1207-23 NY Times Crossword 7 Dec 23, Thursday

Constructed by: Rebecca Goldstein
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Reveal Answer: Alchemy

We have a rebus puzzle today, with several squares containing both “Pb” & “Au”. We use a little ALCHEMY, converting lead (Pb) used in across-answers to gold (Au) for the down-answers:

  • 36A Pseudoscientific process hinted at by four squares in this puzzle : ALCHEMY
  • 18A Alfresco drinking establishment : ROOFTOP BAR
    • 23A Certain freestyle competition : RAP BATTLE
    • 50A Undergarment providing a lift : PUSH-UP BRA
    • 56A Soda containers, in the Midwest : POP BOTTLES
    • 3D Alternative to a latte or flat white : CAFE AU LAIT
    • 11D Patriotic World Cup chant : USA! USA!
    • 32D Reverse course : MAKE A U-TURN
    • 49D Caterer’s container : TEA URN

    Bill’s time: 11m 35s

    Bill’s errors: 0

    Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

    Across

    1 Along with Big Bird, role for puppeteer Caroll Spinney on “Sesame Street” : OSCAR

    Oscar the Grouch is the Muppet who lives in a garbage can. Oscar’s persona comes from various sources. He is named after Oscar Brand who was one of the board members of the Children’s Television Workshop, the backers for “Sesame Street” as the Muppets were being developed in the sixties. Oscar’s personality was inspired by an angry waiter that once served Jim Henson (father of the Muppets). The voice was modeled on a grumpy New York cab driver encountered one day by Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who brings Oscar to life.

    The man “inside” Big Bird on “Sesame Street” is Caroll Spinney, who has been playing the character since 1969. That’s a long time, so Spinney has had an understudy named Matt Vogel since 1998.

    10 ___ piece : PUFF

    A fluff piece (also “puff piece”) is a news story that is considered unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Fluff pieces tend to be chosen for their cuteness, rather than their import.

    15 Actress Fanning of “The Great” : ELLE

    Actress Elle Fanning first appeared on film in the 2001 movie “I Am Sam”, in which she played a younger version of her sister and fellow actor Dakota Fanning (a 2-year-old version of the character). One of her first major roles was Aurora/Sleeping Beauty alongside Angelina Jolie in the 2014 movie “Maleficent”. Fannin reprised the role in the 2019 sequel “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”.

    16 Where Henrik Ibsen is buried : OSLO

    Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen is the second-most frequently performed dramatist in the world, with only the works of William Shakespeare staged more often. As he was a pioneer in the genre, he is often referred to as “the father of realism”.

    17 E.M.T.’s apparatus, informally : DEFIB

    An emergency medical technician (EMT) might use an automated external defibrillator (AED).

    18 Alfresco drinking establishment : ROOFTOP BAR

    Our word “alfresco” means outdoors, in the fresh air. The term came into English from Italian.

    22 Actress Fisher of “Eighth Grade” : ELSIE

    Elsie Fisher is an actress whose best-known roles are possibly her voice acting. For example, she voiced Agnes in “Despicable Me” (2010) and “Despicable Me 2” (2013), and Parker Needle in “The Addams Family” (2019).

    “Eighth Grade” is a 2018 comedy drama movie starring Elsie Fisher as a middle-schooler struggling with anxiety. Comedian Bo Burnham wrote and directed the film, and the storyline reflects his own anxiety as a performer, and his frequent panic attacks. I haven’t seen this one, but I hear really good things …

    23 Certain freestyle competition : RAP BATTLE

    Battle rapping (also “rap battling”) is a contest in which two or more rappers “fight it out” using opposing, improvised lyrics. I’d be annihilated …

    27 Ride that might have a hot tub : LIMO

    The word “limousine” derives from the name of the French city of Limoges. The area around Limoges is called the Limousin, and it gave its name to a cloak hood worn by local shepherds. In early motor cars, a driver would sit outside in the weather while the passengers would sit in the covered compartment. The driver would often wear a limousin-style protective hood, giving rise to that type of transportation being called a “limousine”. Well, that’s how the story goes …

    31 Org. that is often referred to by just its first letter : YMCA

    The YMCA (the Y) is a worldwide movement that has its roots in London, England. There, in 1844, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was founded with the intent of promoting Christian principles through the development of “a healthy spirit, mind and body”. The founder, George Williams, saw the need to create YMCA facilities for young men who were flocking to the cities as the Industrial Revolution flourished. He saw that these men were frequenting taverns and brothels, and wanted to offer a more wholesome alternative.

