LA Times Crossword 24 Sep 20, Thursday

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Constructed by: Debbie Ellerin
Edited by: Rich Norris

Today’s Reveal Answer: Fast Break

The grid includes four rows with synonyms of “FAST”, with those synonyms BROKEN into two by a black square:

  • 58A Basketball tactic … and a hint to four puzzle rows : FAST BREAK
  • 17A Ado : KERFUFFLE
  • 19A Hunt in “Mission: Impossible” films : ETHAN (giving “FLE/ET”)
  • 25A Unit in an improvisational parlor game : MAD LIB
  • 27A Word in a con man’s pitch : RISK-FREE (giving “B/RISK”)
  • 37A Former Postal Service mascot : MR ZIP
  • 38A Ones drawn to flames, briefly : PYROS (giving “ZIP/PY”)
  • 48A Dryer component : LINT TRAP
  • 50A Brainstorm : IDEATE (giving “RAP/ID”)

Read on, or jump to …
… a complete list of answers

Bill’s time: 6m 15s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1 Espionage name : MATA

“Mata Hari” was the stage name used by Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, born in the Netherlands in 1876. After an unsuccessful and somewhat tragic marriage, Zella moved to Paris in 1903 where she struggled to make a living. By 1905 she was working as an exotic dancer and using the name Mata Hari. She was a successful courtesan, notably moving in various circles of high-ranking military officers. She apparently worked as a double agent, both for the French and the Germans. When Mata Hari was accused by the French of passing information to the enemy, she was tried, found guilty and executed by firing squad at the height of WW1, in 1917.

9 Old Faithful output : STEAM

Old Faithful is a geyser in Yellowstone National Park. It erupts almost every 63 minutes on the nose, making it one of the most predictable geographic features on the planet. It was this predictability that led to the name “Old Faithful”. In the early days of Yellowstone’s existence as a park, the geyser was used as a laundry. Dirty linen clothing was placed in the geyser’s crater during the quiet period. The clothing was ejected during the eruption, thoroughly washed.

15 Virologist Yvonne who worked with Epstein : BARR

The virologists Michael Anthony Epstein and Yvonne Barr discovered what’s now called the Epstein-Barr virus. It is in the herpes family and is one of the most common viruses found in humans. Epstein-Barr causes glandular fever, and is associated with some forms of cancer.

17 Ado : KERFUFFLE

“Kerfuffle” comes from the Scottish “curfuffle”, with both words meaning “disruption”.

19 Hunt in “Mission: Impossible” films : ETHAN

It was Tom Cruise’s idea to adapt the “Mission: Impossible” television series for the big screen, and it became the first project for Cruise’s own production company. Tom Cruise took on the starring role of Ethan Hunt, the point man for the Impossible Missions Force (IMF).

20 H, to Hercules : ETA

Eta is the seventh letter of the Greek alphabet, and is a forerunner of our Latin character “H”. Originally denoting a consonant, eta was used as a long vowel in Ancient Greek.

21 NE player, to fans : PAT

The New England Patriots football team was founded in 1959 as the Boston Patriots. The “Patriots” name was selected from suggestions made by football fans in Boston. The team played at several different stadiums in the Boston area for just over ten years, before moving to their current home base in Foxborough, Massachusetts. At the time of the move, the “Boston” name was dropped and changed to “New England”.

The geographical region of New England comprises the six northeastern states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The name “New England” was given to the region by English explorer John Smith in 1616.

22 Very start? : VEE

The word “very” starts with a letter V (vee).

24 Trial fig. : ATT

Attorney (att.)

25 Unit in an improvisational parlor game : MAD LIB

Mad Libs is a word game, one mostly played by children in America. The idea is that one player provides a list of words which are then inserted into blank spots in a story, usually with hilarious results (they say!).

29 Foil alternative : EPEE

There are three fencing events in the modern Olympics, with each distinguished by the weapon used:

  • Foil
  • Épée
  • Sabre

30 Goofy images? : CELS

Disney’s Goofy first appeared as Dippy Dawg in 1932. Goofy became famous for his “How to …” series of cartoons in the 1940s which dealt with everything from snow skiing to sleeping, and from football to riding a horse. Goofy’s last theatrical appearance was in a 2007 work called “How to Hook Up Your Home Theater”.

