LA Times Crossword 7 Sep 18, Friday

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Constructed by: David Alfred Bywaters
Edited by: Rich Norris

Today’s Reveal Answer: Empty Excuse

Themed answers are common phrases, but with an M exchanged for a T. That’s a pretty “MT” (sounds like “EMPTY”) EXCUSE for a theme:

  • 62A. Lame justification for the letter substitution in four puzzle answers? : EMPTY EXCUSE
  • 17A. Skin tone achieved via pure will? : SELF-MADE TAN (from “self-made man”)
  • 24A. Ballet performance on skis? : SLAT DANCE (from “slam dance”)
  • 37A. TV show destined for early cancellation? : BROADCAST TEDIUM (from “broadcast medium”)
  • 51A. Horse chatter? : STALL TALK (from “small talk”)

Bill’s time: 15m 56s

Bill’s errors: 0

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Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1. “__ Told Me (Not to Come)”: 1970 #1 hit : MAMA

“Mama Told Me Not to Come” is a song written by Randy Newman and most famously recorded by Three Dog Night in 1970. Tom Jones also had a hit with the song, recording a version with the Stereophonics in 2000.

14. River to the Caspian : URAL

The Ural River rises in the Ural Mountains in Russia and flows for half its length through Russian territory until it crosses the border into Kazakhstan, finally emptying into the Caspian Sea. It is the third-longest river in Europe, after the Volga and Danube.

21. Mont Blanc, e.g. : ALP

Mont Blanc is the highest peak in the Alps. The name “Mont Blanc” translates from French into “white mountain”. The mountain lies on the border between France and Italy, and it has been generally accepted for decades that the summit lies within French territory. However, there have been official claims that the summit does in fact fall within the borders of Italy.

23. Storied engineer Jones : CASEY

Casey Jones was a famous railroad engineer who is remembered in the traditional song “The Ballad of Casey Jones”. The song tells us the story of Jones trying to stop his speeding train as it races towards another locomotive on the same line.

24. Ballet performance on skis? : SLAT DANCE (from “slam dance”)

Moshing (also “slam dancing”) is the pushing and shoving that takes place in the audience at a concert (usually a punk or heavy metal concert). The area directly in front of the stage is known as the mosh pit. When a performer does a “stage dive” it is into (or I suppose “onto”) the mosh pit. It doesn’t sound like fun to me. Injuries are commonplace in the mosh pit, and deaths are not unknown.

26. Extinct bird : DODO

The dodo was a direct relative of the pigeon and dove, although the fully-grown dodo was usually three feet tall. One of the reasons the dodo comes to mind when we think of extinction of a species, is that it disappeared not too long ago (last recorded alive in 1681) and humans were the reason for its demise. The dodo lived exclusively on the island of Mauritius and when man arrived, we cut back the forests that were its home. We also introduced domestic animals, such as dogs and pigs, that ransacked the dodo’s nests. The dodo was deemed to be an awkward flightless bird and so the term “dodo” has come to mean a dull-witted person.

34. Tea variety : PEKOE

A pekoe (or more commonly “orange pekoe”) is a medium-grade black tea. There is no orange flavor in an orange pekoe tea. The “orange” name most likely derived from the name of the trading company that brought the tea to Europe from Asia.

43. “Glee” cheerleading coach : SUE

In the TV show “Glee”, actress Jane Lynch plays the school cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester. Well, Sylvester is the cheerleading coach for the first four seasons. She gets promoted to high school principal for the last two seasons.

54. Kitchen light : PILOT

A pilot light is a small gas flame, one using a relatively small amount of fuel, that remains lit as an ignition source for larger gas burners.

58. UPS Store supply : TAPE

The franchised UPS Stores make up the world’s largest network of retail shipping, printing and business service centers. The first such outlets were branded and owned by Mail Boxes Etc., starting in 1980. UPS acquired Mail Boxes Etc. in 2001, and introduced the UPS Store brand in 2003. I’m a big fan …

61. Six-pack components : 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 …

64. Beluga yield : ROE

Caviar is the roe of a large fish that has been salted and seasoned, and especially the roe of a sturgeon. Beluga caviar comes from the beluga sturgeon, found primarily in the Caspian Sea. It is the most expensive type of caviar in the world. 8 ounces of US-farmed beluga caviar can be purchased through Amazon.com for just over $850, in case you’re feeling peckish …

65. Serious attacks : SIEGES

Our word “siege” comes from a 13th century word for a “seat”. The military usage derives from the concept of a besieging force “sitting down” outside a fortress until it falls.

