LA Times Crossword 29 Jan 22, Saturday

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Constructed by: Brian E. Paquin
Edited by: Rich Norris

Today’s Theme: None

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

Bill’s time: 7m 55s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

8 It may be fictional : ALIBI

“Alibi” is the Latin word for “elsewhere” as in, “I claim that I was ‘elsewhere’ when the crime was committed, I have an ‘alibi’”.

13 Works on walls : GRAFFITI

Graffiti is the plural of “graffito”, the Italian for “scribbling”. The word was first used to describe ancient inscriptions on the walls in the ruins of Pompeii.

15 Where “Madama Butterfly” premiered : MILAN

La Scala Opera House opened in 1778. It was built on the site of the church of Santa Maria della Scala, which gave the theater its Italian name “Teatro alla Scala”.

Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” is the most-performed opera in the US. The opera that we see today is actually the second version that Puccini produced. The original version was first staged in 1904 at La Scala in Milan where it received a very poor reception. Puccini reworked the piece, breaking the second act into two new acts and making some other significant changes. The opera was relaunched a few months later and it was a resounding success.

19 Cereal bit : OAT

Ceres was a Roman goddess of agriculture and fertility, and was the counterpart of the Greek goddess Demeter. Our modern word “cereal” comes from the name “Ceres”.

20 Prisoner’s place, in an 1894 adventure novel : ZENDA

“The Prisoner of Zenda” is an 1894 novel by Anthony Hope about a king who is kidnapped, imprisoned and replaced by an impersonator. The novel has been adapted for stage and screen several times, most famously as a 1937 movie starring Ronald Colman.

22 Most coins have them : RADII

“Radius” (plural “radii”) is a Latin word, as one might expect, a word meaning “spoke of a wheel”. Makes sense, huh?

23 Make sharp : WHET

The words “whet” and “pique” can both be used in the sense of sharpening, or awakening one’s interest or desire.

25 2004 World Golf Hall of Fame inductee Isao __ : AOKI

Isao Aoki is one of Japan’s greatest golfers. Aoki’s best finish in a major tournament was runner-up to Jack Nicklaus in the 1980 US Open.

The World Golf Hall of Fame is located near St. Augustine, Florida. Two other halls of fame were merged into the World Golf Hall of Fame over the years. The PGA of America’s Hall of fame was incorporated in the 1980s, and the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame in 1998.

27 Titled woman : DAME

The title “Dame” in the British system of honors is the female equivalent to “Sir”, as used to address a knight. In days of old, the wife of a knight was given the title of Dame. Since the 17th century, the wife of a knight has been called “Lady”. So now, anyone with the title of Dame has earned the honor in her own right and not through marriage.

28 Radiation Protection Program org. : EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was set up during the Nixon administration and began operation at the end of 1970.

31 Las Palmas lad : NINO

Gran Canaria, or Grand Canary Island, may be grand but it isn’t quite as big as Tenerife, the largest island of the group and the most populated. The capital of Gran Canaria is Las Palmas, which was a port of call for Christopher Columbus in 1492 on his way to the Americas.

33 Badger : NAG

To badger is to harass. The verb “to badger” comes from the cruel practice of badger-baiting, which dates back to medieval times. Badger-baiting is a blood sport in which a dog is used as bait for a badger in its den, to draw it out into the open. The den is an artificial structure built to resemble a natural badgers’ den, complete with a tunnel entrance. The dog is sent down the tunnel causing the badger and dog to lock their jaws on each other. The badger and dog are then removed from the den by pulling on the dog’s tail. Horrible …

39 “Alley __” : OOP

“Alley Oop” is a comic strip that ran for four decades starting in 1932. “Alley Oop” was drawn by V. T. Hamlin. The title character lived in the prehistoric kingdom of Moo, although for much of the strip’s life, Alley Oop had access to a time machine. Alley Oop also had a girlfriend called Ooola. I had assumed that Ooola’s name was a play on “hula hoop”, but that little toy wasn’t invented until the 1950s (a kind blog reader informs me) …

41 Five mL, in medicine : TSP

For the purpose of cooking and dosing medicines, a teaspoon (tsp.) is 5 mL and a tablespoon (tbsp.) is 15 mL.

44 __ sauce : WEAK

Someone who is described by the slang term “weak sauce” is no fun at all, not cool.