    35 Designer Anna : SUI

    Anna Sui is a fashion designer from Detroit, Michigan.

    36 Pseudoscientific process hinted at by four squares in this puzzle : ALCHEMY

    One of the main goals of the ancient practice of alchemy was to change base metals into gold, a process known as transmutation.

    39 Poke bowl protein : AHI

    Poke is a Native-Hawaiian dish featuring diced raw fish. “Poke” is a Hawaiian word meaning “to slice”.

    40 URL opening : HTTP

    “http” are the first letters in many Internet links. “http” stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol. More secure and “safer” websites (like this one!) use links starting with “https”, which stands for “http secure”).

    42 Illumination unit : LUX

    The “lux” is the SI unit of illuminance, and is equal to one lumen per square meter.

    43 Made out : NECKED

    The term “necking” applies to kissing and caressing. I like what Groucho Marx had to say on the subject:

    Whoever named it necking was a poor judge of anatomy.

    47 “If ___ Street Could Talk” (James Baldwin novel) : BEALE

    “If Beale Street Could Talk” is a 2018 film based on a 1974 novel of the same name by Barry Jenkins. Both novel and movie tell the story of a young woman working to clear the name of her lover, who was wrongfully charged with rape.

    50 Undergarment providing a lift : PUSH-UP BRA

    The world’s first push-up bra was the Wonderbra. The Wonderbra became very popular in the 1990s, although the brand name has been around since 1935.

    53 Blueprint bits : SPECS

    Blueprints are reproductions of technical or architectural drawings that are contact prints made on light-sensitive sheets. They were introduced in the 1800s and the technology available dictated that the drawings were reproduced with white lines on a blue background, hence the name “blue-print”.

    55 Persian suffix meaning “land” : -STAN

    The suffix “-stan” in many place names is Persian for “place of”. One example is “Pakistan”, the Place of the Pure. “Pakistan” is a relatively recent name, coined in 1933. It comes from the abbreviation PAKSTAN, standing for Punjab – Afghan Province – Kashmir – Sindh – BaluchisTAN, all regions in the north of India. The “I” was added to Pakistan to make it easier to pronounce, and to fit the translation “Land of the Pure”.

    59 Vegetable sometimes called “ladies’ fingers” : OKRA

    The plant known as okra is mainly grown for its edible green pods. The pods are said to resemble “ladies’ fingers”, which is an alternative name for the plant. Okra is known as “ngombo” in Bantu, a name that might give us the word “gumbo”, the name for the name of the southern Louisiana stew that includes okra as a key ingredient.

    60 Loomed? : WOVE

    There are many types of loom used to weave cloth, but they all hold parallel threads in tension in one direction, while allowing the interweaving of threads in the perpendicular direction. The threads held under tension are the warp threads, and the “woven” threads are the “weft” threads.

    61 Giraffe gatherings : HERDS

    The giraffe is the tallest terrestrial animal on the planet. Its main source of food is acacia leaves that they eat from high, high up in trees, where other herbivores cannot reach.

    Down

    3 Alternative to a latte or flat white : CAFE AU LAIT

    “Café au lait” (French for “coffee with milk”) is usually strong drip coffee to which one adds steamed milk. Well, that’s the way we tend to make it here in the US.

    5 Talmudic honorific : REB

    The Talmud is a collection of writings by thousands of rabbis and is a central text in Rabbinic Judaism, second only to the Torah.

    27 Harper who wrote “Go Set a Watchman” : LEE

    Nelle Harper Lee was an author from Monroeville, Alabama. For many years, Lee had only one published novel to her name, i.e. “To Kill a Mockingbird”. That contribution to the world of literature was enough to earn her the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Pulitzer Prize. Harper Lee was a close friend of fellow author Truman Capote who was the inspiration for the character named “Dill” in her novel. Lee was all over the news in 2015 as she had published a second novel, titled “Go Set a Watchman”. The experts seem to be agreeing that “Go Set a Watchman” is actually the first draft of “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Lee passed away less than a year after “Go Set a Watchman” hit the stores.

