LA Times Crossword 31 Dec 20, Thursday

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Constructed by: Richard Shlakman & Brad Wilber
Edited by: Rich Norris

Today’s Reveal Answer: Coins

Themed answers each include the letter sequence COIN hidden within, although the order has been changed, the letters C-O-I-N have CIRCULATED:

  • 67A Items that can circulate or be tossed … as illustrated in this puzzle’s six sets of circles : COINS
  • 17A Birder’s gear : BINOCULARS
  • 30A California county where Fort Bragg is : MENDOCINO
  • 47A Barrier-breaking report : SONIC BOOM
  • 63A State capital about 100 miles from Sacramento : CARSON CITY
  • 10D Chance to plead one’s case : DAY IN COURT
  • 29D Tip of a toy arrow, often : SUCTION CUP

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

Bill’s time: 5m 53s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1 Potential fodder in a libel lawsuit, briefly : BAD PR

Public relations (PR)

6 Sackcloth material : HEMP

Hemp, also known as “cannabis”, is a hardy, fast-growing plant that has many uses mainly due to the strength of the fibers in the plant’s stalks. Hemp is used to make rope, paper and textiles. The term “hemp” is sometimes reserved for varieties of the plant grown for non-drug use.

14 Lexus competitor : ACURA

Acura is the luxury brand of the Honda Motor Company. As an aside, Infiniti is the equivalent luxury brand for the Nissan Motor Company, and Lexus is the more luxurious version of Toyota’s models.

15 Avocado shape : OVAL

The wonderful avocado comes from a tree that is native to Mexico and Central America. The avocado fruit is sometimes called an avocado pear, because of its shape, even though it is not related to the pear at all. The fruit might also be referred to as an alligator pear, due to the roughness of the green skin of some avocado cultivars.

16 “Stress cannot exist in the presence of __”: Mamet : A PIE

David Mamet is best known as a playwright, and indeed won a Pulitzer for his 1984 play “Glengarry Glen Ross”. Mamet is also a successful screenwriter and received Oscar nominations for the films “The Verdict” (1982) and “Wag the Dog” (1997).

19 Afghan constitution? : YARN

An afghan is a blanket or a wrap that is knitted or crocheted from very colorful yarns, and traditionally made in Afghanistan.

20 Newspaper VIPs : EDS

Editor (ed.)

22 Bathroom fixture : BIDET

“Bidet” is a French word that we imported into English. In French, the word “bidet” originally described a small horse or a pony. The bidet bathroom fixture was so called because one straddles it like a horse in order to use it.

24 “Young Sheldon” star Armitage : IAIN

“Young Sheldon” is a spinoff prequel to the hit sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” that follows the life of a 9-year-old Sheldon Cooper. The title character is played by child actor Iain Armitage. Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory”, is the narrator for the spinoff, and is also an executive producer. In another link between the shows, young Sheldon’s Mom is played by actress Zoe Perry. Perry is the real-life daughter of Laurie Metcalf, who plays “old” Sheldon’s mom in the original series.

30 California county where Fort Bragg is : MENDOCINO

California’s Mendocino County was named for Cape Mendocino located about 200 miles north of San Francisco. Despite the derivation, Cape Mendocino is located in neighboring Humboldt County.

The California city of Fort Bragg was founded as a military garrison in 1857. It was named for army officer Braxton Bragg, who also lent his name to the large military installation Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

35 Nonalcoholic beer brand : O’DOUL’S

I did a blind taste test on all the big-selling non-alcoholic beers with a friend of mine. O’Doul’s Amber won the day pretty decisively, which surprised us as it was the cheapest!

39 Soft mineral : TALC

Talc is a mineral, hydrated magnesium silicate. Talcum powder is composed of loose talc, although these days “baby powder” is also made from cornstarch.

