1217-19 NY Times Crossword 17 Dec 19, Tuesday

Constructed by: David Levinson Wilk
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Reveal Answer: Elves

Themed answers are common phrases in the format xLESS y, where “x” represents letters missing from the corresponding clue. Very, very clever …

  • 17A _xygen _iflu_ _ide : ODORLESS GAS (“Oxygen difluoride” less the letters O-D-O-R)
  • 22A _ax_ d_iv_r : TIRELESS WORKER (“Taxidriver” less the letters T-I-R-E)
  • 36A R_od_ Isl_n_ Red : HEADLESS CHICKEN (“Rhode Island Red” less the letters H-E-A-D)
  • 46A _ranklin D_l_no _oosevelt : FEARLESS LEADER (“Franklin Delano Roosevelt” less the letters F-E-A-R)
  • 54A _ _rr_e_ : HAIRLESS DOG (“Harrier” less the letters H-A-I-R)

Read on, or jump to …
… a complete list of answers

Bill’s time: 6m 49s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1 Boardroom easel display : GRAPH

The word “easel” comes from an old Dutch word meaning “donkey”, would you believe? The idea is that an easel carries its load (an oil painting, say) just as a donkey would be made to carry a load.

14 Film character about whom Tyler Perry said “I just don’t want to be her age playing her” : MADEA

Tyler Perry is an actor, comedian and writer who is perhaps best known in front of the camera for his drag performances as a tough elderly woman named Madea. Perry also created the sitcom “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” that ran for eight seasons from 2006 until 2012.

15 Used a dinghy thingy : OARED

Our term “dinghy” comes from the Hindi “dingi”, a word meaning “small boat”.

16 Part of Bennifer, once : J.LO

“Bennifer” is a portmanteau used for the super-couple pairing of actors Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. Other supercouples are/were:

  • Tomkat – Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes
  • Grant ‘n’ Hurley – Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley
  • Posh and Becks – Victoria and David Beckham
  • Brangelina – Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

17 _xygen _iflu_ _ide : ODORLESS GAS (“Oxygen difluoride” less the letters O-D-O-R)

Oxygen difluoride has the chemical formula OF2. It is an odorless gas with powerful oxidizing properties. As such, it is considered a very unsafe compound.

20 Third piece of a three-piece : VEST

Here’s another word that often catches me out. What we call a vest here in the US is a waistcoat back in Ireland. And, the Irish use the word “vest” for an undershirt.

21 1813 battle site in the War of 1812 : ERIE

The Battle of Lake Erie was fought during the War of 1812 just off the Ohio coast. The outcome of the action was a defeat for the British, and American control of Lake Erie for the remainder of the war.

29 Bert who played the Cowardly Lion : LAHR

Bert Lahr’s most famous role was the cowardly lion in “The Wizard of Oz”. Lahr had a long career in burlesque, vaudeville and on Broadway. Remember the catchphrase made famous by the cartoon character Snagglepuss, “Heavens to Murgatroyd!”? Snagglepuss stole that line from a 1944 movie called “Meet the People” in which it was first uttered by none other than Bert Lahr.

30 Appearance of a comet, maybe : OMEN

Comets and asteroids are similar, both being relatively small celestial bodies orbiting the sun. Comets differ from asteroids in that they have a coma or tail, especially when they are close enough to the sun. The coma and tail are temporary fuzzy atmospheres that develop due to the presence of solar radiation. Comets are sometimes referred to as “dirty snowballs”, a reference to their composition: rock, dust, water ice and frozen gases.

31 Horse and buggy users : AMISH

The Amish are members of a group of Christian churches, and a subgroup of the Mennonite churches. The Amish church originated in Switzerland and Alsace in 1693 when it was founded by Jakob Ammann. It was Ammann who gave the name to the Amish people. Many Amish people came to Pennsylvania in the 18th century.

36 R_od_ Isl_n_ Red : HEADLESS CHICKEN (“Rhode Island Red” less the letters H-E-A-D)

The Rhode Island Red is a breed of chicken that was developed in Rhode Island and Massachusetts from the Malay chicken, and as such, the new chickens were originally named Red Malays. The Rhode Island Red was made the state bird of Rhode Island in 1954.

40 Really binges (on) : ODS

Overdose (OD)

43 “Smart” boy’s name : ALEC

Apparently, the original “smart Alec” (sometimes “Aleck”) was one Alec Hoag, a pimp, thief and confidence trickster who plied his trade in New York City in the 1840s.

