0315-21 NY Times Crossword 15 Mar 21, Monday

Constructed by: Philip K. Chow
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Reveal Answer: Mexican Flag

Themed answers are elements in the MEXICAN FLAG:

  • 61A Where you can find a 17-Across perched on an 11-Down devouring a 25-Down : MEXICAN FLAG
  • 17A Large bird of prey with a brownish-yellow neck : GOLDEN EAGLE
  • 11D Cactus with an edible fruit : PRICKLY PEAR
  • 25D Venomous predator with a vibrating tail : RATTLESNAKE

Bill’s time: 5m 16s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

6 Watering place for a camel : OASIS

An isolated area of vegetation in a desert is called an oasis (plural “oases”). As water is needed for plant growth, an oasis might also include a spring, pond or small lake. We often use the term “oasis” more generally to describe a haven, a place of rest.

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of a camel is the large deposit of fatty tissue on its back. The dromedary is the most common camel, and has one hump of fatty tissue on its back. The Bactrian camel has two humps, and makes up just 6% of the world’s camel population. Those fatty humps are useful if no food or water is available, as fat can be broken down into water and energy.

14 “The Fox and the Grapes” storyteller : AESOP

Aesop is remembered today as a fabulist, a writer of fables. Aesop lived in ancient Greece, probably around the sixth century BC. Supposedly he was born a slave, somehow became a free man, but then met with a sorry end. Aesop was sent to the city of Delphi on a diplomatic mission but instead insulted the Delphians. He was tried on a trumped-up charge of stealing from a temple, sentenced to death and was thrown off a cliff.

Our expression “sour grapes” is used to describe a negative attitude adopted by somebody towards something just because that person can’t have the thing himself or herself. The phrase alludes to one of Aesop’s fables, the story of “The Fox and the Grapes”. In the fable, a squirrel could climb up to grapes high in a tree that a fox was unsuccessful in getting to. On seeing this, the fox said, “It’s okay, the grapes were sour anyway”.

15 Trick-taking card game : WHIST

Whist is an English card game that involves the taking of tricks. Whist is a derivative of the earlier game of Trump or Ruff that was played in the 16th century. Back in Ireland, where I come from, whist tournaments are extremely popular and are known as “whist drives”.

16 Messenger ___ : RNA

Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is an essential catalyst in the manufacture of proteins in the body. The genetic code in DNA determines the sequence of amino acids that make up each protein. That sequence is read in DNA by messenger RNA, and amino acids are delivered for protein manufacture in the correct sequence by transfer RNA. The amino acids are then formed into proteins by ribosomal RNA.

21 Hombre : MAN

In Spanish, a “niño” (boy) turns into a “hombre” (man).

22 Pool stick : CUE

The more correct name for the game of pool is “pocket billiards”. The designation “pool” arose after pocket billiards became a common feature in “pool halls”, places where gamblers “pooled” their money to bet on horse races.

28 ___ carte (ordered separately) : A LA

On a restaurant menu, items that are “à la carte” are priced and ordered separately. A menu marked “table d’hôte” (also called “prix fixe”) is a fixed-price menu with limited choice. “Table d’hôte” translates from French as “table of the host”.

29 Blue race in “Avatar” : NA’VI

In James Cameron’s epic “Avatar”, the “blue people” are the Na’vi, the indigenous species that lives on the lush moon called Pandora. The main Na’vi character featured in the film is the female Neytiri. According to Cameron, Neytiri was inspired by the character played by Raquel Welch in the movie “Fantastic Voyage” and the comic book character Vampirella.

31 Kind of pickle : DILL

Often, a dill pickle is actually a pickled gherkin, as the gherkin and cucumber are different cultivars within the same species. Here in the US, dill is commonly added to the pickling vinegar or brine, but this wasn’t the case when I used to eat them back in Ireland (I can’t stand dill!). You might see jars labeled as “cornichons”, but they’re gherkins. “Cornichon” is the French word for “gherkin”.

32 ___ for tat : TIT

The phrase “tit for tat”, meaning some sort of retaliation, has been around for an awfully long time, since the mid-1500s. It might be derived from “tip for tap”, meaning “blow for blow”.

33 Actor Kevin whose last name shares four letters with his first : KLINE

Actor Kevin Kline stars in many of my favorite films, like “French Kiss” (in which he had a very impressive French accent) and “A Fish Called Wanda.” Kline also appeared in the romantic comedy “In & Out”, and the modern-day classic “The Big Chill”. It was while shooting “The Big Chill” that Kline met his future wife, actress Phoebe Cates.

