1231-19 NY Times Crossword 31 Dec 19, Tuesday

Constructed by: Evan Kalish
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Reveal Answer: Lose Weight

Themed answers end with steps in a word series that takes us from POUND to PO, losing a letter each time we move down the grid:

  • 61A Common New Year’s resolution — as hinted at by the answers to the four starred clues : LOSE WEIGHT
  • 17A *Currency replaced by the euro : IRISH POUND
  • 31A *Decorative garden feature with fish : KOI POND
  • 37A *Almost-identical pair, figuratively : TWO PEAS IN A POD
  • 43A *It flows through Turin : RIVER PO

… a complete list of answers

Bill’s time: 6m 24s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1 Diving gear : SCUBA

The self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) was co-invented by celebrated French marine explorer Jacques Cousteau.

6 Home to seven “-stan” countries : ASIA

The suffix “-stan” in many place names is Persian for “place of”.

10 Drive-up bank conveniences : ATMS

Automatic Teller Machine (ATM)

14 Wagner on a very valuable baseball card : HONUS

Honus Wagner was a professional shortstop who played mainly for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wagner was one of the first five players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He actually received the second-highest number of votes, tying with Babe Ruth and just behind Ty Cobb.

T206 is a series of tobacco cards that was issued by the American Tobacco Company from 1909 to 1911. The series is famous among collectors of baseball cards due to its extreme rarity. The T206 Honus Wagner card is the most valuable baseball card in existence, with examples routinely fetching hundreds of thousands of dollars in auctions.

15 James of Her Majesty’s Secret Service : BOND

The character James Bond was the creation of writer Ian Fleming. Fleming “stole” the James Bond name from an American ornithologist. The number 007 was “stolen” from the real-life, 16th century English spy called John Dee. Dee would sign his reports to Queen Elizabeth I with a stylized “007” to indicate that the reports were for “her eyes only”. There’s an entertaining miniseries that aired on BBC America called “Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond” that details Ian Fleming’s military career, and draws some nice parallels between Fleming’s experiences and aspirations and those of his hero James Bond. Recommended …

The UK government gets its foreign intelligence through the Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6. The moniker “MI6” arose during WWII, and stands for “Military Intelligence, Section 6”. “MI5” is the common name for the UK’s Security Service, the UK’s counter-intelligence and security agency.

16 Actress Patricia of “Hud” : NEAL

Patricia Neal won her Best Actress Oscar relatively late in her career, for playing a middle-aged housekeeper in 1963’s “Hud”. A few years’ later, she was offered the role of Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate” but turned it down. Famously, Neal had an affair with Gary Cooper who was married at the time. She became pregnant with his child, but he persuaded her to have an abortion. Not long afterwards Neal married British writer Roald Dahl (of “Willy Wonka” fame) and the couple had five children together before divorcing in 1983.

The modern-day, western movie called “Hud” was released in 1963 and has become a classic. “Hud” stars Paul Newman (in the title role) and Patricia Neal and is an adaptation of a novel by Larry McMurtry called “Horseman, Pass By”. Patricia Neal’s role in the film was relatively small, yet her performance was enough to earn her an Academy Award for Best Actress.

17 *Currency replaced by the euro : IRISH POUND

The “punt” (also “Irish pound”) was the currency of Ireland until the euro went into circulation in 2002.

19 ___ a soul (no one) : NARY

The adjective “nary” means “not one”, as in “nary a soul” or even “nary a one”.

20 G.O.P. fund-raising org. : RNC

National leadership of the Republican Party is provided by the Republican National Committee (RNC). Only one chairperson of the RNC has been elected to the office of US president, and that was George H. W. Bush.

The Republican Party has had the nickname Grand Old Party (GOP) since 1875. That said, the phrase was coined in the “Congressional Record” as “this gallant old party”. The moniker was changed to “grand old party” in 1876 in an article in the “Cincinnati Commercial”. The Republican Party’s elephant mascot dates back to an 1874 cartoon drawn by Thomas Nast for “Harper’s Weekly”. The Democrat’s donkey was already an established symbol. Nast drew a donkey clothed in a lion’s skin scaring away the other animals. One of the scared animals was an elephant, which Nast labeled “The Republican Vote”.

28 Pigeon’s sound : COO

Taxonomically, doves and pigeons are the only members of the order Columbidae. The terms “dove” and “pigeon” are often used interchangeably. Scientifically speaking, dove species tend to be smaller that pigeon species. Colloquially though, many refer to doves as the white or nearly white species in the family.

29 Trip through the bush : SAFARI

“Safari” is a Swahili word meaning “journey” or “expedition”.

31 *Decorative garden feature with fish : KOI POND

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.