32 Subtle vibes : AURAS

An aura (plural “aurae”) is an intangible quality that surrounds a person or thing, a “je ne sais quoi”. “Je ne sais quoi” is French for “I don’t know what”.

37 Former Postal Service mascot : MR ZIP

Mr. ZIP is a mascot that was used by the US Post Office in the sixties and seventies. Mr. ZIP’s mission was to encourage the public to use ZIP codes when mailing letters and packages.

38 Ones drawn to flames, briefly : PYROS

“Pyro-” is the combining form of the Greek word for “fire”. “Pyrotechnics” is the art of making and using fireworks. “Pyromania” is a strong desire to light fires.

39 Indira’s son : RAJIV

Rajiv Gandhi was the oldest son of Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India who was assassinated. Rajiv took over the office of PM when his mother was killed in 1984. In the election that followed soon after the assassination, Rajiv Gandhi led his Congress Party to victory with the biggest margin in Indian history, capturing 411 seats out of 542, an incredible majority. He remained in power until he too was killed, by a suicide bomber while on the campaign trail in 1991.

41 British general at the Battle of Bunker Hill : GAGE

Thomas Gage was a British general who fought in the early days of the American War of Independence. It was General Gage who was in charge of the victorious forces in the Battle of Bunker Hill. However, the “victory” resulted in such huge losses for the British that Gage was recalled and dismissed from office.

The Battle of Bunker Hill was a victory for the British early in the American War of Independence, although the British losses were so large that it emboldened the inexperienced colonial militiamen who were up against regular army troops. The battle was named for nearby Bunker Hill located close to Charlestown, Massachusetts, although almost all of the combat took place on Breed’s Hill.

42 Obi-Wan portrayer : EWAN

Ewan McGregor is a very talented Scottish actor, one who got his break in the 1996 film “Trainspotting”. McGregor’s first big Hollywood role was playing the young Obi-Wan-Kenobi in the “Star Wars” prequels. Less known is his televised marathon motorcycle journey from London to New York via central Europe, Ukraine, Siberia, Mongolia and Canada. The 2004 trip was shown as “Long Way Round” on TV. McGregor did a similar trip in 2007 called “Long Way Down”, which took him and the same travelling companion from the north of Scotland to Cape Town in South Africa.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is one of the more beloved of the “Star Wars” characters. Kenobi was portrayed by two fabulous actors in the series of films. As a young man he is played by Scottish actor Ewan McGregor, and as an older man he is played by Alec Guinness.

48 Dryer component : LINT TRAP

“Lint”, meaning “fluff”, is one of those terms that I had to learn when I moved to the US. We call the same thing “fuzz” on the other side of the Atlantic.

52 “Double Fantasy” artist : ONO

“Double Fantasy” is an album released by John Lennon and Yoko Ono on 17 November 1980. Three weeks later, John Lennon was gunned down by Mark Chapman outside Lennon’s apartment building in New York City.

53 Klutz : OAF

A klutz is an awkward individual, with the term “klutz” coming from Yiddish. The Yiddish word for a clumsy person is “klots”.

54 California’s Santa __ River : ANA

The Santa Ana River rises in the San Bernardino Mountains and empties into the Pacific Ocean 96 miles downstream. The Santa Ana is the largest river in Southern California.

55 PreCheck org. : TSA

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) operates its precheck program known as “TSA Pre✓” (or “TSA PreCheck”). Members of the program receive expedited screening at airports at most airports. In order to become a member, a traveler must apply online, appear in person at a designated office for a background check and fingerprinting, and pay a fee for a 5-year membership.

64 Hindu sage : SWAMI

A swami is a religious teacher in the Hindu tradition. The word “swami” can also mean “husband” in the Bengali and Malay languages.

65 First Best Actor Jannings : EMIL

Emil Jannings was an actor from Switzerland who also held German and Austrian citizenship. Jannings was the first person to receive an Oscar, as the star of the 1928 silent movie called “The Last Command”. He also starred opposite Marlene Dietrich in the 1930 classic “The Blue Angel”.

Down

3 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.

4 DOJ branch : ATF

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) today is part of the Department of Justice (DOJ). The ATF has its roots in the Department of Treasury dating back to 1886 when it was known as the Bureau of Prohibition. “Explosives” was added to the ATF’s name when the bureau was moved under the Department of Justice (DOJ) as part of the reorganization called for in the Homeland Security Act of 2002.

