0320-17 New York Times Crossword Answers 20 Mar 17, Monday

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Solution to today’s crossword in the New York Times
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Solution to today’s New York Times crossword found online at the Seattle Times website
Jump to a complete list of today’s clues and answers

CROSSWORD SETTER: Neil deGrasse Tyson and Andrea Carla Michaels
THEME: Astronomical Puns
There’s a note with today’s puzzle:

CELEBRITY PUZZLE
To mark the 75th anniversary of the New York Times crossword, which debuted in 1942, we are publishing a series of puzzles co-created by famous people who solve the Times crossword, working together with regular Times puzzle contributors.

This collaboration is by the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and his Harvard classmate Andrea Carla Michaels (with her 56th puzzle for The Times).

The celebrity collaborations will continue periodically through the year.

More information about the making of today’s puzzle appears in the Times’s daily crossword column (nytimes.com/column/wordplay).

Today’s themed answers are terms from the world of astronomy, but each each is clued in “punny” way:

20A. Toe testing the waters? : LITTLE DIPPER
24A. ExxonMobil? : GAS GIANT
37A. Oscar nominees’ gathering? : STAR CLUSTER
52A. Bashful? : RED DWARF
57A. Total hottie? : HEAVENLY BODY

BILL BUTLER’S COMPLETION TIME: 5m 53s
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0

Today’s Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
Across

1. Fix, as a cat : SPAY
Our verb “to spay”, meaning “to surgically remove the ovaries of” (an animal) comes from an old Anglo-French word “espeier” meaning “to cut with a sword”.

9. “Jurassic Park” insect casing : AMBER
“Jurassic Park” is a 1990 novel by Michael Crichton that was adapted into a hugely successful movie by Steven Spielberg in 1993. One of the main premises of the novel is that dinosaur DNA could be harvested from mosquitoes trapped in amber (fossilized tree resin), the DNA coming from the dinosaur blood consumed by the mosquitoes. The dinosaur DNA is then sequenced and used to create clones of the original beasts. A clever idea, but apparently not very practical from what I’ve read …

14. Pack animal : MULE
A hinny is the offspring of a male horse (the “h-” from h-orse) and a female donkey/ass (the “-nny” from je-nny). A mule is more common, and is the offspring of a female horse and male donkey/ass.

16. First lady after Hillary : LAURA
Laura Bush, wife of President George W. Bush, had her memoir “Spoken from the Heart” published in 2010. Born Laura Lane Welch, the former First Lady has a Master’s degree in Library Science (as does my wife, my own First Lady!). Given that background, it’s not surprising that two causes that Laura Bush focused on while in the White House were education and literacy. She established the annual National Book Festival, first held in Washington, D.C. in 2001, after having co-founded the Texas Book Festival in her home state.

18. Like Dorothy’s slippers : RUBY
In the 1939 movie “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, Dorothy arrives in the Land of Oz after her farmhouse is swept up in a cyclone. The farmhouse comes to ground and kills the Wicked Witch of the East. The Wicked Witch of the West arrives to claim the magical ruby slippers worn by the Wicked Witch Witch of the East. The Good Witch of the North steps in and gives the ruby slippers to Dorothy instead.


19. Boston airport : LOGAN
Boston’s Logan Airport is named after General Edward Lawrence Logan, a military officer from South Boston who fought in the Spanish-American War.

23. Potentially dangerous bacterium : E COLI
Escherichia coli (E. coli) are usually harmless bacteria found in the human gut, working away quite happily. However, there are some strains that can produce lethal toxins. These strains can make their way into the food chain from animal fecal matter that comes into contact with food designated for human consumption.

24. ExxonMobil? : GAS GIANT
The Exxon Corporation was a descendant of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. Exxon merged with Mobil (yet another descendant of Standard Oil) in 1999 to form ExxonMobil.

28. “___ Comedy Jam” : DEF
“Def Comedy Jam” ran on HBO from 1992-97, and returned in 2006. I think it is a stand-up comedy show …

32. “Bald-faced” thing : LIE
Our “bald-faced” lies here in the US are “bare-faced” lies on the other side of the Atlantic. The original expression was indeed “bare-faced”, which portrays the concept of lying with an uncovered face, unashamedly.

41. Vittles : FOOD
“Victuals” is a term for food that is fit for consumption. We tend to pronounce “victuals” as “vittles”, and we use the term “vittles” and “victuals” interchangeably.