46 Oodles : TONS

It’s thought that the term “oodles”, meaning “a lot”, comes from “kit and caboodle”.

50 Musical skill : CHOPS

We use the word “chops” to mean “expertise” as in the phrases “showing his chops” and “having the chops”, meaning showing his expertise, having the expertise. This usage evolved from the use of the word “chops” for the mouth, jaw or lips, which dates back to the 1700s. The more contemporary usage dates back to the 1940s when jazz musicians referred to the skill of a player with reference to their use of the lips on an instrument.

52 Sign up, in Salisbury : ENROL

Salisbury is a city in South West England that sits on the edge of the famous Salisbury Plain (which is home to Stonehenge). The city was in the news relatively recently as it was the site of the poisoning of Russian military officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. The British authorities hold that two Russian nationals, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, poisoned the Skripals with the nerve agent Novichok because the father had acted as a double agent for the UK. Petrov and Boshirov claim that they traveled from Russia as tourists and wanted to see the “famous” spire of Salisbury Cathedral. Hmm …

55 Zilch : NIL

We use the term “zilch” to mean “nothing”. Our current usage evolved in the sixties, before which the term was used to describe “meaningless speech”. There was a comic character called Mr. Zilch in the 1930s in “Ballyhoo” magazine. Mr. Zilch’s name probably came from the American college slang “Joe Zilch” that was used in the early 1900s for “an insignificant person”.

62 Wine residue : DREGS

The dregs in wine, the sediment that settles during fermentation (and sometimes in the bottle), are also called “lees”.

63 Modern marshal’s milieu : SKY

The US air marshal program was created by President Kennedy in 1963, with the initial force of only six marshals assigned to flights that were considered at high risk for a hijacking. Just before 9/11, the number of marshals had increased to 33. The exact number of marshals employed today is classified information, but it is thought to be thousands.

64 Text translation : TROT

A literal translation of a text from one language into another is done by translating each word literally, hence disregarding phrases, sentences and idioms. Such word-for-word translations might also be termed “cribs”, “trots” or “ponies”, especially when prepared as a first step in the process of providing a more accurate translation of a work.

Down

2 First name in a Dickens classic : URIAH

Uriah Heep is a sniveling and insincere character in the novel “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens. The character is such a “yes man” that today, if we know someone who behaves the same way, then we might call that person a “Uriah Heep”.

4 “For the apparel __ proclaims the man”: Polonius : OFT

In William Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet”, Polonius gives some fatherly advice to his son Laertes before the young man heads off to France. Included among the numerous pearls of wisdom is the oft-quoted “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” and “to thine own self be true”.

Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel,
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatched, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear ’t that th’ opposèd may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear but few thy voice.
Take each man’s censure but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not expressed in fancy—rich, not gaudy,
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

5 Wisteria, e.g. : VINE

Wisteria is a genus of flowering plants in the bean family. As such, wisterias climb up any available support by twining their stems around that support. They have been known to climb as high as 65 feet off the ground, and can spread over very large areas. The largest known single wisteria plant has spread over an acre of ground, and is estimated to weigh about 250 tons.

6 Memoir that led to the movie “What’s Love Got to Do With It” : I, TINA

“I, Tina” is a 1986 autobiography by Tina Turner. The book was so successful it was adapted into a movie called “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” The film version was released in 1993 and stars Angela Bassett as Tina Turner.

7 Act mannerly : MIND ONE’S PS AND QS

There isn’t really a clear derivation of the phrase “mind your Ps and Qs”, an expression meaning “mind your manners” or “mind your language”. One story that I like is that it originated in the wonderful pubs of England. Innkeepers would watch how much their thirsty patrons consumed, recording each pint (P) and quart (Q) that was downed on a board using Ps and Qs as shorthand. The more rowdy drinkers would be asked to “mind their Ps and Qs”.

8 Music box, maybe : AMP

In a home audio system, one might have a preamplifier (preamp) and a power amplifier. In such an arrangement, the preamp isn’t really an amplifier at all as it does not amplify a signal or sound. The amplification task is left to the power amplifier, and the preamp serves as a switch between signal sources (cable box, CD player, DVD player etc.).

