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Greetings from Dundalk, County Louth in Ireland

I am on vacation in Ireland, and have extended my stay until October 24th. I am focused on getting the puzzle solved and at least a basic post up each day. It's proving to be difficult to do much more than that due to pressure of time, which I am sure you can understand. Happy puzzling, and slainte!

Bill

LA Times Crossword Answers 27 Sep 12, Thursday





CROSSWORD SETTER: Alex Boisvert
THEME: HIDDEN BALL TRICK … there are groups of circled letters in the grid that all spell out words that can go with BALL:
7D. Diamond gambit, or a hint to this puzzle's circles HIDDEN BALL TRICK

17A. America's most popular dining-out occasion (MOTH)ER’S DAY (mothball)
28A. Place setting item DIN(NER F)ORK (Nerf Ball)
33A. Last chance in court CLOSING AR(GUM)ENT (gumball)
42A. Where some plates are made S(TEE)L MILLS (tee-ball)
58A. Political propagandist S(PIN) DOCTOR (pinball)
COMPLETION TIME: 9m 24s
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0

Today's Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
Across
1. Map site ATLAS
We call a book of maps an “atlas” after a collection of maps published by the famous Flemish geographer Gerhadus Mercator. Mercator's collection contained a frontispiece with an image of Atlas the Titan from Greek mythology holding up the world on his shoulders, giving us our term "atlas".

6. Senate figure WHIP
In the world of politics, the party whip is the “heavy”, the person whose job it is to ensure that party members vote according to party policy. “Whip” comes from “whipping in”, a term used in hunting. Any hounds tending to stray from the pack were “whipped in” to prevent them wandering off.

14. Winner of the 2005 Best Picture Oscar CRASH
The 2004 Oscar-winning movie “Crash” is a clever piece of work, with several interweaving stories that use a fine cast of characters. Having said that, the fact that “Crash” won the Academy Award in 2005 was very unexpected, as the film had not won any of the other major awards for Best Film that year. The critics' favorite in 2005 was “Brokeback Mountain”.

15. Verdi title princess AIDA
"Aida" is the famous opera by Giuseppe Verde, actually based on a scenario written by a French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, who also designed the costumes and stages for the opening performance. The opera was first performed in 1871 in an opera house in Cairo. In the storyline Aida is an Ethiopian princess brought into Egypt as a slave. Radames is an Egyptian commander who falls in love with her, and then of course, complications arise!

16. Rapier cousin EPEE
The French word for sword is épée. In competitive fencing the épée is connected to a system that records an electrical signal when legal contact is made on an opponent’s body.

17. America's most popular dining-out occasion (MOTH)ER’S DAY (mothball)
Note the official punctuation in “Mother’s Day”, even though one might think it should be “Mothers’ Day”. President Wilson, and Anna Jarvis who created the tradition, specifically wanted Mother's Day to honor the mothers within each family and not just "mothers" in general, so they went with the "Mother's Day" punctuation.

22. Heaven-sent food MANNA
According to the Book of Exodus, manna was a food eaten by the Israelites as they traveled out of Egypt. Manna "fell" to Earth during the night for six days a week, and was gathered in the morning before it had time to melt.

23. Academy freshman PLEBE
Plebe is a slang term for a freshman in the US military and naval academies. Plebe is probably short for "plebeian", the name given to someone of the common class in ancient Rome (as opposed to a Patrician). "Pleb" is a shortened version of plebeian, and is a term used outside of the military schools.

25. Chess announcement MATE
In the game of chess, when the king is under immediate threat of capture, it is said to be "in check". If the king cannot escape from check, then the game ends in "checkmate" and the player in check loses. In the original Sanskrit game of chess, the king could actually be captured. Then a rule was introduced requiring that a warning be given if capture was imminent (today we announce "check!") so that an accidental, early ending to the game doesn't occur.

28. Place setting item DIN(NER F)ORK (Nerf Ball)
Nerf is the name given to the soft material used in a whole series of toys designed for "safe" play indoors. The Nerf product is used to make darts, balls and ammunition for toy guns. "NERF" is an acronym, standing for Non-Expanding Recreational Foam.

