Edited by: Rich Norris
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Today’s themed answers are all 15-letters in length, spanning the grid. Also, each begins with the letter sequence vNC-, where “v” is a vowel. We start with the vowel “A” for the first themed answer, and progress through to the vowel “U” for the last:
- 17A. Hebrew or Latin, e.g. : ANCIENT LANGUAGE
- 23A. Meetings of self-improvement seekers : ENCOUNTER GROUPS
- 39A. Form 1040 and schedules : INCOME TAX RETURN
- 53A. Doctor with a pager : ON-CALL PHYSICIAN
- 61A. Most of the Atlantic, to Columbus : UNCHARTED WATERS
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
5. NYSE listings : COS
8. Shade-loving plant : HOSTA
The Hosta genus of plant was once classified as a lily, but is now in a family of its own and is described as “lily-like”. The plant was given the name “Hosta” in honor of the Austrian botanist Nicholas Thomas Host.
20. Cpl., for one : NCO
A sergeant (sgt.) ranks higher than a corporal (cpl.), and either is a non-commissioned officer (NCO).
21. Sundial number opposite I : VII
On a sundial, say, the number I (1 in Roman numerals) is opposite the number VII (7).
29. Child of a boomer : XER
The term Generation X originated in the UK where it was the name of a book by Jane Deverson. Her book detailed the results of a study of British youths in 1964, contrasting their lifestyle to those of previous generations. It was Canadian author Douglas Coupland who was responsible for popularizing the term, with his more successful publication “Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture”. By the latest accepted definition, Gen-Xers were born between 1961 and 1981.
A baby boomer is someone who was born in the post-WWII baby boom. The rate of births had been falling fairly steadily in the US at least since 1900, but this trend was sharply reversed in 1946 after WWII. The higher birth rate continued until 1964, when it returned to pre-war levels. Since then the birth rate has continued to decline, although at a slower pace. The period between 1946 and 1964 is defined as the “baby boom”.
36. Composer Bartók : BELA
Bela Bartók was a composer and a pianist, and perhaps after Liszt is considered by many to be Hungary’s greatest composer.
39. Form 1040 and schedules : INCOME TAX RETURN
Here in the US we can choose one of three main forms to file our tax returns. Form 1040 is known as the “long form”. Form 1040A is called the “short form”, and can be used by taxpayers with taxable income below $100,000 who don’t itemize deduction. Form 1040EZ is an even simpler version of the 1040, and can be used by those with taxable income less than $100,000 who take the standard deduction and who also have no dependents. Form 1040 was originally created just for tax returns from 1913, 1914 and 1915, but it’s a form that just keeps on giving, or should I say “taking” …?
44. Right triangle ratio : SINE
The most familiar trigonometric functions are sine (sin), cosine (cos) and tangent (tan). Each of these is a ratio, a ratio of two sides of a right-angled triangle. The reciprocal of these three functions are cosecant, secant, and cotangent. The reciprocal functions are simply the inverted ratios, the inverted sine (cosec = 1/sin), cosine (sec = 1/cos) and tangent (cot = 1/tan).
45. “Impractical Jokers” network __TV : TRU
truTV is a Turner Broadcasting cable network, launched in 1991 as Court TV. The name was changed to truTV in 2008.
“Impractical Jokers” is a show that first aired in 2011 that falls into the “Candid Camera” genre, with the hosts pranking the public.
46. Most fit to be drafted : ONE-A
The US government maintains information on all males who are potentially subject to military conscription, using what is called the Selective Service System (SS). In the event that a draft was held, men registered would be classified into groups to determine eligibility for service. Class 1-A registrants are those available for unrestricted military service. Other classes are 1-A-O (conscientious objector available for noncombatant service), 4-A (registrant who has completed military service) and 4-D (Minister of religion).
52. “CSI” evidence : DNA
The “CSI” franchise of TV shows has been tremendously successful, but seems to have finally wound down. “CSI: Miami” (the “worst” of the franchise, I think) was cancelled in 2012 after ten seasons. “CSI: NY” (the “best” of the franchise) was cancelled in 2013 after nine seasons. The original “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”, set in Las Vegas, hung in there until 2015 when it ended with a two-hour TV movie. The youngest show in the series was “CSI: Cyber”. It lasted for two season before being canceled in 2016.
59. Dubai’s fed. : UAE
Dubai is one of the seven Emirates that make up the federation known as the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The two largest members of the UAE (geographically) are Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the only two of the seven members that have veto power over UAE policy.