68. Marine group that’s well-armed? : OCTOPI

The name “octopus” comes from the Greek for “eight-footed”. The most common plural used is “octopuses”, although the Greek plural form “octopodes” is also quite correct. The plural “octopi” isn’t really correct as the inference is that “octopus” is like a second-declension Latin noun, which it isn’t. That said, dictionaries are now citing “octopi” as an acceptable plural. Language does evolve, even though it drives me crazy …

Down

1. Clara Schumann works, e.g. : MUSIC

Clara Schumann was a famous concert pianist, and the wife of composer Robert Schumann. Clara is known not only for her talent on the piano, but also for premiering works by Johannes Brahms, who was a dear friend of the Schumanns.

3. Fountain creations : MALTS

Walgreens claims to have introduced the malted milkshake, back in 1922.

4. “Great” ninth-century English monarch : ALFRED

Alfred the Great was the King of Wessex in the latter part of the ninth century, and the dominant ruler in the whole of England. Wessex was the familiar name of the Kingdom of the West Saxons in the southwest of Britain.

6. Pentagon org. : DOD

Department of Defense (DOD)

The incredible building known as the Pentagon was built during WWII, and dedicated on January 15, 1943. It is the largest office building in the world (by floor space) covering an area of about 6.5 million square feet. As it was built during the war years, a major requirement was that it use a minimum amount of steel. That steel shortage dictated that the building be no more than four stories in height, and hence cover an awful lot of real estate.

10. Urge : YEN

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.

11. Paper named for a vegetable : ONIONSKIN

Onionskin, although not made from onions, is a translucent, light-weight paper. It was used in days gone by when the weight and bulk of the paper was important. And so, onionskin was a good choice for use with carbon paper when making copies using a typewriter. It also was a good choice for airmail.

12. Chaos : 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.

18. BLT basic : MAYO

Mayonnaise originated in the town of Mahon in Menorca, a Mediterranean island belonging to Spain. The Spanish called the sauce “salsa mahonesa” after the town, and this morphed into the French word “mayonnaise” that we use in English today.

24. Waiting room piece : SOFA

“Sofa” is a Turkish word meaning “bench”.

25. Figure (out) : DOPE

Apparently, “to dope out” is a slang term meaning “to figure out, infer from available information”. Our use of the word “dope” to mean “inside information” probably comes from horse racing. The idea is that a better might have information about which horse has been drugged (doped) to influence its performance.

33. Balaam’s mount : ASS

The ass or donkey is mentioned several times in the Bible. One of the most-quoted biblical stories involving an ass is the story of Balaam. Balaam was a diviner who appears in the Book of Numbers in. In one account, Balaam is held to task by an angel for particularly cruel treatment of an ass.

35. Paris agreement : OUI

In French, a response on “un questionnaire” (a questionnaire) might be “oui” (yes) or “non” (no).

The French capital of Paris is named for the Parisii, a Celtic Iron Age people that lived in the area on the banks of the River Seine.

36. Health care worker, briefly : EMT

Emergency medical technician (EMT)

39. Farmer’s habitat? : DELL

“The Farmer in the Dell” is a nursery rhyme and singing game that probably originated in Germany.

The farmer in the dell
The farmer in the dell
Hi-ho, the derry-o
The farmer in the dell

40. Elephant tooth : TUSK

The hard, white material called ivory has mainly been sourced from the tusks of elephants, although it can also be collected from the walrus, hippopotamus, killer whale, wart hog and others. The word “ivory” comes into English via Latin from the Ancient Egyptian word for “elephant”.

46. __ power : ATOMIC

A common nuclear fuel is uranium dioxide (UO2). The UO2 comes in powder form and is compacted into pellets that are fired at high temperature producing ceramic pellets. The pellets are ground into a near-perfect cylindrical shape and are then stacked inside tubes made of zirconium alloy. These tubes are what we usually refer to as nuclear fuel rods.

