1221-20 NY Times Crossword 21 Dec 20, Monday

Constructed by: Sarah Keller & Derek Bowman
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Reveal Answer: Say What?

Themed answers are all synonyms of “empty talk”, talk that may elicit a “Say what?”:

  • 71A “Huh?” … or a possible response to 1-, 19-, 25-, 48- and 57-Across : SAY WHAT?
  • 1A Prattle : BLATHER
  • 19A Nonsense : MUMBO JUMBO
  • 25A Worthless talk : JIBBER-JABBER
  • 48A Unintelligible jargon : GOBBLEDYGOOK
  • 57A Twaddle : BALDERDASH

Bill’s time: 4m 53s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1 Prattle : BLATHER

Our term “blather” meaning “nonsensical talk” probably came to us via Scottish, and ultimately perhaps from an Old Norse word for “mutter”.

15 Popeye’s profession : SAILOR

Popeye first appeared in 1929 in a comic strip called “Thimble Theatre”. The strip, created by E. C. Segar, ran for ten years before Popeye made an appearance. Popeye received such a great welcome from readers that he soon “took over” the strip, and eventually even hogged the strip’s title. Before Popeye turned up, Olive Oyl was the main character.

16 Browser’s start-up point : HOMEPAGE

A web browser is a piece of software used to access the World Wide Web. The first web browser was called “WorldWideWeb” and was invented in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee, the man who created the World Wide Web. The browser known as Mosaic came out in 1993, and it was this browser that drove so much interest in the World Wide Web, and indeed in the Internet in general. Marc Andreessen led the team that created Mosaic, and he then set up his own company called Netscape. Netscape created the Netscape Navigator browser that further popularized the use of the Web starting in 1994. Microsoft responded by introducing Internet Explorer in 1995, which sparked the so-called “browser war”, a war that Microsoft clearly won. As Netscape floundered, the company launched the open-source Mozilla project which eventually led to the Firefox browser. Apple then came out with it’s own Safari browser in 2003. Google’s Chrome browser, introduced in 2008, is by far the most popular way to view the Web today.

17 Buses, as tables : CLEARS

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.

19 Nonsense : MUMBO JUMBO

“Mumbo jumbo” means big and empty talk, and is a term that we’ve been using since the late 1800s. Supposedly the term comes from a Mandingo word for an idol that was worshipped by some tribes in Africa.

21 Second letter after epsilon : ETA

Eta is the seventh letter of the Greek alphabet, and is a forerunner of our Latin character “H”. Originally denoting a consonant, eta was used as a long vowel in Ancient Greek.

23 Tic-tac-toe win : O-O-O

When I was growing up in Ireland we played “noughts and crosses” … our name for the game tic-tac-toe.

32 Financial claim : LIEN

A lien is a right that one has to retain or secure someone’s property until a debt is paid. When an individual takes out a car loan, for example, the lending bank is usually a lien holder. The bank releases the lien on the car when the loan is paid in full.

42 Raft for a polar bear : FLOE

An ice floe is a sheet of ice that has separated from an ice field and is floating freely on the surface of the ocean.

Polar bears are close cousins of brown bears, and are thought to have evolved from a population of brown bears that became isolated during a period of glaciation. Most polar bears live north of the Arctic Circle, and live mainly on seals that they capture near the edge of ice floes.

43 = : EQUAL

The equals sign (=) was the 1557 creation of a Welsh physician and mathematician Robert Recorde. Recorde proposed the use of two parallel lines to indicate equality “because no 2 things can be more equal.”

47 R.N.’s touch : TLC

Tender loving care (TLC)

Registered nurse (RN)

48 Unintelligible jargon : GOBBLEDYGOOK

Gobbledygook is pompous, officious talk. The term is the 1944 invention of US Congressman Maury Maverick from Texas. He said he wanted to come up with a word that was imitative of a turkey.

57 Twaddle : BALDERDASH

“Balderdash” means “senseless jumble of words”. The original balderdash (back before the late 1600s) was a jumbled mix of liquids like maybe beer and wine, or even beer and milk!

