Edited by: Rich Norris
Quicklink to comments
Each of today’s themed answers starts with an ordinal number, running from EIGHTH at the top of the grid to ELEVENTH at the bottom:
- 19A. Panama Canal nickname : EIGHTH WONDER
- 34A. When baseball closers usually shine : NINTH INNING
- 42A. NYC thoroughfare that becomes Amsterdam at 59th Street : TENTH AVENUE
- 57A. When time is running out : ELEVENTH HOUR
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
1. Soothsayer : SEER
A “soothsayer” is someone who claims to have the ability to predict the future. The term comes from “sooth”, an archaic word for “truth”. So a soothsayer was supposedly one who told the “truth” (about the future).
13. Cuba libre fruit : LIME
The cocktail known as a Cuba libre is basically a rum and Coke, although the traditional recipe calls for some lime juice as well.
14. Lorena of LPGA fame : OCHOA
Lorena Ochoa is a retired professional golfer from Mexico who was ranked as the number one female golfer in the world from 2007 to 2010.
18. Rice field draft animals : OXEN
A paddy field is the flooded piece of land used to grow rice. The water reduces competition from weeds allowing the rice to thrive. The word “paddy” has nothing to do with us Irish folk, and is an anglicized version of the word “padi”, the Malay name for the rice plant.
19. Panama Canal nickname : EIGHTH WONDER
The Panama Canal was predated by the Panama Railway. The railway’s route actually determined the eventual route of the canal. The impetus to build a canal was spurred on by the success of the Suez Canal which opened in 1869. Work on the Panama Canal started in 1881, but things did not go smoothly at all. Companies involved in the project went bankrupt, one after the other. Eventually the US government bought its way into the project with President Roosevelt handing over millions of dollars to the country of Panama. The canal was finally completed in 1914. All in all, about 27,500 workers died during construction. A kind blog reader highly recommends the book “The Path Between the Seas” by David McCullough, should anyone want to read more about the fascinating tale of Panama Canal’s construction.
22. Robotic maid on “The Jetsons” : ROSIE
“The Jetsons” is an animated show from Hanna-Barbera that had its first run in 1962-1963, and then was recreated in 1985-1987. When it was debuted in 1963 by ABC, “The Jetsons” was the network’s first ever color broadcast. “The Jetsons” are like a space-age version of “The Flintstones”. The four Jetson family members are George and Jane, the parents, and children Judy and Elroy. Residing with the family are Rosie the household robot, and Astro the pet dog.
27. Where to find Lima and llamas : PERU
Lima is the capital city of Peru. Lima was founded in 1535 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, who named it “la Ciudad de los Reyes” (the City of Kings). He chose this name because the decision to found the city was made on January 6th, the feast of the Epiphany that commemorates the visit of the three kings to Jesus in Bethlehem.
Many female mammals lick off their newborn. That’s not an option for llamas as their tongues only reach out of their mouths about half an inch. Instead llama dams nuzzle their young and hum to them.
31. Thanksgiving tuber : YAM
Although in the US we sometimes refer to sweet potatoes as “yams”, the yam is actually a completely different family of plants. True yams are more common in other parts of the the world than they are in this country, and are especially common in Africa.
42. NYC thoroughfare that becomes Amsterdam at 59th Street : TENTH AVENUE
Amsterdam Avenue in New York City is also known as Tenth Avenue between 59th and 193rd Streets. Tenth Avenue has existed from 1816, and in 1890 the name was changed by the landowners nearby in order to help give the Upper West Side an old-world feeling, and to help boost property prices.
45. Vert. counterpart : HOR
Remember the “horizontal hold” (HOR) and “vertical hold” (VER) on old TV sets? Our kids have no idea what we had to go through …
46. Gandhi’s land : INDIA
Mohandas Gandhi was a political and spiritual leader in India in the first part of the 20th century, as the country sought independence from Britain. He was also referred to as “Mahatma”, meaning “great soul”. His remarkable philosophy of nonviolence and living a modest lifestyle was a great inspiration to the Indian people. India (and Pakistan) was granted independence in 1947. Tragically, Gandhi was assassinated the very next year.
