Edited by: Rich Norris
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We have some grid art today, with a Christmas tree outlined by green (maybe gray) squares. And, the puzzle is replete with Christmas-themed answers. There are ORNAMENTS on the tree, a MODEL TRAIN at the base, and of course a STAR on top (shown by the circled letters).
- 24A. His personal Canadian postal code is H0 H0 H0 : SANTA CLAUS
- 22A. Bagfuls for 24-Across : LETTERS
- 85A. Team for 24-Across : REINDEER
- 26A. With 71-Across, holiday classic : A CHRISTMAS …
- 71A. See 26-Across : … CAROL
- 3D. Classic 71-Across : O TANNENBAUM
- 55A. Seasonal hangings : ORNAMENTS
- 105A. “Bearing gifts, we traverse __” : AFAR
- 108A. Sets on tracks : MODEL TRAINS
- 112A. Prettify with paper : WRAP
- 13D. Attend to a holiday symbol : TRIM THE TREE
- 49D. Holiday mailing : GREETING CARD
- 53D. Title annual holiday character since 1965 : CHARLIE BROWN
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
1. WWII investment : E BOND
Series E Savings Bonds were introduced in 1941, just before the start of WWII, as “defense bonds”. After the attack on Pearl Harbor they became known as “war bonds”.
6. Sri Lankan language : TAMIL
Tamils are a large ethnic group of almost 80 million people who speak Tamil as their mother tongue. Despite the large Tamil population, there is no Tamil state. The highest concentration of Tamils is in Sri Lanka, where they make up about 25% of the population.
16. Quashed : VETOED
“Veto” comes directly from Latin and means “I forbid”. The word was used by tribunes of Ancient Rome to indicate that they opposed measures passed by the Senate.
23. Poet Levertov : DENISE
Denise Levertov was a poet from England who emigrated to the US later in her life, teaching at Brandeis, MIT, Tufts and Stanford. Much of Levertov’s work deals with religion and war.
24. His personal Canadian postal code is H0 H0 H0 : SANTA CLAUS
Canada Post has an official Santa Claus letter-response system that it introduced in 1983. Those wishing to write to Santa can address the envelope with the special post code H0H 0H0 (rewritten as H0 H0 H0). Canada Post answers about a million letters a year, each of them in the language of the sender. My hat is off to Canada Post, and to the volunteer workers at the Montreal post office that started the tradition of answering letters to Santa back in 1974 …
26. With 71-Across, holiday classic : A CHRISTMAS …
71A. See 26-Across : … CAROL
As far as I am concerned, the definitive screen adaptation of the Charles Dickens novella “A Christmas Carol”, is the 1951 film of the same name starring the wonderful actor Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge. If you don’t own it, you have got to buy it for next Christmas!
28. Kiss and caress, in Kent : SNOG
“Snogging” is British slang of unknown origin that dates back to the end of WWII. The term is used for “kissing and cuddling”, what we call “making out” over here in the US.
Kent is a county in the southeast of England. Kent is a little unusual in that it shares a “land” border with France. That border nominally exists halfway through the Channel Tunnel, one end of which comes to surface in the Kent port of Folkestone.
29. Cousin of the Vulcan mind meld : ESP
Mr. Spock was the first to show us the Vulcan mind meld, on the original “Star Trek” series. Vulcans have the ability to meld with the minds of other Vulcans, and indeed humans, in order to see what what’s “going on” in the other individual’s mind.
32. Etta of old comics : KETT
“Etta Kett” was a comic strip that first ran in 1925. The strip ceased to be published in 1974, when creator Paul Robinson passed away. The initial intent was to offer tips to teenagers on manners and social graces, hence the name of the title character Etta Kett (sounds like “etiquette”).
37. Indiana county or its seat : WABASH
One of the claims to fame of Wabash, Indiana is that it was the first city in the world to illuminate its streets using electric light. That first installation comprised four electric lights mounted atop the courthouse.
39. L.A.’s __ Center : AON
The Aon Center in Chicago is the third-tallest building in the city. There is also an Aon Center in Los Angeles that is the second-tallest building in that city.