5 BBC sitcom : ABFAB

“Absolutely Fabulous” (sometimes shortened to “AbFab”) is a cult-classic sitcom produced by the BBC. The two stars of the show are Jennifer Saunders (Edina Monsoon) and Joanna Lumley (Patsy Stone). “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” hit the screens in 2016. I haven’t seen it yet, but my wife did and really enjoyed it. She said that there’s a veritable cavalcade of British stars that make an appearance …

7 Offline, briefly : IRL

In real life (IRL)

8 Austin Powers’ nemesis : DR EVIL

Dr. Evil is a character played by Mike Myers in the “Austin Powers” series of movies. The character lampoons various James Bond villains, just as Austin Powers lampoons James Bond himself.

10 Skin pic : TAT

The word “tattoo” (often shortened to “tat”) was first used in English in the writings of the famous English explorer Captain Cook. In his descriptions of the indelible marks adorning the skin of Polynesian natives, Cook anglicized the Tahitian word “tatau” into our “tattoo”. Tattoos are sometimes referred to as “ink”.

11 “Pollock” star : ED HARRIS

Ed Harris is a very talented actor, noted for two great performances in movies about the Space Program. Harris played John Glenn in “The Right Stuff” in 1983, his “breakthrough” role. Twelve years later he had a “stellar” performance as flight director Gene Kranz in “Apollo 13”.

“Pollock” is a biographical film about American artist Jackson Pollock that was released in 2000. Ed Harris played Pollock, and he also directed the movie. Indeed, this was a very personal project for Harris, as he wanted to make the film after reading a biography about Pollock some ten years earlier.

12 Adolescent support group : ALATEEN

Al-Anon and Alateen are fellowships for relatives and friends of alcoholics. Alateen specifically supports teens who are affected by another’s drinking, whereas Al-Anon focuses on people of all ages.

13 Protégé : MENTEE

A mentor is a trusted teacher or counselor. The term comes from Homer’s “Odyssey” in which there is a character called Mentor. Mentor is a friend of Odysseus, although he is a relatively ineffective old man. However, the goddess Athena takes on Mentor’s appearance in order to guide Odysseus’s young son Telemachus through difficult times.

18 News initials : UPI

Founded in 1958, United Press International (UPI) used to be one of the biggest news agencies in the world, sending out news by wire to the major newspapers. UPI ran into trouble with the change in media formats at the end of the twentieth century and lost many of its clients as the afternoon newspapers shut down due to the advent of television news. UPI, which once employed thousands, still exists today but with just a fraction of that workforce.

23 Bacon products : ESSAYS

The English philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon wrote a celebrated and respected collection of essays called “The Essayes”, first published in 1597. My favorite of these essays is “Of Simulation and Dissimulation”, which observes

Dissimulation, in the negative; when a man lets fall signs and arguments, that he is not, that he is… Simulation, in the affirmative; when a man industriously and expressly feigns and pretends to be, that he is not.

26 VIP travel option : LEARJET

Learjet is a company making business jets that was founded in 1960 by William Powell Lear. The original Learjet was a modified Swiss ground-attack fighter aircraft.

28 IA city on U.S. 20 : FT DODGE

Fort Dodge, Iowa is named after the original fort built by soldiers in 1850, at the junction of the Des Moines River and Lizard Creek.

33 Action film weapon : UZI

The first Uzi submachine gun was designed in the late 1940s by Major Uziel “Uzi” Gal of the Israel Defense Forces, who gave his name to the gun.

34 Only unanimous Baseball Hall of Fame electee : RIVERA

Mariano Rivera is a professional baseball pitcher from Panama City. Rivera played for the New York Yankees from 1995 until his retirement at the end of the 2013 season. Rivera holds the league record for the most career saves (at 652). He is known by the nicknames “Mo” and “Sandman”. In 2019, Rivera became the first player elected unanimously to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

36 Dr. of rap : DRE

“Dr. Dre” is the stage name of rapper Andre Romelle Young. Dr. Dre is known for his own singing career as well as for producing records and starting the careers of others such as Snoop Dogg, Eminem and 50 Cent.

37 Official flower of two Southern states : MAGNOLIA

The magnolia is the state flower of both Louisiana and Mississippi.

