LA Times Crossword 21 Aug 18, Tuesday

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Constructed by: Paul Coulter
Edited by: Rich Norris

Today’s Reveal Answer: Head Start

Themed answers START with a word that often precedes HEAD:

  • 62A. Racer’s advantage … and what each part of the answers to starred clues can be : HEAD START
  • 17A. *Top dog : BIG CHEESE (giving “big head”)
  • 39A. *Beef : RED MEAT (giving “redhead”)
  • 11D. *Equestrian’s path : HORSE TRAIL (giving “Horse Head”)
  • 28D. *Undeliverable bit of mail : DEAD LETTER (giving “deadhead”)

Bill’s time: 6m 09s

Bill’s errors: 0

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Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1. Big butte : MESA

“What’s the difference between a butte and a mesa?” Both are hills with flat tops, but a mesa has a top that is wider than it is tall. A butte is a much narrower formation, and taller than it is wide.

5. Michael of “Superbad” : CERA

Michael Cera is a Canadian actor who played great characters on the TV show “Arrested Development”, and in the 2007 comedy-drama “Juno”. Cera is also quite the musician. He released an indie folk album titled “True That” in 2014.

“Superbad” is a comedy movie released in 2007. The script for the film was written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Rogen and Goldberg started work on the script when they were just thirteen years old, with the first draft being completed by the time they were fifteen.

14. Cartel acronym : OPEC

The OPEC cartel was formally established in 1960 and has been headquartered in Vienna since 1965. The US is actually the third largest oil producer in the world (after Russia and Saudi Arabia). One reason America isn’t in OPEC, even though we are a big producer, is that we import a lot more than we export. But we all probably knew that already …

A cartel is a group of independent businesses who cooperate to regulate production, pricing and marketing of their common product(s).

15. Gravy base : ROUX

A roux is a mixture of wheat flour and clarified butter (or other fat) cooked together until it can be used as a thickening agent.

17. *Top dog : BIG CHEESE (giving “big head”)

The phrase “the big cheese” doesn’t have its roots in the word “cheese” at all. The original phrase was “the real cheese” meaning “the real thing”, and was used way back in late 1800s. “Chiz” is a Persian and Hindi word meaning “thing”, and it’s not hard to see how the expression “the real chiz” morphed into “the real cheese”. In early-20th century America, instead of a “real cheese”, the most influential person in a group was labeled as “the big cheese”.

19. Surrounding glows : AURAE

An aura (plural “aurae”) is an intangible quality that surrounds a person or thing, a “je ne sais quoi”. “Je ne sais quoi” is French for “I don’t know what”.

25. Stadium attendance counter, perhaps : STILE

A stile is a structure allowing people to pass over or through a fence, while at the same time preventing livestock from escaping. The derivative term “turnstile” describes a revolving structure in a wall or fence that allows the controlled passage of people.

26. Fill with freight : LADE

The verb “to lade” meaning “to load” comes from an Old English word “hladan”. “Lade” also used to mean “draw water” and indeed gave us our word “ladle”. So “lade” and “ladle” are close cousins.

29. Spam producer, for short : BOT

A bot is computer program that is designed to imitate human behavior. It might crawl around the Web doing searches for example, or it might participate in discussions in chat rooms by giving pre-programmed responses. It might also act as a competitor in a computer game.

The term “spam”, used for unwanted email, is taken from a “Monty Python” sketch. In the sketch (which I’ve seen) the dialog is taken over by the word Spam, a play on the glut of canned meat in the markets of Britain after WWII. So “spam” is used for the glut of emails that takes over online communication. I can just imagine nerdy Internet types (like me) adopting something from a “Monty Python” sketch to describe an online phenomenon …

34. Versatile blackjack cards : ACES

In the card game called Blackjack, an ace has the point value of one or eleven. When one of the two cards dealt to a player is an ace, the hand is called “soft”. This means that the player cannot go bust by taking another card, as the ace can be revalued at “one” if necessary in order to stay under 21.

