1224-21 NY Times Crossword 24 Dec 21, Friday

Constructed by: Evan Kalish
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Theme: None

Bill’s time: 13m 47s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

13 Artificial intelligence system modeled on the human brain : NEURAL NET

It used to be that “neural network” was just the name given to a network of nerve cells in an organism. In the modern world, the term “neural net” (short for “neural network”) also applies to virtual or electronic devices designed to mimic the function of the human brain, and in particular learning from past experiences.

15 Something that gets passed around a lot : MEME

A meme (from “mineme”) is a cultural practice or idea that is passed on verbally or by repetition from one person to another. The term lends itself very well to the online world where links, emails, files etc. are so easily propagated.

16 Golfers Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, for two : AFRIKANERS

Ernie Els is a South African golfer. He is a big guy but he has an easy fluid golf swing that has earned him the nickname “The Big Easy”. Els is a former World No. 1 and has won four majors: the US Open (1994 & 1997) and the British Open (2002 & 2012).

19 All the king’s men? : LIEGES

A liege was a feudal lord, one to whom service or allegiance was owed under feudal law. “Liege” was also the term used for one who owed allegiance or service to a lord. Apparently the term is influenced by the Latin verb “ligare” meaning “to tie, bind”. So, I guess both lord and servant were “bound” to each other.

21 School with the slogan “Ex scientia tridens,” familiarly : NAVY

The United States Naval Academy (USNA) is located in Annapolis, Maryland. The USNA was founded in 1845 and educates officers for both the US Navy and the US Marine Corps. The motto of the USNA is “Ex Scientia Tridens”, which translates as “From Knowledge, Sea Power”.

22 Ancient symbols of life : ANKHS

The ankh was the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic character for “eternal life”. The ankh wasn’t just used in inscriptions but was often fashioned into amulets and as surrounds for mirrors (perhaps symbolizing a view into another world). The ankh is also known as “the key of the Nile” and “crux ansata” (Latin for “cross with a handle”).

23 Velcro alternative : LACES

The hook-and-loop fastener that we now call “Velcro” was invented in 1941 by Georges de Mestral, a Swiss engineer. Mestral noticed that the seeds of the burdock plant (burrs or burs) stuck to his clothes. Under the microscope he found hooks on the burrs that grabbed hold of loops in his clothing. After years of development, he came up with a way of simulating the natural hook using man-made materials, and Velcro was born.

25 Democratic leader? : DEE

The leading letter in the word “Democratic” is a letter D (dee).

26 Recipe direction : BEAT

The Latin “recipere” means “to take”, and the imperative form “recipe” was written at the top of medical prescriptions as an instruction, i.e. “take (the following)”. This use of “recipe” evolved into the instruction for preparing a dish of food in the mid-1700s.

27 Strong, dark quaff : BOCK

A bock is a strong lager from Germany that was first brewed in the town of Einbeck. The famous brewers of Munich adopted the style of beer, calling it Einbeck after the town of its origin. However, with the Bavarian accent “Einbeck” came out as “ein Bock”, the German for “a billy goat”. The name “bock” stuck, and so you’ll often see a billy goat on the labels of bock beers.

30 Some abbey attire : COWLS

A cowl is a long garment with a hood that is primarily worn by monks in the Christian tradition. The term “cowl” can also describe the hood itself.

36 Crew : POSSE

Our word “posse” comes from an Anglo-Latin term from the early 15th century “posse comitatus” meaning “the force of the county”.

44 ___ Miguel Island, largest of the Azores : SAO

São Miguel Island is the largest island in the archipelago known as the Azores. It is known locally as “the Green Island”.

The Azores is an archipelago of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic lying about 1,000 miles west of Portugal. The Azores are an autonomous region belonging to Portugal.

45 Currency units in Peru : SOLES

The Nuevo Sol has been the currency of Peru since the 1980s.

47 Puccini opera … or the first five letters of the maestro who conducted its La Scala premiere : TOSCA

Unlike so many operas, Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca” was a big hit right from day one, when it was first performed in 1900 at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome. Currently, “Tosca” is the eighth-most performed opera in America.

Arturo Toscanini was an Italian conductor who took up the baton for the first time under sensational circumstances in 1886. He was attending a performance of “Aida” in Rio de Janeiro in the role of assistant chorus master, on a night when a substitute conductor was leading the orchestra. The substitute was in charge because the lead conductor had been forced to step down by striking performers who would not work with him. The disgruntled lead conductor led the audience in booing the unfortunate substitute, forcing him off the stage. Yet another substitute attempted to lead the performance, but he could not overcome the hostility of the crowd. The musicians themselves begged Toscanini to take up the baton, for the first time in his life, and simply because he knew the score by heart. After over an hour of mayhem, Toscanini led the company in a remarkable performance to marvelous acclaim. He had just launched his conducting career.