50. “2 Broke Girls,” for one : SITCOM

“2 Broke Girls” is a sitcom about two young ladies sharing an apartment in Brooklyn, and their attempts to launch a cupcake business. The title characters are played by Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs.

51. Garbo and Gable, e.g. : STARS

Famously, Greta Garbo lived a life of seclusion in New York City after she retired from the entertainment business. Commentators often associated her need for privacy with a line she uttered in the great 1932 movie “Grand Hotel”. Her character Grusinskaya the Russian ballerina said, “I want to be alone (…) I just want to be alone”.

Actor Clark Gable was one of the most consistent earners for Hollywood studios, but won just one Best Actor Oscar (for the excellent “It Happened One Night”). He was married five times in all, including a three-year stint with actress Carole Lombard. Gable also had an affair with actress Loretta Young during the filming of “The Call of the Wild” in 1935. The result was a daughter born in 1935, after Young had a very secret pregnancy that was covered up by the film studio.

52. Like certain subjects in certain company : TABOO

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.

60. He played Ricky in early TV : DESI

In the hit television show “I Love Lucy”, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz play Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. The Ricardos’ best friends are also their landlords, Fred and Ethel Mertz. The Mertz’s are played by William Frawley and Vivian Vance.

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Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1. “__ Told Me (Not to Come)”: 1970 #1 hit : MAMA
5. Folly : IDIOCY
11. “Caught you!” : OHO!
14. River to the Caspian : URAL
15. Spacecraft section : MODULE
16. Apprehend : NAB
17. Skin tone achieved via pure will? : SELF-MADE TAN (from “self-made man”)
19. “__ had enough!” : I’VE
20. Its contents need attention : IN-TRAY
21. Mont Blanc, e.g. : ALP
22. Romances : WOOS
23. Storied engineer Jones : CASEY
24. Ballet performance on skis? : SLAT DANCE (from “slam dance”)
26. Extinct bird : DODO
28. Forest : WOODS
29. List-ending abbr. : ETC
32. __ sort : OF A
34. Tea variety : PEKOE
37. TV show destined for early cancellation? : BROADCAST TEDIUM (from “broadcast medium”)
42. Protuberance : BULGE
43. “Glee” cheerleading coach : SUE
44. Small point : NIT
45. Purple shade : LILAC
48. Copious quantities : SEAS
51. Horse chatter? : STALL TALK (from “small talk”)
54. Kitchen light : PILOT
58. UPS Store supply : TAPE
59. Mined find : ORE
60. Road construction sight : DETOUR
61. Six-pack components : ABS
62. Lame justification for the letter substitution in four puzzle answers? : EMPTY EXCUSE
64. Beluga yield : ROE
65. Serious attacks : SIEGES
66. Bone: Pref. : OSTE-
67. Nursery layer : SOD
68. Marine group that’s well-armed? : OCTOPI
69. Disorder : MESS

Down

1. Clara Schumann works, e.g. : MUSIC
2. Large performance venue : ARENA
3. Fountain creations : MALTS
4. “Great” ninth-century English monarch : ALFRED
5. “Perhaps” : I MAY
6. Pentagon org. : DOD
7. Perfect : IDEAL
8. Criminal : OUTLAW
9. Keep time with manually : CLAP TO
10. Urge : YEN
11. Paper named for a vegetable : ONIONSKIN
12. Chaos : HAVOC
13. More than rotund : OBESE
18. BLT basic : MAYO
22. Cooled one’s heels? : WADED
24. Waiting room piece : SOFA
25. Figure (out) : DOPE
27. Medico : DOC
29. Wane : EBB
30. Commercial prefix suggestive of accuracy : TRU-
31. Broke down : COLLAPSED
33. Balaam’s mount : ASS
35. Paris agreement : OUI
36. Health care worker, briefly : EMT
38. Deft : AGILE
39. Farmer’s habitat? : DELL
40. Elephant tooth : TUSK
41. Souvenir from a concert : TEE
46. __ power : ATOMIC
47. One may be magic : CARPET
49. Peak : APEX
50. “2 Broke Girls,” for one : SITCOM
51. Garbo and Gable, e.g. : STARS
52. Like certain subjects in certain company : TABOO
53. Free : LET GO
55. Cad : LOUSE
56. Boots : OUSTS
57. Sources of shade : TREES
60. He played Ricky in early TV : DESI
62. Spanish pronoun : ESO
63. “Sure ’nuff” : YEP

