1020-20 NY Times Crossword 20 Oct 20, Tuesday

Constructed by: Jeff Chen
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Reveal Answer: Backordered

Themed answers each comprise letters that in alphabetical ORDER, but BACKWARDS:

  • 38A Like goods that are temporarily out of stock … or a hint, alphabetically, to the answers to the starred clues : BACKORDERED
  • 17A *Followed warnings : TOOK HEED
  • 18A *Materialistic sort, stereotypically : YUPPIE
  • 23A *Marijuana cigarette, informally : SPLIFF
  • 25A *Posted inflammatory blog comments, e.g. : TROLLED
  • 50A *Chewbacca, e.g. : WOOKIEE
  • 52A *Autonomous cleaner : ROOMBA
  • 59A *”L’chaim!” : TO LIFE!
  • 62A *Like toddlers in high chairs, often : SPOON-FED

Bill’s time: 5m 59s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1 Multi-Emmy-winning actor whose first and last names start with the same two letters : ALDA

Alan Alda has had a great television career, most notably as a lead actor in “M*A*S*H”. He was born Alphonso D’Abruzzo in the Bronx, New York City. Alda won his first Emmy in 1972, for playing surgeon Hawkeye Pierce on “M*A*S*H”. He also won an Emmy in 2006 for his portrayal of Presidential candidate Senator Arnold Vinick in “The West Wing”. When it comes to the big screen, my favorite of Alda’s movies is the 1978 romantic comedy “Same Time, Next Year” in which he starred opposite Ellen Burstyn.

5 Disco ___ of “The Simpsons” : STU

On “The Simpsons”, the character Disco Stu is voiced by Hank Azaria, although the original intent was for him to be voiced by Phil Hartman. Disco Stu is described as “a black, wrinkly John Travolta”.

8 Attack from the air : STRAFE

We’ve been using “strafe” to mean “attack on a ground position from low-flying aircraft” since WWII. Prior to that, the word was used by British soldiers to mean any form of attack. It was picked up from the German word for “punish” as it was used in “Gott strafe England” meaning, “May God punish England”.

14 911s and Panameras : PORSCHES

We tend to say the name “Porsche” in English as if it is perhaps French, pronouncing it as one syllable. In German, it is pronounced with two syllables: Por-sche.

18 *Materialistic sort, stereotypically : YUPPIE

The term “yuppie” first appeared in the 1980s and is short for “young urban professional”. Yuppies are generally regarded as upper middle class or upper class men and women in their twenties or thirties.

20 Red dolls made to be tickled : ELMOS

The Tickle Me Elmo toy was a sensational fad in the late nineties, with stores raising prices dramatically above the recommended retail price to take advantage of demand. Reportedly, prices as high as $1500 were paid at the height of the craze. The toy’s manufacturer, Tyco, originally planned to market the “tickle” toy as Tickle Me Tasmanian Devil (after the “Looney Tunes” character), but then went with “Elmo” after they bought the rights to use “Sesame Street” names.

23 *Marijuana cigarette, informally : SPLIFF

“Spliff” is a term describing a cannabis joint, and is of West Indian origin.

25 *Posted inflammatory blog comments, e.g. : TROLLED

In Internet terms, a troll is someone who attempts to disrupt online group activities. The fishing term “troll” is used to describe such a person as he or she throws out off-topic remarks in an attempt to “lure” others into some emotional response. I must admit to feeling sorry for people who have such sad lives …

30 Censor’s insertion : BLEEP

The original “censor” was an officer in ancient Rome who had responsibility for taking the “census”, as well as supervising public morality.

32 Sch. whose mascot is Mike the Tiger : LSU

The Tigers are the sports teams of Louisiana State University (LSU). They are officially known as the Fightin’ Tigers, and the school mascot is “Mike the Tiger”. The name comes from the days of the Civil War, when two Louisiana brigades earned the nickname the “Louisiana Tigers”. Given the French/Cajun history of Louisiana, the LSU fans use the cheer “Geaux Tigers” instead of “Go Tigers”.

33 Gut course : EASY A

“Gut course” is a slang expression describing an academic course of study that is undemanding.

40 Early afternoon nap : SIESTA

We use the word “siesta” to describe a short nap in the early afternoon, and imported the word into English from Spanish. In turn, the Spanish word is derived from the Latin “hora sexta” meaning “the sixth hour”. The idea is that the nap is taken at the sixth hour after dawn.

43 Poodle’s sound : ARF!

The standard poodle breed of dog is considered to be the second-most intelligent breed, after the border collie. The name “poodle” comes from a Low German word meaning “to splash about”, reflecting the original use of the breed as a water retriever.

