LA Times Crossword 15 May 20, Friday

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Constructed by: Jeffrey Wechsler
Edited by: Rich Norris

Today’s Theme (according to Bill): SS-ST

Themed answers are each common phrases in which an “SS” has been changed to an “ST”:

  • 16A Furniture maker’s designated stock of wood? : CHEST PIECES (from “chess pieces”)
  • 31A Accommodate Simba at one’s hotel? : TAKE A WILD GUEST (from “take a wild guess”)
  • 36A Foggy playground vista? : A SWING AND A MIST (from “a swing and a miss”)
  • 57A Shipment of nautical parts? : MAST TRANSIT (from “mass transit”)

Bill’s time: 11m 09s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1 911 pro : EMT

Emergency medical technician (EMT)

The first use of a national emergency phone number was in 1937 in the UK, where the number 999 was introduced to call emergency services. If you need emergency services in the UK or Ireland to this day, you have to dial 999. It’s not really clear why 911 became the emergency number in the US. The most credible suggestion (to me) is that when it was introduced by the FCC in 1967, it was a number that “fit” with the numbers already used by AT&T for free services (211-long distance; 411-information; 611-repair service).

4 Like a certain elevated plane : ASTRAL

Some believe that a person’s spirit inhabits the astral plane after dying, and before entering the spirit world.

16 Furniture maker’s designated stock of wood? : CHEST PIECES (from “chess pieces”)

It is believed that the game of chess originated in northwest India. It evolved from a 6th-century game called “chaturanga”, a Sanskrit word meaning “four divisions”. These four (military) divisions were represented in the game:

  • Infantry (now “pawns”)
  • Cavalry (now “knights”)
  • Elephants (now “bishops”)
  • Chariots (now “rooks”)

18 Bench press target : PEC

“Pecs” is the familiar name for the chest muscle, which is more correctly known as the pectoralis major muscle. “Pectus” is the Latin word for “breast, chest”.

19 Silent star of early talkies : HARPO

Harpo Marx was the second oldest of the Marx brothers. Harpo’s real name was Adolph, and he earned his nickname because he played the harp. Famously, Harpe didn’t speak on screen, a routine that he developed after reading a review that he performed really well when he just didn’t speak! He would usually whistle or toot a hand-held horn instead of speaking.

20 Like the Grinch : MEAN

The Grinch is the title character in Dr. Seuss’s 1957 children’s book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” He is a grouchy creature who lives as a hermit in a cave outside the town of Whoville. The Grinch’s only companion is his dog Max. Based on Seuss’s hero, we now use the term “grinch” for someone who is opposed to Christmas festivities or who is coarse and greedy in general.

21 “Sing it, Sam” speaker : ILSA

There is a famous exchange in the movie “Casablanca” that results in the piano player Sam singing “As Time Goes By”.

Ilsa: Play it once, Sam. For old times’ sake.
Sam: I don’t know what you mean, Miss Ilsa.
Ilsa: Play it, Sam. Play “As Time Goes By.”
Sam: Oh, I can’t remember it, Miss Ilsa. I’m a little rusty on it.
Ilsa: I’ll hum it for you. Da-dy-da-dy-da-dum, da-dy-da-dee-da-dum…
Ilsa: Sing it, Sam.

30 Indigenous Alaskan : ALEUT

The Aleuts live on the Aleutian Islands of the North Pacific, and on the Commander Islands at the western end of the same island chain. The Aleutian Islands are part of the United States, and the Commander Islands are in Russia.

31 Accommodate Simba at one’s hotel? : TAKE A WILD GUEST (from “take a wild guess”)

In the 1994 movie “The Lion King”, the protagonist is Simba, the lion cub born to Mufasa and Sarabi. The main antagonist is Scar, Simba’s uncle and Mufasa’s brother. Simba is voiced by Matthew Broderick, and Scar is voiced by Jeremy Irons.

35 What may float your boat : PONTOON

Pontoons are buoyancy tanks, empty spaces that help keep vessels afloat. So, the hulls of catamarans and trimarans are pontoons, as are the floats that act as landing gear on float planes.