46 _ranklin D_l_no _oosevelt : FEARLESS LEADER (“Franklin Delano Roosevelt” less the letters F-E-A-R)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was the only child of Sara Delano and James Roosevelt Sr. The Delano family history in America goes back to the pilgrim Philippe de Lannoy, an immigrant of Flemish descent who arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. The family name “de Lannoy” was anglicized here in the US, to “Delano”. Franklin was to marry Eleanor Roosevelt, and apparently the relationship between Sara and her daughter-in-law was very “strained”.

51 Dirty pics : SMUT

“Smut” means “dirt, smudge” and more recently “pornographic material”. The term comes from the Yiddish “schmutz”, which is a slang word used in English for dirt, as in “dirt on one’s face”.

52 Fifth-century barbarians : HUNS

The Huns were a nomadic people who originated in Eastern Europe in the 4th century. Under the command of Attila the Hun they developed a unified empire that stretched from modern-day Germany across to the steppes of Central Asia. The whole of the Hunnic Empire collapsed within a year of Attila’s death in 453 AD.

53 Rug rat : TOT

“Rug rat” and “ankle-biter” are familiar terms meaning “child”, and especially a child who is not yet walking.

54 _ _rr_e_ : HAIRLESS DOG (“Harrier” less the letters H-A-I-R)

The harrier is breed of dog is a type of hound. The history of the breed is somewhat unclear, although it was used for centuries for trailing hares in a hunt.

63 First lady before Michelle : LAURA

Laura Bush, wife of President George W. Bush, had her memoir “Spoken from the Heart” published in 2010. Born Laura Lane Welch, the former First Lady has a Master’s degree in Library Science (as does my wife, my own First Lady!). Given that background, it’s not surprising that two causes that Laura Bush focused on while in the White House were education and literacy. She established the annual National Book Festival, first held in Washington, D.C. in 2001, after having co-founded the Texas Book Festival in her home state.

Michelle Obama née Robinson grew up on the South Side of Chicago. Her brother is Craig Robinson, former coach of men’s basketball at Oregon State University. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Michelle Robinson worked as an associate at the Chicago office of the Sidley Austin law firm. Barack Obama joined the firm as a summer associate and Michelle Robinson was assigned to mentor him, and as they say, one thing led to another …

64 Detectives, for short : PIS

Private investigator (PI)

66 Pedicurist’s board : EMERY

Emery is a very hard type of rock that is crushed for use as an abrasive. Emery paper is made by gluing small particles of emery to paper. Emery boards are just emery paper with a cardboard backing. And emery boards are primarily used for filing nails.

Down

1 Modern food concern, for short : GMO

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is one with genetic material that has been altered by genetic engineering. One might argue that the oldest form of genetic engineering is selective breeding, the use of animals or plants with desired traits for the creation of the next generation.

2 Totally cool : RAD

In modern lingo, the term “rad” means “super awesome, super cool”.

4 The “p” in m.p.g. : PER

Miles per gallon (mpg)

6 Entertainer’s crew : POSSE

Our word “posse” comes from an Anglo-Latin term from the early 15th century “posse comitatus” meaning “the force of the county”.

8 Where Che Guevara was born: Abbr. : ARG

Argentina is the second largest country in South America (after Brazil), and the world’s largest Spanish-speaking nation. The name “Argentina” comes from the Latin “argentum”, the word for “silver”. It is thought that the name was given by the early Spanish and Portuguese conquerors who also named the Rio de la Plata (the “Silver River”). Those early explorers got hold of lots of silver objects that they found among the native population.

Ernesto “Che” Guevara was born in Argentina, and in 1948 he started to study medicine at the University of Buenos Aires. While at school he satisfied his need to “see the world” by taking two long journeys around South America, the story of which are told in Guevara’s memoir later published as “The Motorcycle Diaries”. While travelling, Guevara was moved by the plight of the people he saw and their working conditions and what he viewed as capitalistic exploitation. In Mexico City he met brothers Raul and Fidel Castro and was persuaded to join their cause, the overthrow of the US-backed government in Cuba. He rose to second-in-command among the Cuban insurgents, and when Castro came to power Guevara was influential in repelling the Bay of Pigs Invasion and bringing Soviet nuclear missiles to the island. Guevara left Cuba in 1965 to continue his work as a revolutionary. He was captured by Bolivian forces in 1967, and was executed. Fidel Castro led the public mourning of Guevara’s death, and soon the revolutionary was an icon for many left-wing movements around the world.

11 One-named singer who once led the Sugarcubes : BJORK

Björk is a rather eccentric singer-songwriter from Iceland who is a big hit in the UK in particular. Björk is the daughter of a nationally-recognized union leader in her home country.