46 Farrow and Hamm, for two : MIAS

Mia Farrow is an energetic, award-winning actress who really hasn’t looked back in her career since playing her first lead role, in “Rosemary’s Baby” back in 1968. Her on-screen celebrity is matched by the interest created by her personal life. Farrow’s first husband was Frank Sinatra, a wedding in 1966 that received a lot of attention partly due to the couple’s age difference (she was 21, he was 50). Her second husband was almost as famous, the magnificent musician André Previn. Farrow then moved in with Woody Allen, a relationship that famously fell apart when Farrow discovered that Allen was having a sexual relationship with Soon-Yi, one of her adopted daughters from the marriage with André Previn.

Mia Hamm is a retired American soccer player. She played as a forward on the US national team that won the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991. Hamm scored 158 international goals, which was more than any other player in the world, male or female, until the record was broken in 2013. Amazingly, Hamm was born with a clubfoot, and so had to wear corrective shoes when she was growing up.

50 *Chewbacca, e.g. : WOOKIEE

Wookiees are a biped race featured in “Star Wars”. The most notable Wookiee is Chewbacca (aka “Chewie”), the loyal friend and associate of Han Solo who serves as co-pilot on the Millennium Falcon spaceship.

52 *Autonomous cleaner : ROOMBA

The Roomba vacuum cleaner is a cool-looking device that navigates its way around a room by itself, picking up dirt as it goes. Like I said, it’s cool-looking but I am not sure how effective it is …

58 Sch. whose mascot is Sparky the Sun Devil : ASU

Arizona State University (ASU) has a long history, and was founded as the Tempe Normal School for the Arizona Territory in 1885. The athletic teams of ASU used to be known as the Normals, then the Bulldogs, and since 1946 they’ve been called the Sun Devils.

59 *”L’chaim!” : TO LIFE!

“L’Chaim!” is a Hebrew toast meaning “To life!”, with “chai” being the Hebrew word for “life”.

66 Passover meals : SEDERS

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.

Down

1 Exam for some smart H.S. students : AP TEST

The Advanced Placement (AP) program offers college-level courses to kids who are still in high school (HS). After being tested at the end of an AP course, successful students receive credits that count towards a college degree.

2 Start for a “land” in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” : LOOMPA-

The Oompa-Loompas are characters in the Roald Dahl book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, and indeed in the sequel story “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator”. Willy Wonka came across the Oompa-Loompas on an isolated island in the Atlantic and invited them to work in his factory in order to escape those hunting them on the island. Right before Dahl’s book was first published, he was intending to call the Oompa-Loompas “Whipple-Scrumpets”.

9 One-man show about Capote : TRU

“Tru” was written by Jay Presson Allen and is a one-man play about Truman Capote that premiered in 1989. There is a classic anachronism in the piece. It is set in Capote’s New York City apartment at Christmas 1975. At one point the Capote character talks about suicide, saying that he has enough pills to stage his own Jonestown Massacre. The Jonestown Massacre didn’t happen until three years later, in 1978.

12 Like Snow White, among them all : FAIREST

“Snow White” is a traditional German fairy tale that was published in 1812 in the collection of the Brothers Grimm. There is also a second, very different Grimms’ Fairy Tale called “Snow-White and Rose-Red”, not to be confused with its more famous cousin. In the latter tale, Snow-White and Rose-Red are sisters who get into trouble with a dwarf, but are rescued by a bear who turns into a prince.

13 A Cyclops has just one : EYE

Cyclops was a one-eyed giant in Greek and Roman mythology. Cyclops lived inside Mount Etna, the Sicilian volcano.

21 Sault ___ Marie : STE

In the summer of 2010, I spent a very interesting afternoon watching ships make their way through the Soo Locks and Soo Canals between Lake Superior and the lower Great lakes. The name “Soo” comes from the US and Canadian cities on either side of the locks, both called Sault Ste. Marie.

24 Home furnishings superstores : IKEAS

The IKEA furniture chain was founded by Ingvar Kamprad in 1943, when he was just 17-years-old. IKEA is an acronym standing for Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd (don’t forget now!). Elmtaryd was the name of the farm where Ingvar Kamprad grew up, and Agunnaryd is his home parish in Sweden.

27 Some dazzling designs : OP ART

Op art is also known as optical art, and puts optical illusions to great effect.

30 Letters on a party invitation : BYO

Bring Your Own Beer/Bottle/Booze (BYOB)

31 Slow and stately, in music : LARGO

Largo is an instruction to play a piece of music with a very slow tempo. “Largo” is an Italian word meaning “broadly”. The instruction “larghetto” means “play broadly”, and “Larghissimo” means “play very, very slowly”.