42. Do-it-yourself mover : U-HAUL
The U-Haul company was started by married couple Leonard Shoen and Anna Mary Carty in Ridgefield, Washington in 1945. The Shoens used $5,000 of seed money to build trailers in their garage, and then cleverly recruited gas station owners as franchisees with whom they would split the rental revenue. There are now about 15,000 U-Haul dealers across the country.
44. Columnist Hentoff : NAT
Nat Hentoff writes regularly on jazz and country music for “The Wall Street Journal”.
45. UV index monitor : EPA
The UV Index is a measure of the strength of ultraviolet radiation (UV) at a particular location and on a particular day.
48. Prepared with mixed vegetables, in Chinese cooking : SUBGUM
Subgum is a dish served in American-Chinese cuisine. Originating in the very early 1900s, subgum usually comprises several proteins mixed with vegetables and served over rice noodles. The term “subgum” translates as “many and varied”, and is used to indicate “with the works”, just pile it all on.
58. Hot-and-cold fits : AGUE
An ague is a fever, one usually associated with malaria.
59. Cartoon shopkeeper : APU
The fictional Kwik-E-Mart store is operated by Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on “The Simpsons” TV show. Apu is married to Manjula, and the couple have eight children. The convenience store owner doesn’t seem to be making much use of his Ph.D in computer science that he earned in the US. Apu’s undergraduate degree is from Caltech (the Calcutta Technical Institute), where he graduated top of his class of seven million students …
60. Old map abbr. : SSR
The former Soviet Union (USSR) was created in 1922, not long after the Russian Revolution of 1917 that overthrew the Tsar. Geographically, the new Soviet Union was roughly equivalent to the old Russian Empire, and was comprised of fifteen Soviet Socialist Republics (SSRs).
61. Monthly payment that’s often more than the prin. : INT
The interest (int.) paid on a mortgage often amounts to more than the principal (prin.) borrowed.
64. Capitol feature : DOME
A capitol is a building in which a legislature meets. Such buildings are often constructed with an impressive dome. The term “capitol” is a reference to the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, the most important temple in Ancient Rome, and which sat on top of Capitoline Hill.
67. Song from Carmen : ARIA
Georg Bizet was a French composer active in the Romantic era. Bizet’s most famous work has to be his opera “Carmen”. “Carmen” initially received a lukewarm reception from the public, even though his fellow composers had nothing but praise for it. Sadly, Bizet died very young at only 36, before he could see “Carmen’s” tremendous success.
75. Longtime rival of Tiger : PHIL
Phil Mickelson is one of the most famous left-handed golfers currently playing on the PGA Tour. Less well know is the fact that outside of golf, he is right-handed. Despite his great success as a golfer, the US Open championship has always eluded him. He has finished runner-up six times, more times than any other player.
77. Longhorn rivals : AGGIES
Texas A&M is the seventh largest university in the country, and was the first public higher education institute in the state when it accepted its first students in 1876. The full name of the school was the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas and its primary mission used to be the education of males in the techniques of farming and military warfare. That’s quite a combination! Because of the agricultural connection, the college’s sports teams use the moniker “Aggies”. Texas A&M is also home to the George Bush Presidential Library.
81. Futile : OTIOSE
“Otiose” means “lazy, indolent”, and comes from the Latin word “otium” meaning “leisure”. Use of the term has extended to mean “without profit, futile”.
85. Team for 24-Across : REINDEER
(24. His personal Canadian postal code is H0 H0 H0 : SANTA CLAUS)
We get the names for Santa’s reindeer from the famous 1823 poem called “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, although we’ve modified a couple of the names over the years. The full list is:
- Donder (originally “Dunder”, and now often “Donner”)
- Blitzen (originally “Blixem”)
Rudolph was added to the list by retailer Montgomery Ward, would you believe? The store commissioned Robert L. May to create a booklet that could be handed out to children around Christmas in 1939, and May introduced us to a new friend for Santa, namely Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
88. Sharable PC file : PDF
Portable Document Format (PDF) is a file format introduced by Adobe Systems in 1993. PDF documents can be shared between users and read using many different applications, making them more universally accessible than documents saved by one particular program.
91. Fort near Fayetteville : BRAGG
Fort Bragg in North Carolina is a very large Army installation that covers over 250 square miles. The base is named for General Braxton Bragg, the native North Carolinian who commanded the Confederate Army forces during the Civil War.
