1119-20 NY Times Crossword 19 Nov 20, Thursday

Constructed by: Derek J. Angell
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Reveal Answer: Can I Buy a Vowel?

Themed answers relate to the game show “WHEEL OF FORTUNE”, and we have to “BUY” all the VOWELS in order to make sense of them:

  • 13D What you might cry when trying to answer the six starred clues? : CAN I BUY A VOWEL?
  • 18A *Creator of 55-Across : MRVGRFFN (Merv Griffin)
  • 20A *Co-host of 55-Across : VNNWHT (Vanna White)
  • 30A *Group of six given for free on 55-Across : R-S-T-L-N
  • 41A *Co-host of 55-Across : PTSJK (Pat Sajak)
  • 52A *Bad place to land on 55-Across : BNKRPT (bankrupt)
  • 55A *It debuted on 1/6/1975 : WHLFFRTN (“Wheel of Fortune”)

Bill’s time: 11m 50s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

6 76ers, on scoreboards : PHI

The Philadelphia 76ers basketball team is one of the oldest franchises in the NBA. The “Sixers” were formed in 1946 as the Syracuse Nationals. The team moved to Philadelphia in 1963, and the name 76er was chosen in a fan contest, a name that honors the men who fought for the country’s independence in 1776.

9 Chump : SAP

“Sap” is slang for “fool, someone easily scammed”. The term arose in the early 1800s in Britain when it was used in “saphead” and “sapskull”. All these words are derived from “sapwood”, which is the softwood found in tree trunks between the bark and the heartwood at the center.

12 File accompanying many a download : README

A readme (or “read me”) file is usually a simple text file that is issued with software when it is distributed. It often contains the latest information about the application, including bugs that were found at the last minute just before release.

14 Fort Myers-to-Orlando dir. : NNE

Fort Myers is a city on the Gulf Coast of Florida. The city was built on the site of the old Fort Myers, a fort built by the US Army as a base of operations against the Seminole Native Americans.

Orlando in Central Florida is the largest inland city in the state. Orlando was the most visited city in the US in 2009. That’s mainly because it is home to many theme parks, including Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Florida and SeaWorld. Orlando has a few nicknames, including “O-Town” and “Theme Park Capital of the World”.

16 Aesthete’s collection, maybe : ART BOOKS

An aesthete (also “esthete”) is someone who appreciates beauty in art or in nature. Often someone described as an aesthete might show excessive or affected admiration of beauty.

18 *Creator of 55-Across : MRVGRFFN (Merv Griffin)

Merv Griffin was quite the entertainer, and truly a mogul in the business. He started his career as a singer on the radio during the big band era. In the sixties he hosted his own talk show, and then famously developed such great game shows as “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune”.

20 *Co-host of 55-Across : VNNWHT (Vanna White)

Vanna White is the lady who turns the letters on the “Wheel of Fortune” game show. White is big into knitting and crochet, and has her own line of yarns called “Vanna’s Choice”.

21 MADD ad, e.g., in brief : PSA

Public service announcement (PSA)

Candace Lightner lost her 13-year-old child to a drink-driver in 1980. Soon after, Lightner formed the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

24 Noted “retiree” of ’03 : SST

The most famous supersonic transport (SST) is the retired Concorde. Concorde was developed and produced under an Anglo-French treaty by France’s Aérospatiale and the UK’s British Aircraft Corporation (BAC). Concordes were mainly operated by Air France and British Airways, with both companies buying the planes with substantial subsidies from the French and British governments. The final Concorde flight was a British Airways plane that landed in the UK on 26 November 2003.

30 *Group of six given for free on 55-Across : R-S-T-L-N

On the game show “Wheel of Fortune”, players are given the letters R, S, T, L, N & E when guessing the hidden word or phrase. The contestant then selects four more letters before trying to come up with the answer.

33 Country that has no rivers: Abbr. : UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven emirates (states) in the Middle East. Included in the seven are Abu Dhabi and Dubai, with the city of Abu Dhabi being the UAE capital and cultural center.

34 Memorable hurricane of 2017 : IRMA

Hurricane Irma was a devastating category-5 hurricane that led to over 100 deaths in the contiguous US in 2017, and half as many in the Caribbean islands. Irma was the most intense hurricane to make landfall in the continental US since Katrina in 2005.

