0928-20 NY Times Crossword 28 Sep 20, Monday

Constructed by: Lynn Lempel
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Theme (according to Bill): Do a Thing

Themed answers look like common words, but are reinterpreted as as “verb a noun”:

  • 18A Support the pasture entrance? : PROP A GATE (looks like “propagate”)
  • 24A Check someone’s parent to make sure she’s of drinking age? : CARD A MOM (look like “cardamom”)
  • 37A Was introduced to the doctor? : MET A PHYSICIAN (looks like “metaphysician”)
  • 53A Do some trawling at sea? : CAST A NET (looks like “castanet”)
  • 60A Criticize Sega’s hedgehog design? : PAN A SONIC (looks like “Panasonic”)

Bill’s time: 4m 36s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1 “Aida” composer : VERDI

Giuseppe Verdi was an Italian composer, mainly of operas, who was active during the Romantic era. Equally as famous as Verdi’s operas, are arias from those operas such as “La donna è mobile” from “Rigoletto”, “The Drinking Song” from “La Traviata” and “The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” from “Nabucco”. Verdi was a big fan of William Shakespeare and wrote three operas based on the Bard’s plays: “Macbeth”, “Otello” and “Falstaff”.

“Aida” is a celebrated opera by Giuseppe Verdi that is based on a scenario written by French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette. Mariette also designed the costumes and stages for the opening performance. The opera was first staged in 1871 in an opera house in Cairo. In the storyline, Aida is an Ethiopian princess brought into Egypt as a slave. Radames is an Egyptian commander who falls in love with her, and then complications arise!

10 “Play It as It Lays” author Didion : JOAN

Joan Didion is a journalist and author who was profiled in the Netflix documentary “The Center Will Not Hold”. She won a Pulitzer for her autobiographical work “The Year of Magical Thinking”, which book she used as the basis for a stage play of the same name. The book focuses on the year following the death of her husband, while the play also encompasses the subsequent death of her daughter.

16 “___ us a son is given” : UNTO

According to the Bible’s Book of Isaiah:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

17 Celebrations with hula dancing : LUAUS

The Hawaiian party or feast known as a “luau” really dates back to 1819, when King Kamehameha II removed religious laws that governed the eating of meals. These laws called for women and men to eat separately. At the same time as he changed the laws, the king initiated the luau tradition by symbolically eating with the women who moved in his circle.

20 Calorie-counting regimen : DIET

I wish we’d stop using the term “calorie”, because it is so confusing. In terms of physics, a calorie is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree celsius (at one atmosphere of pressure). The so-called “food calorie” is one thousand times as large, as it is defined in terms of kilograms instead of grams. In attempts to differentiate between these two definitions, the former is sometimes referred to as the “small calorie” and is given the symbol “cal”. The latter is referred to as the “large calorie” and given the symbol “Cal”, with a capital C. If only we’d use the SI system of units, we’d be think in just joules, instead of large and small and food calories.

24 Check someone’s parent to make sure she’s of drinking age? : CARD A MOM (look like “cardamom”)

27 Pong game company : ATARI

Do you remember the arcade video game that is like a game of tennis, with paddles moving up and down to hit what looks like a ball, over what looks like a net? Well, that is Pong. The arcade version of Pong was introduced in 1972, with Atari selling a home version through Sears for the Christmas market in 1975.

30 Russian space station until 2001 : MIR

Russia’s Mir space station was a remarkably successful project. It held the record for the longest continuous human presence in space at just under 10 years, until the International Space Station eclipsed that record in 2010. Towards the end of the space station’s life however, the years began to take their toll. There was a dangerous fire, multiple system failures, and a collision with a resupply ship. The Russian commitment to the International Space Station drained funds for repairs, so Mir was allowed to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up in 2001. “Mir” is a Russian word meaning “peace” or “world”.

