0318-21 NY Times Crossword 18 Mar 21, Thursday

Constructed by: Tom McCoy
Edited by: Will Shortz

F

Today’s Reveal Answer(s): Much Ado About Nothing

The grid includes six (MUCH) circles of letters that are synonyms of ADO. And, those circles surround empty squares (NOTHING):

  • 33A With 39- and 44-Across, dramatic work depicted in this puzzle’s grid : MUCH ADO …
  • 39A See 33-Across : … ABOUT …
  • 44A See 33-Across : … NOTHING

Those circles spell out:

  • FRACAS
  • FUSS
  • HUBBUB
  • UPROAR
  • STIR
  • RUMPUS

Bill’s time: 12m 22s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

5 Ukr. and Lith., once : SSRS

Ukraine is a large country in Eastern Europe that was a Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) before the dissolution of the USSR. In English, we often call the country “the Ukraine”, but I am told that we should say just “Ukraine”.

The nation of Lithuania is a former Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) sitting on the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. The capital of Lithuania is Vilnius, and 16 miles north of Vilnius is a point that is officially recognized as the geographic center of Europe.

9 Word used in place of “chapter” in “A Christmas Carol” : STAVE

The classic 1843 novella “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens has left us with a few famous phrases and words. Firstly, it led to popular use of the phrase “Merry Christmas”, and secondly it gave us the word “scrooge” to describe a miserly person. And thirdly, everyone knows that Ebenezer Scrooge uttered the words “Bah! Humbug!”.

14 Soldier of Sauron : ORC

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”, Sauron is the actual “Lord of the Rings”. Sauron was the Dark Lord Morgoth’s trusted lieutenant.

19 “Euphoria” channel : HBO

“Euphoria” is an HBO teen drama show that is loosely based on a miniseries of the same name from Israel. Lead actress in the show is Zendaya, who plays a recovering teenage drug addict.

20 “___ but a scratch” (Monty Python quote) : ‘TIS

“Monty Python and the Holy Grail” was released as a movie in 1975, and was a great success. Some thirty years later the film’s storyline was used as inspiration for the hit musical “Spamalot”. I saw “Spamalot” on stage not that long ago and wasn’t that impressed. But, mine was very much a minority opinion …

21 Paleozoic, Mesozoic, Cenozoic, etc. : ERAS

The Paleozoic Era (with “Paleozoic” meaning “ancient life”) was a geologic era from roughly 542 to 251 million years ago. Notably in the Paleozoic Era, fish populations thrived and vast forests of primitive plants covered the land. Those forests were the source material for the coal which we dig out of the ground now in Europe and the eastern parts of North America. The end of the Paleozoic Era was marked by the largest mass extinction in the history of the Earth, killing off 96% of all marine species and 70% of all terrestrial vertebrates. Causes of the extinction have been suggested, with one hypothesis being gradually accelerating climate change (scary!).

The Mesozoic Era is also known as “the Age of the Dinosaurs” and “the Age of Reptiles”. Most dinosaurs developed during that time and the era ended with the extinction of all dinosaurs (except the avian species, which developed into our modern birds). The Mesozoic Era started with another cataclysmic event, the so-called “Great Dying”, the largest mass extinction in the history of our planet. During the “Great Dying” over 90% of all marine species and 70% of all terrestrial vertebrate species died off.

The Cenozoic Era (with “Cenozoic” meaning “new life”) is the most recent geologic era, and covers the period from 65.5 million years ago to the present day. The start of the Cenozoic Era is defined as the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event, the cataclysm that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. The mass extinction allowed mammals to diversify and dominate the planet, and so the Cenozoic is also known as the “Age of Mammals”.

22 Inject (with) : IMBUE

To imbue is to pervade, to soak in. “Imbue” has the same etymological roots as our word “imbibe”.

23 Alumni divs. : YRS

An alumnus (plural “alumni”) is a graduate or former student of a school or college. The female form is “alumna” (plural “alumnae”). The term comes into English from Latin, in which an alumnus is a foster-son or pupil. “Alum” is an informal term used for either an alumna or alumnus.