12 1966 Michael Caine title role : ALFIE

There have been two versions of the movie “Alfie”. The original, and for my money the best, was made in 1966 with Michael Caine. The remake came out in 2004 and stars Jude Law in the title role. The theme song was performed by Cher in the 1966 movie, but it was Dionne Warwick’s cover version from 1967 that was the most successful in the charts.

18 Prey for barracudas : EELS

The fish called a barracuda is large and dangerous-looking, with a fierce looking jaw filled with fang-like teeth. I was surrounded by a large school of barracuda once, many years ago while scuba diving. A scary experience …

23 Bean sprouts? : IDEAS

The bean, the conk, the head …

24 ___ McNally (mapmaker) : RAND

Rand McNally is a company long associated with the city of Chicago. Its roots go back to 1856 when William Rand opened a printing shop in the city. Two years later he hired an Irish immigrant named Andrew McNally and the pair turned to printing tickets and timetables for the railroad industry. They diversified into “railroad guides” in 1870, including the first Rand McNally map in the December 1872 edition. When automobile travel started to become significant, Rand and McNally turned their attention to roads and they published their first road map in 1904, a map of New York City. Rand and McNally popularized the use of highway numbers, and indeed erected many roadside highway signs themselves, long before the state and federal authorities adopted the idea.

28 ___-chic (fashion style) : BOHO

Boho-chic is a style of fashion that grew out of the bohemian and hippie looks.

31 New Balance competitor : ASICS

ASICS is a Japanese company that produces athletic gear, including running shoes. The name comes from the Latin phrase “anima sana in corpore sano” which translates to “a healthy soul in a healthy body”.

New Balance is a footwear manufacturer based in Boston, Massachusetts.

32 Browser option : MSN

The Microsoft Network (MSN) used to be an Internet service provider (ISP). These days, MSN is mainly a web portal.

A web browser is a piece of software used to access the World Wide Web. The first web browser was called “WorldWideWeb” and was invented in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee, the man who created the World Wide Web. The browser known as Mosaic came out in 1993, and it was this browser that drove so much interest in the World Wide Web, and indeed in the Internet in general. Marc Andreessen led the team that created Mosaic, and he then set up his own company called Netscape. Netscape created the Netscape Navigator browser that further popularized the use of the Web starting in 1994. Microsoft responded by introducing Internet Explorer in 1995, which sparked the so-called “browser war”, a war that Microsoft clearly won. As Netscape floundered, the company launched the open-source Mozilla project which eventually led to the Firefox browser. Apple then came out with it’s own Safari browser in 2003. Google’s Chrome browser, introduced in 2008, is by far the most popular way to view the Web today.

33 FaceTime alternative : SKYPE

The main feature of the Skype application when introduced was that it allows voice communication to take place over the Internet (aka VoIP). Skype has other features such as video conferencing and instant messaging, but the application made its name from voice communication. Skype was founded by two Scandinavian entrepreneurs and the software necessary was developed by a team of engineers in Estonia. The development project was originally called “Sky peer-to-peer” so the first commercial name for the application was “Skyper”. This had to be shortened to “Skype” because the skyper.com domain name was already in use.

FaceTime is an Apple video-telephony application. I guess it’s similar to Skype. Personally, I gave up on Skype and am now a loyal user of Google Hangouts and Google Duo …

34 Biblical outcast : LEPER

The horrible disease known as leprosy is also called Hansen’s disease, named after the Norwegian physician famous for isolating the bacterium that causes the disease. We can use the term “leper” to mean someone in general who is shunned by society.

35 Much of binary code : ONES

Our base-10 numeral system is also known as the decimal (sometimes “denary”) numeral system. Another common numeral system is base-2, which is also known as the binary system.

38 Weapon used when saying “En garde!” : EPEE

“En garde” is a French term that has been absorbed into the sport of fencing. Originally a warning (meaning “on guard!”), it is spoken at the start of an encounter to warn the fencers to take a defensive position.

39 Land between Nigeria and Sudan : CHAD

The landlocked African country called Chad takes its name from the second largest wetland on the continent, which is known as Lake Chad.

Nigeria is in West Africa, and it takes its name from the Niger River that flows through the country. Nigeria is the most populous country on the continent, with over 180 million inhabitants. It is also the most populous member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Sudan was the largest country in Africa until 2011, when the Southern Sudan region opted by referendum to become independent. “North Sudan” retained the name of Sudan, and the new state is called South Sudan. Sudan is now the third largest country in the continent, after Algeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

43 Without which earth is just “eh”? : ART

The word “earth” becomes “eh” when the letters “art” are removed.

