Edited by: Rich Norris
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Each of today’s themed answers ends with an ACTIVITY (sort of) that is reported on the RADIO:
- 53A…What a Geiger counter measures … or, as two words, what the ends of 20-, 26- and 48-Across are..RADIOACTIVITY (or RADIO ACTIVITY)
- 20A…Lena Horne classic that begins “Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky … “..STORMY WEATHER
- 26A…Measure of a store’s visitors..FOOT TRAFFIC
- 48A…Bright spot in tough times..WELCOME NEWS
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
1…Birthstone between sapphire and topaz..OPAL
Here is the “official” list of birthstones by month, that we tend to use today:
- January: Garnet
- February: Amethyst
- March: Bloodstone or Aquamarine
- April: Diamond
- May: Emerald
- June: Pearl or Moonstone
- July: Ruby
- August: Sardonyx or Peridot
- September: Sapphire or Lapis Lazuli
- October: Opal or Pink Tourmaline
- November: Topaz or Citrine
- December: Turquoise or Zircon (also now, Tanzanite)
9…Russian ruler until 1917..TSAR
The last ruler of Imperial Russia was Tsar Nicholas II (of the House of Romanov). Famously, the Tsar and his family were murdered in 1918 in the basement of a house in Yekaterinburg, Russia by members of the Bolshevik secret police. The Tsar’s youngest daughter was 16-year-old Anastasia and rumors of her escape have persisted for years. The rumors grew with the help of numerous women who claimed to be Anastasia. In 2009, DNA testing finally proved that the remains of all of the Tsar’s immediate family, including Anastasia, have been found and identified.
13…Get a better mtge…REFI
Our word “mortgage” comes from the Old French “mort gaige” which translated as “dead pledge”. The idea was that a pledge to repay a loan dies when the debt is cleared.
14…Take by force..USURP
“To usurp” is to seize and hold by force, say the power or authority of a ruler. The term “usurp” comes to us from Latin via French, from “usus” (a use) and “rapere” (to seize).
16…Germany’s von Bismarck..OTTO
Germany first became a country of her own in 1871 when the Princes of the various independent German states met at Versailles outside Paris to proclaim Wilhelm of Prussia as the Emperor of the German Empire. The man behind this historic development was Wilhelm’s Ministerpräsident, Otto von Bismarck. Von Bismarck was a powerful figure in Prussia and indeed on the world stage, earning him the nickname of the “Iron Chancellor”.
18…”Divine Comedy” poet..DANTE
Dante Alighieri (usually just “Dante”) was an Italian poet of the Middle Ages. Dante’s “Divine Comedy” is widely considered to be the greatest literary work ever written in the Italian language.
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”. In the poem, Dante is led on a journey by the poet Virgil, starting at the gates of Hell on which are written the famous words “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”.
19…Auntie of Broadway..MAME
“Auntie Mame” is a 1955 novel by Patrick Dennis that was adapted for the Broadway stage in 1958 with Rosalind Russell playing the title role. There followed a 1958 movie adaption that also stars Russell.
20…Lena Horne classic that begins “Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky … “..STORMY WEATHER
Lena Horne was an American jazz singer, actress, dancer and civil rights activist. Horne started out her career as a nightclub singer and then began to get some meaty acting roles in Hollywood. However, she ended up on the blacklist during the McCarthy Era for expressing left wing political views. One of Horne’s starring roles was in the 1943 movie “Stormy Weather”, for which she also performed the title song.
When I was growing up in Ireland we played “noughts and crosses” … our name for the game tic-tac-toe.
34…Dryer screen buildup..LINT
“Lint”, meaning “fluff”, is one of those terms that I had to learn when I moved to the US. We call the same thing “fuzz” on the other side of the Atlantic.
35…German-born sex therapist, familiarly..DR RUTH
Dr. Ruth Westheimer is a German sex therapist who made a name for herself as a media personality. Westheimer is the daughter of Orthodox Jews and was sent away from Germany by her family just before WWII. She ended up in Palestine and participated in the 1948 Palestine War serving as a scout and sniper. Westheimer was seriously wounded, and spent several months unable to walk. She moved to France in 1950, and soon after arrived in the US. It was in the US where she did her training as a sex therapist.