38 “Cherry Garcia” is one : PUN

Here are some of my favorite puns:

  • A man died today when a pile of books fell on him. He only had his shelf to blame.
  • I hate negative numbers and will stop at nothing to avoid them.
  • I wasn’t going to get a brain transplant, but then I changed my mind.
  • I should have been sad when my flashlight batteries died, but I was delighted.

Ben & Jerry’s introduced the Cherry Garcia flavor of ice cream in 1987. The flavor is named after Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.

39 Path to the gold, so they say : RAINBOW

A leprechaun is a mischievous fairy of Irish folklore. Traditionally, leprechauns spend their days making shoes and hide all their money in a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Our word “leprechaun” comes from the Irish name for such a sprite, i.e. “leipreachán”.

40 Waze feature : MAP

Waze is a navigation app that is similar to Google Maps and Apple Maps. Waze was developed in Israel, and was acquired by Google in 2013.

43 Equivocate : WAFFLE

The verb “to equivocate” comes from the Latin “aequus” meaning “equal” and “vocare” meaning “to call”. So, to equivocate is “to call equally”, and is used in the sense of giving equal emphasis to two sides of an argument, to be non-committal, to hedge, to equivocate. So, something described as “unequivocal” is the opposite, is unambiguous and clear.

49 Upper bodies : TORSI

“Torso” (plural “torsi”) is an Italian word meaning the “trunk of a statue”, and is a term that we imported into English.

50 Recon mission goal : INTEL

A “recon” (reconnaissance) might provide “intel” (intelligence).

54 Vino venue : ASTI

Asti is in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy. It is perhaps most famous for its Asti Spumante sparkling white wine. Moscato d’Asti is produced from the same grape (Moscato Bianco). Moscato is a much sweeter wine with a lower alcohol content, and is usually served as a dessert wine.

57 Street in a horror series : ELM

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” is a Wes Craven slasher-horror film that was released in 1984. As I don’t do “slasher” or “horror”, I was surprised to learn that Johnny Depp was in the movie, making his feature film debut.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Espionage name : MATA
5 Not at all rainy : ARID
9 Old Faithful output : STEAM
14 Got down : ALIT
15 Virologist Yvonne who worked with Epstein : BARR
16 Serving tool : LADLE
17 Ado : KERFUFFLE
19 Hunt in “Mission: Impossible” films : ETHAN
20 H, to Hercules : ETA
21 NE player, to fans : PAT
22 Very start? : VEE
24 Trial fig. : ATT
25 Unit in an improvisational parlor game : MAD LIB
27 Word in a con man’s pitch : RISK-FREE
29 Foil alternative : EPEE
30 Goofy images? : CELS
31 Fig or olive : TREE
32 Subtle vibes : AURAS
35 Cookbook instruction : ADD IN
37 Former Postal Service mascot : MR ZIP
38 Ones drawn to flames, briefly : PYROS
39 Indira’s son : RAJIV
40 Thought about it : MUSED
41 British general at the Battle of Bunker Hill : GAGE
42 Obi-Wan portrayer : EWAN
44 “Get a __!” : GRIP
48 Dryer component : LINT TRAP
50 Brainstorm : IDEATE
52 “Double Fantasy” artist : ONO
53 Klutz : OAF
54 California’s Santa __ River : ANA
55 PreCheck org. : TSA
56 More adept : ABLER
58 Basketball tactic … and a hint to four puzzle rows : FAST BREAK
61 Works hard : TOILS
62 Dieter’s buzzword : LITE
63 Beat by a nose : EDGE
64 Hindu sage : SWAMI
65 First Best Actor Jannings : EMIL
66 More than coax : PROD

Down

1 “You and what army?!” : MAKE ME!
2 Bartender’s device : ALE TAP
3 Rant : TIRADE
4 DOJ branch : ATF
5 BBC sitcom : ABFAB
6 River transport : RAFT
7 Offline, briefly : IRL
8 Austin Powers’ nemesis : DR EVIL
9 Aerodynamic : SLEEK
10 Skin pic : TAT
11 “Pollock” star : ED HARRIS
12 Adolescent support group : ALATEEN
13 Protégé : MENTEE
18 News initials : UPI
23 Bacon products : ESSAYS
26 VIP travel option : LEARJET
27 Legal thing : RES
28 IA city on U.S. 20 : FT DODGE
30 Limit : CAP
33 Action film weapon : UZI
34 Only unanimous Baseball Hall of Fame electee : RIVERA
36 Dr. of rap : DRE
37 Official flower of two Southern states : MAGNOLIA
38 “Cherry Garcia” is one : PUN
39 Path to the gold, so they say : RAINBOW
40 Waze feature : MAP
41 Wins in an ugly way? : GLOATS
43 Equivocate : WAFFLE
45 Not for kids : RATED-R
46 “Let’s do this” : IT’S A GO
47 Reached a max : PEAKED
49 Upper bodies : TORSI
50 Recon mission goal : INTEL
51 Put gently (on) : DAB
54 Vino venue : ASTI
57 Street in a horror series : ELM
59 Archer’s skill : AIM
60 Gym unit : REP

