0314-23 NY Times Crossword 14 Mar 23, Tuesday

Constructed by: Peter Gordon
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Reveal Answer: March Madness

Themed answers all relate to the college basketball tournament known as MARCH MADNESS:

  • 51A Annual college basketball tourney, rounds of which can be found in the circled squares at their appropriate numbers : MARCH MADNESS
  • 20A Process of picking winners in 51-Across : BRACKETOLOGY
  • 38A What lower-seeded 51-Across participants hope to become : CINDERELLA TEAMS
  • 4D ___ 4 : FINAL
  • 8D ___ 8 : ELITE
  • 16A ___ 16 : SWEET

Bill’s time: 6m 10s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

14 “Telephone Line” band, to fans : ELO

“Telephone Line” was released as a single in 1977 by the band ELO, and hit the top ten listings on both sides of the Atlantic. The initialism “ELO” stands for the Electric Light Orchestra, a symphonic rock group from the north of England. Their manager was Don Arden, father of Sharon Osbourne (wife of Ozzy).

18 Rapper Minaj : NICKI

Nicki Minaj is a rapper from the New York borough of Queens who was born in Trinidad.

20 Process of picking winners in 51-Across : BRACKETOLOGY

“Bracketology” is a term used to describe the process of predicting which college basketball teams will advance in a bracket in the annual NCAA Basketball Tournament. President Barack Obama famously participates in an ESPN segment called “Baracketology” in which he predicts the outcome of the tournament, game by game.

23 Communication service launched in 2004 : GMAIL

Gmail is a free webmail service provided by Google, and my favorite of the free email services. Gmail made a big splash when it was introduced because it offered a whopping 1GB of storage whereas other services offered a measly 2-4MB on average.

25 Children’s TV character with a falsetto voice : ELMO

In 2002, The Muppet Elmo got to testify before a US House subcommittee. Elmo’s goal was to get an increase in funding for music education. In the transcript of the hearing, his statements are ascribed to “Elmo Monster” and “Mr. Monster”.

34 Word after “jai” in a sport’s name : … ALAI

Jai alai is a game that derives from Basque pelota, and is known as “cesta-punta” in the Basque language. The name “jai alai” translates from the original Basque as “merry festival”.

35 Things to believe in : CREEDS

A creed or credo is a profession of faith, or a system of belief or principles. “Credo” is Latin for “I believe”.

38 What lower-seeded 51-Across participants hope to become : CINDERELLA TEAMS

In the world of sports, a Cinderella story is a situation in which a competitor or team is far more successful than is reasonably expected. The term is a reference to the “Cinderella” fairy tale.

41 Swiatek who won the 2022 U.S. and French Opens : IGA

Iga Swiatek is a professional tennis player, and the first from Poland to win a major singles title (the French Open in 2020).

43 P.D. alerts : APBS

An All Points Bulletin (APB) is a broadcast from one US law enforcement agency to another.

46 Nincompoop : ASS

The word “nincompoop”, meaning “fool”, seems to have been around for quite a while. It has been used since the 1670s, but no one appears to know its origins.

48 Type size : PICA

A pica is a unit of measure used in typography. One pica is equivalent to 1/6 of an inch. Also, each pica unit contains 12 points.

51 Annual college basketball tourney, rounds of which can be found in the circled squares at their appropriate numbers : MARCH MADNESS

“March Madness” is the name given to the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Championship (among others), that is held in the spring each year. Another name is “the Big Dance”.

56 Canon competitor : RICOH

Ricoh is a Japanese company that started out in 1936 and by the year 2000 was the biggest manufacturer of copiers in the world. The company is also well known as a supplier of cameras. The most successful of Ricoh’s lines of cameras is the compact model called a Caplio.

61 Flavoring in the German Christmas cookie springerle : ANISE

The springerle biscuit originated in Germany. It is a cookie with an elaborate, embossed design that is pressed into the dough using a mold, after which the dough is allowed to dry before baking. Springerle biscuits are usually rectangular, quite thick and hard, and often flavored with anise. They are particularly popular during the Christmas season. The name “springerle” can be translated from German as either “little jumping horse” or “little knight”.

62 Leader in a 1917 revolution : LENIN

“Lenin” wasn’t the birth name of the Russian leader. He was born Vladimir Ulyanov, and originally used “Lenin” as a pen name.

