LA Times Crossword 23 Dec 20, Wednesday

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Constructed by: John Guzzetta
Edited by: Rich Norris

Today’s Reveal Answer: Progressive Tax

Themed answers each include the hidden word “TAX”. That “TAX” PROGRESSES its way from left to right as we descend through the grid:

  • 15A Part of a biological hierarchy : TAXONOMIC GROUP
  • 24A Influential soul label based in Memphis : STAX RECORDS
  • 41A Waved for transportation : HAILED A TAXI
  • 53A Rate-rising-with-amount levy that makes its way through four long answers starting at 15-Across : PROGRESSIVE TAX

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

Bill’s time: 6m 07s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1 Cartographer’s output : MAP

Cartography is the art of producing maps.

4 Monica who won three straight ’90s French Opens : SELES

Monica Seles has a Hungarian name as she was born to Hungarian parents in former Yugoslavia. Seles was the World No. 1 professional tennis player in 1991 and 1992 before being forced from the sport when she was stabbed by a spectator at a match in 1993. She did return to the game two years later, but never achieved the same level of success.

9 HVAC letters : BTU

In the world of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), the power of a heating or cooling unit can be measured using the British Thermal Units (BTU). This dated unit is the amount of energy required to heat a pound of water so that the water’s temperature increases by one degree Fahrenheit.

12 News agcy. : 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.

13 Soft palate part : UVULA

The uvula is that conical fleshy projection hanging down at the back of the soft palate. The uvula plays an important role in human speech, particularly in the making of “guttural” sounds. The Latin word for “grape” is “uva”, so “uvula” is a “little grape”.

The roof of the mouth is known as the palate. The anterior part of the palate is very bony, and is called the hard palate. The posterior part is very fleshy and is called the soft palate. The soft palate is muscular and moves to close off the nasal passages while swallowing. We often use the term “palate” figuratively, to describe the sense of taste.

15 Part of a biological hierarchy : TAXONOMIC GROUP

Taxonomy is the classification of organisms or into groups or categories known as taxons (plural “taxa”). We are most familiar with the classification of organisms in the major taxonomic ranks (taxa):

  • Life
  • Domain
  • Kingdom
  • Phylum
  • Class
  • Order
  • Family
  • Genus (plural “genera”)
  • Species

18 Window over a door : TRANSOM

When a window is placed above a door, the horizontal beam separating the two is called a transom. The window above such a beam is known as a transom light, although it might also be called a “transom” or “transom window” here in the US.

19 Zen garden tools : RAKES

Japanese Zen gardens are inspired by the meditation gardens of Zen Buddhist temples. Zen gardens have no water in them, but often there is gravel and sand that is raked in patterns designed to create the impression of water in waves and ripples.

20 Joshua __ National Park : TREE

“Joshua tree” is the common name for the plant species more correctly called Yucca brevifolia. One of the best places to see Joshua trees is in the beautiful Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. The plant was named by Mormon settlers crossing the Mojave Desert in the mid-1800s. The name was chosen as the shape of the tree reminded the settlers of Joshua reaching his hands to the sky in prayer.

24 Influential soul label based in Memphis : STAX RECORDS

Stax Records was founded in 1957 as Satellite Records. The biggest star to record with Stax was the great Otis Redding.

28 Muslim sect : SHI’ISM

The Islamic sects of Sunni and Shia Muslims differ in the belief of who should have taken over leadership of the Muslim faithful after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. Followers of the Sunni tradition agree with the decision that the Prophet Muhammad’s confidante Abu Bakr was the right choice to become the first Caliph of the Islamic nation. Followers of the Shia tradition believe that leadership should have stayed within the Prophet Muhammad’s own family, and favored the Prophet’s son-in-law Ali.

31 “Much __ About Nothing” : ADO

“Much Ado About Nothing” is a play by William Shakespeare, and a favorite of mine. It is a comedic tale of two pairs of lovers with lots of mistaken identities and double meanings. I once saw it performed in the fabulous Globe Theatre in London … by an all-female cast. Such a performance was somewhat ironic, given that in Shakespeare’s day the practice was to use an all-male cast.

32 Big Ben trio : III

The Roman numeral “III” can be seen on many clock faces.