40. Semitic deity BA’AL
Ba'al can actually refer to any god, and sometimes even human officials as it can also be used as an honorific title. Ba'al can also be known as Hada, a god of rain, thunder, agriculture and fertility.

48. Vodka in a blue bottle SKYY
Skyy Vodka is produced in the US, although the operation is own by the Campari Group headquartered in Italy. Skyy first hit the shelves in 1992 when it was created by an entrepreneur from San Francisco, California.

57. Old stage line? REIN
One controlled the horses pulling a stagecoach using lines called reins.

58. Political propagandist S(PIN) DOCTOR (pinball)
Our modern game of pinball evolved from an earlier table game called bagatelle which used balls, pins and holes (and I remember playing bagatelle as boy in a pub in Ireland). The first “pinball” machine was made by a British inventor who settled in Cincinnati, Ohio. He modified the game of bagatelle, adding a coiled spring and a plunger to introduce balls at the end of the table, a device that is still in use today. From there, manufacturers developed coin-operated versions of pinball that became popular during the depression as they provided a little entertainment for just a few pennies. One distributor of the coin-operated pinball machines started manufacturing them himself as he couldn’t source new games fast enough. He called his pinball game Ballyhoo, and eventually named his company Bally, a brand name well known in the gambling industry to this day.

60. Department store founder Rowland Hussey __ MACY
The original Macy’s store was opened by Rowland Hussey Macy in Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1851. This store, and several others that Macy opened, all failed. Macy picked himself up though, and started over again in New York City. Those early stores all focused on the sale of dry goods, but added departments quickly as the clientele grew. The Macy’s “star” logo has been around since the company was first established. Macy chose the star because it mimicked the star tattoo that he got as a teenager when he was working on a whaling ship out of Nantucket.

65. Swing era dance LINDY
The Lindy Hop is a dance based on the Charleston and dates back to the twenties and thirties. The name Lindy is a homage to the famous 1927 flight across the Atlantic by Charles Lindbergh.

Down
1. Fictional corporation that sells earthquake pills and portable holes ACME
The Acme Corporation is a fictional company used mainly by Looney Tunes, and within the Looney Tunes empire it was used mostly in the "Road Runner" cartoons. Wile E. Coyote was always receiving a new piece of gear from Acme designed to finally capture the Road Runner, but the equipment always led to his downfall instead.

2. Hector's home TROY
As described in Homer's "Iliad", Hector was a Trojan prince and a great fighter. During the war with the Greeks, in order avoid a bloody battle, Hector challenged any one of the Greek warriors to a duel. Ajax was chosen by the Greeks, and the two fought for an entire day before they declared a stalemate.

5. Yellow-and-red gas station symbol SHELL
Royal Dutch Shell is the largest energy company in the world and is headquartered in the Hague, in the Netherlands. The company was formed in 1907 with the merger of the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company and Shell Transport and Trading company of the UK. The two companies merged in order to compete globally with the biggest US oil company of the day, John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil. Shell Oil Company is a US-based subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell that is headquartered in Houston, Texas.

6. Sushi condiment WASABI
Sometimes called Japanese horseradish, wasabi is the root used as a condiment in Japanese cooking. The taste is more like mustard than a hot pepper in that the vapors that create the “hotness” stimulate the nasal passages rather than the tongue. Personally, I love the stuff …

7. Diamond gambit, or a hint to this puzzle's circles HIDDEN BALL TRICK
The hidden ball trick has been used over 300 times with success in the Major Leagues. The idea is to fool a runner into thinking the ball is elsewhere, while it is actually hidden on a player’s person. When a runner heads off to the next base, the ball is revealed and used to tag out the deceived player.

