LA Times Crossword 19 Feb 20, Wednesday

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Constructed by: Roland Huget
Edited by: Rich Norris

Today’s Reveal Answer: Gear Shifts

Themed answers each include the letter sequence “GEAR”. That sequence SHIFTS by one letter as we progress down the grid:

  • 59A Automatic functions in most cars, and what can be found in this puzzle’s circles : GEARSHIFTS
  • 18A Region where broadcast reception may be poor : FRINGE AREA
  • 23A Progress at a faster rate : FORGE AHEAD
  • 37A Army rank last conferred in 1950 : FIVE-STAR GENERAL
  • 52A Riot control weapon : TEAR GAS GUN

Bill’s time: 7m 25s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

9 Nigerian seaport : LAGOS

Lagos is a port and the biggest city in Nigeria. Lagos used to be the country’s capital, until it was replaced in that role in 1991 by Abuja, a city built for just for this purpose. Lagos is also the most populous city in the whole of Africa (followed by Cairo in Egypt).

15 Pizza Quick sauce brand : RAGU

The Ragú brand of pasta sauce is owned by Unilever. The name ” Ragù” is the Italian word for a sauce used to dress pasta, however the spelling is off a little. In Italian the word is “Ragù” with a grave accent over the “u”, but if you look at a jar of the sauce on the supermarket shelf it is spelled “Ragú” on the label, with an acute accent. Sometimes I think we just don’t try …

17 First name in scat : ELLA

Ella Fitzgerald, the “First Lady of Song”, had a hard and tough upbringing. She was raised by her mother alone in Yonkers, New York. Her mother died while Ella was still a schoolgirl, and around that time the young girl became less interested in her education. She fell in with a bad crowd, even working as a lookout for a bordello and as a Mafia numbers runner. She ended up in reform school, from which she escaped, and found herself homeless and living on the streets for a while. Somehow Fitzgerald managed to get herself a spot singing in the Apollo Theater in Harlem. From there her career took off and as they say, the rest is history.

Scat singing is a vocal improvisation found in the world of jazz. There aren’t any words as such in scat singing, just random nonsense syllables made up on the spot.

22 Former Soviet leader Brezhnev : LEONID

Leonid Brezhnev was Soviet leader from 1964 until his death in 1982. Under Brezhnev, Soviet spending on the military grew to about 12.5% of the nation’s Gross National Product. This level of spending, without effective economic reform, led to the USSR’s “Era of Stagnation” that started in the mid-seventies. His large major political decision was to invade Afghanistan, a move that placed further strain on the fragile Soviet economy.

29 Navigation technology, briefly : GPS

The modern Global Positioning System (GPS) system that we use today was built by the US military who received the massive funding needed because of fears during the Cold War of the use of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. We civilians, all round the world, owe a lot to President Ronald Reagan because he directed the military to make GPS technology available to the public for the common good. President Reagan was moved to do so after the Soviet Union shot down KAL flight 007 carrying 269 people, just because the plane strayed accidentally into Soviet airspace.

30 Brooding genre : EMO

The emo musical genre originated in Washington D.C. in the 80s, and takes its name from “emotional hardcore”. “Emo” is also the name given to the associated subculture. Not my cup of tea …

31 “Spartacus” Oscar winner : USTINOV

Peter Ustinov was a fabulous actor from England. It has to be said though, he was multi-talented and I remember him as a great guest on the talk show circuit.

“Spartacus” is a famous 1960 historical drama directed by Stanley Kubrick. Based on a true story, the film tells the story of Spartacus and his role in the Third Servile War, the last of the unsuccessful slave rebellions of ancient Rome. Spartacus is played by Kirk Douglas, and indeed Douglas was very much the driving force behind making the movie. He had failed to win the title role in “Ben-Hur”, losing out to Charlton Heston. Douglas then decided to make a competing film, with a similar theme and setting. You judge which is best …

34 Bowler’s pickup : SPARE

In bowling, the downing of all ten pins in two balls in the same frame is called a spare, and scores ten points. The player gets a bonus, equal to the number of pins downed with the next ball, which could be up to ten. Hence, a spare can be worth up to 20 points

36 Amtrak express : ACELA

The Acela Express is the fastest train routinely running in the US, as it gets up to 150 mph at times. The service runs between Boston and Washington D.C. via Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. Introduced in 2000, the brand name “Acela” was created to evoke “acceleration” and “excellence”.