35 Eric Clapton hit that’s over seven minutes long : LAYLA

“Layla” is one of the great rock anthems of the seventies, released by Derek and the Dominos as a single in 1971. It is a masterpiece of composition, with the first half of the song a great vehicle for the guitar-playing talents of Eric Clapton. The second half is a beautifully melodic piano coda (a coda … taking up half the length of the track!). To top things off we have the “unplugged” version recorded by Clapton in 1992, a fabulous and inventive variation on the original.

Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.
Layla, I’m begging, darling please.
Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.

38 Light bulb unit : WATT

James Watt was a Scottish inventor. He figured prominently in the Industrial Revolution in Britain, largely due to the improvements he made to the fledgling steam engine. The SI unit of power is called the watt, and was named in his honor.

43 Speak extemporaneously : AD LIB

“Ad libitum” is a Latin phrase meaning “at one’s pleasure”. In common usage, the phrase is usually shortened to “ad lib”. On the stage, the concept of an ad lib is very familiar.

45 Boringly proper : STAID

Something described as staid is unwavering, fixed. This usage expanded to mean “sober, sedate”. The term dates back to the 16th century, and comes from the verb “to stay”. “Staid” is a rewriting of the past participle “stayed”.

48 Greek god of love : EROS

The name of Eros, the Greek god of love, gives rise to our word “erotic” meaning “arousing sexual desire”. Eros was referred to in Latin as both “Amor” (meaning “love”) and “Cupid” (meaning “desire”).

50 Away from the wind, nautically : ALEE

Alee is the direction away from the wind. If a sailor points into the wind, he or she is pointing aweather.

57 Plant bristle : AWN

“Awn” is the name given to hair- or bristle-like structures found in numerous species of plants. In some species, like barley, the awns can contain photosynthetic tissue.

59 Olla podrida, for one : STEW

Olla podrida is a Spanish stew based on pork and beans. The name “olla podrida” translates into English as “rotten pot”. Hmm …

61 Where you can find a 17-Across perched on an 11-Down devouring a 25-Down : MEXICAN FLAG

The Mexican flag consists of three vertical stripes of green, white and red. The national coat of arms is displayed in the center of the white stripe. That coat of arms features a golden eagle holding a rattlesnake in its talons, while sitting atop a prickly pear cactus.

66 Noah’s construction : ARK

According to the Bible’s Book of Genesis, Noah was instructed to build his ark 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high. That’s about 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high.

68 One of the Allman Brothers : DUANE

The Allman Brothers Band has to be one of the most unlucky bands in the business. Soon after the group had its big break with the 1971 album “At Fillmore East”, one of the two Allman brothers, Duane, was killed in a motorcycle accident. One year later, bassist Berry Oakley was killed, also in a motorcycle accident. The other brother, Gregg Allman, passed away in his home in 2017.

71 New York’s Memorial ___ Kettering Cancer Center : SLOAN

The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City comprises the Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases, and Sloan Kettering Institute. The center was founded in 1884 as the New York Cancer Hospital by a group of philanthropists led by John Jacob Astor and his wife Charlotte. The Sloan-Kettering Institute is the research arm of the center. The institute was set up in 1945 with funds from the charitable foundation of Alfred P. Sloan. Jr. Charles F. Kettering was an executive at General Motors at the time, and he organized the application of industrial research techniques to the fight against cancer. Sloan and Kettering jointly announced the founding of the institute in the days following the dropping of the first atom bomb on Hiroshima. The pair pointed out that if a two billion dollar scientific effort could produce an atomic bomb, then surely a similar application of funds and scientific talent could make enormous strides in the fight against cancer.

Down

2 Zodiac sign before Virgo : LEO

Leo is the fifth astrological sign of the Zodiac. People born from July 23 to August 22 are Leos.

3 Course for some immigrants, in brief : ESL

English as a Second Language (ESL) is sometimes referred to as English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL).

4 Historic Kansas fort name : DODGE

Fort Dodge was in Kansas, on the Santa Fe Trail (connecting Missouri with Santa Fe, New Mexico). The fort was named after Major General Grenville M. Dodge, who was in charge of the army presence in the area. Fort Dodge gave its name to Dodge City, which grew up near the fort.

5 Explore caves : SPELUNK

“Spelunking” is an American term describing recreational caving, although the word has Latin roots (“spelunca” is the Latin for “cave”). The term originated in the 1940s in New England when it was adopted by a group of men who explored caves in the area.

8 Letter after rho : SIGMA

Sigma is the eighteenth letter of the Greek alphabet, and is the one used for an “ess” sound, equivalent to our letter S. Sigma is used in mathematics to represent a summation, the adding together of a sequence of numbers.

9 Cuba or Aruba : ISLAND

Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean. The exact etymology of the name “Cuba” seems a little unclear. Most believe “Cuba” to be derived from the Taíno terms for “where fertile land is abundant” (cubao) or “great place” (coabana).