31 Liza Minnelli musical set in Berlin : CABARET

The musical “Cabaret” is based on “I Am a Camera”, a 1951 play written by John Van Druten. In turn, the play was adapted from a novel “Goodbye to Berlin” written by Christopher Isherwood. The action in the musical takes place in the 1930s, in a seedy Berlin cabaret called the Kit Kat Klub. “Cabaret” is a great stage musical, although the 1972 film of the musical isn’t one of my favorites.

Actress and singer Liza Minnelli is the daughter of Judy Garland and movie director Vincente Minnelli. Liza won her only Oscar for her lead performance in 1972’s “Cabaret”. She has also won an Emmy, Grammy and Tony, and is one of the very few entertainers to have made that “sweep”.

33 Peaty places : BOGS

When dead plant matter accumulates in marshy areas, it may not fully decay due to a lack of oxygen or acidic conditions. We are familiar with this in Ireland, because this decaying matter can form peat, and we have lots and lots of peat bogs around the country.

37 Was introduced to the doctor? : MET A PHYSICIAN (looks like “metaphysician”)

The word “metaphysics” comes from the Greek “meta” (beyond) and “physika” (physical). Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that investigates reality beyond the principles of science. Not something I would understand …

43 Lift on a ski slope : T-BAR

A T-bar is a ski lift on which the skiers are pulled up the hill in pairs, with each pair standing (not sitting!) either side of a T-shaped metal bar. The bar is placed behind the thighs, pulling along the skiers as they remain standing on their skis (hopefully!). There’s also a J-bar, which is a similar device but with each J-shaped bar used by one skier at a time.

45 Small, lobsterlike crustacean : CRAWDAD

“Crawdad” and “crawfish” are alternative names for crayfish, with “crawdad” being more common in the south of the country.

48 “Life Is Good” rapper : NAS

Rapper Nas used to go by an earlier stage name “Nasty Nas”, and before that by his real name “Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones”. Nas released his first album “Illmatic” in 1994, and inventively titled his fifth studio album “Stillmatic”, released in 2001. Not my cup of tea, I would say …

51 Thurman on the big screen : UMA

Uma Thurman started her working career as a fashion model, at the age of 15. She appeared in her first movies at 17, with her most acclaimed early role being Cécile de Volanges in 1988’s “Dangerous Liaisons”. Thurman’s career really took off when she played the gangster’s moll Mia in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” in 1994. My favorite of all Thurman’s movies is “The Truth About Cats & Dogs”, a less acclaimed romcom released in 1996. She took a few years off from acting from 1998 until 2002 following the birth of her first child. It was Tarantino who relaunched her career, giving her the lead in the “Kill Bill” films.

52 Derby entrant : HORSE

Our use of the word “derby” to mean a race started in 1780 with the English Derby horse race, which was founded then by the 12th Earl of Derby. Ultimately, the term “derby” derives from the old English shire of “Deorby”, a word meaning “deer village”.

53 Do some trawling at sea? : CAST A NET (looks like “castanet”)

Castanets are hand-held percussion instruments associated most notably with Spanish music. We tend to think of castanets being used in the flamenco style of dance, but in fact this is rarely the case. The name “castanets” comes from “castaña”, the Spanish word for “chestnut”, which they resemble.

56 Capital of Latvia : RIGA

Riga is the capital city of Latvia. The historical center of Riga is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, declared as such because of the city’s magnificent examples of Art Nouveau architecture.

Latvia is one of the former Soviet Socialist Republics (SSRs). People from Latvia are called Letts.

60 Criticize Sega’s hedgehog design? : PAN A SONIC (looks like “Panasonic”)

Sonic the Hedgehog is a title character in a videogame and the mascot of Sega, the computer game developer. Sonic was set up as a rival to Nintendo’s mascot Mario.

Not so long ago, Panasonic was called Matsushita Electronics, the name it took from its founder when the company started in 1918. The products manufactured back then were lamp sockets, and in 1927 the company introduced a bicycle lamp. Even after the company became famous for producing electrical and electronic goods, Matsushita had a very successful line of Panasonic bicycles, as the founder was raised in a family with a bicycle shop and he was passionate about cycling.

