1201-21 NY Times Crossword 1 Dec 21, Wednesday

Constructed by: Christopher Youngs
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Theme (according to Bill) ‘Airy-Sounding

Themed answers each sound like common phrases, but use a homophone of “ere”:

  • 17A Play a wrong note during a violin sonata? : ERR ON THE G STRING (from “Air on the G String”)
  • 28A Little prince taking a bath? : CLEAN HEIR ACT (from “Clean Air Act”)
  • 44A “We all put things on TV sometimes”? : TO AIR IS HUMAN (from “to err is human”)
  • 59A Headline after Jane becomes queen? : EYRE TO THE THRONE (from “heir to the throne”)

Bill’s time: 9m 11s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1 Titan of industry : CZAR

The term “czar” (also “tsar”) is a Slavic word that was first used as a title by Simeon I of Bulgaria in 913 AD. “Czar” is derived from the word “caesar”, which was synonymous with “emperor” at that time. We tend to use the “czar” spelling, as opposed to “tsar”, when we describe a person today with great power or authority, e.g. “Drug Czar”.

5 Peyote and prickly pear : CACTI

The peyote is a small, spineless cactus that is native to southwestern Texas and Mexico. When ingested, the peyote is known to have a psychoactive effect. One of the psychoactive alkaloids in peyote is mescaline, a recreational drug of choice for the likes of Aldous Huxley and Pablo Picasso.

15 Literary partner of Porthos and Aramis : ATHOS

Alexandre Dumas’ “Three Musketeers” are Athos, Porthos and Aramis, although the hero of the novel is the trio’s young protégé D’Artagnan. A musketeer was an infantry soldier who was equipped with a musket. Funnily enough, the three “musketeers” really don’t use their muskets, and are better known for prowess with their swords.

16 Like the Australian outback : ARID

In Australia, the land outside of urban areas is referred to as the outback or the bush. That said, I think that the term “outback” is sometimes reserved for the more remote parts of the bush.

17 Play a wrong note during a violin sonata? : ERR ON THE G STRING (from “Air on the G String”)

A cantata is a piece of music that is sung, as opposed to a sonata, which is a piece that is played on some instrument, often a piano. A sonatina is in effect a sonata that has been labelled as something lighter and shorter.

The second movement of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major” is a very recognizable piece of music. Its renown is largely due to August Wilhelmj’s arrangement of the movement for violin and piano, which has come to be known as “Air on the G String“.

20 Artist Kahlo : FRIDA

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter famous for her self-portraits. She was married to the equally famous artist Diego Rivera. Kahlo was portrayed by actress Salma Hayek in a film about her colorful life called “Frida” released in 2002.

21 Source of milk for Manchego cheese : EWE

Manchego is a cheese made from sheep’s milk that comes from La Mancha in Spain. The term “Manchego” is used to describe things related to La Mancha.

22 Roast host : EMCEE

The term “emcee” comes from “MC”, an initialism used for a Master or Mistress of Ceremonies.

24 Totally wreck, as a noob : PWN

“To pwn” is online gamer-speak for “to own, defeat easily”. It’s likely that “pwn” evolved from “own” as it is a common typo caused by the close proximity of the o- and p-keys on a computer keyboard. “Pwn” is pronounced like “pone”.

“Noob” is a not-so-nice slang term for a “newbie”, and often refers to someone who is new to an online community.

28 Little prince taking a bath? : CLEAN HEIR ACT (from “Clean Air Act”)

The Clean Air Act of 1963 is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

39 Largest artificial satellite in orbit, before 9-Down : MIR
(9D 39-Across successor: Abbr. : ISS)

Russia’s Mir space station was a remarkably successful project. It held the record for the longest continuous human presence in space at just under 10 years, until the International Space Station eclipsed that record in 2010. Towards the end of the space station’s life however, the years began to take their toll. There was a dangerous fire, multiple system failures, and a collision with a resupply ship. The Russian commitment to the International Space Station drained funds for repairs, so Mir was allowed to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up in 2001. “Mir” is a Russian word meaning “peace” or “world”.

The International Space Station (ISS) is a modular facility that comprises components launched into space by Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets, and by American Space Shuttles. The station has been occupied by astronauts and scientists continually since November, 2000.

41 Muppet’s makeup : FELT

Jim Henson’s ensemble of puppets known as the Muppets made their debut on the TV show “Sam and Friends” in the 1950s. Some Muppets started appearing in 1969 on “Sesame Street”, and then the troupe were given “The Muppet Show” in 1976. And today, there’s no sign of their popularity waning.

