LA Times Crossword 30 Dec 21, Thursday

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Constructed by: August Miller
Edited by: Rich Norris

Today’s Reveal Answer: Upset the Balance

Themed answers each include the letter sequence BALANCE, but with the order UPSET:

  • 58A Create instability … or a hint to each set of circles : UPSET THE BALANCE
  • 17A *1971 road movie co-starring James Taylor : TWO-LANE BLACKTOP
  • 23A *Astronaut’s insulator : SPACE BLANKET
  • 37A *Part ways for good : MAKE A CLEAN BREAK
  • 47A *”Key Largo” co-star : LAUREN BACALL

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

Bill’s time: 8m 35s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1 Spanish gal pal : CHICA

In Spanish, a “niña” is a young girl, a child. The term “chica” applies to an older girl or perhaps a young woman. The term “muchacha” applies to girls in general, I think …

10 “__ Guy”: 2019 Billie Eilish #1 hit : BAD

Billie Eilish is a singer-songwriter from Los Angeles. She has won several awards, and is the youngest person to have won all four major Grammy categories in the same year, i.e. Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year.

13 Winter warmer : COCOA

The beverages hot cocoa and hot chocolate differ from each other in that the latter contains cocoa butter, whereas the former does not.

14 Troll, at times : HATER

In Internet terms, a troll is someone who attempts to disrupt online group activities. The fishing term “troll” is used to describe such a person as he or she throws out off-topic remarks in an attempt to “lure” others into some emotional response. I must admit to feeling sorry for people who have such sad lives …

17 *1971 road movie co-starring James Taylor : TWO-LANE BLACKTOP

“Two-Lane Blacktop” is a 1971 film starring singer James Taylor and Dennis Wilson (drummer for the Beach Boys) as two street racers who live on the road, drifting from town to town in a Chevrolet 150 drag car. Surprisingly perhaps, neither Taylor nor Wilson recorded any part of the movie’s soundtrack.

James Taylor is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who first achieved success with his 1970 song “Fire and Rain”. Famously, Taylor was married to fellow singer Carly Simon, from 1972 to 1983.

21 Creator of the former messaging software AIM : AOL

Even though instant messaging (sending and receiving IMs) has been around since the 1960s, it was AOL who popularized the term “instant message” in the eighties and nineties. The “AOL Instant Message” service was known as AIM.

22 Arab League headquarters city : CAIRO

Cairo is the capital city of Egypt. It is nicknamed “The City of a Thousand Minarets” because of its impressive skyline replete with Islamic architecture. The name “Cairo” is a European corruption of the city’s original name in Arabic, “Al-Qahira”.

The Arab League was formed in 1945 in Cairo with six founding members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria. As a result of events during the 2011 Arab Spring, the Arab League has suspended Syria’s membership.

23 *Astronaut’s insulator : SPACE BLANKET

A space blanket is a very light-weight blanket made from a thin sheet of Mylar. They are often used in emergencies as the Mylar gives a very reflective surface, which serves to reduce heat loss from the body. Hikers can also use the blanket to reflect the sun as a signal in an emergency situation.

Mylar is a brand of polyester film with many uses, one of which is to make reflective surfaces. Mylar can be used to make reflective solar sails, which are a fascinating form of spacecraft propulsion. Believe it or not, reflecting photons of light each provide a small amount of thrust, and enough of them can propel an object in the vacuum of space.

30 Like crab apples : TART

The fruit of the crab apple tree is very sour and tart. It is from this acidic quality that we get the term “crab”, describing a person who is grouchy and irritable.

34 “Nova” airer : PBS

“Nova” is an excellent science television series on PBS. It was created back in 1974, and was inspired by a very similar BBC show called “Horizon”, a show that I grew up with. Many “Nova” episodes are actually co-productions with the BBC, with an American narrator used for the PBS broadcasts and a British narrator for the BBC broadcasts.

42 Soccer legend Mia : HAMM

Mia Hamm is a retired American soccer player. She played as a forward on the US national team that won the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991. Hamm scored 158 international goals, which was more than any other player in the world, male or female, until the record was broken in 2013. Amazingly, Hamm was born with a clubfoot, and so had to wear corrective shoes when she was growing up.

47 *”Key Largo” co-star : LAUREN BACALL

What a bombshell Lauren Bacall was, with that husky voice and her quiet, suggestive manner. Bacall was born in New York City to Jewish immigrant parents from Europe. She was actually a first cousin of Shimon Peres, the former President and Prime Minister of Israel. Famously, Bacall was married to Humphrey Bogart, from 1945 until his passing in 1957.

