert Usher’s sister is supposedly buried alive in the crypt.

16 “The Fox and the Grapes” storyteller : AESOP

Our expression “sour grapes” is used to describe a negative attitude adopted by somebody towards something just because that person can’t have the thing himself or herself. The phrase alludes to one of Aesop’s fables, the story of “The Fox and the Grapes”. In the fable, a squirrel could climb up to grapes high in a tree that a fox was unsuccessful in getting to. On seeing this, the fox said, “It’s okay, the grapes were sour anyway”.

17 Dutch cheese : EDAM

Edam cheese takes its name from the Dutch town of Edam in North Holland. The cheese is famous for its coating of red paraffin wax, a layer of protection that helps Edam travel well and prevents spoiling. You might occasionally come across an Edam cheese that is coated in black wax. The black color indicates that the underlying cheese has been aged for a minimum of 17 weeks.

19 Queen’s milieu : DRAMA

The Ellery Queen series of detective novels was somewhat unique in that Ellery Queen was the hero of the tales, and was also the pen name of the author. Actually, the “author” was a pair of writers; two cousins from Brooklyn, New York.

We use the French term “milieu” (plural “milieux”) to mean “environment, surroundings”. In French, “milieu” is the word for “middle”.

25 “Knives Out” Golden Globe nominee de Armas : ANA

Ana de Armas is an actress from Cuba. Having attended the National Theater School of Cuba, she moved to Spain at the age of 18. Thre, she made a name for herself in a Spanish TV series called “El Internado”. De Armas moved to Los Angeles in 2014, after which her performance opposite Ryan Gosling in 2017’s “Blade Runner 2049” earned her critical acclaim.

“Knives Out” is an intriguing murder mystery film released in 2019. There’s a great cast including “Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette and Christopher Plummer. I really enjoyed this one, partly because it’s a clever, contemporary take on a classic whodunit movie …

26 Lansing-to-Flint dir. : ENE

Lansing, Michigan is unique among US state capitals in that it is not a county seat, even though it is located in Ingham County. Ingham County’s seat is Mason, Michigan.

Flint, Michigan is perhaps best known as the original home to General Motors (now headquartered in Detroit). The city of Flint takes its name from the Flint River on which it lies. The local Native Americans called the river, “River of Flint”, hence the name in English.

32 1960s chess champ Mikhail : TAL

Mikhail Tal truly was a chess legend. Tal holds the record for the longest unbeaten streak in competition chess. And the second longest winning streak? Well, that also was by Tal.

42 Kentucky coach with 876 victories : RUPP

Adolph Rupp was a very successful college basketball coach. A native of Kentucky, Rupp was a reserve player for the University of Kansas basketball team from 1919 to 1923, and then coached the University of Kentucky’s basketball team from 1930 to 1972.

46 __ avis : RARA

A rara avis is anything that is very rare. The Latin term “rara avis” translates as “rare bird”.

48 Mex. title : SRA

The equivalent of “Mrs.” in French is “Mme.” (Madame), in Spanish is “Sra.” (Señora) and in Portuguese is also “Sra.” (Senhora).

56 Carnival city : RIO

Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil (after São Paulo). “Rio de Janeiro” translates as “January River”. The name reflects the discovery of the bay on which Rio sits, on New Year’s Day in 1502.

The celebration of carnival comes right before the Lenten period in some Christian traditions. It is thought that carnival perhaps arose from the need to “eat and drink up” any excess food and drink before the beginning of Lent.

63 Polynesian language : MAORI

The Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. They are eastern Polynesian in origin and began arriving in New Zealand relatively recently, starting some time in the late 13th century. The word “māori” simply means “normal”, distinguishing mortal humans from spiritual entities. The Māori refer to New Zealand as “Aotearoa”.

The term “Polynesia” was coined in 1756 by author Charles de Brosses when he used it to describe all the islands in the Pacific. This usage was later restricted to what we now refer to as a subregion of Oceania.

64 Sitar music : RAGA

Raga isn’t really a genre of music, but has been described as the “tonal framework” in which Indian classical music is composed. Ravi Shankar was perhaps the most famous raga virtuoso (to us Westerners). Western rock music with a heavy Indian influence might be called raga rock.

The sitar has been around since the Middle Ages. It is a stringed instrument that is played by plucking, and is used most often in Hindustani classical music. In the West we have been exposed to the instrument largely through the performances of Ravi Shankar and some music by George Harrison of the Beatles, a onetime student of Shankar.

65 Yemen’s Gulf of __ : ADEN

The Gulf of Aden is the body of water that lies south of the Red Sea, and just north of the Horn of Africa.

