Edited by: Rich Norris
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Each of today’s themed answers is a WHISTLE BLOWER:
- 52A. What 20-, 25- and 47-Across all are, in one way or another : WHISTLE-BLOWERS
- 20A. Locomotive operators : TRAIN ENGINEER
- 25A. Singer for the cops? : POLICE INFORMANT
- 47A. Gridiron adjudicator : FOOTBALL REFEREE
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
1. On the __: broken : FRITZ
The American slang term “on the fritz” means “inoperative”. There doesn’t seem to be a definitive etymology for the term, although there are indications it has a theatrical origin.
10. Quail or turkey, e.g. : FOWL
“Quail” is a name used for several chicken-like wild birds. Quail are common prey for hunters.
14. Prefix with economics : MACRO-
Macroeconomics is the study of economies as a whole, rather than individual markets. Microeconomics is focused on the actions of individual entities like companies or individuals, and how these actions impact specific markets.
23. Lao Tzu’s “way” : TAO
The Chinese character “tao” translates as “path”, but the concept of Tao signifies the true nature of the world.
Lao Tse (also Lao-Tzu) was a central figure in the development of the religion/philosophy of Taoism. Tradition holds that Lao-Tzu wrote the “Tao Te Ching”, a classical Chinese text that is fundamental to the philosophy of Taoism.
24. Republican org. : GOP
The Republican Party has had the nickname Grand Old Party (GOP) since 1875. That said, the phrase was coined in the “Congressional Record” as “this gallant old party”. The moniker was changed to “grand old party” in 1876 in an article in the “Cincinnati Commercial”. The Republican Party’s elephant mascot dates back to an 1874 cartoon drawn by Thomas Nast for “Harper’s Weekly”. The Democrat’s donkey was already an established symbol. Nast drew a donkey clothed in a lion’s skin scaring away the other animals. One of the scared animals was an elephant, which Nast labeled “The Republican Vote”.
34. Flower painted by van Gogh : IRIS
Van Gogh painted his “Irises” while he was in an asylum in the south of France the year before he committed suicide. The original owner was a French art critic and supporter of Van Gogh who paid 300 francs to purchase the painting. “Irises” was bought for $53.9 million in 1987 making it the most expensive painting sold up to that point. But, the buyer didn’t actually have the necessary funds, so it had to be resold in 1990. It was picked up by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where you can see it today.
36. Mai __ : TAI
The Mai Tai cocktail is strongly associated with the Polynesian islands, but the drink was supposedly invented in 1944 in Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland, California. One recipe is 6 parts white rum, 3 parts orange curaçao, 3 parts Orgeat syrup, 1 part rock candy syrup, 2 parts fresh lime juice, all mixed with ice and then a float added of 6 parts dark rum.
39. Many a Monopoly prop. : AVE
The street names in the US version of Monopoly are locations in or around Atlantic City, New Jersey.
42. “Brokeback Mountain” director Lee : ANG
Taiwanese director Ang Lee sure has directed a mixed bag of films, mixed in terms of genre but not in terms of quality. He was at the helm for such classics as “Sense & Sensibility” (my personal favorite), “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Hulk”, “Brokeback Mountain” and “Life of Pi”.
The very successful 2005 movie “Brokeback Mountain” is an adaptation of a short story written by Annie Proulx. The two romantic lead characters were Ennis del Mar (played by Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (played by Jake Gyllenhaal).
46. Rank between viscount and marquis : EARL
In the ranking of nobles, an earl comes above a viscount and below a marquess. The rank of earl is used in the British peerage system and is equivalent to the rank of count in other countries. Other British ranks have female forms (e.g. marquess and marchioness, viscount and viscountess), but there isn’t a female word for the rank of earl. A female given the same rank as an earl is known as a countess.
47. Gridiron adjudicator : FOOTBALL REFEREE
We never used the word “gridiron” when I was growing up in Ireland (meaning a grill used for cooking food over an open fire). So, maybe I am excused for finding out relatively recently that a football field gridiron is so called because the layout of yard lines over the field looks like a gridiron used in cooking!