44 __ Speedwagon : REO

REO Speedwagon is an American rock band that formed in 1967, and is still going strong. The band’s biggest hits are “Keep On Loving You” (1980) and “Can’t Fight This Feeling” (1985). The founding members chose the name for the REO Speed Wagon flatbed truck. Note that the band’s name is one word “Speedwagon”, whereas the vehicle’s name uses two words “Speed Wagon”.

49 Rant : TIRADE

The term “tirade” describes a long and vehement speech, and is a word that came into English from French. “Tirade” can have the same meaning in French, but is also the word for “volley”. So, a tirade is a “volley” of words.

51 Bard’s “Bummer!” : ALAS!

The original bards were storytellers, poets and composers of music in medieval Britain and Ireland, with the term coming from the Old Celtic word “bardos” that described a poet or singer. I guess the most famous bard was William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon.

55 1492 vessel : PINTA

Famously, Christopher Columbus used three ships in his first voyage across the Atlantic: the Santa Maria, the Niña and the Pinta. The Pinta was the fastest of the three, and it was from the Pinta that the New World was first spotted by a sailor named Rodrigo de Triana who was a lookout on the fateful day. Pinta was a nickname for the ship that translated as “the painted one”. The Pinta’s real name has been lost in the mists of time.

56 Brand “choosy moms choose,” in ads : JIF

Jif is the leading brand of peanut butter in the US, and has been since 1981. Introduced in 1958, Jif is now produced by Smuckers.

61 Professional org. since 1847 : AMA

American Medical Association (AMA)

62 Old Glory hue : RED

The person who coined the phrase “Old Glory” with reference to the American flag was Captain William Driver, a shipmaster from Salem, Massachusetts. As Driver was leaving on an 1831 voyage aboard the brig Charles Doggett, he unfurled the American flag that he had just been given by a group of friends. As the flag caught the breeze, he uttered the words, “Old Glory!”. That’s the story anyway. On that same voyage, Charles Doggett rescued the famous mutineers of the HMS Bounty, after he encountered them on Pitcairn Island.

63 First word of Dorothy’s last line in Oz : THERE’S …

At the end of the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz”, Dorothy discovers that in order to get home, all she has to do is click the heels of her ruby slippers together and say the words “There’s no place like home”.

Down

2 1966 self-titled gospel album : MAHALIA

Mahalia Jackson was an African-American gospel singer who was known as the first Queen of Gospel Music. She recorded many records, including 12 that went gold, i.e. sold more than a million copies each.

3 Emotionally stressed, after “on” : … THE RACK

The rack is a horrible device, an instrument of torture.

4 Swiss peak : ALP

There are eight Alpine countries:

  • Austria
  • Slovenia
  • France
  • Switzerland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Germany
  • Monaco
  • Italy

9 “__ Misérables” : LES

Victor Hugo’s famous 1862 novel “Les Misérables” has been translated into English several times. However, the title is usually left in the original French as a successful translation of “les misérables” seems to be elusive. Some suggestions for an English title are “The Wretched”, “The Victims” and “The Dispossessed”. The novel follows the lives of several characters including an ex-convict Jean Valjean, a fanatic police inspector Javert, a beautiful prostitute Fantine, and Fantine’s illegitimate daughter Cosette.

10 Submits one’s résumé : APPLIES

A résumé is a summary of a person’s job experience and education and is used as a tool by a job seeker. In many countries, a résumé is equivalent to a curriculum vitae. “Résumé” is the French word for “summary”.

11 Wanes : DIES OUT

The verbs “to wax” and “to wane” come from Old English. To wax is to increase gradually in size, strength, intensity or number. To wane is to decrease gradually.

14 Quark place : ATOM

Quarks are elementary atomic particles that combine to make composite particles called “hadrons”. I’m really only familiar with the really stable hadrons i.e. protons and neutrons. There are six types of quarks (referred to as “flavors”). These flavors are up, down, strange, charm, bottom and top. The term “quark” was borrowed from James Joyce’s book “Finnegans Wake”, by physicist Murray Gell-Mann. However, the word coined by Joyce is pronounced “kwark”, and the particle’s name is pronounced “kwork”.

