0520-21 NY Times Crossword 20 May 21, Thursday

Constructed by: Trenton Charlson
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Reveal Answer(s) Six Feet Under

We must write SIX FEET (“FT”) UNDER today’s grid in order to complete six of the down-answers:

  • 29A With 38-Across, Emmy-winning HBO drama whose name suggests this puzzle’s theme : SIX FEET …
  • 38A See 29-Across : … UNDER
  • 3D “… know what I’m saying?” : … IF YOU CATCH MY DRIFT
  • 11D Who said “Presidents come and go, but the Supreme Court goes on forever” : WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT
  • 34D Game show loser’s prize : PARTING GIFT
  • 36D Movable aerial platform : SCISSOR LIFT
  • 46D Drill command : EYES LEFT!
  • 47D Like havarti or Muenster : SEMISOFT

Bill’s time: 14m 39s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1 Seat of Oklahoma’s Garfield County : ENID

Enid, Oklahoma takes its name from the old railroad station around which the city developed. Back in 1889, that train stop was called Skeleton Station. An official who didn’t like the name changed it to Enid Station, using a character from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King”. Maybe if he hadn’t changed the name, the city of Enid would now be called Skeleton, Oklahoma! Enid has the nickname “Queen Wheat City” because it has a huge capacity for storing grain, the third largest grain storage capacity in the world.

14 One of three at the start of a Pac-Man game : LIFE

The Pac-Man arcade game was first released in Japan in 1980, and is as popular today as it ever was. The game features characters that are maneuvered around the screen to eat up dots and earn points, while being pursued by ghosts named Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde. The name of the game comes from the Japanese folk hero “Paku”, who is known for his voracious appetite. The spin-off game called Ms. Pac-Man was released in 1981.

15 Tea party crasher of fiction : ALICE

In Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, the Mad Hatter makes his first appearance in a chapter called “A Mad Tea-Party”. This event is usually described as “The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party”, even though the Mad Hatter was just a guest. The host was the March Hare. In fact, the phrase “Mad Hatter” doesn’t appear anywhere in Lewis Carroll’s novel, although the character, the Hatter (and sometimes “Hatta”), is described as “mad”.

17 Ancient pyramid builders : MAYA

The Mayan civilization held sway in Central America and Mexico from about 350 AD, until the arrival of the Spanish in the 1500s.

18 Doofus : IDIOT

“Doofus” (also “dufus”) is student slang that has been around since the sixties. Apparently the word is a variant of the equally unattractive term “doo-doo”.

19 Poet ___ Wheeler Wilcox : ELLA

Ella Wheeler Wilcox was an author and poet from Wisconsin. Her most famous poem is “Solitude”, noted for the oft-quoted line “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone.”

20 Ohm, Hertz and Newton : EPONYMS

An eponym is a name for something derived from the name of a person, as in the food item we call a “sandwich”, named after the Earl of Sandwich.

The unit of electrical resistance is the ohm (with the symbol omega) named after German physicist Georg Simon Ohm. Ohm was the guy who established experimentally that the amount of current flowing through a circuit is directly proportional to the voltage applied, (V=IR) a relationship that every school kid knows as Ohm’s Law.

The unit of frequency measure is the hertz (Hz). It is the number of cycles per second of a periodic phenomenon. The unit is named for Heinrich Hertz, the German physicist who proved the existence of electromagnetic waves.

Newtons are units of force. The newton is named for Sir Isaac Newton, the English physicist and mathematician.

22 87-octane gas : REGULAR

The difference between a premium and regular gasoline is its octane rating. The octane rating is a measure of the resistance of the gasoline to auto-ignition i.e. its resistance to ignition just by virtue of being compressed in the cylinder. This auto-ignition is undesirable as multiple-cylinder engines are designed so that ignition within each cylinder takes place precisely when the plug sparks, and not before. If ignition occurs before the spark is created, the resulting phenomenon is called “knocking”. We sometimes use the adjective “high-octane” to mean “intense, dynamic, high-powered”

27 Leave nothing behind? : STIFF

The etymology of our verb “to stiff”, meaning “to fail to tip”, seems unclear. The usage originated in the late 1930s, and is possibly an extension of the noun “stiff” meaning “corpse”. The idea is that dead men don’t leave tips.

29 With 38-Across, Emmy-winning HBO drama whose name suggests this puzzle’s theme : SIX FEET …
(38A See 29-Across : … UNDER)

“Six Feet Under” is reportedly a great TV drama aired by HBO, and one that I fully intend to take a look at one day. The “six feet under” is a reference to the show’s storyline that features a family funeral business.