In choral music, an alto (plural “alti”) is the second-highest voice in a four-part chorus made up of soprano, contr(alto), tenor and bass. The word “alto” describes the vocal range, that of the deepest female singing-voice, whereas the term “contralto” describes more than just the alto range, but also its quality and timbre. An adult male’s voice (not a boy’s) with the same range as an alto is called a “countertenor”.
39…John, in Scotland..IAN
The English name “John” translates into Scottish as “Ian”, and into Irish as “Seán”.
40…”All My Children” vixen..ERICA
Susan Lucci is perhaps the most famous actor associated with daytime soap operas, and was the highest paid actor in daytime television. Lucci was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series an incredible 21 times for her portrayal of Erica Kane, the vixen in “All My Children”.
The citrus fruit that we known as the “tangerine” is so called because the first tangerines imported into Europe were sourced in Tangiers, the capital city of Morocco in North Africa.
47…Before, to Byron..ERE
George Gordon Byron, known simply as “Lord Byron”, was an English poet active in the early 1800s. Byron was equally as famous for his poetry as he was for the wild excesses in his personal life. Byron lived much of that life outside of England, and fought for revolutionaries in both Italy and Greece. He died from a fever contracted while fighting for the Greeks against the Ottomans.
A spiel is a lengthy speech or argument designed to persuade, like a sales pitch. “Spiel” comes to us from German, either directly (“spiel” is the German for “play”) or via the Yiddish “shpil”.
52…U.N. advocate for workers’ rights..ILO
The ILO (International Labour Organization) is an agency now administered by the UN which was established by the League of Nations after WWI. The ILO deals with important issues such as health and safety, discrimination, child labor and forced labor. The organization was recognized for its work in 1969 when it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
53…What a Geiger counter measures … or, as two words, what the ends of 20-, 26- and 48-Across are..RADIOACTIVITY (or RADIO ACTIVITY))
A Geiger counter is a particle detector that measures ionizing radiation, such as alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays. Often a Geiger counter is equipped with a speaker through which clicks are broadcast each time a particle is detected. We’ve all heard those terrifying clicks in the movies, I am sure …
60…Tiny “smashing” target..ATOM
By some definitions, New Zealand-born physicist and chemist Ernest Rutherford was the first person to “split the atom”. Rutherford bombarded nitrogen with alpha particles and thereby forced neutrons out of the nucleus of the nitrogen atom. The first intentional nuclear “fission” came decades later in the 1930s, with experiments in which larger nuclei were split into smaller nuclei.
The carat is a unit of mass used in measuring gemstones that is equal to 200 mg.
A stile is a structure allowing people to pass over or through a fence, while at the same time preventing livestock from escaping. The derivative term “turnstile” describes a revolving structure in a wall or fence that allows the controlled passage of people.
67…Game on horseback..POLO
The sport of polo originated in Iran, possibly before the 5th century BC. Polo was used back them primarily as a training exercise for cavalry units.
Peat moss is actually Sphagnum moss that has partially decayed and dried. The term “peat moss” is used as Sphagnum moss is often found in peat bogs. Sphagnum moss has the ability to store large quantities of water, so the dried form is used by gardeners to condition soil, to increase the soil’s capacity to retain moisture.
A “coif” is a hairdo. The term comes from an old French term “coife”, a skull-cap that was worn under a helmet back in the late 13th century.
A “libretto” can be the book that contains the text of a dramatic musical work, with the text itself also being called a libretto.
Rudyard Kipling was a British poet and writer famous for his tales of the British Raj, the rule of the British Empire in India. Kipling was actually born in Bombay, but returned with his family to England when he was very young. After being educated in England, he returned to India and from there traveled the world. Kipling’s most famous works are the stories “The Jungle Book”, “Just So Stories”, “The Man Who Would Be King”, and the poems “Mandalay”, “Gunga Din” and “If-”.
6…”__ Mommy kissing … “..I SAW
“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” is one of the most successful Christmas songs ever recorded. The original version was released in 1952 by Jimmy Boyd, when the young man was just 13 years old. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” has apparently sold over 60 millions copies since then.