45. Mai ___ (cocktail) : TAI
The Mai Tai cocktail is strongly associated with the Polynesian islands, but the drink was supposedly invented in 1944 in Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland, California. One recipe is 6 parts white rum, 3 parts orange curaçao, 3 parts Orgeat syrup, 1 part rock candy syrup, 2 parts fresh lime juice, all mixed with ice and then a float added of 6 parts dark rum. “Maita’i” is the Tahitian word for “good”.

52. Bashful? : RED DWARF
In the original Brothers Grimm fairy tale called “Snow White”, the seven dwarfs were not given any names. The names were added for the 1937 classic Disney film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. The seven dwarfs are:

  • Doc (the leader of the group)
  • Grumpy (that would be me, according to my wife …)
  • Happy
  • Sleepy
  • Bashful
  • Sneezy
  • Dopey

60. Simple pond life : ALGAE
Algae are similar to terrestrial plants in that they use photosynthesis to create sugars from light and carbon dioxide, but they differ in that they have simpler anatomies, and for example lack roots.

64. “Voulez-vous coucher ___ moi ce soir?” : AVEC
I’ve always thought that the phrase “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?” was grammatically “odd”. The expression is sexually suggestive, meaning “Would you like to sleep with me tonight?” The problem is that the use of the formal (or plural!) “vous” instead of the familiar “tu” indicates a lack of intimacy that should be present in such a forward invitation. But, I just read that the term would perhaps be correct if the speaker was a high-class escort using formal grammar with a client. Great disco melody, surprising lyrics …

66. Catches forty winks : NAPS
Back in the early 1800s, folks took “nine winks” when getting a few minutes of sleep during the day. Dr. William Kitchiner extended this concept in his 1821 self-help book “The Art of Invigorating and Prolonging Life”. He suggested “A Forty Winks Nap”, which we seem to have been taking ever since. Mind you, I’m up to about eighty winks most days …

68. New Mexican pueblo builders : ZUNIS
The Zuni are one of the Pueblo peoples. They live on the Zuni River in western New Mexico, a tributary of the Little Colorado River.

Down
2. Volcanic rock : PUMICE
Pumice is volcanic rock that is formed by lava cooling. There are bubbles in pumice due to water and carbon dioxide frothing out of the lava as it cools. Because of the frothy structure, pumice is relatively light and is a great thermal insulator. As such, it is used in construction to make insulating breeze blocks.

4. 1983 film in which Barbra Streisand dresses as a man : YENTL
“Yentl” is a play that opened in New York City in 1975. The move to adapt the play for the big screen was led by Barbara Streisand, and indeed she wrote the first outline of a musical version herself as far back as 1968. The film was eventually made and released in 1983, with Streisand performing the lead role.

6. ___ poker : STUD
Stud poker is the name given to many variants of poker, all characterized by the dealer giving each player a mix of cards face-down and face-up. The cards facing upwards are called “upcards”. The cards facing downwards are called “hole cards”, cards only visible to the individual who holds that particular hand. This gives rise to the phrase “ace in the hole”, a valuable holding that only the player with the ace is aware of.

8. E-commerce site formerly owned by eBay : PAYPAL
PayPal is an e-commerce business that has been around since the year 2000, born out of a merger of two older companies: Confinity and X.com. PayPal performs payment processing for online vendors. The company was so successful that it was the first of the beleaguered dot.com companies to successfully complete an IPO after the attacks of 9/11. Then in 2002, PayPal was bought by eBay for a whopping $1.5 billion.

10. Native New Zealanders : MAORI
The Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. They are eastern Polynesian in origin and began arriving in New Zealand relatively recently, starting some time in the late 13th century. The word “māori” simply means “normal”, distinguishing the mortal human being from spiritual entities. The Māori refer to New Zealand as “Aotearoa”.

11. Computer program glitch : BUG
Back in 1947, the famed computer programmer Grace Hopper noticed some colleagues fixing a piece of equipment by removing a dead moth from a relay. She remarked that they were “debugging” the system, and so Hopper has been given credit for popularizing the term.

12. Paleozoic or Mesozoic : ERA
The Paleozoic Era (with “Paleozoic” meaning “ancient life”) was a geologic era from roughly 542 to 251 million years ago. Notably in the Paleozoic Era, fish populations thrived and vast forests of primitive plants covered the land. Those forests were the source material for the coal which we dig out of the ground now in Europe and the eastern parts of North America. At end of the Paleozoic Era was the largest mass extinction in the history of the Earth, killing off 96% of all marine species, and 70% of all terrestrial vertebrates. Causes of the extinction have been suggested, with one hypothesis being gradually accelerating climate change (scary!).

