LA Times Crossword 27 May 21, Thursday

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Constructed by: Tim D’Alfonso
Edited by: Rich Norris

Today’s Reveal Answer: Hot Stuff

Themed answers can all be described as HOT STUFF:

  • 42A 1979 #1 hit for Donna Summer, and what the four longest Across answers are : HOT STUFF
  • 18A Author’s dream : BESTSELLER
  • 26A It’s rated 10+ on the Scoville Scale : GHOST PEPPER
  • 56A Haul, in a bad way : STOLEN GOODS
  • 67A “Fifty Shades of Grey,” for one : EROTIC FILM

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

Bill’s time: 6m 31s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1 Base in “A Few Good Men,” familiarly : GITMO

The Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba is often referred to by using the abbreviation “GTMO” or simply “Gitmo”. Gitmo is the oldest overseas base operated by the navy and dates back to the Cuban-American Treaty of 1903, at which time the US leased the facility as a fueling station. A perpetual lease was offered by Tomas Estrada Palma, the first President of Cuba, after the US took over control of Cuba from Spain following the Spanish-American War of 1898.

The marvelous 1992 movie “A Few Good Men” was adapted for the big screen by Aaron Sorkin, from his own play of the same name. Sorkin is also the man behind “The West Wing” and “The Newsroom” on television, two great shows. Stars of the movie version “A Few Good Men” are Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore.

16 Turkish title : AGHA

“Aga” (also “agha”) is a title that was used by both civil and military officials in the Ottoman Empire.

17 Red Square honoree : LENIN

“Lenin” wasn’t the birth name of the Russian leader. He was born Vladimir Ulyanov, and originally used “Lenin” as a pen name.

Moscow’s Red Square is surrounded by several significant buildings, for example:

  • Lenin’s Mausoleum that is the final resting place for the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin
  • The Moscow Kremlin that serves as the official residence of the President of Russia
  • GUM (for “Main Universal Store”), which is the main department store in the capital
  • Saint Basil’s Cathedral, which now operates as a museum.

20 White pawns, e.g. : OCTAD

In the game of chess, the pawns are the weakest pieces on the board. A pawn that can make it to the opposite side of the board can be promoted to a piece of choice, usually a queen. Using promotion of pawns, it is possible for a player to have two or more queens on the board at one time. However, standard chess sets come with only one queen per side, so a captured rook is often used as the second queen by placing it on the board upside down.

23 One may be grand : PIANO

A grand piano is one with the frame supported horizontally on three legs. An upright piano has the frame and strings running vertically. Grand pianos come in many sizes. For example, the length of a concert grand is about 9 feet, a parlor grand is about 7 feet, and a baby grand is about 5 feet.

24 GPS displays : RTES

A global positioning system (GPS) might point out a route (rte.).

26 It’s rated 10+ on the Scoville Scale : GHOST PEPPER

The ghost pepper is also known as the “bhüt jolokia” or Bhutanese pepper. The term “bhüt” somehow morphed into the similar-sounding “ghost”, hence the English name. Guinness World Records declared the ghost pepper the world’s hottest chili pepper in 2007, although the Carolina reaper was given that honor in 2017.

The Scoville scale is a measure of the spiciness of chili peppers. The scale was invented by a pharmacist in 1912, Wilbur Scoville. To determine the position of a pepper on Scoville scale, the amount of capsaicin in the chili is measured. Capsaicin is an irritant that causes the sensation of burning when it comes into contact with tissue, particularly mucous membranes.

31 Battleship abbr. : USS

The abbreviation “USS” stands for “United States Ship”. The practice of naming US Navy vessels in a standard format didn’t start until 1907, when President Theodore Roosevelt issued an executive order that addressed the issue.

In the days of sail, a naval fleet of ships often formed a “line of battle” in the vessels formed up end to end. The advantage of such a formation was that all vessels could fire a battery of cannon along the full length of the ship. Vessels deemed powerful enough to join the line of battle became known as “ships of the line”, or “line of battle ships”. The term “line of battle ship” shortened over time to become our modern word “battleship”. The main feature of a contemporary battleship is a battery of large caliber guns.

