0221-19 NY Times Crossword 21 Feb 19, Thursday

Constructed by: Sam Trabucco
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Reveal Answer: Character Actor

Themed answers are ACTORS who famously played CHARACTERS with a single letter as a name:

  • 54A 15-, 26-, 33- or 39-Across, punnily? : CHARACTER ACTOR
  • 15A Player of X in “X-Men” : PATRICK STEWART
  • 26A Player of M in “GoldenEye” : JUDI DENCH
  • 33A Player of V in “V for Vendetta” : HUGO WEAVING
  • 39A Player of J in “Men in Black” : WILL SMITH

Bill’s time: 11m 11s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

5 “A Farewell to Arms” subj. : WWI

“A Farewell to Arms” is a somewhat autobiographical novel written by Ernest Hemingway, telling the story of an American ambulance driver serving with the Italian army during WWI. The most famous screen adaptation is probably the 1957 version starring Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones.

12 Unalaskan, e.g. : ALEUTIAN

Unalaska Island is one of the Aleutian chain of islands off the coast of Alaska. Dutch Harbor, located within the city of Unalaska, is the largest fisheries port in the whole of the United States.

14 Hide-y holes? : PORES

Those would be pores in an animal hide.

15 Player of X in “X-Men” : PATRICK STEWART

X-Men is a team of superheroes created by Stan Lee for Marvel Comics. Nowadays the X-Men are perhaps best known as the subject of a series of movies, with Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine, and Patrick Stewart playing Professor Xavier (or simply “Professor X”). Some very respected actors have also played the villains that X-Men have to battle. For example, the enemy called Magneto is portrayed by veteran Shakespearean actor Sir Ian McKellen.

17 Alternatives to texts : 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.

21 Scotch brand : DEWAR’S

Dewar’s is a blended Scotch whisky introduced to the market in 1846 by John Dewar. Dewar’s White Label is the company’s most popular Scotch. It was first sold in 1899, and with a taste that is described as “heather and honey”. Dewar’s also make some single malts, under the labels Aberfeldy 12 and Aberfeldy 21. Today, Dewar’s is owned by Bacardi.

23 Courtroom V.I.P.s : DAS

District Attorney (DA)

24 Part of some future planning, for short : IRA

Individual retirement account (IRA)

25 Like many of Pindar’s works : ODIC

Pindar was an ancient Greek poet who is best known perhaps for composing a series of “Victory Odes” that celebrated triumph in competition, most notably the Olympian Games of the day.

26 Player of M in “GoldenEye” : JUDI DENCH

Dame Judi Dench is an outstanding English actress who has appeared for decades in her home country on stage and screen. Dench’s film career took off in the nineties with a relatively trivial role as “M” in the James Bond series of films. Since then she has played leading roles in several excellent movies including “Shakespeare in Love”, “Mrs. Brown”, “Notes on a Scandal” and “Philomena”.

“GoldenEye” was the first film in the “James Bond” series of movies to feature Pierce Brosnan as the lead. The title is a nod to the author of the “James Bond” novels, Ian Fleming. Fleming had worked for British Naval Intelligence during the war, and on Operation Goldeneye in particular. Fleming also used Goldeneye as the name for his estate in Jamaica.

33 Player of V in “V for Vendetta” : HUGO WEAVING

“V for Vendetta” is a 2006 movie based on the political thriller graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. The film stars Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman and Stephen Rea. Two other Moore novels made it to the big screen: “From Hell” and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”.

36 Cabinet dept. concerned with farming : AGR

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) actually dates back to 1862, when it was established by then-president Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln referred to the USDA as the “people’s department” as our economy had such a vast agrarian base back then.

37 Chicago landmark nicknamed for its resemblance to a legume : THE BEAN

Cloud Gate is a famous sculpture that sits in the center of Chicago’s Millennium Park. Nicknamed “the Bean” because of its shape, Cloud Gate is the work of Indian-born British sculptor Anish Kapoor. The work comprises 168 stainless steel plates that are so highly polished that not one seam is visible.