33 Baby food : PAP

One use of the term “pap” is to describe soft or semi-liquid food for babies and small children. “Pap” comes into English, via French, from the Latin word used by children for “food”. In the 1500s, “pap” also came to mean “an oversimplified” idea. This gives us a usage that’s common today, describing literature or perhaps TV programming that lacks real value or substance. Hands up those who think there’s a lot of pap out there, especially on television …

35 Grove : COPSE

A copse is a small stand of trees. The term “copse” originally applied to a small thicket that was specifically grown for cutting.

36 Range of sizes, in brief : SML

Small, medium and large (S, M & L)

37 ___Vista, early search engine : ALTA

AltaVista was one of the original search engines. It was launched by the now defunct Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in 1995. On the first day of operation, AltaVista received 300,000 hits. Over time, AltaVisa lost its way, trying to morph into a Web portal like Yahoo! and lost its identity as a search engine. Then, along came Google in the late nineties and shoved AltaVista off its pedestal in the search engine space. AltaVista was shut down in 2013.

43 Apple found on Apple Music : FIONA

Fiona Apple is a singer-songwriter and pianist from New York City. “Fiona Apple” is the artist’s real name, although “Apple” is a given name. She was born Fiona Apple McAfee-Maggart.

44 What Yggdrasil of Norse mythology is : ASH TREE

Yggdrasil is an enormous tree that is central to Norse mythology, and is known as the “world tree”. It is thought that it is an ash tree, and that the name “Yggdrasil” comes from the Norse word “igwja” meaning “ash tree”, but that fact is disputed.

47 Covert Cold War deal : SPY SWAP

The term “Cold War” was coined by novelist George Orwell in a 1945 essay about the atomic bomb. Orwell described a world under threat of nuclear war as having a “peace that is no peace”, in a permanent state of “cold war”. The specific use of “cold war” to describe the tension between the Eastern bloc and the Western allies is attributed to a 1947 speech by Bernard Baruch, adviser to Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

50 Actress Donovan of “Clueless” : ELISA

Elisa Donovan is an actress from Poughkeepsie, New York. Donovan’s big break came in the film “Clueless”, playing a part that she later played in the television series of the same name.

The 1995 movie “Clueless” is apparently based on Jane Austen’s “Emma”, which is a favorite novel of mine. As a result, I am going to have to check out the film …

51 ___ Mawr College : BRYN

Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania is a women’s liberal arts school that was founded in 1885. Bryn Mawr was the first women’s university in the nation to offer graduate education through to a PhD. While the undergraduate program is open only to females, the school opened up the postgraduate program to males in 1931.

53 Sordid : SEAMY

We’ve used “seamy” to mean “the least pleasant, the worst” since the 1600s. The idea comes from the seamed side of a sewn garment being the less attractive.

55 Minestrone ingredient : ORZO

Orzo is pasta that has been formed into granular shapes, much like barley. And indeed, “orzo” is the Italian word for “barley”. Orzo is also called “risoni”, meaning “large rice”.

58 Bit of swamp flora : SEDGE

Sedges are a family of plants that resemble grasses and rushes. Sedges are more properly called Cyperaceae.

61 It’s bigger than a family : ORDER

Taxonomy is the classification of organisms or into groups or categories known as taxons (plural “taxa”). We are most familiar with the classification of organisms in the major taxonomic ranks (taxa):

  • Life
  • Domain
  • Kingdom
  • Phylum
  • Class
  • Order
  • Family
  • Genus (plural “genera”)
  • Species

65 Muckraking journalist Jacob : RIIS

Journalist Jacob Riis is famous for his photographs and newspaper articles that highlighted the plight of the impoverished in New York City. He wrote “How the Other Half Lives”, originally an extensive article that appeared in “Scribner’s Magazine” at Christmas 1889. The article had such an impact that Riis was commissioned to expand it into a book, which was published the following year.

67 50-denomination coin whose reverse side shows the Fatima Masumeh Shrine : RIAL

The rial is the currency of Iran (as well as Yemen, Oman and Tunisia). Generally, there are 1,000 baisa in a rial.