10 Sign maker’s pattern : STENCIL

A stencil is a sheet of impervious material with perforations in the shape of letters or a design. The stencil is placed over a surface to be printed and then the printing medium is applied, so that the medium only attaches to the surface beneath the perforations.

13 No longer feral : TAMED

“Feral”, meaning “existing in a wild or untamed state”, comes from the Latin word “fera” meaning “wild animal”.

18 Incendiary bomb material : NAPALM

Napalm is an incendiary compound used in weapons that is made from petroleum mixed with a thickening agent. Napalm was developed in a secret program at Harvard during WWII. It was initially used in incendiary bombs and flamethrowers. The thickening agent in napalm causes the burning material to stick to skin causing severe burns. Because of this, the UN declared the use of napalm in civilian areas a war crime in 1980.

23 Formal ruling on a point of Islamic law : FATWA

In the Muslim tradition, a fatwā is a religious opinion issued by an Islamic scholar (a “mufti”) on a matter of Islamic law. There is a common misconception that a fatwā is a death sentence imposed on a person, and although such a drastic directive is a possible component of the opinion, it is a very rare occurrence.

24 Trojan War epic poem : ILIAD

Ilion (or in Latin “Ileum”), was the ancient name for the city of Troy. It’s this name for Troy that gives rise to the title of Homer’s epic poem “Iliad”.

25 Venomous predator with a vibrating tail : RATTLESNAKE

The scales covering the tip of a rattlesnake’s tail are made of keratin, the same structural protein that makes up the outer layer of human skin, as well as our hair and nails. The rattlesnake shakes its tail vigorously to warn off potential predators, causing the hollow scales to vibrate against one another and resulting in that scary “rattle” sound. The rattler’s tail muscles “fire” an incredible fifty times a second to achieve that effect, demonstrating one of the fastest muscular movements in the whole animal kingdom.

26 They get smashed at parties : PINATAS

Piñatas originated in Mexico, probably among the Aztecs or Mayans. Today’s piñatas are usually made from cardboard that is brightly decorated with papier-mâché. Traditionally a piñata was made out of a clay pot, adorned with feathers and ribbons and filled with small treasures. During religious ceremonies the clay pots would be suspended and broken open so that the contents would spill out onto the ground at the feet of a god as an offering.

37 World’s longest continental mountain range : ANDES

The Andes range is the longest continuous chain of mountains in the world. It runs down the length of the west coast of South America for about 4,300 miles, from Venezuela in the north to Chile in the south. The highest peak in the Andes is Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina, at an elevation of 22,841 feet. Interestingly, the peak of Mt. Chimborazo in Ecuador is the furthest point on the Earth’s surface from the center of the planet. That’s because of the equatorial “bulge” around the Earth’s “waist”.

39 Lose stamina : TIRE

The Latin word “stamen” translates as “thread”, or more specifically “warp in an upright loom”. The term was used figuratively to describe the thread woven by the Fates, the length of which predetermined the duration of a person’s natural life. This idea evolved into the idea that a person had several vital capacities (“stamina”, plural of “stamen”) that contributed to the duration of a life. Over time, “stamina” came to be used in a singular sense, describing a person’s capacity to endure. Quite interesting …

41 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.

44 European region that lent its name to a nonconforming lifestyle : BOHEMIA

The region known as Bohemia covers most of the Czech Republic. Centuries ago, it was wrongly believed that gypsies came from Bohemia, giving rise to the term “Bohemian” meaning a “gypsy of society”.

49 Ambulance sounds : SIRENS

Our word “ambulance” originated from the French term “hôpital ambulant” meaning “field hospital” (literally “walking hospital”). In the 1850s, the term started to be used for a vehicle transporting the wounded from the battlefield, leading to our “ambulance”.

52 Rum-soaked desserts : BABAS

Rum baba (also “baba au rhum” in French) is a small yeast cake saturated in rum, and sometimes filled with whipped cream. Rum baba is derived from the recipe for the tall “babka” yeast cake that was introduced to the world by the Polish communities. The Polish words “baba” and “babka” mean “old woman” or “grandmother” in English. I guess someone must have thought that all grandmothers were saturated in rum!

54 Messages that sometimes contain emojis : TEXTS

An emoji is a character found on many cell phones that is much like an emoticon, but is more elaborate.

59 Get off ___-free : SCOT

The phrase “scot-free” means “free from punishment, restraint or obligation”. The term derives from the Old English “scotfreo” meaning “exempt from royal tax”, with “scot” being a royal tax.