21 Alcatraz, for one : ISLE

Alcatraz Island is located just a mile offshore from San Francisco in San Francisco Bay. Famously, it is home to an abandoned federal prison that operated from 1934 until 1963. Spanish naval officer Juan de Ayala entered San Francisco Bay in 1775, and charted the area. He named one of the islands in the bay “La Isla de los Alcatraces”, meaning “The Island of the Gannets”. Somehow, this “Alcatraces” evolved into “Alcatraz”, which is an archaic Spanish word meaning “pelican”.

25 Spa amenity : SAUNA

As my Finnish-American wife will tell you, “sauna” is a Finnish word, and is pronounced more correctly as “sow-nah” (with “sow” as in the female pig).

34 Title character who is never onstage : GODOT

“Waiting for Godot” is a play by novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett that premiered in 1953. Irishman Beckett actually wrote the piece in French, under the title “En attendant Godot”. He then translated the play into English himself.

36 Delta, for one : AIRLINE

Delta was the world’s largest airline for a while (after merging with Northwest Airlines in 2008) and is also the oldest airline still operating in the US. Delta’s roots go back to 1924 before it started carrying passengers and was called Huff Daland Dusters, a crop-dusting company based in Macon, Georgia. The name “Delta Air Service” was introduced in 1928.

37 Fired on from above : STRAFED

We’ve been using “strafe” to mean an attack on a ground position from low-flying aircraft since WWII. Prior to that, the word was used by British soldiers to mean any form of attack. It was picked up from the German word for “punish” as it was used in “Gott strafe England” meaning, “May God punish England”.

38 Units for gamers : WIIS

Introduced in 2006, Nintendo’s Wii quickly became the biggest-selling game console in the world.

39 County including the Muir Woods sequoias : MARIN

When you leave the city of San Francisco via the famous Golden Gate Bridge (i.e. heading north), you cross into Marin County.

Muir Woods is a National Monument located not too far from here, just north of San Francisco. It is home to enormous old-growth Coast Redwood trees. The land was declared a National Monument in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. The name “Muir Woods” was chosen in honor of the naturalist John Muir.

43 Key of two Beethoven symphonies : F MAJOR

Ludwig van Beethoven wrote his magnificent Symphony No. 6 (The Pastoral) in the key of F major. He then wrote his shorter Symphony No. 8 in the same key, and referred to it as “my little symphony in F”.

47 Baskerville Hall landscape : HEATH

“The Hound of the Baskervilles” is one of four “Sherlock Holmes” novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, regarded by many fans as the best of the series. “The Hound …” tells of a murder attempt on Dartmoor in Devon, England that is disguised as the act of a legendary supernatural hound. The novel also marks Doyle’s revival of his Sherlock Holmes character after he “killed him off” eight years earlier in a story called “The Final Solution”.

48 “Things sweet to __ prove in digestion sour”: “Richard II” : TASTE

“The Life and Death of King Richard the Second” (usually just “Richard II”) is a play by William Shakespeare that explores the final two years of the life of King Richard II of England. Richard II ruled from 1377 to 1399, and Shakespeare wrote his play around 1595.

50 Air 2 or Pro : IPAD

The groundbreaking iPad was introduced by Apple in 2010. The iOS-based iPads dominated the market for tablet computers until 2013, when Android-based tablets (manufactured by several companies) took over the number-one spot.

54 To be, in Bordeaux : ETRE

Bordeaux is perhaps the wine-production capital of the world. Wine has been produced in the area since the eighth century. Bordeaux has an administrative history too. During WWII, the French government relocated from Paris to the port city of Bordeaux when it became clear that Paris was soon to fall to the Germans. After the Germans took France, the capital was famously moved to Vichy.

