1207-20 NY Times Crossword 7 Dec 20, Monday

Constructed by: Barbara Lin
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Theme (according to Bill): English Lesson

Themed answers are common phrases reinterpreted with reference to terms that are peculiarly English:

  • 17A Traveled by subway? : WENT DOWN THE TUBE
  • 27A “Would you call the elevator for me?” : CAN I GET A LIFT?
  • 48A “Hand me a flashlight“? : PASS THE TORCH
  • 63A Use French fries as legal tender? : CASH IN ONE’S CHIPS

Bill’s time: 4m 42s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

5 Old South American empire : INCA

The Inca Empire was known as the Tawantinsuyu, which translates as “land of the four quarters”. The Inca Empire was a federal organization having a central government that sat above four “suyu” or “quarters”, four administrative regions.

9 Mosquitoes and gnats : PESTS

Mosquitoes have a relatively short life cycle. Males live a matter of days, and females just a few weeks. In order to reproduce, male mosquitoes form large swarms, usually late in the day. Female mosquitoes fly into the swarm when ready to mate.

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.

14 Grp. that sets oil benchmarks : OPEC

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was founded in 1960 at a conference held in Baghdad, Iraq that was attended by Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Nine more countries joined the alliance soon after, and OPEC set up headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland and then Vienna, Austria in 1965. The basic aim of OPEC was to wrest control of oil prices from the oil companies and put it in the hands of the sovereign states that own the natural resource.

A benchmark is something that serves as a standard used to measure others. The original benchmark was a point of reference used by surveyors. Literally, a benchmark was an angle-iron driven into the ground as a support (or “bench”) for a levelling instrument.

16 American living abroad, e.g. : EXPAT

Expatriate (expat)

17 Traveled by subway? : WENT DOWN THE TUBE

The official name London “Underground” is a little deceptive, as over half of the track system-wide is actually “over ground”, with the underground sections reserved for the central areas. It is the oldest subway system in the world, having opened in 1863. It was also the first system to use electric rolling stock, in 1890. “The Tube”, as it is known by Londoners, isn’t the longest subway system in the world though. That honor belongs to the Shanghai Metro. My personal favorite part of the Tube is the Tube map! It is a marvel of design …

22 ___ v. Wade : ROE

Roe v. Wade was decided in a US District Court in Texas in 1970, and reached the Supreme Court on appeal. The basic decision by the Supreme Court was that a woman’s constitutional right to privacy applied to an abortion, but that this right had to be balanced with a state’s interest in protecting an unborn child and a mother’s health. The Court further defined that the state’s interest became stronger with each trimester of a pregnancy. So, in the first trimester the woman’s right to privacy outweighed any state interest. In the second trimester the state’s interest in maternal health was deemed to be strong enough to allow state regulation of abortion for the sake of the mother. In the third trimester the viability of the fetus dictated that the state’s interest in the unborn child came into play, so states could regulate or prohibit abortions, except in cases where the mother’s life was in danger. I’m no lawyer, but that’s my understanding of the initial Supreme Court decision …

23 Magnum ___ (greatest work) : OPUS

“Magnum opus” is a Latin term meaning “great work”. The magnum opus of a writer or composer perhaps, is his or her greatest work.

27 “Would you call the elevator for me?” : CAN I GET A LIFT?

Elevators (simple hoists) have been around for a long time. What Elisha Otis did was come up with the “safety elevator”, a design that he showcased at the 1853 World’s Fair in New York. At the Fair, Otis would stand on an elevated platform in front of onlookers and order his assistant to cut the single rope holding up the platform. His safety system kicked in when the platform had only fallen a few inches, amazing the crowd. After this demonstration, the orders came rolling in.

32 Japanese sash : OBI

The sash worn as part of traditional Japanese dress is known as an obi. The obi can be tied at the back in what is called a butterfly knot. The term “obi” is also used for the thick cotton belts that are an essential part of the outfits worn by practitioners of many martial arts. The color of the martial arts obi signifies the wearer’s skill level.

33 Piece of pizza : SLICE

Pizza was invented in Naples, where it has a long tradition that goes back to ancient Rome. During an 1889 visit to Naples, Queen Margherita of Savoy was served a special pizza that was created with toppings designed to mimic the colors of the Italian flag. The ingredients of tomato (red), mozzarella (white) and basil (green) can still be found together on menus today, on a pie usually named Pizza Margherita after the queen. I do love basil on my pizza …

38 Chrissy of “This Is Us” : METZ

Chrissy Metz is an actress best known for portraying Kate Pearson in the drama TV show “This Is Us”.