8…Madrid miss: Abbr…SRTA
Señorita (Srta.) is Spanish and mademoiselle (Mlle.) is French for “Miss”.
9…Marisa of “My Cousin Vinny”..TOMEI
Marisa Tomei’s first screen role was in “As the World Turns”, but her break came with a recurring role in “The Cosby Show” spinoff called “A Different World”. Tomei won an Oscar for her delightful performance in “My Cousin Vinny” in 1992.
10…Touring figure skating show..STARS ON ICE
“Stars on Ice” is a touring figure skating show that was founded in 1986 and built around Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton. Family-oriented ice shows like “Ice Capades” and “Disney on Ice” already existed at that time, so “Stars on Ice” was aimed more at an adult audience. The original cast included, in addition to Scott Hamilton, Dorothy Hamill, Toller Cranston and Rosalynn Sumners.
“Caviar” is the roe of a large fish that has been salted and seasoned, and especially the roe of a sturgeon. Beluga caviar comes from the beluga sturgeon, found primarily in the Caspian Sea. It is the most expensive type of caviar in the world. 8 ounces of US-farmed beluga caviar can be purchased through Amazon.com for just over $850, in case you’re feeling peckish …
21…”The A-Team” muscleman..MR T
Mr. T’s real name is Laurence Tero Tureaud. Mr. T is famous for many things, including the wearing of excessive amounts of jewelry. He started this habit when he was working as a bouncer, wearing jewelry items that had been left behind by customers at a nightclub so that the items might be recognized and claimed. It was also as a bouncer that he adopted the name Mr. T. His catch phrase comes from the movie “Rocky III”. In the film, before he goes up against Rocky Balboa, Mr. T says, “No, I don’t hate Balboa, but I pity the fool”. He parlayed that line into quite a bit of success. He had a reality TV show called “I Pity the Fool”, and produced a motivational video called “Be Somebody … or Be Somebody’s Fool!”.
“The A-Team” is an action television series that originally ran in the eighties. The A-Team was a group of ex-US special forces personnel who became mercenaries. Star of the show was Hollywood actor George Peppard (as “Hannibal” Smith), ably assisted by Mr. T (as “B.A.” Baracus) and Robert Vaughn (as Hunt Stockwell).
My favorite movie starring the actress Anne Heche is “Six Days Seven Nights”, a romantic comedy in which she plays opposite Harrison Ford. Heche is 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. Happily, I think things have calmed down for her in recent years.
26…Olympic stadium centerpiece..FLAME
A flame is used as the symbol for the Olympic Games in commemoration of the theft of fire for humanity by Prometheus from Zeus in Greek mythology. The symbolic flame was introduced to the Modern Olympics in the 1928 Summer Games in Amsterdam. I was surprised to learn that the tradition of the Olympic torch relay started out as political theater devised and funded by Nazi Germany for the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin.
An “oiler” is an oil tanker, an ocean-going vessel used to transport crude oil.
30…Old French money..FRANC
The French franc was made up of 100 centimes, before being replaced by the Euro.
31…Practice fly ball, e.g…FUNGO
A fungo bat is lighter and shorter than a regular baseball bat, and tends to be used by coaches during practices. The lighter bat allows for more hits without tiring out the poor coach!
Eli is the nickname for a graduate of Yale University, a term used in honor of the Yale benefactor Elihu Yale.
Cheerios breakfast cereal has the distinction of being the first oat-based cereal introduced into the market, hitting the grocery store shelves in 1941. Back then, “Cheerios” were known as CheeriOats.
In terms of population, Cali is the third largest city in Colombia (after Bogotá and Medellin). Santiago de Cali (the full name for the city) lies in western Colombia. Apparently, Cali is a destination for “medical tourists”. The city’s surgeons have a reputation for being expert in cosmetic surgery and so folks head there looking for a “cheap” nose job. Calia has also been historically associated with the illegal drug trade and money laundering.
Before 1935, the country we know today as Iran was called Persia by the Western world. The official name of the country since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 is the “Islamic Republic of Iran”.
60…Rock band need..AMP
An electric guitar, for example, needs an amplifier (amp) to take the weak signal created by the vibration of the strings and turn it into a signal powerful enough for a loudspeaker.