40 Mortar and pestle stone : AGATE

Agate is a micro-crystalline form of quartz (and so is related to sand/silica). Some agate samples have deposited layers that give a striped appearance, and these are called “banded agate”.

I’ve loved the sound of the words “mortar” and “pestle”, ever since I was first introduced to them in the chemistry lab. The Romans called a receptacle for pounding or grinding things a “mortarium”, giving us “mortar”. Mortarium was also the word for the product of pounding and grinding, which gives us our “mortar” that’s used with bricks to build a wall. And further, short stubby cannons used in the 16th century resembled a grinding bowl and so were called “mortars”, which evolved into our contemporary weapon of the same name. As far as the pestle is concerned, it is also derived from its Latin name “pistillum”, which comes from the word for “crush”.

42 Sports org. whose name once included “Lawn” : USTA

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) is the national organization governing the sport of tennis in the US. The USTA was founded way back in 1881 as the United States National Lawn Tennis Association.

43 Shoot the breeze : CHAT

To shoot the breeze is to participate in casual inconsequential conversation. The idiom “shoot the breeze” arose in the US in the early- to mid-10th century. The phrase probably evolved from the use of “breeze” as a slang term meaning “rumor”.

44 Bon __ : MOT

“Bon mot” translates from French as “good word”. We use “bon mot” (and sometimes just “mot”) to mean “quip, witticism”.

47 Barrier-breaking report : SONIC BOOM

Supersonic transports (SSTs) like the Concorde broke Mach 1, the speed of sound. As a plane flies through the air, it creates pressure waves in front (and behind) rather like the bow and stern waves of a boat. These pressure waves travel at the speed of sound, so as an aircraft itself accelerates towards the speed of sound it catches up with the pressure waves until they cannot “get out of the way”. When the aircraft reaches the speed of sound, the compressed waves merge into one single shock wave, creating a sonic boom.

50 Eye sores : STYES

A stye is a bacterial infection of the sebaceous glands at the base of the eyelashes, and is also known as a hordeolum.

51 Scandinavian royal name : OLAF

It is believed that Norwegian King Olaf I led the conversion of the Vikings to Christianity, and built the first church in the country (in 995 CE). Olaf was actually married to an Irishwoman, albeit a woman from a Viking family. Queen Gyda was the sister of the King of Dublin, Olaf Cuaran.

Strictly speaking, Scandinavia is a region in Northern Europe that covers the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The broader region that includes Finland and Iceland is referred to locally as “the Nordic countries”.

52 Apr. addressee : IRS

April 15th wasn’t always Tax Day in the US. The deadline for returns was March 1st from 1913-18, when it was moved to March 15th. Tax Day has been April 15th since 1955.

54 Fogg’s creator : VERNE

“Around the World in 80 Days” is a wonderful adventure story written by French author Jules Verne and first published in 1873. There have been some great screen adaptations of the story, including the 1956 movie starring David Niven as the protagonist Phileas Fogg. In almost all adaptations, a balloon is used for part of the journey, and is perhaps the most memorable means of transportation on Fogg’s trip around the world. However, if you read the book, Fogg never uses a balloon at all.

57 Count with a band : BASIE

“Count” Basie’s real given name was “William”. Count Basie perhaps picked up his love for the piano from his mother, who played and gave him his first lessons. Basie’s first paying job as a musician was in a movie theater, where he learned to improvise a suitable accompaniment for the silent movies that were being shown. Basie was given the nickname “Count” as he became lauded as one of the so-called “Jazz royalty”. Others so honored are Nat “King” Cole and Duke Ellington.

62 Lindros in the Hockey Hall of Fame : ERIC

Eric Lindros is a retired Canadian hockey player. During his NHL career he played for the Philadelphia Flyers, the New York Rangers, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Dallas Stars.

63 State capital about 100 miles from Sacramento : CARSON CITY

Carson City is the capital of the state of Nevada, and was named for the Carson River. The river was named for Kit Carson, the scout who accompanied the team of European Americans who first arrived in the area in 1843. Carson City was designated state capital in 1864.