    29 “Survivor” dwelling : HUT

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

    30 Code for Sky Harbor Airport : PHX

    Phoenix is the capital of the state of Arizona. The city started out as a farming community founded by a Civil War veteran. Key to the success of the community was the construction of canals that were really contemporary improvements to canals that had previously been built by the local Hohokam people.

    33 Subject of the classic photo “Guerrillero Heroico” : CHE

    “Guerrillero Heroico” is the name of an iconic photograph taken by Alberto Korda of the revolutionary Che Guevara. With the title translating into English as “Heroic Guerrilla Fighter”, the image shows Guevara in a dark beret, with an “implacable” stare. Versions of this photo have been used so many times in tattoos, posters, paintings, etc. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has determined that “Guerrillero Heroico” has been reproduced more than any other image in the history of photography.

    41 Wool wear for winter : PEACOAT

    A peacoat (also “pea jacket”) is a heavy woolen outer jacket originally associated with sailors. Nowadays anyone wears them (they’re very comfortable and warm). The female equivalent of a peacoat is often called a Jackie O jacket, after Jackie Onassis.

    47 Dr. ___ Honeydew, Muppet partner of Beaker : BUNSEN

    The Muppet character named Dr. Bunsen Honeydew is a scientist in a lab coat. His given name comes from the Bunsen burner piece of lab equipment, and the family name is a reference to the character’s head, which is shaped like a honeydew melon. Dr. Bunsen Honeydew’s assistant is Beaker, who is also named for a piece of lab equipment.

    50 Pet problem? : PEEVE

    The phrase “pet peeve”, meaning “thing that provokes one most”, seems to be somewhat ironic. A “peeve” is a source of irritation, and the adjective “pet” means “especially cherished”.

    51 Complete stranger, in slang : RANDO

    “Rando” is a slang term describing a “random person”. The term tends not to be used flatteringly.

    57 First prime : TWO

    The first three prime numbers are 2,3 and 5.

    58 “Yellowjackets” network, for short : SHO

    “Yellowjackets” sounds like an interesting TV show. It is about four teenage girls who survive a plane crash, and have to live for nineteenth months alone in the Canadian wilderness. While this story unfolds in the show, we also track their lives as adults, 25 years later.

    Complete List of Clues/Answers

    Across

    1 Along with Big Bird, role for puppeteer Caroll Spinney on “Sesame Street” : OSCAR
    6 Fall fruit : PEAR
    10 ___ piece : PUFF
    14 Rental contract : LEASE
    15 Actress Fanning of “The Great” : ELLE
    16 Where Henrik Ibsen is buried : OSLO
    17 E.M.T.’s apparatus, informally : DEFIB
    18 Alfresco drinking establishment : ROOFTOP BAR
    20 Seers? : EYES
    21 Workplace, e.g. : SITE
    22 Actress Fisher of “Eighth Grade” : ELSIE
    23 Certain freestyle competition : RAP BATTLE
    25 Kind of error or attraction : FATAL
    26 Ones who couldn’t be further from the truth? : LIARS
    27 Ride that might have a hot tub : LIMO
    28 “There was no other choice!” : I HAD TO!
    30 According to : PER
    31 Org. that is often referred to by just its first letter : YMCA
    35 Designer Anna : SUI
    36 Pseudoscientific process hinted at by four squares in this puzzle : ALCHEMY
    39 Poke bowl protein : AHI
    40 URL opening : HTTP
    42 Illumination unit : LUX
    43 Made out : NECKED
    45 Radiate : EMIT
    47 “If ___ Street Could Talk” (James Baldwin novel) : BEALE
    48 Reputation ruiner : STAIN
    50 Undergarment providing a lift : PUSH-UP BRA
    53 Blueprint bits : SPECS
    54 Authors : PENS
    55 Persian suffix meaning “land” : -STAN
    56 Soda containers, in the Midwest : POP BOTTLES
    58 Bitten sharply : STUNG
    59 Vegetable sometimes called “ladies’ fingers” : OKRA
    60 Loomed? : WOVE
    61 Giraffe gatherings : HERDS
    62 Camp sight : TENT
    63 Available : OPEN
    64 “… OK, maybe I was wrong” : … OR NOT