The year 1917 saw two revolutions in Russia, with the pair collectively called “the Russian Revolution”. As a result of the February Revolution that centered on Petrograd, the last Emperor of Russia (Tsar Nicholas II) abdicated and members of the Imperial parliament took control of the country, forming the Russian Provisional Government. The Provisional Government was itself overthrown in the October Revolution, which was led by Vladimir Lenin and the Bolshevik party.

64 Ebb and neap, for two : TIDES

Tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon on the oceans. At neap tide, the smaller gravitational effect of the sun cancels out some of the moon’s effect. At spring tide, the sun and the moon’s gravitational forces act in concert causing more extreme movement of the oceans.

Down

1 Hat with a tassel : FEZ

A fez is a red, cylindrical hat worn mainly in North Africa, and by Shriners here in the US. The fez used to be a very popular hat across the Ottoman Empire. The etymology of “fez” is unclear, although it may have something to do with the Moroccan city named Fez.

2 “He died the most beloved person on the planet,” per Ken Burns : ALI

Boxer Muhammad Ali is recognized on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the greatest sports figures of the 1900s. In 1999, Ali was named “Sportsman of the Century” by “Sports Illustrated” and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC.

Ken Burns directs and produces epic documentary films that usually make inventive use of archive footage. Recent works are the sensational “The War” (about the US in WWII) and the magnificent “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea”, as well as 2014’s “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History”. Burns’ 2017 offering was “The Vietnam War” that he co-directed with Lynn Novick.

3 Head honchos : TOP BANANAS

The expression “top banana” is used to mean “the main man” or “the main woman”. The first person to use “top banana” was supposedly Vaudeville performer Harry Steppe in 1927, who applied the term to the top comic on the bill. The phrase comes from a comedy routine in which three comics struggle to share two bananas.

“Honcho” is a slang term meaning “leader”. The word comes to us from the Japanese military, in which language a “hancho” is a “squad” (han) “leader” (cho).

4D ___ 4 : FINAL
8D ___ 8 : ELITE
16A ___ 16 : SWEET

In the NCAA Division I Basketball Championship, the teams remaining at various stages of the tournament are known as:

  • The “Sweet Sixteen” (the regional semi-finalists)
  • The “Elite Eight” (the regional finalists)
  • The “Final Four” (the national semi-finalists)

5 Guitarist Clapton : ERIC

Can you believe that the great Eric Clapton only had one chart-topper in the US? In 1974, Clapton released a cover version of the Bob Marley classic “I Shot the Sheriff” and ended up selling more copies of that song than Bob Marley did himself. Clapton is the only person to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times: once as a member of the Yardbirds, once as a member of the supergroup Cream, and once as a solo artist.

6 Truck brand with a bulldog in its logo : MACK

Mack Trucks was founded by John Mack in the early 1900s, after he had spent some years working in companies that made carriages and electric motor cars. Along with his two brothers, Mack started their company to focus on building heavy-duty trucks and engines.

7 Podcaster’s purchase : MIKE

A podcast is basically an audio or video media file that is made available for download. The name comes from the acronym “POD” meaning “playable on demand”, and “cast” from “broadcasting”. So, basically a podcast is a broadcast that one can play on demand, simply by downloading and opening the podcast file.

9 Composer of a sacred song : PSALMIST

The Greek word “psalmoi” originally meant “songs sung to a harp”, and gave us the word “psalms”. In the Jewish and Western Christian traditions, the Book of Psalms contains 150 individual psalms, divided into five sections.

10 “Oh, yer joshin’ me” : AW, GO ON

When the verb “to josh”, meaning “to kid”, was coined in the 1840s as an American slang term, it was written with a capital J. It is likely that the term somehow comes from the proper name “Joshua”, but no one seems to remember why.

12 Start of a counting-out rhyme : EENY …

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,
Catch the tiger/monkey/baby by the toe.
If it hollers/screams let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, you are it!

23 Name on the mansion of New York City’s mayor : GRACIE

Gracie Mansion in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan is the official residence of the Mayor of the City of New York. The mansion was built by Scottish-born shipping magnate Archibald Gracie. Gracie sold his New York estate in 1823 to pay off debts, and the city picked up the property in 1891.