Big Ben is the name commonly used for the large bell in the Clock Tower (“Elizabeth Tower” since 2012) of the Palace of Westminster (aka “Houses of Parliament”). Big Ben’s official name is the Great Bell, and there is some debate about the origins of the nickname. It may be named after Sir Benjamin Hall who supervised the bell’s installation, or perhaps the English heavyweight champion of the day Benjamin Caunt. Big Ben fell silent in 2017 to make way for four years of maintenance and repair work to the clock’s mechanism and the tower.

36 Like the president’s office : OVAL

Although there have been several “oval” offices used by US presidents in the White House, the current Oval Office was designed and constructed at the bequest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The room has four doors. One door opens onto the Rose Garden; a second door leads to a small study and dining room; a third opens onto the main corridor running through the West Wing; the fourth door opens to the office of the president’s secretary.

37 “Happy Days” diner : AL’S

Much of the sitcom “Happy Days” was set in Arnold’s Drive-In. Arnold Takahashi was played by Pat Morita, who also played Mr Miyagi in the movie “The Karate Kid”. Morita left the show after three seasons, and was replaced by Al Molinaro as Al Delvecchio, the character who ran the diner as “Al’s” for the rest of the series’ run.

The fabulous sitcom “Happy Days” originally ran for 11 seasons, from 1974 to 1984. That makes it the second longest-running sitcom in the history of ABC (behind “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”). “Happy Days’ spawned several spin-off shows, two of which became very successful. Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams played two characters who later featured in “Laverne and Shirley”, and Robin Williams first played Mork from Ork on a “Happy Days” episode, which led to “Mork & Mindy”.

38 Sanjay Gupta’s network : CNN

CNN (Cable News Network) was launched in 1980 by the Turner Broadcasting System, and was the first television channel in the world to provide news coverage 24 hours a day.

Sanjay Gupta is an American neurosurgeon who is best known as the CNN’s chief medical correspondent. In 2009, Gupta was offered the post of Surgeon General in the Obama administration, but he declined.

41 Waved for transportation : HAILED A TAXI

We call cabs “taxis”, a word derived from “taximeter cabs” that were introduced in London in 1907. A taximeter was an automated meter designed to record distance travelled and fare to be charged. The term “taximeter” evolved from “taxameter”, with “taxa” being Latin for “tax, charge”.

45 Jesters : WAGS

A very amusing person might be referred to as a card, stitch, wag or riot.

48 Tuscan home of St. Catherine : SIENA

Siena is a beautiful city in the Tuscany region of Italy. In the center of Siena is the magnificent medieval square called Piazza del Campo, a paved sloping open area made up of nine triangular sections. The square has to be seen to be believed. Twice a year, the famous bareback horse-race called the Palio di Siena is held in the Piazza.

Saint Catherine of Siena was politically active in 14th-century Italy. Over time, she became influential in high places, and helped to bring peace among the Italian city-states. She frequently corresponded with Pope Gregory XI, whose papacy was based in Avignon in France. Some say that Catherine actually persuaded Gregory to move the papacy back to Rome. Catherine of Siena is one of Italy’s two patron saints, along with Saint Francis of Assisi.

50 Perfect example : EPITOME

The more common meaning of “epitome” is “perfect example of a group, quality, type”. An epitome is also an abstract or summary of a book or article.

57 Brownish gray : TAUPE

Taupe is a dark, gray-brown color. The word “taupe” comes from the Latin name of the European Mole, which has skin with the same color.

58 Co. concerned with net neutrality : ISP

The principle of Net neutrality holds that those entities managing the Internet should treat all data passing through equally. The term “Net neutrality” was coined in 2003 by Tim Wu, a media law professor at Columbia University.

59 AC/DC hit with the lyric “Watch me explode!” : TNT

The Heavy Metal band known as AC/DC was formed by two brothers Malcolm and Angus Young in Australia. The group is usually called “Acca Dacca” down under.

Down

1 Mixed-breed dog : MUTT

The original use of the term “mutt” was for a foolish person, and was probably short for “muttonhead”. The usage evolved into today’s “mongrel dog”.

3 “Coco” studio : PIXAR

“Coco” is a 2017 Pixar movie about a 12-year-old boy named Miguel who ends up in the land of the dead by accident. There, he seeks out the help of the great-great-grandfather to get back to his family in the land of the living.

5 Salad dressing initialism, to Rachael Ray : EVOO

Virgin olive oil is oil produced from olives with no chemical treatment involved in the production process at all. To be labelled “virgin”, the oil must have an acidity level of less than 2% and must be judged to have “a good taste”. Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) comes from virgin oil production, and is the portion with acidity levels of less than 0.8% acidity that is judged to have “superior taste”.