48 What Twix bars are sold in : TWOS

I remember Twix bars from way back in 1967 when they were introduced in Britain and Ireland. Twix bars made it to the US over a decade later, in 1979. The name “Twix” is a portmanteau of “twin bix”, short for “twin biscuit”.

50 Companion of the droid BB-8, in the “Star Wars” universe : REY

Rey is a central character in the “Star Wars” universe who first appeared in 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. Rey is played by British actress Daisy Ridley.

BB-8 (also “Beebee-Ate”) is a droid in the “Star Wars” universe that first appeared in the 2015 film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. BB-8 is the spherical robot with a free-moving domed head. The “8” in the name “BB-8” was chosen as the robot’s outline resembles a figure-8.

51 Ear hair? : TASSEL

The thread-like fibers that make up the tuft on an ear of corn is known as “corn silk”. The fibers are the female parts of the plant. Pollen from the tassel at the top of the plant lands on the fibers, which are actually fine tubes. The pollen travels down the tube, where fertilization occurs. Each fertilization results in the development of a kernel of corn.

52 Calculus calculation : RATE

The Latin word “calculus” was originally used for a reckoning or an account, and originally applied to a pebble that was used to maintain a count. The Latin word came from the Greek for a pebble, “khalix”.

55 What Shøp on “The Simpsons” is a parody of : IKEA

Every IKEA store features a restaurant that serves traditional Swedish food, including Swedish meatballs and lingonberry jam. Each store also has a Swedish Food Market where customers can purchase specialty foods from Sweden.

56 Agronomic analyses : SOIL TESTS

Agronomy is a branch of agriculture that primarily deals with crop and soil science.

57 A cold wave can produce one : PERM

“Perm” is the common name given to a permanent wave, a chemical or thermal treatment of hair to produce waves or curls.

58 Yule log? : NICE LIST

Santa checks his list of those who are naughty or nice.

Yule celebrations coincide with Christmas, and the words “Christmas” and “Yule” (often “Yuletide”) have become synonymous in much of the world. However, Yule was originally a pagan festival celebrated by Germanic peoples. The name “Yule” comes from the Old Norse word “jol” that was used to describe the festival.

The word “logbook” dates back to the days when the captain of a ship kept a daily record of the vessel’s speed, progress etc. using a “log”. A log was a wooden float on a knotted line that was dropped overboard to measure speed through the water.

Down

1 Sequencing locale : DNA LAB

Nucleobases are molecules that form the backbone of DNA and RNA chains. It is the sequence of these bases in the DNA chain that makes up the so-called “genetic code”. In DNA, the four bases are adenine (A), guanine (G), thymine (T) and cytosine (C). The same bases are found in RNA, except that thymine is replaced by uracil (U). In DNA, the nucleobases exist in “base pairs”.

3 Triumphant shout : EUREKA!

“Eureka” translates from Greek as “I have found it”. The word is usually associated with Archimedes, uttered as he stepped into his bath one day. His discovery was that the volume of water that was displaced was equal to that of the object (presumably his foot) that had been submerged. He used this fact to determine the volume of a crown, something he needed in order to determine if it was made of pure gold or was a forgery.

4 “Black Boy” memoirist Richard : WRIGHT

Richard Wright’s work “Native Son” is a protest novel penned in 1940. It is the story of a 20-year-old African-American man living in poverty on the South Side of Chicago in the thirties. “Native Son” was adapted for the big screen more than once, including a 1986 film of the same name starring Victor Love, Elizabeth McGovern, Matt Dillon and Oprah Winfrey.

6 “___ poor Romeo!”: Shak. : ALAS

William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” doesn’t end well for the title characters. Juliet takes a potion as a ruse to fool her parents, to trick them into thinking she is dead. The potion puts her in a death-like coma for 24 hours, after which Juliet plans to awaken and run off with Romeo. Juliet sends a message to Romeo apprising him of the plan, but the message fails to arrive. Romeo hears of Juliet’s “death”, and grief-stricken he takes his own life by drinking poison. Juliet awakens from the coma, only to find her lover dead beside her. She picks up a dagger and commits suicide. Nobody lives happily ever after …

7 Wolf’s home : CNN

Wolf Blitzer is the son of Jewish refugees from Poland. He was born in Augsburg in Germany and was given the name “Wolf” in honor of his maternal grandfather. Wolf came with his family to live in the US, and he was raised in Buffalo, New York.

