Edited by: Rich Norris
Quicklink to comments
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
10. Complaints : BEEFS
A “beef” is a complaint or a grievance. It’s not quite clear how “beef” came to have this meaning, but one suggestion is that derives from the habit of soldiers at the end of the 1800s complaining about the quality or availability of beef in their rations.
16. Pitfall! platform : ATARI
Pitfall! Is a video game that Atari released way back in 1982. Star of the game is Pitfall Harry.
17. Hunt object : EASTER EGG
The would be an Easter egg hunt.
19. “Break Free” singer Grande : ARIANA
Ariana Grande is a singer and actress from Boca Raton, Florida. Grande plays the role of Cat Valentine on the sitcom “Victorious” that aired for four season on Nickelodeon. Grande’s singing career took off with the release of the 2011 album “Victorious: Music from the Hit TV Show”.
20. Benihana founder Rocky __ : AOKI
The Benihana chain of restaurants was founded in 1964 in New York City by Rocky Aoki. Aoki was a Japanese-born American wrestler who qualified for the 1960 Summer Olympics, but did not compete. “Benihana” is the Japanese for “safflower”.
22. USN officers : LTS
One might become a lieutenant (lt.) in the US Navy (USN).
23. Early 20th-century first family : TAFTS
William Howard Taft may have been the 27th President of the United States, but his lifelong ambition was to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. President Taft was able to realize that dream in 1921, eight years after losing his bid for re-election as president. As Chief Justice, this former US President swore in two new presidents: Calvin Coolidge (in 1925) and Herbert Hoover (in 1929). William Howard Taft is also remembered as the most obese president. In the last year of his presidency, he weighed about 340 pounds (he was 5 feet 11 inches tall). Twelve months after leaving the White House, President Taft had dropped 80 pounds and substantially lowered his blood pressure.
24. Wine commonly served chilled : ASTI
Asti is a sparkling white wine from the Piedmont region of Italy, and is named for the town of Asti around which the wine is produced. The wine used to be called Asti Spumante, and it had a very bad reputation as a “poor man’s champagne”. The “Spumante” was dropped in a marketing attempt at rebranding associated with a reduction in the amount of residual sugar in the wine.
25. Institute in whose logo the first letter is a stylized question mark : SETI
SETI is the name given to a number of projects that are searching for extraterrestrial life. The acronym stands for “search for extraterrestrial intelligence”. One of the main SETI activities is the monitoring of electromagnetic radiation (such as radio waves) reaching the Earth in the hope of finding a transmission from a civilization in another world.
27. Hosp. test : EKG
An EKG measures electrical activity in the heart. Back in my homeland of Ireland, an EKG is known as an ECG (for electrocardiogram). We use the German name in the US, Elektrokardiogramm, giving us EKG. Apparently the abbreviation EKG is preferred as ECG might be confused (if poorly handwritten, I guess) with EEG, the abbreviation for an electroencephalogram.
29. Flier with a large bill : TOUCAN
The toucan is a brightly-marked bird with a large, colorful bill. The name “toucan” comes into English via Portuguese from the Tupi name “tukana”. The Tupi were an indigenous people of Brazil.
31. Most Hong Kong Airport travelers : ASIANS
Today’s Hong Kong Airport is a magnificent installation built on mainly reclaimed land. The facility opened in 1998 and is often referred to as Chek Lap Kok Airport, distinguishing it from the older Hong Kong Airport, known as Kai Tak. I had the “thrill” of flying in an out of the now-closed Kai Tak Airport many years ago. I remember looking into the windows of apartment buildings during landing as the plane made the necessary dramatic turn just before touchdown. I also remember the roar of the engines as the departing plane climbed as quickly as possible to clear the mountains after takeoff. There are some dramatic YouTube videos showing exciting departures and arrivals at Kai Tak.
35. Movie with the subtitle “Dawn of Justice” : BATMAN V SUPERMAN
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is a 2016 movie starring Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in the title roles. It’s a superhero film, so I probably won’t be seeing it, despite an impressive supporting cast. That includes Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor and Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth.
39. First-stringers : A-TEAM
We’ve been using the phrases “first string” and “second string” in athletics since the mid-19th century. The expressions come from archery, in which a competitor would carry a second bowstring in case the first bowstring broke.
40. Greetings from American Greetings : E-CARDS
American Greetings is the world’s largest (publicly traded) greeting card company. The company was founded in 1906 by Polish immigrant Jacob Sapirstein, who started out selling cards from a horse-drawn cart.
41. Showtime title vigilante : DEXTER
“Dexter” is a crime show that airs on Showtime. The title character works for the Miami Police Department as an expert in blood spatter patterns by day, but is a serial killer by night. The original series was based on the “Dexter” novels written by Jeff Lindsay. I haven’t seen this show myself, but my eldest son really enjoys it …
43. BBC World Service alternative : VOA
The US began shortwave propaganda broadcasts in early 1942, just after America entered WWII. The first broadcast to Germany was introduced by the “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and opened with the words:
Today, and every day from now on, we will be with you from America to talk about the war. The news may be good or bad for us — We will always tell you the truth.