63 Annoying summer swarms : GNATS

Gnats are attracted to the smell of rotting food, and vinegar. Simple homemade traps that use vinegar are often constructed to attract and kill gnats.

67 Actress Reid of the “American Pie” films : TARA

Tara Reid is an actress known for roles she played on television and the big screen. My guess is her most-remembered performances were in the “American Pie” series of movies in which she played Vicky. Sadly, Reid succumbed to the pressure to alter her looks with plastic surgery. In interviews, she has shared that her first experience under the knife “went wrong” leading to more surgeries in attempts to rectify the resulting deformity.

69 “___ we forget” : LEST

“Lest we forget” is an oft-quoted phrase, one that comes from a poem by Rudyard Kipling called “Recessional”. Kipling wrote the piece on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897 and used it to express sadness at the waning of the British Empire. The phrase “lest we forget” is used in this context, a warning that the empire will decline. Ever since WWI we’ve been using the words on memorials as a plea not to forget the sacrifices made by others in the past.

70 Truant G.I.’s infraction : AWOL

MPs (military police officers) often track down personnel who go AWOL (absent without leave).

“Truant” is such a lovely word. We have been using it to describe someone who wanders from an appointed place since the mid-1400s. Prior to that, a truant was a beggar or a vagabond.

71 Big health insurer : AETNA

When the healthcare management and insurance company known as Aetna was founded, the name was chosen to evoke images of Mount Etna, the Italian volcano.

Down

1 Kilmer who played Batman : VAL

Val Kilmer’s first big leading role in a movie was playing Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone’s 1991 biopic “The Doors”. A few years later, Kilmer was chosen for the lead in another big production, “Batman Forever”. Things haven’t really gone as well for Kilmer since then, I’d say. Off the screen, he flirted with the idea of running for Governor of New Mexico in 2010. A Hollywood actor as a governor? Would never happen …

2 End of a college web address : .EDU

The .edu domain was one of the six original generic top-level domains specified. The complete original list is:

  • .com (commercial enterprise)
  • .net (entity involved in network infrastructure e.g. an ISP)
  • .mil (US military)
  • .org (not-for-profit organization)
  • .gov (US federal government entity)
  • .edu (college-level educational institution)

3 Driver’s furious fit : ROAD RAGE

The term “road rage” dates back to a specific time and place. The phrase was used by newscasters on Los Angeles TV station KTLA in 1988 to describe a rash of freeway shootings in the area on interstates 405, 110 and 10, many sparked by incidents in heavy traffic.

4 Priestly Gaul or Celt : DRUID

Druids were priests of Celtic Europe during the Iron Age.

The Gauls were a Celtic race, with Gaul covering what is now known as France and Belgium. We use the term “Gallic” today, when we refer to something pertaining to France or the French.

The Celts are a very broad group of people across Europe who are linked by common languages. The original Celts were largely absorbed by other cultures, although a relatively modern revival of the “Celtic identity” is alive and well in Britain and Ireland. Such Celtic peoples today are mainly found in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany in France.

6 Loudening device, informally : AMP

An electric guitar, for example, needs an amplifier (amp) to take the weak signal created by the vibration of the strings and turn it into a signal powerful enough for a loudspeaker.

7 Blood fluid : SERUM

Blood serum (plural “sera”) is the clear, yellowish part of blood i.e. that part which is neither a blood cell nor a clotting factor. Included in blood serum are antibodies, the proteins that are central to our immune system. Blood serum from animals that have immunity to a particular disease can be transferred to another individual, hence providing that second individual with some level of immunity. Blood serum used to pass on immunity can be called “antiserum”.