47. Garbage email : SPAM
Apparently the term “spam”, used for unwanted email, is taken from a “Monty Python” sketch. In the sketch (which I’ve seen) the dialog is taken over by the word Spam, a play on the glut of canned meat in the markets of Britain after WWII. So “spam” is used for the glut of emails that takes over online communication. I can just imagine nerdy Internet types (like me) adopting something from a “Monty Python” sketch to describe an online phenomenon …
57. When time is running out : ELEVENTH HOUR
Something that happens at “the eleventh hour” happens late in the day. The expression originates in the Gospel of Matthew in the Christian New Testament. In the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, the owner of the vineyard hires laborers throughout the day, even at “the eleventh hour”.
64. “Giant” author Ferber : EDNA
“Giant” is a 1952 novel by author Edna Ferber. It was adapted into a successful Hollywood movie released in 1956. In the film, Bick Benedict (played by Rock Hudson) marries Leslie (played by Elizabeth Taylor) and takes his new wife home to the family ranch in Texas called Reata. The ranch’s handyman is Jett Rink, played by James Dean. Dean was killed in a car accident before the film was released. Some of Dean’s lines needed work before the film could be released and so another actor had to do that voice-over work.
65. Four-sided campus area : QUAD
A university often features a central quadrangle (quad).
67. Cincinnati ballplayers : REDS
The Red Scare (i.e. anti-communist sentiment) following WWII had such an effect on the populace that it even caused the Cincinnati baseball team to change its name from the Reds. The team was called the Cincinnati Redlegs from 1953-1958, as the management was fearful of losing money due to public distrust of any association with “Reds”.
69. Saintly rings : HALOS
The Greek word “halos” is the name given to the ring of light around the sun or moon, which gives us our word “halo”, used for a radiant light depicted above the head of a saintly person.
70. “Garfield” pooch : ODIE
Odie is Garfield’s best friend and is a slobbery beagle. Both are characters in Jim Davis’ comic strip named “Garfield”.
2. “Old MacDonald” letters : E-I-E-I-O
There was an American version of the English children’s song “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” (E-I-E-I-O), that was around in the days of WWI. The first line of the US version goes “Old MacDougal had a farm, in Ohio-i-o”.
5. Fancy-schmancy : POSH
No one really knows the etymology of the word “posh”. The popular myth that POSH is actually an acronym standing for “Port Out, Starboard Home” is completely untrue, and is a story that can actually be traced back to the 1968 movie “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”. The myth is that wealthy British passengers travelling to and from India would book cabins on the port side for the outward journey and the starboard side for the home journey. This trick was supposedly designed to keep their cabins out of the direct sunlight.
6. Have __: freak out : A COW
The phrase “don’t have a cow” originated in the fifties, a variation of the older “don’t have kittens”. The concept behind the phrase is that one shouldn’t get worked up, it’s not like one is giving birth to a cow.
9. Contemporary of Mozart : HAYDN
Josef Haydn was an Austrian composer, often called the “Father of the Symphony” due to his prolific output of symphonies that helped define the form. This is one of the reasons that he was known, even in his own lifetime, as “Papa Haydn”. Haydn was also the father figure among “the big three” composers of the Classical Period: Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Hayden was a good friend to Mozart, and a teacher of Beethoven.
10. Jazz combo horn : SAX
The saxophone was invented by Belgian Adolphe Sax. Sax developed lip cancer at one point in his life, and one has to wonder if his affliction was related to his saxophone playing (I am sure not!). I had the privilege of visiting Sax’s grave in the Cemetery of Montmartre in Paris a few years ago.