26 Triage team member : MEDIC

Triage is the process of prioritizing patients for treatment, especially on the battlefield. The term “triage” is French and means “sorting”.

33 With 39- and 44-Across, dramatic work depicted in this puzzle’s grid : MUCH ADO …
39 See 33-Across : … ABOUT …
44 See 33-Across : … NOTHING

“Much Ado About Nothing” is a play by William Shakespeare, and a favorite of mine. It is a comedic tale of two pairs of lovers with lots of mistaken identities and double meanings. I once saw it performed in the fabulous Globe Theatre in London … by an all-female cast. Such a performance was somewhat ironic, given that in Shakespeare’s day the practice was to use an all-male cast.

36 Part two of a three-step bottle instruction : RINSE

Wash, rinse and repeat.

41 Grp. that sends you a card for your 50th birthday : AARP

“AARP” is now the official name for the interest group that used to be called the American Association of Retired Persons. The name change reflects the current focus of the group on all Americans aged 50 or over, as opposed to just people who have retired.

42 Kind of wrench : ALLEN

The Allen wrench (or “Allen key”, as we call it back in Ireland) is a successful brand of hex wrench that was trademarked in 1943 by the Allen Manufacturing Company of Hartford , Connecticut. However, the hex wrench had in fact been around since the mid-to-late 1800s.

50 Brain-enhancing device used by Professor X : CEREBRO

In the “X-Men” universe, Cerebro is a device that can amplify the brainwaves of a user with telepathic capabilities. Cerebro is routinely used to distinguish between mutants and humans.

58 Suffix with cyclo- : -TRON

A cyclotron accelerates charged particles (ions) using a magnetic field, usually directing the particles round and round a huge underground circular structure.

60 Steely Dan, e.g. : DUO

Steely Dan’s heyday was in the seventies when they toured for a couple of years, although the group mainly focused on studio work. The band was formed in 1972 and broke up in 1981. The core of the band reunited in 1993, and is still performing today despite the passing of founding member Walter Becker in 2017. Steely Dan’s best-selling album is “Aja” (pronounced like “Asia”), which was released in 1977.

64 Notoriously difficult chem class : ORGO

Organic chemistry (“Orgo”)

66 “The little woman who wrote the book that started this great war,” as Lincoln supposedly said : STOWE

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s most famous and most successful work is “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. It was also her first novel. Her second was published in 1856: “Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp”.

67 Structure put together by a crane : NEST

The magnificent birds known as cranes have long legs and long necks. The species called the Sarus Crane is the world’s tallest flying bird.

Down

2 The spinners? : PR FIRM

Public relations (PR)

3 What the Avengers do : ASSEMBLE

The Avengers are a team of superheroes in the Marvel Comics universe. The original lineup, which dates back to 1963, consisted of Ant-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and the Wasp. Soon after their formation, the Avengers rescued Captain America trapped in ice, and thereafter he joined the team. There is a 2012 movie called “The Avengers” that features Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and Thor.

4 “His Master’s Voice” co. : RCA

The RCA logo features a dog named Nipper. Nipper was a real dog from England whose owner, Francis Barraud, made a painting of Nipper listening to a gramophone. Barraud then approached several gramophone manufacturers in the hope they would be interested in using the image for advertising. Nipper’s likeness was indeed picked up, and around that time it was Barraud himself who came up with the slogan “His Master’s Voice”.

5 Popular hot sauce : SRIRACHA

Sriracha hot chile sauce is named for the coastal city of Si Racha in eastern Thailand, where the recipe likely originated. Here in North America, we are most familiar with the Sriracha sold in a red bottle with a green that is made by Huy Fong Foods in the city of Irwindale, California. The manufacturer was founded by Vietnamese refugee David Tran, who escaped from Vietnam in 1978 on a Taiwanese freighter called the Huey Fong, after which he named his new company.

9 Bagel topping : SCHMEAR

The word “schmear” comes from the Yiddish word “shmir” meaning “spread”. The phrase “the whole schmear” is a relatively recent one, dating back to around 1969 and coming from the world of business.