41 ___ Sea (mostly dried-up lake) : ARAL

The Aral Sea is a great example of how man can have a devastating effect on his environment. In the early sixties the Aral Sea covered 68,000 square miles of Central Asia. Soviet irrigation projects drained the lake to such an extent that today the total area is less than 7,000 square miles, with 90% of the lake now completely dry. Sad …

42 Country on an isthmus : PANAMA

The nation that we now know as Panama sits on an isthmus that formed about 3 million years ago. The isthmus was the result of a land bridge forming between North and South America as two tectonic plates of the Earth’s crust slowly collided. Man first attempted to create a waterway across the Isthmus of Panama in 1881, but the 48-mile long Panama Canal only opened for business in 1914.

The word “isthmus” (plural “isthmi”) comes from the Greek word for “neck”. An isthmus is a narrow strip of land that usually connects two large land masses. The most notable examples of the formation are the Isthmus of Corinth in the Greek peninsula, and the Isthmus of Panama, connecting North and South America.

43 *It flows through Turin : RIVER PO

The Po flows right across northern Italy, and is the longest river in the country. The largest city on the Po is Turin.

Turin (“Torino” in Italian) is a major city in the north of Italy that sits on the Po River. Back in 1861, when the Kingdom of Italy was formed, Turin was chosen as the first capital of the country.

46 Big name in sunglasses : RAY-BAN

Ray-Ban sunglasses were introduced in 1937 for the US Army Air Corps. The Ray-Ban Aviator model of glasses became very popular with the pilots, and apparently with General Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur was wearing a pair when he was photographed “returning” to the Philippines in WWII.

59 Periods after the fourth qtr. : OTS

Overtime (OT)

60 Duchess of ___ (Goya subject) : ALBA

María Cayetana de Silva was the 13th Duchess of Alba. She was a favorite subject of the Spanish painter Francisco Goya. The duchess is the subject in the famous portraits known as “La maja desnuda” (The Nude Maja) and “La maja vestida” (The Clothed Maja). “Maja” translates from Spanish as “beautiful lady”.

64 “Dear Santa” requests : TOYS

Canada Post has an official Santa Claus letter-response system that it introduced in 1983. Those wishing to write to Santa can address the envelope with the special post code H0H 0H0 (rewritten as H0 H0 H0). Canada Post answers about a million letters a year, each of them in the language of the sender. My hat is off to Canada Post, and to the volunteer workers at the Montreal post office that started the tradition of answering letters to Santa back in 1974 …

66 The mermaid in “The Little Mermaid” : ARIEL

In the 1989 Disney animated film “The Little Mermaid”, the title character is given the name “Ariel”. In the original fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen that dates back to 1836, the Little Mermaid is given no name at all. There is a famous statue of the unnamed Little Mermaid sitting in Copenhagen Harbor, in Andersen’s homeland of Denmark.

67 Magnetite and cassiterite : ORES

Magnetite is a form of iron oxide ore, a valuable source of iron. It is the most magnetic of all known minerals, hence the name. Pieces of magnetite called lodestone were used in ancient times to study the property of magnetism.

Cassiterite is an ore containing tin oxide, and is the most important source of metallic tin. The ore’s name comes from the Greek “kassiteros” meaning “tin”.

Down

2 It’s reshaped by Lasik surgery : CORNEA

The cornea is the transparent part of the eye in the front, and the part that covers the iris and the pupil. Even though the cornea is not part of the eye’s lens, it acts as a lens. In fact, the cornea does most of the work focusing light coming in through the eye. It is in effect a fixed-focus lens passing on light to the variable-focus lens that is inside the eye.

LASIK surgery uses a laser to reshape the cornea of the eye to improve vision. The LASIK acronym stands for “laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis”.

3 Humanitarian org. since 1946 : UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund is known by the acronym UNICEF because the organization’s original name when it was founded in 1946 was the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. The original focus of the fund was to provide relief to children in countries that had been devastated by WWII. UNICEF is supported by contributions from governments, but also by individual donors. One of the more successful programs for collecting private donations is the Trick-or-Treat UNICEF box that has been a tradition here in North America since 1950.

4 Clear tables in a restaurant : BUS

A busboy is a person who assists a waiter, mainly by clearing tables. The verb “to bus” arose in the early 1900s and is probably a reference to the wheeled cart that was used to carry dishes.

5 Tennis’s Arthur ___ Stadium : ASHE

Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, New York opened in 1997 and for years was the largest outdoor, tennis-only venue in the world. The stadium was often criticized for not having a retractable dome to protect the playing surface from inclement weather. Well, that changed in 2016 when the stadium debuted its new retractable roof, a $150 million investment in the facility.

