This is my solution to the crossword published in the New York Times today ...
COMPLETION TIME: N/A (Watching "The da Vinci Code" on DVD)
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0
1. Kind of mouse : OPTICAL
Thank goodness for the invention of the optical mouse. The old wheeled mouse, although it was a great device in its day, is so prone to slipping on the wrong surface, and clogs up with dirt. An optical mouse is the next level, and uses a light emitting diode and photo-diodes to detect motion. If you don't have one yet, go get one ...
8. Indicator that you're back to your own words : UNQUOTE
Quote .... unquote.
16. Sew up a hole? : PUTT OUT
Clever disguise of a golfing term.
20. Scratch : RASP
"Rasp" comes into English from French. The Old French word "rasper" means "to grate" or "to rasp".
21. Maccabiah Games setting: Abbr. : ISR
The Maccabiah Games are held in Israel every four years, similar to the Olympic Games. The Maccabiah Games are open to Jewish people from all over the world (as well as all Israelis, regardless of religion), and is the third largest sporting event in the world. Many famous Olympic athletes have participated in the Maccabiah Games, including the swimmer Mark Spitz and the gymnast Kerri Strug.
22. Defense secretary after Cheney : ASPIN
Les Aspin was Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration, just for a year. He had a turbulent year in office, and during this time oversaw the introduction of the "dont' ask, don't tell" policy for the military. But it was the loss of US lives in Somalia that brought his year to an end, causing him to resign for personal reasons at the end of 1993.
24. Jacket material : JEAN
Denim fabric originated in Nimes in France ("de Nime" gave the fabric its name). The French phrase "bleu de Genes" meaning "blue of Genoa", gives use the word "jeans". Jeans is the name given to the denim pants, but it now used to describe "jean" material.
25. Game with trumps : SKAT
When I was a teenager in Ireland, I had a friend with a German father. The father taught us the game of Skat, and what a great game it is. It originated in Germany in the 1800s and is to this day the most popular game in the country. I haven't played it in decades, but would love to play it again ...
26. See 27-Down : TRUE
27. "Five Weeks in a Balloon" author : VERNE
What a groundbreaking author was Jules Verne. He pioneered the science fiction genre, writing about space travel, air travel and underwater travel, long before they were practical and proved feasible. Verne is the second most translated author of all time, with only Agatha Christie beating him out.
"Five Weeks in a Balloon" was one of the first novels written and published by Jules Verne. It was a successful venture, making him financially independent and free to work on his writing career unfettered. The story tells of a journey across Africa in balloon filled with hydrogen ... shades of "Around the World in Eighty Days".
28. Surface for the Olympische Winterspiele : EIS
In German, the Winter Olympic Games is "Olympische Winterspiel", with some events taking place on ice (eis).
29. Antisubversive grp. of old : HUAC
The House Un-American Activities Committee had nothing to do with Senator Joe McCarthy, who was Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations which was managed by the Senate, not the House of Representatives. However, when Senator McCarthy was holding sway in the Senate, the HUAC was investigating similar allegations. The HUAC subpoenaed Abbie Hoffman in 1967, and again in 1968 after that year's Democratic National Convention.
31. Group that may be hounded? : SEARCH PARTY
Clever wording ...
36. Hub for Air Caraïbes Atlantique : ORLY
Air Caraïbes Atlantique is the airline of the French Caribbean, serving the islands from its hub at Orly. It's a small airline, with just a handful of planes (all Airbuses, as one might guess!).
37. Do some course work : MOW
On a golf course, one has to mow the grass quite often.
40. Primates vis-à-vis humans : ORDER
Humans belong to the order of Primates.
43. Barrie's "oddly genial man" : SMEE
In J. M. Barrie's play and novel about Peter Pan, Smee is one of Captain Hook's pirates, and his right-hand man. He is described by Barrie as Being "Irish" and "a man who stabbed without offence". Nice guy!
46. Latitude : PLAY
If there is some latitude, there is some play.
47. Like some joints : CASED
The term "case the joint" is American slang dating back at least to 1915, meaning to examine a location with the intent of robbing it. The origins of the phrase are apparently unknown.
49. "Rhapsodie Hongroise" composer : AUER
Leopold Auer was a Hungarian violinist, as well as a conductor and composer. He wrote a small number of works for the violin, the most famous of which is the "Rhapsodie hongroise", written for violin and piano.
51. Part of many a daily supplement : B COMPLEX VITAMIN
The B vitamins were originally thought to be just one vitamin, which was labeled vitamin B. It was then discovered vitamin B was in fact made up of eight distinct vitamins, which today are given distinct numbers (B1, B2, B12 etc). Supplements often contain a mixture of all eight, and are known as vitamin B complex.