35 Something there’s almost no point to? : EPEE

The French word for sword is “épée”. In competitive fencing the épée is connected to a system that records an electrical signal when legal contact is made on an opponent’s body.

36 Peaceful, rustic scene : IDYLL

An idyll (also “idyl”) is a short poem with a pastoral theme, usually depicting the scene in romantic and idealized terms. The word “idyl” comes from the Greek “eidyllion”, which literally translates to “little picture” but was a word describing a short poem with a rustic theme.

40 Triton’s domain, in Greek myth : SEA

Triton was a Greek god, the messenger of the sea. He was usually depicted as “merman”, with the body of a man and the tail of a fish. Triton carried a trident, like his father Poseidon, and a twisted conch shell that he used as trumpet. By blowing in the conch shell he could calm or raise the waves.

41 *Co-host of 55-Across : PTSJK (Pat Sajak)

Pat Sajak took over as host of “Wheel of Fortune” from Chuck Woolery back in 1983 and has been doing the job ever since. Sajak had a short run as a talk show host in 1989/1990 and used to sub quite often for Larry King and Regis Philbin.

42 Go postal : SNAP

“Going postal” is a slang term meaning to get uncontrollably angry and perhaps violent, especially in the workplace. The term arose out of a spate of killings that took place at postal facilities in the late eighties and early nineties.

46 ___ Speedwagon : REO

REO Speedwagon is an American rock band that formed in 1967, and is still going strong. The band’s biggest hits are “Keep On Loving You” (1980) and “Can’t Fight This Feeling” (1985). The founding members chose the name for the REO Speed Wagon flatbed truck. Note that the band’s name is one word “Speedwagon”, whereas the vehicle’s name uses two words “Speed Wagon”.

48 Put forward : POSIT

To “posit” is to assume as fact, to lay down as a “position”.

49 Long-running TV series set in Las Vegas : CSI

The “CSI” franchise of TV shows has been tremendously successful, but has finally wound down. “CSI: Miami” (the “worst” of the franchise, I think) was cancelled in 2012 after ten seasons. “CSI: NY” (the “best” of the franchise) was cancelled in 2013 after nine seasons. The original “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” was set in Las Vegas, and hung in there until 2015 when it ended with a two-hour TV movie. The youngest show in the series was “CSI: Cyber”. It lasted for two seasons, before being canceled in 2016.

55 *It debuted on 1/6/1975 : WHLFFRTN (“Wheel of Fortune”)

Contestants have been spinning the “Wheel of Fortune” since the game show first aired in 1975.

60 Geisha’s accessory : FAN

The Japanese term “geisha” best translates as “artist” or “performing artist”.

62 Tabasco, en México : ESTADO

Tabasco is one of Mexico’s 31 “estados” (states), and is located in the very southeast of the country.

Down

2 Baby bug : LARVA

The larva is an intermediate stage in the development of an insect. All four stages are embryo, larva, pupa and imago. “Larva” is a Latin word that can translate as “mask”. The term is used in the context of insects as the larval stage can “mask” the appearance of the adult.

4 Spruce (up) : SMARTEN

Our verb “to spruce up” means “to make trim or neat”. The term comes from the adjective “spruce”, meaning “smart, neat”. In turn, the adjective comes from “spruce leather”, which was a Prussian leather that was used in England in the 15th and 16th centuries to make a popular style of jerkin that was widely considered to look quite smart.

5 Shot that’s within your reach? : SELFIE

A selfie is a self-portrait, one usually taken with a digital camera or cell phone. A “group selfie” is sometimes referred to as a “groufie” or “wefie”. A “couple selfie” is known as an “usie” or “ussie”, although those terms are sometimes also used for a group picture.

6 ___ favor : POR

“Por favor” is Spanish for “please”.

7 “Love It or List It” channel : HGTV

“Love It or List It” is a Canadian reality show that airs in the US on HGTV. Each episode features a couple that has differing views about living in their current home, with one “loving it” and pushing for a remodel, and the other wanting to “list it” and buy a new house.

