0229-24 NY Times Crossword 29 Feb 24, Thursday

Constructed by: Esha Datta
Edited by: Will Shortz

Today’s Reveal Answer: Wild Pitches

Themed clues are images of WILD animals playing a PITCH on a musical instrument. Themed answers are animals with a musical instrument in the name. Note that my list of clues does not include the given images. Apologies …

  • 57A Mistakes in baseball … or what 18-, 24-, 34- and 51-Across might produce? : WILD PITCHES
  • 18A Asymmetrical crustacean : FIDDLER CRAB
  • 24A Creature whose scientific name translates to “ice-lover from Greenland” : HARP SEAL
  • 34A North America’s heaviest flying bird : TRUMPETER SWAN
  • 51A : HORNBILL

Bill’s time: 9m 20s

Bill’s errors: 0

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies

Across

4 Place for three men of verse : IN A TUB

The nursery rhyme “Rub-a-Dub-Dub” dates back to at least 1798 when it was first published in London:

Rub-a-dub-dub,
Three men in a tub,
And how do you think they got there?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick-maker,
They all jumped out of a rotten potato,
‘Twas enough to make a man stare.

15 “Nothing doing” : NO DICE

One suggestion for the origin of the phrase “no dice”, meaning “nothing doing, no way”, refers back to illegal gambling in the early 1900s. When approached by police, illegal gamblers would hide their dice (some even swallowed them). It was well known that city attorneys wouldn’t prosecute unless the police could produce the dice. Apparently there was an idiom at the time, “no dice, no conviction”.

18 Asymmetrical crustacean : FIDDLER CRAB

“Fiddler crab” is the common name given to several species of small crab. One characteristic of a fiddler crab is that the main claws of the female are the same size whereas one of the male’s main claws is much larger than the other.

22 Swiss river : AARE

The Aar (also called the “Aare” in German) is the longest river located entirely in Switzerland. The Aar is a major tributary of the Rhine and flows through Bern, the nation’s capital.

26 Game island represented by hexagonal tiles : CATAN

The Settlers of Catan (now just “Catan”) is a board game that was introduced in 1995, in Germany as “Die Siedler von Catan”. The game is very popular in the US and was called “the board game of our time” by the “Washington Post”. My son plays it a lot, and as a lover of board games, I am going to have to check it out …

31 ___ mater (brain cover) : PIA

Pia mater is Latin, and means “tender mother”. It is the name given to the mesh-like envelope that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The pia mater brings blood to some of the exterior parts of the brain, and provides physical support for larger blood vessels passing over the brain’s surface.

43 Pastries usually accompanied by chutney : SAMOSAS

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.

Chutney is a typically southern Asian condiment made from spices with vegetables or fruit. The term “chutney” comes from the Sanskrit “caṭnī” meaning “to lick”.

53 Pulitzer-winning author who was also a film critic for Time magazine : AGEE

James Agee was a noted American film critic and screenwriter. Agee wrote an autobiographical novel “A Death in the Family” that won him his Pulitzer in 1958, albeit posthumously. He was also one of the screenwriters for the 1951 classic movie “The African Queen”.

56 Salt, at times : DEICER

Halite is the mineral form of sodium chloride, and is also known as “rock salt”. Halite is used to melt ice, as salt water has a lower freezing point than pure water. Adding salt to icy sidewalks can therefore cause any ice to melt (as long as the ambient temperature isn’t too low). A mixture of halite and ice can also be used to cool things below the freezing point of water, perhaps to make ice cream.

61 Running shoe brand : AVIA

The Avia brand name for athletic shoes was chosen as “avia” is the Latin word for “to fly”, and suggests the concept of aviation. Avia was founded in Oregon in 1979.

62 Jhumpa ___, Pulitzer-winning author of “Interpreter of Maladies” : LAHIRI

Jhumpa Lahiri is an English-born, American author of Indian descent. Many of her works explore the experiences of Indians who immigrate to the United States. In 2011, Lahiri moved to Italy. There she learned the native language, and has written several published works in Italian.

