0120-22 NY Times Crossword 20 Jan 22, Thursday

Constructed by: Howard Barkin
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Theme (according to Bill): Great Puzzle, Initially

Themed answers have intitials that play a key part in the corresponding clue. Very, very clever …

  • 18A TV talent show? : THE VOICE
  • 28A FM band on the radio? : FLEETWOOD MAC
  • 49A Academy Awards M.C.? : MICHAEL CAINE
  • 64A U.S. symbol? : UNCLE SAM

Bill’s time: 7m 41s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

1 It counts on your movements : FITBIT

Fitbits are wearable activity trackers that are mainly used to track the number of steps walked, although more and more features have been added over time. A Fitbit was even used as evidence in at least one murder case. A Connecticut man claimed that a home intruder had shot and killed his wife. Police used data from the wife’s Fitbit to disprove the husband’s story, and ended up charging him with the murder.

10 Neighbor for a Syrian : TURK

Turkey is a country that straddles the border between the continents of Europe and Asia. Even though most of Turkey lies geographically in Asia, in recent decades the country has been strengthening its ties with its European neighbors. Turkey is a member of NATO, and was well on the way to becoming a member of the European Union until EU members started calling out human rights violations in recent years.

14 Antelope with lyre-shaped horns : IMPALA

“Impala” is the Zulu word for “gazelle”. When running at a sustained speed, gazelles can move along at 30 miles per hour. If needed, they can accelerate for bursts up to 60 miles per hour.

16 “Chestnuts roasting ___ open fire” : ON AN

The Christmas classic known as “The Christmas Song”, which starts out with the line “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”, was written in 1944 by Bob Wells and singer Mel Tormé. According to Tormé, the song was actually written on a very hot summer day, with Wells providing the lyrics. Apparently without the intention of writing a song, Wells jotted down four “Christmassy” phrases in an effort to “stay cool by thinking cool”. Those phrases were:

  • Chestnuts roasting
  • Jack Frost nipping
  • Yuletide carols
  • Folks dressed up like Eskimos

“The Christmas Song” is now the most-performed Christmas song in the world.

17 Side Hyde tried to hide : JEKYLL

Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was published in 1886. There are many tales surrounding the writing of the story, including that the author wrote the basic tale in just three to six days, and spent a few weeks simply refining it. Allegedly, Stevenson’s use of cocaine stimulated his creative juices during those few days of writing.

18 TV talent show? : THE VOICE

“The Voice” is yet another reality television show. It is a singing competition in which the judges hear the contestants without seeing them in the first round. The judges then take on chosen contestants as coaches for the remaining rounds. “The Voice” is a highly successful worldwide franchise that originated in the Netherlands as “The Voice of Holland”.

21 “The Simpsons” character who competed in a crossword tournament : LISA

Lisa Simpson is Bart’s brainy younger sister on TV’s “The Simpsons”. Lisa is voiced by actress Yeardley Smith. In a 2008 episode of the show, Lisa enters a crossword tournament. Crossword celebrities Merl Reagle and Will Shortz make appearances in that episode, basically playing cartoon versions of themselves.

24 Ocho ___, Jamaica : RIOS

If you ever take a cruise ship to Jamaica, you will likely disembark in Ocho Rios, a major port of call for the cruise lines. “Ocho rios” is Spanish for “eight rivers”.

26 Eavesdropping on the most conversations, maybe : NOSIEST

To eavesdrop is to listen in on someone else’s conversation without being invited to do so. The term comes from the practice of spies loitering in the area just outside the walls of a house, particularly in the “eavesdrip”, the ground close to a house that catches the drips of rainwater falling from the eaves of the roof.

28 FM band on the radio? : FLEETWOOD MAC

The band Fleetwood Mac was founded in 1967 in London by Peter Green. He chose “Fleetwood Mac” from the names of two friends in former groups, i.e. “Fleetwood” and “McVie”). Green did this despite the fact that Fleetwood Mac’s drummer’s name happens to be Mick Fleetwood.

32 Pinkish violet : LILAC

The ornamental flowering plant known as lilac is native to the Balkans, and is a member of the olive family.

33 Typical kabuki performer, in any role : MAN

Kabuki is a Japanese form of theater involving dance and drama. In the original Kabuki theater, both male and female parts were played by women. In contrast, the Noh dramas have the male and female parts played by men.

34 Round food item with square indentations : EGGO

Eggo is a line of frozen waffles and related products made by Kellogg’s. When they were introduced in the 1930s, the name “Eggo” was chosen to promote the “egginess” of the batter. “Eggo” replaced “Froffles”, the original name chosen by melding “frozen” and “waffles”.

