0531-18 NY Times Crossword Answers 31 May 2018, Thursday

Constructed by: Dominick Talvacchio
Edited by: Will Shortz

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Today’s Reveal Answer: It’s All Greek to Me

Themed answers comprise sequences of Greek letters:

  • 39A. What you might say upon seeing 17-, 23-, 51- and 62-Across? : IT’S ALL GREEK TO ME
  • 17A. Wager one’s sculpture of the Virgin Mary cradling the body of Jesus? : BET A PIETA (beta pi eta)
  • 23A. Hired vehicle that’s only as big as a potato crisp? : CHIP-SIZE TAXI (chi psi zeta xi)
  • 51A. One-millionth of a meter along a spiritual path? : THE TAO MICRON (theta omicron)
  • 62A. Inst. of higher learning dedicated to the statistical analysis of young sheep? : LAMB DATA U (lambda tau)

Bill’s time: 11m 37s

Bill’s errors: 0

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Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

9. First sub-Saharan country to obtain independence from colonial rule : GHANA

The country name “Ghana” translates as “warrior king” in the local language. The British established a colony they called Gold Coast in 1874, later to become Ghana, as part of the scramble by Europeans to settle as much of Africa as they could. One of Ghana’s most famous sons is Kofi Annan, the diplomat who served as General Secretary of the UN for ten years until the beginning of 2007.

16. M.L.B. career leader in total bases : AARON

The great Hank Aaron (“Hammerin’ Hank” or “the Hammer”) has many claims to fame. One notable fact is that he is the last major league baseball player to have also played in the Negro League.

17. Wager one’s sculpture of the Virgin Mary cradling the body of Jesus? : BET A PIETA (beta pi eta)

The Pietà is a representation of the Virgin Mary holding in her arms the dead body of her son Jesus. The most famous Pietà is probably the sculpted rendition by Michelangelo which is located in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. In some depictions, Mary and her son are surrounded by other figures from the New Testament, and these depictions are known as Lamentations.

20. Stacked quarters?: Abbr. : APTS

We use the term “quarters” for a place of abode, especially housing for military personnel. Back in the late 16th century, quarters were a portion (quarter) of a town reserved for a military force.

21. Broad-leaved endive : ESCAROLE

Endive is a leaf vegetable belonging to the chicory genus, and is in the daisy family. Endive is also known as “escarole”.

27. Cabinet head: Abbr. : SECY

In the Westminster system, the Cabinet is a group of sitting politicians chosen by the Prime Minister to head up government departments and also to participate collectively in major governmental decisions in all areas. In the US system, the Cabinet is made up not of sitting politicians, but rather of non-legislative individuals who are considered to have expertise in a particular area. The Cabinet members in the US system tend to have more of an advisory role outside of their own departments.

32. Flight : LAM

To be on the lam is to be in flight, to have escaped from prison. “On the lam” is American slang that originated at the end of the 19th century. The word “lam” also means to “beat” or “thrash”, as in “lambaste”. So “on the lam” might derive from the phrase “to beat it, to scram”.

38. “From ___ down to Brighton, I must have played them all” (“Pinball Wizard” lyric) : SOHO

“Tommy” is the fourth album recorded by the British band called the Who. “Tommy” was the original rock opera and was adapted for both the stage and screen, with both adaptations becoming huge successes. The title character has an uncanny ability to play pinball, giving rise to the hit song “Pinball Wizard”.

The area of London called Soho had a very poor reputation for most of the 20th century as it was home to the city’s red light district. Soho went through a transformation in recent decades, and has been a very fashionable neighborhood since the 1980s.

Brighton is a town (now part of the city called Brighton and Hove) on the south coast of England. Brighton developed as a major seaside tourist destination during the Victorian era after the completion of the London and Brighton Railway in 1841. Large hotels were built on the seafront, as well as famous piers that housed concert halls and other places of entertainment.

45. Locale of Rome and Syracuse: Abbr. : NYS

New York State (NYS)

46. It takes a toll : E-ZPASS

E-ZPASS was a technology development driven (pun!) by the tolling agencies of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The first E-ZPASS toll booth was built on the New York Thruway, and opened at the Spring Valley toll plaza in 1993.

49. Corn syrup brand : KARO

Karo is a brand of corn syrup, an industrially manufactured sweetener derived from corn. The brand was introduced in 1902 by the Corn Products Refining Company.

51. One-millionth of a meter along a spiritual path? : THE TAO MICRON (theta omicron)

The name of the Chinese character “tao” translates as “path”, but the concept of Taoism signifies the true nature of the world.