22 thoughts on “LA Times Crossword 24 Sep 20, Thursday”

    1. It probably wouldn’t be an English major to explain “waffle”, which is as ‘popular use’ a term as there’s ever been. Not sure of the etymology of it, but it’s been in general usage for decades.

  1. Completed the puzzle without getting the theme. Right off the bat I had Hari before Mata. Clue should have been first name in espionage but no big deal. The last letter I put in was the B in 15 across completing Barr and Abfab. A total guess since I’ve heard of neither. Abfab sounded funny.

    I graduated from the same High School as Ed Harris in Tenafly, NJ; just a couple of years apart. He was captain of the football team. Go Tigers!

  2. No errors, but I really struggled with the NW corner until I realized
    that foil could be a fencing sword and tried “epee” to fill the word.
    I had never heard of “madlib” or at least don’t remember it, but it
    sounded logical.

    But the theme was totally obscure in my notion.

  3. That’s what I get for not seeing the later Star Wars movies. Alec Guiness was in the early ones as Obi-Wan portrayer. I was so confused for awhile until I finally saw it was Ewan McGregor that was a later addition. I guess there were even two other actors that also had the part?

  4. Never heard of Mad Libs. To show how even more out of touch I am, I put in Gehrig for the baseball hall of fame clue. I never heard of Mariano Rivera. A good 30 minutes. Bah!

    1. Corky-

      Madlibs was a big teenage party game in the 60’s. It was comprised of short stories with words left blank. Each blank asked for a part of speech….. noun, adjective, verb and so on. People would volunteer words and when done the story would be read back…. and the more outrageous the words, the funnier the story.

      NY Yankee Mariano Rivera is considered the greatest relief pitcher in the history of baseball. Hence the unanimous selection into the Hall of Fame.

  5. Did not finish. After, I could see many common crosswords, but the clues were too clever by half for me.
    Like Corky and Tony, methinks we’re getting old. And I have no desire to “enjoy” new actors or singers. And the fact that the young call singers, “artists,” is annoying.

  6. 14:07, no errors. For me, some tricky cluing. I had ENO before ONO, MOTHS before PYROS, and ALEC before EWAN. I also paused over the intersection of 7D and 15A before finally calling to mind what IRL can be short for.

  7. 12:37 no errors

    There was nothing fast about filling this in. It wasn’t hard to guess which four rows the theme was hinting at, but I still wish it had been specific.

    Sorry about the double post yesterday. It took me so long to retype my little tirade, that I missed seeing that the first post went through.

  8. 15:12 and 2 errors (PYROS/FTDODGE). Tons of overwrites for me all over this puzzle. And it was loaded with highly suspect clues and fills, to boot; especially 7D.

  9. 15:12 and 2 errors (PYROS/FTDODGE). Tons of overwrites for me all over this puzzle. And it was loaded with highly suspect clues and fills, to boot; especially 7D. The theme was so forced and imperceptible as to not even QUALIFY as such. Our “editor” is setting standards way too low.

  10. well, I’m embarrassed to say how long this took me but it was a lot of fun — during the pandemic, the crossword puzzle and this blog have been one of my few sources of pleasure. Love reading the comments, too! Stay safe and healthy, y’all!

  11. Another tough one for me today; took me 23:15 along with a “check grid” which revealed two errors. Flaked on eNO rather than ONO and didn’t know the British general sAGE – all due to not thinking of “Wins in an ugly way?”…..sigh!

    Besides those I had the same rewrites as Nonny, except I didn’t fix the eNO one. Never heard of MADLIB, even though I guess I could be described as one. Didn’t remember MRZIP either and even though I knew who RIVERA was, I didn’t know he was a unanimous vote.

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