37. Egg cream ingredient : SYRUP

Egg cream is a beverage, and one that I only know of from crosswords. It is remarkable, I think, in that it contains neither egg nor cream! The drink supposedly dates back to the late 1800s and was invented in Brooklyn. It is a fountain drink, made up from chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer (soda).

38. Former “Great American Baking Show” co-host Vardalos : NIA

Nia Vardalos is an actress and screenwriter whose biggest break came with the 2002 film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, which she wrote and in which she starred. The film tells the story of a Greek-American woman marrying a non-Greek Caucasian American who converts to the Greek Orthodox Church to facilitate the marriage. The storyline reflects the actual experiences of Vardalos and her husband, actor Ian Gomez. Vardalos and Gomez appeared together as hosts for two seasons of the reality competition “The Great American Baking Show”.

41. Azores’ ocean: Abbr. : ATL

The earliest known mention of the name “Atlantic” for the world’s second-largest ocean was in Ancient Greece. The Greeks called the ocean “the Sea of Atlas” or “Atlantis thalassa”.

The Azores is an archipelago of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic lying about 1,000 miles west of Portugal. The Azores are an autonomous region belonging to Portugal.

44. Strong desires : YENS

The word “yen”, meaning “urge”, has been around in English since the very early 1900s. It comes from the earlier word “yin” imported from Chinese, which was used in English to describe an intense craving for opium.

45. Verdi princess who sings “O patria mia” : AIDA

“O patria mia” is an aria from Verdi’s “Aida”. The aria is sung by the title character, with “O patria mia” translating as “O, my homeland”.

50. Big name in stationery : EATON

Eaton Cards and Stationery is a company that specializes in supplying stationery for weddings.

57. South Florida city : NAPLES

The Florida city of Naples in the south of the state on the Gulf Coast. The city was settled in the 1880s, at a time when the Florida peninsula was being compared with the Italian peninsula. Developers were touting the climate in the area as “surpassing the bay in Naples, Italy”. Apparently, that analogy strick home, and the new city was named “Naples”.

Down

1. Black Friday crowds : MOBS

In the world of retail, “Black Friday” is the day after Thanksgiving in the US. Black Friday is when many stores start the holiday shopping season, and so offer deep discounts to get ahead of the competition.

3. Arcade name : SEGA

Sega is a Japanese video game company headquartered in Tokyo. Sega actually started out 1940 in the US as Standard Games and was located in Honolulu, Hawaii. The owners moved the operation to Tokyo in 1951 and renamed the company to Service Games. The name “Sega” is a combination of the first two letters of the words “Se-rvice” and “Ga-mes”.

Our word “arcade” comes from the Latin “arcus” meaning “arc”. The first arcades were passages made from a series of arches. This could be an avenue of trees, and eventually any covered avenue. I remember arcades lined with shops and stores when I was growing up on the other side of the Atlantic. Arcades came to be lined with lots of amusements, resulting in amusement arcades and video game arcades.

6. Non-discrimination letters : EOE

Equal Opportunity Employer (EOE)

7. Former Wisconsin senator Feingold : RUSS

Russ Feingold is a former US Senator for the state of Wisconsin. A Democrat, Feingold is perhaps best known for his work with Republican Senator John McCain that resulted in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, usually called the McCain-Feingold Act.

8. Skating jumps : AXELS

An axel is a forward take-off jump in figure skating. The maneuver was first performed by Norwegian Axel Paulsen at the 1882 World Figure Skating championships.

10. The “C” of SPCA : CRUELTY

Unlike most developed countries, the US has no umbrella organization with the goal of preventing cruelty to animals. Instead there are independent organizations set up all over the nation using the name SPCA. Having said that, there is an organization called the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) that was originally intended to operate across the country, but really it now focuses its efforts in New York City.