70 Feet-first race : LUGE

A luge is a small sled used by one or two people, on which one lies face up and feet first. The luge can be compared to the skeleton, a sled for only one person and on which the rider lies face down and goes down the hill head-first. Yikes!

71 Video chat choice : SKYPE

The main feature of the Skype application when introduced was that it allows voice communication to take place over the Internet (aka VoIP). Skype has other features such as video conferencing and instant messaging, but the application made its name from voice communication. Skype was founded by two Scandinavian entrepreneurs and the software necessary was developed by a team of engineers in Estonia. The development project was originally called “Sky peer-to-peer” so the first commercial name for the application was “Skyper”. This had to be shortened to “Skype” because the skyper.com domain name was already in use.

73 MP3 player : IPOD

The iPod is Apple’s signature line of portable media players. The iPod first hit the market in 2001 with a hard drive-based device, now known as the iPod Classic. Later models all use flash memory, allowing a smaller form factor. The smallest of the flash-based models is the iPod Shuffle, which was introduced in 2005.

MP3 is an audio coding format, the most common format used for music stored on digital audio players. MP3 files are compressed and “lossy”, meaning that some audio information is lost when the file is generated. For this reason, MP3 files are about 1/11 of the size of the equivalent music files found on CD.

Down

1 Cream __ : ALE

A cream ale is an American beer that is similar to a pale lager, even though it truly is a top-fermented ale.

2 Fish that’s salted and dried to make bacalao : COD

“Bacalhau” is the Poruguese word for “cod”, and is a term used in cooking for dried and salted cod. The term for unsalted cold in the same cuisine is “bacalhau fresco” (fresh cod).

3 Like Pentatonix numbers : A CAPPELLA

“A cappella” music is sung without instruments accompanying. The name translates from Italian as “in the manner of the chapel”.

Pentatonix (sometimes “PTX”) is an a cappella group that was founded by school chums in Arlington, Texas. The group’s break came with a win in 2011 on the NBC reality show “The Sing-Off”.

4 Flying insect with prominent eyespots : IO MOTH

The Io moth is a colorful moth that is native to North America. It has a large spot on either wing that resembles an eye. The “eyes” work as a disguise, as the moth can look like the face of a mammal, and hence ward off potential moth predators.

6 Wind up on stage? : OBOE

The oboe is perhaps my favorite of the reed instruments. The name “oboe” comes from the French “hautbois” which means “high wood”.

9 Hapless sort : SAD SACK

The slang phrase “sad sack” is used for a person who bungles things, someone who is pathetically inept. The phrase was coined in the twenties but gained popularity during WWII when it was used by a cartoon character in the US Armed Forces magazine “Yank”. The term is probably a shortened form of the much ruder phrase “sad sack of ****”.

One’s hap is one’s luck. So, to be hapless is to be out of luck, unfortunate.

10 Ucayali River country : PERU

The Ucayali in Peru is the main river source for the mighty Amazon.

21 “The Caine Mutiny” novelist : WOUK

Herman Wouk won a Pulitzer in 1951 for his novel “The Caine Mutiny”. The story involves mutiny and court-martial aboard a US Navy vessel and reflected, at least partly, the personal experiences of Wouk as he served in the Pacific in WWII aboard a destroyer-minesweeper. The novel was adapted into a marvelous film released in 1954 starring Humphrey Bogart as Philip Queeg, the harsh captain of the USS Caine.

22 Paternity identifier : DNA

I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the DNA of living things is so very similar across different species. Human DNA is almost exactly the same for every individual (to the degree of 99.9%). However, those small differences are sufficient to distinguish one individual from another, and to determine whether or not individuals are close family relatives.

23 Web address letters : HTTP

“http” are the first letters in many Internet links. “http” stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol. More secure and “safer” websites (like this one!) use links starting with “https”, which stands for “http secure”).

24 Atheist activist Madalyn : O’HAIR

Madalyn Murray O’Hair was the president of the American Atheists organization from 1963 to 1986. She was the plaintiff in the lawsuit Murray v. Curlett that in 1963 led to the Supreme Court ruling that ended Bible-reading in American schools. Murray came to a sorry end, as she was kidnapped in 1995 and brutally murdered along with her son and granddaughter. The crime was committed by a co-worker at American Atheists.

29 “When We Were Kings” boxer : ALI

“When We Were Kings” is a documentary by Leon Gast that was released in 1996. It tells of the “Rumble in the Jumble” world heavyweight title fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman that took place in Zaire. That’s the fight with the famous “rope-a-dope” tactic that tired out Foreman, and perhaps launched his new career selling grills …

30 Pola of the silents : NEGRI

Pola Negri was a Polish actress, and the first star to be invited from Europe to develop a career in Hollywood. Most of her success came in the silent era, but she was able to make the transition to the talkies. Her off-screen life attracted the attention of the gossip columnists who rejoiced in her affairs with the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino.