63 “___ better to have loved and lost …” : ‘TIS

Alfred, Lord Tennyson was the Poet Laureate for much of the reign of Queen Victoria. There are many phrases we use today that were first penned by Tennyson, including:

  • ‘Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all
  • Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die

65 Safari pest : TSETSE

The tsetse fly is responsible for the transmission of sleeping sickness, a disease that is more correctly called African trypanosomiasis. The disease is only observed in humans who have been bitten by a tsetse fly that is infected with the trypanosome parasitic protozoan.

66 Time for Paris’s 2024 Jeux Olympiques : ETE

When Paris hosts the Summer Olympics in 2024, it will become only the second city to host the Olympics three times (London hosted in 1908, 1948 and 2012).

Down

6 What the 1660s Pascaline machine, named for Blaise Pascal, could do : ADD

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”.

7 ___ wave : TIDAL

Even though the terms “tidal wave” and “tsunami” are often used interchangeably by the lay person, scientists use the terms to describe two related but different phenomena. A tsunami is an ocean wave triggered by the large displacement of water caused by a large earthquake (usually). A tidal wave is a wave triggered by the displacement of water under the gravitational influence of the Sun, Moon and Earth.

8 Sch. that once used a live bear as a mascot during football games : UCLA

The UCLA Bruins’ mascots are Joe and Josephine Bruin, characters that have evolved over the years. There used to be “mean” Bruin mascots but they weren’t very popular with the fans, so now there are only “happy” Bruin mascots at the games.

10 Big name in trucks : GMC

GMC is a division of General Motors (GM) that was established in 1901 and started out as “GMC Truck”.

12 Mideast spice blend : ZA’ATAR

Za’atar is a herb that is used mainly in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. The name “Za’atar” is also used for a mixture of spices in which it is the key ingredient, along with toasted sesame seeds, dried sumac, salt and other spices.

13 State capital once home to Herman Melville : ALBANY

New York’s state capital of Albany was founded as a Dutch trading post called Fort Nassau in 1614. The English took over the settlement in 1664 and called it Albany, naming it after the future King of England James II, whose title at the time was the Duke of Albany. It became the capital of New York State in 1797.

Herman Melville mined his own experiences when writing his novels. Melville sailed from New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1841 on a whaler heading into the Pacific Ocean (a source for “Moby-Dick”). Melville ended up deserting his ship 18 months later and lived with natives on a South Pacific Island for three weeks (a source for “Typee”). He picked up another whaler and headed for Hawaii, where he joined the crew of a US navy frigate that was bound for Boston (a source for “Omoo”).

19 Pause to play? : RECESS

To recess is to go back, to retreat. The use of the noun “recess” to mean “period of stopping from usual work” dates back to the early 1600s. This usage might stem from the action of parliamentarians “recessing” into, returning to private chambers.

21 Measure of print quality: Abbr. : DPI

Dots per inch (DPI) is a term usually reserved for printing resolution, a measure of the density of individual ink dots that can be positioned on the printed surface. Screen resolution is measured in pixels per inch (PPI), a measure of how closely individual pixels can be placed in a digital display.

25 Trees in the birch family : ALDERS

Alders are deciduous (i.e. not evergreen) trees with fruit called catkins. The tree carries both male and female catkins that look very similar to each other, but the male catkin is longer than the female. Alders are pollinated by wind usually, although bees can play a role.

29 Certain racing wear : SPEEDO

Speedo brand swimwear was first produced in Australia in 1928, by a hosiery company that wanted to diversify. The brand name was chosen after a slogan competition among employees was won by “Speed on in your Speedos”. It was a long time ago, I guess …

30 ___ anglais (English horn) : COR

The English horn is also known by its French name “cor anglais”. It is a double-reed, woodwind instrument.

37 Sweet ___ : PEA

The sweet pea is a fragrant, flowering climbing plant in the legume family, hence the name.

42 Place for soap? : MELROSE

“Melrose Place” is a soap opera that originally aired from 1992 to 1999. “Melrose” was a spin-off of the hit show “Beverly Hills, 90210”. The show’s name comes from where the story is set, in an apartment complex with the address of 4616 Melrose Place in West Hollywood, California. “Melrose Place” was rebooted in 2009 (and some called “Melrose Place 2.0”, but was canceled after just one season.

43 Most common vowel sounds in English : SCHWAS

A schwa is an unstressed and toneless vowel found in a number of languages including English. Examples from our language are the “a” in “about”, the “e” in “taken” and the “i” in pencil.