Down

1 Brand that many people stick with : ELMER’S

Elsie the Cow is the mascot of the Borden Company. Elsie first appeared at the New York World’s Fair in 1939, introduced to symbolize the perfect dairy product. She is so famous and respected that she has been awarded the degrees of Doctor of Bovinity, Doctor of Human Kindness and Doctor of Ecownomics. Elsie was also given a husband named Elmer the Bull. Elmer eventually moved over to the chemical division of Borden where he gave his name to Elmer’s Glue.

2 She played Nicole Chapman on “Fame” : NIA PEEPLES

Actress Nia Peeples played the character Nicole Chapman in the TV series “Fame”. Peeples is also a successful singer, having released the 1988 song “Trouble” that made it to #35 in the Billboard charts.

6 Germanic language of the 8th-12th centuries : OLD SAXON

Germanic tribes invaded Great Britain from the early 5th century and created the nation that we now call England. The Anglo-Saxons (sometimes simply “Saxons”), as these tribes came to be called, held sway in the country until the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Anglo-Saxons were descendants of three Germanic tribes:

  • The Angles, from Angeln in Northern Germany (and the tribe that gave the name “England”).
  • The Saxons, from Lower Saxony and Holland.
  • The Jutes, from the Jutland peninsula in Denmark.

8 Nine-time Oscar nominee for Best Director : SCORSESE

Movie director Martin Scorsese is very much a New York City native, and is well-known for directing movies set in the Big Apple. Among the list of great Scorsese films are “Taxi Driver”, “Raging Bull”, “Goodfellas”, “Cape Fear”, “Casino” and “The Departed”.

9 Rodin’s thinker? : TETE

In French, a “penseur” (thinker) might use his or her “tête” (head) to produce an “idée” (idea).

Auguste Rodin was a French sculptor who was known for realistic representations of the human form. Two of Rodin’s most famous works started out as details from a larger work called “The Gates of Hell”. One of these details is “The Thinker”, and the other “The Kiss”.

10 Unalaska inhabitant : ALEUT

Unalaska Island is one of the Aleutian chain of islands off the coast of Alaska. Dutch Harbor, located within the city of Unalaska, is the largest fisheries port in the whole of the United States.

11 Who said “Presidents come and go, but the Supreme Court goes on forever” : WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT

William Howard Taft may have been the 27th President of the United States, but his lifelong ambition was to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The future president had served as dean and professor at the Cincinnati Law School. President Taft was able to realize that dream in 1921, eight years after losing his bid for re-election as president. As Chief Justice, this former US President swore in two new presidents: Calvin Coolidge (in 1925) and Herbert Hoover (in 1929). William Howard Taft is also remembered as the most obese president. In the last year of his presidency, he weighed about 340 pounds (he was 5 feet 11 inches tall). Twelve months after leaving the White House, President Taft had dropped 80 pounds and substantially lowered his blood pressure.

12 Entertainer once known as the Queen of Las Vegas : LOLA FALANA

Lola Falana is a singer, dancer and actress who grew up in Philadelphia. In the sixties Falana had an affair with, and later became good friends with, Sammy Davis Jr. Davis helped get her act into Las Vegas where she was very successful, eventually earning Falana the nickname “Queen of Las Vegas”. With her success came money, and so she became the highest-paid female performer in Vegas at that time. Sadly, Falana fell ill with multiple sclerosis, a disease that forced her to cut short her career as an entertainer.

13 Wolfs (down) : SNARFS

To snarf down is to gobble up, to eat voraciously. “Snarf” is a slang term that is probably related to “scarf”, which has the same meaning.

23 Prime meridian std. : GST

Greenwich Sidereal Time (GST)

Astronomers use sidereal time to know where to locate given stars in the night sky. Sidereal time is a time scale that takes into account the Earth’s rotation relative to stars with a fixed location in the night sky.

A meridian is a line of longitude, and the Prime Meridian is that line of longitude defined as 0 degrees. The Prime Meridian is also called the Greenwich Meridian as it passes through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich in southeast London. Of course the line of longitude that is used to represent 0 degrees is an arbitrary decision. 25 nations formally decided in 1884 to use the Greenwich Meridian as 0 degrees as it was already a popular choice. That is all except the French, who abstained from the vote and used the Paris Meridian as 0 degrees on French charts for several decades.

26 West Coast law force, for short : SFPD

The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) is the 11th largest police department in the country. The SFPD dates back to the days of the Gold Rush, being founded in 1849 as a force of 35 officers. SFPD has featured a lot in movies and on television. The most famous films are probably “Bullitt”, the “Dirty Harry” series and “48 Hrs.” On television there was “Ironside”, “The Streets of San Francisco” and “Monk”.