Rachael Ray is a celebrity chef and host of several shows on the Food Network television channel. Ray comes from a family that owned and managed a number of restaurants in the northeast of the country. One of Ray’s TV shows is “$40 a Day”, in which she demonstrates how to visit various cities in North America and Europe and eat three meals and a snack on a daily budget of just $40.

6 Oaf : LUMMOX

The word “lummox” comes from East Anglian slang , and describes an ungainly and often clueless person. The term is probably a contraction of “lumbering ox”.

7 Director Roth : ELI

Eli Roth is one of a group of directors of horror movies known quite graphically as “The Splat Pack”. I can’t stand “splat” movies and avoid them as best I can. Roth is also famous for playing Donny Donowitz in the Quentin Tarantino movie “Inglourious Basterds”, a good film I thought, if you close your eyes during the gruesome bits.

8 Cul-de-__ : SAC

Even though “cul-de-sac” can indeed mean “bottom-of-the-bag” in French, the term “cul-de-sac” is of English origin (the use of “cul” in French is actually quite rude). The term was introduced in aristocratic circles at a time when it was considered very fashionable to speak French. Dead-end streets in France are usually signposted with just a symbol and no accompanying words, but if words are included they are “voie sans issue”, meaning “way without exit”.

10 “T” on a test : TRUE

An answer (ans.) might be true (T) or false (F).

11 Foul callers : UMPS

Back in the 15th century, “an umpire” was referred to as “a noumpere”, which was misheard and hence causing the dropping of the initial letter N. The term “noumpere” came from Old French “nonper” meaning “not even, odd number”. The idea was that the original umpire was a third person called on to arbitrate between two, providing that “odd number” needed to decide the dispute.

14 Liquid-Plumr rival : DRANO

To clean out drains we might buy Crystal Drano, which is sodium hydroxide (lye) mixed with sodium nitrate, sodium chloride (table salt) and aluminum. The contents of Drano work in concert to clear the clog. The lye reacts with any fats creating soap which may be enough to break up the clog. Also, the finely-divided aluminum reacts with the lye generating hydrogen gas that churns the mixture. Any hair or fibers are cut by the sharp edges of the nitrate and chloride crystals. Having said all that, I find that boiling water poured down the drain quite often does the job …

Liquid-Plumr is a chemical drain opener that is produced by Clorox.

16 Layette buy : ONESIE

A newborn baby’s collection of clothing and accessories is called a layette.

17 __-Roman wrestling : GRECO

Greco-Roman wrestling was contested at the first modern Olympic Games, back in 1896. Back then there was relatively little regulation of the sport and Greco-Roman contests were noted for their brutality. Bouts also took a long time to finish, often lasting hours. In fact, two competitors in the final round of the event at the 1912 Olympic Games fought a match that lasted 11 hours and 40 minutes. The victor was so exhausted after the contest that he was unable to compete in the final bout.

23 Bogart’s “Casablanca” hat : FEDORA

A fedora is a lovely hat, I think. It is made of felt, and is similar to a trilby, but has a broader brim. “Fedora” was a play written for Sarah Bernhardt and first performed in 1889. Bernhardt had the title role of Princess Fedora, and on stage she wore a hat similar to a modern-day fedora. The play led to the women’s fashion accessory, the fedora hat, commonly worn by women into the beginning of the twentieth century. Men then started wearing fedoras, but only when women gave up the fashion …

Humphrey “Bogie” Bogart’s breakthrough movie was “The Petrified Forest” from 1936, but for me nothing beats “Casablanca”. That said, check out the original “Sabrina” from 1954. It’s a real delight. Bogie was nominated three times for a Best Actor Oscar, but only won once: for “The African Queen”.

The movie “Casablanca” was released in January of 1943, timed to coincide with the Casablanca Conference, the high-level meeting between Roosevelt and Churchill. The film wasn’t a box-office hit, but gained critical acclaim, winning three Oscars including Best Picture. The signature song “As Time Goes By” was written many years earlier for a 1931 Broadway musical called “Everybody’s Welcome”, and was a hit in 1931 for Rudy Vallee. But today we all remember the Casablanca version, sung by Dooley Wilson (who played “Sam” in the film). Poor Dooley didn’t get to record it as a single, due to a musician’s strike in 1943. The 1931 Rudy Vallee version was re-released that year and became an even bigger hit second time round.