Key Largo is an island in the Florida Keys. The island gained a lot of celebrity in 1948 when the John Huston movie “Key Largo” was released, starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lauren Bacall.

52 Ed of “Up” : ASNER

Ed Asner was most famous for playing the irascible but lovable Lou Grant on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and on the spin-off drama “Lou Grant”. Off-screen Asner was noted for his political activism. He served two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and was very involved in the 1980 SAG strike. When “Lou Grant” was cancelled in 1982, despite decent ratings, there was a lot of talk that the cancellation was a move by the network against Asner personally. In fact, one of Asner’s activist colleagues, Howard Hesseman (who played Johnny Fever) found that his show “WKRP in Cincinnati” was also canceled … on the very same day.

“Up” was the tenth movie released by Pixar studios, and features the wonderful animation that we have come to expect from Pixar. The film earned itself two Academy Awards. The main voice actor is Ed Asner, whose animated persona as Carl Fredricksen was created to resemble Spencer Tracy, as Tracy appeared in his last film, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”.

54 Dash gauge : TACH

The tachometer takes its name from the Greek word “tachos” meaning “speed”. A tachometer in a car measures engine revolutions per minute (rpm).

Back in the 1800s, “dashboard” was the name given to a board placed at the front of a carriage to stop mud from “dashing” against the passengers in the carriage, mud that was kicked up by the hooves of the horses. Quite interesting …

63 Last critter in a kindergarten reader, maybe : ZEBRA

The term “zebra” comes from an old Portuguese word “zevra” meaning “wild ass”. Studies of zebra embryos show that zebras are basically black in color, with white stripes that develop with growth. Before this finding, it was believed they were white, with black stripes.

“Kindergarten” is a German term, one translating as “children’s garden”. The term was coined by the German education authority Friedrich Fröbel in 1837, when he used it as the name for his play and activity institute that he created for young children to use before they headed off to school. His thought was that children should be nourished educationally, like plants in a garden.

65 Act like a human? : ERR

Alexander Pope’s 1709 poem “An Essay on Criticism” is the source of at least three well-known quotations:

  • A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.
  • To err is human, to forgive divine.
  • For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Down

1 Surveillance system, for short : CCTV

Closed-circuit television (CCTV)

2 Suffragist Julia Ward __ : HOWE

Julia Ward Howe was an active pacifist and suffragist. Howe is also well known as the writer of the lyrics to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.

Women’s suffrage finally came about in the US with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the constitution in 1920. Some women were allowed to vote prior to 1920 depending on location. For example, women could vote in New Jersey from 1790, until 1807 when the right was taken away.

4 Chilled Japanese brew : COLD SAKE

We refer to the Japanese alcoholic beverage made from rice as “sake”. We’ve gotten things a bit mixed up in the West. “Sake” is actually the word that the Japanese use for all alcoholic drinks. What we know as sake, we sometimes refer to as rice wine. Also, the starch in the rice is first converted to sugars that are then fermented into alcohol. This is more akin to a beer-brewing process than wine production, so the end product is really a rice “beer” rather than a rice “wine”.

5 Energizer size : AAA

We are all fairly familiar with the Energizer Bunny, I am guessing. The “Bunny” was introduced in 1989 to promote Energizer batteries, by parodying the Duracell Bunny that had been introduced in 1973.

6 2000s Fox drama set in Newport Beach : THE OC

“The O.C.” is a teen drama that aired for four seasons on Fox finishing up in 2007. I never watched it, but I understand that it is set in Newport Beach in Southern California. And, “O.C.” stands for “Orange County”.

7 Weasel family member known for its fur : SABLE

Sables are small mammals, about two feet long, that are found right across northern Europe and northern Asia. The sable’s black pelt is highly prized in the fur trade. Sable is unique among furs in that it feels smooth no matter which direction it is stroked.

Weasels are small mammals with long, thin bodies. That body shape is an advantage when weasels chase their prey into narrow burrows.

8 Ga. airport : ATL

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) is the world’s busiest airport, as measured by passenger traffic. Atlanta has had that distinction since 1998, and was the world’s busiest in terms of take-offs and landings from 2005 until 2013. Over 50% of Atlanta’s traffic comes from Delta Air Lines.

9 LGBT activist __ Carey : REA

Rea Carey is an activist from Denver who served as the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force starting in 2008.