66 Sudden thought that makes you go “Wow!” : EPIPHANY

An epiphany is an appearance or manifestation, especially of a supreme being. By extension, “epiphany” can also apply to a sudden insight or intuitive perception. The term derives from the Greek “epiphainein” meaning “to manifest, display”.

Down

1 ___ Men, group with the 2000 hit “Who Let the Dogs Out” : BAHA

The Baha Men are so called because they hail from the Bahamas. Their big hit was “Who Let the Dogs Out?” That song once ranked third in a list of the world’s most annoying songs!

2 Scientology founder ___ Hubbard : L RON

L. Ron Hubbard wrote a self-improvement book in 1950 called “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health”. A few years later, he used the concepts in the book as he founded his Church of Scientology.

3 Highest point : ACME

The acme is the highest point. The term “acme” comes from the Greek word “akme” that has the same meaning.

4 Where spiders get their information? : THE WEB

The silk that makes up a web is a protein fiber that is “spun” by a spider. Spider silk is about one sixth of the density of steel, yet has a comparable tensile strength.

6 Actress Saint of “North by Northwest” : EVA MARIE

Eva Marie Saint won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing Edie Doyle in the 1954 movie “On the Waterfront”. My favorite of Saint’s movies is the 1959 Hitchcock classic “North by Northwest”, in which she starred opposite Cary Grant. She ratcheted back her career at its height, right after her success in “North by Northwest”. Saint opted instead to spend more time with her husband and children, taking very few acting roles. That marriage is still going strong, and she has two children and several grandchildren.

7 Alternative to Prego : RAGU

The Ragú brand of pasta sauce is owned by Unilever. The name ” Ragù” is the Italian word for a sauce used to dress pasta, however the spelling is a little off. In Italian, the word is “Ragù” with a grave accent over the “u”, but if you look at a jar of the sauce on the supermarket shelf it is spelled “Ragú” on the label, with an acute accent. Sometimes I think we just don’t try …

8 1957 title role for Frank Sinatra : PAL JOEY

“Pal Joey” is a 1940 novel by John O’Hara that was made into a stage musical and musical film with music and lyrics by Rodgers and Hart. There are two well-known songs from the musical: “I Could Write a Book” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”. There’s also a film called “Pal Joey” starring Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak. The film is loosely based on the stage musical.

Frank Sinatra was married four times in all. His first wife, and mother of his three children, was Nancy Barbato. Barbato and Sinatra met in Jersey City while in their teens, and married in their early twenties in 1939. They divorced in 1951 following a string of affairs that Sinatra had after he moved his family to Hollywood. One of those very public affairs was with actress Ava Gardner, who became Sinatra’s second wife a few months after divorcing Barbato. That marriage lasted until 1957. Sinatra then married actress Mia Farrow, when she was 21 years old and he was 29 years her senior. That marriage only lasted a couple of years. Sinatra’s last marriage took place in 1976, and was Barbara Blakely Marx, the ex-wife of Zeppo Marx of the Marx Brothers.

9 In ___ of (replacing) : LIEU

As one might imagine perhaps, “in lieu” came into English from the Old French word “lieu” meaning “place”, which in turn is derived from the Latin “locum” that also means “place”. So, “in lieu” translates as “in place of”.

10 March goes out like this, as the expression goes : A LAMB

“March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb” is a proverb suggesting that the month of March starts off with cold and unpleasant weather, but finishes mildly and quite pleasantly.

11 “___ the Greek” : ZORBA

The film “Zorba the Greek” and the musical “Zorba” are adaptations of the 1952 novel “Zorba the Greek” by Nikos Kazantzakis. The 1964 film version stars Anthony Quinn in the title role, and Alan Bates. The movie is set and was filmed on location on the island of Crete, the home of author Kazantzakis.

12 Pyromaniac’s crime : ARSON

“Pyro-” is the combining form of the Greek word for “fire”. “Pyrotechnics” is the art of making and using fireworks. “Pyromania” is a strong desire to light fires.