35 Dressed to the nines : GUSSIED UP

To gussy up is to dress showily. The term “gussy” was a slang term that was used to describe an overly-dressed person.

The term “to the nines” means “to perfection”. The first person to use the term in literature was Robbie Burns. Apparently the idea behind the use of “nines” is figurative (pun!), with the number nine considered “ideal” as it is arrived at by multiplying three by three.

38 Uncommon sense : ESP

The so-called “sixth sense” is extrasensory perception (ESP).

40 Actor Holbrook : HAL

Hal Holbrook is an actor from Cleveland, Ohio. Although Holbrook is well known for many roles on the big and small screens, he is best known for a series of plays that he developed called “Mark Twain Tonight!”. Holbrook depicts Twain on stage giving recitations from several of Twain’s writings, varying the script for each performance. “Mark Twain Tonight!” was first performed in 1959, and Holbrook last portrayed Twain in the work in 2017, just before he retired at the age of 92. With well over 2,000 appearances in 58 years, Holbrook portrayed Twain longer than did Samuel Langhorne Clemens himself.

41 Amount past due? : TRE

“One, two, three” in Italian is “uno, due, tre”.

45 Wonder Woman, for one : HEROINE

Superhero Wonder Woman first appeared in print in 1941, in a publication from DC Comics. As she was created during WWII, Wonder Woman’s first foes were the axis powers. In the less realistic world her biggest foe was and still is Ares, a “baddie” named after the Greek mythological figure. Wonder Woman had several signature expressions, including “Merciful Minerva!”, “Suffering Sappho!” and “Great Hera!”. She also has several devices that she uses in her quest for justice, e.g. the Lasso of Truth, a pair of indestructible bracelets and a tiara that can be used as a deadly projectile. Wonder Woman uses the name “Diana Prince” when “out of uniform”.

52 High-pH compound : ALKALI

The “opposite” of an acid is a base. Acids turn litmus paper red, and bases turn it blue. Acids and bases react with each other to form salts. An important subset of the chemicals called bases are alkalis, hydroxides of the alkali metals and of ammonium. The term “alkali” is sometimes used interchangeably with “base”, especially if that base is readily soluble in water.

62 Candy __ : CANE

Apparently, candy canes were first created at the behest of the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral in Germany in 1672. The sweet sticks were basically used as bribes to keep children quiet during services. The choirmaster specified that the candy sticks should have a crook at the top so that they reminded the children of the three shepherds who visited the infant Jesus just after his birth.

67 Flanders who inspired the band Okilly Dokilly : NED

Ned Flanders lives next door to Homer Simpson on TV’s “The Simpsons”. Ned is voiced by actor Harry Shearer, and has been around since the very first episode aired in 1989.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Healthful berry : ACAI
5 Sommelier’s concern : NOSE
9 San Antonio cagers : SPURS
14 Bananas : LOCO
15 “… the __ blackness of the floors”: Poe : EBON
16 “The Fox and the Grapes” storyteller : AESOP
17 Dutch cheese : EDAM
18 Way to go : ROAD
19 Queen’s milieu : DRAMA
20 “That’s fine” : POWDERED SUGAR
23 Get going : HOP TO
25 “Knives Out” Golden Globe nominee de Armas : ANA
26 Lansing-to-Flint dir. : ENE
27 “That’s all folks” : THE HUMAN RACE
32 1960s chess champ Mikhail : TAL
33 Mustard family member : KALE
34 They’re tapped : KEGS
37 Bundle : PILE
39 On the money : RIGHT
42 Kentucky coach with 876 victories : RUPP
44 Foolhardy : RASH
46 __ avis : RARA
48 Mex. title : SRA
49 “That’s not the point” : PENCIL ERASER
53 Withdrawal site : ATM
56 Carnival city : RIO
57 Words before “so sue me” : I LIED …
58 “That’s rich” : CHOCOLATE CAKE
63 Polynesian language : MAORI
64 Sitar music : RAGA
65 Yemen’s Gulf of __ : ADEN
68 Conclude with : END ON
69 Indicator : SIGN
70 Feet-first race : LUGE
71 Video chat choice : SKYPE
72 “What __ is new?” : ELSE
73 MP3 player : IPOD

