1204-18 NY Times Crossword 4 Dec 18, Tuesday

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Constructed by: Peter Gordon
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Theme (according to Bill): Vowel “Progressionss”

Themed answers each comprise two words starting with SS. Additionally, the second letter of each word forms a progression down the grid through all the vowels: A, E, I, O, U and (sometimes) Y!

  • 17A. Clothing store event to get rid of excess merchandise : SAMPLE SALE
  • 22A. Government agency charged with protecting the first family : SECRET SERVICE
  • 28A. Nursery rhyme character who met a pieman : SIMPLE SIMON
  • 40A. In the near future : SOMEDAY SOON
  • 47A. Brooke Shields sitcom set at a trendy magazine : SUDDENLY SUSAN
  • 57A. Nightclub singer who was given the nickname “Buddha” by Frank Sinatra : SYLVIA SYMS

Bill’s time: 5m 38s

Bill’s errors: 0

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Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

6. Smurf with a white beard : PAPA

The Smurfs are little blue people created in 1958 by the Belgian cartoonist who went by the pen name Peyo. The Smurfs became famous in the US when Hanna-Barbera used them in a children’s cartoon series. The characters are largely a group of males. The original lineup included just one “Smurfette”, who is wooed by almost all of the boy Smurfs. Later, another female was introduced into the mix called Sassette, and still later along came Granny Smurf.

14. Good name for a dyslexic neurosurgeon? : BRIAN

“Brian” is easily mistaken for “Brain”.

Dyslexia is a disorder in which a person with normal intelligence has difficulty in reading. The term “dyslexia” comes from the Greek “dys-” meaning “bad” and “lexis” meaning “word”.

16. Four Corners state : UTAH

The Four Corners region of the US surrounds the meeting point of the four states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. The Four Corners is the only point in the US that is shared by four states.

19. Sitarist Shankar : RAVI

Ravi Shankar was perhaps the most famous virtuoso (to us Westerners) from the world of Indian classical music, and was noted for his sitar playing. Shankar was the father of the pop singer Norah Jones.

20. French writer who refused the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature : SARTRE

Jean-Paul Sartre was a leading French philosopher, as well as a writer and political activist. Sartre also served with the French army during WWII and spent nine months as a prisoner of war having been captured by German troops. He was one of the few people to have been awarded a Nobel Prize and to have then refused to accept it. Sartre was named winner of the prize for Literature in 1964, for his first novel “Nausea”. Before his win, Sartre knew that his name was on the list of nominees so he wrote to the Nobel Institute and asked to be withdrawn from consideration. The letter somehow went unread, so he found himself having to refuse the award after he had been selected.

21. Evita of “Evita” : PERON

Eva Perón was the second wife of President Juan Perón who was in office from 1946 to 1955. The Argentine First Lady was known affectionately by the people as “Evita”, the Spanish language diminutive of “Eva”. “Evita” is also the title of a tremendously successful musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice that is based on the life of Eva Perón.

22. Government agency charged with protecting the first family : SECRET SERVICE

The Secret Service was created by President Abraham Lincoln in 1865, with the mission of fighting currency counterfeiters. The additional task of protecting the US President was added by Congress in 1902 following the assassination of President William McKinley in the prior year. Only one Secret Service agent has given his life in the course of an assassination attempt. That was Private Leslie Coffelt, who was killed when two Puerto Rican nationalists tried to assassinate President Harry S. Truman in 1950 while he was residing in Blair House.

26. Prefix with -phyte : NEO-

A neophyte is a recent convert to a particular doctrine or practice.

28. Nursery rhyme character who met a pieman : SIMPLE SIMON

The first verse of the English nursery rhyme is:

Simple Simon met a pieman,
Going to the fair;
Says Simple Simon to the pieman,
Let me taste your ware.

36. Old Russian autocrat : CZAR

The term “czar” (also “tsar”) is a Slavic word that was first used as a title by Simeon I of Bulgaria in 913 AD. “Czar” is derived from the word “Caesar”, which was synonymous with “emperor” at that time.