94. Tan relative : ECRU
The shade called ecru is a grayish, yellowish brown. The word “ecru” comes from French and means “raw, unbleached”. “Ecru” has the same roots as our word “crude”.
103. UPS carton phrase : SHIP TO
United Parcel Service (UPS) is based in Sandy Springs, Georgia and has its own airline that operates out of Louisville, Kentucky.
105. “Bearing gifts, we traverse __” : AFAR
The Christmas carol “We Three Kings” is a favorite of mine. The carol was written in 1857 by the rector of an Episcopal church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania called John Henry Hopkins, Jr. Hopkins composed “We Three Kings” for a Christmas pageant in New York City.
116. Sweet-scented flower : GARDENIA
The genus of flowering plant called gardenia is actually in the coffee family.
119. Resonant barbershop sound : BASS NOTE
Barbershop music is played in the a cappella style, meaning that it is unaccompanied vocal music. Barbershop music originated in the African American communities in the South, as gospel quartets often gathered in neighborhood barber shops to sing together.
123. Type of garden : ZEN
Japanese Zen gardens are inspired by the meditation gardens of Zen Buddhist temples. Zen gardens have no water in them, but often there is gravel and sand that is raked in patterns designed to create the impression of water in waves and ripples.
126. Narc’s employer : DEA
127. Narc’s assignment : CASE
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
“Narc” is a slang term for a law enforcement officer who tracks down criminals associated with illegal drugs. “Narc” is short for “narcotics officer”.
129. Julia’s “Ocean’s Twelve” role : TESS
“Ocean’s 11” is a great film from 1960, starring Frank Sinatra as Danny Ocean. The original storyline is updated for the excellent 2001 remake, with George Clooney playing the lead. In the 1960 movie, the love interest is a character called Beatrice Ocean, played by Angie Dickinson. In the 2001 version, the love interest gets a new name, Tess Ocean, and is played by Julia Roberts. The 2001 remake (titled “Ocean’s Eleven”, note the spelling) spawned two sequels: “Ocean’s Twelve” in 2004 and “Ocean’s Thirteen” in 2007.
1. Spacewalks, briefly : EVAS
Extra-vehicular activity (EVA) is the name given to any work done by an astronaut outside of his or her spacecraft. The term would encompass walking on the moon, as well as making a space walk i.e. floating around in space tethered to spacecraft.
2. Lugosi and Karolyi : BELAS
Bela Lugosi was a Hungarian stage and screen actor, best known for playing the title role in the 1931 film “Dracula” and for playing the same role on Broadway. Lugosi found himself typecast for the rest of his career and almost always played the role of the villain, often in horror movies. When he passed away in 1956, his wife had him buried in the costume he wore playing Count Dracula on Broadway.
Béla Károlyi is a gymnastics coach from Romania who has lived in the US since 1981. Károlyi has coached both the US and Romanian national teams, with both winning Olympic gold.
3. Classic 71-Across : O TANNENBAUM
(71A. See 26-Across : … CAROL)
“O Tannenbaum” is a traditional German Christmas carol, the title of is usually translated as “O Christmas Tree”. “Tannenbaum” is the German name for a fir tree.
4. Popular virus remedy : NORTON
Norton Antivirus software is produced by Symantec. The Norton brand name originated with Peter Norton Computing, a company that Symantec acquired in 1990. Peter Norton’s most famous product was Norton Utilities, and he never produced an antivirus application. Symantec decided to use the respected Norton brand for the antivirus product that it developed and introduced in 1991.
5. Rabble-rouser : DEMAGOGUE
A demagogue is a political leader who seeks to achieve power by appealing to the emotions and prejudices of the masses. A favored tactic of demagogues is to accuse moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness, advocating instead immediate and often violent action. The term “demagogue” ultimately derives from Greek and can be translated as “people’s manipulator”.