8 Amazon IDs : ISBNS

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) was invented by one Gordon Foster who was a professor at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland. The code was originally developed for booksellers, so that they had a unique number (and now a barcode) for each publication. ISBNs are ten digits long if assigned before 2007. Since the start of 2007, ISBNs are thirteen digits long.

Amazon.com is the largest online retailer in the world. It is also the largest Internet company in the world by revenue. The company was founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos, in his garage in Bellevue, Washington. I’m a big fan of Amazon’s approach to customer service …

9 Apt anagram of WINTER’S O’S : SNOW TIRES

Here are some of my favorite anagrams:

  • “Dormitory” and “dirty room”
  • “Elvis” and “lives”
  • “The eyes” and “they see”
  • “Eleven plus two” and “twelve plus one”

10 Egyptian key of life : ANKH

The ankh was the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic character for “eternal life”. The ankh wasn’t just used in inscriptions but was often fashioned into amulets and as surrounds for mirrors (perhaps symbolizing a view into another world). The ankh is also known as “the key of the Nile” and “crux ansata” (Latin for “cross with a handle”).

11 Roach or termite : PEST

The insect known as a cockroach is closely related to the termite. Although generally considered a pest, the lowly cockroach has at least one claim to fame. A cockroach named Nadezhda was sent into space in 2007 by Russian scientists, where it became the first terrestrial creature to give birth in space. Nadezhda bore 33 cockroaches.

Termites are insects that are somewhat unique in that they can digest cellulose (as can ruminants such as cattle). Because of this diet, they cause a lot of trouble for human populations by feeding on wood in man-made structures.

12 A.D.A.-compliance option : RAMP

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

17 Like many homes along bayous : ON STILTS

A bayou is a marshy inlet or outlet of a lake or river, usually with stagnant or slow-moving water. The exact origins of the term “bayou” is uncertain, but it is thought perhaps to come from the Choctaw (a Native American people from the southeast) word “bayuk”, meaning “small stream”.

26 Where nearly half of the U.S.’s publicly traded cos. are incorporated : DEL

The state of Delaware takes its name from Virginia’s first colonial governor, Englishman Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr. Delaware is known as “the First State” as it was the first to ratify the US Constitution, in 1787.

28 Key of Pachelbel’s Canon: Abbr. : D MAJ

Johann Pachelbel was a composer from Germany active in the Baroque Era. Pachelbel’s music was very popular during his own lifetime. Today, his best-known work is his “Canon in D”, which has become a very popular choice for contemporary wedding ceremonies.

30 Zebras : REFS

A football referee is sometimes called a “zebra”, a reference to the striped shirt that is part of the official uniform.

32 City that rhymes with “Rosanna” in a #1 George Strait country hit : TEXARKANA

Texarkana is the name given to the twin cities of Texarkana, Texas and Texarkana, Arkansas that sit either side of the state line between Texas and Arkansas. The name of “Texarkana” was given when the settlement was founded at the junction of two railroads in 1873. Back then, it was believed that the new city would be not only on the borders of Texas (TEX) and Arkansas (ARK) but also on the border of Louisiana (ANA), giving the city its name. The Louisiana state line was eventually set about 30 miles away, but the -ANA suffix was retained.

George Strait is a country music singer known as the “King of Country”. The moniker seems to be well deserved, as Strait has had more number-one hits on Billboard’s list of Hot Country Songs than any other artist.

36 Sch. in Ames : ISU

Iowa State University of Science and Technology (ISU) is located in Ames, Iowa. Among many other notable milestones, ISU created the country’s first school of veterinary medicine, in 1879. The sports teams of ISU are known as the Cyclones.

37 Johnny who made his film debut in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” : DEPP

Johnny Depp got his big break as an actor on television, in the eighties television show “21 Jump Street”. Depp’s first film success came when he played the title role in 1990’s “Edward Scissorhands”. He has twice been named Sexiest Man Alive by “People” magazine.

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” is a Wes Craven slasher-horror film that was released in 1984. As I don’t do “slasher” or “horror”, I was surprised to learn that Johnny Depp was in the movie, making his feature film debut.

41 Aquarium denizen : PET FISH

Nowadays we use “denizen” to mean simply “resident”, but historically a denizen was an immigrant to whom certain rights had been granted, somewhat like today’s resident alien.