43 Rare tic-tac-toe win : O-O-O

When I was growing up in Ireland we played “noughts and crosses” … our name for the game tic-tac-toe.

44 Popular samosa filling : PEAS

A samosa is quite the tasty appetizer. It is usually a triangular-shaped savory that often has a vegetarian filling. The word “samosa” is primarily used on Indian menus, and the name comes from “sanbosag”, the name for the dish in Persia.

47 Field of “Mad Men,” informally : AD BIZ

“Mad Men” was the flagship show on the AMC television channel for several seasons. Set in the sixties, it’s all about an advertising agency located on Madison Avenue in New York (hence the title). “Mad Men” became the first show created by a basic cable channel to win an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series.

49 Academy Awards M.C.? : MICHAEL CAINE

There have been only two actors who have been nominated for an Academy Award in every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s. One is Jack Nicholson, and the other is Michael Caine. Caine is now known as Sir Michael Caine, as he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in the year 2000.

53 “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” artist : PICASSO

“Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (“The Young Ladies of Avignon”) is an oil painting created by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso in 1917. The painting is generally regarded as having a profound influence on modern art and is hailed as the most important proto-Cubist work. You can go see “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

56 Rating one chili pepper, say : MILD

The Scoville scale is a measure of the spiciness of chili peppers. The scale was invented by a pharmacist in 1912, Wilbur Scoville. To determine the position of a pepper on the Scoville scale, the amount of capsaicin in the chili is measured. Capsaicin is an irritant that causes the sensation of burning when it comes into contact with tissue, particularly mucous membranes.

60 Programming language named for a beverage named for an island : JAVA

Java is a programming language that was developed by Sun Microsystems. Java was originally designed for interactive television, but it didn’t fit the needs at the time. Back then, the language was called Oak, named after an oak tree that stood outside the designer’s office. Later it was called Green, and finally named Java, which was simply picked out of a list of random words.

Java is a large island in Indonesia that is home to the country’s capital, Jakarta. With a population of over 130 million, Java is the most populous island in the world, with even more people than Honshu, the main island of Japan.

64 U.S. symbol? : UNCLE SAM

The Uncle Sam personification of the United States was first used during the War of 1812. The “Uncle Sam” term was so widely accepted that even the Germans used it during WWII, choosing the code word “Samland” for “America” in intelligence communiques.

69 Actress Ortiz : ANA

Ana Ortiz played the title character’s older sister in the TV series “Ugly Betty”.

72 Place to climb stairs that go nowhere : GYM

Our word “gymnasium” comes from the Greek “gymnasion” meaning “public place where exercise is taken”. The Greek term comes from “gymnos” meaning “naked”, as that physical training was usually done unclothed in ancient Greece.

Down

1 Many-time “Survivor” locale : FIJI

The island nation of Fiji is an archipelago in the South Pacific made up of over 330 islands, 110 of which are inhabited. Fiji was occupied by the British for over a century and finally gained its independence in 1970.

The reality show “Survivor” is based on a Swedish television series created in 1997 called “Expedition Robinson”.

2 Invited to chat, in brief : IM’ED

Even though instant messaging (sending and receiving IMs) has been around since the 1960s, it was AOL who popularized the term “instant message” in the eighties and nineties. The “AOL Instant Message” service was known as AIM.

3 Toll rte. : TPKE

Back in the 15th century, a turnpike (tpk., trke.) was a defensive barrier across a road. By the 17th century the term was used for a barrier that stopped travelers until a toll was paid. By the 18th century a turnpike was the name given to a road with a toll.

4 Where Silicon Valley is : BAY AREA

The Santa Clara Valley, located at the southern end of San Francisco Bay, is better known as “Silicon Valley”. The term “Silicon Valley” dates back to 1971 when it was apparently first used in a weekly trade newspaper called “Electronic News” in articles written by journalist Don Hoefler.

6 Soap ingredient : TALLOW

Fat, when extracted from the carcass of an animal, is called suet. Untreated suet decomposes at room temperature quite easily so it has to be rendered, purified to make it stable. Rendered fat from pigs is what we call lard. Rendered beef or mutton fat is known as tallow.

Soap is basically made by adding a strong alkali (like lye) to a fat (like olive oil or palm oil). The fats break down in the basic solution in a process called saponification. The crude soap is extracted from the mixture, washed, purified and finished in molds.