27 Sound from an owl : SCREECH

There are over twenty species of screech owls, all of which are native to the Americas. Named for their eerie trill heard mainly during the night, screech owls are about the size of a pint glass.

28 2,808 square feet, for a tennis court : AREA

Our modern sport of tennis evolved from the much older racquet sport known as real tennis. Originally just called “tennis”, the older game was labeled “real tennis” when the modern version began to hold sway. Real tennis is played in a closed court, with the ball frequently bounced off the walls.

50 Giant in health insurance : AETNA

When the healthcare management and insurance company known as Aetna was founded, the name was chosen to evoke images of Mount Etna, the Italian volcano.

53 Actress Borstein of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” : ALEX

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is a comedy drama TV show set in the late fifties and early sixties. The title character, played by Rachel Brosnahan, is a New York housewife who opts for a career as a standup comedian.

55 Depilatory brand : NAIR

Nair is a hair-removal product that has some pretty harsh ingredients. The most important active constituents are calcium hydroxide (“slaked lime”) and sodium hydroxide (“caustic soda”). Other Nair components seem to be there to soothe the skin after the harsher chemicals have done their job. The name “Nair” probably comes from combining “no” and “hair”.

A depilatory agent is something capable of removing hair. The root of the term is “pilus”, the Latin for “hair”, and the same word that gives us “pile” (as in a carpet).

59 Captain’s journal : LOG

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.

60 Hot cocoa holder : MUG

The beverages hot cocoa and hot chocolate differ from each other in that the latter contains cocoa butter, whereas the former does not.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 What butchers trim away : FAT
4 Woman: Fr. : FEMME
9 Leaves at the library? : PAGES
14 “Telephone Line” band, to fans : ELO
15 Letter-shaped train track beam : I-RAIL
16 ___ 16 : SWEET
17 Nada : ZIP
18 Rapper Minaj : NICKI
19 Intense suffering : AGONY
20 Process of picking winners in 51-Across : BRACKETOLOGY
23 Communication service launched in 2004 : GMAIL
25 Children’s TV character with a falsetto voice : ELMO
26 Chimed : RANG
27 Down in the dumps : SAD
30 Enjoying a candlelit meal, say : DINING
34 Word after “jai” in a sport’s name : … ALAI
35 Things to believe in : CREEDS
37 “Candyman” director DaCosta : NIA
38 What lower-seeded 51-Across participants hope to become : CINDERELLA TEAMS
41 Swiatek who won the 2022 U.S. and French Opens : IGA
42 How a well-plotted story wraps up : NEATLY
43 P.D. alerts : APBS
44 Guarantee : ENSURE
46 Nincompoop : ASS
47 Tick off : RILE
48 Type size : PICA
50 Fury : ANGER
51 Annual college basketball tourney, rounds of which can be found in the circled squares at their appropriate numbers : MARCH MADNESS
56 Canon competitor : RICOH
57 Fabric fold : PLEAT
58 Wood used in cabinetry : ELM
61 Flavoring in the German Christmas cookie springerle : ANISE
62 Leader in a 1917 revolution : LENIN
63 Who’s solving this puzzle : YOU
64 Ebb and neap, for two : TIDES
65 Additional : EXTRA
66 Something that has to be broken before it can be used : EGG

Down

1 Hat with a tassel : FEZ
2 “He died the most beloved person on the planet,” per Ken Burns : ALI
3 Head honchos : TOP BANANAS
4 ___ 4 : FINAL
5 Guitarist Clapton : ERIC
6 Truck brand with a bulldog in its logo : MACK
7 Podcaster’s purchase : MIKE
8 ___ 8 : ELITE
9 Composer of a sacred song : PSALMIST
10 “Oh, yer joshin’ me” : AW, GO ON
11 Park ranger’s subj. : GEOG
12 Start of a counting-out rhyme : EENY …
13 Messy place : STY
21 Like hard-liners : RIGID
22 “Good” times? : OLD DAYS
23 Name on the mansion of New York City’s mayor : GRACIE
24 Speak ill of : MALIGN
27 Sound from an owl : SCREECH
28 2,808 square feet, for a tennis court : AREA
29 Greek letter used for a 2021 Covid variant : DELTA
31 “Never gonna happen!” : IN A PIG’S EYE!
32 Light-footed or quick-witted : NIMBLE
33 Funny joke, in slang : GASSER
36 Building annexes : ELLS
39 Adds vitamins and minerals to : ENRICHES
40 Merits : EARNS
45 Revolted : UPROSE
49 More than enough : AMPLE
50 Giant in health insurance : AETNA
51 Bite-size, say : MINI
52 Like a biting wit : ACID
53 Actress Borstein of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” : ALEX
54 Fender flaw : DENT
55 Depilatory brand : NAIR
56 One who snitches : RAT
59 Captain’s journal : LOG
60 Hot cocoa holder : MUG