8. Lupino and others IDAS
Actress Ida Lupino was also a successful director, in the days when women weren't very welcome behind the camera. Lupino had already directed four "women's" short films when she stepped in to direct the 1953 drama "The Hitch-Hiker", taking over when the original director became ill. "The Hitch-Hiker" was the first film noir movie to be directed by a woman, and represented somewhat of a breakthrough for women in the industry.

12. Loewe's partner LERNER
Frederick Loewe was a composer best known for his collaborations with the lyricist Alan Jay Lerner, the most famous of which were “My Fair Lady” and “Camelot”.

24. __ shui FENG
Feng shui is the ancient Chinese tradition of arranging objects, buildings and other structures in a manner that is said to improve the lives of the individuals living in or using the space. "Feng shui" translates as "wind-water", a reference to the belief that positive and negative life forces ride the wind and scatter, but are retained when they encounter water.

25. Scot's nickname, maybe MAC
The prefix “mac” in a Scottish or Irish family name means “son of”.

26. Tide rival ALL
Tide and All are laundry detergents.

29. "__ any drop to drink": Coleridge NOR
The line “water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink” is from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.

35. Moo goo __ pan GAI
Moo goo gai pan is an American version of a traditional Cantonese dish. In Cantonese “moo goo” means “button mushroom”, “gai” is “chicken” and “pan” is “slices”.

37. Caribou cousin ELK
The elk (also known as the wapiti) is the one of the largest species of deer in the world, with only the moose being bigger. Early European settlers were used to seeing the smaller red deer back in their homelands, so when they saw the "huge" wapiti they assumed it was a moose, and gave it the European name for a moose, namely "elk". The more correct term then is "wapiti", the Shawnee name for the animal, which means "white rump". It's all very confusing ...

44. Kennedy who married Sargent Shriver EUNICE
Sargent Shriver was the running mate of George McGovern, the Democratic nominee for US President in the 1972 race. Shriver was a member of the Kennedy clan, as he was married to Eunice Kennedy, sister to President John F. Kennedy.

45. Euclid, vis-à-vis geometry EPONYM
An eponym is a name for something derived from the name of a person, as in Euclidean geometry named for the mathematician Euclid.

Euclid of Alexandria was a Greek mathematician who was active around 300 BC, and who is often referred to as the "Father of Geometry". Euclid wrote a famous book called "Elements" on the subject of mathematics, a book that was so enduring that it was used as the main textbook for the subject right up to the late 19th century.

46. __ Tunes LOONEY
The cartoon series known as “Looney Tunes” was produced by Warner Bros. “Looney Tunes” were introduced in 1930 as a competitor to the Disney series called “Silly Symphonies”.

47. Road safety gp. SADD
Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) was founded in Massachusetts in 1981. SADD’s aim is to prevent road traffic accidents by urging students to avoid potentially destructive decisions (such as driving under the influence of alcohol).

51. Han River capital SEOUL
Seoul is the capital city of South Korea. The Seoul National Capital Area is home to over 25 million people and is the second largest metropolitan area in the world, second only to Tokyo, Japan.

56. Airport south of Paris ORLY
Orly is on the outskirts of Paris, to the south of the city. It is home of course to the Paris-Orly Airport, the second busiest international airport for the city, after the more recently built Charles de Gaulle Airport. Orly is still home to more domestic flights though.

58. __ Lanka SRI
The name Sri Lanka translates from Sanskrit into English as "venerable island". Before 1970, Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon, a name given to the country during British rule. The lion on the country’s national flag symbolizes the fight against British colonialism.

59. TV franchise since 2000 CSI
I’m told that the TV show "CSI" gets a lot of razzing by law enforcement professionals for its unrealistic portrayal of the procedures and science of criminal investigation. I don't care though, as I just think it's fun television. The original "CSI" set in Las Vegas seems to have "gone off the boil", but the addition of Sela Ward to the cast of "CSI: NY" has really, really raised the level of the sister show centered around New York City.