The Mesozoic Era is also known as the Age of the Dinosaurs, as most dinosaurs developed during that time and the era ended with the extinction of all dinosaurs (except the avian species, which developed into our modern birds). The Mesozoic Era started with another cataclysmic event, the so called “Great Dying”, the largest mass extinction in the history of our planet. During the “Great Dying” over 90% of all marine species and 70% of all terrestrial vertebrate species died off.

21. “The Scales” constellation : LIBRA
The constellation of Libra is named for the scales held by the goddess of justice. Libra is the only sign of the zodiac that isn’t named for a living creature.

27. Hamilton’s bill : TEN
The US ten-dollar bill features the image of Alexander Hamilton, the first US Secretary of the Treasury, on the obverse. As such, ten-dollar bills are sometimes called “Hamiltons”. By the way, the $10 bill is the only US currency in circulation in which the portrait faces to the left. The reverse of the ten-dollar bill features the US Treasury Building.

31. Big inits. in trucks : GMC
GMC is a division of General Motors (GM) established in 1901 that started out as “GMC Truck”.

34. 1-800-FLOWERS alternative : FTD
Back in 1910, fifteen florists from around America agreed to fulfill each other’s orders using the telegraph system, setting up what they called the Florists’ Telegraph Delivery. The concept grew so large that in 1965 the group started to offer international service, and changed its name to Florists’ Transworld Delivery (FTD).

35. Certain fraternal order member : ELK
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) was founded in 1868, and is a social club that has about a million members today. It started out as a group of men getting together in a “club” in order to get around the legal opening hours of taverns in New York City. The club took on a new role as it started to look out for poor families of members who passed away. The club now accepts African Americans as members (since the seventies) and women (since the nineties), but atheists still aren’t welcome.

38. Commercial game with wild cards : UNO
In my youth I remember being taught a great card game, by a German acquaintance of mine, called Mau Mau. Years later I discovered that Uno is basically the same game, but played with a purpose-printed deck instead of the regular deck of playing cards that’s used for Mau Mau. I hear that Mau Mau is derived from the game called Crazy Eights.

45. 140-character messages : TWEETS
I have never tweeted in my life, and have no plans to do so (but one should never say “never”). Twitter is a microblogging service that limits any post sent to just 140 characters. In a sense, it is similar to this blog. Here I send out a post once a day containing information that I think might be useful to folks (thank you for reading!). I don’t think I could send out much of interest using just 140 characters.

46. Drivers’ org. : AAA
The American Automobile Association (AAA) is a not-for-profit organization focused on lobbying, provision of automobile servicing, and selling of automobile insurance. The AAA was founded in 1902 in Chicago and published the first of its celebrated hotel guides back in 1917.

47. John who wrote “The World According to Garp” : IRVING
John Irving’s 1978 novel “The World According to Garp” is somewhat biographical. In fact, Irving’s mother found parts of the novel difficult to read, recognizing elements of herself in Garp’s mother Jenny Fields.

50. Most bizarre : ODDEST
“Bizarre” is a French word, with the same meaning in French as English. However, back in the 16th century, “bizarre” used to mean “handsome, brave” in French. So that’s what my wife means when she refers to me as “bizarre” …

51. 1960 Alfred Hitchcock thriller : PSYCHO
The classic Alfred Hitchcock suspense film “Psycho” released in 1960 is based on a 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. The Bloch novel in turn is loosely based on actual crimes committed by murderer and grave robber Ed Gein. When “Psycho” was making its initial run in theaters, latecomers were not granted admission, a policy instigated by Hitchcock himself. He felt that anyone missing the opening scenes would not enjoy the film.

53. Abu ___ (Mideast land) : DHABI
Abu Dhabi is one of the seven Emirates that make up the federation known as the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The two largest members of the UAE (geographically) are Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the only two of the seven members that have veto power over UAE policy. Before 1971, the UAE was a British Protectorate, a collection of sheikdoms. The sheikdoms entered into a maritime truce with Britain in 1835, after which they became known as the Trucial States, derived from the word “truce”.

54. Prebirth : FETAL
The word “fetus”, used for an unborn young animal, comes from Latin as one might expect. “Fetus” is the Latin word for the act of hatching or bringing forth a young animal or child. The mistaken spelling “foetus” is seen quite a lot, but there’s no historical basis for adding that “o”.

56. President who won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize : OBAMA
President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the fourth US president to be so honored. He is the only one of the four to have been awarded the prize during his first year of office. The Nobel committee gave the award citing President Obama’s work towards a new climate in international relations, particularly in reaching out to the Muslim world.

60. Woodworking tool : ADZ
An adze (also “adz”) is similar to an axe, but is different in that the blade of an adze is set at right angles to the tool’s shaft. An axe’s blade is set in line with the shaft.