7 Composer whose work might be appropriate during March Madness? : SOUSA

John Philip Sousa was a composer and conductor from Washington, D.C. Sousa was well known for his patriotic marches and earned himself the nickname “The American March King”. He served as a member of the US Marine Band from 1868 to 1875, and after leaving the Marines learned to conduct and compose. One of the Sousa compositions that is well-known around the world is called “The Liberty Bell”, a tune used as the musical theme for BBC Television’s “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”. Sousa also wrote “Semper Fidelis”, which is the official march of the US Marine Corps.

“March Madness” is the name given to the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Championship (among others), that is held in the spring each year.

8 Alternative to an Airbnb : INN

Airbnb is a website-based service that matches people wanting to rent out short-term living quarters to people seeking accommodation.

10 Elsa’s sister in “Frozen” : ANNA

“Frozen” is a 2013 animated feature from Walt Disney Studios that is based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Snow Queen”. The film is all about the exploits of Princess Anna, the younger sister of Elsa, Snow Queen of Arendelle. Spoiler alert: Prince Hans of the Southern Isles seems to be a good guy for most of the film, but turns out to be a baddie in the end. And, a snowman named Olaf provides some comic relief.

11 Fans of Conan O’Brien, colloquially : TEAM COCO

Team Leno and Team Coco were the two “sides” in the so-called “War for Late Night” of 2010.

The so-called “War for Late Night” of 2010 involved Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno. O’Brien had stayed loyal to NBC on the understanding that he would take over “The Tonight Show” after Jay Leno retired. When Leno’s contract expired in 2009, NBC moved Leno aside, with his agreement, and O’Brien took over. But Leno then hosted a new spot in prime time called “The Jay Leno Show”, and apparently the two shows split the traditional late night audience, much to the annoyance of advertisers. NBC reacted by moving Leno back to the late night slot, and mayhem ensued!

12 Cast away, like Crusoe : MAROONED

When Daniel Defoe wrote his marvelous 1719 novel called “Robinson Crusoe”, he was likely thinking of real-life Scottish castaway, Alexander Selkirk. Selkirk was marooned and lived alone on the Pacific Island called “Mas a Tierra” off the coast of Chile, for four years. The island was officially renamed in 1966, and is now called Robinson Crusoe Island.

18 Give kudos : PRAISE

Our word “kudos” means acclaim given for an exceptional achievement. “Kudos” is both a singular and plural noun, and comes from the Greek “kyddos” meaning “glory, fame”.

23 Floral necklace : LEI

“Lei” is a Hawaiian word meaning “garland, wreath”, although in more general terms a lei is any series of objects strung together as an adornment for the body.

25 Sentence shortener : PAROLE

The term “parole” is a French word that we use in English, with the French “parole” meaning “word, speech”. Of particular interest is the French phrase “parole d’honneur” which translates as “word of honor”. In the early 1600s we started using “parole” to mean a promise by a prisoner of war not to escape, as in the prisoner giving his “word of honor” not to run off. Over time, parole has come to mean conditional release of a prisoner before he or she has served the full term of a sentence.

32 Tropical fruit with orange flesh : PAPAYA

The papaya is the fruit of the Carica papaya, a large tree-like plant that is native to southern Mexico and Central America. One traditional use of papaya is as a meat tenderizer. The fruit and sap contain the enzyme papain that breaks down meat fibers. Papain is used today as a component in powdered meat tenderizers.

34 Mafia bosses : CAPOS

More properly called a caporegime, a capo is a high-ranking member of the Mafia (Cosa Nostra).

38 Silently bids adieu : WAVES BYE

“Adieu” is the French for “goodbye, farewell”, from “à Dieu” meaning “to God”. The plural of “adieu” is “adieux”.

40 Doctors’ org. : AMA

American Medical Association (AMA)

41 Thank you, in Tokyo : ARIGATO

“Domo arigato” is Japanese for “thank you very much”.

44 Eggs on sushi : ROE

Sushi is a Japanese dish that has as its primary ingredient cooked, vinegared rice. The rice is usually topped with something, most often fish, and can be served in seaweed rolls. If we want raw fish by itself, then we have to order sashimi.

48 “God Save the Queen,” for one : ANTHEM

The word “anthem” used to describe a sacred song, especially one with words taken from the Scriptures. The British national anthem (“God Save the Queen/King”) technically is a hymn, and so it came to be described as “the national hymn” and later “the national anthem”. The use of the word “anthem” extended from there to describe any patriotic song.

49 Big name in chocolate and bottled water : NESTLE

Nestlé is the world’s largest food company. It was founded in 1905 in Vevey, Switzerland where the company headquarters is to this day. Although the company came into being as the result of a merger, it retains the name of one of the co-founders, German confectioner Henri Nestlé. Henri Nestlé’s real breakthrough product was baby formula.