39 Player of J in “Men in Black” : WILL SMITH

The multi-talented Will Smith started his performing career as a rap artist in the late 1980s using the stage name “the Fresh Prince”. He then landed the lead role in the hit sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, and parlayed that into an extremely successful movie career. Smith has two children with his second wife, actress Jada Koren Pinkett. His son Jaden Smith co-starred with his dad in the movies “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “After Earth”. His daughter Willow Smith appeared with Will in the movie “I am Legend”.

“Men in black” (MIB) are said to have appeared in the past whenever there have been reports of UFO sightings. Supposedly, these men are government agents whose job it is to suppress reports of alien landings. The conspiracy theorists got their day in the movies with the release of a pretty good sci-fi comedy in 1997 called “Men in Black”, starring Will Smith (as Agent J) and Tommy Lee Jones (as Agent K).

43 Urban portmanteau : SMOG

“Smog” is a portmanteau formed by melding “smoke” and “fog”. The term was first used to describe the air around London in the early 1900s. Several cities around the world have a reputation of being particularly smoggy. For example, the most smog-plagued city in Latin America is Mexico City, which is located in a highland “bowl” that traps industrial and vehicle pollution.

A portmanteau was a large suitcase, one that could be taken apart into two separate pieces. The word “portmanteau” is French for a “travelling bag”, from “porter” (to carry) and “manteau” (a coat, cloak). We also use “portmanteau” to mean a word that has been melded together from two parts (just as the suitcase comprised two parts). This usage was introduced to the world by Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. He explained to Alice that the nonsense words in the “Jabberwocky” poem were actually portmanteau words. For example “slithy” comes from from “slimy” and “lithe”.

58 What Dante wrote in : ITALIANO

In Italian, “Italiano” (Italian) is a “lingua” (language).

Dante Alighieri, the Italian poet famous for writing his “Divine Comedy”, is known in his native Italy as “the Supreme Poet” (il Sommo Poeta), or simply “il Poeta”.

Down

1 Spanish fleet? : RAPIDO

“Rapido” is Spanish for “rapid, fast, fleet”.

2 San Francisco Bay city : ALAMEDA

“Alameda” is Spanish for “a place full of poplars”. There are number of locations in the US and elsewhere with the name “Alameda”, including the county of Alameda, California where I am right now, writing this post. Alameda County is also home to the city of Alameda located on Alameda Island.

4 Big ___ : SUR

Big Sur is a lovely part of the California Coast located south of Monterey and Carmel. The name “Big Sur” comes from the original Spanish description of the area as “el sur grande” meaning “the big south”.

8 Julia Ward ___, writer of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” : HOWE

Julia Ward Howe was an active pacifist and suffragist. Howe is also well known as the writer of the lyrics to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.

13 Mezzanine, e.g. : TIER

A mezzanine in a building is a low story between two taller ones. The term came to be used for the lowest balcony in a theater in the 1920s.

26 Typical Seder attendee : JEW

The Passover Seder is a ritual feast that marks the beginning of the Jewish Passover holiday, celebrating the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. One of the traditions at the meal is that the youngest child at the table asks “The Four Questions”, all relating to why this night is different from all other nights in the year:

  • Why is it that on all other nights during the year we eat either bread or matzoh, but on this night we eat only matzoh?
  • Why is it that on all other nights we eat all kinds of herbs, but on this night we eat only bitter herbs?
  • Why is it that on all other nights we do not dip our herbs even once, but on this night we dip them twice?
  • Why is it that on all other nights we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night we eat in a reclining position?

28 Rutherford known as “The Father of Nuclear Physics” : ERNEST

By some definitions, New Zealand-born physicist and chemist Ernest Rutherford was the first person to “split the atom”. Rutherford bombarded nitrogen with alpha particles and thereby forced neutrons out of the nucleus of the nitrogen atom. The first intentional nuclear “fission” came decades later in the 1930s, with experiments in which larger nuclei were split into smaller nuclei.

30 Popular boots from Australia : UGGS

Uggs are sheepskin boots that were first produced in Australia and New Zealand. The original Uggs have sheepskin fleece on the inside for comfort and insulation, with a tanned leather surface on the outside for durability. “Ugg” is a generic term Down Under, although it’s a brand name here in the US.

