LA Times Crossword 9 Dec 21, Thursday

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Constructed by: Dan Margolis
Edited by: Rich Norris

Today’s Theme (according to Bill): Mean Beginnings

Themed answers each start with a synonym of “intermediate”:

  • 20A Often euphemistic words for lacking employment : IN-BETWEEN JOBS
  • 27A Manhattan attraction : CENTRAL PARK
  • 44A Rounding third base after starting at second, say : HALFWAY HOME
  • 53A Just plain folks : MIDDLE AMERICA

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

Bill’s time: 6m 06s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

5 Hook or Kirk: Abbr. : CAPT

Captain Hook is the bad guy in “Peter Pan”, the famous play by J. M. Barrie. Hook is Peter Pan’s sworn enemy, as Pan had cut off Hook’s hand causing it to be replaced by a “hook”. It is implied in the play that Hook attended Eton College, just outside London. Hook’s last words are “Floreat Etona”, which is Eton College’s motto. Barrie openly acknowledged that the Hook character is based on Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab from the novel “Moby Dick”.

According to the storyline in “Star Trek”, Captain James Tiberius Kirk was born in Riverside, Iowa on March 22, 2233. The town of Riverside displays a plaque, noting Riverside as the “future birthplace of James T. Kirk”, but the date given is March 22, 2228. I sense a disturbance in the space-time continuum …

9 Logician’s “E” : ERAT

The initialism “QED” is used at the end of a mathematical proof or a philosophical argument. QED stands for the Latin “quod erat demonstrandum” meaning “that which was to be demonstrated”.

13 Rope fiber : SISAL

The sisal plant is an agave, the flesh of which is not generally used in making tequila. Sisal is grown instead for the fibers that run the length of its leaves. The fiber is used extensively for twine, rope, carpeting, wall coverings etc. My favorite application though, is in the construction of dartboards. Sisal takes its name from the port of Sisal in Yucatan, Mexico that was a major shipping point for sisal plants.

17 Vintage hue on a photo app : SEPIA

Sepia is that rich, brown-grey color so common in old photographs. “Sepia” is the Latinized version of the Greek word for cuttlefish, as sepia pigment is derived from the ink sac of the cuttlefish. Sepia ink was commonly used for writing and drawing as far back as ancient Rome and ancient Greece. The “sepia tone” of old photographs is not the result of deterioration over time. Rather, it is the result of a deliberate preservation process which converts the metallic silver in the photographic image to a more stable silver sulfide. Prints that have been sepia-toned can last in excess of 150 years.

18 Digital media brand : ROKU

Roku is a manufacturer of digital media players that allow access to audio and video programming over the Internet that is shown on television. Roku was founded in Los Gatos, California in 2002 by Anthony Wood. Wood chose the company name “Roku” as it is the Japanese word for “six”, and Roku is the sixth company that Wood founded. For what it’s worth, Rokus are my streaming devices of choice …

19 Plains people : OTOS

The Otoe (also “Oto”) Native American tribe originated in the Great Lakes region as part of the Winnebago or Siouan tribes. The group that would become the Otoe broke away from the Winnebago and migrated southwestward, ending up in the Great Plains. In the plains the Otoe adopted a semi-nomadic lifestyle dependent on the horse, with the American bison becoming central to their diet.

23 __-pitch softball : SLO

The sport we know today as softball was created as an indoor version of baseball. The first game was played on Thanksgiving Day in Chicago. Back then, a “soft” ball was indeed used, but the name “softball” wasn’t adopted until 1926.

25 I-5 state : ORE

The Oregon Treaty of 1846 settled a dispute between the US and the UK over sovereignty of the Oregon Country. “The Oregon Country” was the name given by the Americans to a large swathe of land west of the Rocky Mountains. That same disputed land was known as the Columbia Department by the British. Oregon became a US state in 1859.

