1231-21 NY Times Crossword 31 Dec 21, Friday

Constructed by: Meghan Morris
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Theme: None

Bill’s time: 17m 05s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

15 Waltz onomatopoeia : OOM-PAH-PAH

Onomatopoeia is the naming of something by vocally imitating the sound associated with it. Examples of onomatopoeia are “chirp”, “clash”, “click” and “hiccups”.

19 Kitchen brand whose name is an ambigram : OXO

The OXO line of kitchen utensils and housewares is designed to be ergonomically superior to the average household tools. The intended user of OXO products is someone who doesn’t have the normal range of motion or strength in the hands e.g. someone suffering from arthritis.

22 Its employees might get under your skin : X-RAY LAB

X-rays were first studied comprehensively by the German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen (also “Roentgen”), and it was he who gave the name “X-rays” to this particular type of radiation. Paradoxically, in Röntgen’s native language of German, X-rays are routinely referred to as “Röntgen rays”. In 1901, Röntgen’s work on X-rays won him the first Nobel Prize in Physics that was ever awarded.

24 Thing with rings : TREE

Growth rings can be seen in a horizontal cross section of a tree trunk. These rings are caused by a change in the rate of growth of a tree that comes with the seasons, so the rings are more easily discerned in trees that grow in regions with marked seasonal changes.

28 Some Disney-inspired Halloween costumes : ELSAS

Actress and singer Idina Menzel came to public attention when she was a member of the original Broadway cast of “Rent”. She is known on the small screen for playing Shelby Corcoran on the musical TV show “Glee”. On the big screen, her most noted performance was as the voice actor behind Queen Elsa in the Disney hit “Frozen”. It is Menzel who sings the Oscar-winning song “Let It Go” in “Frozen”.

31 Like blue and green ski trails, vis-à-vis black diamonds : EASIER

In North America, ski runs are given a standardized rating in terms of skiing difficulty. The ratings are:

  • Green circles: easy to ski, often termed “bunny slopes”.
  • Blue squares: medium difficulty
  • Black diamond: steep and challenging terrain
  • Double black diamond: experts only (I’ve never braved one!)

33 Pep : VIM

“Vim”, “zip“ and “pep” are all words that mean “energy, power”.

41 Actress Kendrick : ANNA

Anna Kendrick is a marvelous actress whose big break came when she played the sidekick to George Clooney’s character in the very interesting 2009 film “Up in the Air”. Kendrick can sing as well as act, and played a student a cappella singer in the 2012 movie “Pitch Perfect”.

42 Sharon’s predecessor as Israeli P.M. : BARAK

Ehud Barak served as Prime Minister of Israel from 1999 to 2001, taking over from Benjamin Netanyahu. Barak left office after he called a special election for Prime Minister and lost the vote to Ariel Sharon. Barak resigned from the Knesset and took an advisory job with the US company Electronic Data Systems (EDS), and did some security-related work with a private equity company. In 2007, Barak took over leadership of Israel’s Labor Party.

Ariel Sharon was a former Prime Minister of Israel. While still in office in 2005, Sharon suffered two debilitating strokes that left him in a permanent vegetative state from early 2006, until he finally passed away in early 2014.

43 One of the Blues Brothers : ELWOOD

The Blues Brothers blues band was created in 1978 for a “Saturday Night Live” sketch. The original Blues Brothers were Dan Aykroyd (Elwood Blues) and John Belushi (“Joliet” Jake Blues). The band eventually made it to the big screen in a 1980 musical comedy called “The Blues Brothers”.

45 One of the Coen brothers : JOEL

I think it’s great to see two brothers working together and being so successful. Joel and Ethan Coen are two movie producers and directors who both live in New York City. The Coen brothers do love the movie-making business and they even married industry “insiders”. Ethan’s wife is film editor Tricia Cooke, and Joel is married to one of my favorite actresses, the talented Frances McDormand.

50 Where to do as others do, it’s said : IN ROME

The proverb “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” probably dates back to the days of St. Augustine. St. Augustine wrote a letter around 390 AD in which he states:

When I go to Rome, I fast on Saturday, but here [Milan] I do not. Do you also follow the custom of whatever church you attend, if you do not want to give or receive scandal?

56 Canon competitor : LEICA

Leica is a German optics company that is famous for production of lenses and cameras. The 1913 Leica was the first practical camera that could use 35mm film, a size chosen because it was already the standard for film used in motion pictures.

57 Street featured in Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” (that’s also 50-Across) : VIA VENETO

Via Veneto (actually “Via Vittorio Veneto”) is an upmarket street in Rome, and the address of many of the pricier hotels. It was made famous in Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita”, and is still the home to Harry’s Bar and Café de Paris, which were both featured in the movie.

The title of the celebrated 1960 Federico Fellini film “La Dolce Vita” translates from Italian as “The Good Life”. There is a character in the film called Paparazzo who is a news photographer. It is this character who gives us our word “Paparazzi”, a term used for photographers who make careers out of taking candid shots of celebrities.