37 Army rank last conferred in 1950 : FIVE-STAR GENERAL

Omar Bradley graduated from West Point in the class of 1915, along with Dwight Eisenhower who also attained the rank of General of the Army. Bradley was the last person to hold the rank of a five-star commissioned officer, and he was the first general to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I was struck by a quotation from Bradley from later in his life:

Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than about peace, more about killing than we know about living.

42 Breakout game developer : ATARI

Breakout is an Atari arcade game that was released in 1976. Breakout is really like a more complex version of Pong, and involves destroying a layer of bricks in the top third of the screen using a “ball” that is “batted” against the brick wall. I wasted a few hours playing Breakout back in the day …

44 Sent a message, old-style : TELEXED

Telex grew out of the world of the telegraph. What Telex brought to telegraphy was the ability to route messages. Instead of having to talk to an operator to route a particular message to the intended party, the user of a telex could route the message directly to another telex machine by way of a rotary dial, one very similar to that on a telephone.

47 Rock’s Ocasek : RIC

Ric Ocasek was an American musician of Czech heritage. He was the lead vocalist of the rock band known as the Cars.

51 Thorn __, former Virgin Records owner : EMI

EMI was a British music company, with the initialism standing for Electric and Musical Industries.

52 Riot control weapon : TEAR GAS GUN

Technically speaking, tear gas is a lachrymatory agent. This means that it causes tearing (“lacrima” is Latin for “tear”).

55 Arizona MLBers : D-BACKS

The Arizona Diamondbacks (also “D-backs”) joined Major League Baseball’s National League in 1998. By winning the World Series in 2001, the Diamondbacks became the fastest expansion team to do so in Major League history.

65 Yule tune : NOEL

“Noël” is the French word for the Christmas season, and ultimately comes from the Latin word for “birth” (natalis). “Noel” has come to be used as an alternative for “Christmas carol”.

66 Saroyan’s “My Name Is __” : ARAM

“My Name is Aram” is a collection of tales by William Saroyan. All of the short stories are about a boy of Armenian descent growing up in Fresno, California.

67 Collaborative 1993 Sinatra album : DUETS

Frank Sinatra recorded the album “Duets” in 1993 and “Duets II” in 1994. Both of these marvelous sets of recordings featured Sinatra performing with another celebrity singer. However, some folks felt “conned” as the duets didn’t involve Sinatra and the second artist singing together. Instead, the tracks were made using vocal parts pre-recorded by Sinatra.

69 U. of Maryland athlete : TERP

The sports teams of the University of Maryland are called the Maryland Terrapins, or “the Terps” for short. The name dates back to 1932 when it was coined by the university’s president at the time, Curley Byrd. He took the name from the diamondback terrapins that are native to the Chesapeake Bay.

Down

1 Roald Dahl novel adapted as a 2016 Disney film : THE BFG

“The BFG” is a 1982 children’s book by Welsh author Roald Dahl. The initialism in the title stands for “Big Friendly Giant”. Dahl dedicated “The BFG” to his daughter Olivia, who had passed away at the age of 7 in 1962. Steven Spielberg made a 2016 movie adaptation of the book under the same title.

3 Gretzky’s first NHL team : OILERS

The National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers are so called because they are located in Alberta, Canada … oil country.

Wayne Gretzky is regarded by many as the greatest ever player of ice hockey, and indeed he has the nickname “The Great One”.

8 Capital near Glacier Bay National Park : JUNEAU

Given that it’s the capital of the vast state of Alaska, it is perhaps not surprising to learn that the municipality of Juneau is almost as big as the area of the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, and yet has only a population of about 31,000 people!