26 Liberia neighbor : GUINEA

Guinea lies north of Liberia on the west African coast. Like much of Africa, it was for many years a French Colony (as “French Guinea”). Guinea declared independence in 1958, but has suffered from autocratic rule since then, and is now one of the poorest countries in Africa.

Liberia is a nation in West Africa. The country was founded in 1847 by former American slaves who were repatriated to Africa. As a result, the Liberian flag resembles the US flag, and the country’s motto is “The love of liberty brought us here”.

27 Manhattan attraction : CENTRAL PARK

The man most associated with the decision to develop Central Park in New York City was William Cullen Bryant, the editor of what today is the “New York Post”. He argued that the growing city needed a large, public open space, along the lines of Hyde Park in London and the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. Most of the park’s construction took place between 1860 and 1873. Much of the clearing work was accomplished using gunpowder, and it is often noted that more gunpowder was used in Central Park than in the Battle of Gettysburg.

31 Petri dish gels : AGARS

Julius Richard Petri was a German bacteriologist and was the man after whom the Petri dish is named. The petri dish can have an agar gel on the bottom which acts as a nutrient source for the specimen being grown and studied, in which case the dish plus agar is referred to as an “agar plate”.

32 Former Romanian president : ILIESCU

Ion Iliescu was the first President of Romania after the Revolution of 1989 that overthrew the brutal Nicolae Ceaușescu regime.

36 Buster Brown’s dog : TIGE

“Buster Brown” is a comic strip created in 1902 by Felton Outcault. Outcault took his name Buster from the very popular film star at the time, Buster Keaton. Buster’s dog Tige was an American Pit Bull Terrier. Apparently when Tige started to “talk” in the strip, he became the first talking pet in the history of American comics.

37 Flat sign : TO LET

“Flat”, in the sense of an apartment or condominium, is a word more commonly used in Britain and Ireland than on this side of the pond. The term “flat” is Scottish in origin, in which language it used to mean “floor in a house”.

41 Mosaic piece : TESSERA

A tessera is an individual tile used in making a mosaic. Tesserae are usually formed in the shape of cubes.

43 Pricing word that rhymes with its opposite : STEEP

“Steep” rhymes with “cheap”.

47 Axis foes : ALLIES

The Allies of World War II were the countries opposing the Axis powers, the most prominent of which were Germany, Japan and Italy. When war broke out in 1939, the Allies consisted of France, Poland and the UK, with the independent countries of the British Commonwealth, such as Australia and Canada, joining a few days later. Although the Americans provided material support to the Allies throughout the conflict, the US did not officially join until December 1941, immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It took until 1942 for the member countries to agree on a formal treaty of cooperation, doing so in a document known as the Declaration by United Nations. This declaration became the basis of the United Nations (UN), with the UN Charter being signed by 50 countries in 1945.

51 Guffaw sound : HAR!

“Guffaw”, meaning “boisterous laugh”, is an imitative word that is Scottish in origin.

52 Cue preceder? : PEE

P, Q, R, S (pee, cue, ar, ess)

57 Cream additive : ALOE

Aloe vera has a number of alternate names that are descriptive of its efficacy as a medicine. ancient Egyptians knew it as the plant of immortality, and Native Americans called it the wand of heaven.

58 It may be wild : RICE

Wild rice is not a true rice, and rather is a grain harvested from four different species of grass in the genus Zizania. Most of the wild rice in the US is grown commercially in California and Minnesota. Indeed, wild rice has been the state grain of Minnesota since 1977.

63 Inland Asian sea : ARAL

The Aral Sea is a great example of how man can have a devastating effect on his environment. In the early sixties the Aral Sea covered 68,000 square miles of Central Asia. Soviet irrigation projects drained the lake to such an extent that today the total area is less than 7,000 square miles, with 90% of the lake now completely dry. Sad …

65 “Time spent with __ is never wasted”: Colette : A CAT

The best known work of French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette is “Gigi”, the source material for the wonderful film starring Leslie Caron in the title role. The novel that brought Colette celebrity was published in 1920, called “Cheri”. “Gigi” followed much later, in 1944. “Cheri” was adapted into a screen version starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Colette led a very colorful life. She had three marriages, an affair with her stepson, and many affairs with other women.