12. City on the Loire : NANTES
Nantes is a beautiful city located on the delta of the Loire, Erdre and Sèvre rivers. It has the well deserved nickname of “The Venice of the West”. I had the privilege of visiting Nantes a couple of times on business, and I can attest that it really is a charming city …
13. Attend to a holiday symbol : TRIM THE TREE
The custom of decorating trees at Christmas seems to have originated in Renaissance Germany. Those first trees were placed in guildhalls and were decorated with sweets and candy for the apprentices and children. After the Protestant Reformation, the Christmas tree became an alternative in Protestant homes for the Roman Catholic Christmas cribs. The Christmas tree tradition was imported into Britain by the royal family because of its German heritage. That tradition spread from Britain into North America.
17. U.S. Army medal : DSC
The Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) is the second highest honor awarded to members of the US Army. The DSC is equivalent to the Navy Cross and the Air Force Cross.
20. Star Wars initials : SDI
One of the positive outcomes of President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, aka “Star Wars”) was a change in US defense strategy. The new approach was to use missiles to destroy incoming hostile weapons, rather than using missiles to destroy the nation attacking the country. The former doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction went by the apt acronym of MAD …
25. Small construction piece : LEGO
Lego is manufactured by Lego Group, a privately held company headquartered in Billund, Denmark. The company was founded by a carpenter called Ole Kirk Christiansen in 1934 and the now-famous plastic interlocking blocks were introduced in 1949. The blocks were originally sold under the name “Automatic Binding Bricks” but I think “Lego” is easier to remember! The name “Lego” comes from the Danish term “leg godt” meaning “play well”.
27. NFL coach Rex : RYAN
Rex Ryan was appointed head coach of the New York Jets NFL team in 2009, and then became head coach for the Buffalo Bills in 2015.
30. Bailiwicks : REALMS
Bailiwick is a word dating back to the mid-1600s, and originally meant the “district of a bailiff”.
34. German university city : ULM
Ulm is in the south of Germany and sits on the River Danube. Ulm is famous as home to the tallest church in the world, Ulm Minster, a Gothic building with a steeple that is 530 feet tall, with 768 steps to climb. Ulm is also the birthplace of Albert Einstein, and is where the entire Austrian army surrendered to Napoleon after the Battle of Ulm in 1805.
35. A.L. West team, familiarly : THE A’S
The Oakland Athletics (usually “the A’s”) baseball franchise was founded back in 1901 as the Philadelphia Athletics. The team became the Kansas City Athletics in 1955 and moved to Oakland in 1968.
36. “Elements of Algebra” author : EULER
Leonhard Euler was a brilliant Swiss mathematician and physicist, a pioneer in the fields of logarithms and graph theory.
39. Syrian leader : ASSAD
Dr. Bashar al-Assad is the current President of the Syrian Arab Republic and the son of the former President Hafez al-Assad whom he replaced in 2001. President Assad is a medical doctor, speaks fluent English and conversational French. Assad was studying ophthalmology in London when he met his wife, who is an Englishwoman.
43. Author Yutang : LIN
Lin Yutang was a Chinese writer who lived much of his life in the US. Among other accomplishments, Yutang is noted for his very popular translations of classic Chinese texts into English.
47. One may end in “ese” : ARGOT
“Argot” is a French term, the name given in the 17th century to “the jargon of the Paris underworld”. Nowadays argot is the set of idioms used by any particular group, the “lingo” of that group.
53. Title annual holiday character since 1965 : CHARLIE BROWN
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is a TV cartoon special that first aired in 1965, and has been broadcast during the holidays every year since. As of 2013, there has been a stage version of the show that is performed largely in schools, churches and community theaters. The storyline in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” isn’t kind to the aluminum Christmas tree that was popular back in the early sixties. The TV special has been given the bulk of the credit for the demise of the metallic monstrosity, said he judgmentally …
55. Slanted page? : OP-ED
“Op-ed” is an abbreviation for “opposite the editorial page”. Op-eds started in “The New York Evening World” in 1921 when the page opposite the editorials was used for articles written by a named guest writer, someone independent of the editorial board.
62. Sierra Nevada vacation mecca : TAHOE
Lake Tahoe is up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, right on the border between California and Nevada. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the country, and the largest lake in general, behind the five Great Lakes. It’s also the second deepest lake, with only the beautiful Crater Lake in Oregon being deeper. Given its location, there are tall casinos that sit right on the shore on the Nevada side of the state line where gambling is legal.
66. TV monitor : FCC
TV broadcasting is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC has been around since 1934, when it replaced the Federal Radio Commission.