Sacramento, California’s state capital, was named for the Sacramento River. The river was named by a Spanish explorer, who called it “Rio de los Sacramentos”. This translates as “River of the Blessed Sacrament”.

65 Prego alternative : RAGU

The Ragú brand of pasta sauce was introduced in 1937. The name ” Ragù” is the Italian word for a sauce used to dress pasta, however the spelling is a little off. 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 …

The Prego brand of pasta sauce is owned by the Campbell Soup Company. It is actually based on the family recipe of one of the company’s chefs. “Prego” literally means “I pray” in Italian, but it translates best in English as “you’re welcome” when it is used after a “thank you” (“grazie”, in Italian).

66 Polar chunk : FLOE

An ice floe is a sheet of ice that has separated from an ice field and is floating freely on the surface of the ocean.

68 “Don’t dawdle!” : ASAP!

As soon as possible (ASAP)

69 Bygone GM line : OLDS

Oldsmobile was an automobile brand founded by Ransom E. Olds (REO) in 1897. The brand was finally phased out by General Motors in 2004.

70 Ryegrass fungus : ERGOT

Ergots are fungi that cause disease in rye and related plants. If humans eat ergot-contaminated grain, a condition called ergotism can result. Ergotism is the result of consumption of alkaloids produced by the fungi, alkaloids that can cause seizures and manic behavior. It has even been suggested that the hysteria exhibited by the Salem “witches” was perhaps caused by the ingestion of ergot-contaminated rye.

Down

2 Prilosec target : ACID

“Prilosec” is a brand name for the drug omeprazole. It is a proton-pump inhibitor, meaning that it reduces the production of gastric acid.

3 Hassles for payment : DUNS

To dun is to insist on payment of a debt. The etymology of the verb is unclear, but one suggestion is that it dates back to a well-known debt collector in London named Joe Dun.

5 Ray who hosts the Yum-o! virtual cooking camp : RACHAEL

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 Poker variety : HOLD ‘EM

The official birthplace of the incredibly popular poker game of Texas hold ’em is Robstown, Texas where the game dates back to the early 1900s. The game was introduced into Las Vegas in 1967 by a group of Texan enthusiasts including Doyle Brunson, a champion often seen playing on TV today. Doyle Brunson published a poker strategy guide in 1978, and this really helped increase the popularity of the game. But it was the inclusion of Texas hold ‘em in the television lineup that really gave the game its explosive surge in popularity, with the size of the prize money just skyrocketing.

7 Mendes and Gabor : EVAS

I am most familiar with actress Eva Mendes as the female lead in the movie “Hitch”, in which she played opposite Will Smith. Mendes started a relationship with fellow actor Ryan Gosling in 2011, and the couple have two children together.

Eva Gabor was the youngest of the Gabor sisters, all three of whom were celebrated Hollywood actresses and socialites (her siblings were Zsa-Zsa and Magda). One of Eva’s claims to fame is the unwitting promotion of the game called “Twister”, the sales of which were languishing in 1966. In an appearance on “The Tonight Show” she got on all fours and played the game with Johnny Carson. Sales took off immediately, and Twister became a huge hit.

8 Taskmaster : MARTINET

A martinet is someone who is a hard taskmaster and someone who sticks to the rules. Our use of the term “martinet“ is said to come from Jean Martinet, an Inspector General in the army of Louis XIV of France. Martinet was a noted drill master and disciplinarian.

9 Letters from a polite texter : PLS

Please (pls.)

11 Tablet at a Genius Bar : IPAD

The technical support desk found in Apple Retail Stores is rather inventively called the Genius Bar. The certified support technicians are known as “Geniuses”. The trainees are called GYOs: Grow-Your-Own-Geniuses.

