LA Times Crossword 15 Jan 19, Tuesday

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Constructed by: Gary Larson
Edited by: Rich Norris

Today’s Reveal Answer: Checkmate

Themed answers end with a word that often precedes, MATES with, CHECK:

  • 61A. Grandmaster’s last word … and what the last word in 17-, 24-, 36- and 52-Across can be : CHECKMATE
  • 17A. Single-digit temps, for most : COLD SPELL (giving “spellcheck”)
  • 24A. 1984 Prince hit : PURPLE RAIN (giving “raincheck”)
  • 36A. Body of water between Connecticut and southeastern New York : LONG ISLAND SOUND (giving “sound check”)
  • 52A. At close range : POINT BLANK (giving “blank check”)

Bill’s time: 5m 26s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

4. Chocolate-making bean : CACAO

Chocolate is made from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree. The seeds are very bitter and the traditional drink made with the seed was called “xocolatl” by the Aztecs, meaning “bitter water”. Our word “chocolate” comes from “xocolatl”.

9. Polynesian people : MAORI

The Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. They are eastern Polynesian in origin and began arriving in New Zealand relatively recently, starting some time in the late 13th century. The word “māori” simply means “normal”, distinguishing the mortal human being from spiritual entities. The Māori refer to New Zealand as “Aotearoa”.

14. Darth, as a youth : ANI

Darth Vader is (to me) the most colorful antagonist in the “Star Wars” universe. Born as Anakin Skywalker, he was corrupted by the Emperor Palpatine, and turned to “the Dark Side”. In the original films, Darth Vader was portrayed by English bodybuilder David Prowse, and voiced by actor James Earl Jones. Jones asked that he go uncredited for the first two “Star Wars” films, feeling that his contributions were insufficient to warrant recognition. I disagree …

15. Suspect’s excuse : ALIBI

“Alibi” is the Latin word for “elsewhere” as in, “I claim that I was ‘elsewhere’ when the crime was committed … I have an ‘alibi’”.

16. Muslim religion : ISLAM

Over 50% of the world’s population consider themselves to be adherents of the “big three” Abrahamic religions: Christianity (2-2.2 billion), Islam (1.6-1.7 billion) and Judaism (14-18 million).

19. Exams for would-be attys. : LSATS

Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

21. Jazz great Blake : EUBIE

James Hubert “Eubie” Blake was a composer and pianist from Baltimore, Maryland. Blake was a noted composer and performer of ragtime music. The 1978 musical revue “Eubie!” features his music. Apparently Blake claimed to have started smoking cigarettes at the age of 10 years, and died 85 years later in 1983. Blake’s celebrity status and long life as a smoker was often cited by politicians who opposed anti-tobacco legislation.

23. Cabinet dept. concerned with nukes : ENER

The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was set up right after WWII in 1946, with the aim of promoting the peaceful use of atomic energy. Establishing the AEC was a significant move made by President Truman, as it passed control of atomic energy from the military to the civilian sector. The AEC continued to operate until 1974 when its functions were divided up into two new agencies: the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Energy Research and Development Administration (NRDA). The NRDA was merged with the Federal Energy Administration in 1977 to form the Department of Energy.

24. 1984 Prince hit : PURPLE RAIN (giving “raincheck”)

“Purple Rain” is a 1984 song by Prince that is the title track from an album of the same name. The album in turn was the soundtrack from the film “Purple Rain”. The song reached #2 in the charts in 1984, but then made it to #1 soon after Prince’s death in 2016.

The use of rainchecks dates back to the 1880s, when they were tickets issued at rained-out baseball games that guaranteed free entry to a make-up game.

35. Napkin’s place : LAP

Our word “napkin” dates back to the 1300s, when it had the same meaning as today. The term comes from the old French word “nape” meaning “tablecloth” and the Middle English suffix “-kin” meaning “little”. So, a napkin is a little tablecloth.

36. Body of water between Connecticut and southeastern New York : LONG ISLAND SOUND (giving “sound check”)

Long Island Sound is a tidal estuary that lies between Connecticut (to the north) and Long Island (to the south). The sound is about 110 miles long, and 21 miles at its widest point.

42. Skater Midori : ITO

Midori Ito is a Japanese figure skater. Ito was the first woman to land a triple/triple jump and a triple axel in competition. In fact, she landed her first triple jump in training when she was only 8 years old. Ito won Olympic silver in 1992, and was chosen as the person to light the Olympic cauldron at the commencement of the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.

