1221-21 NY Times Crossword 21 Dec 21, Tuesday

Constructed by: Guilherme Gilioli
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Reveal Answer: Spoon-Bending

The grid includes shaded letters that spell out “SPOON”, although those SPOONS are BENT, each using more than one line in the grid:

  • 48A Display of mentalism … or a hint to this puzzle’s shaded squares : SPOON-BENDING

Bill’s time: 6m 58s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1 Bygone Russian ruler : TSAR

The last ruler of Imperial Russia was Tsar Nicholas II (of the House of Romanov). Famously, the Tsar and his family were murdered in 1918 in the basement of a house in Yekaterinburg, Russia by members of the Bolshevik secret police. The Tsar’s youngest daughter was 16-year-old Anastasia and rumors of her escape have persisted for years. The rumors grew with the help of numerous women who claimed to be Anastasia. In 2009, DNA testing finally proved that the remains of all of the Tsar’s immediate family, including Anastasia, have been found and identified.

5 Rock band whose name also forms the call letters for a rock radio station in San Antonio : KISS

KISS is a hard rock band from New York City. They are the group whose band members use all that scary face paint and wear wacky outfits on stage.

14 “The Simpsons” character with a palindromic name : OTTO

Otto Mann drives the school bus on the TV show “The Simpsons”. Otto is a Germanic character voiced by Harry Shearer, and his name is a play on “Ottoman Empire”. Whenever Bart sees him, he greets Otto with the words “Otto, man!”

15 Part of a foot : INCH

An inch is 1/12 of a foot. The term “inch” comes from the Latin “uncia” meaning “twelfth”.

18 Not quite shut : AJAR

Our word “ajar” is thought to come from Scottish dialect, in which “a char” means “slightly open”.

20 Hawk’s home : AERIE

An aerie (sometimes “eyrie”) is an eagle’s nest. The term “aerie” can also more generally describe any bird’s nest that is located on a cliff or a mountaintop.

22 Russia’s ___ Mountains : URAL

The eastern side of the Ural Mountains in Russia and Kazakhstan is generally regarded as the natural divide between the continents of Europe and Asia.

28 Fulfill completely : SATE

“Sate” is a variant of the older word “satiate”. Both terms can mean either to satisfy an appetite fully, or to eat to excess.

36 Lens holder : EYE

The lens in the eye can change shape, and in so doing change its focal length. This change allows the eye to focus on objects at different distances. The shape of the lens alters due to the action of the eye’s ciliary muscles.

38 B or C of the Spice Girls : MEL …

“Mel B” is the stage name of Melanie Brown, who came to fame as a member of the Spice Girls musical group. She took the name Mel B to distinguish herself from fellow band member Melanie Chisholm (Melanie C). Mel B was also known as “Scary Spice”, a nickname given to her by the media. American viewers saw Mel B on the TV show “America’s Got Talent” from 2013 through 2019, on which show she served as a judge.

Melanie C is a member of the English girl band the Spice Girls, with whom she has the nickname “Sporty Spice”. “Mel C” got the gig with the Spice Girls by replying to an ad in “The Stage” magazine, and auditioning alongside about 40 women who responded to the same ad. Sporty Spice really is quite sporty, and has completed the London Triathlon … twice.

40 Prominent feature of a fennec fox : EAR

The fennec fox is a small fox found in the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East. It is a crepuscular animal, meaning that it is active around dawn and dusk. The name “fennec” comes from the Berber word “fanak” meaning “fox”. It is the national animal of Algeria, and the Algerian national soccer team is nicknamed “Les Fennecs”.

43 Card suit that symbolizes a medieval weapon : SPADES

Spades is one of the four suits in a standard deck of cards. The spade symbol represents the pike, a medieval weapon.

45 Hare ___ : KRISHNA

The Hare Krishna mantra dates back to the 15th century. It is a 16-word mantra that can be written as:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

48 Display of mentalism … or a hint to this puzzle’s shaded squares : SPOON-BENDING

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!

52 www.nytimes.com, for one : URL

“The New York Times” (NYT) has been published since 1851, and is sometimes referred to as “the Gray Lady”. These days a viable alternative to buying the paper is to read the news online. NYTimes.com is the most popular online newspaper website in the country.