60. Glamorous Gardner : AVA
Ava Gardner is noted for her association with some big movies, but also for her association with some big names when it came to the men in her life. In the world of film, she appeared in the likes of “Mogambo” (1953), “On the Beach” (1959), “The Night of the Iguana” (1964) and “Earthquake” (1974). The men in her life included husbands Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra. After her marriages had failed (and perhaps before!) she had long-term relationships with Howard Hughes and bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguin whom she met through her friend Ernest Hemingway.
61. Most of the Atlantic, to Columbus : UNCHARTED WATERS
Christopher Columbus set off on four voyages of exploration from Spain. The initial intent of the expeditions was to establish an ocean link with the Indian subcontinent, by sailing westward. Columbus reached the Americas instead of India, yet insisted on calling the natives “indios”, the Spanish word for “Indians”.
69. “Frozen” queen : ELSA
“Frozen” is a 2013 animated feature from Walt Disney Studios that is based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Snow Queen”.
70. Game with rooms and weapons : CLUE
Clue is board game that we knew under a different name growing up in Ireland. Outside of North America, Clue is marketed as “Cluedo”. Cluedo was the original name of the game, introduced in 1949 by the famous British board game manufacturer Waddingtons. There are cute differences between the US and UK versions. For example, the man who is murdered is called Dr. Black (Mr. Boddy in the US), one of the suspects is the Reverend Green (Mr. Green in the US), and the suspect weapons include a dagger (a knife in the US), a lead pipe (lead piping in the US) and a spanner (a wrench in the US). I think it’s a fabulous game, a must during the holidays …
71. Natives for whom a Great Lake is named : ERIES
The Erie people lived on lands south of Lake Erie. The Erie were sometimes referred to as the Cat Nation, a reference to the mountain lions that were ever-present in the area that they lived. The name “Erie” is a shortened form of “Erielhonan” meaning “long tail”, possibly a further reference to the mountain lion or cat, which was possibly used as a totem. The Erie people gave their name to the Great Lake.
2. Joke with a homophone, say : PUN
Homophones are words that are pronounced in the same way (e.g., ere, air, err and heir). Homonyms are a subset of homophones, and are words that have the same spelling and the same pronunciation but different meanings, for example, skate (a fish) and skate (worn on the foot).
3. Top-left PC key : ESC
4. Trouser material : CHINO
Chino is a twill cloth most often used to make hard-wearing pants. The pants have come to be referred to as chinos. Chino cloth was originally developed for use by the military, but quickly became popular with civilians.
5. Elevate to sainthood : CANONIZE
The act of creating a saint is known as “canonization”. The term derives from the process of placing someone in the canon (or “calendar”) of saints.
6. Giants great Mel : OTT
At 5′ 9″, baseball legend Mel Ott weighed just 170 lb (I don’t think he took steroids!) and yet he was the first National League player to hit over 500 home runs. Sadly, Ott died in a car accident in New Orleans in 1958 when he was only 49 years old.
7. Work a crossword puzzle : SOLVE
Arthur Wynne is generally credited with the invention of what we now known as a crossword puzzle. Wynne was born in Liverpool, England and emigrated to the US when he was 19-years-old. He worked as a journalist and was living in Cedar Grove, New Jersey in 1913 when he introduced a “Word-Cross Puzzle” in his page of puzzles written for the “New York World”. The first book of crossword puzzles was published by Shuster & Shuster, in 1924. The collection of puzzles was a huge hit, and crosswords were elevated to the level of “a craze” in 1924 and 1925.
8. “Macbeth” cauldron stirrer : HAG
The witches in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” have some lovely lines as they boil up and evil brew and cast a spell:
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,–
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
9. Buckeye State sch. : OSU
Ohio State University (OSU) was founded back in 1870 as the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College. The athletic teams of OSU are called the Buckeyes, named after the state tree of Ohio. In turn the buckeye tree gets its name from the appearance of its fruit, a dark nut with a light patch thought to resemble a “buck’s eye”.
10. Acronym for a big mess : SNAFU
SNAFU is an acronym standing for Situation Normal: All Fouled Up (well, that’s the “polite” version!). As one might perhaps imagine, the term developed in the US Army, during WWII.
11. Prepare to advance after a fly ball : TAG UP
That would be baseball.
15. Bridge partnerships : PAIRS
The four people playing a game of bridge are positioned around a table at seats called north, east, south and west. Each player belongs to a pair, with north playing with south, and east playing with west.