18 Assembly line gp. : UAW

The United Auto Workers (UAW) was founded to represent workers in auto plants in the Detroit area in 1935. Nowadays the UAW’s membership extends into aerospace, agriculture and other industries.

26 University mil. programs : ROTCS

The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) is a training program for officers based in colleges all around the US. The ROTC program was established in 1862 when as a condition of receiving a land-grant to create colleges, the federal government required that military tactics be part of a new school’s curriculum.

27 Twin Falls’ state : IDAHO

The Idaho city of Twin Falls is named for a waterfall on the Snake River that bears the same name. Also in the Twin Falls area are Shoshone Falls and Pillar Falls, with the former being 46 feet higher than Niagara Falls.

28 “Dunkirk” director Christopher : NOLAN

British director Christopher Nolan is best known for “rescuing” the floundering Batman movie franchise. In that series, Nolan directed “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight”. He was also at the helm of a couple of sci-fi movies that I really enjoyed, namely “Inception” (2010) and “Interstellar” (2014).

“Dunkirk” is a 2017 film about the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk during WWII. Directed and written by Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk” has been praised for how realistic it is in depicting the conditions and events that took place on that day.

31 Muse of poetry : ERATO

In Greek mythology, Erato was the Muse of lyric poetry. She is often depicted with a wreath of myrtle and roses, and playing a lyre.

36 Latin steps : SAMBA

The samba is a Brazilian dance that is very much symbolic of the festival of Carnival. Like so much culture around the world, the samba has its roots in Africa, as the dance is derived from dances performed by former slaves who migrated into urban Rio de Janeiro in the late 1800s. The exact roots of the name “samba” seem to have been lost in the mists of time. However, my favorite explanation is that it comes from an African Kikongo word “semba” which means “a blow struck with the belly button”. We don’t seem to have a need for such a word in English …

41 Cut-up : GOOFBALL

A person who is a cutup or a riot is hilariously funny.

48 The Cavs, on ESPN crawls : CLE

The Cavaliers are the professional basketball team based in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavs joined the NBA as an expansion team in 1970.

49 Air balls, e.g. : MISSES

An air ball in basketball is a shot that misses, without even touching the rim, net or backboard.

53 __ Grande : RIO

The Rio Grande (Spanish for “big river”) is a waterway that forms part of the border between Mexico and the United States. Although we call the river the Rio Grande on this side of the border, in Mexico it is called the Río Bravo or Río Bravo del Norte (Spanish for “furious river of the north”).

54 __ Bradley bags : VERA

Vera Bradley is a manufacturer of fashionable patterned bags. The company was founded in 1982 by Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia Miller. The pair noticed that there was a dearth of feminine-looking luggage, as they passed through Atlanta Airport. So, they started their company to fill that demand. The company was named for Vera Bradley, Baekgaard’s mother.

56 Latvian seaport : RIGA

Riga is the capital city of Latvia. The historical center of Riga is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, declared as such because of the city’s magnificent examples of Art Nouveau architecture.

58 J.Lo’s partner : A-ROD

Baseball player Alex Rodriguez, nicknamed “A-Rod”, broke a lot of records in his career, albeit under a shroud of controversy due to his use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. When he signed a 10-year contract with the Texas Rangers for $252 million in 2000, it was the most lucrative contract in sports history. In 2007, Rodriguez signed an even more lucrative 10-year contract with the New York Yankees, worth $275 million. Rodriguez retired in 2016.

“J.Lo” is the nickname of singer and actress Jennifer Lopez. “J.Lo” is also the title of her second studio album that was released in 2001.

59 Kristen of 2016’s “Ghostbusters” : WIIG

Kristen Wiig is a comic actress who appears on “Saturday Night Live”. She also made an appearance on the first season of Spike TV’s quirky “The Joe Schmo Show”, playing “Dr. Pat”. More recently, she co-wrote and starred in the 2011 hit film “Bridesmaids”, and co-starred in the 2016 reboot of “Ghostbusters”.