14 Old NASA moon-landing vehicle : LEM

In the Apollo program, the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) was the vehicle that actually landed on the moon and returned the astronauts to the command module that was orbiting overhead. The third LEM built was named “Spider”, and it participated in the Apollo 9 mission which tested the functionality of the LEM design in space. The fourth LEM was called “Snoopy” and it flew around the moon in the Apollo 10 mission, the dress rehearsal for the upcoming moon landing. Apollo 11’s LEM was called “Eagle” and it brought Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to and from the moon’s surface. Another famous LEM was Apollo 13’s Aquarius. Although Aquarius never landed on the moon, it did serve as a “lifeboat” for the three astronauts after the explosive rupture of an oxygen canister in the Service Module.

15 Great Dane of cartoons, informally : SCOOB

“Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” is a series of cartoons produced for Hanna-Barbera Productions, first broadcast in 1969. The title character is a great Dane dog owned by a young male called Shaggy Rogers. The character’s name was inspired by the famous “doo-be-doo-be-doo” refrain in the Frank Sinatra hit “Strangers in the Night”. Shaggy was voiced by famed disk jockey Casey Kasem. Shaggy and Scooby’s friends are Velma, Fred and Daphne.

The Great Dane breed of dog isn’t actually from Denmark, and rather is from Germany.

20 Short hairstyle : BOB

A bob cut is a short hairstyle in which the hair is cut straight around the head, at about the line of the jaw. Back in the 1570s, “bob” was the name given to a horse’s tail that was cut short, and about a century later it was being used to describe short hair on humans. The style became very popular with women in the early 1900s (as worn by actress Clara Bow, for example), with the fashion dying out in the thirties. The style reemerged in the sixties around the time the Beatles introduced their “mop tops”, with Vidal Sassoon leading the way in styling women’s hair in a bob cut again. Personally, I like it …

22 ___ Aviv, Israel : TEL

The full name of Israel’s second largest city is Tel Aviv-Yafo. “Tel Aviv” translates into “Spring Mound”, and is a name that was chosen in 1910.

26 Baghdad’s land : IRAQ

According to the University of Baghdad, the name “Baghdad” dates way back, to the 18th-century BCE (yes, BCE!). The name can be translated into English from the language of ancient Babylon as “old garden” (bagh-) and “beloved” (-dad).

27 Boyfriend : BEAU

A beau (plural “beaux”) is the boyfriend of a belle, a young lady. “Beau” and “belle” are the masculine and feminine forms of the French word for “handsome, beautiful”.

28 Bartlet of “The West Wing” or Clampett of “The Beverly Hillbillies” : JED

In the excellent television show “The West Wing”, President Jed Bartlet is played by Martin Sheen. Sheen also played real-life President John F. Kennedy in the miniseries “Kennedy: Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy”.

Actor Buddy Ebsen was best known for playing Jed Clampett in television’s “The Beverly Hillbillies”. Ebsen had been cast in the role of the Tin Man in the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz”, but he developed an allergy to the aluminium dust that was used in the makeup. He ended up in hospital and had to walk away from the part. Ebsen blamed “The Wizard of Oz” on persistent problems that he had with his lungs in subsequent years. But Ebsen lived 16 years longers that any of the other major cast members of the film, so maybe he got the last laugh!

35 Chocolate/caramel candy : ROLO

Rolo was a hugely popular chocolate candy in Ireland when I was growing up. Rolo was introduced in the thirties in the UK, and is produced under license in the US by Hershey. I was a little disappointed when I had my first taste of the American version as the center is very hard and chewy. The recipe used on the other side of the Atlantic calls for a soft gooey center.

41 Mao Zedong was its leader : RED CHINA

The association of the color red with communism dates back to the French Revolution. A red flag was chosen as a symbol by the revolutionaries, with the color representing the blood of workers who had died in the fight against capitalism.