11. Don Ho’s instrument : UKE
The singer and entertainer Don Ho apparently had a pretty liberal arrangement with his wife. When Ho was touring with his two backing singers, Patti Swallie and Elizabeth Guevara, all three of them shared a room together. He had two children with each of his roommates, giving a total of ten kids including the six he had with his wife. The arrangement was quite open, it seems, with all ten kids visiting each other regularly. To each his own …
12. “Gone Girl” co-star Affleck : BEN
“Gone Girl” is a thriller novel written by Gillian Flynn that was first published in 2012. The story tells of a man whose wife has disappeared, with the reader not being certain if the husband is involved in the disappearance. The book was adapted into a movie of the same name released in 2014, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.
24. Dickens villain Heep : URIAH
Uriah Heep is a sniveling insincere character in the novel “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens. The character is such a “yes man” that today, if we know someone who behaves the same way, then we might call that person a “Uriah Heep”.
26. “Pomp and Circumstance” 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”.
28. Capital of Latvia : RIGA
Riga is the capital city of Latvia. The historical center of Riga is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, declared as such because of the city’s magnificent examples of Art Nouveau architecture.
29. Sch. near the Strip : UNLV
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) was established in 1957 as the Southern Division of the University of Nevada, Reno. One of UNLV’s flagship departments is the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, which is consistently ranked as one of the best hotel and hospitality colleges in the nation. I suppose that’s not surprising given the proximity to the Las Vegas Strip.
31. “Abominable” critters : YETIS
The yeti, also called the abominable snowman, is a beast of legend. “Yeti” is a Tibetan term, and the beast is fabled to live in the Himalayan regions of Nepal and Tibet. Our equivalent legend in North America is that of Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch. The study of animals whose existence have not yet been substantiated is called cryptozoology.
33. Paris newspaper Le __ : MONDE
“Le Monde” is a newspaper published each evening in France. “Le Monde” is one of the two most famous French papers, along with “Le Figaro”.
36. __ Christian Andersen : HANS
The wonderful storyteller Hans Christian Andersen became very successful in his own lifetime. In 1847 he visited England for the summer and made a triumphal tour of English society’s most fashionable drawing rooms. There Andersen met with the equally successful Charles Dickens, and the two seemed to hit it off. Ten years later Andersen returned to England and stayed for five weeks in Dickens’ home as his guest. Dickens published “David Copperfield” soon after, and supposedly the less than lovable character Uriah Heep was based on Dickens’ house guest Hans Christian Andersen. That wasn’t very nice!
48. Rescued damsel’s cry : MY HERO!
A “damsel” is a young woman, often referring to a lady of noble birth. The term came into English from the Old French “dameisele”, which had the same meaning. The modern French term is “demoiselle”, which in turn is related to the term of address “mademoiselle”.
51. Throat dangler : UVULA
The uvula is that conical fleshy projection hanging down at the back of the soft palate. The uvula plays an important role in human speech, particularly in the making of “guttural” sounds. The Latin word for “grape” is “uva”, so “uvula” is a “little grape”.
55. Monday, in Le Mans : LUNDI
In French, “lundi” (Monday) is the day before “mardi” (Tuesday).
Le Mans is a city in northwestern France. The city is famous for the 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race that has been held annually since 1923. The 24-hour race uses the city’s race track, but closed city streets are also used for part of the circuit.
58. El __: weather phenomenon : NINO
When the surface temperature of much of the Pacific Ocean rises more that half a degree centigrade, then there is said to be an El Niño episode. That small temperature change in the Pacific has been associated with climatic changes that can stretch right across the globe. El Niño is Spanish for “the boy” and is a reference to the Christ child. The phenomenon was given this particular Spanish name because the warming is usually noticed near South America and around Christmas-time.
60. Mensa nos. : IQS
If you ever learned Latin, “mensa” was probably taught to you in lesson one as it’s the word commonly used as an example of a first declension noun. Mensa means “table”. The Mensa organization, for folks with high IQs, was set up in Oxford, England back in 1946. To become a member, you have to have an IQ that is in the top 2% of the population.