44 “We all put things on TV sometimes”? : TO AIR IS HUMAN (from “to err is human”)

Alexander Pope’s 1709 poem “An Essay on Criticism” is the source of at least three well-known quotations:

  • A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.
  • To err is human, to forgive divine.
  • For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

47 Fretboard locale : NECK

The fingerboard (also “fretboard”) of stringed instruments is usually made from a long strip of hardwood, often ebony or rosewood.

48 D.C. player : NAT

The Washington Nationals (“Nats”) started out life as the Montreal Expos in 1969, and were the first Major League Baseball team in Canada. The Expos moved to Washington in 2005 becoming the Nats.

49 American acquisition of 2001 : TWA

Trans World Airlines (TWA) was a big carrier in the US, but was perhaps even more recognized for its extensive presence in Europe and the Middle East. For many years, especially after the collapse of Pan Am and TWA’s purchase by Howard Hughes, TWA was considered the unofficial flag carrier for the US. The company started in 1930, the product of a forced merger of Transcontinental Air Transport and Western Air Express. The Transcontinental and Western Air that resulted (the original meaning of the initialism “TWA”) was what the Postmaster General wanted, a bigger airline to which the Postal Service could award airmail contracts.

55 Lip balm brand with a pod-shaped container : EOS

eos Products is a company that was founded in 2006 in New York City. eoS sells beauty products such as lotions and creams, and is most famous for its lip balm. The initials “eos” stand for “Evolution of Smooth”.

59 Headline after Jane becomes queen? : EYRE TO THE THRONE (from “heir to the throne”)

“Jane Eyre” is a celebrated novel written by Charlotte Brontë, under the pen name Currer Bell. The love story is perhaps represented by the oft-quoted opening lines of the last chapter, “Reader, I married him”. There is a wonderful 4-hour television adaptation made by the BBC that I highly recommend to fans of the novel …

63 Numbers for a diva : ARIAS

The term “diva” comes to us from Latin via Italian. “Diva” is the feminine form of “divus” meaning “divine one”. The word is used in Italy to mean “goddess” or “fine lady”, and especially is applied to the prima donna in an opera. We often use the term to describe a singer with a big ego.

65 First word of Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” : ISN’T …

“Send in the Clowns” is a lovely, lovely song by Stephen Sondheim from his 1973 musical “A Little Night Music”. The song doesn’t actually have anything to do with clowns, and the title could be translated to “Aren’t We Fools?”

Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air,
Where are the clowns?

Stephen Sondheim won more Tony Awards than any other composer, a total of eight. He had a long list of stage (and big screen) successes including “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, “A Little Night Music”, “Sweeney Todd” and “Into the Woods”. Sondheim was a big fan of crosswords and had a whole series of cryptic crosswords published in “New York” magazine in the sixties.

66 Where Nintendo is headquartered : KYOTO

The city of Kyoto was once the capital of Japan, and in fact the name “Kyoto” means “capital city” in Japanese. Kyoto is sometimes referred to as the City of Ten Thousand Shrines.

Nintendo is a Japanese company, and one of the largest manufacturers of video games in the world. Nintendo was founded way back in 1889 and originally made hanafuda cards, Japanese playing cards. The name “Nintendo” translates as “leave luck to heaven”.

67 Mother of Helen of Troy : LEDA

In Greek mythology, Leda was the beautiful Queen of Sparta who was seduced by Zeus when he took the form of a swan. Leda produced two eggs from the union. One egg hatched into Clytemnestra and the beautiful Helen of Troy, over whom was fought the Trojan War. The other egg hatched into the twins Castor and Pollux. Castor and Pollux had different fathers according to the myth. Pollux was the son of Zeus and was immortal, while Castor was the son of Leda’s earthly husband, and so he was a mortal. In the world of the arts, William Butler Yeats wrote a famous sonnet called “Leda and the Swan” in 1924, and Peter Paul Rubens made a copy of a now-lost painting called “Leda and the Swan” by Michelangelo.

According to Greek mythology, Helen (later “Helen of Troy”) was the daughter of Zeus and Leda. When Helen reached the age of marriage, she had many suitors as she was considered the most beautiful woman in the world. Menelaus was chosen as her husband, and he took her back to his home of Sparta. Paris, a Trojan prince, seduced Helen, as she eloped with him and travelled to Troy. This event sparked the Trojan War that waged between the city of Troy and Greece. Because of this war, Helen was said to have “the face that launched a thousand ships”. And because of this phrase, it has been suggested, probably by author Isaac Asimov, that the amount of beauty needed to launch a single ship is one “millihelen”.