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For the sake of completion, here is a full listing of all the answers:
Across
1. Map site ATLAS
6. Senate figure WHIP
10. Brash BOLD
14. Winner of the 2005 Best Picture Oscar CRASH
15. Verdi title princess AIDA
16. Rapier cousin EPEE
17. America's most popular dining-out occasion (MOTH)ER’S DAY (mothball)
19. Flavorful plant HERB
20. Spot EYE
21. Shows the way LEADS
22. Heaven-sent food MANNA
23. Academy freshman PLEBE
24. Give way FALTER
25. Chess announcement MATE
28. Place setting item DIN(NER F)ORK (Nerf Ball)
30. One way to sing ALONG
32. Smack on the head BONK
33. Last chance in court CLOSING AR(GUM)ENT (gumball)
40. Semitic deity BA’AL
41. Frigid POLAR
42. Where some plates are made S(TEE)L MILLS (tee-ball)
48. Vodka in a blue bottle SKYY
49. Rug often groomed TOUPEE
50. Honor, in a way TOAST
52. "... but I could be wrong" OR NOT
53. Wear slowly ERODE
54. __-mo video SLO
57. Old stage line? REIN
58. Political propagandist S(PIN) DOCTOR (pinball)
60. Department store founder Rowland Hussey __ MACY
61. Asian staple RICE
62. Standard USUAL
63. Arise STEM
64. Gross ICKY
65. Swing era dance LINDY

Down
1. Fictional corporation that sells earthquake pills and portable holes ACME
2. Hector's home TROY
3. Behind schedule LATE
4. Flooring wood ASH
5. Yellow-and-red gas station symbol SHELL
6. Sushi condiment WASABI
7. Diamond gambit, or a hint to this puzzle's circles HIDDEN BALL TRICK
8. Lupino and others IDAS
9. Salary PAY
10. Sake BEHALF
11. Not against trying OPEN TO
12. Loewe's partner LERNER
13. Get off at the pier DEBARK
18. Clarinetist's need REED
22. Retail price component MARKUP
23. Writers PENS
24. __ shui FENG
25. Scot's nickname, maybe MAC
26. Tide rival ALL
27. As well TOO
29. "__ any drop to drink": Coleridge NOR
31. Kind of gravy GIBLET
34. Tag information NAME
35. Moo goo __ pan GAI
36. Lion's share MOST
37. Caribou cousin ELK
38. Disagreeing word NAY
39. Give it a go TRY
42. Leaves in a huff, with "out" STORMS
43. Attacked eagerly, as a wrapped gift TORE AT
44. Kennedy who married Sargent Shriver EUNICE
45. Euclid, vis-à-vis geometry EPONYM
46. __ Tunes LOONEY
47. Road safety gp. SADD
51. Han River capital SEOUL
53. Large in scope EPIC
54. Floor STUN
55. Truck filler? LOAD
56. Airport south of Paris ORLY
58. __ Lanka SRI
59. TV franchise since 2000 CSI


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About This Blog

This is the simplest of blogs.

I do the Los Angeles Times puzzle online every evening, the night before it is published in the paper. Then, I "Google & Wiki" the references that puzzle me, or that I find of interest. I post my findings, along with the solution, usually before midnight PST.

I've been writing the NYTCrossword.com blog (about the New York Times crossword) since 2009. I finally started this LAXCrossword.com blog in response to many requests over the years to write about the daily LA Times crossword.

About Me

The name's William Ernest Butler, but please call me Bill. I grew up in Ireland, but now live out here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am retired, from technology businesses that took our family all over the world.

I answer all emails, so please feel free to email me at bill@paxient.com, contact me on Google+ or leave a comment below.

Crosswords and My Dad

I worked on my first crossword puzzle when I was about 6-years-old, sitting on my Dad's knee. He let me "help" him with his puzzle almost every day as I was growing up. Over the years, Dad passed on to me his addiction to crosswords. Now in my early 50s, I work on my Los Angeles Times and New York Times puzzles every day. I'm no longer sitting on my Dad's knee, but I feel that he is there with me, looking over my shoulder.

This blog is dedicated to my Dad, who passed away at the beginning of this month.

Bill
January 29, 2009

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