30 Post-op stop : ICU

Many a hospital (hosp.) includes an intensive care unit (ICU).

37 Nabokov’s longest novel : ADA

“Ada” is a 1969 novel by Vladimir Nabokov. The story takes place in the 1800s on Antiterra, an Earth-like planet that has a history similar to ours but with interesting differences. For example, there is a United States, but that country covers all of North and South America. What we call eastern Canada is a French-speaking province called “Canady”, and western Canada is a Russian-speaking province called “Estody”. The storyline is about a man called Van Veen who, when 14 years old, meets for the first time his cousin, 11-year-old Ada. The two cousins eventually have an affair, only to discover later that they are in fact brother and sister.

43 “In case it’s of interest …” : FYI …

For your information (FYI)

45 Uranians, e.g. : ETS

One of the unique features of the planet Uranus is that its north and south poles lie where most other planets have their equators. That means that Uranus’ axis of rotation is almost in its solar orbit.

47 Like havarti or Muenster : SEMISOFT

Havarti cheese was invented in the mid-1800s by farmer Hanne Nielson. He chose “havarti” from the name of his farm “Havarthigaard”, which was located in the neighborhood of Øverød, north of Copenhagen.

Muenster is an American cheese, not to be confused with Munster cheese which is from the department called Vosges in the northeast of France. The American cheese is named for the German city of Münster (also “Muenster”) in the northwest of the country, and a city that doesn’t actually have a local cheese named for it.

51 Scouts ___, rebranded name since ’19 : BSA

Boy Scouts of America (BSA)

57 Yossarian’s tentmate in “Catch-22” : ORR

The bomber pilot in Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” is named Orr. He has no other name, just “Orr”.

“Catch-22” is a novel by Joseph Heller set during WWII. The title refers to absurd bureaucratic constraints that soldiers had to suffer. Heller’s “Catch 22” was invoked by an army psychiatrist to explain that any pilot requesting to be evaluated for insanity, to avoid flying dangerous missions, had to be sane as only a sane man would try to get out of such missions. The term “catch-22” has entered the language and describes a paradoxical situation from which one can’t escape due to contradictory rules; one loses, no matter what choice one makes.

61 Trireme implement : OAR

Triremes were galleys used in the Mediterranean by a number of cultures, including the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The trireme was so called because there were three rows of oars on each side of the vessel. The term “trireme” comes from the Latin “tres remi” meaning “three-oar”. There was also a less ambitious version of the trireme that had only two banks of oars, and that was known as a bireme.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Seat of Oklahoma’s Garfield County : ENID
5 Clammy : MOIST
10 Saddle-making tools : AWLS
14 One of three at the start of a Pac-Man game : LIFE
15 Tea party crasher of fiction : ALICE
16 Person of outstanding importance : LION
17 Ancient pyramid builders : MAYA
18 Doofus : IDIOT
19 Poet ___ Wheeler Wilcox : ELLA
20 Ohm, Hertz and Newton : EPONYMS
22 87-octane gas : REGULAR
24 Get further mileage from : REUSE
25 Dunderhead : ASS
27 Leave nothing behind? : STIFF
28 Heartbeat : SEC
29 With 38-Across, Emmy-winning HBO drama whose name suggests this puzzle’s theme : SIX FEET …
32 Some remote power sources : AAS
33 Baby food : PAP
35 Grove : COPSE
36 Range of sizes, in brief : SML
37 ___Vista, early search engine : ALTA
38 See 29-Across : … UNDER
39 Text back and forth, say : CHAT
41 Openly condemn : DECRY
43 Apple found on Apple Music : FIONA
44 What Yggdrasil of Norse mythology is : ASH TREE
47 Covert Cold War deal : SPY SWAP
49 Like areas around waterfalls : MISTY
50 Actress Donovan of “Clueless” : ELISA
51 ___ Mawr College : BRYN
53 Sordid : SEAMY
55 Minestrone ingredient : ORZO
58 Bit of swamp flora : SEDGE
60 The 500s, in the Dewey Decimal System: Abbr. : SCI
61 It’s bigger than a family : ORDER
62 Cry of frustration : AARGH!
63 French article : LES
64 Cathedral area : ALTAR
65 Muckraking journalist Jacob : RIIS
66 “___ es!” (Spanish for “That’s it!”) : ESO
67 50-denomination coin whose reverse side shows the Fatima Masumeh Shrine : RIAL