55. Bushels : A LOT

In the imperial system of weights and measures, a bushel is a unit of dry volume made up of 4 pecks. In the US system, a bushel is a dry volume of 8 gallons. We have used the term “bushel” to mean “large quantity” since the 14th century.

56. Ponzi scheme, e.g. : FRAUD

Charles Ponzi was born in Luigi, Italy in 1882 and arrived in the US in 1903, flat broke having gambled away all his money on the voyage to Boston. Ponzi devised a scheme to buy what were known as “international reply coupons” through friends in Italy, which he had sent to him in the US so that he could redeem them on this side of the Atlantic. As the value in the US was greater than that in Italy, he could make a handsome profit. This was in itself an “illegal” transaction, buying an asset in one market at a low price, then immediately selling it in another market at a higher price. But it’s what he did next that became known as a Ponzi Scheme. He couldn’t redeem his coupons quickly enough due to red tape so he approached other investors, initially friends, and had them give him cash so that he could buy more coupons in Italy. He promised the investors he would double their money, which they did initially. Many people wanted to get in on the scheme seeing that Ponzi was able to make the new investors a profit and double the money of the original investors. Eventually, somebody did the math and word started to get out that the investment was risky, so the number of new investors started to fall. Without sufficient new investors Ponzi couldn’t double the money of his latest investors, and the whole scheme unraveled.

57. Ann __, Michigan : ARBOR

Ann Arbor, Michigan was founded in 1824 by John Allen and Elisha Rumsey. Supposedly, Allen and Rumsey originally used the name “Annsarbour” in recognition of stands of bur oak that were on the land they had purchased and in recognition of their wives, both of whom were called “Ann” (i.e. Anns’ Arbor)

58. California/Nevada resort lake : TAHOE

Lake Tahoe (often referred to simply as “Tahoe”) is up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and is located right on the border between California and Nevada. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the country, and the largest lake in general, behind the five Great Lakes. It’s also the second deepest lake, with only the beautiful Crater Lake in Oregon being deeper. Given its location, there are tall casinos that sit right on the shore on the Nevada side of the state line where gambling is legal.

61. Grandmaster’s last word … and what the last word in 17-, 24-, 36- and 52-Across can be : CHECKMATE

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 and early ending to the game doesn’t occur.

“Grandmaster” is a title held for life that is awarded by the World Chess Association (FIDE). The only FIDE title higher than Grandmaster is World Champion. Despite the masculine appearance of the title, it is awarded to both men and women.

64. Milky gemstones : OPALS

An opal is often described as having a milky iridescence known as opalescence.

65. Breed that’s Welsh for “dwarf dog” : CORGI

The Welsh corgi is a herding dog that originated in Britain, with two recognized breeds: the Pembroke and Cardigan. Corgis aren’t speedy enough to do their job by running around livestock like collies, and instead nip at the heels. “Corgi” is Welsh for “dwarf dog”.

67. George of “Cheers” : WENDT

The character of Norm Peterson was the only customer of the bar to appear in every episode of “Cheers”, something that one couldn’t really call ironic since he loved that barstool! George Wendt played Norm, and I suppose the fact the Wendt was expelled from Notre Dame after one semester, with a 0.0 GPA, might have helped him get the role!

Down

1. Secret supplies : CACHES

A cache is a secret supply. We imported the term into English from French Canadian trappers in the 17th century. Back then, “cache” was a slang term for a “hiding place for stores”, derived from the French verb “cacher” meaning “to hide”.

5. European mountain : ALP

There are eight Alpine countries:

  • Austria
  • Slovenia
  • France
  • Switzerland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Germany
  • Monaco
  • Italy

6. Paris corp. : CIE

“Cie.” is an abbreviation used in French. “Cie.” is short for “compagnie”, the French word for “company”, and is used as we would use “Co.”

9. Cultural setting : MILIEU

We use the French term “milieu” (plural “milieux”) to mean “environment, surroundings”. In French, “milieu” is the word for “middle”.

11. Suffix with pay : -OLA

Payola is the illegal practice of paying radio stations or disk jockeys to repeatedly play a particular piece of music. The impetus behind the crime is that the more often a song is played, the more likely it is to sell. The term “payola” comes from the words “pay” and “Victrola”, an RCA brand name for an early phonograph.