66 P.D. ranks : DETS

Detective (det.)

67 Thai money : BAHT

The baht is the currency of Thailand. One baht is subdivided into 100 satang.

Down

1 Jenny’s offspring : ASS

A female donkey/ass is known as a jenny, and a male is known as a jack, or sometimes “jackass”. We started using the term “jackass” to mean “fool” in the 1820s.

5 “Breaking Bad” bad guys : CARTEL

A cartel is a group of independent businesses who cooperate to regulate production, pricing and marketing of their common product(s).

The AMC drama “Breaking Bad” is a well-written show about a high school teacher stricken by lung cancer who turns to a life of crime to make money. It turns out that the teacher has a talent for making high-quality crystal meth. The show was created by Vince Gilligan who had spent many years as a producer and writer of “The X-Files”. There is a “Breaking Bad” spin-off show running on AMC called “Better Call Saul” that focuses on the life of lawyer Saul Goodman. To be honest, I enjoyed “Better Call Saul” even more than the original show …

7 Short dog, for short : PEKE

The pekingese (“peke”) breed originated in China, as one might suspect from the name. Breeding practices have resulted in the dog having many health problems, including breathing issues related to the “desirable” flat face. Standards have been changed in recent years, demanding an “evident muzzle” in an attempt to breed healthier “pekes”.

8 1969 film remade in 2010 with Jeff Bridges in John Wayne’s role : TRUE GRIT

The classic 1969 Western movie “True Grit” starring John Wayne is a screen adaptation of a 1968 novel by Charles Portis. The Coen brothers released another big screen adaption of the novel using the same title in 2010 starring Jeff Bridges in the Rooster Cogburn role previously played by John Wayne.

9 Smiley face with hearts for eyes, e.g. : EMOJI

An emoji is a character found on many cell phones that is much like an emoticon, but is more elaborate. “Emoji” is a Japanese word meaning “picture word”.

11 Sun-dried brick : ADOBE

The building material known as adobe has been around a long time, and has been used in dry climates all over the world. The original form of the word “adobe” dates back to Middle Egyptian times, about 2000 BC. The original spelling is “dj-b-t”, and translates as mud (sun-dried) brick.

12 Thompson of “Westworld” : TESSA

Tessa Thompson is an actress from Los Angeles who is known for playing the supporting role of Jackie Cook on the TV show “Veronica Mars”, and for playing student leader Diane Nash in the 2014 film “Selma”.

“Westworld” is an HBO series that is based on a 1973 movie of the same name, which was written and directed by novelist Michael Crichton. Westworld is a high-tech theme park populated by androids that interact with the guests.

14 Hercules’ dozen : LABORS

“The Twelve Labors of Hercules” is actually a Greek myth, although Hercules is the Roman name for the hero that the Greeks called “Heracles”. The first of these labors was to slay the Nemean lion, a monster that lived in a cave near Nemea. Hercules had a tough job as the lion’s golden fur was impenetrable to normal weapons. One version of the story is that Hercules killed the lion by shooting an arrow into its mouth. Another version says that Hercules stunned the monster with a club and then strangled him with his bare hands.

23 Shoo relative : SCAT

Our word “scat!” means “get lost!” It comes from a 19th-century expression “quicker than s’cat”, which meant “in a great hurry”. The original phrase probably came from the words “hiss” and “cat”.

24 Kosher : LEGIT

According to Jewish dietary laws, kosher food is fit to eat, and food that is not fit to eat is referred to as treif (or “tref”). The usage of “kosher” has extended to include anything considered legitimate.

28 “__ chic!” : TRES

“Très chic” is a French term meaning “very stylish”.

29 Dish from which paella evolved : PILAF

“Pilaf” is a Persian word, one that we use to describe rice that is browned in oil and then cooked in a seasoned broth.