44 ___Kosh B’gosh : OSH

OshKosh B’gosh is a company that produces and sells children’s clothes. The trademark OshKosh bib-overalls remind us of the company’s roots, as it was originally a manufacturer of adult work clothes based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

45 Little waves, in Spain : TILDES

The tilde diacritical mark (~) is very much associated with the Spanish language. We use the name “tilde” in English, taking that name from Spanish. Confusingly, the word “tilde” in Spanish is used more generally to mean “accent mark, diacritic”, of which a “~” is just one. What we call a “tilde” in English is usually referred to as a “virgulilla” or “tilde de la eñe” in Spanish.

50 Room opposite the kitchen on a Clue board : STUDY

Clue is a board game that we knew under a different name growing up in Ireland. Outside of North America, Clue is marketed as “Cluedo”. Cluedo was the original name of the game, introduced in 1949 by the famous British board game manufacturer Waddingtons. There are cute differences between the US and UK versions. For example, the man who is murdered is called Dr. Black (Mr. Boddy in the US), one of the suspects is the Reverend Green (Mr. Green in the US), and the suspect weapons include a dagger (a knife in the US), and a spanner (a wrench in the US). I think it’s a fabulous game, a must during the holidays …

52 People who are tight, in modern lingo : BFFS

Best friend forever (BFF)

53 ___ tide : NEAP

Tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon on the oceans. At neap tide, the smaller gravitational effect of the sun cancels out some of the moon’s effect. At spring tide, the sun and the moon’s gravitational forces act in concert causing more extreme movement of the oceans.

54 One way to the top : 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.

56 Cheese in moussaka : FETA

Feta is a Greek cheese made from sheep’s milk, or a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk. The cheese is salted and cured in a brine solution for several months before it is eaten.

58 “No ___ can live forever”: Martin Luther King Jr. : LIE

Martin Luther King, Jr’s father was born Michael King. On a trip to Germany in 1934, Michael came to admire Protestant leader Martin Luther and changed his name to Martin Luther King on his return to the United States. Famously, he passed on his new name to his son, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr (MLK).

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Ignorance, perhaps : BLISS
6 76ers, on scoreboards : PHI
9 Chump : SAP
12 File accompanying many a download : README
13 They turn on machines : COGS
14 Fort Myers-to-Orlando dir. : NNE
15 Photo from a drone : AERIAL
16 Aesthete’s collection, maybe : ART BOOKS
18 *Creator of 55-Across : MRVGRFFN (Merv Griffin)
20 *Co-host of 55-Across : VNNWHT (Vanna White)
21 MADD ad, e.g., in brief : PSA
22 Commercial ploy : TIE-IN
24 Noted “retiree” of ’03 : SST
25 Groundwork of a plant manager? : SEEDBED
27 Shipshape : TIDY
30 *Group of six given for free on 55-Across : R-S-T-L-N
33 Country that has no rivers: Abbr. : UAE
34 Memorable hurricane of 2017 : IRMA
35 Something there’s almost no point to? : EPEE
36 Peaceful, rustic scene : IDYLL
38 Tilt : LEAN
39 Set, in French : FIXE
40 Triton’s domain, in Greek myth : SEA
41 *Co-host of 55-Across : PTSJK (Pat Sajak)
42 Go postal : SNAP
43 Online endorsements : UPVOTES
46 ___ Speedwagon : REO
48 Put forward : POSIT
49 Long-running TV series set in Las Vegas : CSI
52 *Bad place to land on 55-Across : BNKRPT (bankrupt)
55 *It debuted on 1/6/1975 : WHLFFRTN (“Wheel of Fortune”)
57 Not completely crazy, as a plan : FEASIBLE
59 Fade, as a fad : DIE OUT
60 Geisha’s accessory : FAN
61 Ace : NAIL
62 Tabasco, en México : ESTADO
63 Upscale hotel amenity : SPA
64 Afore : ERE
65 Unreliable : SHAKY