Glacier Bay in southeastern Alaska was declared a National Monument in 1925, and a National Park in 1980. UNESCO then declared the bay and surrounding area the largest UNESCO-protected biosphere in the world.

9 Property claim : LIEN

A lien is the right that one has to retain or secure someone’s property until a debt is paid. When an individual takes out a car loan, for example, the lending bank is usually a lien holder. The bank releases the lien on the car when the loan is paid in full.

10 Dark purple 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.

13 Briny expanse : SEA

The briny is the sea, with “brine” meaning “salty water”. The term “briny” was originally used for “tears”.

19 Neil Gaiman’s “American __” : GODS

“American Gods” is a 2001 fantasy novel by English author Neil Gaiman. The book has been adapted into a TV series, with the first season airing on Starz in 2017. It’s all about gods and mythological creatures in contemporary America. Not my cup of tea, although there is a leprechaun named Mad Sweeney in the mix …

21 Get rid of : DEEP-SIX

To deep-six something is to toss it, possibly overboard, or to completely destroy it. The derivation of this slang term is from “six feet deep”, not the length of a fathom but rather the traditional depth of a grave.

24 Latin 101 verb : AMAT

“Amo, amas, amat” translates from Latin as “I love, you love, he/she/it loves”.

25 Circle dance : HORA

The hora is a circle dance that originated in the Balkans. It was brought to Israel by Romanian settlers, and is often performed to traditional, Israeli folk songs. The hora (also horah) is a regular sight at Jewish weddings. Sometimes the honoree at an event is raised on a chair during the hora.

27 Cuba libre mixer : COLA

The cocktail known as a Cuba libre is basically a rum and Coke, although the traditional recipe also calls for a splash of lime juice.

32 Chemicals carrier : TANK CAR

A tank car is a railroad car designed specifically for the transportation of liquids and gases.

35 Get an “Oh no” from Alex Trebek, say : ERR

Alex Trebek has been the host of “Jeopardy!” since the syndicated version of the game show launched in 1984. Trebek has missed just one episode since then, when he and host of “Wheel of Fortune” Pat Sajak swapped roles in 1997 as an April Fool’s joke. In 2014, Trebek picked up the Guinness World Record for hosting the most episodes of a game show.

38 Tabloid couple : ITEM

An unmarried couple known to be involved with each other might appear in the gossip columns. This appearance as “an item” in the papers, led to the use of “item” to refer to such a couple, but only since the very early seventies.

“Tabloid” is the trademarked name (owned by Burroughs Wellcome) for a “small tablet of medicine”, a name that goes back to 1884. The word “tabloid” had entered into general use to mean a compressed form of anything, and by the early 1900s was used in “tabloid journalism”, which described newspapers that had short, condensed articles and stories printed on smaller sheets of paper.

39 Stamp, as a passport : VALIDATE

As a result of a League of Nations conference in 1920, passports are usually written in French and one other language. French was specified back then as it was deemed the language of diplomacy. US passports use French and English, given that English is the nation’s de facto national language. Spanish was added as a language for US passports in the late nineties, in recognition of Spanish-speaking Puerto Rico.

40 Teri of “Tootsie” : GARR

Actress Teri Garr had a whole host of minor roles in her youth, including appearances in nine Elvis movies. Garr’s big break came with the role of Inga in “Young Frankenstein”, and her supporting role in “Tootsie” earned Garr an Academy Award nomination. Sadly, Teri Garr suffers from multiple sclerosis. She is a National Ambassador for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“Tootsie” is a hilarious 1982 comedy starring Dustin Hoffman in the title role, a male actor who adopts a female identity in order to land an acting job. Jessica Lange won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in the film. “Tootsie” was also provided Geena Davis with her first movie role.

41 Vaping device, familiarly : E-CIG

An electronic cigarette (also called an “e-cigarette”) is a battery-powered device that resembles a real cigarette. The e-cigarette vaporizes a solution that contains nicotine, forming a vapor that resembles smoke. The vapor is inhaled in a process called “vaping”, delivering nicotine into the body. The assumption is that an e-cigarette is healthier than a regular cigarette as the inhaled vapor is less harmful than inhaled smoke. But, that may not be so …

46 Puck-handling skill : DEKING

A deke, also known as a dangle, is a technique used to get past an opponent in ice hockey. “Deke” is a colloquial shortening of the word “decoy”.