21 Derek Walcott’s “Omeros,” for one : EPIC

Derek Walcott is a poet, playwright and writer from Saint Lucia in the Caribbean. Remarkably, the tiny island nation of Santa Lucia has produced two Nobel Laureates: Walcott and the economist Arthur Lewis.

22 1950s prez : IKE

When the future president was growing up, the Eisenhowers used the nickname “Ike” for all seven boys in the family, as “Ike” was seen as an abbreviation for the family name. “Big Ike” was Edgar, the second oldest boy. “Little/Young Ike” was Dwight, who was the third son born. Dwight had no sisters.

25 Opportunity for a service break : AD OUT

In tennis, if the score reaches deuce (i.e. when both players have scored three points), then the first player to win two points in a row wins the game. The player who wins the point immediately after deuce is said to have the advantage. If the player with the advantage wins the next point then that’s two in a row and that player wins the game. If the person with the advantage loses the next point, then advantage is lost and the players return to deuce and try again. The player calling out the score announces “ad in”, or more formally “advantage in”, if he/she has the advantage. If the score announcer’s opponent has the advantage, then the announcement is “ad out” or “advantage out”. Follow all of that …?

27 Renaissance artist Albrecht : DURER

Albrecht Dürer was a German artist who was noted for his etchings and engravings as well as for his paintings.

29 Steak ___ : DIANE

Steak Diane is pan-fried filet mignon served in a flambéed sauce made from the juices in the pan along with butter, shallots, cream and brandy. The dish is named after Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt.

30 Eleven plus two and twelve plus one, e.g. : ANAGRAMS

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”

34 Daisy Mae’s man, in old comics : ABNER

“Li’l Abner” was created and drawn by Al Capp for over 43 years starting in 1934. Al Capp stopped producing the strip in 1977, largely due to illness (he died from emphysema two years later). As the strip finished up, he went so far as to apologize to his long-standing fans, saying that he should have stopped 3-4 years earlier as he felt that the quality of his work had gone down in those latter years. The title character’s full name is “Li’l Abner Yokum”.

Daisy Mae Scragg is a vampish woman who chases Li’l Abner, trying to goad him into marriage. This went on for 15 years in the cartoon strip until creator Al Capp succumbed to public pressure and married the couple at the end of March 1952. The marriage was such a big event that it made the cover of “Life” magazine.

35 Scrappy-___ (cartoon dog) : DOO

Scrappy-Doo is a Great Dane puppy who appears in the “Scooby-Doo” series of cartoons.

47 “Life of Pi” director : LEE

The 2012 movie “Life of Pi” is based on a 2001 novel of the same name by Yann Martel. The “Pi” in the title is an Indian boy named Pi Patel who finds himself adrift for 227 days in a small boat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

51 French 101 verb : ETRE

The French for “to be” is “être”, and for “I am” is “je suis”.

52 Naval jails : BRIGS

A brig is a two-masted sailing vessel, with the name “brig” coming from the related vessel known as a brigantine. Brigs and brigantines are both two-masted, but there is a difference in the sails used. It was the use of retired brigs as prison ships that led to the use of “brig” as the word for a jail or prison cell on a seagoing vessel.

55 Type of animal fat : SUET

Fat, when extracted from the carcass of an animal, is called suet. Untreated suet decomposes at room temperature quite easily so it has to be rendered, purified to make it stable. Rendered fat from pigs is what we call lard. Rendered beef or mutton fat is known as tallow.

60 Salk and Pepper, in brief : DRS

Jonas Salk was an American medical researcher who developed the first safe polio vaccine. In the fifties, especially after the 1952 epidemic, polio was the biggest health fear in the US. It killed thousands and left even more with disabilities, and most of the victims were children. The situation was dire and the authorities immediately quarantined the family of any polio victim. That quarantine was so strict that in many cases the families were not even permitted to attend the funeral of a family member who died from the disease.