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25 thoughts on “LA Times Crossword 7 Sep 18, Friday”

  1. LAT: 11:02, no errors. Newsday: 12:56, no errors. WSJ: 13:43, no errors; haven’t had time to think about the meta. CHE: 10:21, no errors. Croce later.

    1. Croce: ~1:15:00, with a one-square error that could easily have been avoided by spending another minute or two on the puzzle. I fear that my obsession with finishing all the puzzles I missed while travelling has left the neurons in my tired old brain a bit fried … 😜.

  2. About a half hour for LAT. Can’t quite connect “slatdance” to a ski ballet performance, maybe because I don’t know much about ballet.

      1. @Cathy –
        I think you’re missing the sequence, so to speak, of the theme. “DANCE” is what’s referring to ballet and SLAT is what’s referring to “on skis”. Slam dance is simply the original phrase from which they changed one letter to make SLAT DANCE. It’s not implying that there is any connection of slam dancing and ballet.

        Best –

      2. It doesn’t equate because it is “slat” dancing. I presume slat representing the skis. I just saw Jeff”s comment. Sorry to duplicate. I didn’t get it, either, and put the “t” in desperation.

  3. LAT: 24:50, no errors. “Empty” or “meaningless” is right with this theme and some of the cluing, as a lot of it was complete nonsense. Terrible puzzle. WSJ: 15:55, 3 errors. Too much I didn’t know in one corner. Meta solved, so 3 of 3 for the week. CHE: 14:05, 2 errors. (1 dumb, one not).

  4. Somehow I made it through this one. Re: slat dance, think of the ski as a slat of wood. (?) I actually was thinking “snow dance”, but couldn’t make that work so I finally gave in to “slat”. At least I finished.

  5. 19:13. I thought the theme was rather ordinary in the sense that I’ve seem similar type things (substitutions) done many times. Not sure why this one is catching so much ire.

    I enjoyed the theme as it reminded me of a kid’s joke. Tell someone “Point to your head and abbreviate mountain!”. The confused victim hopefully points to his head and says”MT”….Apparently I’m easily amused.

    Sorry to hear of Burt Reynolds’ passing. I was always a big fan. From all accounts he was a great guy to be around despite being a big star.

    @Vidwan-
    You’ll be interested to know that in yesterday’s NYT puzzle, the clue for ION was “F-, e.g.” They switched from boron to flourine. I think more people read these comments than we realize….

  6. I don’t think either Boron or Fluoride is ionic; the clue could have
    said “element” instead of “ion” or such. Today, the wife and I had
    7 omissions and 1 error for 96% by our calculation. I put ARAL for
    URAL for the error. This was an excellent score for us on a Friday.
    I think our average of over 95% for the week was a record high. It
    is even more fun when you do good. Bill had a small puzzleer’s block
    and I know the feeling well. It is OK, Bill, you are still my idol.

    1. A flourine atom can gain an electron to become an ion, but it is then called flouride, I believe, so perhaps you’re correct. It becomes semantics at that point. However the clue was simply F- which can exist. The clue itself does not use the term flourine or flouride

  7. It never sits well with me when the constructors are attacked. Unless it’s something that is so ridiculous or untenable, I prefer to thank them for the time they put in in creating these puzzles for our pleasure.

  8. Do the same people build the puzzle as write the clues? it seems the clues are often what makes a puzzle a Friday rather than a Monday.

  9. I had a tough time with this puzzle, but finally finished it with difficulty. The theme slowly emerged, and while not exciting, I would have to respect the constructor, maker, for his hard work and dedication. It is not easy to make a difficult puzzle, for the end of the week, so Respect….