The measurement of length called a micron (plural “micra”) is more correctly referred to a micrometer (or “micrometre”). One micron is equivalent to one millionth of a meter.

60. Brand once promoted as “The reincarnation of tea” : TAZO

The Tazo Tea Company was founded in 1994 in Portland, Oregon. Tazo was purchased in 1999 by Starbucks. Starbucks now runs tea shops that are fully dedicated to Tazo teas.

62. Inst. of higher learning dedicated to the statistical analysis of young sheep? : LAMB DATA U (lambda tau)

Our word “data” (singular “datum”) comes from the Latin “datum” meaning “given”. The idea is that data are “things given”.

Down

1. Filler for une pipe : TABAC

“Tabac” is the French word for “tobacco”.

3. Actress Lupone : PATTI

The singer Patti LuPone won Tonys for playing Eva Peron in “Evita ” and Rose in “Gypsy”.

6. Election day: Abbr. : TUE

Election Day was chosen by Congress back in 1845. The month of November was selected as it suited an agricultural society, following the fall harvest and yet not too far into winter, which could make travel difficult. Tuesday was chosen so that people had time to travel to polling stations. Monday elections might have meant that some would have to start out on Sunday, and that could interfere with Christian services.

7. Lauder making some blush : ESTEE

Estée Lauder was a very successful businesswoman, and someone with a great reputation as a salesperson. Lauder introduced her own line of fragrances in 1953, a bath oil called “Youth Dew”. “Youth Dew” was marketed as a perfume, but it was added to bathwater. All of a sudden women were pouring whole bottles of Ms. Lauder’s “perfume” into their baths while using only a drop or two of French perfumes behind their ears. That’s quite a difference in sales volume …

8. Brewer’s agent : YEAST

In brewing and distilling, the mash is the mixture of grain and water that is heated so that enzymes break down starch into sugars. The sugary liquor extracted from the mash is called the wort. Yeast is added to the wort, resulting in the sugars being converted to alcohol.

9. It contains dwarfs and giants : GALAXY

Our galaxy is the Milky Way, and the nearest “spiral galaxy” to ours is the Andromeda Galaxy. Andromeda is not the nearest galaxy, as that honor belongs to the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy.

11. It flows through Florence : ARNO

The Arno is the principal river in the Tuscany region of Italy, and passes through the cities of Florence and Pisa. Famously the Arno flooded in 1966, the worst flood in the region for centuries. There were numerous deaths and extensive destruction of priceless art treasures, particularly in Florence.

12. Time of good cheer : NOEL

“Noël” is the French word for the Christmas season, and ultimately comes from the Latin word for “birth” (natalis). “Noel” has come to be used as an alternative name for a Christmas carol.

13. Frank with a diary : ANNE

Anne Frank has to be one of the most famous victims of the Holocaust. This is largely because the story of this young girl lives on in her widely published diary, and in adaptations of the diary for stage and screen. Anne Frank was a German until she lost her nationality in 1941 when the Nazis came to power. By this time she was living with her family in Amsterdam, as the Franks chose to flee Germany in 1933. When the Germans occupied the Netherlands, the family went into hiding in the attic of Otto Frank’s office building (Otto was Anne’s father). There the family hid for two whole years until they were betrayed. The family was split up, and Anne and her sister died from typhus in a concentration camp in 1945.

18. Not what Indiana joneses for : ASPS

According to the “Indiana Jones” series of films, Indy’s fear of snakes goes back when he was a young man. In “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, we see actor River Phoenix playing young Indie as a Boy Scout and falling into a huge pit of snakes during a chase scene.

The slang term “Jones” is used to mean an intense addiction, a yen, and probably arose in the late sixties out of the prior use of “Jones” for the drug heroin.

22. Certain wine order, informally : CAB

The cabernet sauvignon grape has been around since the 17th century, and is the result of a chance crossing in southwestern France of the cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc grapes.

25. Suffix with egotist : -ICAL

An egoist (also “egotist”) is a selfish and conceited person. The opposite would be an altruist.

26. Words With Friends developer : ZYNGA

Zynga is a game developer based in San Francisco. The company’s most famous product is CityVille, a game similar to SimCity in look and feel, but it is “stand alone” i.e. doesn’t require an installation on one’s hard drive and is played in a browser window. Cityville attracts about 14 million game-players every day!

“Words With Friends” is a word game application that can be played on smartphones and other electronic devices. “Words With Friends” is basically Scrabble under a different name, or so I hear.