44. Exclamation on “The Simpsons” : D’OH!

“The Simpsons” is one of the most successful programs produced by the Fox Broadcasting Company. Homer Simpson’s catchphrase is “D’oh!”, which became such a famous exclamation that it has been included in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) since 2001. “D’oh!” can be translated as “I should have thought of that!”

47. Brooke Shields sitcom set at a trendy magazine : SUDDENLY SUSAN

“Suddenly Susan” is a sitcom starring Brooke Shields in the title role of a glamorous magazine writer in San Francisco. Another cast member in the show was actor David Strickland, who played a rock music reporter working on the magazine. Sadly, Strickland committed suicide during the third season. The “Suddenly Susan” writers dealt with the tragedy very directly. In one episode, Strickland’s character goes missing, just as the actor did in real life. Interspersed in the storyline are out-of-character interviews with cast members. The episode ends with a phone call from the police, but without unveiling Strickland’s character’s exact fate.

Actress Brooke Shields started working as a child model when she was just 11 months old, appearing in an ad for Ivory soap in 1966. At 14, Shields became the youngest fashion model to ever appear on the cover of “Vogue” magazine. She was 12 years old when she had her first acting role, a leading part in 1978’s “Pretty Baby”. Her big break in films came with the 1980 film “The Blue Lagoon”, when she played alongside Christopher Atkins, portraying two teenagers marooned on a tropical island. Shields was married to tennis star Andre Agassi from 1997 to 1991.

57. Nightclub singer who was given the nickname “Buddha” by Frank Sinatra : SYLVIA SYMS

Sylvia Syms was a jazz singer from New York. Frank Sinatra called Syms the “world’s greatest saloon singer”, and gave her the nickname “Buddha”. Syms actually died on stage, suffering a heart attack at the age of 74.

62. ___ Stanley Gardner of detective fiction : ERLE

I must have read all of the “Perry Mason” books when I was in college. I think they kept me sane when I was facing the pressure of exams. Author Erle Stanley Gardner was himself a lawyer, although he didn’t get into the profession the easy way. Gardner went to law school, but got himself suspended after a month. So, he became a self-taught attorney and opened his own law office in Merced, California. Understandably, he gave up the law once his novels became successful.

63. Christmas carols : NOELS

“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.

65. Professional org. : ASSN

Association (assn.)

Down

1. “Washboard” muscles : ABS

The abdominal muscles (abs) are more correctly referred to as the rectus abdominis muscles. They might be referred to as a “six-pack” in a person who has developed the muscles and who has low body fat. In my case, more like a keg …

2. Org. opposed by Everytown for Gun Safety : NRA

National Rifle Association (NRA)

3. North Korean leader : KIM

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has a lengthy list of official titles, including:

  • Bright Sun of the 21st Century
  • Amazing Politician
  • Ever-Victorious, Iron-Willed Commander
  • Glorious General, Who Descended from Heaven

8. Firehouse fixtures : POLES

The fireman’s pole was invented Chicago fireman Captain David B. Kenyon in 1878. That first pole was installed in a three-story firehouse, and was made of varnished pine with a coat of paraffin. When it was observed that the engine company using the pole was routinely the first to arrive at the scene of a fire, the poles were installed in all Chicago firehouses. The first brass fireman’s pole was installed in Boston.

9. Orangutan, for one : APE

Orangutans (also “orangs”) are arboreal creatures, the largest arboreal animals known to man. They are native to Indonesia and Malaysia, and live in the rainforests. Like most species in rainforests these days, orangutans are endangered, with only two species surviving. The word “orangutan” is Malay, meaning “man of the forest”.

10. Bye at the French Open? : AU REVOIR

“Au revoir” is a French phrase translating literally as “until seen again”, although the accepted usage is “goodbye”.

11. Company that created Pong : ATARI

Do you remember the arcade video game that was like a game of tennis, with paddles moving up and down to hit what looked like a ball, over what looked like a net? Well, that was Pong. The arcade version of Pong was introduced in 1972, with Atari selling a home version through Sears for the Christmas market in 1975.