52 Zapped at a riot, perhaps : TASED

To tase is to use a taser, a stun gun.

53 Kagan on the bench : ELENA

Elena Kagan was the Solicitor General of the United States from 2009 until 2010, when she replaced Justice John Paul Stevens on the US Supreme Court. That made Justice Kagan the first female US Solicitor General and the fourth female US Supreme Court justice. Kagan also served as the first female dean of Harvard Law School from 2003 to 2009.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Diving gear : SCUBA
6 Home to seven “-stan” countries : ASIA
10 Drive-up bank conveniences : ATMS
14 Wagner on a very valuable baseball card : HONUS
15 James of Her Majesty’s Secret Service : BOND
16 Actress Patricia of “Hud” : NEAL
17 *Currency replaced by the euro : IRISH POUND
19 ___ a soul (no one) : NARY
20 G.O.P. fund-raising org. : RNC
21 Makes a boo-boo : ERRS
22 Apply suddenly, as brakes : SLAM ON
24 Not go bad : KEEP
26 Just one small bite : A TASTE
28 Pigeon’s sound : COO
29 Trip through the bush : SAFARI
31 *Decorative garden feature with fish : KOI POND
33 Many an adopted pet : RESCUE
36 Star pitchers : ACES
37 *Almost-identical pair, figuratively : TWO PEAS IN A POD
41 ___ Sea (mostly dried-up lake) : ARAL
42 Country on an isthmus : PANAMA
43 *It flows through Turin : RIVER PO
46 Big name in sunglasses : RAY-BAN
50 Clinch victory in : ICE
51 Result of a coup : OUSTER
54 Top-notch : A-ONE
55 Preachers preach it : GOSPEL
57 Oodles : A LOT
59 Periods after the fourth qtr. : OTS
60 Duchess of ___ (Goya subject) : ALBA
61 Common New Year’s resolution — as hinted at by the answers to the four starred clues : LOSE WEIGHT
64 “Dear Santa” requests : TOYS
65 Like 2, 4, 6, 8 … : EVEN
66 The mermaid in “The Little Mermaid” : ARIEL
67 Magnetite and cassiterite : ORES
68 Common first word : DADA
69 “___ after class” : SEE ME

Down

1 Neglects, as responsibilities : SHIRKS
2 It’s reshaped by Lasik surgery : CORNEA
3 Humanitarian org. since 1946 : UNICEF
4 Clear tables in a restaurant : BUS
5 Tennis’s Arthur ___ Stadium : ASHE
6 Call off, as a mission : ABORT
7 Composer whose work might be appropriate during March Madness? : SOUSA
8 Alternative to an Airbnb : INN
9 Supplements : ADDS TO
10 Elsa’s sister in “Frozen” : ANNA
11 Fans of Conan O’Brien, colloquially : TEAM COCO
12 Cast away, like Crusoe : MAROONED
13 Subtle acknowledgments : SLY NODS
18 Give kudos : PRAISE
23 Floral necklace : LEI
25 Sentence shortener : PAROLE
27 Yarn purchase : SKEIN
30 Gym lifter’s unit : REP
32 Tropical fruit with orange flesh : PAPAYA
34 Mafia bosses : CAPOS
35 Olympics chant : USA!
37 Like the French and Italian flags : TRICOLOR
38 Silently bids adieu : WAVES BYE
39 Limited, as a search : NARROW
40 Doctors’ org. : AMA
41 Thank you, in Tokyo : ARIGATO
44 Eggs on sushi : ROE
45 Like some teeth, pork and punches : PULLED
47 Get down on the dance floor : BOOGIE
48 “God Save the Queen,” for one : ANTHEM
49 Big name in chocolate and bottled water : NESTLE
52 Zapped at a riot, perhaps : TASED
53 Kagan on the bench : ELENA
56 Comment at a bridge table : PASS
58 Herbal brews : TEAS
62 Egg cells : OVA
63 Emotion that’s “raised” : IRE

6 thoughts on “1231-19 NY Times Crossword 31 Dec 19, Tuesday”

  1. 14:41 no errors….I stared at this puzzle for quite a while after finishing but the theme wouldn’t come to me….pretty simple after you see the answer.

  2. No errors. Very nice puzzle. Very clever way to work in a theme.

    As a syndicated puzzle worker, I have never gotten into the habit of going back to check to see the original dates of publication. Today would have been a little helpful if I had done so. But I rather like to leave the holiday-appropriate themes as an extra little surprise as I work my way through the puzzle. It serves as just another “aha-moment”.

  3. 7:53, no errors. One erasure, muscle memory caused me to enter USE in 35D when I intended USA; and PENAMA didn’t work. Enjoyed the theme, after reading Bill’s explanation. oblivious to it otherwise.

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