31 Title role for Sally Field : NORMA RAE

“Norma Rae” is a 1979 movie starring Sally Field as Norma Rae Webster in a tale of union activities in a textile factory in Alabama. The film is based on the true story of Crystal Lee Sutton told in a 1975 book called “Crystal Lee, a Woman of Inheritance”.

Actress Sally Field first came to the public’s attention in the sixties with title roles in the TV shows “Gidget” and “The Flying Nun”. She has two Best Actress Oscars: one for “Norma Rae” (1979) and one for “Places in the Heart” (1984).

35 Online handle for an Xbox player : GAMERTAG

The Xbox line of video game consoles is made by Microsoft. The original Xbox platform was followed by Xbox 360 and more recently by Xbox One. Microsoft’s Xbox competes directly with Sony’s PlayStation and Nintendo’s Wii.

42 Classic Camaro, informally : IROC

The IROC-Z is a model of Camaro that was introduced by Chevrolet in 1978. The IROC-Z takes its name from a famous stock car race, the International Race of Champions.

44 Action-documenting cameras : GOPROS

GoPro is a company that makes high-definition video cameras that have a rugged design. Famously, GoPro cameras are used in extreme conditions. For example, they are often mounted on moving vehicles or used by people playing sports. Recently, two astronauts on the International Space Station inserted a GoPro camera inside a floating ball of water, and then showed the view from inside the ball of water. Amazing footage …

47 Some circle dances : HORAS

The hora is a circle dance that originated in the Balkans. It was brought to Israel by Romanian settlers, and is often performed to traditional, Israeli folk songs. The hora (also horah) is a regular sight at Jewish weddings. Sometimes the honoree at an event is raised on a chair during the hora.

48 Super-uptight : ANAL

The use of the word “anal” to mean “stiffly conventional” is an abbreviated form of “anal-retentive”, a term derived from Freudian psychology. Regardless, I’m not a big fan of the term …

50 Title creature in an Aesop fable : HARE

“The Tortoise and the Hare” is perhaps the most famous fable attributed to Aesop. The cocky hare takes a nap during a race against the tortoise, and the tortoise sneaks past the finish line for the win while his speedier friend is sleeping.

51 Title in Uncle Remus stories : BR’ER

Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Fox are characters in the Uncle Remus stories, written by Joel Chandler Harris. The “Uncle Remus” stories are adaptations of African American folktales that Harris collected across the Southern States. “Br’er” is an abbreviated form of “brother”.

52 “Black Swan” jump : JETE

A jeté is a leap in ballet, with the term “jeté” coming from the French word “jeter” meaning “to throw”. A “jeté en avant” is a “leap to the front”, towards the audience. A “grand jeté” is a long horizontal jump, a split in the air, leaping from one foot to the other.

The 2010 movie “Black Swan” is a psychological thriller (described by some as a horror film) set against the background of a ballet company staging Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”. Natalie Portman plays an obsessive ballerina who seems perfect for the role of the White Swan in “Swan Lake”, but doesn’t seem to have the passion to also play the Black Swan. Then things start to go wonky …

55 Two for the show, informally? : TIX

Tickets (tix)

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Precursor to riches, it’s said : RAGS
5 “A Farewell to Arms” subj. : WWI
8 Snide chuckle : HE HE
12 Unalaskan, e.g. : ALEUTIAN
14 Hide-y holes? : PORES
15 Player of X in “X-Men” : PATRICK STEWART
17 Alternatives to texts : IMS
18 Squeeze (out) : EKE
19 Frequent favorite : ONE-SEED
21 Scotch brand : DEWAR’S
23 Courtroom V.I.P.s : DAS
24 Part of some future planning, for short : IRA
25 Like many of Pindar’s works : ODIC
26 Player of M in “GoldenEye” : JUDI DENCH
29 Carefully listening (to) : ATTUNED
32 Screw up : ERR
33 Player of V in “V for Vendetta” : HUGO WEAVING
36 Cabinet dept. concerned with farming : AGR
37 Chicago landmark nicknamed for its resemblance to a legume : THE BEAN
39 Player of J in “Men in Black” : WILL SMITH
43 Urban portmanteau : SMOG
45 Lead-in to -cide : ECO-
46 Equal : ARE
47 Would really rather not : HATE TO
49 Member of a fratlike Silicon Valley work environment : TECH BRO
52 “Game of Thrones” role ___ Snow : JON
53 Cardi B’s genre : RAP
54 15-, 26-, 33- or 39-Across, punnily? : CHARACTER ACTOR
57 Answer to the old riddle “What wears more clothing in summer than in winter?” : A TREE
58 What Dante wrote in : ITALIANO
59 Try to get a good look : PEER
60 Crosses out : XES
61 A really long time : AGES