    With so many constructors nowadays, and so many gimmicks in puzzles, … it is a miracle that new gimmicks can even be found … leave alone, constructed. It must be a very dire task for makers to come up with new ideas for puzzles – especially for the difficult, end of the week, ones.

    Jeff, thank you for the F- clue – as I don’t do the NYT puzzle, I would not have come across it at all. I don’t know if my blog post, from long ago, had anything to do with it …. but I’d like to think that it did. 😉 😉
    That makes my day a great wonderful one. !!@!!
    Thank you. !!@!!
    I did however, note on that post, that F- is a grade most teachers would never award, unless they were very irritated, or being extremely vindictive ….

    Mr john Daigle, as Jeff, has mentioned above, the actual fact as to whether Boron or Flourine are particularly or commonly, ionic, is beside the point.
    It is merely sufficient, and enough ( as a mathematician would state – ) …. that their ions, as indicated, do exist. Hydroflouric Acid (HF or H+F- ) does exist, so do the ions, however rare. After all, that is the mechanism, by which, HF in acqueous solution will attack, and dissolve, or etch, …. most glass bottles and beakers. That fact, is sufficient to give a big hook, on the wall, ,on which the crossword constructor, can hang his hat on.

    The original dispute or contention was, that B+ a single positive valence boron ion, does not exist in any labs or nature … it either has +3 or -5 valency. -5 does not exist, so +3 as BH3 ( Borane ) is the common state. B+ does not exist. Thus.

    Bill, thank you for the info on onionskin …. I thought the paper was originally made out of onions ! Like Papyrus was made out of reeds, and sheepskin out of sheep’s skins. I learnt something important and new.

    Also, considering that the chinese have had some genetic prone-ness or affinity to get addicted to Opium ( the various opium wars, the Boxer rebellion etc.) and the fact that the British ( through some indian, parsi and jewish merchants … and Jardine Mathieson, the original Taipans ) made enormous amounts of money for over 70 years… the word ‘yin’ must have been a very powerful word indeed.
    I have studied the subject of the opium sales, very diligently, and as late as 1928, the proceeds of the opium sales, wholly to China, contributed 78% of the revenue to the entire British India budget !! ( I have the book on the actual budget, to prove it – ).

    Have a great day, and a great weekend, all.

  10. Madam Jane Blando, Sfingi ?, your point on the cluing of the late week puzzles is well noted. All I know, is what I have read, on crossword puzzle construction and something Rich Norris is reputed to have said.

    Rich has gone on record as saying that a well constructed puzzle, with the words fitting the puzzle design, …. with the minimum number of cheater squares etc …. is the major part of the construction.
    That, presumably is what the original constructor really contributes.

    Rich has also said that he, as editor, often substitutes or actually makes up some of the clues, ….. which as editor, is his priviledge and perhaps, his speciality. Thus he can adjust the difficulty, to the day of the week …. and to his liking …. and follow some suggestions of the beta testers etc.

    He has also said that making clues is the ( relatively ) smaller contribution to the actual word answer design on the original puzzle.
    ( I think those were his words …)

    I hope I have represented his view correctly.
    God help me, if I am wrong….

  11. Somewhat tricky Friday puzzle for me; took about 45 minutes with no errors, but plenty of bouncing around until I finally figured out the theme.

    I’ve seen this gimmick several times, but for whatever reason it took me a while to get these theme answers. The rest of the puzzle came together relatively smoothly. Didn’t know that Randy Newman wrote “Mama told me”, and learned a few other things as well.

    On to Saturday…

  12. Hiya folks!!🙃
    No errors. Pretty good grid, and at certain points I didn’t think I’d make it thru.

    I sometimes criticize puzzles– I do admire the work involved, but I also think that sometimes the clues are overly convoluted or just too difficult for the given day of the week. We’re consumers and interested parties. I guess the occasional complaint doesn’t bother me, as long as there’s a point to it and we’re not slamming the puzzle as a whole– tho I’ve been guilty of that.🤔

    Anyway, nice to see BORON back in the conversation!!😄

    Dirk! I also find interesting that Randy Newman wrote that song!! Sounds more like him than Three Dog Night, IMO.

    Be well ~~✌

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