9 Besides Brunei, the only current sovereign sultanate : OMAN

Oman lies on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula and is neighbored by the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Oman is a monarchy, and the official name of the state is the Sultanate of Oman. All of the country’s legislative, executive and judiciary power resides with the hereditary sultan.

The official name of Brunei is the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace. Brunei is situated on the island of Borneo, almost completely surrounded by Malaysia. Brunei’s government is dictated by the constitution adopted in 1959, and is ruled by a sultan with full executive authority. The main language spoken in the country is “Melayu Brunei” (Brunei Malay), with the official language being Malay. Apparently Malay and Brunei Malay are quite different from each other, with native speakers finding it difficult to understand each other.

The land ruled by a sultan is known as a sultanate. In the West, the feminine forms of “sultan” are “sultana” and “sultanah”. The adjectival form is “sultanic”.

10 Creation date, file size and location, for an iPhone photo : METADATA

“Metadata” is usually defined as “data about data”. The classic example is the card catalog of a library. The catalog is a set of data about a collection of books. Each entry in the catalog is data about a specific publication.

17 Office address abbr. : STE

Suite (ste.)

30 “The gymnasium of the mind,” per Blaise Pascal : CHESS

Blaise Pascal was an important French mathematician, physicist and philosopher, who lived in the mid-1600s. In math, his name was given to Pascal’s triangle, a triangle of numbers in which each number is the sum of the two numbers above it. Pascal also wrote on the subject of theology. His most important theological writings were published after his death under the title “Pensées”, meaning “Thoughts”.

35 Cardinal points?: Abbr. : TDS

The Arizona Cardinals were founded in 1898 as the Chicago Cardinals. That makes the Cardinals the oldest, continuously-run, professional football team in the whole country.

36 Alternative to litmus paper : PH STRIP

As we all recall from chemistry class, a pH of 7 is considered neutral. Anything less than 7 is an acid, and anything above 7 is a base.

Litmus is a mixture of naturally-occurring dyes that responds to acidity by changing color. Litmus was probably first used around 1300 by the Spanish alchemist Arnaldus de Villa Nova, who extracted the blue dye from lichens. One suggestion is that the term “litmus” comes from the Old Norse “litmose” meaning “lichen for dyeing”. Litmus is often absorbed onto filter paper, creating “litmus paper” or “pH paper”. We also use the phrase “litmus test” figuratively to describe any test in which a single factor decides the outcome.

40 It’s the truth! : GOSPEL

“Gospel” is a term that came to us via Old English. The Old English term is “godspel” meaning “good story”, and referred to the glad tidings announced by Jesus. There are four Gospels in the Christian New Testament: the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

41 Noted basilica town : ASSISI

St. Francis founded the Franciscan religious order in Assisi in 1208. He died in 1226, and was declared a saint just two years later in 1228. Construction of the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi started immediately after the canonization, and finished 25 years later. The Basilica is now a United Nations World Heritage Site.

51 One end of the Mohs scale : TALC

Talc is a mineral, hydrated magnesium silicate. Talcum powder is composed of loose talc, although these days “baby powder” is also made from cornstarch.

The Mohs scale of mineral hardness was developed in 1812 by Friedrich Mohs. Basically Mohs took minerals and scratched them with other minerals. In this way he was able to determine which minerals were hardest (most scratch resistant) and which softest. On the scale, diamond is the hardest (and rated 10), while talc is the softest (and rated 1).

54 GameCube successor : WII

The Nintendo GameCube video game console was the successor to the Nintendo 64, and the predecessor to the Nintendo Wii.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Retreated : DREW BACK
9 Drop : OMIT
13 Artificial intelligence system modeled on the human brain : NEURAL NET
15 Something that gets passed around a lot : MEME
16 Golfers Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, for two : AFRIKANERS
18 So much : A TON
19 All the king’s men? : LIEGES
20 Simple and glib : PAT
21 School with the slogan “Ex scientia tridens,” familiarly : NAVY
22 Ancient symbols of life : ANKHS
23 Velcro alternative : LACES
25 Democratic leader? : DEE
26 Recipe direction : BEAT
27 Strong, dark quaff : BOCK
28 The British royal family has one called the Cambridge Lover’s Knot : TIARA
30 Some abbey attire : COWLS
31 Up : ASTIR
32 “I wasn’t going to say anything, but since you brought it up …” : YEAH, ABOUT THAT …
36 Crew : POSSE
37 Many a confession on a theater stage : ASIDE
38 Throws, informally : HUCKS
39 “I’m game” : LET’S
40 Last ___ : GASP
44 ___ Miguel Island, largest of the Azores : SAO
45 Currency units in Peru : SOLES
47 Puccini opera … or the first five letters of the maestro who conducted its La Scala premiere : TOSCA
48 What Twix bars are sold in : TWOS
50 Companion of the droid BB-8, in the “Star Wars” universe : REY
51 Ear hair? : TASSEL
52 Calculus calculation : RATE
53 Gained some courage : GREW A SPINE
55 What Shøp on “The Simpsons” is a parody of : IKEA
56 Agronomic analyses : SOIL TESTS
57 A cold wave can produce one : PERM
58 Yule log? : NICE LIST