Mao Zedong (also “Mao Tse-tung”) was born on December 16, 1893 in the Hunan Province of China. As Mao was the son of a peasant farmer, his prospects for education were limited. Indeed he left school at age 13 to work on the family farm but did eventually get to secondary school in Changsha, the provincial capital. In the years following, Mao continued his education in Beijing and actually turned down an opportunity to study in France.

44 1960s hippie gatherings : LOVE-INS

A love-in is a peaceful protest that is most associated with the late sixties. The gatherings themselves often involved meditation, music and the use of psychedelic drugs. The term “love-in” was apparently coined by LA comedian Peter Bergman who had a radio show at that time.

46 Big Apple sch. : NYU

New York University (NYU) comprises fifteen schools, one of which is the Tisch School of the Arts. The Tisch is famous for its acting program, with notable alumni such as Debra Messing, Christopher Guest and Josh Radnor.

Apparently, the first published use of the term “Big Apple” to describe New York City dates back to 1909. Edward Martin wrote the following in his book “The Wayfarer in New York”:

Kansas is apt to see in New York a greedy city. . . . It inclines to think that the big apple gets a disproportionate share of the national sap.

Over ten years later, the term “big apple” was used as a nickname for racetracks in and around New York City. However, the concerted effort to “brand” the city as the Big Apple had to wait until the seventies and was the work of the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau.

51 “Pygmalion” playwright, for short : GB SHAW

George Bernard Shaw (GBS) was a very successful Irish playwright. Shaw is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature, and an Oscar. He won his Oscar for adapting his own play “Pygmalion” for the 1938 film of the same name starring Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller. Most people are more likely to have seen the musical adaptation of “Pygmalion” that goes by the title “My Fair Lady”.

George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion” was adapted by Lerner and Loewe to become the Broadway musical “My Fair Lady”. The musical spun off the wonderful 1964 film of the same name starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. To cockney Eliza Doolittle, Professor Henry Higgins was “‘Enry ‘Iggins”.

54 Amazon’s virtual assistant : ALEXA

Alexa is a personal assistant application that is most associated with the Amazon Echo smart speaker. Apparently, one reason the name “Alexa” was chosen is because it might remind one of the Library of Alexandria, the “keeper of all knowledge”.

59 ___ Lingus : AER

Aer Lingus is my favorite airline! Well, the service isn’t that great, but when I get on board an Aer Lingus plane I feel like I am back in Ireland. Aer Lingus is the national airline of Ireland, with “Aer Lingus” being a phonetic spelling of the Irish “aer-loingeas” meaning “air fleet”. These days Aer Lingus can only lay claim to the title of Ireland’s oldest airline as it is no longer the biggest. That honor goes to the controversial budget airline Ryanair.

63 Singer/lyricist Paul : ANKA

Canadian-born Paul Anka’s big hit was in 1957, the song entitled “Diana”. Anka was the subject of a much-lauded documentary film in 1962 called “Lonely Boy”.

64 Classic computer game set on an island : MYST

In the days when I played the occasional video game, the best of the bunch was undoubtedly Myst. It is a game full of puzzles with the player wandering through a beautifully-designed (for its day) interactive world.

67 “Gangnam Style” singer : PSY

“PSY” is the stage name of South Korean rapper Park Jae-sang. PSY became an international star when his 2012 music video “Gangnam Style” went viral on YouTube. That video had over 1 billion views on YouTube in about six months, making it the most viewed YouTube video clip of all time. The title of the song refers to a lifestyle experienced in the Gangnam District of Seoul.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Prattle : BLATHER
8 Public square : PLAZA
13 Like records stored for research : ARCHIVAL
15 Popeye’s profession : SAILOR
16 Browser’s start-up point : HOMEPAGE
17 Buses, as tables : CLEARS
18 Freshly : ANEW
19 Nonsense : MUMBO JUMBO
21 Second letter after epsilon : ETA
23 Tic-tac-toe win : O-O-O
24 Prohibit : BAN
25 Worthless talk : JIBBER-JABBER
31 Fury : IRE
32 Financial claim : LIEN
33 Hanker (for) : YEARN
37 Neighs : horses :: ___ : sheep : BAAS
39 Landscaper’s tool : EDGER
42 Raft for a polar bear : FLOE
43 = : EQUAL
45 It’s not odd : EVEN
47 R.N.’s touch : TLC
48 Unintelligible jargon : GOBBLEDYGOOK
52 “So that’s it!” : AHA!
55 Itinerary preposition : VIA
56 Inexperienced reporter : CUB
57 Twaddle : BALDERDASH
61 Line down the length of a skirt : SEAM
65 Signing-on info : USER ID
66 Sudden thought that makes you go “Wow!” : EPIPHANY
68 Poisons : TOXINS
69 Goes through hurriedly, as during a robbery : RANSACKS
70 Jacket alternatives to buttons : SNAPS
71 “Huh?” … or a possible response to 1-, 19-, 25-, 48- and 57-Across : SAY WHAT?