Down

1 Round things? : BEERS
2 Baby bug : LARVA
3 “Understood, man” : I DIG
4 Spruce (up) : SMARTEN
5 Shot that’s within your reach? : SELFIE
6 ___ favor : POR
7 “Love It or List It” channel : HGTV
8 Amazon IDs : ISBNS
9 Apt anagram of WINTER’S O’S : SNOW TIRES
10 Egyptian key of life : ANKH
11 Roach or termite : PEST
12 A.D.A.-compliance option : RAMP
13 What you might cry when trying to answer the six starred clues? : CAN I BUY A VOWEL?
17 Like many homes along bayous : ON STILTS
19 Gave to, as answers : FED
23 Actor McDonough : NEAL
25 Some accommodations on long-distance trains : SLEEPERS
26 Where nearly half of the U.S.’s publicly traded cos. are incorporated : DEL
28 Key of Pachelbel’s Canon: Abbr. : D MAJ
29 Jerk move? : YANK
30 Zebras : REFS
31 Turn in a popular game show : SPIN
32 City that rhymes with “Rosanna” in a #1 George Strait country hit : TEXARKANA
36 Sch. in Ames : ISU
37 Johnny who made his film debut in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” : DEPP
41 Aquarium denizen : PET FISH
44 ___Kosh B’gosh : OSH
45 Little waves, in Spain : TILDES
47 Offer a thought : OPINE
49 Speak with a deep, hoarse voice : CROAK
50 Room opposite the kitchen on a Clue board : STUDY
51 Nuts about : INTO
52 People who are tight, in modern lingo : BFFS
53 ___ tide : NEAP
54 One way to the top : T-BAR
56 Cheese in moussaka : FETA
58 “No ___ can live forever”: Martin Luther King Jr. : LIE

7 thoughts on “1119-20 NY Times Crossword 19 Nov 20, Thursday”

  1. 25:18 including 2 minutes finding a fat finger. This was a head scratcher for a bit and I was starting to put in some rebuses. Then I got the long 13D and it all made sense and greatly facilitated the rest of the solve. Of course, if you never watched Wheel, you’d need all the downs to make some sense of it and solve. It was a fun challenge at 4:30 in the morning.

    Didn’t think about the 30A answer RSTLN until I saw Bill’s explanation. But the RSTLNE applies ONLY to the final theme for the person who won the most on the show and those letters are “givens” when trying to solve.

  2. 15:11 figured out the theme with the down letter combinations for “bankrupt”. I’ve only seen Wheel once, at my mother-in-law’s house, but that was all I needed to solve the puzzle. Enjoyable, but rather easy for a Thursday, based on my time 🙂

  3. 24:47 after (finally!) correcting a silly error by changing TEXARCANA to TEXARKANA (something I knew, damn it! 😳), once I realized that BNKRPT made a lot more sense than BNCRPT. (A final lame excuse: Yesterday was an unexpectedly complicated day and I probably should have left the puzzle until this morning … 😜.)

    Actually, my error demonstrated something I’ve noticed many times before: Spelling errors are much harder to find in vertical entries than in horizontal entries. The reasons for this are obvious, I suppose. One would hope that, after many years of doing crossword puzzles, one would get better at reading vertical entries, but I don’t think my ability to do it has changed at all in the last 50 or 60 years.

    Recently, I’ve started doing “marching bands” puzzles that I got from Brendan Emmet Quigley (though he says they were invented by Mike Shenk). I won’t try to explain what they are: suffice it to say that doing them involves entries written in all four directions, as well as turning corners in the “bands”. I am astonished that it is possible to construct such a puzzle and I was initially surprised that I enjoyed doing one, but they’ve now become a bit of a passion and it’s possible that they will improve my ability to read words in different directions. We’ll see … 😜.

  4. 24:46. I was looking for a rebus for too much time. I don’t watch Wheel of Fortune so some of this was news to me. Amazing how short some of those names are without vowels.

    To this day I resent Hurricane IRMA. It took place about 2 weeks after Hurricane Harvey, the hurricane that flooded my Houston home with 51 inches of water. No one remembers it anymore. But I do.

    KF – Delaware offers a lot of nice tax breaks and other benefits so a lot of companies incorporate there. They’re even referred to as Delaware corporations. Unfortunately, some of those “other” benefits are legal shelters and protection from some usury laws so Delaware corporations have their detractors – especially in the credit card industry.

    Best –

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