8 Mahatma Gandhi’s given name : MOHANDAS

Mohandas Gandhi was a political and spiritual leader in India in the first part of the 20th century, as the country sought independence from Britain. He was also referred to as “Mahatma”, meaning “great soul”. His remarkable philosophy of nonviolence and living a modest lifestyle was a great inspiration to the Indian people. India (and Pakistan) was granted independence in 1947. Tragically, Gandhi was assassinated the very next year.

9 Mascot of the N.F.L.’s Ravens, appropriately : POE

The name of the Baltimore Ravens football team has a literary derivation. Baltimore was the home of the writer Edgar Allan Poe, and so the team took its moniker from his most famous poem, “The Raven”. The name was selected in a fan contest. Baltimore’s mascot is a raven named Poe. Prior to the 2008 season, the Raven’s had a trio of avian mascots: Edgar, Allan and Poe.

12 Four of the 10 decathlon events : RACES

The decathlon event is a track and field competition, with the name “decathlon” coming from the Greek “deka” (ten) and “athlos” (contest). The ten events in the men’s decathlon are:

  • 100 meters
  • Long jump
  • Shot put
  • High jump
  • 400 meters
  • 110 meters hurdles
  • Discus throw
  • Pole vault
  • Javelin throw
  • 1500 meters

19 Collectible stamp? : VISA

A visa is usually a stamp in one’s passport, an indication that one is authorized to enter (and less often, to exit) a particular country. The word “visa” comes into English, via French, from the Latin expression “charta visa” meaning “paper that has been seen”, or “verified paper”.

22 Prefix with -tonic : ISO-

“Isotonic” means “of equal tension” and is of Greek origin. There are two common uses of the term. Solutions of equal concentration are said to be isotonic. An isotonic solution of saline has the same amount of salt (NaCl) as there is in blood. Also, in the isotonic contraction of a muscle, the amount of tension stays the same whereas the muscle’s length changes. Lifting an object at a constant speed causes the isotonic contract of the lifting muscle.

31 Watch brand for 007 : OMEGA

Omega is a manufacturer of high-end watches based in Switzerland. An Omega watch was the first portable timepiece to make it to the moon, Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that James Bond has been wearing an Omega watch in the movies since 1995.

35 Expanse crossed by the Silk Road : GOBI

The Gobi, the large desert in Asia, lies in northern China and southern Mongolia. The Gobi desert is growing at an alarming rate, particularly towards the south. This “desertification” is caused by increased human activity. The Chinese government is trying to halt the desert’s progress by planting great swaths of new forest, the so-called “Green Wall of China”. The name “Gobi” is Mongolian for “waterless place, semidesert”.

The Silk Road was a network of trading routes that crossed North Africa and Asia, connecting Europe to West Asia. The routes get the name from the lucrative trade in silk from China.

40 “The Lord of the Rings” baddies : ORCS

According to Tolkien, Orcs are small humanoids that live in his fantasy world of Middle-earth (also called “Mordor”). They are very ugly and dirty, and are fond of eating human flesh.

42 It dissolves in H2O : NACL

Sodium chloride (NaCl, common salt) is an ionic compound. It comprises a crystal lattice made up of large chloride (Cl-) ions in a cubic structure, with smaller sodium (Na+) ions in between the chlorides.

A water molecule is composed of an oxygen atom with two hydrogen atoms on roughly opposite sides (at about a 150-degree angle). So, sometimes the molecule is represented by “HOH”, although more usually by “H2O”.

48 Many a groaner : DAD JOKE

I tell dad jokes all the time, just to annoy the kids …

  • I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down!
  • If you see a robbery at an Apple Store, does that make you an iWitness?
  • A termite walks into a bar and asks, “Is the bar tender here?”
  • Two guys walk into a bar, the third one ducks.
  • What’s the best part about living in Switzerland? I don’t know, but the flag is a big plus.

50 Setting for Robinson Crusoe : ISLE

When Daniel Defoe wrote his marvelous 1719 novel called “Robinson Crusoe”, he was likely thinking of real-life Scottish castaway Alexander Selkirk. Selkirk was marooned and lived alone on the Pacific Island called “Mas a Tierra” off the coast of Chile, for four years. The island was officially renamed in 1966, and is now called Robinson Crusoe Island.

51 Lifesaving inits. : EMS

Emergency medical services (EMS)

52 Kind of test : LITMUS

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.

59 Prayer leader : IMAM

An imam is a Muslim leader, and often the person in charge of a mosque and/or perhaps a Muslim community.

61 Highlight of una scena : ARIA

A scena is an extended operatic solo, one that usually includes an aria and a recitative. “Scena” is Italian for “scene”.