“This Is Us” is a television drama that debuted in 2016. The storyline centers on three siblings and their parents. Two of the siblings are the surviving members of a triplet pregnancy. The parents decide to adopt a child born on the same day as the surviving siblings. The adopting family is white, and the adopted child is black.

40 Pet peeves? : FLEAS

Fleas are flightless insects, but they sure can jump. Their very specialized hind legs allow them to jump up to 50 times the length of their bodies.

42 Wine region of California : NAPA

The first commercial winery in Napa Valley, California was established way back in 1858. However, premium wine production only dates back to the 1960s, with the region really hitting the big time after its success at the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976. The story of that famous blind wine tasting is told in the entertaining 2008 film “Bottle Shock”.

43 Dickens’s “___ House” : BLEAK

“Bleak House” is a Charles Dickens novel that was originally published as a serial from 1852 to 1853. The novel’s storyline highlights injustices in the English Legal system in the 19th century.

47 Letters after nus : XIS

The Greek letter xi, despite the name, is not the precursor of our letter X. Our X comes from the Greek letter chi.

54 Pouty expression : MOUE

The term “moue” comes from French, and means “small grimace, pout”.

56 “Person” that speaks in beeps and boops : ROBOT

Karel Čapek was a Czech writer noted for his works of science fiction. Čapek’s 1921 play “R.U.R.” is remembered in part for introducing the world to the word “robot”. The words “automaton” and “android” were already in use, but Capek gave us “robot” from the original Czech “robota” meaning “forced labor”. The acronym “R.U.R.”, in the context of the play, stands for “Rossum’s Universal Robots”.

60 Home that might melt : IGLOO

The Inuit word for “house” is “iglu”, which we usually write as “igloo”. The Greenlandic (yes, that’s a language) word for “house” is very similar, namely “igdlo”. The walls of igloos are tremendous insulators, due to the air pockets in the blocks of snow.

63 Use French fries as legal tender? : CASH IN ONE’S CHIPS

French fries are called “chips” back in Ireland where I grew up. And what we call “chips” in the US are known as “crisps” in Britain and Ireland. In France, French fries are known as “pommes frites” (fried potatoes).

66 Constellation with a “belt” : ORION

A subset of three particularly bright stars in the constellation of Orion is named “Orion’s Belt”. The three bright stars sit almost in a straight line and are about equidistant. They’re usually the easiest way to spot the constellation of Orion in the night sky.

67 Good amount of land to build on : ACRE

At one time, an acre was defined as the amount of land a yoke of oxen could plow in a day. Then, an acre was more precisely defined as a strip of land “one furrow long” (i.e. one furlong) and one chain wide. The length of one furlong was equal to 10 chains, or 40 rods. An area of one furlong times 10 rods was one rood.

69 Insurance giant : 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

2 Fencing sword : EPEE

The sword known as an épée has a three-sided blade. The épée is similar to a foil and sabre, although the foil and saber have rectangular cross-sections.

3 Amish cousin : MENNONITE

The Mennonites are a group of religious sects that originated in the Friesland region of the Low Countries. The various denominations are named for Menno Simons who was a contemporary of the Protestant Reformers who followed Martin Luther.

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.

4 Tentacled sea creatures : OCTOPI

The name “octopus” comes from the Greek for “eight-footed”. The most common plural used is “octopuses”, although the Greek plural form “octopodes” is also quite correct. The plural “octopi” isn’t really correct as the inference is that “octopus” is like a second-declension Latin noun, which it isn’t. That said, dictionaries are now citing “octopi” as an acceptable plural. Language does evolve, even though it drives me crazy …

7 Jargon : CANT

Cant is insincere language, or the language associated with a particular group. Back in the 1600s, the term described the whining of beggars.

The noun “jargon” can describe nonsensical and meaningless talk, or the specialized language of a particular group, trade or profession. The term “jargon” is Old French, with the more usual meaning of “chattering”. How apt …

8 Cher, e.g., voicewise : ALTO

“Cher” is the stage name used by singer and actress Cherilyn Sarkisian. Formerly one half of husband-wife duo Sonny & Cher, she is often referred to as the Goddess of Pop. In her acting career, Cher was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar of 1984 for her performance in “Silkwood”. She went further in 1988 and won the season’s Best Actress Oscar for playing Loretta Castorini in “Moonstruck”.

12 It’s a no-no : TABOO

The word “taboo” was introduced into English by Captain Cook in his book “A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean”. Cook described “tabu” (likely imitative of a Tongan word that he had heard) as something that was both consecrated and forbidden.

19 Certain pueblo dweller : HOPI

Many members of the Hopi nation live on a reservation that is actually located within the much larger Navajo reservation in Arizona.