Down

1 Brand that many people stick with : ELMER’S
2 She played Nicole Chapman on “Fame” : NIA PEEPLES
3 “… know what I’m saying?” : … IF YOU CATCH MY DRIFT
4 ___ list : DEAN’S
5 Seriously hurt : MAIM
6 Germanic language of the 8th-12th centuries : OLD SAXON
7 Jr.’s son, maybe : III
8 Nine-time Oscar nominee for Best Director : SCORSESE
9 Rodin’s thinker? : TETE
10 Unalaska inhabitant : ALEUT
11 Who said “Presidents come and go, but the Supreme Court goes on forever” : WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT
12 Entertainer once known as the Queen of Las Vegas : LOLA FALANA
13 Wolfs (down) : SNARFS
21 “What is it?” : YES?
23 Prime meridian std. : GST
26 West Coast law force, for short : SFPD
30 Post-op stop : ICU
31 Poetic adverb : E’ER
34 Game show loser’s prize : PARTING GIFT
36 Movable aerial platform : SCISSOR LIFT
37 Nabokov’s longest novel : ADA
40 Bug : TAP
42 Jr. and sr. : YRS
43 “In case it’s of interest …” : FYI …
45 Uranians, e.g. : ETS
46 Drill command : EYES LEFT!
47 Like havarti or Muenster : SEMISOFT
48 Wield : PLY
51 Scouts ___, rebranded name since ’19 : BSA
52 Bring up : REAR
54 Super-duper : ACES
56 Fervency : ZEAL
57 Yossarian’s tentmate in “Catch-22” : ORR
59 Sounds of puzzlement : EHS
61 Trireme implement : OAR

13 thoughts on “0520-21 NY Times Crossword 20 May 21, Thursday”

  1. 14:34. Hard one today. Even after I got the theme, I thought the cluing was pretty difficult and struggled with the bottom center.

  2. 31:02 Another struggle but I got the DRIFT, finally, at about 20 minutes in, when I figured out 34D, tho I had the revealer at least 5 minutes earlier. My bugaboo was the NW corner. For 3D I had DO YOU … for the longest time and that kept blocking me from 1A which is almost always ENID when referring to Oklahoma. For 1D I had CURAID (Band-Aids), which really is Curad. I kept thinking of the jingle – “I’m stuck on xxxx, cause xxxx is stuck on me and I kept thinking of Bandaids in the generic sense and mentally substituted CURAID for Band-Aid, tho CURAID is wrong as I mentioned above.

    In any case I was DRIFT-ing in the wrong direction for much of the time on the entire left side, even tho I also finally got EYESLE [ft].

  3. 29:25. I’m unfamiliar with SIX FEET UNDER. In fact, I barely remember it being aired. But for whatever reason I did get a kick out of the theme today. It was just enough for a chuckle.

    Struggled quite a bit with the fill, however.

    Bill – I must DECRY your lack of letters filled in for 41A….

    Best –

  4. 24:06, no errors. What Tom R said. And I’m embarrassed to admit that, by the time I got to the bottom and realized that several entries needed an extra “FT”, I had totally forgotten about the revealer at 29- and 38-Across. Okay … so I’ve been a little distracted recently, but … that takes the cake … 😜.

  5. 29:45 and quite a struggle even though I got the FT thing early. Flew through the top half and bogged down on the bottom.

  6. Your times are all safe again today… 1:02:38, slightly distracted watching YouTube music videos while solving, slightly slowed by my lack of desire to accept letters outside the grid, and a lot delay by my lack of knowledge about cheese and my insistence on “seedy” instead of “seamy”. Some day I’ll be able to run with you big dogs, until then I’m leFT alone under the porch.

  7. This took me awhile. Got the theme early.. had several filled in the DOWN clues. Got hung up on crosses. I literally froze on ADA. had RUR , then realized that was wrong. I was sure 41A was DECRYS but I couldn’t fill in 44A with anything. I completely forgot ALTA VISTA and then finally went with RETA VISTA, NIA PEEPERS and it was a mess.. I felt I was trapped in a fishing net trying to get out!!!

  8. Bill — re “doofus” — always thought doofus came from the German word doof, meaning stupid. I remember my Pennsylvania Dutch mother using doofus way before the sixties.

  9. Just over an hour…no errors…it took a while to get the theme but then it actually helped for a change.
    @DuncanR…your never alone as long as I keep plugging away.
    Stay safe😀

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