60 Walkie-talkie word : OVER

The more formal name for a walkie-talkie is “handheld transceiver”. A walkie-talkie is a handheld, two-way radio, and a device first developed for military use during WWII by Motorola (although others developed similar designs soon after). The first walkie-talkie was portable, but large. It was back-mounted and was carried around the battlefield by a radio officer.

65 First place? : EDEN

According to the Book of Genesis, Adam and Eve lived in a garden “in” Eden, with Eden being geographically located by reference to four rivers, including the Tigris and the Euphrates. Some scholars hypothesize that Eden was located in Mesopotamia, which encompasses much of modern-day Iraq.

66 Wapitis : ELKS

The elk (also “wapiti”) is one of the largest species of deer in the world, with only the moose being bigger. Early European settlers were familiar with the smaller red deer back in their homelands, so when they saw the “huge” wapiti they assumed it was a moose, and incorrectly gave it the European name for a moose, namely “elk”. The more correct name for the beast is “wapiti”, which means “white rump” in Shawnee. It’s all very confusing …

Down

1 Caesar dressing? : TOGA

In ancient Rome, the classical attire known as a toga (plural “togae” or “togas”) was usually worn over a tunic. The tunic was made from linen, and the toga itself was a piece of cloth about twenty feet long made from wool. The toga could only be worn by men, and only if those men were Roman citizens. The female equivalent of the toga was called a “stola”.

3 Developer of the game Breakout : ATARI

Breakout is an Atari arcade game that was released in 1976. Breakout is really like a more complex version of Pong, and involves destroying a layer of bricks in the top third of the screen using a “ball” that is “batted” against the brick wall. I wasted a few hours playing Breakout back in the day …

4 M.L.B.’s first Rookie of the Year (1947) : ROBINSON

The great Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to play in baseball’s Major League. When Robinson made his first MLB appearance, for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he did so in front of over 26,000 spectators. Well over half the crowd that day were African-Americans, there to witness the event. Major League Baseball universally retired Robinson’s number 42 in 1997. However, on the annual Jackie Robinson Day, all MLB players on all teams wear #42 in his honor.

5 Sorento automaker : KIA

The Sorento is an SUV made by Kia since 2002. I’ve always assumed that the car is named for the Italian city, although the spelling is different (“Sorrento”).

8 Explosion fragments : SHRAPNEL

“Shrapnel” is a word used for shell fragments. The term comes from the Shrapnel shell that is named for British artillery officer Major-General Henry Shrapnel who developed the first such munition.

13 Actor Chaney nicknamed “The Man of a Thousand Faces” : LON

Lon Chaney, Sr. played a lot of crazed-looking characters in the days of silent movies. He did much of his own make-up work, developing the grotesque appearances that became his trademark, and earning himself the nickname “the man of a thousand faces”. Most famous were his portrayals of the title characters in the films “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1923) and “The Phantom of the Opera” (1925).

21 List shortener: Abbr. : ET AL

“Et alii” (et al.) is the equivalent of “et cetera” (etc.), with “et cetera” being used in place of a list of objects, and “et alii” used for a list of names.

23 Plundered goods : LOOT

“Loot” is the name given to anything taken by dishonesty or force, particularly during war. The term came into English from the Hindi “lut” meaning “goods taken from an enemy”.

26 U.F.O. pilots : ETS

One might speculate that an unidentified flying object (UFO) is flown by an extraterrestrial (ET).

27 Some N.F.L. blockers : RTS

Right Tackle (RT)

30 Orpheus’ instrument : LYRE

Orpheus is a figure from Greek mythology very often associated with poetry, singing, music and the lyre in particular. In ancient Greece there was even an Orphic cult that in effect adopted the poetry ascribed to Orpheus as central to the cult’s belief system. The adjectives “Orphic” and “Orphean” describe things pertaining to Orpheus, and because of his romantic, musical bent, the term has come to describe anything melodious or enchanting. One of the more famous stories about Orpheus describes his attempts to rescue his wife Eurydice from the underworld.