63 Philosopher ___-tzu : LAO

Lao Tse (also “Lao-Tzu”) was a central figure in the development of the religion/philosophy of Taoism. Tradition holds that Lao-Tzu wrote the “Tao Te Ching”, a classical Chinese text that is fundamental to the philosophy of Taoism.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Vehicles on snow-covered hills : SLEDS
6 Watering place for a camel : OASIS
11 Indoor animal : PET
14 “The Fox and the Grapes” storyteller : AESOP
15 Trick-taking card game : WHIST
16 Messenger ___ : RNA
17 Large bird of prey with a brownish-yellow neck : GOLDEN EAGLE
19 Suffix with cynic or skeptic : -ISM
20 Pleased : GLAD
21 Hombre : MAN
22 Pool stick : CUE
23 Make excited, as a crowd : FIRE UP
26 Smooshed into compact layers : PANCAKED
28 ___ carte (ordered separately) : A LA
29 Blue race in “Avatar” : NA’VI
31 Kind of pickle : DILL
32 ___ for tat : TIT
33 Actor Kevin whose last name shares four letters with his first : KLINE
35 Eric Clapton hit that’s over seven minutes long : LAYLA
38 Light bulb unit : WATT
40 Butchers’ offerings : MEATS
42 Like tops and tales : SPUN
43 Speak extemporaneously : AD LIB
45 Boringly proper : STAID
47 Conclude : END
48 Greek god of love : EROS
50 Away from the wind, nautically : ALEE
51 It’s just a number, they say : AGE
52 Single, double and triple, on the diamond : BASE HITS
55 Shows mercy to : SPARES
57 Plant bristle : AWN
58 Poet’s “before” : ERE
59 Olla podrida, for one : STEW
60 Sheep’s cry : BAA!
61 Where you can find a 17-Across perched on an 11-Down devouring a 25-Down : MEXICAN FLAG
66 Noah’s construction : ARK
67 Opening remarks : INTRO
68 One of the Allman Brothers : DUANE
69 Envision : SEE
70 Valuable item : ASSET
71 New York’s Memorial ___ Kettering Cancer Center : SLOAN

Down

1 Droop : SAG
2 Zodiac sign before Virgo : LEO
3 Course for some immigrants, in brief : ESL
4 Historic Kansas fort name : DODGE
5 Explore caves : SPELUNK
6 Like debts : OWED
7 “Bingo!” : AHA!
8 Letter after rho : SIGMA
9 Cuba or Aruba : ISLAND
10 Sign maker’s pattern : STENCIL
11 Cactus with an edible fruit : PRICKLY PEAR
12 Follow as a consequence : ENSUE
13 No longer feral : TAMED
18 Incendiary bomb material : NAPALM
23 Formal ruling on a point of Islamic law : FATWA
24 Trojan War epic poem : ILIAD
25 Venomous predator with a vibrating tail : RATTLESNAKE
26 They get smashed at parties : PINATAS
27 “Sadly …” : ALAS …
30 Strives for victory : VIES
34 And others: Abbr. : ET AL
36 Sudden forward thrust : LUNGE
37 World’s longest continental mountain range : ANDES
39 Lose stamina : TIRE
41 Afternoon nap : SIESTA
44 European region that lent its name to a nonconforming lifestyle : BOHEMIA
46 “Could be …” : DEPENDS …
49 Ambulance sounds : SIRENS
52 Rum-soaked desserts : BABAS
53 In the loop : AWARE
54 Messages that sometimes contain emojis : TEXTS
56 Really, really bad : AWFUL
59 Get off ___-free : SCOT
62 Fury : IRE
63 Philosopher ___-tzu : LAO
64 Get ___ on (ace) : AN A
65 Four-star officer: Abbr. : GEN

8 thoughts on “0315-21 NY Times Crossword 15 Mar 21, Monday”

  1. 5:39. I was pretty clueless as to the theme until the reveal. I’m coming to realize I almost never pay much attention to Monday themes.

    Ides of March today. So Happy Julius Caesar Day. Sorry, Julius.

    First Monday after DST begins. Ugh. When will this lunacy end??

    I predict two of the most incredible achievements of mankind will happen before we rid ourselves of DST: 1) We’ll put a man on Mars, and 2) Perhaps the greatest achievement for mankind in my lifetime could happen – we could start rounding gasoline prices up to the nearest penny. Now that would be an historic day….

    Best –

  2. 9:51. Typical time for my fumbling fingers. One of these days I’ll go back to doing early week puzzles on paper. In the “old days,” My early week times were much faster. On the other hand, I used to rarely finish Thursday through Sunday puzzles. So…progress, I guess.

  3. 7:55 This one falls in the category of “Things I Learned From Solving The NYT Crossword Puzzle”. I was familiar with the Canadian flag, but Mexico’s? Not at all.

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