50. Motor City labor gp. : UAW
The United Auto Workers (UAW) was founded to represent workers in auto plants in the Detroit area in 1935. Nowadays the UAW’s membership extends into the aerospace, agriculture and other industries.
The city of Detroit was founded in 1701 by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, a French explorer. The original settlement was named for the Detroit River, which in turn takes its name from the French word “détroit” meaning “strait”. Detroit became inextricably linked with the automotive business from the very early 20th century when Henry Ford and others set up manufacturing in the area. This link to transportation led to Detroit’s nicknames of “Motor City” and “Motown”. The city’s economic strength declined at the beginning of the 21st century, resulting in a 25% drop in population between 2000 and 2010. Detroit filed for the country’s largest municipal bankruptcy in history in 2013, facing a debt of $18.8 billion. The city exited bankruptcy at the end of 2014.
51. Preacher’s msg. : SER
60. Billiards triangle : RACK
The name of the game billiards comes from the French word “billiard” that originally described the wooden cue stick. The Old French “bille” translates as “stick of wood”.
61. “Garfield” pooch : ODIE
Odie is Garfield’s best friend and is a slobbery beagle. Both are characters in Jim Davis’ comic strip named “Garfield”.
65. __ monster: lizard : GILA
A Gila monster is a venomous lizard found in the southwestern US and northern Mexico, and is the only venomous lizard native to America. Gila monsters move along at a snail’s pace so aren’t normally a danger to humans.
66. “Rabbit food” course : SALAD
Raw vegetables, used in salads especially, are sometimes referred to as “rabbit food”.
69. Sporty sunroofs : T-TOPS
A T-top is a car roof that has removable panels on either side of a rigid bar that runs down the center of the vehicle above the driver.
1. Radio choices : FMS
In telecommunications, a radio signal is transmitted using a sinusoidal carrier wave. Information is transmitted using this carrier wave in two main ways, by varying (modulating) the instantaneous amplitude (signal strength) of the carrier wave, and by modulating the instantaneous frequency of the carrier wave. The former is referred to as an AM signal (for “amplitude modulation”), and the latter as an FM signal (for “frequency modulation”).
5. It has a dozen signs : ZODIAC
Most of the signs of the classical Greek zodiac are animals. This fact relates to the etymology of the term “zodiac”, which comes from the Greek “zodiakos kyklos”, literally “circle of animals”.
7. Scientologist Hubbard : L RON
L. Ron Hubbard wrote a self-improvement book in 1950 called “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health”. A few years later, he use the concepts in the book as he founded his Church of Scientology.
9. Divine-human hybrid : DEMIGOD
In Greek mythology, a demigod was a half-god, the offspring of one parent who was a god and one parent who was human. The list of demigods includes the Greek Heracles and the Celtic hero Cú Chulainn.
11. Double-reed instrument : OBOE
The oboe is perhaps my favorite of the reed instruments. The name “oboe” comes from the French “hautbois” which means “high wood”. When you hear an orchestra tuning before a performance you’ll note (pun intended!) that the oboe starts off the process by playing an “A”. The rest of the musicians in turn tune to that oboe’s “A”.
13. Former Ford models : LTDS
There has been a lot of speculation about what the abbreviation LTD stands for in the car model known as “Ford LTD”. Many say it is an initialism standing for Luxury Trim Decor, and others say that it is short for “limited”. Although the car was produced in Australia with the initialism meaning Lincoln Type Design, it seems LTD was originally chosen as just three meaningless letters that sound well together.
22. Like Eric or Leif : NORSE
According to Icelandic tradition, Erik the Red was the man responsible for founding the first Nordic settlement in Greenland. Erik had a famous son: the explorer Leif Ericson.