That first broadcast was called “Stimmen aus Amerika” (“Voices from America”), and gave the fledgling broadcasting operation its name. VOA is still going strong today, and was a station that I used to listen to as a teenager back in Ireland in the early seventies …
47. Enemy of un ratón : GATO
In Spanish, a “gato” (cat) might chase a “ratón” (mouse).
48. Part of un drame : ACTE
In French, an “acte” (act) is a part of “un drame” (a play).
51. Grapevine planter? : YENTA
Yenta (also “Yente”) is actually a female Yiddish name. In Yiddish theater “yenta” came to mean a busybody, gossip.
There are competing stories about the etymology of the phrase “heard it through the grapevine”, meaning heard it by means of gossip or rumor. One is that it is a reference to the Grapevine Tavern in Greenwich Village, New York City. The Grapevine was a popular meeting place for Union officers and Confederate spies during the Civil War, and so was a great spot for picking up and spreading vital gossip.
53. 2012 British Open champion : ELS
Ernie Els is a South African golfer. Els a big guy but he has an easy fluid golf swing that has earned him the nickname “The Big Easy”. He is a former World No. 1 and has won four majors: the US Open (1994 & 1997) and the British Open (2002 & 2012).
55. “Time, Love and Tenderness” singer : BOLTON
Michael Bolton’s 1991 album “Time, Love and Tenderness” is out of print, and is now only available as a digital download, at least in part. The problem is that the album includes the song “Love is a Wonderful Thing”. The Isley Brothers won a famous lawsuit, with a jury determining that Bolton had plagiarized their 1966 song of the same name. Sony Publishing and the co-writers were ordered to hand over more than $5 million in profits in sales from the Bolton song, making it the largest plagiarism award in the history of the music industry.
61. Refreshing espresso drink : ICED LATTE
The term “latte” is an abbreviation of the Italian “caffelatte” meaning “coffee (and) milk”. Note that in the correct spelling of “latte”, the Italian word for milk, there is no accent over the “e”. An accent is often added by mistake when we use the word in English, perhaps meaning to suggest that the word is French.
Espresso is made by forcing extremely hot water, under pressure, through finely ground coffee beans. The result is a thick and concentrated coffee drink, which contains quite a lot of solids and a lot of foam. An espresso machine was first patented in 1884 in Italy, although it was a machine to make the beverage in bulk. The first patent for a machine that made individual measures was applied for in 1901, also in Italy.
63. Historic sewer : BETSY ROSS
Legend has it that Betsy Ross made the first American flag for General George Washington. However, this story only surfaced during the centennial celebrations of 1876, and although Betsy Ross was indeed one of several flag makers in Philadelphia in the days of George Washington, sadly there’s no definitive evidence that Ross provided that first stars and stripes.
1. Kilt features : PLEATS
The lovely Scottish garment called a kilt is pleated, but only at the rear.
3. Harden : OSSIFY
To ossify is to become rigid or inflexible in attitude. The original and alternative meaning of the verb is to cause to harden like bone, from the Latin “os” meaning “bone”.
4. Used for a rendezvous : MET AT
A rendezvous is a meeting, from the French “rendez vous” meaning “present yourselves”.
5. Classic access provider : OPEN SESAME!
In the folk tale “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”, the title character is a poor woodcutter who discovers the magic words “Open Sesame” that open the thieves’ den.
6. “Around the World in 80 Plates” co-host Cat : CORA
Cat Cora is yet another celebrity chef. She appears on the reality shows “Iron Chef America” and “Around the World in 80 Plates”.
8. Big name at the Musée d’Orsay : DEGAS
Edgar Degas was a French artist, famous for his paintings and sculptures. Some of Degas’ most beautiful works feature female ballet dancers, and others depict women bathing.
The Musée d’Orsay is one of the premier museums in Paris, and holds the world’s largest collection of impressionist art. It is a truly beautiful building, a former Beaux-Arts railway station.
9. Rye blight : ERGOT
Ergot is a fungus, or actually a group of fungi, that cause disease in rye and related plants. If human eat ergot-contaminated grain, a condition called ergotism can result. Ergotism is the result of consumption of alkaloids produced by the fungi, alkaloids that can cause seizures and manic behavior. It has even been suggested that the hysteria exhibited by the Salem “witches” was perhaps caused by the ingestion of ergot-contaminated rye.
10. Denpasar’s island : BALI
Denpasar is the capital city of the Indonesian island province of Bali. The city started its like as a market town, and indeed the name “Denpasar” can be translated from Balinese as “North Market”.
11. Dog days in Haiti : ETE
“Dog Days” is the term given to the warmest and most humid days of summer. The term derives from the ancient belief that hot weather was caused when Sirius (the Dog Star) was in close proximity to the sun.