Down

1 Spanish fleet? : RAPIDO
2 San Francisco Bay city : ALAMEDA
3 Becomes involved in : GETS WITH
4 Big ___ : SUR
5 Ones going down in flames? : WICKS
6 Shake, maybe : WAKE
7 Walk-___ : INS
8 Julia Ward ___, writer of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” : HOWE
9 Really long times : ERAS
10 Contained by this text : HEREIN
11 Ph-neutral vitamin brand : ESTER-C
13 Mezzanine, e.g. : TIER
14 Magical basin used to view one’s memories in the Harry Potter books : PENSIEVE
16 Disgusting sort : TOAD
20 “Lah-di-___!” : DAH
22 Honest-to-goodness : ACTUAL
23 Cool woman, jocularly : DUDETTE
26 Typical Seder attendee : JEW
27 Tiny amount : DRIB
28 Rutherford known as “The Father of Nuclear Physics” : ERNEST
30 Popular boots from Australia : UGGS
31 Title role for Sally Field : NORMA RAE
34 “How relaxing!” : AHH!
35 Online handle for an Xbox player : GAMERTAG
38 Zero : NOT A ONE
39 Drippy, say : WET
40 Geographical feature of Mars : ICE CAP
41 12-time Olympic swimming medalist Ryan : LOCHTE
42 Classic Camaro, informally : IROC
44 Action-documenting cameras : GOPROS
47 Some circle dances : HORAS
48 Super-uptight : ANAL
50 Title creature in an Aesop fable : HARE
51 Title in Uncle Remus stories : BR’ER
52 “Black Swan” jump : JETE
55 Two for the show, informally? : TIX
56 Org. concerned with bugs and plants : CIA

12 thoughts on “0221-19 NY Times Crossword 21 Feb 19, Thursday”

  1. 27:52. I’ve never seen an X-Men movie, and I didn’t know JUDI DENCH or HUGO WEAVING so this turned into a bit of a slog for me. I didn’t know PENSIEVE either as I’ve never seen a Harry Potter movie.

    ODIC threw me. I had ODES originally, but it kept tripping me up.

    Best –

  2. 46:30 with 1 error…. I spelled Judi Judy .
    A lot of crosses and guesses only to come up with that frustrating Y for I .
    Not my favorite either

  3. Me too. I’m of an age where puzzles heavy on pop culture leave me cold. Still, only a couple of squares short. I admire the talents of all constructors, but really didn’t like the clue Hide-y holes for PORES.
    A challenging Thursday.

  4. Though I saw “V F V” years ago, didn’t remember anybody in it, so I entered HUGO WEARING and getting PENSIERE @14D which sounded like some French thought receptacle. Otherwise, not too much trouble. Thought 46A equal being ARE was a stretch but I could see it.

  5. 32:03, no errors. Didn’t get the humor of the theme until I saw Bill’s explanation. Familiar with HUGO WEAVING from his portrayal of Elrond in the ‘Lord of the Rings’. Nasty curveball with “Frequent favorite” as a ONE SEED. Hadn’t heard of a PENSIEVE either, tried to look it up, but it appears to be a creation of J.K. Rowling for the Harry Potter series.

  6. Didn’t care for the “hide-y holes” clue. Hadn’t heard of Hugo Weaving and haven’t read/seen Harry Potter. Went with some word play, based on the clue and, good guess, “pensive” became “pensieve.” Still, this took me at least half an hour which is not par for a Thursday.

    Bill, love this blog and the comments. I scan it every Wednesday through Saturday (Sunday’s puzzle is too long; Monday and Tuesday’s too easy).

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