Paella is sometimes referred to as the Spanish national dish, but not by Spaniards. In Spain, paella is regarded as a typical regional dish from Valencia. The name “paella” means “frying pan” in Valencian, and is a reference to the shallow vessel traditionally used to cook the dish over an open fire.

30 Sierra Nevada, e.g. : ALE

The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is powered almost exclusively by solar energy, and even has a charging station for electric vehicles at its brewery. The company also uses the cooking oil from its restaurant as biodiesel for its delivery trucks. Discarded yeast is used to make ethanol fuel, and spent grain is used as food for livestock. For its efforts to preserve the environment, Sierra Nevada won the EPA’s “Green Business of the Year” award for 2010.

33 Genesis son : SETH

According to the Bible, Seth was the third son of Adam and Eve, coming after Cain and Abel. Adam and Eve had several children, but Cain, Abel and Seth are the ones mentioned by name. According to the Book of Genesis, Seth was born after Cain had slain his brother Abel.

34 The “her” in Shakespeare’s “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale / Her infinite variety” : CLEOPATRA

The lines “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale/Her infinite variety” come from William Shakespeare’s play “Antony and Cleopatra”. They are spoken by Antony’s lieutenant Enobarbus, and refer to Cleopatra. Enobarbus is observing that, despite the perceived political necessity, Antony will never leave the Egyptian queen as he is completely smitten by her.

38 The NBA’s Magic : ORL

The Orlando Magic were formed in 1989 as an NBA expansion team. A local paper was asked to run a competition to suggest names for the new team and the community came up with its four top picks of “Heat”, “Tropics”, “Juice” and “Magic”. A committee then opted for “Orlando Magic”. A good choice I think …

40 Duel tool : EPEE

The French word for sword is “épée”. In competitive fencing the épée is connected to a system that records an electrical signal when legal contact is made on an opponent’s body.

42 Kid-lit poet Silverstein : SHEL

Author Shel Silverstein had a varied career and did a lot more than write books. Silverstein was a poet, composer, cartoonist and screenwriter among other things. One of his successful children’s books is “The Giving Tree”, which was first published in 1964. “The Giving Tree” tells of a young boy who has a special relationship with a tree in a forest. The message of the book seems to be that the tree provides the little boy with everything he needs.

46 Swiss river : AAR

The Aar (also called the “Aare” in German) is the longest river entirely in Switzerland. The Aar is a major tributary of the Rhine and flows through Bern, the nation’s capital.

47 Range name : AMANA

The Amana Corporation takes its name from the location of its original headquarters, in Middle Amana, Iowa. Today, the Amana name is very much associated with household appliances. The company was founded in 1934 to manufacture commercial walk-in coolers.

48 New Hampshire state flower : LILAC

The ornamental flowering plant known as lilac is native to the Balkans, and is a member of the olive family.

49 Parkinson’s treatment : L-DOPA

The name of the drug L-3,4-DihydrOxyPhenylAlanine can be shortened, thankfully, to L-DOPA. Swedish scientist Arvid Carlsson won a Nobel Prize for showing that L-DOPA could be used to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s Syndrome.

English apothecary and surgeon James Parkinson wrote “An Essay on the Shaking Palsy” in 1817. This work was the first to describe the disorder that was later to be called Parkinson’s disease in his honor.

50 Latin “in other words” : ID EST

“Id est” is Latin for “that is”, and is often abbreviated to “i.e.” when used in English.