Down

1 Sequencing locale : DNA LAB
2 Polish : REFINE
3 Triumphant shout : EUREKA!
4 “Black Boy” memoirist Richard : WRIGHT
5 Gets the batter out, say : BAKES
6 “___ poor Romeo!”: Shak. : ALAS
7 Wolf’s home : CNN
8 Monitor : KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON
9 Besides Brunei, the only current sovereign sultanate : OMAN
10 Creation date, file size and location, for an iPhone photo : METADATA
11 “That doesn’t bother me anymore” : I’M OVER IT
12 Like an F.B.I. director’s term : TEN-YEAR
14 Fast fashion? : TRACKSUITS
17 Office address abbr. : STE
23 Ones making insulting offers : LOWBALLERS
24 Part of many university names : STATE
27 Flamboyant prop : BOA
29 “Black” follower : -ISH
30 “The gymnasium of the mind,” per Blaise Pascal : CHESS
32 Question that cannot be answered if its answer is “no” : YOU AWAKE?
33 Two-wheeler at a charging station : E-SCOOTER
34 “___ away!” : ASK
35 Cardinal points?: Abbr. : TDS
36 Alternative to litmus paper : PH STRIP
40 It’s the truth! : GOSPEL
41 Noted basilica town : ASSISI
42 Things picked up on a trail : SCENTS
43 Most likely to burn, maybe : PALEST
46 Kind of chart, informally : ORG
47 Decorum : TASTE
49 Underground band : SEAM
51 One end of the Mohs scale : TALC
54 GameCube successor : WII

13 thoughts on “1224-21 NY Times Crossword 24 Dec 21, Friday”

  1. Another frustrating encounter with online solving: There were a number of entries in the lower left that I wasn’t completely sure of, so, when I entered the final character and the timer kept running, I assumed that was where the error was. By the time I discovered the actual error (a fat-fingered character elsewhere in the grid) and fixed it, the timer read 27:27. Call it what you will … 😜.

  2. DNF – after 30 minutes I had maybe a third filled in and I was sure of maybe 2/3 of that. Even after various lookups and filling it all in, I‘m sure there are several things I would not have gotten – such as HUCKS and TASSEL for ear hair.

    Maybe the Xmas puzzle tomorrow will be easier.
    Seasons Greetings to all.

  3. 28:58. This felt like a Saturday to me in most areas. Wanted to put GREW A pair before …SPINE, but it obviously didn’t fit. Still like my answer better. Also dryEST before PALEST and a few other missteps.

    Never heard CHESS referred to as “the gymnasium of the mind”, but I like it.

    Best –

  4. 14:01. To me this one didn’t “feel” hard, but my time was a little slower than average. TASSEL for “ear hair” elicited an internal groan from this Iowa resident.

  5. Technically a DNF.. I Looked up a couple words.. I do that when I’m taking too long. Took me an hour. That’s when I start speeding things up.
    I really messed up at 46D. Entered EKG. I thought KEY for 50A sounded odd for a Star Wars character. So I thought REY sounded right but then that made ERG for 46D.. not realizing that SELES was wrong for 45A…
    I just plain bit the dirt.

  6. Finished with no errors, but this was a tough one. Felt like pulling teeth (all of them)
    SW was the last to fall…very…slowly

  7. NYT Wordplay commentary today pointed out:

    “There are a whopping 13 debuts in this puzzle, most of them very lively”

    Guess it means words that have never appeared in the NYT crossword. Shortz has a dictionary of over 250,000 words he keeps.

  8. 35:20, no errors. Fell down several rabbit holes. Entered SAINT before STATE, but the biggest difficulties came in the SW corner (have I heard this before??). Entered: 32A WELL, ABOUT THAT; 44A SAN; 52A AREA.
    Felt like quitting several times, persistence paid off.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.