35 Bird in Liberty Mutual ads : EMU

Liberty Mutual is an insurance company based in Boston. The business was founded in 1912 as the Massachusetts Employees Insurance Association (MEIA). Liberty Mutual has a famous advertising icon named LiMu Emu.

37 __ Valley, Calif. : SIMI

Simi Valley, California is perhaps best known as home to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. The library is a great place to visit, and there you can tour one of the retired Air Force One planes.

41 Primes, e.g.: Abbr. : NOS

A prime number is a number greater than 1 that can only be divided evenly by 1 and itself. There are still some unanswered questions involving prime numbers, perhaps most notably Goldbach’s Conjecture. This conjecture dates back to the 1740s and is assumed to be true, but has never been proven. It states that every even integer greater than 2 can be expressed as the sum of two prime numbers.

42 1979 #1 hit for Donna Summer, and what the four longest Across answers are : HOT STUFF

Donna Summer is known as “The Queen of Disco”, with great hits like “Love to Love You, Baby”, “I Feel Love” and “Hot Stuff”. In the late sixties and early seventies, LaDonna Gaines (her real name) lived and worked in Germany. There she met and married an Austrian actor called Helmuth Sommer. They divorced not long after the marriage, but Donna kept his family name, just changing the “o” to “u” to give her the stage name of “Donna Summer”.

45 Many a fed. holiday : MON

The US Congress created the first federal holidays in 1870, but only designated four such holidays:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Independence Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

48 Ontario-based music gp. : TSO

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) was founded in 1922 as the New Symphony Orchestra. Spanish conductor Gustavo Gimeno was named music director of the TSO in 2020.

49 “Cats” poet : TS ELIOT

“Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” is a 1939 collection of poems by T. S. Eliot (TSE). The collection of whimsical poetry was a favorite of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber when he was a child. Webber used Eliot’s poems as inspiration for his megahit musical “Cats”.

51 “Big Little Lies” airer : HBO

“Big Little Lies” is a 2017 TV miniseries that is based on a 2014 novel of the same name. It stars Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley as three women who, while dealing with their own emotional problems, find themselves involved in a murder investigation. I haven’t seen this one, but hear very good things …

53 Providence-to-Boston dir. : NNE

Providence is the capital of the state of Rhode Island. The city was founded way back in 1636 by a religious exile from the Massachusetts Bay Colony called Roger Williams. Williams believed that it was “God’s merciful providence” that revealed the location of today’s city as a haven for him and his followers, and so gave the new settlement the name “Providence”.

The city of Boston, Massachusetts was founded in 1630 by Puritan colonists from England. The area was eventually named for the city of Boston in Lincolnshire, England from where several of the colonists hailed.

55 Island environs : WATER

“Environ” is the French word for “round” or “round about”. We use “environ” as a verb in English, meaning to surround, form a circle around. The related plural noun “environs” is used to mean “surroundings, environment”.

62 Ralph of “The Waltons” : WAITE

Ralph Waite played the Dad, John Walton Sr. on “The Waltons”. I was never much of a Waltons fan, but I did like “Roots”. Waite played a very different character on that show: first mate on the slave ship “Slater”.

The very successful TV series “The Waltons” aired in the seventies and early eighties. It was based on a 1961 book “Spencer’s Mountain” written by Earl Hamner Jr., the show’s creator. The book was also the basis of a 1963 movie, also called “Spencer’s Mountain”, starring Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara.

64 Nautical unit : KNOT

A knot (kt.) is a unit of speed equal to one nautical mile per hour. Traditionally a vessel’s speed was determined by using a “chip log”. A chip log is made up of a wooden board attached to a line wrapped around a reel. The line (called a “log-line”) had knots tied in it at uniform spacings. To determine the vessel’s speed the board was thrown overboard and the line allowed to unroll. The speed was then the “number of knots” paid out in a fixed time interval.