Down

1 Heads of staff? : CLEFS

“Clef” is the French word for “key”. In music, a clef is used to indicate the pitch of the notes written on a stave. The bass clef is also known as the F-clef, the alto clef is the C-clef, and the treble clef is the G-clef.

The set of five horizontal lines and four spaces used in Western musical notation can be called a staff or stave. Either way, the plural form is “staves”.

2 Swordsman with a horse named Tornado : ZORRO

The character Zorro was created by Johnston McCulley in 1919 for a series of stories and pulp fiction, the first title being “The Curse of Capistrano”. The name “Zorro” (Spanish for “fox”) is the secret identity of a Spanish colonial nobleman called Don Diego de la Vega. Famously, Zorro had the habit of carving the letter Z on some object after defeating a foe.

4 Church cross : ROOD

A rood is a crucifix that specifically symbolizes the cross on which Jesus was crucified.

5 Only domestic species in the family Felidae : CAT

Cats belong to the biological family Felidae, and so are called felids. Felids fall into two subfamilies: Pantherinae (e.g. tiger and lion) and Felinae (e.g. cougar and domestic cat).

6 She created the olive tree, in myth : ATHENA

According to myth, the goddess Athena competed with Poseidon for the privilege of being the patron of the city we now call Athens. Poseidon gave the city a salt water spring, and Athena offered an olive tree. As the olive tree was a source of wood, oil and food, Athena won the competition, and the city was named “Athens” in her honor.

10 What wearing a shirt at the beach might get you : FARMER’S TAN

A “farmer’s tan” or “golfer’s tan” is one that affects only the arms and neck, and is the result of wearing a sleeveless shirt.

11 Former attorney general Holder : ERIC

Eric Holder was the Attorney General of the United States from 2009 to 2015, the first African American to hold the position. Holder was close to President Obama during the presidential campaign. Holder was the campaign’s legal advisor and was also one of the three members on the Obama vice-presidential selection committee that recommended future Vice President Joe Biden.

12 One of three in the foreground of “American Gothic” : TINE

The iconic Grant Wood work titled “American Gothic” was painted in 1930. It depicts a farmer holding a pitchfork standing beside his spinster daughter. Grant used his sister as a model for the daughter, and his dentist as a model for the farmer. You can see “American Gothic” on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. You can also visit the house depicted in the painting, in the city of Eldon, Iowa. Perhaps predictably, the house is located on what is now called American Gothic Street.

18 Home of the first pizza : NAPLES

Naples (“Napoli” in Italian) is the third largest city in Italy. The name “Napoli” comes from the city’s Ancient Greek name, which translates as “New City”. That’s a bit of a paradox as today Naples is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world.

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 …

19 Actress Hatcher : TERI

Teri Hatcher’s most famous role is the Susan Mayer character on the TV comedy-drama “Desperate Housewives”. I’ve never seen more than a few minutes of “Housewives” but I do know Teri Hatcher as a Bond girl, as she appeared in “Tomorrow Never Dies”. More recently, she portrayed Lois Lane on the show “Lois & Clark”.

25 Calendar abbr. : WED

The days of the week are named for celestial bodies and gods

  • Sunday — Sun’s Day
  • Monday — Moon’s Day
  • Tuesday — Tiu’s day
  • Wednesday — Woden’s day
  • Thursday — Thor’s day
  • Friday — Freya’s day
  • Saturday — Saturn’s day

27 Anthem contraction : O’ER

The words “o’er the ramparts we watched” come from “The Star Spangled Banner” written by Francis Scott Key.

30 Obsessed captain : AHAB

Here are the final words uttered by Captain Ahab, just before Moby Dick destroys his vessel, the Pequod:

Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!

32 Timbre : TONE

The timbre of a sound is its distinguishing quality above and beyond its volume and pitch. “Timbre” was used in Old French to mean “sound of a bell”.

34 ___ O’s (Post cereal) : OREO

Oreo O’s cereal was made by Post from 1998 to 2007. The pieces of cereal were basically O-shaped (like Cheerios) but chocolate-flavored, dark brown in color and with white sprinkles on them. Oh, and lots of sugar.