45 Cotton material : MUSLIN

Muslin is a cotton fabric that was first encountered by Europeans in Mosul, Iraq. The city of Mosul loaned its name to the fabric. Despite the name, muslin actually originated in and around Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh.

51 Actress Anne of “Wag the Dog” : HECHE

My favorite movie starring the actress Anne Heche is “Six Days Seven Nights”, a romantic comedy in which she plays opposite Harrison Ford. Heche was noted for her difficult private life. She wrote that her father had molested her as a child and gave her a sexually transmitted disease (he later revealed that he was homosexual, and died of AIDS). Heche dated comedian Steve Martin for two years, and then lived with comedian Ellen DeGeneres for three. Soon after breaking up with DeGeneres, she started exhibiting eccentric behavior for a while, claiming that she was the daughter of God, and that she would take everyone back to heaven in her spaceship. Heche died in 2022 after suffering horrifying injuries in a car crash.

54 Coated with gold : GILT

Gilding is the application of gold leaf or gold powder to a solid surface, perhaps wood or another metal. The method of application can vary, from the use of a brush to electroplating.

58 ___ jokes : DAD

Here are a few dad jokes that I use to annoy my kids:

  • When does a joke become a “dad joke”? When it becomes apparent.
  • I had a happy childhood. My dad used to put me in tires and roll me down hills. Those were Goodyears.
  • It’s a shame that the Beatles didn’t make the submarine in that song green. That would’ve been sublime.
  • I told your mom she needs to start embracing her mistakes. So she hugged me
  • When your mom is depressed, I let her color in my tattoos. She just needs a shoulder to crayon.

Complete List of Clues/Answers

Across

1 Line just above “total,” maybe : TIP
4 Place for three men of verse : IN A TUB
10 Mideast site of conflict : GAZA
14 That: Sp. : ESO
15 “Nothing doing” : NO DICE
16 Series of courses : MEAL
17 Response to a baby animal picture : AWW!
18 Asymmetrical crustacean : FIDDLER CRAB
20 Like many tournaments : SEEDED
22 Swiss river : AARE
23 ___ discount : AT A
24 Creature whose scientific name translates to “ice-lover from Greenland” : HARP SEAL
26 Game island represented by hexagonal tiles : CATAN
28 Like a planet’s path : ORBITAL
29 Reason to take a back road, maybe : SCENERY
31 ___ mater (brain cover) : PIA
32 Testify : DEPOSE
34 North America’s heaviest flying bird : TRUMPETER SWAN
40 Boldly stylish, in slang : FIERCE
41 Comics sound : BAM!
43 Pastries usually accompanied by chutney : SAMOSAS
46 Like a final, desperate attempt : DO-OR-DIE
50 Romantic infatuation : CRUSH
51 : HORNBILL
52 Store posting: Abbr. : HRS
53 Pulitzer-winning author who was also a film critic for Time magazine : AGEE
56 Salt, at times : DEICER
57 Mistakes in baseball … or what 18-, 24-, 34- and 51-Across might produce? : WILD PITCHES
60 Rumpus : ADO
61 Running shoe brand : AVIA
62 Jhumpa ___, Pulitzer-winning author of “Interpreter of Maladies” : LAHIRI
63 “___ better to have loved and lost …” : ‘TIS
64 Telegraph, say : SEND
65 Safari pest : TSETSE
66 Time for Paris’s 2024 Jeux Olympiques : ETE

Down

1 Where many bags of leaves can be found : TEA SHOP
2 “Cross my heart!” : I SWEAR IT!
3 Energizing snack : POWER BAR
4 Overrun : INFEST
5 “Beats me” : NO IDEA
6 What the 1660s Pascaline machine, named for Blaise Pascal, could do : ADD
7 ___ wave : TIDAL
8 Sch. that once used a live bear as a mascot during football games : UCLA
9 Ingredient in some batter : BEER
10 Big name in trucks : GMC
11 Make bubbly : AERATE
12 Mideast spice blend : ZA’ATAR
13 State capital once home to Herman Melville : ALBANY
19 Pause to play? : RECESS
21 Measure of print quality: Abbr. : DPI
25 Trees in the birch family : ALDERS
27 Once again : ANEW
29 Certain racing wear : SPEEDO
30 ___ anglais (English horn) : COR
33 More quickly? : ETC
35 Sightings of them can be reported on the Enigma app : UFOS
36 Unlucky accident : MISHAP
37 Sweet ___ : PEA
38 Renounce : ABDICATE
39 Stuck the landing : NAILED IT
42 Place for soap? : MELROSE
43 Most common vowel sounds in English : SCHWAS
44 Achieve widespread recognition : ARRIVE
45 Cotton material : MUSLIN
47 Calls for delivery : ORDERS
48 Attire for a toddler : ONESIE
49 Baseball stat : RBI
51 Actress Anne of “Wag the Dog” : HECHE
54 Coated with gold : GILT
55 List on display at the airport : ETAS
58 ___ jokes : DAD
59 Popular song : HIT