Before wooden and rubber pucks were introduced in the late 1800s, ice hockey was played with balls. The first rubber pucks were made by cutting down rubber balls into the shape of discs.

49 Instrument for The Romeros, a classical quartet : GUITAR

The Romeros are a classical and flamenco guitar quartet. The group was founded and led by Celedonio Romero in 1960, and originally included three of his sons: Ángel, Celin and Pepe.

56 Very dry, as Champagne : BRUT

Sparkling wines can be classified according to sweetness. These classifications are, from driest to sweetest:

  • Brut Nature
  • Extra Brut
  • Brut
  • Extra Dry
  • Dry
  • Semi-Dry
  • Sweet

57 Nile vipers : ASPS

The asp is a venomous snake found in the Nile region of Africa. It is so venomous that the asp was used in ancient Egypt and Greece as a means of execution. Cleopatra observed such executions noting that the venom brought on sleepiness without any painful spasms. When the great queen opted to commit suicide, the asp was therefore her chosen method.

59 H.S. dropout’s test : GED

The General Educational Development (GED) tests are a battery of four tests designed to demonstrate that a student has the academic skills of someone who has graduated from an American or Canadian high school.

60 __ de cologne : EAU

Back in 1709, an Italian perfume-maker moved to Cologne in Germany. There he invented a new fragrance that he named Eau de Cologne after his newly adopted town. The fragrance is still produced in Cologne, using a secret formulation. However, the terms “Eau de Cologne” and “cologne”, are now used generically.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Low poker pair : TWOS
5 Mus. key with three sharps : A MAJ
9 Nigerian seaport : LAGOS
14 Greet with fanfare : HAIL
15 Pizza Quick sauce brand : RAGU
16 “You’ve got a friend” : I CARE
17 First name in scat : ELLA
18 Region where broadcast reception may be poor : FRINGE AREA
20 Mix : BLEND
22 Former Soviet leader Brezhnev : LEONID
23 Progress at a faster rate : FORGE AHEAD
26 Prefix with tourism : ECO-
29 Navigation technology, briefly : GPS
30 Brooding genre : EMO
31 “Spartacus” Oscar winner : USTINOV
34 Bowler’s pickup : SPARE
36 Amtrak express : ACELA
37 Army rank last conferred in 1950 : FIVE-STAR GENERAL
42 Breakout game developer : ATARI
43 Pool triangles : RACKS
44 Sent a message, old-style : TELEXED
47 Rock’s Ocasek : RIC
48 Grow older : AGE
51 Thorn __, former Virgin Records owner : EMI
52 Riot control weapon : TEAR GAS GUN
55 Arizona MLBers : D-BACKS
58 Dig find : RELIC
59 Automatic functions in most cars, and what can be found in this puzzle’s circles : GEARSHIFTS
63 “Ciao!” : TA-TA!
64 Take in eagerly : EAT UP
65 Yule tune : NOEL
66 Saroyan’s “My Name Is __” : ARAM
67 Collaborative 1993 Sinatra album : DUETS
68 Looking like rain : GRAY
69 U. of Maryland athlete : TERP