34 When Hamlet says “The play’s the thing” in “Hamlet” : ACT II

In William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, the title character speaks the lines:

I’ll have grounds
More relative than this—the play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.

Prince Hamlet is trying to prove to himself that King Claudius murdered the former king, Hamlet’s father. He decides to insert a few lines about regicide into a play that is to be performed at court. The hope is that Claudius will react to the reference, hence convincing Hamlet of the new king’s guilt.

39 Crime boss : DON

In the Mafia, a don is a head of a family, someone who might order a hit, a killing.

41 Raw material for steel : IRON ORE

Steel is an alloy that is composed mainly of iron, with a small percentage of carbon.

48 The “A” of AWOL : ABSENT

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

49 Some Arabian Peninsula residents : SAUDIS

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest Arab country in the Middle East and is the world’s largest oil producer, home to the world’s largest oil reserves. The Saudi dynasty started in central Arabia in 1744 when the secular leader Muhammad ibn Saud joined forces with the Islamic scholar and Imam, Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab. At the time, Saud was a ruler of a town near Riyadh and he was determined to bring “true” Islam to the Arabian peninsula. Since 1744 the fortunes of the Saudi family have risen and fallen, but it is that same family who rules what we know today as Saudi Arabia.

The Arabian Peninsula (also “Arabia”) is part of Western Asia that is located just north-east of Africa. The peninsula is bordered to the west by the Red Sea, to the northeast by the Persian Gulf, and to the southeast by the Indian Ocean. Most of the Arabian Peninsula is taken up by Saudi Arabia, but also included are Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen. And, it’s the largest peninsula in the world, covering about 1¼ million square miles.

56 Actress Rae : ISSA

Issa Rae is a Stanford University graduate who created a YouTube web series called “The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl”. Rae also plays the title role in the series, a young lady named “J”. “Awkward Black Girl” was adapted into an HBO comedy-drama called “Insecure”, in which Issa Rae stars.

57 Longtime film rating org. : MPAA

The Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) film-rating system (PG-13, R, etc.) is purely voluntary and is not backed by any law. Movie theaters agree to abide by the rules that come with the MPAA ratings in exchange for access to new movies.

59 “Decorates” on Halloween, for short : TPS

TP’ing (toilet papering) is a prank involving the covering of some object or location with rolls and rolls of toilet paper. If you live in Texas or Minnesota, that little “prank” is legal, but if you live here in California it is classed as mischief or vandalism.

61 Places to which patients are rushed in hosps. : ERS

Many a hospital (hosp.) includes an intensive care unit (ICU) and an emergency room (ER).

63 Actress Vardalos : NIA

Nia Vardalos is an actress and screenwriter whose biggest break came with the 2002 film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, which she wrote and in which she starred. The film tells the story of a Greek-American woman marrying a non-Greek Caucasian American who converts to the Greek Orthodox Church to facilitate the marriage. The storyline reflects the actual experiences of Vardalos and her husband, actor Ian Gomez. Vardalos and Gomez appeared together as hosts for two seasons of the reality competition “The Great American Baking Show”.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Multi-Emmy-winning actor whose first and last names start with the same two letters : ALDA
5 Disco ___ of “The Simpsons” : STU
8 Attack from the air : STRAFE
14 911s and Panameras : PORSCHES
16 Rule at a self-serve gas station : PREPAY
17 *Followed warnings : TOOK HEED
18 *Materialistic sort, stereotypically : YUPPIE
19 Punk rock offshoot : EMO
20 Red dolls made to be tickled : ELMOS
22 Musician’s gift : EAR
23 *Marijuana cigarette, informally : SPLIFF
25 *Posted inflammatory blog comments, e.g. : TROLLED
29 Job to do : TASK
30 Censor’s insertion : BLEEP
32 Sch. whose mascot is Mike the Tiger : LSU
33 Gut course : EASY A
36 Not in time for : LATE TO
38 Like goods that are temporarily out of stock … or a hint, alphabetically, to the answers to the starred clues : BACKORDERED
40 Early afternoon nap : SIESTA
42 “___ run!” : GOTTA
43 Poodle’s sound : ARF!
44 “Now the gloves come off!” : IT’S ON!
46 Farrow and Hamm, for two : MIAS
50 *Chewbacca, e.g. : WOOKIEE
52 *Autonomous cleaner : ROOMBA
54 One used to old habits? : NUN
55 Shy : TIMID
58 Sch. whose mascot is Sparky the Sun Devil : ASU
59 *”L’chaim!” : TO LIFE!
62 *Like toddlers in high chairs, often : SPOON-FED
64 Like better : PREFER
65 Guitarist Joe with 15 Grammy nominations : SATRIANI
66 Passover meals : SEDERS
67 Power sources for some clocks : AAS
68 Wee workers : ANTS