44 Wilder who played Willy Wonka : GENE

Gene Wilder was an actor noted for his comedic roles. Wilder had a successful collaboration with Mel Brooks on three great films: “The Producers”, “Blazing Saddles” and my favorite, “Young Frankenstein”. For a while, Wilder dated his “Young Frankenstein” co-star Teri Garr, but he was married most famously to “Saturday Night Live” star Gilda Radner.

Willy Wonka is the lead character in the 1964 novel by Roald Dahl called “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory”. Willy Wonka has been portrayed on the big screen twice. Gene Wilder was a fabulous Wonka in the 1971 version titled “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”, and Johnny Depp played him in the Tim Burton movie from 2005 called “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. I’m not too fond of Tim Burton movies, so I haven’t seen that one …

45 Do some down-and-dirty fighting : RASSLE

“Rassle” is a slang word meaning “wrestle”.

46 Camera setting : F-STOP

Varying the f-stop in a lens varies how big the lens opening (the aperture) is when a photograph is taken. Smaller apertures (higher f-stop values) admit less light, but result in a greater depth of field (more of the photograph is in focus).

47 Word derived from the Japanese for “picture writing” : EMOJI

An emoji is a character found on many cell phones that is much like an emoticon, but is more elaborate.

48 Buicks and Bentleys : AUTOS

David Dunbar Buick was an inventor working in Detroit, Michigan who founded the Buick Motor Company in 1903. Buick sold his interest in Buick Motors just three years later. He passed away in 1929, practically penniless. Still, over 30 million vehicles have been built that bore the Buick name.

The Bentley is a luxury car that is built in the UK. Bentley Motors was founded in 1919 by W. O. Bentley, and taken over by Rolls Royce in 1931. The company has been owned by Volkswagen since 1998.

56 Brewpub offering, for short : IPA

India pale ale (IPA) is a style of beer that originated in England. The beer was originally intended for transportation from England to India, hence the name.

57 Cooke who sang “Twistin’ the Night Away” : SAM

Sam Cooke was a soul singer from Clarksdale, Mississippi. Cooke is considered by many to have been one of the founders of the soul genre. Cooke’s impressive list of hits includes “You Send Me”, Chain Gang” and “Twistin’ the Night Away”. Cooke was only 33 years old when he died. He was shot after a drunken brawl by a motel manager in what was deemed by the courts to be a justifiable homicide.

58 Like a pregnant woman at about 40 weeks : DUE

The normal gestation period for humans is 280 days, a little over 9 months. The gestation period can be a little shorter, or longer. Back in 1945, a pregnancy was confirmed at 375 days, which is just over 12 months.

59 Bobby of the Boston Bruins : ORR

Bobby Orr is regarded as one of the greatest hockey players of all time. By the time he retired in 1978 he had undergone over a dozen knee surgeries. At 31 years of age, he concluded that he just couldn’t skate anymore. Reportedly, he was even having trouble walking. While still 31 years old, in 1979, Orr became the youngest person inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Prior to that, in 1967, Orr became the youngest person named the NHL’s Rookie of the Year.

The Boston Bruins professional ice hockey team goes way back, and has been in existence since 1924. The National Hockey League back then was a Canadian-only league, but was expanded to include the US in 1923. The Bruins were the first US-team in the expanded league.

60 The “G” of L.G.B.T. : GAY

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Boardroom easel display : GRAPH
6 Spanish beach : PLAYA
11 Sack : BAG
14 Film character about whom Tyler Perry said “I just don’t want to be her age playing her” : MADEA
15 Used a dinghy thingy : OARED
16 Part of Bennifer, once : J.LO
17 _xygen _iflu_ _ide : ODORLESS GAS (“Oxygen difluoride” less the letters O-D-O-R)
19 On vacation : OFF
20 Third piece of a three-piece : VEST
21 1813 battle site in the War of 1812 : ERIE
22 _ax_ d_iv_r : TIRELESS WORKER (“Taxidriver” less the letters T-I-R-E)
28 Awesomely tough : BADASS
29 Bert who played the Cowardly Lion : LAHR
30 Appearance of a comet, maybe : OMEN
31 Horse and buggy users : AMISH
33 Caution in a school zone : SLO
36 R_od_ Isl_n_ Red : HEADLESS CHICKEN (“Rhode Island Red” less the letters H-E-A-D)
40 Really binges (on) : ODS
41 Express viewpoints : OPINE
42 Build up : HYPE
43 “Smart” boy’s name : ALEC
44 Bunch at a fruit stand : GRAPES
46 _ranklin D_l_no _oosevelt : FEARLESS LEADER (“Franklin Delano Roosevelt” less the letters F-E-A-R)
51 Dirty pics : SMUT
52 Fifth-century barbarians : HUNS
53 Rug rat : TOT
54 _ _rr_e_ : HAIRLESS DOG (“Harrier” less the letters H-A-I-R)
61 Spanish eye : OJO
62 Kick out : EXPEL
63 First lady before Michelle : LAURA
64 Detectives, for short : PIS
65 Books, informally : READS
66 Pedicurist’s board : EMERY