Down

1 Roald Dahl novel adapted as a 2016 Disney film : THE BFG
2 Big hit : WALLOP
3 Gretzky’s first NHL team : OILERS
4 Word on the street? : SLANG
5 Canine greeting : ARF!
6 Tarnish : MAR
7 Like gymnasts : AGILE
8 Capital near Glacier Bay National Park : JUNEAU
9 Property claim : LIEN
10 Dark purple berry : ACAI
11 Plant custodian : GARDENER
12 Vein contents : ORE
13 Briny expanse : SEA
19 Neil Gaiman’s “American __” : GODS
21 Get rid of : DEEP-SIX
24 Latin 101 verb : AMAT
25 Circle dance : HORA
27 Cuba libre mixer : COLA
28 Racecourse shape : OVAL
32 Chemicals carrier : TANK CAR
33 Treats, as a sprain : ICES
34 Drought-plagued : SERE
35 Get an “Oh no” from Alex Trebek, say : ERR
37 Inevitable end : FATE
38 Tabloid couple : ITEM
39 Stamp, as a passport : VALIDATE
40 Teri of “Tootsie” : GARR
41 Vaping device, familiarly : E-CIG
45 Mark on metal : ETCH
46 Puck-handling skill : DEKING
48 Shining brightly : AGLARE
49 Instrument for The Romeros, a classical quartet : GUITAR
50 Pitch tents : ENCAMP
53 Regarding : AS FOR
54 Tuned to : SET AT
56 Very dry, as Champagne : BRUT
57 Nile vipers : ASPS
59 H.S. dropout’s test : GED
60 __ de cologne : EAU
61 Scone go-with : TEA
62 Surreptitious : SLY

17 thoughts on “LA Times Crossword 19 Feb 20, Wednesday”

  1. DNF. I was totally stumped in the left middle and gave up. All I could think of for sent a message old style was smoke signals or pony express or morse code. That whole area had my befuddled. I didn’t know they stopped having five star generals. Thought of backdate for the passport thing and couldn’t get beyond that. All in all, a very bad day for me. Duh.

  2. Today was a good one, didn’t know acouple so had to work around. 46d decking I never heard of, also 26a ico never heard that with tourism…… Sorry I said fibbing. I never slurred any person in particular. Just a feeling I had and that’s my opinion. Which we are allowed to voice.

    1. …and encamp…I’m tired of almost daily coming across answers that are words not in common use. Encamp isn’t as bad as aglare but still…

  3. The clue for a high school dropout’s test was in a previous puzzle. As a current GED instructor, I corrected the mistake made at that time and feel inclined to repeat my comment. To earn a GED a student must pass 4 tests not five. The tests are in social studies, science, math, and RLA (reasoning language arts).

  4. 6:07, which is not bad for me on a Wednesday, which surprised me… I felt really foggy and sluggish today, and I felt like I was going slow.

    The website I did this puzzle on didn’t put the four circles around GEAR in 18a “FRINGE AREA” … I wonder if that was a mistake or if some editor removed them because it’s not a “shifted” “gear.” In any event, it confused me a little which sometimes can slow me down mid-solve.

  5. Just read yesterdays comments. My, what a discussion, again, on the times people post. Guess we all have different talents and hone them over the years. We are not all “alpha” dogs.

    I only had a few problems today. Had no idea to the Saroyan’s reference so missed that. AND finally figured out the “five star” general clue. Way too much time on that. Otherwise and OK day.

  6. 0-to-finished in 8 minutes 20 sec, no “slippage”. Not enough to win a drag race, but I’ll take it for a Wednesday.

  7. Challenging. Had to Google the FIVE STAR part of FIVE STAR GENRAL; RIC; DBACKS and OILERS (both sports); and WHALLOP. In my family a WHALLOPing was a spanking.

    Didn’t actually know ATARI, TERP and DECKING (more sports), and TANK CAR. Would that be on a train?

    @Ken B – we also had an essay. Was that not separate? Or part of RLA?

  8. Hi folks!!🦆

    No errors, but …. AGLARE??!! OMG we have a winner for WORST “A-word” so far this year. Previous winners include AROAR and ABEAM….nice puzzle otherwise. 🤗 I also had FOUR STAR GENERAL before FIVE.

    @Charley, that GEAR wasn’t circled in mine either. Maybe some editions had it circled in error, and the problem was fixed in later versions?

    Ken, Jane– yes, when I taught GED Prep (from the late 90s to about 2005) there was an essay requirement. I wonder if that’s been dropped or subsumed into the RLA section. 🤔

    SPRING TRAINING STARTS TOMORROW!!!⚾️

    Be well ~~🍸

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