66 Moray catcher : EELER

Morays are a large group of about 200 species of eels found across the world’s oceans. They are carnivorous and look pretty scary but they’re quite shy when confronted and present no threat to humans. One interesting thing about morays is that they will sometimes work in cooperation with the grouper fish found in reefs, the two helping each other hunt for food.

67 “Fifty Shades of Grey,” for one : EROTIC FILM

“Fifty Shades of Grey” is a 2015 erotic drama movie based on a 2011 novle of the same name by E.L. James. Starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, the film was widely panned by critics and won out of six nominations at the season’s Golden Raspberry Awards. Audiences didn’t care, though, and it was a box office smash. It also spawned two sequels: “Fifty Shades Darker” (2017) and “Fifty Shades Freed” (2018).

71 Crosswise, on deck : ABEAM

The beam is the widest part of a nautical vessel. Something pointed out as lying “abeam” is something that is 90 degrees from a line through the bow and the stern, in other words directly off to the right or the left.

72 Suckers : SAPS

“Sap” is slang for “fool, someone easily scammed”. The term arose in the early 1800s in Britain when it was used in “saphead” and “sapskull”. All these words are derived from “sapwood”, which is the softwood found in tree trunks between the bark and the heartwood at the center.

74 Singer nicknamed “The Velvet Fog” : TORME

Mel Tormé was a jazz singer, with a quality of voice that earned him the nickname “The Velvet Fog”. Tormé also wrote a few books, and did a lot of acting. He was the co-author of the Christmas classic known as “The Christmas Song”, which starts out with the line “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire …”

75 Hook’s sidekick : SMEE

In J. M. Barrie’s play and novel about Peter Pan, Smee is one of Captain Hook’s pirates and is Hook’s bosun and right-hand man. Smee is described by Barrie as being “Irish” and “a man who stabbed without offence”. Nice guy! Captain Hook and Smee sail on a pirate ship called the Jolly Roger.

76 Certain NCOs : SSGTS

A staff sergeant (SSgt.) is a non-commissioned officer (NCO).

Down

4 Cell division : MITOSIS

Mitosis is the process by which the complement of chromosomes in a cell nucleus replicates and then divides into two identical sets of new chromosomes. Mitosis is followed by division of the cell itself, resulting in two identical cells. Meiosis is a special type of cell division that results in reproductive cells that have half the full complement of chromosomes. The reproductive cells join together, with one cell coming from each parent, to form a new cell with a full complement of chromosomes. That new cell develops into offspring that have characteristics of both parents.

7 Inuit homes : IGLOOS

The Inuit word for “house” is “iglu”, which we usually write as “igloo”. The Greenlandic (yes, that’s a language) word for “house” is very similar, namely “igdlo”. The walls of igloos are tremendous insulators, due to the air pockets in the blocks of snow.

8 Place for kings and queens : CHESS SET

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”)

9 Gold measure : KARAT

A karat (also “carat”, the spelling outside of North America) is a measure of the purity of gold alloys, with 24-karat representing pure gold.

11 Chef’s assortment : RECIPES

The Latin “recipere” means “to take”, and the imperative form “recipe” was written at the top of medical prescriptions as an instruction, i.e. “take (the following)”. This use of “recipe” evolved into the instruction for preparing a dish of food in the mid-1700s.

13 Lane of “Unfaithful” : DIANE

Diane Lane is an American film actress, who was born and raised in New York City. Not so long ago, I saw Lane with Richard Gere in “Nights in Rodanthe” (a movie that I recommend). My absolute favorite movie of hers is “Under the Tuscan Sun”, which is based on the memoir of the same name by Frances Mayes (a writer from San Francisco). It’s a lovely romantic story, not without humor, and set in the gorgeous Tuscan landscape.

“Unfaithful” is a 2002 drama film with leads played by Richard Gere and Diane Lane. The Hollywood movie is a remake of a French film called “La Femme infidèle” (The Unfaithful Wife).