31 Urges : YENS

The word “yen”, meaning “urge”, has been around in English since the very early 1900s. It comes from the earlier word “yin” imported from Chinese, which was used in English to describe an intense craving for opium.

33 Talk show host Jack : PAAR

Jack Paar was most famous as the host of “The Tonight Show”, from 1957 to 1962. When he died in 2004, “Time” magazine wrote that Paar was “the fellow who split talk show history into two eras: “Before Paar and Below Paar”. Very complimentary …

34 Ingredient in perfume and potpourri : ORRIS ROOT

Orris root is a basic ingredient in many perfumes, one providing a so-called “base note”. It is also an ingredient in some brands of gin.

35 Furniture depicted in Frida Kahlo’s “The Dream” (1940) : BED

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.

39 Singing voice meaning “heavy-sounding” : BARITONE

The baritone is the second-lowest of male voices, above the bass and below the tenor. The term “baritone” comes from the Greek word “barytonos” meaning “deep-sounding”.

42 First and only chimpanzee to orbit Earth : ENOS

Enos was a chimpanzee that was launched into Earth orbit in 1961 by NASA on a Mercury Atlas 4 rocket. Enos’s flight was a rehearsal for the first orbital flight made by an American, astronaut John Glenn. Enos returned from his mission safely, but died the following year from dysentery.

The common chimpanzee is a species of great ape, i.e. a member of the Hominidae family (along with gorillas, humans and orangutans). The human and chimpanzee branches of the Hominidae family tree diverged 4-6 million years ago, making the chimp our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom.

43 Cronus, to Uranus : SON

In Greek mythology, Cronus (also “Kronos”) was one of the Titans. Cronus overthrew his father Uranus and took over rule of the Titans. Eventually, Cronus was ousted by his own son Zeus. The Roman equivalent of Cronus was the deity Saturn.

44 Whale groups : PODS

A group of whales can be called a gam, as well as a pod.

50 Work of fiction : NOVEL

Our word “novel”, used for a lengthy work of fiction, comes from the Latin “novella” meaning “new things”.

51 One of Cyprus’s two official languages : GREEK

Cyprus is an island nation in the Mediterranean Sea, and a member of the European Union. Cyprus is a divided island, with the Republic of Cyprus controlling about 60% of its area. The remaining 40% calls itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and is occupied by Turkish forces.

52 “___ the housetop, click, click, click …” : UPON

“Up on the Housetop” is one of the oldest secular songs in the Christmas repertoire, with perhaps only “Jingle Bells” being older (from 1857). The most famous recording of “Up on the Housetop” was by Gene Autry in 1953.

56 Subway stop: Abbr. : STA

Station (stn.)

The official name of the London “Underground” rail network is a little deceptive, as over half of the track system-wide is actually “over ground”, with the underground sections reserved for the central areas. It is the oldest subway system in the world, having opened in 1863. It was also the first system to use electric rolling stock, in 1890. “The Tube”, as it is known by Londoners, isn’t the longest subway system in the world though. That honor belongs to the Shanghai Metro. My personal favorite part of the Tube is the Tube map! It is a marvel of design …

57 It may give you visuals : LSD

LSD (known colloquially as “acid”) is lysergic acid diethylamide. A Swiss chemist named Albert Hofmann first synthesized LSD in 1938 in a research project looking for medically efficacious ergot alkaloids. It wasn’t until some five years later when Hofmann ingested some of the drug accidentally that its psychedelic properties were discovered. Trippy, man …