29. Twelve : NOON

Our word “noon”, meaning “midday”, comes from the Latin “nona hora” that translates as “ninth hour”. Back in Ancient Rome, the “ninth hour” was three in the afternoon. Over the centuries, traditions such as church prayers and “midday” meals shifted from 3 p.m. to 12 p.m., and so “noon” became understood as 12 noon.

33. The whole shebang : A TO Z

The word “shebang” is probably a derivative of “shebeen”, an Irish word for a “speakeasy”, an establishment where liquor was drunk and sold illegally. In English “shebang” was originally a “hut” or a “shed”. Just how this evolved into the expression “the whole shebang”, meaning “everything”, is unclear.

34. Fig. on a window (and, with luck, not through the roof) : MSRP

Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)

36. Quinn and Quincy: Abbr. : DRS

“Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” is a TV series starring Jane Seymour as a Boston physician who settles in Colorado springs in the days of the Old West.

“Quincy, M.E.” is a medical mystery series that originally aired in the seventies and eighties starring Jack Klugman in the title role. The show was loosely based on a book by former FBI agent Marshall Houts called “Where Death Delights”.

41. Answer to the riddle “What cheese is made backward?” : EDAM

Edam cheese takes its name from the Dutch town of Edam in North Holland. The cheese is famous for its coating of red paraffin wax, a layer of protection that helps Edam travel well and prevents spoiling. You might occasionally come across an Edam cheese that is coated in black wax. The black color indicates that the underlying cheese has been aged for a minimum of 17 weeks.

42. Russell of “The Americans” : KERI

Actress Keri Russell got her big break on television when she was cast in the title role in the drama show “Felicity” that ran from 1998 from 2002. The lead character in the show is Felicity Porter, a young lady introduced to the audience with a head of long curly blonde hair. Famously, Russell cut her hair extremely short at the start of the second season, an action that was associated with a significant drop in the show’s viewership. Russell had to grow out her hair over the season. I haven’t seen “Felicity”, but I really do enjoy Russell playing one of the leads in the entertaining Cold War drama called “The Americans” that is aired by FX.

“The Americans” is a very engaging drama series set during the Cold War that features two KGB spies living as a married couple just outside Washington, D.C. The show was created by Joe Weisberg, who is a novelist and former CIA officer. The lead roles in “The Americans” are played by real-life couple Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys.

47. Ally of the Brat Pack : SHEEDY

Ally Sheedy is best known as a member of the “Brat Pack”, so she appeared in “The Breakfast Club” and “St. Elmo’s Fire”. She was in another of my favorite films, “War Games”. To be honest, I haven’t enjoyed the movies in which Sheedy has appeared since those early days.

The “Brat Pack” moniker is reminiscent of the Rat Pack of the fifties and sixties (Frank Sinatra & co.). To qualify as a “founding” member of the Brat Pack, the actor had to appear in either “The Breakfast Club” or “St. Elmo’s Fire”, or both. So we have Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy.

53. Game company with an online-only museum : ATARI

At one point, the electronics and video game manufacturer Atari was the fastest growing company in US history. However, Atari never really recovered from the video game industry crash of 1983.

55. Longtime director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra : OZAWA

Seiji Ozawa is most famous for his work as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, although he is also the principal conductor of the Vienna State Opera. Ozawa is renowned for wearing a white turtleneck under his dress suit when he conducts, rather than the traditional starched shirt and white tie.

56. Adjective and adverb, for two : NOUNS

Yes, adjectives and adverbs are very different from nouns. However, the words “adjective” and “adverb” are indeed nouns.

58. Inti worshiper : INCA

Inti was the sun god worshiped by the Incas. Images depicting Inti are featured on the national flags of several nations, including Argentina and Uruguay.

65. One whose office has an opening to fill?: Abbr. : DDS

Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS)