14 Ewoks’ home : ENDOR

The fictional forested moon of Endor features prominently in the “Star Wars” movie “Return of the Jedi”. The moon is home to the race of furry aliens known as Ewoks. Filming for the forest scenes actually took place in Humboldt Redwoods State Park in Northern California.

19 Hosp. readout : EKG

An EKG measures the electrical activity in the heart. Back in my homeland of Ireland, an EKG is known as an ECG (for electrocardiogram). We use the German name in the US, Elektrokardiogramm, giving us EKG. Apparently the abbreviation EKG is preferred, as ECG might be confused (if poorly handwritten, I guess) with EEG, the abbreviation for an electroencephalogram.

24 Isabella, por ejemplo : REINA

In Spanish, Isabella, “por ejemplo” (for example), was a “reina” (queen).

Queen Isabella I of Castile was recognized as a formidable sovereign, and was perceived as a joint ruler with her husband, King Ferdinand II of Aragon. The pair united their two kingdoms in a move that heralded the unification of Spain.

25 Deck with the Fool and the World : TAROT

Tarot cards have been around since the mid-1400s, and for centuries were simply used for entertainment as a game. It has only been since the late 1800s that the cards have been used by fortune tellers to predict the future. The list of tarot cards includes the Wheel of Fortune, the Hanged Man and the Lovers.

28 Hairdos made popular by Marie Antoinette : POUFS

The pouf is an updo hairstyle that was popularized in 18th-century France by Marie Antoinette. The French queen first sported the pouf at the coronation of her husband, Louis XVI. Ladies of the day would often wear many ornaments and decorations in their hair set in a pouf, such as pearls, feathers and even ships.

Marie Antoinette was the wife of Louis XVI, the last king of France. Marie Antoinette was the fifteenth of sixteen children born to the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. The marriage to Louis, her second cousin once removed, was arranged while the two were very young. The prospective bride was “handed over” to the French at a border crossing in 1770 and two weeks later she was married to the future king. Marie Antoinette was just 14 years of age at the time, and Louis only a year her senior. Both Louis and Marie Antoinette were doomed to lose their heads courtesy of the guillotine during the French Revolution.

30 Medical research org. : NIH

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) organization is made up of 27 different institutes that coordinate their research and services. Examples of member institutes are the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Aging.

40 Prefix with mural : INTRA-

Intramural sports are conducted within a certain geographic area, as opposed to varsity sports which are played with teams outside that area. The term “intramural” comes from the Latin for “within walls” and first applied to events held between teams based within the walls of a city.

43 Ultrasound image : SONOGRAM

A sonogram is an image made using ultrasound. “Ultrasound” is the name given to sound energy that has frequencies above the audible range.

47 Blues, e.g. : NHL TEAM

The St. Louis Blues hockey team takes its name from the song “St. Louis Blues”, a jazz and popular music classic.

56 It may be broken in a gym : SWEAT

Our word “gymnasium” comes from the Greek “gymnasion” meaning “public place where exercise is taken”. The Greek term comes from “gymnos” meaning “naked”, as that physical training was usually done unclothed in ancient Greece.

57 Fitness regimen : TAE BO

Tae Bo isn’t an ancient martial art, even though it perhaps sounds like one. The discipline was developed as a form of aerobic exercise in the 1990s by taekwondo expert Billy Blanks who gave it the name Tae Bo, a melding of “taekwondo” and “boxing”.

Quite often, the terms “regime” and “regimen” seem to be used interchangeably. In contemporary usage, “regime” is applied more generally, and “regimen” more specifically. A “regimen” is a systematic approach that one might apply to something, to exercise or diet for example. The term “regime” can also be used in such contexts, but can have additional definitions, such as “government in power”. A form of government cannot be described as a “regimen”.

58 Gulf ship : OILER

The Persian Gulf is in effect an inland sea, although it technically is an offshoot of the Indian Ocean. The outlet from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean is one of the most famous maritime “choke points” in the world, and is known as the Strait of Hormuz. About 20% of the world’s supply of petroleum passes through the Strait of Hormuz.