55 Future doc’s exam : MCAT

Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

60 Bat wood : ASH

The wood of the ash tree is a hardwood, although it is relatively elastic. Famously, ash is the wood of choice for baseball bats. It is also the wood of choice for hurleys, the wooden sticks used in the Irish sport of hurling.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Guttural interruption : AHEM!
5 Hook or Kirk: Abbr. : CAPT
9 Logician’s “E” : ERAT
13 Rope fiber : SISAL
15 Confidently say : AVER
16 Earned : MADE
17 Vintage hue on a photo app : SEPIA
18 Digital media brand : ROKU
19 Plains people : OTOS
20 Often euphemistic words for lacking employment : IN-BETWEEN JOBS
23 __-pitch softball : SLO
25 I-5 state : ORE
26 Liberia neighbor : GUINEA
27 Manhattan attraction : CENTRAL PARK
31 Petri dish gels : AGARS
32 Former Romanian president : ILIESCU
36 Buster Brown’s dog : TIGE
37 Flat sign : TO LET
39 Alternatively : ELSE
41 Mosaic piece : TESSERA
43 Pricing word that rhymes with its opposite : STEEP
44 Rounding third base after starting at second, say : HALFWAY HOME
47 Axis foes : ALLIES
51 Guffaw sound : HAR!
52 Cue preceder? : PEE
53 Just plain folks : MIDDLE AMERICA
57 Cream additive : ALOE
58 It may be wild : RICE
59 Union station? : ALTAR
62 Midday refreshers : NAPS
63 Inland Asian sea : ARAL
64 Hospital cry : NURSE!
65 “Time spent with __ is never wasted”: Colette : A CAT
66 P.D. ranks : DETS
67 Thai money : BAHT

Down

1 Jenny’s offspring : ASS
2 Hustle, quaintly : HIE
3 Threat to national security : ESPIONAGE
4 Water __ : MAIN
5 “Breaking Bad” bad guys : CARTEL
6 Swear : AVOW
7 Short dog, for short : PEKE
8 1969 film remade in 2010 with Jeff Bridges in John Wayne’s role : TRUE GRIT
9 Smiley face with hearts for eyes, e.g. : EMOJI
10 Betray : RAT ON
11 Sun-dried brick : ADOBE
12 Thompson of “Westworld” : TESSA
14 Hercules’ dozen : LABORS
21 Historic time : ERA
22 Zap : NUKE
23 Shoo relative : SCAT
24 Kosher : LEGIT
28 “__ chic!” : TRES
29 Dish from which paella evolved : PILAF
30 Sierra Nevada, e.g. : ALE
33 Genesis son : SETH
34 The “her” in Shakespeare’s “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale / Her infinite variety” : CLEOPATRA
35 “I can help” : USE ME
37 Buzz-creating promo : TEASER AD
38 The NBA’s Magic : ORL
40 Duel tool : EPEE
42 Kid-lit poet Silverstein : SHEL
43 Iraqi neighbor : SYRIAN
45 Slangy alternative to walking : WHEELS
46 Swiss river : AAR
47 Range name : AMANA
48 New Hampshire state flower : LILAC
49 Parkinson’s treatment : L-DOPA
50 Latin “in other words” : ID EST
54 Suffix for the rich : -AIRE
55 Future doc’s exam : MCAT
56 Black card, maybe : CLUB
60 Bat wood : ASH
61 No longer working: Abbr. : RET

15 thoughts on “LA Times Crossword 9 Dec 21, Thursday”

    1. Hi Glenn. Did you get a chance to do the WSJ grid today? I thought it bordered on the most difficult one I can recall. I just looked over my “ink stained” wretch of a puzzle and “think” I got the answers right, (but I’m still not completely sure).

      No real problems with today’s LA Times puzzle.

      1. I thought it a good one. I hated that I was a little too slow on the uptake for the theme than I would have liked. Nothing like what the WSJ Thu was once upon a time though.

  1. Ditto!!!!!! what was up with using ILIESCU as a word?? That took a while to chase my way through that. PEE-CUE didn’t help.

    HAR, no errors!!!

    There’s a bit of USA Today crossword comeuppance in this puzzle!!

    1. Probably, ILIESCU was a word that just happened to come up in the auto-fill for the crossword app and Margolis just shrugged and took it. Editor allowing it honestly doesn’t surprise me given some of the garbage that passes through LAT land at times.