11. *Equestrian’s path : HORSE TRAIL (giving “Horse Head”)

“Horse Head” is the name given to a number of geographic locations. For example, there’s an unincorporated community called Horse Head in Virginia, and a Horse Head Island in Greenland.

12. Jacob’s twin brother : ESAU

Esau, was the grandson of Abraham and the twin brother of Jacob, the founder of the Israelites. When Esau was born to Isaac and Rebekah, the event was described “Now the first came forth, red all over like a hairy garment”. Esau is portrayed later in life as being very different from his brother Jacob, as a hunter and someone who loves the outdoor life.

13. __-dish pizza : DEEP

The chain of pizza parlors known today as Uno Chicago Grill used to be called Pizzeria Uno, or just “Uno’s”. Apparently, Uno’s created the world’s first deep-dish pizza.

22. “Live from New York, __ ‘Saturday Night!'” : IT’S

“Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night” is a catchphrase heard near the start of the TV show “Saturday Night Live”. The show was originally titled “NBC’s Saturday Night”, a title for which the catchphrase makes a little more sense!

24. Apple-polisher : TOADY

An apple polisher is a sycophant, a toady. The term “apple polisher” arose in the 1920s as student slang.

A toady is someone who is very servile, and somewhat of a parasite. Derived from “toad-eater” the term originally applied to the assistant of a quack, a seller of useless potions that had no actual benefit to health. The toady would eat an apparently poisonous toad in front of an audience, so that the charlatan could “cure” him or her with one of the potions for sale.

26. Hawaiian island : LANAI

Lanai is the sixth largest of the Hawaiian Islands. Lanai was first spotted by Europeans just a few days after Captain Cook was killed on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1779. In 1922, the Hawaiian Pineapple Company bought the whole island of Lanai and turned most of it into the world’s largest pineapple plantation. Since then, Lanai has been known as “The Pineapple Island”. Today, 98% of the island is owned by Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle, and 2% is owned by the State of Hawaii.

27. Litmus reddeners : ACIDS

Litmus is a mixture of naturally-occurring dyes that responds to acidity by changing color. Litmus was probably first used around 1300 by the Spanish alchemist Arnaldus de Villa Nova, who extracted the blue dye from lichens. One suggestion is that the term “litmus” comes from the Old Norse “litmose” meaning “lichen for dyeing”. Litmus is often absorbed onto filter paper, creating “litmus paper” or “pH paper”.

28. *Undeliverable bit of mail : DEAD LETTER (giving “deadhead”)

A deadhead is a dull or unproductive person.

Dead letter mail is undeliverable, mail that cannot be delivered to the addressee nor returned to the sender. Here in the US, once a letter has been deemed undeliverable, postal workers are permitted to violate the principle of secrecy of correspondence in an attempt to track down the letter’s origin or destination.

51. Nothing, in Latin : NIHIL

“Nihil” is the Latin word for “nothing”, and is a term that we’ve absorbed into English. “Nihil” is also the root from which we get our term “nil”.

53. Univ. dorm overseers : RAS

A resident assistant or resident adviser (RA) is a peer leader found in a residence hall, particularly on a college campus.

54. Calligraphy supplies : INKS

Calligraphy is the art of fine handwriting. The term “calligraphy” comes from the Greek “kallos” meaning “beauty” and “graphein” meaning “to write”.

55. Taboo : NO-NO

The word “taboo” was introduced into English by Captain Cook in his book “A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean”. Cook described “tabu” (likely imitative of a Tongan word that he had heard) as something that was both consecrated and forbidden.

56. “__ Dinah”: 1958 Frankie Avalon hit : DEDE

“Dede Dinah” was a 1958 hit for Frankie Avalon.