12. Templeton in “Charlotte’s Web,” e.g. : RAT

“Charlotte’s Web” is a children’s novel by author E. B. White. Charlotte is a barn spider, who manages to save the life of a pig named Wilbur. Wilbur is a pet pig, owned by the farmer’s daughter, Fern Arable. The story also includes a gluttonous rat named Templeton who provides some light and comical moments.

13. Cyberchats, briefly : IMS

Even though instant messaging (sending and receiving IMs) has been around since the 1960s, it was AOL who popularized the term “instant message” in the eighties and nineties. The “AOL Instant Message” service was known as AIM.

22. Rain-__ bubble gum : BLO

Rain-Blo bubble gum balls were introduced in 1940 by Leaf Confectionery, a company that was then based in the Netherlands.

25. Eurasian border mountains : URALS

The eastern side of the Ural Mountains in Russia and Kazakhstan is generally regarded as the natural divide between the continents of Europe and Asia.

26. Rights advocacy org. : ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has its roots in the First World War when it was founded to provide legal advice and support to conscientious objectors. The ACLU’s motto is “Because Freedom Can’t Protect Itself”. The ACLU also hosts a blog on the ACLU.org website called “Speak Freely”.

27. “Reading Lolita in Tehran” setting : IRAN

Tehran is the capital of Iran and is the largest city in the Middle East, with a population of about 8.5 million. Iran has been around a really long time and Tehran is actually the country’s 31st national capital.

“Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books” is a 2003 book by Azar Nafisi. The memoir is about the author’s experiences after she returned home to Iran during the Iranian Revolution of 1978-1981. Nafisi was a professor at the University of Tehran, and while there refused to submit to practices that restricted her freedom as a woman. She was eventually dismissed from her post for refusing to wear a veil, which Nafisi regarded as an icon of oppression.

28. Big Apple law gp. : NYPD

The New York Police Department (NYPD) is the largest municipal police force in the country. The department’s roots go back as far at 1625 when there was an eight-man night watch in the days when New York was still known as New Amsterdam. Several disparate forces with policing responsibility were amalgamated in 1844 to form the New York City Police Department, signalling the end of the night watch force that had existed for over 200 years.

30. Japanese carp : KOI

Koi are fish that are also known as Japanese carp. Koi have been bred for decorative purposes and there are now some very brightly colored examples found in Japanese water gardens.

34. Noted 2001 bankruptcy : ENRON

After all the trials following the exposure of fraud at Enron, several of the key players ended up in jail. Andrew Fastow was the Chief Financial Officer. He plea-bargained and received ten years without parole, and became the key witness in the trials of others. Even Fastow’s wife was involved and she was sentenced to one year for helping her husband hide money. Jeffrey Skilling (ex-CEO) was sentenced to 24 years and 4 months. Kenneth Lay (CEO) died in 2006 after he had been found guilty but before he could be sentenced. The accounting firm Arthur Andersen was found guilty of obstruction of justice for shredding thousands of pertinent documents and deleting emails and files (a decision that the Supreme Court later overturned on a technicality). But still, Arthur Andersen collapsed under the weight of the scandal and 85,000 people lost their jobs (despite only a handful being directly involved with Enron).

36. Talk like Daffy : LISP

Daffy Duck first appeared on the screen in “Porky’s Duck Hunt” in 1937. In the original cartoon, Daffy was just meant to have a small role, but he was a big hit as he had so much sass. Even back then, Daffy was voiced by the ubiquitous Mel Blanc.

37. Director Preminger : OTTO

Otto Preminger was noted for directing films that pushed the envelope in terms of subject matter, at least in the fifties and sixties. Great examples would be 1955’s “The Man with the Golden Arm” that dealt with drug addiction, 1959’s “Anatomy of a Murder” that dealt with rape, and 1962’s “Advise and Consent” that dealt with homosexuality. If you’ve seen these films, you’ll have noticed that the references are somewhat indirect and disguised, in order to get past the censors.

40. Bully in the “Toy Story” films : SID

1995’s “Toy Story” was the world’s first feature-length computer-animated movie. “Toy Story” was also the studio Pixar’s first production. The main roles in the film are Woody and Buzz Lightyear, who are voiced by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen respectively. Hanks was the first choice to voice Woody, but Allen was asked to voice Buzz after Billy Crystal turned down the role.

47. Management deg. : MBA

The world’s first Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree was offered by Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, in 1908.

49. Capital on the Hudson : ALBANY

New York’s state capital of Albany was founded as a Dutch trading post called Fort Nassau in 1614. The English took over the settlement in 1664 and called it Albany, naming it after the future King of England James II, whose title at the time was the Duke of Albany. It became the capital of New York State in 1797.