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1. Kitchen drawer? : TAP
4. Rum-drinking buddy : MATEY
9. First sub-Saharan country to obtain independence from colonial rule : GHANA
14. Like : A LA
15. Produce some chuckles, say : AMUSE
16. M.L.B. career leader in total bases : AARON
17. Wager one’s sculpture of the Virgin Mary cradling the body of Jesus? : BET A PIETA (beta pi eta)
19. Napkins and such : LINEN
20. Stacked quarters?: Abbr. : APTS
21. Broad-leaved endive : ESCAROLE
23. Hired vehicle that’s only as big as a potato crisp? : CHIP-SIZE TAXI (chi psi zeta xi)
27. Cabinet head: Abbr. : SECY
28. “So long” : BYE NOW
32. Flight : LAM
35. Secures, as a job : LANDS
38. “From ___ down to Brighton, I must have played them all” (“Pinball Wizard” lyric) : SOHO
39. What you might say upon seeing 17-, 23-, 51- and 62-Across? : IT’S ALL GREEK TO ME
43. What to expect : NORM
44. Out of the way : ASIDE
45. Locale of Rome and Syracuse: Abbr. : NYS
46. It takes a toll : E-ZPASS
49. Corn syrup brand : KARO
51. One-millionth of a meter along a spiritual path? : THE TAO MICRON (theta omicron)
57. What might help you beat the heat? : FIRE EXIT
60. Brand once promoted as “The reincarnation of tea” : TAZO
61. As expected : ON CUE
62. Inst. of higher learning dedicated to the statistical analysis of young sheep? : LAMB DATA U (lambda tau)
66. Often-animated greeting : E-CARD
67. Walk : TREAD
68. Embrace fully : OWN
69. Mouthful? : SASSY
70. Is a canary : SINGS
71. ___ in Nancy : N AS

Down

1. Filler for une pipe : TABAC
2. ___-null (the number of natural numbers) : ALEPH
3. Actress Lupone : PATTI
4. It has dots for spots : MAP
5. Cher, e.g. : AMI
6. Election day: Abbr. : TUE
7. Lauder making some blush : ESTEE
8. Brewer’s agent : YEAST
9. It contains dwarfs and giants : GALAXY
10. Most frighteningly dangerous : HAIRIEST
11. It flows through Florence : ARNO
12. Time of good cheer : NOEL
13. Frank with a diary : ANNE
18. Not what Indiana joneses for : ASPS
22. Certain wine order, informally : CAB
24. Convince : SELL
25. Suffix with egotist : -ICAL
26. Words With Friends developer : ZYNGA
29. Twelve : NOON
30. “Goodness sakes!” : OH MY!
31. Heavy burdens : WOES
32. Conversation piece : LINE
33. The whole shebang : A TO Z
34. Fig. on a window (and, with luck, not through the roof) : MSRP
36. Quinn and Quincy: Abbr. : DRS
37. Japanese watchmaker : SEIKO
40. Do-it-yourselfers : AMATEURS
41. Answer to the riddle “What cheese is made backward?” : EDAM
42. Russell of “The Americans” : KERI
47. Ally of the Brat Pack : SHEEDY
48. Box on a questionnaire : SEX
50. Twice tetra- : OCTA-
52. Angles : TILTS
53. Game company with an online-only museum : ATARI
54. Double-cross, maybe : RAT ON
55. Longtime director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra : OZAWA
56. Adjective and adverb, for two : NOUNS
57. Opposite sides : FOES
58. Inti worshiper : INCA
59. Some old TVs : RCAS
63. Game pieces : MEN
64. Catch : BAG
65. One whose office has an opening to fill?: Abbr. : DDS

23 thoughts on “0531-18 NY Times Crossword Answers 31 May 2018, Thursday”

  1. 17:25 I thought this was fun and challenging. Parsing the themers was a bit tricky and some of the other cluing was tough too.

    1. @Robert … The clue is actually “Mouthful?” (with a question mark) and I think it’s kind of a play on words: Think “mouthy”, “having a big mouth”, or “full of mouthiness” … 😜

  2. 30:40. Thoroughly enjoyed this one. I didn’t even notice that the entire theme answers were Greek letters until the end. I just saw the beginning (e.g. BETA..) and stopped paying attention. I suspect I’d have finished quicker had I noticed.

    Lots of interesting tidbits in the blog today.

    Best –

  3. @Dale Stewart and @Allen Dickerson (from yesterday):

    This Wikipedia article about NYT crossword conventions contains the following:

    “Nearly all the Times crossword grids have rotational symmetry: they can be rotated 180 degrees [DK: about an line perpendicular to the puzzle and passing through its center] and remain identical. Rarely, puzzles with only vertical or horizontal symmetry [DK: rotated about some other line] can be found; yet rarer are asymmetrical puzzles, usually when an unusual theme requires breaking the symmetry rule. This rule has been part of the puzzle since the beginning; when asked why, initial editor Margaret Farrar is said to have responded, ‘Because it is prettier.'” [DK: prettier??? … !!!???!!!]

    Elsewhere on the web, I find the following:

    “If you draw a vertical line down the middle of an object with vertical symmetry, the two sides will be mirror images of each other (like the capital letters A, H, I, M, O, T, U, V, W, X, and Y).”

    and

    “If you draw a horizontal line across the middle of an object with horizontal symmetry, the top and bottom will be mirror images of each other (like the capital letters B, C, D, E, H, I, K, O, and X).”

    and

    “Some letters (for example, H, O, and X), have both vertical and horizontal lines of symmetry.”