15 thoughts on “0229-24 NY Times Crossword 29 Feb 24, Thursday”

  1. 20:45, no errors. Top half went quickly and the picture clues were cute (and easy). The fill got me today plus some stupid fat fingers it took me forever to find. Oh, well. Off to Hawaii tomorrow. 🌴

  2. 17:27, no errors. Surprised by the congratulations pop-up after entering an A at the cross of ZAATAR/CATAN. Not familiar with either.

  3. 21:27 – I had been limiting myself to Friday, Saturday, Sunday puzzles, not realizing the entertainment value in a Thursday puzzle, quickly becoming my favorite 🙂

  4. 21:20. I was looking to make the theme more complicated than it was. Always a mistake.

    Interesting origin of NO DICE.

    Best –

  5. No errors.

    Loved the dad jokes Bill put. I don’t think I’ve heard those before. I laughed.

    The Seattle Times said there was a “see notepad” but I saw nothing.

    Obviously must not have been too important since I solved the grid.

        1. Sorry just to add.
          Quoth Parker, “This would’ve been a pretty hard puzzle if they hadn’t resorted to child’s placemat cartoons for the clues. “

  6. 24:10 , 1 typo , or type-over.
    As seen on recording , had ALBANY and SCENERY at the 19:30 mark, but clumsily overwrote the Y with B and ended up with ALBANB and SCENERB.
    Shame because this would’ve been 7 straight days with 0 errors.

  7. @Nick

    Quoth Parker, “This would’ve been a pretty hard puzzle if they hadn’t resorted to child’s placemat cartoons for the clues.

    I would agree with that, especially since I found the clues they used in place of the pictures to be pretty hard (and one frankly too esoteric). My reaction after seeing the pictures was like “Yeah, that would have been super-easy, otherwise.”

    @Bill
    You may want to check your write-up, as you don’t have 51A clue listed either in your theme entries or in your summary listing.

  8. My paper (Long Beach Press-Telegram) had no pictures. Even after
    reading Bill’s explanation I still don’t understand the theme.

  9. Yesterday, out of curiosity, I gave “xwstats” access to my NYT crossword data and it turned out to be a three-hour task, given that two of the three advertised methods for doing it did not work and the one that did work was pretty tech-heavy. Afterwards (and, I believe, because of it), the NYT Games app, after working flawlessly for years, no longer considered me a subscriber, so I had to reinstall it to get it working again.

    Now that I have “xwstats” working for me, I’m totally unimpressed with it … 😳. And, given my experience yesterday (including an e-mail exchange with the “Help” desk there), I’m even more convinced that the number of solvers contributing to their database is pretty small.

    1. Personally I don’t have a xwstats account since I don’t have an NYT account. I just google xwstats and the date of the puzzle sometimes, out of curiosity.
      Based on a study I ran across, most xwstats puzzle dates “have somewhere between 1-2K individual solver solve times recorded.”
      I’m not a statistician but that seems like a decent sample size given NYT crossword subscriber population of around 500,000 if you believe the NYT. According to calculator.net , a population of 500,000 requires a minimum sample size of 1065 for a 3% margin of error.
      Granted it is skewed because they are going to be more motivated/advanced solvers but you’re in that category yourself, so not sure what the objection is to quoting it in this forum, for fun. For example, if you take today’s NYT (the easy version with the cartoon clues), the median solve time was 13:31 and you reported coming in under that. So it seems to me it’s hardly a wildly implausible average, at least for the more motivated or experienced solvers cohort.

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