25 “Brockmire” actress Peet : AMANDA

Actress Amanda Peet studied acting with the celebrated Uta Hagen at Columbia University. Peet has appeared in a number of successful films including “The Whole Nine Yards” and “Syriana”. I remember her best from what I thought was a great TV show (but no one seemed to agree!) called “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”.

“Brockmire” is a comedy series that ran on IFC from 2017 to 2020. The title character, played by the talented Hank Azaria, is an ex-MLB play-by-play announcer trying to resurrect his career by calling minor league games in a small town. I haven’t seen this one, but it’s on the list …

26 Primatologist Fossey : DIAN

Dian Fossey carried out her famous study of gorilla populations in the mountain forests of Rwanda. She wrote a 1983 autobiographical account of her work titled “Gorillas in the Mist”, which served as a basis for a 1988 film of the same name starring Sigourney Weaver as Fossey. Sadly, Fossey was found dead in her cabin in Rwanda in 1986, murdered in her bedroom, her skull split open by a machete. The crime was never solved.

Primates are mammals, many of whom are omnivorous and make good use of their hands. They also have larger brains relative to their body size, compared to other animals. The order Primates includes apes, lemurs, baboons and humans.

27 Riverbed sediment : SILT

Today, we mostly think of silt as a deposit of sediment in a river. Back in the mid-1400s, silt was sediment deposited by seawater. It is thought that the word “silt” is related to “salt”, as found in seawater.

28 Ruler deposed in 1979 : SHAH

The last Shah of Iran was Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was overthrown in the revolution led by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. The post-revolution government sought the extradition of the Shah back to Iran while he was in the United States seeking medical care (he had cancer). His prolonged stay in the United States, recovering from surgery, caused some unrest back in Iran and resentment towards the United States. Some say that this resentment precipitated the storming of the US Embassy in Tehran and the resulting hostage crisis.

29 Spanish greeting : HOLA

“Hola” is Spanish for the greeting “hi”.

36 Drug derived from poppies : OPIATE

The opium poppy is the source of the narcotic alkaloids known as opiates. To produce opiates, the latex sap of the opium poppy is collected and processed. The naturally-occurring drugs of morphine and codeine can both be extracted from the sap. Some synthesis is required to make derivative drugs like heroin and oxycodone.

38 Composer Franck : CESAR

César Franck was a composer from Liège in Belgium who spent his working life in Paris.

40 Some alimony recipients : EX-WIVES

In its most common usage, “alimony” is a payment made by one spouse to another for support after a legal separation. The term derives from the Latin “alimonia”, meaning “nourishment, food, support”.

46 “Capisce?” : GOT IT?

“Capeesh?” is a slang term meaning “do you understand?” It comes from the Italian “capisce” meaning “understand”.

48 Narrow bit of land at a lagoon entrance, say : SPIT

A spit is a point of land jutting out into a body of water. The term “spit” is especially reserved for those points of land comprising sand or gravel.

A lagoon is a shallow body of water, usually separated from the sea by sandbar or reef. The term “lagoon” comes from the Italian “laguna”, the word for a pond or lake. The original “laguna” is the “Laguna Veneta”, the enclosed bay in the Adriatic Sea on which Venice is located. In 1769, Captain Cook was the first to apply the word “lagoon” to the body of water inside a South Seas atoll.

51 Prop for Frosty : PIPE

Corncob pipes are made from cobs that have been dried for two years and then hollowed out into the shape of a bowl. Famous smokers of corncob pipes were General Douglas MacArthur, Mark Twain, Norman Rockwell as well as Popeye and Frosty the Snowman.

55 Brazil map word : SAO

In Portuguese, the word “são” can mean “saint”, as in São Paulo (Saint Paul) and São José (Saint Joseph). If the saint’s name starts with a letter H or with a vowel, then the word “santo” is used instead, as in Santo Agostinho (Saint Augustine) and Santo Antônio (Saint Anthony).