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Bygone Russian ruler : TSAR
5 Rock band whose name also forms the call letters for a rock radio station in San Antonio : KISS
9 Like some sprays : NASAL
14 “The Simpsons” character with a palindromic name : OTTO
15 Part of a foot : INCH
16 “The best is ___ come” : YET TO
17 Capture the attention of : GRAB
18 Not quite shut : AJAR
19 Sing smoothly : CROON
20 Hawk’s home : AERIE
22 Russia’s ___ Mountains : URAL
24 Dating ___ : APP
25 Skiing and snowboarding : WINTER SPORTS
28 Fulfill completely : SATE
29 With special importance : NOTEDLY
32 Sewing shop supply : SPOOLS
35 Puts money (on) : BETS
36 Lens holder : EYE
37 Work hard for : EARN
38 B or C of the Spice Girls : MEL …
39 Building with a loft : BARN
40 Prominent feature of a fennec fox : EAR
41 Pesky plant : WEED
43 Card suit that symbolizes a medieval weapon : SPADES
45 Hare ___ : KRISHNA
47 Sight near an exit sign : DOOR
48 Display of mentalism … or a hint to this puzzle’s shaded squares : SPOON-BENDING
52 www.nytimes .com, for one : URL
53 Attempt, metaphorically : STAB
54 Reserve : STORE
56 Give away, as a story’s ending : SPOIL
58 Smooth (out) : IRON
60 Walkie-talkie word : OVER
61 Pinky and the Brain, for two : TOONS
62 It may be printed on a place mat : MENU
63 ___-do-well : NE’ER
64 Put into the pot : ANTED
65 First place? : EDEN
66 Wapitis : ELKS

Down

1 Caesar dressing? : TOGA
2 Scatter : STREW
3 Developer of the game Breakout : ATARI
4 M.L.B.’s first Rookie of the Year (1947) : ROBINSON
5 Sorento automaker : KIA
6 Cause harm to : INJURE
7 Lasting marks : SCARS
8 Explosion fragments : SHRAPNEL
9 Home of the Met, the Whitney and the Frick, in brief : NYC
10 Make fizzy : AERATE
11 Halts abruptly : STOPS DEAD
12 Crowning : ATOP
13 Actor Chaney nicknamed “The Man of a Thousand Faces” : LON
21 List shortener: Abbr. : ET AL
23 Plundered goods : LOOT
26 U.F.O. pilots : ETS
27 Some N.F.L. blockers : RTS
30 Orpheus’ instrument : LYRE
31 Urges : YENS
32 Ask for : SEEK
33 Talk show host Jack : PAAR
34 Ingredient in perfume and potpourri : ORRIS ROOT
35 Furniture depicted in Frida Kahlo’s “The Dream” (1940) : BED
38 Interim period : MEANTIME
39 Singing voice meaning “heavy-sounding” : BARITONE
41 Question of identity : WHO?
42 First and only chimpanzee to orbit Earth : ENOS
43 Cronus, to Uranus : SON
44 Whale groups : PODS
46 Long, thin strip used in building construction : SPLINE
47 Prepare, in a way, as chicken : DEBONE
49 Exposed for all to see : BARED
50 Work of fiction : NOVEL
51 One of Cyprus’s two official languages : GREEK
52 “___ the housetop, click, click, click …” : UPON
55 Goofs : ERRS
56 Subway stop: Abbr. : STA
57 It may give you visuals : LSD
59 Sister : NUN

17 thoughts on “1221-21 NY Times Crossword 21 Dec 21, Tuesday”

  1. 6:46, no errors. Cute. And, in a somewhat oblique way, I was reminded of James Randi, one of my heroes, who died last year at the age of 92.

  2. 6:26. Saw the theme early and even looked for a Uri Geller theme answer that never materialized.

    A SPADE in a deck of cards represents a pike? I looked at a pike and it’s just a long spear (technically when a spear is long enough that you need two hands to handle it, it becomes a pike). I’m sure there’s some connection between that and the shape of a spade on the deck of cards, but my 3 minutes of research didn’t reveal anything to me.

    Best –

  3. 7:18. It was really tough to eat my cereal this morning with that spoon in such an unusual configuration. Spilled all over myself!

  4. 15:12 finished just a couple minutes into Wednesday. Up until Tuesday night I was bludgeoning my way through Saturday’s puzzle with a 1:52:38 over the span of four days…

    1. Yes. My puzzle had the shadings. And the shadings did help me to close out my last few squares. You were working at somewhat of a disadvantage.

  5. 10:50, no errors. Anyone who went through an airport in the late 60’s/early 70’s is familiar with the Hare Krishna mantra.

  6. Hmm.. could have sworn my dad would call my mom and ask for a ride home from the Elks club. Maybe he had a few too many Elk drink?

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