Dr Pepper was introduced in 1885 in Waco, Texas, one year before the competing Coca-Cola was released to the market. I spent an entertaining few hours at the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco a few years ago. And, note the lack of a period after “Dr”.

61 Sixth U.S. president vis-à-vis the second, e.g. : SON

John Adams was the second President of the United States. I must admit that I learned much of what I know about President Adams in the excellent, excellent HBO series “John Adams”, which is based on David McCullough’s 2001 biography of the same name. Having said that, I have also visited the Adams home in Quincy, Massachusetts several times. He was clearly a great man with a great intellect …

John Quincy Adams, the son of John Adams, was the 6th US president. Like his father, John Quincy worked for many years as a diplomat representing the young United States. After leaving office, Adams served in Congress as Representative from Massachusetts, becoming the only president ever to enter the House after leaving the office of president.

62 Illusionist Geller : URI

Uri Geller’s most famous performance was perhaps his uncomfortable failure on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson in 1973. Carson “hijacked” Geller on live television by providing him with spoons to bend and watches to start, none of which had been available to Geller before the show aired. Clever!

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Lightly box : SPAR
5 Ukr. and Lith., once : SSRS
9 Word used in place of “chapter” in “A Christmas Carol” : STAVE
14 Soldier of Sauron : ORC
15 Runaway : ROUT
16 Like the function f(x) = x^3 : CUBIC
17 ___ sort : OF A
18 Suppositions : IFS
19 “Euphoria” channel : HBO
20 “___ but a scratch” (Monty Python quote) : ‘TIS
21 Paleozoic, Mesozoic, Cenozoic, etc. : ERAS
22 Inject (with) : IMBUE
23 Alumni divs. : YRS
24 Consume, with “of” : PARTAKE …
26 Triage team member : MEDIC
28 Awkward radio silence : DEAD AIR
33 With 39- and 44-Across, dramatic work depicted in this puzzle’s grid : MUCH ADO …
36 Part two of a three-step bottle instruction : RINSE
37 Shortening, for short : ABBR
39 See 33-Across : … ABOUT …
41 Grp. that sends you a card for your 50th birthday : AARP
42 Kind of wrench : ALLEN
44 See 33-Across : … NOTHING
46 Beyond clean : STERILE
48 Certain still-life figures : EWERS
50 Brain-enhancing device used by Professor X : CEREBRO
53 ___-weekly : ALT
55 Tear : SPREE
58 Suffix with cyclo- : -TRON
59 ___ Love, Utah’s first Black congressperson : MIA
60 Steely Dan, e.g. : DUO
61 Close relative, briefly : SIB
62 ___ and leaves : UPS
63 Was brought back out for airing : RERAN
64 Notoriously difficult chem class : ORGO
65 Wheel track : RUT
66 “The little woman who wrote the book that started this great war,” as Lincoln supposedly said : STOWE
67 Structure put together by a crane : NEST
68 Car trip pastime : I SPY

Down

1 Like Santa after entering a house, perhaps : SOOTY
2 The spinners? : PR FIRM
3 What the Avengers do : ASSEMBLE
4 “His Master’s Voice” co. : RCA
5 Popular hot sauce : SRIRACHA
6 Up to now : SO FAR
7 Reddish-brown : RUNT
8 Blvds. : STS
9 Bagel topping : SCHMEAR
10 Ice cream container : TUB
11 Father of, in Arabic : ABU
12 Feeling in the room : VIBE
13 Prefix with tourist : ECO-
21 Derek Walcott’s “Omeros,” for one : EPIC
22 1950s prez : IKE
25 Opportunity for a service break : AD OUT
27 Renaissance artist Albrecht : DURER
29 Steak ___ : DIANE
30 Eleven plus two and twelve plus one, e.g. : ANAGRAMS
31 It’s south of Leb. : ISR
32 What one is known for, informally : REP
34 Daisy Mae’s man, in old comics : ABNER
35 Scrappy-___ (cartoon dog) : DOO
37 Some toy batteries : AAS
38 Cousin of a club : BLT
40 Dance featuring jerky arm movements : THE ROBOT
43 “Well played!” : NICE ONE!
45 Exultant cry : I WON!
47 “Life of Pi” director : LEE
49 Goof : SLIP UP
51 French 101 verb : ETRE
52 Naval jails : BRIGS
54 Delectable : TASTY
55 Type of animal fat : SUET
56 In favor of : PRO
57 Bone-chilling : RAW
60 Salk and Pepper, in brief : DRS
61 Sixth U.S. president vis-à-vis the second, e.g. : SON
62 Illusionist Geller : URI