12. Destruction : HAVOC

Havoc is a great damage or destruction. The term comes from the Anglo-French phrase “crier havok”, which was an order given in the late 1500s to soldiers, instructing them to seize plunder.

13. Bootblack’s job : SHINE

A bootblack (also “shoeblack”) is a person who polishes and shines boots and shoes for a living.

21. Air Force One passenger: Abbr. : PRES

We usually use the term “Air Force One” for the purpose-built military aircraft that transports the president, although any plane can use the call sign provided the president is aboard. There was an incident in 1953 in which a flight carrying President Eisenhower (flight no. Air Force 8610) flew close to commercial airliner (flight no. Eastern 8610). The special call sign “Air Force One” was created soon after in order to avoid confusion of flight numbers in the future.

23. First month of el año : ENERO

In Spanish, “el año” (the year) starts in “enero” (January) and ends in “diciembre” (December).

25. Nincompoop : BOZO

A bozo is a person with a low IQ, and someone who is usually quite muscular. We’ve been using the term since the early 1900s and it possibly comes from the Spanish “bozal” that was used to describe someone who spoke Spanish poorly.

29. Billionaire Carl : ICAHN

Carl Icahn has many business interests, and is probably best known in recent years for his dealings with Yahoo! Icahn has a reputation as a corporate raider, a reputation that dates back to his hostile takeover of TWA in 1985. He made a lot of money out of that deal, before being ousted in 1993 after the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

30. Last full month of spring : MAY

The month of May was named after Maia, the Greek goddess of fertility.

31. Second addendum to a letter, for short : PPS

One adds a PS (post scriptum, or simply “postscript”) at the end of a letter (ltr.). A second postscript is a post post scriptum, a PPS.

32. Summer zodiac sign : LEO

The constellation named Leo can be said to resemble a lion. Others say that it resembles a bent coat hanger. “Leo” is the Latin for “lion”, but I’m not sure how to translate “coat hanger” into Latin …

34. Bonanza discoveries : ORES

A bonanza is a mine with a rich pocket of ore that can be exploited. “Bonanza” is the Spanish word for a rich lode, and we imported the term into English. “Bonanza” originally meant “fair weather at sea”, and from that came to mean “prosperity, good fortune”. Ultimately, “bonanza” comes from the Latin “bonus” meaning “good”.

42. Popular Japanese cars : NISSANS

In the US, the Big Three automotive manufacturers are General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. The equivalent Big Three in Germany are Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, and in Japan are Toyota, Nissan and Honda.

47. Second-stringer : SCRUB

We’ve been using the phrases “first string” and “second string” in athletics since the mid-19th century. The expressions come from archery, in which a competitor would carry a second bowstring in case the first bowstring broke.

48. Communications officer on the Enterprise : UHURA

Lt. Nyota Uhura is the communications officer in the original “Star Trek” television series, played by Nichelle Nichols. The role is significant in that Uhura was one of the first African American characters to figure front and center in US television. In a 1968 episode, Kirk (played by William Shatner) and Uhura kiss, the first interracial kiss to be broadcast in the US. Apparently the scene was meant to be shot twice, with and without the kiss, so that network executives could later decide which version to air. William Shatner says that he deliberately ran long on the first shoot (with the kiss) and fluffed the hurried second shoot (without the kiss), so that the network would have no choice.

50. Distance units in astron. : LT YRS

A light-year (lt. yr.) is a measure of distance, not time. It is the distance that light travels in a vacuum in one year, which is almost six trillion miles. The accepted abbreviation for a light-year is “ly”. A light-second is a much shorter distance: about 186,282 miles.

52. Commonest craps roll : SEVEN

When you roll two dice, 7 is the most common outcome, with 2 & 12 the least probable. That’s because there is only one way to roll a 2 or a 12 (i.e. 1+1 and 6+6) whereas there are a six ways to roll a 7 (i.e. 1+6, 2+5, 3+4, 4+3, 5+2, 6+1).