Leif Erikson was a Norse explorer and was the first European to land in North America, some 500 years before Christopher Columbus’s landing in 1492. The Norsemen named the area they discovered “Vinland”, which might translate as “Wine Land” or “Pasture Land”. Erikson built a small settlement called Leifsbudir, which archaeologists believe they have found in modern day Newfoundland, at L’Anse aux Meadows. The settlement discovered in Newfoundland is definitely Norse, but there is some dispute over whether it is actually Erikson’s Leifsbudir.
25. Rice dish : PILAF
“Pilaf” is a Persian word, and we use it to describe rice that is browned in oil and then cooked in a seasoned broth.
26. Home of the University of Maine : ORONO
The town of Orono is home to the University of Maine, founded in 1862. The college is actually located on an island (Marsh island) lying between the Penobscot and Stillwater rivers. The town of Orono is named after Joseph Orono, a chief of the Penobscot Nation.
27. Jargon : LINGO
“Lingo” is a specialized vocabulary, as in “journalese” and “legalese”, for example.
“Jargon” can mean nonsensical and meaningless talk, or the specialized language of a particular group, trade or profession. The term is Old French, with the more usual meaning of “a chattering”. How apt …
30. Baseball card rival of Topps : FLEER
The Fleer Corporation was founded in 1885 and was the first company to successfully manufacture bubblegum (how I wish they hadn’t!).
Topps was a relaunch of an older company called American Leaf Tobacco, with the Topps name used from 1938. The earlier company was in trouble because it could not get supplies of its Turkish tobacco, so it moved into another chewy industry, making bubblegum. Nowadays, Topps is known for including (mainly) sports-themed trading cards in the packs of gum.
32. Mother-of-pearl : NACRE
Mother-of-pearl is another name for nacre. Nacre is the strong iridescent material laid down by some mollusks on the inside of their shells, and it’s also what makes up pearls. The creature lays down nacre as a defensive mechanism, protecting the soft tissue of its body from the rough surface of the outer shell. Similarly, it uses nacre to encapsulate harmful debris or a parasite that penetrates the shell, and that’s how a pearl is formed.
38. Morocco’s capital : RABAT
Rabat is the capital city of the Kingdom of Morocco. After WWII, the United States maintained a major Air Force Base in Rabat, part of Strategic Air Command (SAC). Responding to pressure from the Moroccan government of King Mohammed V, the USAF pulled out in 1963.
41. Made heckling remarks to : JEERED AT
The original use of the verb “to heckle” was to mean questioning severely, and for many years was associated with the public questioning of parliamentary candidates in Scotland. In more recent times, the meaning has evolved into questioning that is less polite and that is directed at standup comics.
45. Mexicali money : PESO
The coin called a “peso” is used in many Spanish-speaking countries around the world. The coin originated in Spain where the word “peso” means “weight”. The original peso was what we know in English as a “piece of eight”, a silver coin of a specific weight that had a nominal value of eight “reales”.
Mexicali is a Mexican city in the state of Baja that lies on the US border, adjacent to Calexico, California. Mexicali is the most northerly city in Latin America.
48. Like warthogs and walruses : TUSKED
The warthog is a wild animal from the pig family found in Sub-Saharan Africa. The animal takes its name from four wart-like protrusions on its head that serve as a means of defense, but are also reserves of fat.
53. In good health : HALE
Both the words “hale” and “healthy” derive from the the Old English “hal” meaning healthy.
58. Move, in Realtor-speak : RELO
“Real estate agent” is a general, generic term. “Realtor” is the name given to a member of the trade association known as the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The NAR has gone so far as the trademark the term “Realtor” in the US.
63. Vietnam War protest gp. : SDS
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was an activist group in the sixties. The SDS organized the largest student strike in the history of the United States on 26 April 1968, with about a million students staying away from class that day. The “Students for a Democratic Society” name was revived in 2006 with the foundation of a new US-based student organization with left wing beliefs. Today’s SDS was founded by a pair of high school students from Greenwich Village, New York.