59. One-named Deco artist : ERTE

“Erté” was the pseudonym of French (Russian born) artist and designer Romain de Tirtoff. Erté is the French pronunciation of his initials “R.T.” Erté’s diverse portfolio of work included costumes and sets for the “Ziegfeld Follies” of 1923, productions of the Parisian cabaret show “Folies Bergère”, as well as the 1925 epic movie “Ben-Hur”. Erté’s most famous work by far is an image titled “Symphony in Black”. It depicts a tall and slender woman dressed in black, holding a black dog on a leash.

63. Pie __ mode : A LA

In French, “à la mode” simply means “fashionable”. In America, the term has also come to describe a way of serving pie. Pie served à la mode includes a dollop of cream or ice cream, or as I recall from my time living in Upstate New York, with a wedge of cheddar cheese.

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Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1. Big butte : MESA
5. Michael of “Superbad” : CERA
9. Timetable: Abbr. : SCHED
14. Cartel acronym : OPEC
15. Gravy base : ROUX
16. Writing that isn’t poetry : PROSE
17. *Top dog : BIG CHEESE (giving “big head”)
19. Surrounding glows : AURAE
20. Chicken : SCARED
21. Prepares to serve, as melon : SLICES UP
23. Textbook division : UNIT
25. Stadium attendance counter, perhaps : STILE
26. Fill with freight : LADE
29. Spam producer, for short : BOT
31. Squabbles : SET-TOS
34. Versatile blackjack cards : ACES
35. Hibernation spot : LAIR
37. Egg cream ingredient : SYRUP
38. Former “Great American Baking Show” co-host Vardalos : NIA
39. *Beef : RED MEAT (giving “redhead”)
41. Azores’ ocean: Abbr. : ATL
42. Build an extension on : ADD TO
44. Strong desires : YENS
45. Verdi princess who sings “O patria mia” : AIDA
46. Specks in the sea : ISLETS
48. __ room: play area : REC
49. Mail opening in a door : SLOT
50. Big name in stationery : EATON
52. “__ #1!”: winners’ cry : WE’RE
54. Very brave : INTREPID
57. South Florida city : NAPLES
61. Away from the office : NOT IN
62. Racer’s advantage … and what each part of the answers to starred clues can be : HEAD START
64. Prepare to talk to a child, maybe : KNEEL
65. Doing nothing : IDLE
66. Comparison words : IS TO
67. “My bad” : SORRY
68. Show the way : LEAD
69. Enjoy, as gum : CHEW

Down

1. Black Friday crowds : MOBS
2. Grand-scale tale or grand-scale fail : EPIC
3. Arcade name : SEGA
4. Builds up : ACCRUES
5. Trustworthy : CREDIBLE
6. Non-discrimination letters : EOE
7. Former Wisconsin senator Feingold : RUSS
8. Skating jumps : AXELS
9. Most ditzy : SPACIEST
10. The “C” of SPCA : CRUELTY
11. *Equestrian’s path : HORSE TRAIL (giving “Horse Head”)
12. Jacob’s twin brother : ESAU
13. __-dish pizza : DEEP
18. Farm squawker : HEN
22. “Live from New York, __ ‘Saturday Night!'” : IT’S
24. Apple-polisher : TOADY
26. Hawaiian island : LANAI
27. Litmus reddeners : ACIDS
28. *Undeliverable bit of mail : DEAD LETTER (giving “deadhead”)
30. Oven buzzer : TIMER
32. Perform better than : OUTDO
33. Wet impact sound : SPLAT!
36. Extend a subscription : RENEW
39. In a nasty manner : ROTTENLY
40. Climbed : ASCENDED
43. Needing more tissues, probably : TEARIER
45. Sterile : ASEPTIC
47. Soak (up), as gravy : SOP
51. Nothing, in Latin : NIHIL
53. Univ. dorm overseers : RAS
54. Calligraphy supplies : INKS
55. Taboo : NO-NO
56. “__ Dinah”: 1958 Frankie Avalon hit : DEDE
58. Eyelid hair : LASH
59. One-named Deco artist : ERTE
60. Stash in a hold : STOW
63. Pie __ mode : A LA

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