18. S.A. country at zero degrees latitude : ECUA
“Ecuador” is the Spanish word for “equator”, which gives the country its name.
23. Army vet : EX-GI
The initials “G.I.” stand for “Government Issue”, and not “General Infantry” as is often believed. GI was first used in the military to denote equipment made from Galvanized Iron and during WWI, incoming German shells were nicknamed “GI cans”. Soon after, the term GI came to be associated with “Government Issue” and eventually became an adjective to describe anything associated with the Army.
24. Vegas signs : NEONS
The basic design of neon lighting was first demonstrated at the Paris Motor Show in 1910. Such lighting is made up of glass tubes containing a vacuum into which has been introduced a small amount of neon gas. When a voltage is applied between two electrodes inside the tube, the neon gas “glows” and gives off the familiar light.
25. Early spring blooms : CROCI
The crocus (plural “croci”) is a plant genus in the iris family. The term “crocus” ultimately derives from the Sanskrit word for “saffron”. Saffron spice comes from Crocus sativus, the “saffron crocus”.
33. Summer of disco : DONNA
Donna Summer is known as “The Queen of Disco”, with great hits like “Love to Love You, Baby”, “I Feel Love” and “Hot Stuff”. In the late sixties and early seventies, LaDonna Gaines (her real name) lived and worked in Germany. There she met and married an Austrian actor called Helmuth Sommer. They divorced not long after the marriage, but Donna kept his family name, just changing the “o” to “u” to give her the stage name of “Donna Summer”.
37. Monday, in Metz : LUNDI
The city of Metz is in the northeast of France, close to the German border. Given the proximity to Germany, Metz has both a strong German tradition and a strong French tradition. Metz was handed over to the French following WWI, after nearly 50 years of German rule. It quickly fell back into German hands in 1940 during WWII, with many German officers delighted to have back the city of their birth. Perhaps because of this long association with Germany, the US Army under General Patton encountered stiff resistance when liberating Metz in 1944. The cathedral in Metz is home to the largest expanse of stained glass in the world, almost 70,000 square feet in all.
38. “Ben-Hur” setting : ARENA
The celebrated Charlton Heston movie “Ben-Hur” is a dramatization of a book published in 1880 by Lew Wallace titled “Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ”. The 1959 epic film won a record 11 Academy Awards, a feat that has been equaled since then but has never been beaten. The other winners of 11 Oscars are “Titanic” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the Rings”.
41. Like Superman’s special vision : X-RAY
Although Superman’s ability to see through objects is termed “x-ray vision”, the phenomenon as described cannot involve just the use of x-rays. The issue is that Superman can perceive color while using his superpower, and that’s not possible with x-rays.
43. Indian flatbread : NAAN
Naan (also “nan”) bread is very popular in Indian restaurants, as well as in other West, Central and South Asian cuisines. Indian Naan is traditionally baked in a clay oven known as a tandoor.
51. Operatic icon : DIVA
The term “diva” comes to us from Latin via Italian. “Diva” is the feminine form of “divus” meaning “divine one”. The word is used in Italy to mean “goddess” or “fine lady”, and especially is applied to the prima donna in an opera. We often use the term to describe a singer with a big ego.
53. Developing egg : OVULE
As we all remember from botany class, an “ovule” is a small structure in many plants that develops into the seed after fertilization.
54. Forty-__ : NINER
The California gold rush actually started in 1848. The first to exploit the find were those people already in California. By 1849 the word had spread and gold-seekers started to arrive from all over the world. The “out-of-towners” who arrived in 1849 became known as forty-niners.
55. Desert plants : CACTI
The cactus (plural “cacti”) is a member of a family plants that are particularly well-adapted to extremely dry environments. Almost all cacti are native to the Americas, although some succulent plants from the old world are similar in appearance and are often mislabeled as “cacti”.
64. Broadband letters : DSL
The abbreviation “DSL” originally stood for Digital Subscriber Loop, but is now accepted to mean (Asymmetric) Digital Subscriber Line. DSL is the technology that allows Internet service be delivered down the same telephone line as voice service, by separating the two into different frequency signals.
65. Rock gp. with winds and strings : ELO
The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) is a symphonic rock group from the north of England.
66. Moscow’s land: Abbr. : RUS
Moscow is of course the capital of Russia. If one considers Europe to be all points west of the Ural Mountains, then Moscow is the most populous city on the European continent. Moscow also is home to more billionaires than any other city in the world, according to “Forbes” magazine. The city is named for the Moskva River which flows through Moscow.