61. Baseballer Gehrig : LOU
Baseball legend Lou Gehrig was known as a powerhouse. He was a big hitter and just kept on playing. Gehrig broke the record for the most consecutive number of games played, and he stills holds the record for the most career grand slams. His durability earned him the nickname “The Iron Horse”. Sadly, he died in 1941 at 37-years-old suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an illness we now call “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”. The New Yankees retired the number four on 4th of July 1939 in his honor, making Lou Gehrig the first baseball player to have a number retired.

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For the sake of completion, here is a full listing of all the answers:
Across
1. Fix, as a cat : SPAY
5. “Get cracking!” : ASAP!
9. “Jurassic Park” insect casing : AMBER
14. Pack animal : MULE
15. “___ girl!” : IT’S A
16. First lady after Hillary : LAURA
17. “That’s my cue!” : I’M ON!
18. Like Dorothy’s slippers : RUBY
19. Boston airport : LOGAN
20. Toe testing the waters? : LITTLE DIPPER
23. Potentially dangerous bacterium : E COLI
24. ExxonMobil? : GAS GIANT
28. “___ Comedy Jam” : DEF
29. Command to Rover : BEG
32. “Bald-faced” thing : LIE
33. “Who goes there, friend or ___?” : FOE
34. Bowling scoresheet unit : FRAME
36. Square dance site : BARN
37. Oscar nominees’ gathering? : STAR CLUSTER
41. Vittles : FOOD
43. Manipulate, as bread dough : KNEAD
44. Bird that hoots : OWL
45. Mai ___ (cocktail) : TAI
48. Admit, with “up to” : OWN
49. ’50s high school dance : HOP
52. Bashful? : RED DWARF
55. Inventory items : GOODS
57. Total hottie? : HEAVENLY BODY
60. Simple pond life : ALGAE
63. “Me as well” : I TOO
64. “Voulez-vous coucher ___ moi ce soir?” : AVEC
65. It may be reasonable to a jury : DOUBT
66. Catches forty winks : NAPS
67. Intertwine : MESH
68. New Mexican pueblo builders : ZUNIS
69. Exuberance : GLEE
70. Regarding, in a memo : AS TO

Down
1. Wore an upside-down frown : SMILED
2. Volcanic rock : PUMICE
3. Many, many : A LOT OF
4. 1983 film in which Barbra Streisand dresses as a man : YENTL
5. Suffix with million : -AIRE
6. ___ poker : STUD
7. Equally large : AS BIG
8. E-commerce site formerly owned by eBay : PAYPAL
9. Declare to be true : ALLEGE
10. Native New Zealanders : MAORI
11. Computer program glitch : BUG
12. Paleozoic or Mesozoic : ERA
13. Sought political office : RAN
21. “The Scales” constellation : LIBRA
22. Greek letter before omega : PSI
25. Quite a distance off : AFAR
26. Neither’s partner : NOR
27. Hamilton’s bill : TEN
30. Body part to lend or bend : EAR
31. Big inits. in trucks : GMC
34. 1-800-FLOWERS alternative : FTD
35. Certain fraternal order member : ELK
36. Place to dream : BED
37. Successful auctioneer’s last word : SOLD
38. Commercial game with wild cards : UNO
39. Put in stitches : SEW
40. Having an aftertaste, as some barbecue sauce : TANGY
41. Debate position against “against” : FOR
42. Have debts : OWE
45. 140-character messages : TWEETS
46. Drivers’ org. : AAA
47. John who wrote “The World According to Garp” : IRVING
49. Reindeer feet : HOOVES
50. Most bizarre : ODDEST
51. 1960 Alfred Hitchcock thriller : PSYCHO
53. Abu ___ (Mideast land) : DHABI
54. Prebirth : FETAL
56. President who won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize : OBAMA
58. “Ain’t happening” : NOPE
59. Finish second : LOSE
60. Woodworking tool : ADZ
61. Baseballer Gehrig : LOU
62. Rifle or revolver : GUN

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5 thoughts on “0320-17 New York Times Crossword Answers 20 Mar 17, Monday”

  1. 9:01, no errors. Slowed by several erasures: 15A ATTA before ITS A; 41A CHOW before FOOD (had the O from SOLD); 65A ALIBI before DOUBT (had the B from DHABI).

    With Dr. Tyson as co-collaborator, knew it would have an astronomical flavor.

  2. 7:24, no issues. Good to be back on the horse, so to speak after an exasperating late last week and weekend. Thanks to Neil DeGrasse Tyson for his role in this "star turn".

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