Down

1 ___ Men, group with the 2000 hit “Who Let the Dogs Out” : BAHA
2 Scientology founder ___ Hubbard : L RON
3 Highest point : ACME
4 Where spiders get their information? : THE WEB
5 Way cool : HIP
6 Actress Saint of “North by Northwest” : EVA MARIE
7 Alternative to Prego : RAGU
8 1957 title role for Frank Sinatra : PAL JOEY
9 In ___ of (replacing) : LIEU
10 March goes out like this, as the expression goes : A LAMB
11 “___ the Greek” : ZORBA
12 Pyromaniac’s crime : ARSON
14 Old NASA moon-landing vehicle : LEM
15 Great Dane of cartoons, informally : SCOOB
20 Short hairstyle : BOB
22 ___ Aviv, Israel : TEL
25 Match up (with) : JIBE
26 Baghdad’s land : IRAQ
27 Boyfriend : BEAU
28 Bartlet of “The West Wing” or Clampett of “The Beverly Hillbillies” : JED
29 Figure made by lying in the snow and waving one’s arms : ANGEL
30 Sports official, informally : REF
34 Voice below soprano : ALTO
35 Chocolate/caramel candy : ROLO
36 Narrow part of a bottle : NECK
38 Droop : SAG
40 Christmas ___ (December 24) : EVE
41 Mao Zedong was its leader : RED CHINA
44 1960s hippie gatherings : LOVE-INS
46 Big Apple sch. : NYU
49 Hawks and doves : BIRDS
50 Rebuke to a dog : BAD!
51 “Pygmalion” playwright, for short : GB SHAW
52 Borders : ABUTS
53 Wears, as clothes : HAS ON
54 Amazon’s virtual assistant : ALEXA
58 Icicles and burning candles both do this : DRIP
59 ___ Lingus : AER
60 Mineral springs : SPAS
62 Individually : EACH
63 Singer/lyricist Paul : ANKA
64 Classic computer game set on an island : MYST
67 “Gangnam Style” singer : PSY

11 thoughts on “1221-20 NY Times Crossword 21 Dec 20, Monday”

  1. 7:19. A few places where I had to think.

    Recorde isn’t entirely correct about the equal sign. One line is superior to the other so saying that no two things could be more equal is overstating it. How about two dashes on the same line? Anyway, now we have to think of a new equal sign….

    Best –

  2. 8:26 The downfall for me on Monday is by being able to fill in a lot of the acrosses, I have to fill in very few of the downs. So when I misspelled “gobbledygook” with a “t” instead of a “d” it took a while to find/correct “Ret China”…..oops…

    1. @Glenn …

      Hmmm. I tried to watch this, ended up with an apparently endless string of ads, and became too annoyed to continue.

      Something odd has recently happened to YouTube. This would appear to be one more manifestation of the phenomenon. Is it time to retire to my little cabin in the deep woods and ignore a world gone mad?

  3. 15:19 no errors…this puzzle is right in line with its theme.
    @Nonny…if you still want that cabin in the woods there is a guy named Ted Kazlnski who would most likely give you a good deal😀
    Stay safe
    Time to “play ball”😀

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