9 Yarn spinner : LIAR

The phrase “to spin a yarn”, meaning “to tell a tall tale”, originated in the early 1800s with seamen. The idea was that sailors would tell stories to each other while engaged in mindless work such as twisting yarn.

10 Homeric epic : ILIAD

Ilion (or in Latin “Ileum”), was the ancient name for the city of Troy. It’s this name for Troy that gives rise to the title of Homer’s epic poem “Iliad”.

11 Versatile head-neck garb : BANDANNAS

A bandanna is a large kerchief that is usually worn on the head or around the neck. The term “bandanna” comes from the Hindi word meaning “to tie”.

14 Tasseled hat : FEZ

A fez is a red, cylindrical hat worn mainly in North Africa, and by Shriners here in the US. The fez used to be a very popular hat across the Ottoman Empire. The etymology of “fez” is unclear, although it may have something to do with the Moroccan city named Fez.

18 Extended attack : SIEGE

Our word “siege” comes from a 13th-century word for a “seat”. The military usage derives from the concept of a besieging force “sitting down” outside a fortress until it falls.

24 Looped fabric : TERRY

Terry cloth is a fabric designed to absorb lots of liquid. The fabric has relatively large loops of thread that improve the absorption properties. The larger the loop, the more thread, the better the absorption.

32 Root in perfumery : ORRIS

Orris root is a basic ingredient in many perfumes, one providing a so-called “base note”. It is also an ingredient in some brands of gin.

34 Wig out about : GO APE OVER

The US slang “go ape” is actually a cleaner version of a similar expression, and is American slang that dates back to 1955.

The idea behind the expression “to wig out”, meaning “to go crazy”, is that there is so much going on in your brain that it might “lift your hair/wig”.

35 Clinton press secretary Myers : DEE DEE

Dee Dee Myers was a very capable White House Press Secretary in the Clinton administration, and was the first woman to hold that post. After leaving the White House, Myers acted as a consultant on the TV show “The West Wing”, and I am sure helped add that touch of authenticity to a great television program.

45 “Smallville” actress Kristin : KREUK

“Smallville” is a superhero TV show set in the fictional Kansas town of Smallville, where Clark Kent grew up before becoming Superman. The show originally ran from 2001 to 2011, and starred Tom Welling as Clark Kent, and Kristin Kreuk as Lana Lang.

48 Explosive, briefly : NITRO

Nitroglycerin (also known as “nitro”) is a very unstable, oily, colorless liquid. It is usually used as the explosive ingredient in a stabilized product like dynamite or cordite. Nitroglycerin is also used medically, as a vasodilator. Right after it hits the bloodstream, nitroglycerin causes the blood vessels to dilate so that the heart has less work to do. I had occasion to take it a couple of times, and boy, what a speedy and fundamental effect it has …

49 Letter carrier’s challenge : SLEET

Apparently, “sleet” is a term used to describe two different weather conditions. One is a shower of ice pellets that are smaller than hail, and the second is a mixture of rain and snow, with the snow melting as it falls.

51 Catch-22 : SNAG

“Catch-22” is a novel by Joseph Heller set during WWII. The title refers to absurd bureaucratic constraints that soldiers had to suffer. Heller’s “Catch 22” was invoked by an army psychiatrist to explain that any pilot requesting to be evaluated for insanity, to avoid flying dangerous missions, had to be sane as only a sane man would try to get out of such missions. The term “catch-22” has entered the language and describes a paradoxical situation from which one can’t escape due to contradictory rules; one loses, no matter what choice one makes.

53 Skin care brand : OLAY

Oil of Olay was developed in South Africa in 1952. When Oil of Olay was introduced internationally, it was given slightly different brand names designed to appeal in the different geographies. In Ireland we know it as Oil of Ulay, for example, and in France it is Oil of Olaz.

57 Family docs : GPS

General practitioner (GP)

59 Clock-setting std. : GMT

Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is the time at the Prime Meridian, the meridian that runs through Greenwich in London.