Down

1 Modern food concern, for short : GMO
2 Totally cool : RAD
3 “Without further ___ …” : ADO
4 The “p” in m.p.g. : PER
5 Divides evenly : HALVES
6 Entertainer’s crew : POSSE
7 Stands the test of time : LASTS
8 Where Che Guevara was born: Abbr. : ARG
9 Opposite of nay : YEA
10 Billboards, e.g. : ADS
11 One-named singer who once led the Sugarcubes : BJORK
12 1966 Michael Caine title role : ALFIE
13 Errand runner : GOFER
18 Prey for barracudas : EELS
21 Mess up : ERR
22 Wild no more : TAMED
23 Bean sprouts? : IDEAS
24 ___ McNally (mapmaker) : RAND
25 Pizzeria order : SLICE
26 Load of laundry : WASH
27 “Didn’t think I’d run into you here!” : OH, HI!
28 ___-chic (fashion style) : BOHO
31 New Balance competitor : ASICS
32 Browser option : MSN
33 FaceTime alternative : SKYPE
34 Biblical outcast : LEPER
35 Much of binary code : ONES
37 Laze : LOLL
38 Weapon used when saying “En garde!” : EPEE
39 Land between Nigeria and Sudan : CHAD
43 Without which earth is just “eh”? : ART
44 Wilder who played Willy Wonka : GENE
45 Do some down-and-dirty fighting : RASSLE
46 Camera setting : F-STOP
47 Word derived from the Japanese for “picture writing” : EMOJI
48 Buicks and Bentleys : AUTOS
49 Ripped bit : SHRED
50 Downtimes : LULLS
54 ___ Highness : HER
55 Firefighter’s tool : AXE
56 Brewpub offering, for short : IPA
57 Cooke who sang “Twistin’ the Night Away” : SAM
58 Like a pregnant woman at about 40 weeks : DUE
59 Bobby of the Boston Bruins : ORR
60 The “G” of L.G.B.T. : GAY

14 thoughts on “1217-19 NY Times Crossword 17 Dec 19, Tuesday”

    1. I agree. Usually I don’t do Tuesday’s (nor Monday’s) puzzle — too easy — but this one was well worth the time (about 15 mnutes).

  1. No Errors – Didn’t understand HEADLESSCHICKEN.
    Never heard of ASICS; was trying to make ADIAS work, but again, the crosses would not allow it.

    Looked BJORK up in google.

  2. No errors. As to @Terry Stewart’s question about HEADLESS CHICKEN: I don’t think that it is necessarily meant to make sense. Out of the five theme answers, two make sense and three do not. 1) the gas is indeed odorless 2) but the taxi driver actually has tires 3) and the chicken actually does have a head 4) and the President was indeed fearless 5) but the dog actually has hair. There is no consistent symmetry. I wondered the same thing.

  3. I have to surely admit, this one WAS clever. Unlike so many tirelessly cute, forced themes, this one works, and elicits a grin when you “get it”. Bravo.

    As for Bjork, she is a marvel; a force of energy (and yes, an acquired taste). I’ve been a fan since I heard her vocal gymnastics on “Birthday” by her maiden band, The Sugarcubes. Still sends chills up and down my spine decades later, whenever I hear it.

  4. 11:02, no errors. My greatest difficulty was trying to make TERRIER work in 54A instead of HARRIER (which I had not heard of).

    My 2 cents regarding the theme entries:
    17A as previously cited, oxygen difluoride is an odorless gas.
    22A a taxi driver who works 12 hour shifts could be a tireless worker.
    36A decapitated chickens sometimes are able to run around for a several seconds, obviously without thought and direction. I have heard the expression “Running around like a headless chicken”, referring to someone who is attempting to act quickly, without thought or direction.
    46A self explanatory.
    54A had to wiki HARRIER, after the fact. There are hairless dogs, but harriers are not among them.

    1. @BruceB—-I took 22-Across as referring to the tires on the taxi cab. Any kind of worker could be “tireless”. If referring to the tires that roll on the pavement then the taxi driver would have tires and therefore would not be “tireless”.

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