The Hudson River flows through eastern New York State from Henderson Lake in the Adirondacks to the Port of New York and New Jersey. The river is named for the English explorer Henry Hudson, who navigated it in 1609.

50. Thief during a riot : LOOTER

“Loot” is the name given to anything taken by dishonesty or force, particularly during war. The term came into English from the Hindi “lut” meaning “goods taken from an enemy”.

53. Soap star Susan : LUCCI

Susan Lucci is perhaps the most famous actor associated with daytime soap operas, and was the highest paid actor in daytime television. Lucci was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series an incredible 21 times for her portrayal of Erica Kane, the vixen in “All My Children”.

54. For a specific purpose, as a committee : AD HOC

The Latin phrase “ad hoc” means “for this purpose”. An ad hoc committee, for example, is formed for a specific purpose and is disbanded after making its final report.

60. Solo of “Star Wars” : HAN

Han Solo is the space smuggler in “Star Wars” played by Harrison Ford. Ford was originally hired by George Lucas just to read lines for actors during auditions for “Star Wars”, but over time Lucas became convinced that Ford was right for the pivotal role of Han Solo.

63. Cinematic FX : CGI

Computer-generated imagery (CGI)

“FX” is an abbreviation for “effects”, as in “special effects”.

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Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1. Half-__: coffee with a little less kick : CAF
4. Chocolate-making bean : CACAO
9. Polynesian people : MAORI
14. Darth, as a youth : ANI
15. Suspect’s excuse : ALIBI
16. Muslim religion : ISLAM
17. Single-digit temps, for most : COLD SPELL (giving “spellcheck”)
19. Exams for would-be attys. : LSATS
20. Try to whack : HIT AT
21. Jazz great Blake : EUBIE
23. Cabinet dept. concerned with nukes : ENER
24. 1984 Prince hit : PURPLE RAIN (giving “raincheck”)
29. Picket line participant : STRIKER
31. Fierce public protest : OUTCRY
32. Jot down : NOTATE
35. Napkin’s place : LAP
36. Body of water between Connecticut and southeastern New York : LONG ISLAND SOUND (giving “sound check”)
42. Skater Midori : ITO
43. Muscle injury : STRAIN
44. Small river : STREAM
48. Tribulations : ORDEALS
52. At close range : POINT BLANK (giving “blank check”)
55. Bushels : A LOT
56. Ponzi scheme, e.g. : FRAUD
57. Ann __, Michigan : ARBOR
58. California/Nevada resort lake : TAHOE
61. Grandmaster’s last word … and what the last word in 17-, 24-, 36- and 52-Across can be : CHECKMATE
64. Milky gemstones : OPALS
65. Breed that’s Welsh for “dwarf dog” : CORGI
66. Fresh : NEW
67. George of “Cheers” : WENDT
68. Trap during a winter storm, say : ICE IN
69. Dozens of mos. : YRS

Down

1. Secret supplies : CACHES
2. Bless using oil : ANOINT
3. Color-altering camera lens accessory : FILTER
4. Actors in a show : CAST
5. European mountain : ALP
6. Paris corp. : CIE
7. More adept : ABLER
8. Prepare to shine in a bodybuilding contest? : OIL UP
9. Cultural setting : MILIEU
10. State with conviction : ASSERT
11. Suffix with pay : -OLA
12. Templeton in “Charlotte’s Web,” e.g. : RAT
13. Cyberchats, briefly : IMS
18. Adventurous : DARING
22. Rain-__ bubble gum : BLO
24. Animals at home : PETS
25. Eurasian border mountains : URALS
26. Rights advocacy org. : ACLU
27. “Reading Lolita in Tehran” setting : IRAN
28. Big Apple law gp. : NYPD
30. Japanese carp : KOI
33. Skin pic : TAT
34. Noted 2001 bankruptcy : ENRON
36. Talk like Daffy : LISP
37. Director Preminger : OTTO
38. More formal “Me neither!” : NOR I
39. Lacking light : DARK
40. Bully in the “Toy Story” films : SID
41. Like challenging push-ups : ONE-ARM
45. Surround : ENFOLD
46. Taking a break : AT REST
47. Management deg. : MBA
49. Capital on the Hudson : ALBANY
50. Thief during a riot : LOOTER
51. Scatters, as seeds : STREWS
53. Soap star Susan : LUCCI
54. For a specific purpose, as a committee : AD HOC
57. Comparable (to) : AKIN
58. Aid for a disabled auto : TOW
59. Big lug : APE
60. Solo of “Star Wars” : HAN
62. Before, in verse : ERE
63. Cinematic FX : CGI

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9 thoughts on “LA Times Crossword 15 Jan 19, Tuesday”

  1. LAT: 4:43, no errors. WSJ: 8:26, no errors. These seem to be harder so far this week. Newsday: 6:26, no errors. Jones: 6:54, no errors.