A meridian is a line of longitude, and the Prime Meridian is that line of longitude defined as 0 degrees. The Prime Meridian is also called the Greenwich Meridian as it passes through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich in southeast London. Of course the line of longitude that is used to represent 0 degrees is an arbitrary decision. 25 nations formally decided in 1884 to use the Greenwich Meridian as 0 degrees as it was already a popular choice. That is all except the French, who abstained from the vote and used the Paris Meridian as 0 degrees on French charts for several decades.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Biography beginning? : AUTO-
5 Energy : VIM
8 It may be fictional : ALIBI
13 Works on walls : GRAFFITI
15 Where “Madama Butterfly” premiered : MILAN
16 What spies often do : LISTEN IN
17 Works on walls : PAINTS
19 Cereal bit : OAT
20 Prisoner’s place, in an 1894 adventure novel : ZENDA
22 Most coins have them : RADII
23 Make sharp : WHET
25 2004 World Golf Hall of Fame inductee Isao __ : AOKI
27 Titled woman : DAME
28 Radiation Protection Program org. : EPA
31 Las Palmas lad : NINO
33 Badger : NAG
34 Celebrity’s arrival, perhaps : GRAND ENTRANCE
37 In the negative, unlikely to be fooled : BORN YESTERDAY
38 Bet, in a way : PLAY THE PONIES
39 “Alley __” : OOP
40 Works on, as a lawn : SODS
41 Five mL, in medicine : TSP
42 Is beholden to : OWES
44 __ sauce : WEAK
46 Oodles : TONS
50 Musical skill : CHOPS
52 Sign up, in Salisbury : ENROL
55 Zilch : NIL
56 Wanting success? : HAVING
58 Assign responsibility : DELEGATE
60 Summary : RECAP
61 Serious predicament : QUAGMIRE
62 Wine residue : DREGS
63 Modern marshal’s milieu : SKY
64 Text translation : TROT

Down

1 Radiant : AGLOW
2 First name in a Dickens classic : URIAH
3 Preference : TASTE
4 “For the apparel __ proclaims the man”: Polonius : OFT
5 Wisteria, e.g. : VINE
6 Memoir that led to the movie “What’s Love Got to Do With It” : I, TINA
7 Act mannerly : MIND ONE’S PS AND QS
8 Music box, maybe : AMP
9 Yarn spinner : LIAR
10 Homeric epic : ILIAD
11 Versatile head-neck garb : BANDANNAS
12 Getting very close : INTIMACY
14 Tasseled hat : FEZ
18 Extended attack : SIEGE
21 Like : AKIN TO
24 Looped fabric : TERRY
26 Strongly focused : INTENT
29 What a hot dog does? : PANTS
30 “But I digress … ” : ANYHOW …
32 Root in perfumery : ORRIS
34 Wig out about : GO APE OVER
35 Clinton press secretary Myers : DEE DEE
36 Crackerjack : ADEPT
37 Windbag : BLOWHARD
38 Dog : POOCH
43 Food flavoring : SPICE
45 “Smallville” actress Kristin : KREUK
47 Studio sign : ON AIR
48 Explosive, briefly : NITRO
49 Letter carrier’s challenge : SLEET
51 Catch-22 : SNAG
53 Skin care brand : OLAY
54 Relay part : LEG
57 Family docs : GPS
59 Clock-setting std. : GMT

30 thoughts on “LA Times Crossword 29 Jan 22, Saturday”

  1. 1 dumb error.. my first pass I had AYSI for 25A. Because initially I had MIND YOUR PS AND QS. Then after running though the puzzle and changing to MIND ONES PS AND QS I forgot to go back and look at 21D. I had AS INTO??

    Did not know what a TROT was.

    1. @Mike
      If you look in the dictionary (Merriam Webster, entry #2, adjective), a definition of “close” is “not generous in giving or spending” (#11). A piker is a pejorative term equivalent to a tightwad or a cheapskate.

    2. @Anon Mike … My take: A “piker” is a “cheapskate”, a “pinch-penny”, someone who’s “close with his money”.

      That “Stumper” was pretty rough, in my opinion. I finally got a start in the lower right and worked it in a counter-clockwise direction, with no errors, but it took the better part of forever. All the entries were things known to me, but there were lots of references in the clues to things I did not know. Glad to escape with a fraction of my ego intact … 😜.

    3. I checked out close and piker in thefreedictionary – my favorite reference – and found dodger as a synonym for piker, along with do-nothing and good-for-nothing…hmm makes sense 🙂

  2. Hey, this was a first! Finished a Saturday puzzle with no errors….
    not as fast as Bill and Glenn though. I was not sure if some of my
    answers were correct, but went with them, fingers crossed. For
    instance, “weak” for the sauce and “trot” for the text translation.