If one considers earlier versions of craps, then the game has been around for a very long time and probably dates back to the Crusades. It may have been derived from an old English game called “hazard” also played with two dice, which was mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” from the 1300s. The American version of the game came here courtesy of the French and first set root in New Orleans where it was given the name “crapaud”, a French word meaning “toad”.

59. Jan. honoree : MLK

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a US Federal holiday taking place on the third Monday of each year. It celebrates the birthday of Dr. King, and was signed into law by President Reagan in 1983, and first observed in 1986. However, some states resisted naming the holiday MLK Day, and gave it alternative names (like “Civil Rights Day”). It was officially celebrated as MLK Day in all 50 states from the year 2000 onwards.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1. Commonly sprained joint : ANKLE
6. Smurf with a white beard : PAPA
10. Sounds when settling into a hot bath : AAHS
14. Good name for a dyslexic neurosurgeon? : BRIAN
15. Each : A POP
16. Four Corners state : UTAH
17. Clothing store event to get rid of excess merchandise : SAMPLE SALE
19. Sitarist Shankar : RAVI
20. French writer who refused the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature : SARTRE
21. Evita of “Evita” : PERON
22. Government agency charged with protecting the first family : SECRET SERVICE
24. Tolerate : ABIDE
26. Prefix with -phyte : NEO-
27. Participate in a prizefight : BOX
28. Nursery rhyme character who met a pieman : SIMPLE SIMON
36. Old Russian autocrat : CZAR
38. Prank : CAPER
39. Steakhouse specification : RARE
40. In the near future : SOMEDAY SOON
43. Word before sells or cells : SEX …
44. Exclamation on “The Simpsons” : D’OH!
45. Admission of defeat : I LOST
47. Brooke Shields sitcom set at a trendy magazine : SUDDENLY SUSAN
54. “Hurray!” or “Olé!” : CHEER
55. Really small, informally : TEENSY
56. Destruction : RUIN
57. Nightclub singer who was given the nickname “Buddha” by Frank Sinatra : SYLVIA SYMS
61. Strong desire : URGE
62. ___ Stanley Gardner of detective fiction : ERLE
63. Christmas carols : NOELS
64. Hot Chocolate or Vanilla Fudge : BAND
65. Professional org. : ASSN
66. Plumber’s device : SNAKE

Down

1. “Washboard” muscles : ABS
2. Org. opposed by Everytown for Gun Safety : NRA
3. North Korean leader : KIM
4. Expired, as a membership : LAPSED
5. Intertwines : ENLACES
6. Cut’s partner in word processing : PASTE
7. Separately : APART
8. Firehouse fixtures : POLES
9. Orangutan, for one : APE
10. Bye at the French Open? : AU REVOIR
11. Company that created Pong : ATARI
12. Destruction : HAVOC
13. Bootblack’s job : SHINE
18. Drop the ball : ERR
21. Air Force One passenger: Abbr. : PRES
22. Schoolteacher’s wake-up time, perhaps : SIX AM
23. First month of el año : ENERO
24. Basic facts : ABCS
25. Nincompoop : BOZO
29. Billionaire Carl : ICAHN
30. Last full month of spring : MAY
31. Second addendum to a letter, for short : PPS
32. Summer zodiac sign : LEO
33. One who works with bricks : MASON
34. Bonanza discoveries : ORES
35. Barbershop call : NEXT!
37. Blushed or flushed : REDDENED
41. Active person : DOER
42. Popular Japanese cars : NISSANS
46. Applies, as a thick coat of paint : LAYS ON
47. Second-stringer : SCRUB
48. Communications officer on the Enterprise : UHURA
49. Condescend (to) : DEIGN
50. Distance units in astron. : LT YRS
51. Shouts : YELLS
52. Commonest craps roll : SEVEN
53. Prefix with cellular : UNI-
57. Where the buoys are : SEA
58. Affirmative vote : YEA
59. Jan. honoree : MLK
60. NNW’s opposite : SSE