59 Jeans brand with a question mark in its logo : GUESS

GUESS is a company producing a whole line of clothing, although it was originally very much associated with the production of denim jeans. The GUESS logo is quite distinctive. It features a triangle with the word “GUESS” and a question mark inside. The dot at the bottom of the question mark is also triangular, and there are the numbers 1201 and 1203 on either side. Those were the suite numbers of the company’s first office on the 12th floor of a building in downtown Los Angeles.

65 “JAG” spin-off : NCIS

NCIS is the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which investigates crimes in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. The service gives its name to the CBS TV show “NCIS”, a spin-off drama from “JAG” in which the main “NCIS” characters were first introduced. The big star in “NCIS” is the actor Mark Harmon. “NCIS” is now a franchise, with spin-off shows “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “NCIS: New Orleans”.

The legal drama “JAG” is named for the highest ranking uniformed lawyer in the US Navy, the Judge Advocate General. Apparently the show was created as a cross between “Top Gun” and “A Few Good Men”.

68 Mao __-tung : TSE

Mao Zedong (also “Mao Tse-tung”) was born on December 16, 1893 in the Hunan Province of China. As Mao was the son of a peasant farmer, his prospects for education were limited. Indeed he left school at age 13 to work on the family farm but did eventually get to secondary school in Changsha, the provincial capital. In the years following, Mao continued his education in Beijing and actually turned down an opportunity to study in France.

69 Realtor’s offering : LOT

“Real estate agent” is a general, generic term. “Realtor” is the name given to a member of the trade association known as the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The NAR has gone so far as to trademark the term “Realtor” in the US.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Base in “A Few Good Men,” familiarly : GITMO
6 Selection : PICK
10 Eat away : ERODE
15 Live, TV-wise : ON AIR
16 Turkish title : AGHA
17 Red Square honoree : LENIN
18 Author’s dream : BESTSELLER
20 White pawns, e.g. : OCTAD
21 Became effective : TOOK
22 Spanish she-bear : OSA
23 One may be grand : PIANO
24 GPS displays : RTES
26 It’s rated 10+ on the Scoville Scale : GHOST PEPPER
29 Skip the café : EAT IN
31 Battleship abbr. : USS
32 Praiseful poem : ODE
33 Words that may preempt a dismissal : I RESIGN!
35 Bird in Liberty Mutual ads : EMU
37 __ Valley, Calif. : SIMI
41 Primes, e.g.: Abbr. : NOS
42 1979 #1 hit for Donna Summer, and what the four longest Across answers are : HOT STUFF
45 Many a fed. holiday : MON
46 Ltr. directive : ATTN
48 Ontario-based music gp. : TSO
49 “Cats” poet : TS ELIOT
51 “Big Little Lies” airer : HBO
53 Providence-to-Boston dir. : NNE
55 Island environs : WATER
56 Haul, in a bad way : STOLEN GOODS
61 When tripled, a story shortener : YADA
62 Ralph of “The Waltons” : WAITE
63 “So awful!” : UGH!
64 Nautical unit : KNOT
66 Moray catcher : EELER
67 “Fifty Shades of Grey,” for one : EROTIC FILM
71 Crosswise, on deck : ABEAM
72 Suckers : SAPS
73 “__ now, when?” : IF NOT
74 Singer nicknamed “The Velvet Fog” : TORME
75 Hook’s sidekick : SMEE
76 Certain NCOs : SSGTS