The 2016 reboot of the 1986 hit comedy “Ghostbusters” has females playing the lead characters. The latest Ghostbusters are Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.

60 8 for O, e.g. : AT NO

The element oxygen has an atomic number of 8, and has eight electrons within each atom. The name “oxygen” was coined (“oxygène” in French) by Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, from the Greek “oxys” meaning “acid” and the French “-gène” meaning “producer”. It was originally believed that oxygen was needed to make all acids.

63 Fiscal exec : CFO

Chief financial officer (CFO)

64 __ anglais: English horn : COR

The English horn is also known by its French name “cor anglais”. It is a double-reed woodwind instrument.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Potential fodder in a libel lawsuit, briefly : BAD PR
6 Sackcloth material : HEMP
10 Reduces, as glare : DIMS
14 Lexus competitor : ACURA
15 Avocado shape : OVAL
16 “Stress cannot exist in the presence of __”: Mamet : A PIE
17 Birder’s gear : BINOCULARS
19 Afghan constitution? : YARN
20 Newspaper VIPs : EDS
21 Possessed by Shakespeare? : HADST
22 Bathroom fixture : BIDET
23 Overwhelm : AWE
24 “Young Sheldon” star Armitage : IAIN
26 Laundry cycle : RINSE
30 California county where Fort Bragg is : MENDOCINO
35 Nonalcoholic beer brand : O’DOUL’S
37 Crimson, e.g. : RED
38 What the nose knows : ODOR
39 Soft mineral : TALC
40 Mortar and pestle stone : AGATE
42 Sports org. whose name once included “Lawn” : USTA
43 Shoot the breeze : CHAT
44 Bon __ : MOT
45 Upset, as a plan : DERAIL
47 Barrier-breaking report : SONIC BOOM
50 Eye sores : STYES
51 Scandinavian royal name : OLAF
52 Apr. addressee : IRS
54 Fogg’s creator : VERNE
57 Count with a band : BASIE
59 “That __ close!” : WAS
62 Lindros in the Hockey Hall of Fame : ERIC
63 State capital about 100 miles from Sacramento : CARSON CITY
65 Prego alternative : RAGU
66 Polar chunk : FLOE
67 Items that can circulate or be tossed … as illustrated in this puzzle’s six sets of circles : COINS
68 “Don’t dawdle!” : ASAP!
69 Bygone GM line : OLDS
70 Ryegrass fungus : ERGOT

Down

1 Innocent : BABE
2 Prilosec target : ACID
3 Hassles for payment : DUNS
4 In favor of : PRO
5 Ray who hosts the Yum-o! virtual cooking camp : RACHAEL
6 Poker variety : HOLD ‘EM
7 Mendes and Gabor : EVAS
8 Taskmaster : MARTINET
9 Letters from a polite texter : PLS
10 Chance to plead one’s case : DAY IN COURT
11 Tablet at a Genius Bar : IPAD
12 Boggy area : MIRE
13 Posted : SENT
18 Assembly line gp. : UAW
22 Prefix with mass : BIO-
25 Went on to say : ADDED
26 University mil. programs : ROTCS
27 Twin Falls’ state : IDAHO
28 “Dunkirk” director Christopher : NOLAN
29 Tip of a toy arrow, often : SUCTION CUP
31 Muse of poetry : ERATO
32 “My guess is … ” : I’D SAY …
33 Casual remark? : NO TIE
34 Intense exams : ORALS
36 Latin steps : SAMBA
41 Cut-up : GOOFBALL
46 Bottom line : ESSENCE
48 The Cavs, on ESPN crawls : CLE
49 Air balls, e.g. : MISSES
53 __ Grande : RIO
54 __ Bradley bags : VERA
55 Named stretches : ERAS
56 Latvian seaport : RIGA
58 J.Lo’s partner : A-ROD
59 Kristen of 2016’s “Ghostbusters” : WIIG
60 8 for O, e.g. : AT NO
61 Betting aid: Abbr. : SYST
63 Fiscal exec : CFO
64 __ anglais: English horn : COR

30 thoughts on “LA Times Crossword 31 Dec 20, Thursday”

    1. Thanks for pointing out that error, Ines. I am woefully out of touch when it comes to things like this. I appreciate the help … all fixed now.