67 Niagara Falls locale: Abbr. : ONT

For well over a century now, the twin cities of Niagara Falls, New York and Niagara Falls, Ontario have been popular spots for honeymooners. Niagara Falls got a boost as a honeymoon destination in 1953 with the release of “Niagara”, a film noir starring Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotton.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 It counts on your movements : FITBIT
7 Rev (up) : AMP
10 Neighbor for a Syrian : TURK
14 Antelope with lyre-shaped horns : IMPALA
15 Loving murmur : COO
16 “Chestnuts roasting ___ open fire” : ON AN
17 Side Hyde tried to hide : JEKYLL
18 TV talent show? : THE VOICE
20 Spark of a sort : IDEA
21 “The Simpsons” character who competed in a crossword tournament : LISA
23 Gathering of spies? : INTEL
24 Ocho ___, Jamaica : RIOS
26 Eavesdropping on the most conversations, maybe : NOSIEST
28 FM band on the radio? : FLEETWOOD MAC
32 Pinkish violet : LILAC
33 Typical kabuki performer, in any role : MAN
34 Round food item with square indentations : EGGO
38 Blesses : OKS
39 Approaches closely : HOMES IN
43 Rare tic-tac-toe win : O-O-O
44 Popular samosa filling : PEAS
46 Aid at a carwash : RAG
47 Field of “Mad Men,” informally : AD BIZ
49 Academy Awards M.C.? : MICHAEL CAINE
53 “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” artist : PICASSO
56 Rating one chili pepper, say : MILD
57 Ever : OF ALL
58 General meaning : GIST
60 Programming language named for a beverage named for an island : JAVA
64 U.S. symbol? : UNCLE SAM
66 Tied up, as a ship : MOORED
68 Promotional gift, often : TOTE
69 Actress Ortiz : ANA
70 Mean : UNKIND
71 Minor uproar : STIR
72 Place to climb stairs that go nowhere : GYM
73 Places : STEADS

Down

1 Many-time “Survivor” locale : FIJI
2 Invited to chat, in brief : IM’ED
3 Toll rte. : TPKE
4 Where Silicon Valley is : BAY AREA
5 “___ say!” : I’LL
6 Soap ingredient : TALLOW
7 Deeds : ACTS
8 Mahatma Gandhi’s given name : MOHANDAS
9 Mascot of the N.F.L.’s Ravens, appropriately : POE
10 Lacking the killer instinct, say : TOO NICE
11 Team up : UNITE
12 Four of the 10 decathlon events : RACES
13 Prepared to pray, perhaps : KNELT
19 Collectible stamp? : VISA
22 Prefix with -tonic : ISO-
25 Hankering : ITCH
27 Present opener? : OMNI-
28 Complete failure : FLOP
29 Such as : LIKE
30 One of two Disney characters singing “For the First Time in Forever” : ELSA
31 Watch brand for 007 : OMEGA
35 Expanse crossed by the Silk Road : GOBI
36 Enter : GO IN
37 Exhibit greatly, as charm : OOZE
40 “The Lord of the Rings” baddies : ORCS
41 Brownish red : MAHOGANY
42 It dissolves in H2O : NACL
45 What teaspoons are vis-à-vis tablespoons : SMALLER
48 Many a groaner : DAD JOKE
50 Setting for Robinson Crusoe : ISLE
51 Lifesaving inits. : EMS
52 Kind of test : LITMUS
53 Sulks : POUTS
54 “Alternatively …” : IF NOT …
55 Torch thistles, e.g. : CACTI
59 Prayer leader : IMAM
61 Highlight of una scena : ARIA
62 Sell : VEND
63 Goes on to say : ADDS
65 Give under weight : SAG
67 Niagara Falls locale: Abbr. : ONT

10 thoughts on “0120-22 NY Times Crossword 20 Jan 22, Thursday”

  1. I “HONED in on the theme and brought the crossword HOME to a final conclusion.

    I’ve never heard anyone say HOMES IN but apparently it’s more common?

    No errors

    1. @Anon Mike …

      Interesting. I’d never heard the phrase “HONE IN”, but … Merriam-Webster has this to say:

      “Most usage commentators consider hone in to be a mistake for home in. The use may have arisen from home in by the weakening of the \m\ sound to \n\ or it may have developed simply because of the influence of hone, with perhaps an underlying sense that “honing” figuratively involves a narrowing or sharpening of focus. Whatever the explanation of its origins, it has established itself in American English and has begun to make a few inroads into British English as well. Even so, your use of it especially in writing is likely to be called a mistake. Home in or in figurative use zero in is an easy alternative.”

      So … language … caught in the act of evolving … 😜

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