36 thoughts on “0318-21 NY Times Crossword 18 Mar 21, Thursday”

    1. Thanks, PIX (and Ron F). In my defense, I thought I kept the errors to a minimum considering I wrote up the post late on Saint Paddy’s Day 🙂

  1. 25:16 But a DNF actually. Got the revealer and the circle words, but didn’t connect the final dot to leave the spaces inside the circles blank or rebused so I had some letters in them to go along with the clue. Trouble spelling SRIRACHA as well.
    Clever construction

    @Bill – in your explanation, the circles of letters spell out words that are synonyms of ADO, I believe

    1. I left these blank and all of my answers match the solutions yet I still get `one square missing’ error. For the life of me I am not able to get this to solve! I have entered `n’ in those squares (per Rex Parker) and still – despite all the clues being completed, I am going to lose my 600 day streak!!

  2. Well, as the guy on “Laugh In” (Arte Johnson?) used to say: Verrry interrresting! After I finally (kinda sorta) understood how to enter the words that intersected the circled features, the process went a little faster, but I didn’t completely understand what was up until after I was done. 15:55, no errors. Clever construction.

    And I may finally be recovering from being sick and from all that shoveling (which is good, because now they’re predicting another storm for the weekend). We need a lot of melting to happen between now and then. As a friend of mine used to say on frigid mornings during camping trips: “Let’s hear it for the Sun God! Isn’t he a fun god! Rah, Rah, Ra!”

  3. Sorry.. Though Becker and Fagen were the core of Steely Dan, they were never a DUO.. there were always other band members. You guys are good. This puzzle totally busted my average. Took me forever. Kept looking for some deeper REBUS meanings in the circled squares and couldn’t quite wrap my head around the BLANK spaces even though they were obviously necessary.

  4. 29:20 with one peek at the answers to push me along. Like @Ron, I got the revealer but couldn’t quite take that final leap to the conclusion. Very clever…and painful Thursday. My compliments to the constructor.

  5. Still no music of success, checked and double checked my answers on the app, still no music. Tried capital “O”, tried zeros, tried leaving the spaces blank, still nothing, but also no warning about “something’s amiss”….any suggestions?

  6. I have to say this puzzle was very frustrating for me because on my Macbook, no matter how I completed (blanks or the letter N for nothing) I got the `so close’ message. I checked my answers 6 or 7 times – even had a friend compare my screen with theirs (who got a success message), and they said it was IDENTICAL!

    So, I manually cleared all of my letters in the Macbook and closed the tab; went to my iPad and re-entered everything exactly the same and I got a successful solve congratulations message!

    This has never happened to me before but it’s more than a little frustrating to have to go to these lengths to solve a puzzle lol

  7. I don’t understand what I did wrong here. I finished the puzzle in about 8:30 or so, leaving all the blanks blank, and I didn’t get the jingle. So I figured, OK, something must have to go in the blanks. I tried “0”s and I tried rebussing “NOTHING” into each one, and just got the “aw shoot, something’s wrong…” message. Nothing worked (no pun intended), even though all my boxes were identical to what is above. So finally I just revealed the puzzle, and it marked all my empty squares as wrong. A bit irritating.

  8. This is not a good way to end a streak, just because the app will not accept my answers even though I know them to be correct.

  9. 52:50 Final update from the slowest of solvers: got the music of success by erasing all the answers and reloading them letter for letter, leaving the blank squares empty, but making sure to not enter anything in the blanks by mistake. Ta daaaaahhh! Although face reality, I’m that slow anyhow…enjoyed the challenge in spite of my upload difficulties.