10 It’s a dyeing art : BATIK

Genuine batik cloth is produced by applying wax to the parts of the cloth that are not to be dyed. After the cloth has been dyed, it is dried and then dipped in a solvent that dissolves the wax. Although wax-resist dyeing of fabric has existed in various parts of the world for centuries, it is most closely associated historically with the island of Java in Indonesia.

12 Where to get off : DEPOT

Our term “depot”, meaning “station, warehouse”, comes from the French word “dépôt”. The French term translates into English as “deposit” or “place of deposit”.

15 Miniature vehicle with a remote, briefly : RC CAR

Radio-controlled (RC)

18 Tandoori bread : NAAN

Naan (also “nan”) bread is very popular in Indian restaurants, as well as in other West, Central and South Asian cuisines. Indian Naan is traditionally baked in a clay oven known as a tandoor.

19 “Critique of Pure Reason” writer : KANT

Immanuel Kant was an 18th-century German philosopher. Kant published “Perpetual Peace” in 1795, laying out what he believed were conditions for ending all wars and creating a lasting peace. The good news for us is that one of these conditions was to have a world full of constitutional republics, so it seems we are on the right track here in the US!

24 City with a notable tower : PISA

The city of Pisa sits right on the Italian coast, at the mouth of the River Arno. The city is perhaps most famous for its Leaning Tower. The tower is actually the campanile (bell tower) of the city’s cathedral, and it has been leaning since it was completed in 1173. Just shows you how important good foundations are …

27 Models for old clones : IBMS

In the early days of desktop computing, an IBM clone (also “PC clone”) was a computer built by an IBM competitor that was designed to function just like an IBM, but without using any copyrighted material or trade secrets that were the intellectual property of IBM. Clones were always a competitive issue for IBM, and perhaps were part of the reason that IBM doesn’t make desktop computers today …

28 Biblical boater : NOAH

According to the Bible’s Book of Genesis, rain fell for forty days and forty nights, resulting in the Great Flood. All creatures on the land perished, except Noah, his family, and the animals that he brought into the ark.

34 Uni-ball products : PENS

Uni-ball is a brand of pens and pencils made by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company. The Mitsubishi Pencil Company is unrelated to the Mitsubishi Group company that makes so many products, including the Mitsubishi line of cars and trucks that we see on our roads.

36 American vodka brand : SKYY

Skyy Vodka is produced in the US, although the operation is owned by the Campari Group headquartered in Italy. Skyy first hit the shelves in 1992 when it was created by an entrepreneur from San Francisco, California.

39 Male pseudonym used by all three Brontë sisters : BELL

The first work that any of the three Brontë sisters had in print was an 1846 collection of poetry that they published jointly. This first work was titled “Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell”, each using a male pen name. Charlotte Brontë published her novel “Jane Eyre” under the name Currer Bell. Emily Brontë followed soon after with “Wuthering Heights” published under the name Ellis Bell. The youngest sister, Anne Brontë, published “Agnes Grey” using the name Acton Bell.

45 Frequency unit : HERTZ

The unit of frequency measure is the hertz (Hz). It is the number of cycles per second of a periodic phenomenon. The unit is named for Heinrich Hertz, the German physicist who proved the existence of electromagnetic waves.

47 Summa cum __ : LAUDE

When an academic degree is awarded, a level of distinction can be noted depending on the degree of success achieved by the student. There are three types of honor, each with a Latin name:

  • cum laude: meaning “with honor” (literally “with praise”)
  • magna cum laude: meaning “with great honor”
  • summa cum laude: meaning “with highest honor”

49 Indy 500 family name : UNSER

The Unser family seems to have auto racing in their blood. Al Unser, Sr. won the Indy 500 on four occasions. Al’s brother Jerry was the first of the Unsers to compete at Indianapolis. Al’s other brother Bobby, won the Indy three times. Al’s son, Al Junior, won the Indy twice. Al Junior’s son is also a racing driver who competes at the Indy Speedway.

50 Hyundai sedan : AZERA

“Azera” was the name used worldwide for the Hyundai model known as the “Grandeur” in its homeland of South Korea. The Azera was produced from 1986 to 1992.

51 Plotting group : CABAL

A cabal is a small group of plotters acting in secret, perhaps scheming against a government or an individual. The use of “cabal” in this way dates back to the mid-1600s. It is suggested that the term gained some popularity, particularly in a sinister sense, during the reign of Charles II in the 1670s. At that time, it was applied as an acronym standing for “Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale”, a group of ministers known for their plots and schemes.