Down

1 Cream __ : ALE
2 Fish that’s salted and dried to make bacalao : COD
3 Like Pentatonix numbers : A CAPPELLA
4 Flying insect with prominent eyespots : IO MOTH
5 Bookish type : NERD
6 Wind up on stage? : OBOE
7 Fly like an eagle : SOAR
8 Win over : ENDEAR
9 Hapless sort : SAD SACK
10 Ucayali River country : PERU
11 Grammarian’s concern : USAGE
12 Type type : ROMAN
13 Just-in-case item : SPARE
21 “The Caine Mutiny” novelist : WOUK
22 Paternity identifier : DNA
23 Web address letters : HTTP
24 Atheist activist Madalyn : O’HAIR
28 Deface : MAR
29 “When We Were Kings” boxer : ALI
30 Pola of the silents : NEGRI
31 Poetic contraction : E’ER
35 Dressed to the nines : GUSSIED UP
36 Wild period : SPREE
38 Uncommon sense : ESP
40 Actor Holbrook : HAL
41 Amount past due? : TRE
43 Ranch bud : PARD
45 Wonder Woman, for one : HEROINE
47 Plot-driving song, perhaps : ARIA
50 Zilch : NIL
51 Rough around the edges : COARSE
52 High-pH compound : ALKALI
53 Summits : ACMES
54 “__ goodness” : THANK
55 Temperamental : MOODY
59 Edit for size, as a photo : CROP
60 Follow : TAIL
61 Confident juggler’s props : EGGS
62 Candy __ : CANE
66 It may need a boost : EGO
67 Flanders who inspired the band Okilly Dokilly : NED

15 thoughts on “LA Times Crossword 30 Jan 20, Thursday”

  1. Two of us just about DNF, but struggled on to completion. Never heard of iomoth, the human race just evaded me, didn’t know Negri, or Tal or Rupp. For a while, I thought Mustard family member might be referring to the game of Clue. Pretty sad. Cleverly constructed, though.

  2. In the solution section, incorrectly listed Rupp as coaching Kansas until he retired. He retired from the University of Kentucky, hence Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.

  3. A testy puzzle for me. Had to look up Sommelier and I never heard of an Io moth. It would have help if I knew “ACAI” was a berry.
    Over an hour with several mistakes.

    Eddie

  4. This puzzle had several hard spots for me. The iomoth, talk, Rupp and kale loused me up, took awhile. Good puzzle anyway.

  5. 8:24 today. I think IOMOTH got nearly all of us! Had to get that on crosses alone. Lots of proper names and puns in this one made it a little less fun than it might have been. The somewhat punny theme clues gave me less joy to figure out than they should have. And “amount past due” just made me groan when the answer appeared.

    Fun fact: kale, mustard, cabbage, kohlrabi, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and collard greens are all the same plant species… just different cultivars bred for different traits. They’re all “cruciferous” vegetables, and are super-healthy and may even help prevent cancer.

  6. Googled for TAL, SPURS, RUPP, basically sports.
    Didn’t actually know: ANA, ENE, Pentatonix, PERU, IO MOTH, KALE. Knew ACAI because ads are always pushing it.

  7. 25:24 no errors …..like everyone else I never heard of lomoth….I struggled with 3D until the light finally came on but still have no clue what Pentatonix is

  8. I got the moth part, but not the io. I think this is the moth with the big owl-like
    eyes on its wings that scare off predators. Looks like an owl to them.

    We got 91%, with just too many omissions and errors. Bill and Glenn’s times told me
    that it was a hard puzzle, but I found it fun and challenging.

  9. 16:18 and escaped error free… and it took luck the left middle gave me fits. A rather forced theme, to my eyes. I’ve seen lots of Thursday grids better than this one… but some worse, too. Meh.

  10. Did this at a leisurely pace while selling my honey at market. It went a little slowly, just filling in the easy answers at first, but at some point I was able to get all four theme answers in short order. Several tricky clues, but all in all fair. I had to wait for quite a few crosses and struggled with either nUPP or RUPP. I managed to guess right.

    Just had to change ENmEAR, with all the rest correct the first time. Queen’s milieu and TAL I got through crosses.

    1. Greetings!!🦆

      This was a slog for me. Had to cheat for OHAIR and TAL. Dirk– I had the same issue with RUPP vs NUPP! Did guess right. Not a bad puzzle, but some spots were kinda….forced? 🤔

      I really hate SKYPE!! I have two students via Skype now, and the resolution is so bad! And with one in particular it always freezes. Hard to hear. I much prefer facetime but you can’t use that to teach English!! Someone tells me there’s a way to attach my iPhone and use facetime on my desktop, and if there is I only hope it’s not too complicated.

      Be well ~~🍻

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