      As for Ken’s comment, this puzzle is the first use of the word in the entire history of Bill’s blog (LAXCrossword.com) and is only used four times in the history of the New York Times Crossword edited under Shortz from 2008-2013. Notably, all these NYT puzzles are Thu-Fri level. To be honest, most constructors are smart to stay away from using this name.

  2. Thought I was home free, but had “ride” for “it may be wild” instead of
    rice. Obviously didn’t know MCAT FOR 55-Down.

  3. With four vowels and an “s”, I’m assuming that today isn’t the last we’ll see of the Romanian president’s name.

  4. 14:08 1 error, as I’ve become accustomed to the OTOE, not OTOS.

    This puzzle’s theme is aiming for center field.

    What comes after “pee” and “cue”? ARG!

  5. 13 minutes, 33 seconds, and needed Check Grid to help with 6 fills. Lot of squinting with this one, it didn’t seem to make sense on more than one clue.

  6. 20:20 – 3 cheats, 1 crossing error.

    Really struggled with it. Little tough to cross ALE/ILIESCU, didn’t know either.

    Except for the few arcanes I liked the puzzle.

    Be Well.

  7. I do not remember a Buster Brown comic strip. I only remember Buster Brown as the spokesperson for Buster Brown shoes. Am I showing my age? 😉

  8. 24:05 with no errors or lookups. Had to change ERGO>ERAT, LETME>USEME, HAH>HAR, SGTS>DETS.

    Had a slow-go through the SE quadrant. Did not know ILIESCU, or that “Sierra Nevada” was something besides a mountain or some kind of SUV. I finally guessed it was an aLe. Took a while to think past Cain or Abel for 33D. “Flat sign” first meant for a tire or something musical. My geography was slow to figure out SYRIAN.

    Oh well. Deduction from partially filled answers worked out in the end.

  9. I did not know “ILIESCU”, but found it pretty easy to get from crosses. One of the things I love about crossword puzzles is that, occasionally, an entry like that shows up and I get to learn about something totally new to me.

    Last week, on Thursday, a BEQ puzzle contained the clue “First foreign-born player to win the NBA Rookie of the Year”, the answer to which turned out to be “PAU GASOL”. Now, of course, some of you sports fans are saying, “So? Everybody knows that!”, but, for me, it was every bit as obscure as “ILIESCU” and I had to get it from crosses.

    (And, actually, there’s more to the story of Pau Gasol: Three days later, on Sunday, during a long hike on a more or less deserted road, I found a cap bearing the image of a fierce-looking bear on the front and the name “GRIZZ” on the back. A little research indicates that “GRIZZ” is the mascot of the “Memphis Grizzlies”, an NBA team that was originally based in Vancouver, B.C., couldn’t make a go of it there, and relocated to Memphis, Tennessee. The logo on the front was designed in 2001 and, believe it not, that was the very year when one Pau Gasol joined the Memphis Grizzlies and, at the end of the season, was made NBA Rookie of the Year! Add to this the facts that I live in Colorado, not Tennessee, and that this cap, bearing a twenty-year-old logo, appears to be brand-new, and you begin questioning how “coincidental” these events are!)

    Every so often, the universe attempts to present one with a omen. The trick is to know whether it portends good or evil … 😜.

  10. Modestly tricky Thursday for me; took 18:47 with no peeks or errors.

    It wasn’t on the tip of my tongue, but I instinctively started to put in ILIESCU almost right away. I’ve always followed foreign news very closely and remember reading about Ceausescu’s ouster and his replacement by Iliescu back in 1989. If anything, I knew that most Romanian names end with -escu.

    Other than that, I had a lot of dancing around in the bottom half of the grid. Learned about TESSERA today and had gmAT before MCAT. PEE was a pretty tricky clue answer as well. Almost had tImE before RICE.

    @Nonny – No, No, No…you need to find a Nuggets cap, although they’re currently only doing so-so, in eight place behind the Grizzlies (4th) and “my” Golden State Warriors (1st). I thought there might be a little nugget on the front, but its got crossed pick axes…oh wait, I guess there might be two little nuggets! along with a basketball.

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