56 Looped in, on Gmail : CC’ED

I wonder if the kids of today know that “cc” stands for carbon copy, and do they have any idea what a carbon copy was? Do you remember how messy carbon paper was to handle? A kind blog reader pointed out to me a while back that the abbreviation has evolved and taken on the meaning “courtesy copy” in our modern world.

Gmail is a free webmail service provided by Google, and my favorite of the free email services. Gmail made a big splash when it was introduced because it offered a whopping 1GB of storage whereas other services offered a measly 2-4MB on average.

59 Many a noir hero : TEC

“Tec” is a slang term meaning “private detective” or “private investigator” (PI).

60 “Big Little Lies” network : 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 …

61 __ Cruces : LAS

Las Cruces (Spanish for “the crosses”) is the second largest city in the state of New Mexico, and is the home of New Mexico State University.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Spanish gal pal : CHICA
6 Bygone dictator : TSAR
10 “__ Guy”: 2019 Billie Eilish #1 hit : BAD
13 Winter warmer : COCOA
14 Troll, at times : HATER
16 Summer cooler : ADE
17 *1971 road movie co-starring James Taylor : TWO-LANE BLACKTOP
20 Peddle : VEND
21 Creator of the former messaging software AIM : AOL
22 Arab League headquarters city : CAIRO
23 *Astronaut’s insulator : SPACE BLANKET
27 Suffering : IN PAIN
30 Like crab apples : TART
31 Hit the __ : BOOKS
32 “That was close!” : PHEW!
34 “Nova” airer : PBS
37 *Part ways for good : MAKE A CLEAN BREAK
41 Reserved : SHY
42 Soccer legend Mia : HAMM
43 Wee, facetiously : EENSY
44 Flimsy : THIN
46 Expressionless : GLASSY
47 *”Key Largo” co-star : LAUREN BACALL
52 Ed of “Up” : ASNER
53 Turn sharply : ZAG
54 Dash gauge : TACH
58 Create instability … or a hint to each set of circles : UPSET THE BALANCE
62 Barely passing : DEE
63 Last critter in a kindergarten reader, maybe : ZEBRA
64 Revise : ALTER
65 Act like a human? : ERR
66 Ember : COAL
67 Loses one’s grip, in a way : SKIDS

Down

1 Surveillance system, for short : CCTV
2 Suffragist Julia Ward __ : HOWE
3 App symbol : ICON
4 Chilled Japanese brew : COLD SAKE
5 Energizer size : AAA
6 2000s Fox drama set in Newport Beach : THE OC
7 Weasel family member known for its fur : SABLE
8 Ga. airport : ATL
9 LGBT activist __ Carey : REA
10 It’s a dyeing art : BATIK
11 Really dig : ADORE
12 Where to get off : DEPOT
15 Miniature vehicle with a remote, briefly : RC CAR
18 Tandoori bread : NAAN
19 “Critique of Pure Reason” writer : KANT
24 City with a notable tower : PISA
25 Backup group : B-TEAM
26 Many a home front : LAWN
27 Models for old clones : IBMS
28 Biblical boater : NOAH
29 Slow : POKY
32 Fallback : PLAN B
33 Something to take up with your tailor? : HEM
34 Uni-ball products : PENS
35 Low pitch pro : BASS
36 American vodka brand : SKYY
38 __ music: small talk : CHIN
39 Male pseudonym used by all three Brontë sisters : BELL
40 Heart-to-heart : REAL TALK
44 Genealogy chart : TREE
45 Frequency unit : HERTZ
46 Madly in love : GAGA
47 Summa cum __ : LAUDE
48 According to : AS PER
49 Indy 500 family name : UNSER
50 Hyundai sedan : AZERA
51 Plotting group : CABAL
55 Not a fan of : ANTI
56 Looped in, on Gmail : CC’ED
57 Towel term : HERS
59 Many a noir hero : TEC
60 “Big Little Lies” network : HBO
61 __ Cruces : LAS

21 thoughts on “LA Times Crossword 30 Dec 21, Thursday”

    1. You are correct, sir. The constructor of this puzzle seems particularly fond of the PPPs (People, Places, Products and other proper nouns — I quit counting after I passed 30 in this puz.) These days, the best advice to give a youngster interested in becoming a solver is: Spend your life watching TV and movies (especially superhero and sci-fi franchises), and reading every issue of People, Billboard, and Variety you can get your hands on. It’s kinda sad.