8 “Famous” cookie guy : AMOS

Wally Amos was a talent agent, one who was in the habit of taking home-baked cookies with him as an enticement to get celebrities to see him. He was urged by friends to open a cookie store (the cookies were that delicious, I guess) and this he did in Los Angeles in 1975 using the name “Famous Amos”. The store was a smash hit and he was able to build on the success by introducing his cookies into supermarkets. The brand was eventually purchased, making Wally a rich man, and Famous Amos cookies are still flying off the shelf. Wally Amos also became an energetic literacy advocate. He hosted 30 TV programs in 1987 entitled “Learn to Read” that provided reading instruction targeted at adults.

9 Head of the Holy See : POPE

In the Roman Catholic Church, an episcopal see is the official seat of a bishop, and is usually described by the town or city where the bishop presides and has his cathedral. The most famous see in the church is called the Holy See, the episcopal see of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope.

19 Language of the Quran : ARABIC

The Koran is also known as the “Qur’an” and “Quran” in English. “Qur’an” is a transliteration of the Arabic name for the holy text of the Muslim faith. The literal translation of “Koran” is “the recitation”.

21 “That’s personal stuff I didn’t need to hear” : TMI

Too much information (TMI)

24 Taxi : CAB

A hansom cab is a very specific design of horse and buggy that was patented by Joseph Hansom in 1834 in England. The “cab” in the name is short for “cabriolet”, an earlier design of carriage on which the hansom was based. It’s from “hansom cab” that we get our modern term “cab”.

26 Corsage flower : ORCHID

“Corsage” is a word that we imported from French in the late 15th century and meaning , believe it or not, “body size”. By the early 1800s, a corsage was a bodice, or the body of a woman’s dress. At the beginning of the 20th century, the French term “bouquet de corsage” was being used for a “bouquet worn on the bodice”, and this has been shortened simply to “corsage”.

31 Brand of small planes : CESSNA

The Cessna Aircraft manufacturing company was founded in 1911 by Clyde Cessna, a farmer from Kansas. Cessna is headquartered in Wichita and today has over 8,000 employees.

32 Radio journalist Shapiro : ARI

Ari Shapiro served very ably as White House correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR) for several years. He then became a co-host of network’s drive-time program “All Things Considered” in 2015. When he’s not working, Shapiro likes to sing. He regularly appears as a guest singer with the group Pink Martini, and has appeared on several of the band’s albums.

36 Corrosive cleaner : LYE

What we call “lye” is usually sodium hydroxide, although historically the term “lye” was used for potassium hydroxide. Lye has many uses, including to cure several foodstuffs. Lye can make olives less bitter, for example. The chemical is also found in canned mandarin oranges, pretzels and Japanese ramen noodles. More concentrated grades of lye are used to clear drains and clean ovens. Scary …

38 Venomous vipers : ADDERS

The adder, a snake in the viper family, is the only venomous snake found on the island of Great Britain. Adders are also found in Norway and Sweden, north of the Arctic Circle.

39 Smartphone precursor, for short : PDA

Personal digital assistant (PDA)

41 Partner of rank and serial number : NAME

A member of a military group might give his or her name, rank and serial number.

45 Small place of worship : CHAPEL

Our word “chapel”, meaning “place of worship”, comes from the Latin word “capella” meaning “small cape”. The reference is to a relic of Saint Martin of Tours, part of his cloak. Tradition has it that when Martin was a soldier, he cut his military cloak in two so as to give half to a beggar in need. The remainder he retained as his “capella”. He did not know that the beggar was Christ in disguise. Martin then left the military to become a monk, then abbot and finally bishop. The cape came into the possession of the Frankish kings who brought the relic as they waged war, housing it in a tent called “the capella”. The priests who said mass in the capella each day were known as the “capellani” (the source of our word “chaplain”).

50 Scarlet letter, e.g. : STIGMA

A stigma (plural “stigmata), in a social sense, is a distinguishing mark of disgrace. For example, one might have to suffer the stigma of being in prison. The term derives from the Greek “stigma” meaning “mark, brand”.