35 “Whatever ___ wants, ___ gets” (“Damn Yankees” lyric) : LOLA

“Whatever Lola Wants” is a song from the musical “Damn Yankees”. “Damn Yankees” is actually yet another version of the classic German legend of “Faust”, set in Washington, D.C. in the fifties. The show was written by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, a production that turned out to be a very successful follow-up to their prior hit, “The Pajama Game”. The future was looking really rosy for Adler and Ross but, sadly, Jerry Ross died from obstructive lung disease only a few weeks after “Damn Yankees” opened on Broadway in 1955. He was just 29 years old.

In the musical show “Damn Yankees”, the title refers to the New York Yankees baseball team that dominated the sport in the fifties. That said, the show tells the story of a man who sells his soul to help his beloved Washington Senators team beat the Yankees and win the pennant. So, “Damn Yankees” is yet another version of the classic German legend of “Faust”. The show was written by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, a production that turned out to be a very successful follow-up to their prior hit, “The Pajama Game”. The future was looking really rosy for Adler and Ross but, sadly, Jerry Ross died of obstructive lung disease only a few weeks after “Damn Yankees” opened on Broadway in 1955. He was just 29 years old.

42 Word with stand or drop : MIC …

A mic drop takes place when a performer has done particularly well and decides to celebrate by throwing or dropping the microphone to the floor. That doesn’t seem to happen at the performances I tend to frequent …

43 Actress Thurman : UMA

Robert Thurman was the first westerner to be ordained a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Robert raised his children in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and called his daughter “Uma” as it is a phonetic spelling of the Buddhist name “Dbuma”. Uma’s big break in the movies came with her starring role in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 hit “Pulp Fiction”. My favorite Uma Thurman film is the wonderful 1996 romantic comedy “The Truth About Cats and Dogs”.

45 1996 musical set in New York’s Alphabet City : RENT

The musical “Rent” by Jonathan Larson is based on the Puccini opera “La bohème”. “Rent” tells the story of struggling artists and musicians living in the Lower East Side of New York, and is set against the backdrop of the AIDS epidemic. We saw “Rent” on Broadway quite a few years ago, and were very disappointed …

Avenues A, B, C and D are the only avenues in Manhattan to have single letter names. The area bounded by Avenues A and D, 14th Street and Houston Street in the East Village is known as Alphabet City, a reference to those single-letter avenues. The “Alphabet City” moniker emerged in the 1980s.

51 Voice with an Echo : ALEXA

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

52 Singer Lovato : DEMI

Pop and R&B singer Demi Lovato started her performing career as a child actress, playing Angela on the kids TV show “Barney & Friends” from 2002 to 2004. When she was all grown up, Levato served as a judge on “The X Factor” from 2012 to 2013, and soon after had the recurring role of Dani on “Glee”.

54 Modern home of ancient Persepolis : IRAN

Persepolis is located in modern Iran, just northeast of the city of Shiraz. The earliest remains of the city date back to around 500 BC. Much of the city’s construction took place during the reign of King Xerxes the Great.

56 Birthplace of seven U.S. presidents : OHIO

The state of Ohio shares the nickname “Mother of Presidents” with the state of Virginia, as seven US presidents were born there:

  • Ulysses S. Grant
  • Rutherford B. Hayes
  • James A. Garfield
  • Benjamin Harrison
  • William McKinley
  • William Howard Taft
  • Warren G. Harding

Additionally, Virginia-born Henry Harrison lived most of his life in Ohio, and indeed is buried there.

61 General on a menu : TSO

General Tso’s chicken is an American creation, and a dish often found on the menu of a Chinese restaurant. The name General Tso may be a reference to General Zuo Zongtang of the Qing Dynasty, but there is no clear link.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Titan of industry : CZAR
5 Peyote and prickly pear : CACTI
10 Bash : FETE
14 Crazy, in Spanish : LOCO
15 Literary partner of Porthos and Aramis : ATHOS
16 Like the Australian outback : ARID
17 Play a wrong note during a violin sonata? : ERR ON THE G STRING (from “Air on the G String”)
20 Artist Kahlo : FRIDA
21 Source of milk for Manchego cheese : EWE
22 Roast host : EMCEE
23 Golf course supply : SOD
24 Totally wreck, as a noob : PWN
26 Ripped : TORE
28 Little prince taking a bath? : CLEAN HEIR ACT (from “Clean Air Act”)
33 Went it alone : SOLOED
36 Suffix with auction : -EER
37 “Get out!” : SHOO!
38 Smooths (out) : IRONS
39 Largest artificial satellite in orbit, before 9-Down : MIR
40 Leave a mark on : STAIN
41 Muppet’s makeup : FELT
42 One might read “Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” : MUG
43 No-can-do : UNABLE
44 “We all put things on TV sometimes”? : TO AIR IS HUMAN (from “to err is human”)
47 Fretboard locale : NECK
48 D.C. player : NAT
49 American acquisition of 2001 : TWA
52 Condescend (to) : DEIGN
55 Lip balm brand with a pod-shaped container : EOS
57 Pink-red hue : CORAL
59 Headline after Jane becomes queen? : EYRE TO THE THRONE (from “heir to the throne”)
62 Something to regress to : MEAN
63 Numbers for a diva : ARIAS
64 Very top : APEX
65 First word of Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” : ISN’T …
66 Where Nintendo is headquartered : KYOTO
67 Mother of Helen of Troy : LEDA