  1. Lately the editor Norris seems desirous of morphing his (former best) puzzle into a People Magazine puzzle full of names hardly known by most people. It is a sad state of affairs IMHO. Last Sunday’s puzzle was particularly egregious. Today’s seems to follow this pattern.

  2. Using error check mode or reveling letters is NOT a cheat as a poster here has been calling it. These puzzles are not tests nor competitions to see who the fastest is, and some of us get stumped from time to time.

    1. I wouldn’t use the word cheat either. What I object to is those who claim no errors and then list their look-ups. Granted this is not a competition, but those of us who make the effort without using look-ups may feel a little “cheated” when we legitimately have no errors in our solutions!

  3. No errors but had to look up the Hyundai model name. I started off on
    the wrong foot with very first clue and had “amiga” instead of “chica” but
    when I realized the 2D name had to be “Howe” I backed up and corrected.
    The theme helped me find the right letters to fill in the blanks.
    Enjoyable puzzle

  4. 6:42

    When I got the theme I thought, uh oh, anagrams. Luckily I got enough circles that I only needed to fill in a couple of letters. I also had to change AMIGA->CHICA.

    @Anon Mike

    CHINMUSIC is the sound made by chins wagging, that is, talking.

  5. DNF the NW corner did me in. Is cold sake
    “Chilled” or is it hot sake that’s been sitting
    around? I guess my balance is a little upset.
    😂

  6. 27:20 – 3 cheats (HOWE, REA, THEOC).

    Yeah, there were a lot of PPPs but I’m a newbie and got all of them except for the above 3. I’m absolutely terrible at trivia, etc, but got the crosses or “guessed” intelligently. Glenn often speaks about how he didn’t “know” the answer but in the end got it anyway.

    I liked the puzzle, although it took some time, but I got it.

    Be Well.

    1. Normally, I don’t mind sparing proper nouns or unknowns, but the problem they usually pose is when the constructor doesn’t allow you enough to get them. To compare, I recently did a couple of puzzles from 1988 that had sci-fi authors and titles in them, none of them which I was familiar with (“knew”). I managed zero errors on both. Some of the others out of that book were a lot worse and led into multiple errors and DNFs (one with oddball composer names I never heard of comes to mind). Of course, for something more modern, the New Yorker puzzles evoke a lot of this (2 DNFs so far on their “2021 in …” puzzles they’ve been putting out this week, but numerous errors on all of them otherwise).

      Proper nouns are okay in moderation, but they aren’t often in moderation and a lot of what gets used are figures that get made “crossword famous” by their constructors, ultimately finding their 15 minutes of fame for their inclusion into that puzzle. To wit, I can definitely judge the quality of a constructor on one part by how much of this they pull in their grids.

      But yes, I didn’t “know” a large cross-section of this very puzzle from the clues. But with other methods against the grid itself, I managed to get no errors on this somehow.

  7. on today’s (12/30/21) puzzle you omitted the explanation of at least 3 answers (across: 43, 44, and 46). Was that done on purpose or by mistake?

    1. Bill often skips over things that can either be readily explained by the dictionary, or he just plain isn’t interested in. Ultimately what he does write, I think, is more personal interest than anything. And I don’t blame him one bit. 🙂

      FWIW, 43, 44 & 46 across are readily explained by the dictionary.

  8. 15:55 with no errors or lookups. Had to revise DUBAI>CAIRO (Dubai was just a guess, and was going to make it QATAR, but one of the intersections tild me it wasn’t that), SKOL>SKYY.

    CHIN music is an interesting term for small talk, and new to me.

    RE: [over]use of proper nouns in a crossword puzzle (clues or answers). Just my personal opinion, but I’m not bothered by judicious use of them. After all, it isn’t Scrabble; and using them can help to keep one up-to-date on current events, notable figures, literature, etc. I would argue for judicious use of them, though, so that solving sections of the grid is not overly-dependent on esoteric references.

  9. Tough Thursday for me; took 26:46 with 5 errors, discovered by “check-grid.” I also had AMIGA and decided to leave it, along with BELL, which I had as BErL at the time. And, SKYe for the last error.

    Had a lot of troubles with proper nouns, needless to say. Got lucky with a bunch of others.

    Lauren Bacall in Key Largo to Humphrey Bogart: “You know how to whistle don’t you; you just put your lips together and blow.” Ha!!

    According to Google, “chin music” is also an inside, high fastball..yow!

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