57 Calisthenics aid : MAT

Calisthenics are gymnastic exercises designed to promote physical health. The term “calisthenics” comes from the Greek “kallos” meaning “beauty” and “sthenos” meaning strength.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 911 pro : EMT
4 Like a certain elevated plane : ASTRAL
10 Tack on : ADD
13 “Ain’t interested” : NAH
14 Present and accounted for : ALL HERE
15 Word with honey or mud : … PIE
16 Furniture maker’s designated stock of wood? : CHEST PIECES (from “chess pieces”)
18 Bench press target : PEC
19 Silent star of early talkies : HARPO
20 Like the Grinch : MEAN
21 “Sing it, Sam” speaker : ILSA
22 Frightens : ALARMS
24 Cherished activity : PASSION
26 “Well-played!” : NICE!
27 Notable period : ERA
30 Indigenous Alaskan : ALEUT
31 Accommodate Simba at one’s hotel? : TAKE A WILD GUEST (from “take a wild guess”)
35 What may float your boat : PONTOON
36 Foggy playground vista? : A SWING AND A MIST (from “a swing and a miss”)
43 Be compatible : FIT IN
44 __ Speedwagon : REO
45 Rent-__ : A-CAR
46 A real keeper, romantically : MR RIGHT
49 Rant : TIRADE
51 Bard’s “Bummer!” : ALAS!
52 Lack of impediments : EASE
55 1492 vessel : PINTA
56 Brand “choosy moms choose,” in ads : JIF
57 Shipment of nautical parts? : MAST TRANSIT (from “mass transit”)
59 Gender-neutral pronoun : ONE
60 Not naked : ATTIRED
61 Professional org. since 1847 : AMA
62 Old Glory hue : RED
63 First word of Dorothy’s last line in Oz : THERE’S …
64 “I’m interested” : YES

Down

1 Fascinate : ENCHANT
2 1966 self-titled gospel album : MAHALIA
3 Emotionally stressed, after “on” : … THE RACK
4 Swiss peak : ALP
5 Poor, as odds : SLIM
6 What you might be in the Bible? : THEE
7 Summary : RECAP
8 Place for games : ARENA
9 “__ Misérables” : LES
10 Submits one’s résumé : APPLIES
11 Wanes : DIES OUT
12 Pour into a carafe : DECANT
14 Quark place : ATOM
17 Binge : SPREE
21 Alcatraz, for one : ISLE
23 Affix, as a shoulder patch : SEW ON
25 Spa amenity : SAUNA
28 One may be given at a 29-Down : RING
29 See 28-Down : ALTAR
32 Acting like : APING
33 “Ta-da!” : DONE!
34 Title character who is never onstage : GODOT
36 Delta, for one : AIRLINE
37 Fired on from above : STRAFED
38 Units for gamers : WIIS
39 County including the Muir Woods sequoias : MARIN
40 “They’ve authorized me to report … ” : I CAN SAY …
41 Period of mourning, e.g. : SAD TIME
42 Regard to be : TREAT AS
43 Key of two Beethoven symphonies : F MAJOR
47 Baskerville Hall landscape : HEATH
48 “Things sweet to __ prove in digestion sour”: “Richard II” : TASTE
50 Air 2 or Pro : IPAD
53 Move a bit : STIR
54 To be, in Bordeaux : ETRE
57 Calisthenics aid : MAT
58 High-__ image : RES

19 thoughts on “LA Times Crossword 15 May 20, Friday”

  1. No errors yippee… After a treacherous thursday,.. I feel better.. But it didn’t seem very tough. Especially for a Wechsler!!

    I definitely never heard the phrase “On THE RACK”.. What the heck is that??

    Be safe.

  2. 6 write-overs, yuck. (INUIT/ALEUT, IPOD/IPAD, YEP/YES). 80 minutes – maybe I should slow down a bit, to avoid jumping the gun?

    I think “on the rack” is referring to the torture device, but I agree that it would be rarely used in the clue’s context.

  3. Hard one for me; it didn’t come together until I finally used “airline”
    for Delta. I knew the setter was substituting t’s for s, but 31a had me
    stumped for a long time. Mainly because I first thought “salon” for
    spa amenity. Changing it to sauna was the key for me.