12 thoughts on “0314-23 NY Times Crossword 14 Mar 23, Tuesday”

  1. 11:35. Got the theme answers almost immediately but struggled with some of the fill. Didn’t help that I couldn’t figure out what AW GOON meant at first.

    Interesting that you tend to hear the term “second BANANA” more often than TOP BANANA.

    Best –

  2. 10:05, no errors.
    “screech owls are about the size of a pint glass.” Happy to see Bill use a unit of volume that we can all visualize.

  3. I too struggled with the fills.

    I put in EMAIL for 23A.. what a
    dumb-ss mistake. Had no idea on 23D.
    Put SANG in for 26A without thinking about it. 23D became ESACIE…

    AWE GO ON!!!

  4. @Nick …

    I’ve been preoccupied with other things for the last couple of days, but … a couple of thoughts …

    You wondered how I could possibly know that people on the blog were, as you described it, “cheating at solitaire” (a characterization I deplore, of course 🙂). The answer is that they say so, in their posts, on the blog! It is possible to read the posts and, in time, get a pretty good notion of who does what in solving a puzzle. (It’s always possible, of course, that some posters misrepresent their results, but, for the most part, I accept what they say.)

    In any case, if you wish to get some idea of how you stack up against other solvers of NYT-type puzzles, you could get (for $15) paper versions of the puzzles from the most recent ACPT (American Crossword Puzzle Tournament), solve them as you like, and then compare your results to the statistics that are published on the site (statistics that were collected under controlled conditions during the event).

    Here’s a link to the ACPT site:

    https://crosswordtournament.com/

    (I ordered a copy of the puzzles for myself on April 4th and they arrived a couple of days ago, but I haven’t had a chance to look at them yet.)

    Also, some time ago, Glenn posted a link to a site where one could find statistics for the NYT puzzles, but I seem not to have book-marked it. Possible drawbacks: I seem to remember that it told you about the most recent NYT puzzle, with no way to look back at earlier ones (but I could be wrong). In any case, I found myself questioning whether the statistics are reliable, since there are ways of fooling the app into thinking you did better on it than you really did (something I found out about by accident.) Perhaps Glenn will weigh in on this.

    1. @Dave Kennison
      For what it’s worth I wrote a comment to @Nick on Saturday. As for play-at-home ACPT (what you describe), the basic idea is solving the puzzles on paper under identical conditions to the ACPT (record time, but there’s a time limit too – the timer I use actually is a speaker’s model that you can set alarms for, so I did that when I did it the first time).

      You report the time on solving each of the puzzles and then send them back. They grade the puzzles themselves and send them back, and then send you a sheet with your ranking on all the classes in the tournament. I did the one in 2019 (52% of them did better than me then), and admittedly turned in an embarrassing effort. Though, I’m seriously thinking about rolling that set of dice again this year since I’m half-curious how they’d turn out now.

      As for the statistics site, a complete listing is at https://xwstats.com/puzzles . The current syndicated ones are on Page 2 about 10 entries down. This one was rated “Very Hard” with an average time of 10:17 (Bill did very well on this one admittedly but the time element probably made it easier than me having to figure it out – though I was above average time on this one too).

    2. I just looked. Evidently they stopped grading them for you since I did it last. Hopefully though they’ll provide you the answers. Of course, ranking is easy enough just by looking at the site results.

      1. Thanks, Glenn. I’ve bookmarked that site now. Actually, given the way my mind works (or doesn’t work) these days, I probably bookmarked it last time and just don’t remember where … 😜.

      2. And, in fact … I had bookmarked it, but apparently I never understood all the features of the site.

        @Nick … I you use the statistics site Glenn mentions above, take a look at the links hidden behind the three-horizontal-line icon in the upper left. There’s more to the site than I thought there was.

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