  1. Bill—your explanation for “poker variety” is a duplication of the “ergot” clue.
    I really enjoy your explanations—it’s why I’ve gotten hooked on puzzles.
    Happy New Year!

  2. No errors.. a few curve balls but I made..
    Did not know there was a Ft Bragg California, the namesake for the famous Ft Bragg North Carolina. Short shout out to the boys (and gals) in uniform!!!!

  3. Please note the answer to Prego alternative which is Ragu is no longer owned by Unilever. They sold the Ragu brand in 2015 to Mizkan America.

  4. 25:45 with one stupid error resulting from my failure to review my answers.
    Have a happy and safe New Years.😀
    One to go Ravens 🙏

  5. 12:17 2 errors

    I enjoyed learning the Mamet quote about pie. And Martinet is a cool word.

    I don’t understand the answer to 33D. Is it that “No tie” is casual dress? How does that relate to a remark??

    And I could swear this is the fourth day in a row that I’ve done a crossword with a stye in it.

  6. 13 mins 27 sec, and 3 errors, with AT NO at the root. I just HATE these abbreviated fills that just make no damned sense when you look at them, and rely on you “misreading” the misleading clue.

    Like the whole of 2020, glad to see this puzzle GO!!!!

  7. About 30 minutes, AFGHAN -> YARN, I get.
    But constitution?

    RACHAEL was a wierd spelling that I had to google for, since I knew not of this show.

    But otherwise nice. No helper kid today….

  8. I would guess that “No Tie” would be a remark on an invitation to a get-together of some sort, indicating casual dress.
    It’s about time Bill made a mistake. He’s been about perfect for years!

    1. Thanks, Glenn. Very thoughtful of you to provide the info & a link to the very moving obit of a constructor to whose puzzles I always looked forward & will miss.

    1. Ever notice that when Glenn’s time is faster than Bill’s it’s posted way down the comment list?

      Truthfully though, two things:
      1) If I post, I usually just do when I can. Sometimes I have bouts of insomnia and happen to see when Bill posts these things for the day. If I don’t, I post the next day.
      2) I really don’t care how well Bill does, as I don’t compete with him. For that matter, none of this is a competition, so I hope no one here is seeing it as that. I’m certainly not.

  9. Have spent many happy hrs in and around Mendocino County. My son in law in Ft. Bragg, CA was once awakened at 4 am by someone who meant to call Ft. Bragg, NC. The business was right, the state was wrong. The caller thought it was a funny mistake and didn’t apologize for waking a household at 4 am.
    The town of Mendocino is where the TV show Murder, She Wrote was filmed. I once spent a day stepping over huge electrical cables, and walking past police cars labelled Cabot’s Cove without realizing something was going on. Then I turned a corner, and further down the blocked off street, Angela Lansbury was calmly detecting.

      1. During those yrs it wasn’t unusual to hear the locals discussing whether or not Ms Lansbury was in town. She was very popular.

  10. Modestly tricky Thursday for me; took 20:06 on-line with no peeks or errors, before I got the banner. The I in PIE was the last to fall.

    Sad news on Gail Grabowski…thanks Glenn for the info. I will miss her entertaining puzzles.

    Funny story on Ft Bragg CA/NC from Catherine 🙂 still, 4 AM geez!! I wonder if they’ll change the name in CA if the NC fort changes its name. And, Mendocino is where my brother got married. I didn’t know that’s where “Murder, She Wrote” was filmed.

    Happy New Year everyone…it can only get better!!

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