The Republic of Haiti occupies the smaller, western portion of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. The rest of the island is taken up by the Dominican Republic. Haiti is one of only two nations in the Americas to have French as an official language, the other being Canada.
13. Quiche cousin : FRITTATA
A “frittata” is an omelet recipe from Italy. The word “frittata” is Italian, and comes from “fritto” meaning “fried”.
The classic dish called quiche is made with eggs (“oeufs” in French). Even though the quiche is inextricably linked to French cuisine, the name “quiche” comes from the German word for cake, “Kuchen”. The variant called “quiche lorraine” includes bits of smoked bacon as an ingredient.
24. Tequila plant : AGAVE
Tequila is a spirit made from the blue agave. The drink takes its name from the city of Tequila, located about 40 miles northwest of Guadalajara.
31. REO Speedwagon guitarist Dave : AMATO
Musician Dave Amato has been the lead guitarist of rock band REO Speedwagon since 1989, after the departure of Gary Richrath.
REO Speedwagon is an American rock band that formed in 1967, and is still going strong. The band’s biggest hits are “Keep On Loving You” (1980) and “Can’t Fight This Feeling” (1985). The founding members chose the name for the REO Speed Wagon flatbed truck. Note that the band’s name is one word “Speedwagon”, whereas the vehicle’s name uses two words “Speed Wagon”.
32. Situation Room gp. : NSC
The National Security Council (NSC) was created by President Harry S. Truman in 1947. The NSC is chaired by the sitting president and meets in the White House Situation Room.
35. Nagged : BADGERED
“To badger” is to harass. The term comes from the cruel practice of “badger-baiting”, which dates back to medieval times. Badger-baiting is a blood sport in which a dog is used as “bait” for a badger in its den, to draw him out into the open. The den is an artificial structure built to resemble a natural badgers’ den, complete with a tunnel entrance. The dog is sent down the tunnel causing the badger and dog to lock their jaws on each other. The badger and dog are then removed from the den by pulling on the dog’s tale. I am ashamed to say that badger-baiting is still practiced (illegally) in Ireland, with ten convictions in the courts over the past 20 years.
45. Dark drafts : STOUTS
The term “stout” was first used for a type of beer in the 1600s when was used to describe a “strong, stout” brew, and not necessarily a dark beer as it is today.
46. Tours relatives : TANTES
In French, an “oncle” (uncle) is married to a “tante” (aunt).
Tours is the largest city in the Centre region of France. It is said that the people of Tours speak the “purest” form of French in the whole country, and when spoken by a local it is also said to be free of any accent.
49. Suriname native : CARIB
The nation of Suriname is located on the Atlantic coast of South America, in the northeast of the continent. It is the smallest country in South America, and is bordered to the west by French Guyana, and to the south by Brazil. Suriname was colonized by the Dutch in the late 1600s, becoming part of Dutch Guiana, and only gaining independence from the Netherlands in 1975. Today, Suriname is the only nation in the world outside of the Netherlands where the majority of the population speaks Dutch.
The Caribs are an American Indian people that live in the Lesser Antilles islands, part of the West Indies. While most of the Carib population live on islands such as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, there are several Carib communities on the mainland of Central and South America in countries such as Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Guyana, Suriname and Belize. The Caribbean Sea takes its name from the Carib people.
52. “Enigma Variations” composer : ELGAR
Sir Edward Elgar was the quintessential English composer, inextricably associated with his “Pomp and Circumstance” marches (including “Land of Hope and Glory”) and the “Enigma Variations”.
Edward Elgar’s famous “Enigma Variations” are more correctly titled “Variations on an Original Theme for Orchestra (“Enigma”)”. There are fourteen variations in the piece, with each named for one of Elgar’s close friends, a family member, and there is even one named for Elgar himself. Each variation is an affectionate portrayal of the person for which it is named. The “enigma” in the piece is quite a mystery. It is not even clear that the variations are based on a musical theme. Elgar’s notes tell us that the theme is “not played”, but he would never explain during his lifetime just what “the enigma” is.
54. Hurdles for srs. : GRES
Passing the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is usually a requirement for entry into graduate school here in the US.
55. eBay action : BIDS
There have been some notable things sold on eBay over the years. For example:
- Ad space on a guy’s forehead, in the form of a temporary tattoo – $37,375
- William Shatner’s kidney stone – $25,000
- A cornflake shaped like Illinois – $1,350
- A single corn flake – $1.63
- A box of 10 Twinkies – $59.99
- The original Hollywood sign – $450,400
- The meaning of life – $3.26
57. Tokugawa shogunate capital : EDO
Edo is the former name of the Japanese city of Tokyo. Edo was the seat of the Tokugawa shogunate, a feudal regime that ruled from 1603 until 1868. The shogun lived in the magnificent Edo castle. Some parts of the original castle remain and today’s Tokyo Imperial Palace, the residence of the Emperor of Japan, was built on its grounds.
59. Crime solver: Abbr. : DET