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Cartographer’s output : MAP
4 Monica who won three straight ’90s French Opens : SELES
9 HVAC letters : BTU
12 News agcy. : UPI
13 Soft palate part : UVULA
14 Campus housing : DORM
15 Part of a biological hierarchy : TAXONOMIC GROUP
18 Window over a door : TRANSOM
19 Zen garden tools : RAKES
20 Joshua __ National Park : TREE
21 Wound : OFFEND
24 Influential soul label based in Memphis : STAX RECORDS
28 Muslim sect : SHI’ISM
31 “Much __ About Nothing” : ADO
32 Big Ben trio : III
33 Give a fine edge to : HONE
34 Regarding : AS TO
36 Like the president’s office : OVAL
37 “Happy Days” diner : AL’S
38 Sanjay Gupta’s network : CNN
39 Feel contrition : REPENT
41 Waved for transportation : HAILED A TAXI
44 How much to take : DOSAGE
45 Jesters : WAGS
48 Tuscan home of St. Catherine : SIENA
50 Perfect example : EPITOME
53 Rate-rising-with-amount levy that makes its way through four long answers starting at 15-Across : PROGRESSIVE TAX
56 Debtor’s informal notes : IOUS
57 Brownish gray : TAUPE
58 Co. concerned with net neutrality : ISP
59 AC/DC hit with the lyric “Watch me explode!” : TNT
60 Makes do : COPES
61 Howe’er : THO

Down

1 Mixed-breed dog : MUTT
2 Here and there? : APART
3 “Coco” studio : PIXAR
4 Images in a beach vacation album : SUNSETS
5 Salad dressing initialism, to Rachael Ray : EVOO
6 Oaf : LUMMOX
7 Director Roth : ELI
8 Cul-de-__ : SAC
9 Request to turn up the volume? : BOOK DRIVE
10 “T” on a test : TRUE
11 Foul callers : UMPS
14 Liquid-Plumr rival : DRANO
16 Layette buy : ONESIE
17 __-Roman wrestling : GRECO
22 Off-campus housing : FRAT
23 Bogart’s “Casablanca” hat : FEDORA
25 “Brockmire” actress Peet : AMANDA
26 Primatologist Fossey : DIAN
27 Riverbed sediment : SILT
28 Ruler deposed in 1979 : SHAH
29 Spanish greeting : HOLA
30 Like a hastily donned T-shirt, perhaps : INSIDE OUT
35 Little problem : SNAG
36 Drug derived from poppies : OPIATE
38 Composer Franck : CESAR
40 Some alimony recipients : EX-WIVES
42 Hungers : LONGS
43 Starts a hole : TEES UP
46 “Capisce?” : GOT IT?
47 Big shot on the tennis court : SMASH
48 Narrow bit of land at a lagoon entrance, say : SPIT
49 Par-3 club, usually : IRON
51 Prop for Frosty : PIPE
52 Trade show : EXPO
54 And so forth: Abbr. : ETC
55 Brazil map word : SAO

18 thoughts on “LA Times Crossword 23 Dec 20, Wednesday”

  1. A tricky Wednesday. Didn’t know taxonomic group and thought it was transel instead of transom for some dumb reason. 🥴

  2. No errors (and I rechecked the grid this time!) Easier than it first
    looked, but that’s okay. I was pretty familiar with the word “uvula”
    because due to an infection in said dangler, a relative had to have a uvulectomy to remove it.

  3. Yuk, I hated this. Had to give up. Too many names of things. Request to turn up the volume — book drive. That is horrible. Maybe I’m in a bad mood.

  4. I struggled with this one, Got about 80/85%. Worked out traxonomic
    but didn’t know the meaning. Congats to those who completed it!

    Eddie

  5. 23:20 no errors…much harder than the NYT #1118 IMO. I got 5D from crosses.
    Stay safe 😀
    go Ravens 🙏
    Here’s something you may never read from me again GO STEELERS

  6. Smooth sailing once the theme was solved…. which I figured out after getting 41A. Ended up being pretty easy. Only snag, I originally had Shiite before getting Shiism through the crosses.

  7. 7:33 no errors

    I liked seeing TAXONOMIC GROUP. And yet I needed the crosses to help me spell EPITOME correctly. You never know what’s going to trip you up.

  8. I think a book drive is when a library attempts to recover overdue books sometimes by forgiving late fees just to get the books back.

  9. Had to Google for SMASH; just don’t think along sports lines.
    Had “heroin” before OPIATE.
    Didn’t know, but guessed correctly: STAX RECORDS, ALS, ISP, TNT, EVOO, ELI, AMANDA.
    Note: many people on my city hated Happy Days because it made Italians look stupid. There was a lot of prejudice in those days.

  10. Slightly tricky Wednesday for me; took 17:58 on-line with a “check grid” at the end that revealed 2 errors. One at TAXiN…/iNESIE and other a mistype.

    Never heard of Layette or ELI or CESAR or “Brockmire” – although I’ve heard of Amanda Peet.

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