The main character in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel “The Scarlet Letter” is Hester Prynne. After the birth of her illegitimate daughter Pearl, she is convicted by her puritanical neighbors of the crime of adultery. Hester is forced to wear a scarlet “A” (for “adultery”) on her clothing for the rest of her life, hence the novel’s title “The Scarlet Letter”.

53 Capital near the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that’s still largely intact : CAIRO

Giza is located on the west bank of the Nile, about 20 km southwest of Cairo. The nearby Giza Plateau is home to some of the most amazing ancient monuments on the planet, including the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Great Sphinx.

The full list of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is:

  • the Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt
  • the Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  • the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece
  • the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  • the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
  • the Colossus of Rhodes
  • the Lighthouse at Alexandria, Egypt

54 Redheaded orphan of Broadway : ANNIE

The Broadway musical “Annie” is based on the Harold Gray comic strip “Little Orphan Annie”. There have been two film adaptations of the musical. Both were really quite successful, including one released in 1982, directed by John Huston of all people. It was his only ever musical.

57 Smidgen : IOTA

Our word “smidgen” (sometimes shortened to “smidge”) is used to describe a small amount. The term might come from the Scots word “smitch” that means the same thing or “a small insignificant person”.

58 Bite like a beaver : GNAW

Beavers build dams so that they can live in and around the slower and deeper water that builds up above the dam. This deeper water provides more protection for the beavers from predators such as bears. Beavers are nocturnal animals and do all their construction work at night.

61 Computer key not pressed alone : ALT

The Alt (alternate) key is found on either side of the space bar on US PC keyboards. The Alt key evolved from what was called a Meta key on old MIT keyboards, although the function has changed somewhat over the years. Alt is equivalent in many ways to the Option key on a Mac keyboard, and indeed the letters “Alt” have been printed on most Mac keyboards starting in the nineties.

62 Ripken who played a record 2,632 consecutive major-league games : CAL

Cal Ripken played his entire, 20-year professional baseball career for the Baltimore Orioles. Ripken was known as the “Iron Man” because he showed up for work every day, come rain or shine. He played 2,632 straight games, blowing past the previous 2,130-game record held by Lou Gehrig.

64 2,000 pounds : TON

Here in the US, a ton is equivalent to 2,000 pounds. Over in the UK, a ton is 2,240 pounds. The UK unit is sometimes referred to as an Imperial ton, long ton or gross ton. Folks over there refer to the US ton then as a short ton. To further complicate matters, there is also a metric ton or tonne, which is equivalent to 2,204 pounds. Personally, I wish we’d just stick to kilograms …

65 Mexican Mrs.: Abbr. : SRA

In Spanish, a “dama” (lady) might be referred to as “Señora” (Mrs.).

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 “Aida” composer : VERDI
6 “Do it now!” : ASAP!
10 “Play It as It Lays” author Didion : JOAN
14 Embellish : ADORN
15 Note to a staffer : MEMO
16 “___ us a son is given” : UNTO
17 Celebrations with hula dancing : LUAUS
18 Support the pasture entrance? : PROP A GATE (looks like “propagate”)
20 Calorie-counting regimen : DIET
22 Patron : USER
23 Movies, informally : PIX
24 Check someone’s parent to make sure she’s of drinking age? : CARD A MOM (look like “cardamom”)
27 Pong game company : ATARI
29 ___ loss for words : AT A
30 Russian space station until 2001 : MIR
31 Liza Minnelli musical set in Berlin : CABARET
33 Peaty places : BOGS
35 Church official : CLERIC
37 Was introduced to the doctor? : MET A PHYSICIAN (looks like “metaphysician”)
42 Swirling currents : EDDIES
43 Lift on a ski slope : T-BAR
45 Small, lobsterlike crustacean : CRAWDAD
48 “Life Is Good” rapper : NAS
51 Thurman on the big screen : UMA
52 Derby entrant : HORSE
53 Do some trawling at sea? : CAST A NET (looks like “castanet”)
55 Gobbled up or down : ATE
56 Capital of Latvia : RIGA
59 Sort : KIND
60 Criticize Sega’s hedgehog design? : PAN A SONIC (looks like “Panasonic”)
63 Annoying summer swarms : GNATS
66 And all the rest, in brief : ET AL
67 Actress Reid of the “American Pie” films : TARA
68 Not important : MINOR
69 “___ we forget” : LEST
70 Truant G.I.’s infraction : AWOL
71 Big health insurer : AETNA