    Down

    1 Less green, in a way : OLDER
    2 “Toodle-oo!” : SEE YA!
    3 Alternative to a latte or flat white : CAFE AU LAIT
    4 “To repeat …” : AS I SAID …
    5 Talmudic honorific : REB
    6 Dangers : PERILS
    7 Grilled corn, as a Mexican street food : ELOTE
    8 Plant with “teeth” : ALOE
    9 One may cry foul : REF
    10 Noodle, e.g. : POOL TOY
    11 Patriotic World Cup chant : USA! USA!
    12 Swing wildly and helplessly : FLAIL
    13 Prow’s position : FORE
    19 Play group? : TEAM
    21 Arrive nonchalantly : STROLL IN
    24 “Toodle-oo!” : TA-TA!
    25 Quality by which mattresses are classified : FIRMNESS
    27 Harper who wrote “Go Set a Watchman” : LEE
    28 Kinda : ISH
    29 “Survivor” dwelling : HUT
    30 Code for Sky Harbor Airport : PHX
    32 Reverse course : MAKE A U-TURN
    33 Subject of the classic photo “Guerrillero Heroico” : CHE
    34 Assistance : AID
    37 Word with clean or clear : … CUT
    38 “Mm-hmm” : YEAH
    41 Wool wear for winter : PEACOAT
    44 Group, as of stars : CLUSTER
    46 Waterfall effect : MIST
    47 Dr. ___ Honeydew, Muppet partner of Beaker : BUNSEN
    48 Wheel part : SPOKE
    49 Caterer’s container : TEA URN
    50 Pet problem? : PEEVE
    51 Complete stranger, in slang : RANDO
    52 Agita : ANGST
    53 Locate : SPOT
    54 Plunk (down) : PLOP
    57 First prime : TWO
    58 “Yellowjackets” network, for short : SHO

    11 thoughts on “1207-23 NY Times Crossword 7 Dec 23, Thursday”

    1. 12:34, no errors. Got the theme early on, upon seeing the first example of it, and used it thereafter, leading to an easy solve. (And I appreciated it … 🙂.)

    2. 21:59, no errors. I did not get the theme early on. I did discover that entering either AU or PB into the rebus squares made the NYT happy.

      31A: In my opinion the YMCA should just be referred to as the A. Don’t have to be Young, Man or Christian to be a member.

    3. 21:08, no errors. It took me a little while to grock the PB/AU. Once I had it, the rest of the grid fell into place. In high school, I once did a science project on alchemy…but the details are lost to the fog of time.

    4. 19:09. I was hoping for a STRAW/AU rebus so we could call this the Rumpelstiltskin puzzle. Oh well,…

      Very strange occurrence. When I went to do this puzzle as I have a million other times, I went to the NYT site via Chrome as I always do. Chrome gave me only a partial page that showed some of my crossword data and a few other things. But it didn’t have the puzzle up at all.

      I have never knowingly seen a LIMO with a hot tub, and I see a lot of LIMOs here in Vegas. I Googled it and some of the big ones really do have them. I’m missing out…

      Best –

      I then tried to access the puzzle via Firefox and was able to do so like normal. Anyone else have Chrome issues accessing this puzzle?

      1. I then tried to access the puzzle via Firefox and was able to do so like normal. Anyone else have Chrome issues accessing this puzzle?

        FWIW, I could do the puzzle in Firefox (Seattle Times), but got the usual rebus glitch. Plus I couldn’t enter the “/” at all, as this is a function key in Firefox. Might play around with the NYT freebies, especially since I’ve been reading of glitches in the NYT app proper lately.

        1. I access in Firefox, then PRINT and (Gasp!!!) use a PENCIL with no issues. But, then, I’m a troglydyte that is convinced that these computer gizmos are just a passing fad… oh, and a retired software engineer that wouldn’t set foot in a self-driving vehicle at gunpoint.

    5. …and now a couple of my paragraphs got moved around as you see above. I think my computer is drunk this morning…

      Best –

    6. Like others, once I got the AU/PB thing, it was pretty quick solve.

      Don’t know what a REB or an ELOTE is??

    7. At 42A I had lum for lux. I got the rebus squares but my blue collar brain didn’t know what it meant🤪
      Stay safe😀

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