    I checked the seven puzzles from Thursday, 05/24/2018, through Wednesday, 05/30/2018, and found that three of them have radial symmetry, three of them have vertical symmetry, and the remaining one has all three types of symmetry, so the various kinds of symmetry have recently been well-represented. I don’t remember ever seeing an asymmetric puzzle in the NYT, but I guess it must have happened sometime.

    As for the question, “Should the puzzles be symmetric?”, I would answer that that particular tempest in a teapot makes little difference to me (Margaret Farrar’s opinion to the contrary notwithstanding).

    And, as for Allen’s assertion that the NYT needs a new puzzle editor, I’d say that Mr. Shortz has been doing a fine job for 25 years and I, along with a lot of others, wish him another 25 … 🙂

  4. One more tiny comment: Why would it make any difference whatsoever to me, as a solver, that a puzzle is a 13×17, with 221 squares, or a 14×16, with 224 squares, rather than a 15×15, with 225 squares? If it allows a constructor to present me with a theme that, for reasons I do not understand, he cannot fit into a 15×15, why not allow it? What kind of rigid, negative, contrarian thinking is required to quarrel with that?

    Sorry for the long posts. I care deeply about precision in the use of language (I daresay that it helps me to do the puzzles) and I mostly wanted to clarify the usage of the word “symmetry”, which has a rather precise mathematical definition.

    Enough. More than enough. Too much for some, probably …

    1. @Dave—-No, Dave. I do not think that you posted any more than what was succinct and necessary. I, for one, appreciate your attention to detail. I read every word you wrote and gave it my utmost consideration.

      I cannot really put up any argument against what you have said. As I suspected all along, it boils down to semantics. You are simply applying a broader definition of the word “symmetrical”. It is not that I did not know the other ways of being symmetrical. I think my limited definition came from hearing other crossworders talking about the rotational symmetry and accepting that as an end in itself. And your point about how it really doesn’t make any difference anyway is definitely a valid one.

      So thanks for the fine discussion, Dave. I hope that you did not consider it a waste of your time.

  5. When l first started this puzzle l thought it would be a D.N.F. But wound up with one wrong letter which l consider one mistake even though Bill calls it two. l had sect for secy and never heard of zynga

    1. It is TWO mistakes, unless the square is a “widow” and doesn’t cross two entries. If one letter involves two fills, it’s TWO errors/square.

      Still, count yourself lucky that you only had two errors, and that you finished. Beats the hell out of my result for the day…

    2. There is no rule here about how you count your errors. If you say that you had one letter wrong or that you filled one square incorrectly, the situation is completely clear and no reasonable person here will disagree with you. (Which is to say, we’re not entering your numbers in our databases … 😜.)

      1. @Dave—-Isn’t it true that in the crossword tournaments they only mark off for individual letters? Is Bill going against the majority opinion by saying that if a single letter used in two entries counts as two errors? What are the rules on this subject at the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament?

        1. @Dale … I have no idea what is done in tournaments, and posting here is not equivalent to participating in a tournament. If you clearly state what your errors were, others can interpret them as they like.

          1. @Dave—-Got it. Just for the record, henceforth I am only counting the number of mistaken **letters** as errors.

  6. 27:37, no errors. So many puns and misdirects, and I seemed to fall for every one. The setter should be careful, “4A Rum drinking buddy: MATEY” might be considered an offensive stereotype to Pirate-Americans.

  7. I had one letter wrong at the A TO Z/EZ-PASS cross for two errors. I had an M instead of a Z. An ATOM by definition is sort of “The whole shebang” on the elemental level and I thought maybe EMPASS was an alternate spelling of IMPASSE. The NYT puzzle is often accused of being New York-centric and EZ-PASS is an example. Otherwise, I liked the puzzle. A nice workout on the Greek alphabet.

  8. It’s been a loooooooooooong time since I had a grid I couldn’t even fill HALF of.

    This puzzle is so full of disingenuous, no-help clues, and of course backstopped by a theme that is all but impossible to divine…. oh, why bother?

  9. Got close to the finish line, but couldn’t cross the tape. Tapped out with 6 squares blank (as was my brain) at 36 minutes. Still enjoyed it!

  10. 42 minutes, no errors. A puzzle that had no business seeing the light of day for the nonsensical theme, along with some of the cynical specious cluing. When you have to use crosses to get all of those, that’s a pretty good sign something is wrong with it.

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