A pueblo is a Native-American village found in the American Southwest. The buildings in a pueblo are usually made of stone and adobe mud.

26 Ending of seven Asian countries’ names : -STAN

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

28 Whom Cain slew : ABEL

In the story of Cain and Abel in the Book of Genesis, Cain murders his brother Abel. Subsequently, God asks Cain, “Where is Abel thy brother?” Cain replies, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

29 Drawers for money : TILLS

What we usually call a cash register here in North America, we mostly call a “till” in Ireland and the UK. I haven’t heard the word “till” used much here in that sense …

35 Reason some people move to the Cayman Islands : TAX RELIEF

The Cayman Islands consist of three islands located just south of Cuba in the Caribbean: Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. The Caymans are a British Overseas Territory, and are the fifth-largest banking center in the whole world.

37 Dot’s counterpart in Morse code : DASH

Samuel Morse was a very accomplished and reputable painter (he was engaged to paint a portrait of President John Adams, for example). In 1825 Morse was in Washington working on a commissioned painting when he received a one-line letter by horse-messenger telling him that his wife was ill. He left immediately for his home in New Haven, Connecticut but by the time that Morse arrived his wife had already died and had been buried. This single event spurred him to move from painting to the development of a rapid means of long distance communication, leading to the single-wire telegraph and Morse code.

44 Hurricane that was the subject of 2006’s “When the Levees Broke” : KATRINA

“When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” is a documentary by Spike Lee that was released in 2006. The film explores the devastation of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

46 Keeping a stiff upper lip : STOIC

Zeno of Citium was a Greek philosopher famous for teaching at the Stoa Poikile, the “Painted Porch”, located on the north side of the Ancient Agora of Athens. Because of the location of his classes, his philosophy became known as stoicism (from “stoa”, the word for “porch”). We get our adjective “stoic”, meaning “indifferent to pleasure or pain”, from the same root.

51 Hot après-ski beverage : COCOA

The beverages hot cocoa and hot chocolate differ from each other in that the latter contains cocoa butter, whereas the former does not.

“Après-ski” is a French term meaning “after skiing”. It refers to the good times to be had after coming off the slopes.

52 Alternative to Chicago’s Midway : O’HARE

O’Hare International was the world’s busiest airport from 1963 to 1998. The original airport was constructed on the site between 1942 and 1943, and was used by the Douglas Aircraft Company for the manufacture of planes during WWII. Before the factory and airport were built, there was a community in the area called Orchard Place, so the airport was called Orchard Place Airport/Douglas Field. This name is the derivation of the airport’s current location identifier: ORD (OR-chard D-ouglas). Orchard Place Airport was renamed to O’Hare International in 1949 in honor of Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare who grew up in Chicago. O’Hare was the US Navy’s first flying ace and a Medal of Honor recipient in WWII.

Midway Airport (MDW) started off with just one cinder runway in 1923, and was called Chicago Air Park. By 1927 the airport had expanded and earned the name Chicago Municipal Airport. In 1932 Midway was the world’s busiest airport, a title it held for thirty years. In 1949, in honor of the WWII Battle of Midway, the airport was renamed again to Chicago Midway Airport. Then in 1955, along came Chicago International Airport and all the major airlines started moving their operations over to the newer facility. Today, Midway is a major hub for Southwest.

53 Put forward, as a theory : POSIT

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

57 Dinghy or dory : BOAT

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

A dory is a small boat that’s around 20 feet long with a shallow draft, a flat bottom and a sharp bow. Dories are commonly used for fishing.

58 First word of a fairy tale : ONCE

The stock phrase “Once upon a time …” has been used in various forms as the start of a narrative at least since 1380. The stock phrase at the end of stories such as folktales is often “and they all lived happily ever after”. The earlier version of this ending was “happily until their deaths”.

59 Six years, for a U.S. senator : TERM

The six-year terms enjoyed by US senators are staggered, so that every two years about one third of the 100 US Senate seats come up for reelection.

62 ___ buco : OSSO

“Osso” is the Italian word for bone, as in the name of the dish “osso buco” (bone with a hole), which features braised veal shanks.