60 Make thin : ATTENUATE

To attenuate is to reduce in intensity or effect, or to make thin or slender.

Down

2 Component of three of the five French “mother sauces” : ROUX

A roux is a mixture of wheat flour and clarified butter (or other fat) cooked together until it can be used as a thickening agent.

4 “Double” or “triple” drink : IPA

India pale ale (IPA) is a style of beer that originated in England. The beer was originally intended for transportation from England to India, hence the name.

6 Agatha Christie novel named after Death’s mount in Revelation : THE PALE HORSE

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are introduced in the Book of Revelation in the Christian Bible. Each of the four represents woe for man, in the form of pestilence, war, famine and death. The four horsemen ride on a white, red, black and pale horse respectively.

Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time, having sold about 4 billion copies worldwide in total. The only books to have sold in higher volume are the works of William Shakespeare and the Bible.

8 Danger for desert hikers : RATTLESNAKE BITE

The scales covering the tip of a rattlesnake’s tail are made of keratin, the same structural protein that makes up the outer layer of human skin, as well as our hair and nails. The rattlesnake shakes its tail vigorously to warn off potential predators, causing the hollow scales to vibrate against one another and resulting in that scary “rattle” sound. The rattler’s tail muscles “fire” an incredible fifty times a second to achieve that effect, demonstrating one of the fastest muscular movements in the whole animal kingdom.

10 Teri of “Mr. Mom” : GARR

Actress Teri Garr had a whole host of minor roles in her youth, including appearances in nine Elvis movies. Garr’s big break came with the role of Inga in “Young Frankenstein”, and her supporting role in “Tootsie” earned Garr an Academy Award nomination. Sadly, Teri Garr suffers from multiple sclerosis. She is a National Ambassador for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“Mr. Mom” is a 1983 comedy written by John Hughes that stars Michael Keaton and the great Teri Garr. The movie is all about an engineer in the auto industry in Detroit who loses his job and then takes over the running of the household while his wife heads back to work. It’s funny stuff …

22 Group portrayed in “Slacker” and “Reality Bites,” familiarly : XERS

The term “Generation X” originated in the UK where it was the name of a book by Jane Deverson. Her book detailed the results of a study of British youths in 1964, contrasting their lifestyle to those of previous generations. It was Canadian author Douglas Coupland who was responsible for popularizing the term, with his more successful publication “Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture”. By one definition, Gen-Xers were born between 1961 and 1981.

The 1994 movie “Reality Bites” was the directorial debut for actor Ben Stiller. Like many low-budget movies, things moved pretty quickly during shooting. It was filmed in just 42 days, on location in Austin and Houston, Texas.

29 Trio of horrors? : ARS

There is a trio of letters R (ars) in the word “horrors”.

33 Rosso o bianco : VINO

In Italian, “vino” (wine) might be “rosso” (red) or “bianco” (white).

34 Driver’s license fig. : ID NO

Identity document (ID)

35 Ren Faire concession : MEAD

Mead is a lovely drink that’s made from fermented honey and water.

A Renaissance faire (Ren faire) is an outdoor public event in which many participants recreate historical settings by dressing in costume. Usually held in North America, many such fairs are set during the English Renaissance, and more particularly during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The definition of “Renaissance” is often stretched quite a bit, with fairs also set during the reign of Henry VIII, and maybe even during medieval times.

37 United competitor, once : 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.

44 Not yet manifest : LATENT

Something is said to be latent if it is present, but not active.

45 Spurns : JILTS

To jilt someone with whom you have a relationship is to drop them suddenly or callously. “Jilt” is an obsolete noun that used to mean “harlot, loose woman”.

46 Longtime “Inside the N.B.A.” commentator : O’NEAL

“Inside the NBA” is a postgame show that airs on TNT. The list of regulars on the show includes ex-players Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal.

47 Writer Jong : ERICA

49 South America’s Río de la ___ : PLATA

When the Uruguay River and the Paraná River come together on the border between Argentina and Uruguay, they form the Rio de la Plata. “Rio de la Plata” translates as “River of Silver” from Spanish, but in English we sometimes call the waterway the River Plate. The famous WWII action known as the Battle of the River Plate took place out to sea a few miles from the River Plate estuary. The German battleship Admiral Graf Spee took refuge in the River Plate in the neutral port of Montevideo. Forced to return to sea, and to the Royal Naval vessels waiting for her, Berlin gave orders for the Graf Spee to be scuttled in the estuary.

51 Eponym of the World Series M.V.P. award : MAYS

Willie Mays’ nickname was “Say Hey Kid”, although his friends and teammates were more likely to refer to him as “Buck”. When Mays was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he was asked who was the best player he’d ever seen in the game. He replied, “I don’t mean to be bashful, but I was.”

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.

53 “Have no ___ of perfection – you’ll never reach it”: Dalí : FEAR

Artist Salvador Dalí liked to make a splash in public. He was known to walk an anteater on a lead around Paris. He also brought an anteater on stage to an interview on “The Dick Cavett Show” in 1970.

57 Dictionary abbr. : VAR

Variant (var.)