Down

1 Exam for some smart H.S. students : AP TEST
2 Start for a “land” in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” : LOOMPA-
3 Evidences hunger, in a way : DROOLS
4 Query : ASK
5 Word after ice or book : SHELF
6 Abound (with) : TEEM
7 “If you prick ___ we not bleed?”: “The Merchant of Venice” : US, DO
8 Dangerous plant to have around? : SPY
9 One-man show about Capote : TRU
10 What matching ends of magnets do : REPEL
11 Shocked : APPALLED
12 Like Snow White, among them all : FAIREST
13 A Cyclops has just one : EYE
15 Apron wearer : CHEF
21 Sault ___ Marie : STE
24 Home furnishings superstores : IKEAS
26 Find a new tenant for : RELET
27 Some dazzling designs : OP ART
28 Twosome : DUO
30 Letters on a party invitation : BYO
31 Slow and stately, in music : LARGO
34 When Hamlet says “The play’s the thing” in “Hamlet” : ACT II
35 Play ice hockey, e.g. : SKATE
37 “I love you,” in Spain : TE AMO
38 Made dirty : BEFOULED
39 Crime boss : DON
40 Alternative to an ax : SAW
41 Raw material for steel : IRON ORE
45 Collectible group : SET
47 “Count me among your admirers” : I’M A FAN
48 The “A” of AWOL : ABSENT
49 Some Arabian Peninsula residents : SAUDIS
51 Surgical tool : KNIFE
52 Civil disturbances : RIOTS
53 Something you can pick up with your nose : ODOR
56 Actress Rae : ISSA
57 Longtime film rating org. : MPAA
59 “Decorates” on Halloween, for short : TPS
60 “___ sher!” : FER
61 Places to which patients are rushed in hosps. : ERS
63 Actress Vardalos : NIA

23 thoughts on “1020-20 NY Times Crossword 20 Oct 20, Tuesday”

  1. 6:18 No issues. Didn’t really get the theme until I looked here. Don’t think that knowing the theme would have helped any in the solving.

    1. Felt the same way. Decent puzzle, but lame theme. The multiple answers with double O’s were a confusing distraction. One of the few puzzles I’ve ever had to look up what the theme meant, even after completing the puzzle = fail to me.

  2. 10:47, no errors. Paused for a while over SPLIFF (?!) and LOOMPA, but finally decided they had to be correct and put ‘em in.

  3. 12:36 Filled the grid in just under eight minutes but took another four and a half to figure out “Wookiee” ended in a double “e”….just shoot me…

  4. 14:59 including a couple of minutes trying to “correct” WOOKIEE. Is it a law that all crosswords must have a Star Wars reference??

    SPLIFF had me too as did my misspelling of STRAFE (straif??).

    Never heard of “gut course” as an EASY A. We called them “rolls”. As an aside, the opposite of a “roll” was a very difficult course They were known as a “ball busters”.

    But my biggest time vampire was putting “oompah” instead of LOOMPA. Nothing in the NW made sense until I got rid of that.

    I knew a Jeff Chen puzzle would have its challenges, but I thought the fact that it was a Tuesday would mitigate them…or not. Tougher than a usual Tuesday for me.

    Best –

    1. I also thought “gut course” was lame. Gut suggests difficult, not easy, and is a term I never heard, and I’m a college instructor.

  5. 26:13 no errors…I spent a very long time in the NW corner and got the theme after finishing the grid.
    Mr Chen can do a puzzle without a partner😀
    Stay safe (and home)

  6. 10:47, no errors. Same issues with SPLIFF, SATRIANI and WOOKIEE as previous posters. Agree that the theme was unhelpful and irrelevant, more of an ego trip for the setter, IMO.

    1. I absolutely do not get this puzzle’s theme. What do you mean by “alphabetically but backwards”? Spelling the starred clues backward makes zero sense. Please explain. By the way, I had no trouble getting any of the answers, a pretty easy puzzle, but the theme defies understanding.

  7. @Joe, @Jane
    By “alphabetically but backwards”, what Bill is saying that instead of the theme entries being in A-Z order they are in Z-A order.

  8. Thanks to Glenn for attempting to explain, but I’m still baffled by the theme. Which I suppose makes this a very good Tuesday puzzle.

  9. One of the few puzzles that, after completion, I had to look up what the theme meant. That = a failed theme, to me.

    I’m also unimpressed with the answer “BYO”, which, as a standalone, is never on any invite.

    Overall, a disappointing puzzle.

  10. The letters to the answers to the starred clues are in reverse alphabetical order. Figured it out with some thought after solving but agree it is no help to solving. I knew this one would get panned. Time for a spliff.

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