Down

1 Heads of staff? : CLEFS
2 Swordsman with a horse named Tornado : ZORRO
3 Nostril-burning : ACRID
4 Church cross : ROOD
5 Only domestic species in the family Felidae : CAT
6 She created the olive tree, in myth : ATHENA
7 ___ toy : CHEW
8 In a relationship : TOGETHER
9 39-Across successor: Abbr. : ISS
10 What wearing a shirt at the beach might get you : FARMER’S TAN
11 Former attorney general Holder : ERIC
12 One of three in the foreground of “American Gothic” : TINE
13 Upper hand : EDGE
18 Home of the first pizza : NAPLES
19 Actress Hatcher : TERI
25 Calendar abbr. : WED
27 Anthem contraction : O’ER
28 Delegation : CONTINGENT
29 Hey, for horses? : NEIGH
30 Obsessed captain : AHAB
31 Roll of stamps : COIL
32 Timbre : TONE
33 Filter (through) : SIFT
34 ___ O’s (Post cereal) : OREO
35 “Whatever ___ wants, ___ gets” (“Damn Yankees” lyric) : LOLA
39 Skill never performed by 15-Across, oddly enough : MUSKETRY
40 Grab suddenly : SNATCH
42 Word with stand or drop : MIC …
43 Actress Thurman : UMA
45 1996 musical set in New York’s Alphabet City : RENT
46 Vote out, say : UNSEAT
49 Amnesia in soap operas, e.g. : TROPE
50 Diminished : WANED
51 Voice with an Echo : ALEXA
52 Singer Lovato : DEMI
53 Hawks have sharp ones : EYES
54 Modern home of ancient Persepolis : IRAN
56 Birthplace of seven U.S. presidents : OHIO
58 Kind of thermometer : ORAL
60 Barrel wood : OAK
61 General on a menu : TSO

14 thoughts on “1201-21 NY Times Crossword 1 Dec 21, Wednesday”

  1. I just wanted to say how thankful I am for this website and the work that the solvers do. I really enjoy the puzzles, but I enjoy even more reading the blurbs. As a non- native English speaker, it is so helpful to have someone explain idiomatic expressions. I also really appreciate the positive and supportive spirit of both the website and the comments – there is a lot of toxicity in other popular crossword-solving spaces and it is such a relief to never have to seek guidance from those places. So thank you thank you thank you!

  2. 25:10 proof that you should never try to eat a tossed salad while trying to solve the puzzle on one’s IPhone. I mean, we know I’m slow, but I’m not THAT slow. Well, except on Friday. And Saturday. And sometimes Thursday….

    And nice to have you join us, Natalia!

  3. 9:35 Guess I kind of zipped thru this considering other times, tho it felt kind of slow at times. Unfamiliar with 17A and I kept wanting it to start with ERROR. That was my last area to fall.

    Ditto what Natalia said. I learn a lot from reading Bill’s explanations.

  4. 42:07! It’s not great, not even good, but it’s the first Wednesday puzzle I’ve gotten through without my dad’s help!

  5. No errors… bit tough.. liked the ZORRO thing..
    Got stuck in SW corner… I got MEAN from my statistic days.. then I remembered DEMI Lovato.. then the theme jumped out.. EYRE and the rest fell.. everything else pretty much fell quickly.

    Groaner of the day has to be 12D. TINE… I didn’t get it until after the crosses fell and then …DOH!

  6. Had to keep PWN as only WED made sense. Not a gamer, although I excelled at Pong. You remember Pong, yes? Hmm, crickets. Anyway, as with Natalia, I always learn something here. Thanks, Bill, and thanks for the often witty comments by you posters.

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