    @Dave
    The theme of the Jones is “Late to the Movie”, which is what is literally happening to the 4 movie entries in the puzzle. The movies referenced are “Black Panther”, “Mary Poppins Returns”, “If Beale Street Could Talk”, and “Sorry To Bother You”.

    Also, I ended up with the 2017 version of the Super Mega (53×53 more or less) along with the answers (entirely print-out though). The novelty of these things is definitely interesting. If I try the 2018 version it’ll be either later on today or tomorrow.

    1. NYT 2018 50×50 Super Mega: 2:23:56, 12 errors. Four of them being forced typos – that particular piece of software that opens JPZ files is **TERRIBLE**. Rest being my random dumb stuff, if it wasn’t caused by the forced typos somehow. Overall, I don’t think the difficulty of this thing was too bad outside handling the size – probably Tues NYT level. And other that, it just was basically a giant themeless, minus the entries for the meta puzzle, which were rather conspicuous – I wonder if the NYT has ever produced a >0 challenge metapuzzle? Most of the time was taken up by typing stuff. Had to pause the timer and zoom out to see what sections weren’t done several times.

      The time probably would have been a lot better for having to continually fix all the forced typos. I just found out in trying to reload my backup/save that it corrupted the file, so I’m lucky I didn’t ever close out the program or I would have lost my entries.

      It amazes me that people can’t seem to produce good crossword solving software (online or otherwise).

      1. @Glenn …

        Your experience with that 50×50 (and with the software, which left me with a corrupted “save” file, too) was essentially identical to mine, except that my error was really mine, all mine (a borderline stupid failure to use the little gray cells).

        What platform are you running the software on? I’m using a four-year-old iMac running OSX 10.11.6 (El Capitan) that keeps telling me I need to upgrade to the latest version of the system (but I’m afraid to do it because, if I did, I would then have to spend a bunch of time reinstalling my own software for various things). Perhaps we should let BEQ know he’s pushing software that some of his fans won’t be happy with.

        I downloaded that 53×53 from 2017 and taped together a paper version of it, but, happily, I have a dental appointment this afternoon, so I won’t have to – I mean, of course, that I won’t be able to – do it for a while.

        Sadly, I couldn’t find the 2016 super mega online anywhere. If you find it, let me know. (And I will probably place my fingers in my ears and say la-la-la-la … for however long it takes … 😜.)

  2. LAT: 6:10, no errors. Newsday: 5:41, no errors. WSJ: 11:27, no errors.

    Matt Jones: 32:49, no errors, and thanks for the explanation, Glenn … I actually “understood” the theme, but I somehow convinced myself that there had to be more to it, partly because all of “BLACK PANTHER” was there: the “BLA” was just written down, along the left edge. So I was trying to figure out what happened to “MARY POP”. And I understood the significance of “ET COULD TALK”, but I had forgotten about the movie “IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK” and instead tried to make something involving “IF PETS COULD TALK” – which probably isn’t a movie, but the “P” was there, just above the “E” of “ET”, don’t you see? And then I’d never heard of the movie “SORRY TO BOTHER YOU” and the truncated “O’BOTHERYOU” didn’t sound to me like a “movie about an annoying Irishman”. (Who ever heard of such an improbable thing, anyway? 😜) Add to that the references to the unfamiliar animated characters “BRAK” and “LANA” Kane (a medication of some kind?) and I was just thrown off-kilter. Mind you, I did it after doing that 50×50, which means that I was over-thinking the theme with a bunch of disabled brain cells … 😜!)

    1. And … Tim Croce’s latest: 1:21:29, no errors. The usual story … 😜.

      I also forgot to report a Paolo Pasco puzzle, from yesterday: 11:23, no errors. Easy one.

  3. Very doable. 2 omissions and 0 errors for 99%. Could not find the jazz great
    or wrap my brain around the ice trap. Satisfied with our result, though.

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