  4. 14:19, no errors. I also had SALON before SAUNA and paused over THE RACK. I also had BEE before PIE (“honey bee” … and “mud bee”? … made sense to me … 🐝).

    My recent long walks, here in Colorado, have been made more interesting by a decision to collect bags of trash and dispose of them (a feeble attempt to make myself feel useful) and by encounters with a couple of very large snakes – a gopher snake and a bull snake – both of which were rather ornery (though we parted amicably).

    Bull snakes have evolved a very interesting characteristic: they often pretend to be rattlesnakes – complete with a rattling sound, which they make in a different way, since their tails are not equipped for it. (This probably worked well for them before the advent of ill-informed humans carrying guns.)

    Fascinating creatures … 😜

    1. Good for you A Nonny Muss for picking up trash. When I think of Colorado, I think of a place that is pristine. Or at least a place that should be.

  5. 23:16, no errors. Worst puzzle published by the LAT in the last 3 months (oddly following up the WSJ’s worst effort in that time frame yesterday). Root phrase of 31A is very apt for this, as I finally WAGed my way through this for all the poorly-formed nonsensical language.

    1. Hmm. Yesterday’s WSJ: 21:47, no errors, and I wrote on it “Surprisingly difficult!” (but I enjoyed it a lot).

      As is so often the case, our reactions to these two puzzles are polar opposites.

      IMO, puzzles are meant to be puzzling. Language that would not be acceptable in an ordinary piece of prose (which is meant to clearly communicate or explain something) is the norm in difficult puzzles. The task of the solver is to grok what the setter was getting at and to make sense out of it. When I review the two puzzles you mentioned, I see nothing that didn’t eventually make perfect sense (albeit rather whimsically, in the case of some theme answers).

  6. After miscounting the number of themed answers, I discovered that the phrase “three-groan theme” twists my tongue something awful. Then I took a look at today’s post and realized there were four themed answers. Finished with no errors, but did need to change GARBO to HARPO. I don’t think I’ll ever use an ink pen for crosswords; much too stressful for me.

  7. This was a fun one. I did flunk out in the NW however. Just couldn’t get a grip on it for some reason. Wanted to use (3D) “on THE EDGE” rather than “on the rack. I’ve never heard that phrase before.

  8. 14 mins 28 sec, no errors. Yeah, that clue for ON THE RACK was pretty poor. Smacks of finding the least-used definition (or Merriam-Webster, which seems to be the ultimate dictionary for documenting “misuse” of words)…

  9. A good, make’em work Friday puzzle.
    I had POT for PIE for awhile. Winnie the Pooh had honey pots, and Yellowstone NP has hundreds of mud pots.
    Also had Garbo and Salon for awhile.

  10. HAd to Google for PONTOON, MAST TRANSIT and MAHALIA. I thought a PONTOON was a boat, not something that floats a boat.
    Didn’t finish yesterday’s.
    @Kay – on the RACK like the Spanish inquisition.

  11. We probably had our best Friday ever. 3 posting errors and 13 blank squares
    for what we call 92% solved. Looks a bit puny after reading the comments. But,
    excellent for us on a Friday.

    Did not know that Harpo was a “star” in silent movies. I always liked Groucho.

    Missed two of the long puns and that was a disappointment. But, very satisfied
    after yesterday’s bummer.

    Stay safe, all. I solved the Jumble and am starting the Wonderword. Onward to
    Monday and I hope it and Tuesday’s are both easy, like 100% doable.

  12. Moderately difficult Friday for me; took 44 minutes with no errors. I kept on getting stuck and started dozing off about 2/3 of the way through. I got a bowl of cracker jacks and just started putting in what made sense. Had to change ImAc to IPAD and …MISs to …MIST. Never heard of MAHALIA and that held me up for quite a while; just went with the crosses that made sense. Finally figured out the theme on the baseball clue, which made quick work of the rest.

    @Bill – So quark is pronounced ‘kwork’. That’s news to me; I’ve always pronounced it ‘kwark’. I just checked https://www.thefreedictionary.com/quark
    which has a little speaker that you can click on and they seem to think it’s ‘kwark’ as well.

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