67. E.T. from Melmac : ALF
“ALF” is a sitcom that aired in the late eighties. ALF is a hand-puppet, supposedly an alien from the planet Melmac that crash-landed in a suburban neighborhood. “ALF” stands for “alien life form”.
72. Suisse peaks : ALPES
There are eight Alpine countries:
77. Some Wall St. traders : ARBS
“Arb” is short for an arbitrageur, one who profits from the purchase of securities in one market and the subsequent sale in another, hence taking advantage of price discrepancies across markets.
78. English singer Halliwell : GERI
Geri Halliwell was nicknamed Ginger Spice when she was with the Spice Girls, because of her red hair. Halliwell was quite a bit older than the rest of the group and so sometimes she was less charitably referred to as “Old Spice”. After launching her solo career, Halliwell released a fabulous 2001 version of the song “It’s Raining Men”, which was originally recorded by the Weather Girls in 1982. Great song …
79. Composer __ Carlo Menotti : GIAN
The composer Gian Carlo Menotti won a Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for his opera “The Consul”. Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors” has a special place in the repertoire, in that it is the first opera specifically composed for American television. “Amahl and the Night Visitors” was commissioned by NBC and had its debut at the NBC studios in Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve, 1951. In today’s world of commercially-driven television, I can’t imagine a network commissioning a classical work …
82. Draft category : ONE-A
The US government maintains information on all males who are potentially subject to military conscription, using what is called the Selective Service System(SS). In the event that a draft was held, men registered would be classified into groups to determine eligibility for service. Class 1-A registrants are those available for unrestricted military service. Other classes are 1-A-O (conscientious objector available for noncombatant service), 4-A (registrant who has completed military service) and 4-D (Minister of religion).
83. “Right now!” : STAT
The exact etymology of “stat”, a term meaning “immediately” in the medical profession, seems to have been lost in the mists of time. It probably comes from the Latin “statim” meaning “to a standstill, immediately”. A blog reader has helpfully suggested that the term may also come from the world of laboratory analysis, where the acronym STAT stands for “short turn-around time”.
84. Salinger title choir singer : ESME
J. D. Salinger wrote a short story called “For Esmé – with Love and Squalor”, originally published in “The New Yorker” in 1950. It is a story about a young English girl called Esme and an American soldier, and is set in WWII.
90. Ponder : RUMINATE
Ruminants are animals that “chew the cud”. Ruminants eat vegetable matter but cannot extract any nutritional value from cellulose without the help of microbes in the gut. Ruminants collect roughage in the first part of the alimentary canal, allowing microbes to work on it. The partially digested material (the cud) is regurgitated into the mouth so that the ruminant can chew the food more completely exposing more surface area for microbes to do their work. We also use the verb “to ruminate” in a figurative sense, to mean “to muse, ponder, chew over”.
95. Toledo thing : COSA
“Cosa” is Spanish for “thing”, as in “Cosa Nostra” meaning “Our Thing”.
Toledo is a city in central Spain, located just over 40 miles south of the capital Madrid. Toledo is sometimes called the “City of Three Cultures”, due to the historical co-existence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish traditions.
102. __ vincit amor : OMNIA
“Omnia vincit amor” is a line from Eclogue X, one of the major works of the Latin poet Virgil. We know the phrase in English as “love conquers all”.
105. Allowed to ripen, as cheddar : AGED
Cheddar cheese takes its name from the English village of Cheddar in Somerset. Over 50% of the cheese sold in the UK is cheddar. Here in the US cheddar is the second most popular cheese sold, behind Mozzarella.
107. Bailiwick : AREA
Bailiwick is a word dating back to the mid-1600s, and originally meant the “district of a bailiff”.
115. Single animal-shaped candy? : PEEP
Peeps are marshmallow candies usually in the shapes of chicks and bunnies, primarily sold around the Easter holiday. Peeps were introduced in 1952 by a Russian immigrant called Sam Born whose company “Just Born” makes the candies to this day. The original candies were yellow and hand-shaped to look like little chicks, hence the name “Peeps”.
120. Mac OS part: Abbr. : SYS
“Mac OS” is short for Macintosh (Mac) operating system (OS)