  10. 20:13 with about eleven asterisks by that time. Like many today, I finished but never got the congratulatory music. I looked it over quickly a time or two, but I’m doing this so late on Thursday night I decided to peak at the blog and see what I was missing. Turns out nothing (pardon the pun).

    So I read all the comments and decided to just put X’s into all the blank squares. I put ONE X into ONE space and then I got the music. So there’s a new one. I’m using a Dell laptop using Windows 10 so perhaps that’s the difference.

    Shortz is slacking. He usually has this stuff figured out before print.

    If the Paleozoic era ended 250 million years ago via climate change, how are they going to blame my gas guzzling Lexus and/or Exxon for that?? The earth’s climate has been changing since it became a planet. It’s known we are still coming out of an ice age (actually a warmer interglacial period within an ice age, but I digress). Gee, what happens when you come out of an ice age? The weather warms. Naturally. Yet politicians want me to save 3 cents a year by going to the bathroom in the dark.

    Is it St. Patrick’s Day again yet?? I seem a bit tense.

    Best –

  11. What a poorly designed puzzle. Stick to ping pong Shortz, your crosswords are declining in quality rapidly.

  12. I really enjoyed this puzzle because I love Shakespeare! My only criticism is the theme: the grid is not a dramatic work, but a comedy. That was misleading. And since I ONLY use ink to do crosswords, I had no problem getting a completed puzzle. So I bid you all “a-do!” Ugg.😃

  13. Sorry everyone, no errors. But I do mine with paper and pen. Some of you guys had quite a streak going online… I’ve spent way too much in front of a CRT/Monitor in my lifetime. Doing it with paper is much better for me.
    As for the puzzle, got the theme early. But I got stuck in NE corner. STAVE held me up for a while. Then I had SCSMEAR (short for sour cream smear) and didn’t realize what I did until HUBBUB finally came to me and then realized it was SCHMEAR!!!

    Steely Dan got me for a while. NEVER thought of them as a duo. I was certain the 3 letters had to be AJA but it didn’t long to realize that wasn’t going to work…
    I enjoyed it..

  14. After reading over all of the comments again, I’m more than a little mystified by the strange behavior of “the” online app (which is, of course, a collection of implementations of the app on different platforms). Thankfully, the one on my iPad Mini worked just fine. It appears that (old-age-enforced clean living aside … 😜) the order in which one entered the answers and (maybe) whether or not one ever put a non-blank in one of the “empty” squares may have made a difference.

    I have to admit that (as insanely childish and silly as I think an obsession with it is), I’d be quite upset to be robbed of my streak, which, as of today, stands at 963. (My current goal is to make it to 1000. What happiness, what bliss, what sheer ecstasy I will experience then! … 🤪)

  15. This so-called puzzle was ridiculous! It took forever and I still couldn’t figure it out. A crossword puzzle is supposed to be a crossword puzzle, not some stupid word game. The Times puzzles get more difficult as the week goes on, but this one-really?

  16. North east corner got me. I was sure 9a as scene. Had no idea what a Stave is. Very clever a puzzle but a little too weird for my taste. I guess I could’ve done better if I had peeked at the answers.

  17. 20:57, 2 errors. Couldn’t, for the life of me, see the A in the cross between STAVE and ABU. So just left it blank, and accepted the 2 errors.
    This puzzle just reminded of the man who always did things in the most difficult manner possible. When asked how he made love, he replied: “standing up…on one leg…in a hammock”.

  18. 1:14:20 and after all that agony I had I WIN for I WON…this might not be the worst puzzle ever but then again it might be…I hated every minute of it👎👎👎👎👎👎
    Stay safe 😀

  19. I got the clue set of three words first. This really helped me to realize the center of the object corners were blank.
    Really enjoyed this puzzle, probably because I did it with ink and paper. The next time I finish a puzzle I’m going to make my own little jingling sound. Must be very satisfying. We’ll see.

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