58 Rapa ___ (Easter Island) : NUI

“Rapa Nui” is the Polynesian name for what we are more likely to call “Easter Island”. The European name was coined by the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who came across the island on Easter Sunday in the year 1722. Chilean-owned Easter Island is inhabited and is a location that is remarkably distant from neighboring civilization. The nearest inhabited island is Pitcairn Island, which is almost 1300 miles away.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Colorful custardy confection : FRUIT TART
10 Sudden inspirations : GASPS
15 Waltz onomatopoeia : OOM-PAH-PAH
16 Love : ADORE
17 Classic diner orders : TUNA MELTS
18 Apply, as ointment : RUB ON
19 Kitchen brand whose name is an ambigram : OXO
20 Pit-___ : A-PAT
21 More might come before it : … OR LESS
22 Its employees might get under your skin : X-RAY LAB
24 Thing with rings : TREE
25 Legal action : APPEAL
28 Some Disney-inspired Halloween costumes : ELSAS
30 “___ me!” (request to a fridge-goer) : BEER
31 Like blue and green ski trails, vis-à-vis black diamonds : EASIER
33 Pep : VIM
36 Looks the other way : LETS THINGS SLIDE
39 Modern ___ : ERA
40 “A ___ place is in the House, and in the Senate” (bumper sticker) : WOMAN’S
41 Actress Kendrick : ANNA
42 Sharon’s predecessor as Israeli P.M. : BARAK
43 One of the Blues Brothers : ELWOOD
45 One of the Coen brothers : JOEL
48 Relative by marriage : STEPDAD
50 Where to do as others do, it’s said : IN ROME
52 Stain : BLOT
53 Sprinkling : FEW
56 Canon competitor : LEICA
57 Street featured in Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” (that’s also 50-Across) : VIA VENETO
59 Still sticky : TACKY
60 Make thin : ATTENUATE
61 Crushes it : SLAYS
62 Couple in the back of a car : REAR TIRES

Down

1 Snap : FOTO
2 Component of three of the five French “mother sauces” : ROUX
3 “That’s … never gonna happen” : UM … NO
4 “Double” or “triple” drink : IPA
5 Actress Taylor of TV’s “Bones” : TAMARA
6 Agatha Christie novel named after Death’s mount in Revelation : THE PALE HORSE
7 Make ___ for : A PLAY
8 Danger for desert hikers : RATTLESNAKE BITE
9 Ending with four or six, but not five : -THS
10 Teri of “Mr. Mom” : GARR
11 Does laundry or pays bills, in modern lingo : ADULTS
12 Clearheaded : SOBER
13 Novel content : PROSE
14 Tell : SENSE
21 Couldn’t let go of : OBSESSED OVER
22 Group portrayed in “Slacker” and “Reality Bites,” familiarly : XERS
23 Straighten : ALIGN
25 Proficient : ABLE
26 ___ review : PEER
27 One quadrillion: Prefix : PETA-
29 Trio of horrors? : ARS
32 Target : AIM AT
33 Rosso o bianco : VINO
34 Driver’s license fig. : ID NO
35 Ren Faire concession : MEAD
37 United competitor, once : TWA
38 “Heavens!” : LAWD!
42 Squarish : BLOCKY
44 Not yet manifest : LATENT
45 Spurns : JILTS
46 Longtime “Inside the N.B.A.” commentator : O’NEAL
47 Writer Jong : ERICA
49 South America’s Río de la ___ : PLATA
51 Eponym of the World Series M.V.P. award : MAYS
53 “Have no ___ of perfection – you’ll never reach it”: Dalí : FEAR
54 Suffix with towel : -ETTE
55 Melancholiac’s list : WOES
57 Dictionary abbr. : VAR
58 Rapa ___ (Easter Island) : NUI

9 thoughts on “1231-21 NY Times Crossword 31 Dec 21, Friday”

  1. 19:49, no errors. I did the puzzle last night after learning about the fires here in Colorado, so I’m surprised to have done that well on it. I don’t remember much about it (except that I had a heck of a time remembering the name of Ethan’s brother).

    Does anyone know of a calm, friendly planet I can move to for whatever remains to me of my declining years?

  2. 37:49 As I used to say to my daughter, back when she was in her much younger years: “call me when you get to your planet” 🙂

    In any case, Happy New Year!

  3. 21:21 Seems an appropriate time for final puzzle of 2021 – a minute faster would have been even better. Actually, I was done in about 12 minutes except for that pesky NW corner. Even though I had 2D, 8D, and 19A correct, I could not seem to gain any other traction whatsoever, so after 9 minutes or so of staring I resorted to a couple of lookups.

    Happy New Year.

  4. 29:18, no errors. Puzzle solved in three acts. Act 1: first 10 minutes stared at a blank grid except for the completed NE corner. Act 2: second 10 minutes gradually filled the center, NW and SE corners. Act 3: last 10 minutes, stared at a completely blank SW corner, except for ERICA. Made a wild guess that the MVP award would be named after Willie MAYS, and the rest fell quickly.

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