Down

1 Hunk : GOB
2 Serpent’s tail? : -INE
3 Competition with blindfolds, maybe : TASTE TEST
4 Cell division : MITOSIS
5 Roughly : OR SO
6 Bud : PAL
7 Inuit homes : IGLOOS
8 Place for kings and queens : CHESS SET
9 Gold measure : KARAT
10 Ran off to get hitched : ELOPED
11 Chef’s assortment : RECIPES
12 Ready to be poured : ON TAP
13 Lane of “Unfaithful” : DIANE
14 Ewoks’ home : ENDOR
19 Hosp. readout : EKG
24 Isabella, por ejemplo : REINA
25 Deck with the Fool and the World : TAROT
27 Tracks down : HUNTS
28 Hairdos made popular by Marie Antoinette : POUFS
30 Medical research org. : NIH
34 Boarded : GOT ON
36 Like some colors : MUTED
38 Pretending to be : IMITATING
39 Called from the pasture : MOOED
40 Prefix with mural : INTRA-
43 Ultrasound image : SONOGRAM
44 Small amount : FEW
47 Blues, e.g. : NHL TEAM
50 Terminations : LAYOFFS
52 “Cold one, please” : BEER ME
54 Words of despair : NO HOPE
56 It may be broken in a gym : SWEAT
57 Fitness regimen : TAE BO
58 Gulf ship : OILER
59 Jeans brand with a question mark in its logo : GUESS?
60 Hit the slopes : SKI
65 “JAG” spin-off : NCIS
68 Mao __-tung : TSE
69 Realtor’s offering : LOT
70 Peaks: Abbr. : MTS

18 thoughts on “LA Times Crossword 27 May 21, Thursday”

  1. Saying a ghost pepper is 10+ on the Scoville scale seems like saying a can contains at least one microliter of soda.

    1. Yes, what you said! A curious error … proving, I guess, that crossword setters and editors are, in fact human … 😜.

  2. No errors.. never had a ghost pepper but I hear they are hot.. reminds me of that show where this guy does an interview while the guest eats hot peppers?? Trying to maintain poise and dignity until they breakdown and drink milk or cry or both.

  3. No errors today; my kind of puzzle: not so easy that it’s no fun
    and not so hard that it takes lookups to solve. Ghost peppers was new
    to me, but it fit right in……so I learned something new. As is often the
    way with crossword puzzles.

  4. 10:43

    The puzzle helped me figure out the theme more than the other way round.

    Now, I’ve learned of Ralph WAITE via TAEBO.

  5. No errors…seemed easier than the Wednesday puzzle…ghost pepper also new to me as the hottest thing I ever eat is BBQ chicken.
    I live in Baltimore and wash off steamed crabs before eating them🤪
    Stay safe😀

  6. Had to Google for NHL TEAM, TASTE TEST, TSO, ABEAM. Normally, I don’t comment when I do this poorly, but I thought the puzzle and it’s theme well done.
    Didn’t know TAE BO, GHOST PEPPER or WAITE. Didn’t care for The Waltons, and avoid all peppers.

  7. 20A- Can someone explain what “octad” has to do with white pawns?
    Thank you Bill for finally explaining how “knot” became the name used for a ship’s speed.

  8. 8 minutes, 43 seconds, no errors, no issues. Fairly easy as Thursdays go. Notable for not having one clue to even raise an eyebrow at.

    Here’s to “guileless”!

  9. I had Marco Polo for three down so it took me a while to get around to taste test. Yes, I agree with all the comments that say it was nicely hard.

  10. Slightly tricky Thursday for me; took 15:30 with no errors or peeks. Didn’t know GITMO, WAITE and it took a sec to figure out BEER ME.

    The hot pepper eating YouTube show is “Hot Ones.” I just watched Maisie Williams pretty much ace it…impressed. First time I heard of the show was from a skit on SNL.

  11. 14:48 with no errors or lookups. A nice Thursday challenge without being overly difficult.

    I like uplifting family stories, so The Waltons was enjoyable to me.

    I think that the use of regime when regimen is more applicable is a misuse of regime, even if it’s becoming somewhat more acceptable.

    Bill, I appreciate the info bits you share on the clues; e.g., how we got a military base on Cuba, origin of “battleship”, Goldbach’s Conjecture, and knot.

    According to NOAA, the rope was simply coiled up, and the board was shaped like a slice of pie. I can imagine that using that method was possibly only an estimate due to variations in rope thickness, size of the board, and how easily the rope played out.

    https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/nauticalmile_knot.html

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