  3. Clock-setting std is no longer referred to as GMT for quite some time the reference or “standard” term has been UTC.

  4. LAT: About 35 minutes without error and only minor trouble with some of the long answers. Still don’t get “Having” as the response to “Wanting success” (56A).

    1. I spent some time staring at 56-Across before it dawned on me that, if you’re wanting something, finally having it constitutes a success.

      I also stared at 64-Across for a long time before deciding the crosses were solid. After the fact, I looked up “TROT” and found that it can, in fact, mean “a literal translation of a foreign text”. Never heard of that!

      I also stared at 44-Across for a while, but finally remembered having seen the slang term “weak sauce” somewhere, sometime.

      Oh, well, at my age, I spend a lot of time staring (and wondering) it’s nice to occasionally have a reason for it … 😜.

      1. Whatever your age, this collection of “clever” clues and answers is, uh … impressive. TROT and WEAK sauce are fine examples. But don’t overlook such gems as RADII, whose clue is “Most coins have them” (as do most oranges, tires, planets, and other round things). And “Catch-22” is a SNAG!? Whew.

  5. As one with printer’s ink in his blood, I must protest the “mind ones p’s and q’s” explanation. Back in the day when type was set by hand, the lower case “p’s” and “q’s” looked so much alike that they were often confused when re-distributing them back into the type case. Hence, “mind your p’s and q’s” became a watchword.

  6. As RJB above, I have absolutely no idea why 56A is “having.” From Bill I learned about “trot” and “orris.” Thanks, Bill. You are a joy to follow along with each and every day.

  7. 14:02

    Good one. I liked the dual “works on walls” clues. And it’s satisfying to fill in those long clues.

  8. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Trots, orris, weak, Zenda. There are people here who look at obscure clues and immediately know the answers. Maybe it’s like the $64,000 Question and they’re in a “soundproof” booth being fed the answers.

  9. 44 Across describes this puzzle perfectly. A collection of clumsily clued entries. 20:25, and *somehow* no errors. Just glad that this pile of poo didn’t beat me.

    1. In my defense, only 15 of my clues survived the edit process. I had to ask a blogger about the clue for 56A HAVING, and I was clueless about 64A TROT.

  10. No look ups no errors. Kind of easy for a
    Saturday. I never heard of “trot” but I have
    heard of Bill’s version of the origin of “watch your p’s and q’s”…..

    Monday puzzles are a good example of
    “weak sauce” 😂

  11. 26:05 no errors…like others “weak sauce and trot” were new to me.
    All in all for a Saturday I’ll take it👍
    Stay safe😀

  12. 14:09 with no lookups or errors. Revised CAT>OOP, INTIMATE>INTIMACY, MDS>GPS.

    New answer words were ORRIS, TROT, KRUEK. Some coins don’t have a radius because they are not a circle. However, it has to be an odd reason that a TROT is a text translation; and someone’s local etymology for the term “weak sauce.”

  13. In my defense, only 15 of my clues survived the edit process. I had to ask a blogger about the clue for 56A HAVING, and I was clueless about 64A TROT.

    1. Very interesting that so few original clues survived the edit process. Is that typical? If not, how much original cluing is typically retained?

      1. Will Shortz at the NYT has been known to occasionally change every clue. I am more about the grid than the clues, so my survival rate is probably low on average.

  14. Tricky Saturday for me; took 39:25 with one error NITRe/TReT. I went with an explosive ingredient rather than the more obvious actual explosive…sigh! I definitely knew ZENDA and WEAK, but ORRIS and TROT are new to me. I thought I’d never heard of KREUK before, but after checking out her photo, I remembered checking her out at least twice. CHOPS, HAVING and SNAG also took a few moments.

    All in all, a fun if at least a little confusing puzzle. Nice to learn about ORRIS and TROT.

  15. Mr. Paquin’s entry here says everything I have carped about for a long, long time, i.e., this puzzle needs an editor that actually works at the job he is being paid for.

      1. If a clue is so vague or obscure that the connection is unclear even after the answer is known, then it’s not a clue–by definition. The clue gives an indication of the answer. If the indication still isn’t clear after the answer is known then it’s not a clue.

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