65 Leaf-turning time: Abbr. : SEP

Leaves are green because of the presence of the pigment chlorophyll. There is so much chlorophyll in a leaf during the growing season that it masks out the colors of any other pigments. The amount of chlorophyll falls off in the autumn so that other pigments, present all year, become evident. These pigments are carotenoids which are orange-yellow in color, and anthocyanins which are red-purple.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Message to the office staff : MEMO
5 Old South American empire : INCA
9 Mosquitoes and gnats : PESTS
14 Grp. that sets oil benchmarks : OPEC
15 Start a game of cards : DEAL
16 American living abroad, e.g. : EXPAT
17 Traveled by subway? : WENT DOWN THE TUBE
20 Mexican mister : SENOR
21 Seat at the bar : STOOL
22 ___ v. Wade : ROE
23 Magnum ___ (greatest work) : OPUS
25 Like a recovering hosp. patient, perhaps : POST-OP
27 “Would you call the elevator for me?” : CAN I GET A LIFT?
32 Japanese sash : OBI
33 Piece of pizza : SLICE
34 Foreordained : FATED
38 Chrissy of “This Is Us” : METZ
40 Pet peeves? : FLEAS
42 Wine region of California : NAPA
43 Dickens’s “___ House” : BLEAK
45 “Naughty” and “nice” things for Santa : LISTS
47 Letters after nus : XIS
48 “Hand me a flashlight”? : PASS THE TORCH
51 Admits, as an offense : COPS TO
54 Pouty expression : MOUE
55 “Well, lookee here!” : OHO!
56 “Person” that speaks in beeps and boops : ROBOT
60 Home that might melt : IGLOO
63 Use French fries as legal tender? : CASH IN ONE’S CHIPS
66 Constellation with a “belt” : ORION
67 Good amount of land to build on : ACRE
68 Golf ball stands : TEES
69 Insurance giant : AETNA
70 Worker paid day by day, maybe : TEMP
71 Hairstyle that may have a pick : AFRO

Down

1 Cuts the grass : MOWS
2 Fencing sword : EPEE
3 Amish cousin : MENNONITE
4 Tentacled sea creatures : OCTOPI
5 Vow before a judge : I DO
6 The latest : NEWS
7 Jargon : CANT
8 Cher, e.g., voicewise : ALTO
9 Remove, as a sticker : PEEL OFF
10 Part of an office telephone no. : EXT
11 Period of rapid growth : SPURT
12 It’s a no-no : TABOO
13 Like some ski slopes and prices : STEEP
18 Pharmacy offerings : DRUGS
19 Certain pueblo dweller : HOPI
24 ___-evaluation : SELF
26 Ending of seven Asian countries’ names : -STAN
27 Item in a purse : COMB
28 Whom Cain slew : ABEL
29 Drawers for money : TILLS
30 Nail the test : ACE IT
31 Dog walker’s need : LEASH
35 Reason some people move to the Cayman Islands : TAX RELIEF
36 More than amazing : EPIC
37 Dot’s counterpart in Morse code : DASH
39 Microwaves : ZAPS
41 Long part of a rose : STEM
44 Hurricane that was the subject of 2006’s “When the Levees Broke” : KATRINA
46 Keeping a stiff upper lip : STOIC
49 Any minute now : SOON
50 Should, informally : OUGHTA
51 Hot après-ski beverage : COCOA
52 Alternative to Chicago’s Midway : O’HARE
53 Put forward, as a theory : POSIT
57 Dinghy or dory : BOAT
58 First word of a fairy tale : ONCE
59 Six years, for a U.S. senator : TERM
61 Abbr. on a 0 button : OPER
62 ___ buco : OSSO
64 Sweetie pie : HON
65 Leaf-turning time: Abbr. : SEP

16 thoughts on “1207-20 NY Times Crossword 7 Dec 20, Monday”

    1. I think I put in COMB right away off the CO – who uses coins anymore? I’ve had the same 9 coins in my pocket adding up to $0.83 for probably about 6 months now. 🙂

  1. 5:49, no errors, no complaints except that I initially put in a COIN instead of a COMB in that purse (and I’m sure that it took me at least 30 seconds to correct that, but who’s counting? 😜)

  2. 9:03. Input on my tablet was goofy today…was it my fat fingers or mechanical error? I’ll never tell. 😜

    1. Not to worry, Steve. I think we all have problems with digital devices these days. (I know I do … 😜)

  3. 8:10. Trying to get back into practice after several days off. Even Mondays seem challenging after a break.

    Interesting Samuel Morse story. I had no idea.

    Best –

  4. Bill-
    Liked your explanation for 47A, tho it was not necessary for
    me, as in college, I was a member of XI chapter of Sigma CHI.

  5. I noticed as I went through this puzzle that the theme answers were Britishisms. However, I think that that the clueing for the fourth one (Use French fries as legal tender?) does not fit the pattern. To my understanding, the term “French fries” is not used in Britain at all (unless someone is trying to say that they know American terminology). What Americans call “French fries” are simply called “fries” and the popular thicker-cut fries are called “chips”. So the clue is specious.

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