2. Go down a slope with a chute : PARASKI
Paraskiing, skiing across snowy terrain pulled along by a parachute.
5. Flimflam : COZEN
What a lovely verb, to cozen! Apparently it comes from the Middle English word "cosin" meaning fraud or trickery.
6. French cordial flavoring : ANIS
Anis is the Spanish liqueur equivalent to anisette from other countries, in particular France. It has a licorice taste as it is produced by distilling the seeds of the anis plant. Like all anis-type drinks, it is usually mixed with water and turns a milky, white color.
7. Perfect-game pitcher Barker : LEN
Len Barker is a former Major league Baseball pitcher. He pitched a perfect game in 1981, playing for the Cleveland Indians, the tenth official perfect game in major league history. It was apparently the most pristine of performances, with Barker never getting to ball three against any of the opposing hitters (the Blue Jays, by the way).
9. An operator may call on one : NURSE
An operator, a surgeon performing an operation, may call on a nurse for assistance.
10. Stick in a cabinet : Q-TIP
Cotton swabs were invented in the twenties by one Leo Gerstenzang, a Polish-born American. He marketed his new product under the name "Baby Gays", but this was changed in 1926 to "Q-Tip", with the Q standing for "quality". Probably not a bad idea to change that name ...
11. Snack food brand : UTZ
Utz is the largest, privately held, producer of snack foods in the US. The company was founded in 1921 and is based in Hanover, Pennsylvania.
13. Certain Tornado Alley resident : TULSAN
Tornado Alley has no precisely defined area, but generally lies between the Rockies and the Appalachians. It is of course he area in the US where tornadoes occur most frequently.
14. Ageless, ages ago : ETERNE
"Eterne", an old word for "eternally".
18. He said "I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury" : GROUCHO MARX
Groucho Marx's real name was Julius Henry Marx. By the time Groucho started his successful, post-Hollywood career hosting the quiz show "You Bet Your Life", he was sporting a real mustache. For all his movies, however, his mustache was painted on with greasepaint.
23. Star ___ (big name in exercise machines) : TRAC
Star Trac is a leader in the business of supplying cardio and strength-building exercise machines.
24. What ribs are delivered in : JEST
"To rib", meaning "to tease" is a term dating back to 1930, probably an extension of "poking someone in the ribs".
27. With 26-Across, "Amen!" : VERY
Very true ... Amen!
30. Ivy with deep roots : YALE
The term Ivy League originally defined just the athletic conference, but now is used to describe a group of schools of higher education that are associated with both a long tradition and academic excellence. The eight Ivy League Schools are: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale.
32. Fulda feeder : EDER
The Eder is a river in Germany, a tributary of the Fulda River. The Eder has a dam near the small town of Waldeck which holds water in the large Edersee reservoir. This was one of the dams that was attacked by the RAF during WWII with the famous Barnes Wallis bouncing bombs. It was destroyed in the raid in 1943, but rebuilt the same year.
34. Princess Najla player in Broadway's "Flahooley" : YMA SUMAC
Yma Sumac was a Peruvian soprano, with a notable vocal range of five octaves.
"Flahooley" is a musical production, an allegorical tale set in the headquarters of the largest toy manufacturer in the world.
40. Native of the Lake Superior region : OJIBWA
The Ojibwa Nation were originally located around Sault Ste. Marie, the outlet of Lake Superior.
43. Falls like 17-Across : SLEETS
Sleet is a term used to describe two weather conditions. One is a shower of ice pellets, smaller than hail, likely to occur in winter. The second is a mixture of rain and snow, with the snow melting as it falls. It's the second definition that I have always used ...
44. Where Family Day is observed : CANADA
Family Day is observed as a holiday in Canada, and in many other countries around the world. The day isn't celebrated in the US, other than in the state of Arizona, where it is observed on the first Sunday in August.
47. Trig ratio : COTAN
The cotangent is the ratio of the adjacent to the opposite in a right-angled triangle. It is the inverse of the other well-known ration, the tangent.
50. Complement of Dante's circles of hell : NINE
Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy" is an epic poem dating back to the 14th century. The first part of that epic is "Inferno", which is the Italian word for "Hell". Dante is led on a journey by the poet, Virgil, starting at the gates of Hell, on which are written the words "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here".
In Dante's account of Hell, it is described at nine circles of suffering, located with in the Earth. The nine circles are:
- Avarice and Prodigality
- Wrath and Sullenness
52. Title of Dickens's Defarge: Abbr. : MME
Madame Therese Defarge is a character in the Charles Dickens novel "A Tale of Two Cities". As part of her role in the story, she sits knitting while onlooking at the executions at the hands of the guillotine.
53. Punch : VIM
Vim and punch are words that both mean "energy" and "power".