Down

1 Kilmer who played Batman : VAL
2 End of a college web address : .EDU
3 Driver’s furious fit : ROAD RAGE
4 Priestly Gaul or Celt : DRUID
5 Pants line that’s partly hidden : INSEAM
6 Loudening device, informally : AMP
7 Blood fluid : SERUM
8 “Famous” cookie guy : AMOS
9 Head of the Holy See : POPE
10 Container for cider or ale : JUG
11 Equal in rank : ON A PAR
12 Apparel : ATTIRE
13 Dead end sign : NO EXIT
19 Language of the Quran : ARABIC
21 “That’s personal stuff I didn’t need to hear” : TMI
24 Taxi : CAB
25 Itsy-bitsy bit : ATOM
26 Corsage flower : ORCHID
28 Not stated directly : TACIT
31 Brand of small planes : CESSNA
32 Radio journalist Shapiro : ARI
34 Frets (over) : STEWS
36 Corrosive cleaner : LYE
38 Venomous vipers : ADDERS
39 Smartphone precursor, for short : PDA
40 Plentiful : ABUNDANT
41 Partner of rank and serial number : NAME
44 Dirty rotten scoundrel : RAT
45 Small place of worship : CHAPEL
46 Turn on an axis : ROTATE
47 Large sports venues : ARENAS
49 “Don’t ___!” : ASK
50 Scarlet letter, e.g. : STIGMA
53 Capital near the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that’s still largely intact : CAIRO
54 Redheaded orphan of Broadway : ANNIE
57 Smidgen : IOTA
58 Bite like a beaver : GNAW
61 Computer key not pressed alone : ALT
62 Ripken who played a record 2,632 consecutive major-league games : CAL
64 2,000 pounds : TON
65 Mexican Mrs.: Abbr. : SRA

10 thoughts on “0928-20 NY Times Crossword 28 Sep 20, Monday”

  1. 7:41. Quick Monday. A few hiccups along the way, but nothing serious. Good theme. I particularly liked the clue for PAN A SONIC for some reason. I guess I’m easily amused.

    Best –

  2. 8:58 fwiw Jeff, I chuckled at Panasonic as well, actually…I chuckled at all the themed answers, come to think of it. 🤣

  3. 10:02 after finding and fixing a stupid error: I put in MUG instead of JUG, didn’t notice MOAN (Didion). Took forever to see it. Mad at myself … 😳. But, hey … I nailed last place! … 😜.

  4. 18:00 no errors…looks like the setter is not familiar with what a Monday puzzle looks like.
    @Nonny…as long as I’m around last place in sewed up.
    Stay safe😀.
    The Ravens dropped the ball (literally).

  5. Best Monday puzzle in some time.
    I had MOAN for JOAN at first also but corrected it immediately.
    I solve with pencil & paper and I can’t write fast enough to solve a puzzle in under 5 min.

    1. You and me both. Been working on a lot of handwriting occupational training (on my own, references as I can find them online) to try to fix a lot of my handwriting problems I found I had when I realized I couldn’t even finish puzzles without pain, etc. 7:10 on this puzzle, but still a lot of room for improvement since I find I literally etch the paper with the pencil when I write. You can see the dents made in the words if I am solving out of a book – i.e. not writing on a hard surface, and I can literally tear the paper if I have a sharp pencil.

      I’m reminded by the ACPT (a puzzle contest) though that people CAN write a lot faster than I do (and if I can type I’m competitive with Bill on these early puzzles), so hoping I can figure it out.

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