Edited by: Rich Norris
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Today’s themed answers each end with a word can TAKE A BREAK, that is often followed by the word BREAK:
- 61A. Rest .. or, literally, what the last word of the answers to starred clues can do : TAKE A BREAK
- 17A. Source of money for Medicare : PAYROLL TAX (giving “tax break”)
- 24A. Serving-mom-breakfast-in-bed occasion : MOTHER’S DAY (giving “daybreak”)
- 37A. Asian plant named for the shape of its pink and white flowers : BLEEDING-HEART (giving “heartbreak”)
- 50A. Local hoosegow : COUNTY JAIL (giving “jailbreak”)
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
1. Concrete support rod : REBAR
A steel bar or mesh that is used to reinforce concrete is called “rebar”, short for “reinforcing bar”.
6. Aptly named Olympic sprinter Usain __ : BOLT
Usain Bolt is a Jamaican sprinter who won the 100m and 200m race gold medals in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. Back in Jamaica, Bolt was really into cricket and probably would have been a very successful fast bowler had he not hit the track instead.
10. 1980s model that saved Chrysler from financial ruin : K-CAR
Chrysler introduced K-cars in the early 1980s at a time when demand for large cars with V8 engines was plummeting. Post-oil crisis consumers were seeking low-cost, fuel-efficient vehicles, which brought Chrysler to the brink of bankruptcy. It was the economical 4-cylinder, front-wheel drive platform that singlehandedly delivered the company into the profitability within a couple of years. K-cars were designed to carry 6 passengers, on two bench seats. Remember taking a corner a little too fast on those seats, in the days when no one wore seat belts?
17. Source of money for Medicare : PAYROLL TAX (giving “tax break”)
The Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax (FICA) was introduced in the 1930s as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. FICA payments are made by both employees and employers in order to fund Social Security and Medicare.
Medicare is a the national medical insurance program administered by the US government. The term “Medicare” originally applied to a government program introduced in 1956 that provided coverage for families of those serving in the military. The current Medicare program was introduced by the Johnson administration in 1966, to provide health insurance to anyone aged 65 years or older.
20. River to the Seine : OISE
The River Oise rises in Belgium and joins up with the River Seine just outside Paris.
21. Five-spots : ABES
The US five-dollar bill is often called an “Abe”, as President Lincoln’s portrait is on the front. An Abe is also referred to as a “fin”, a term that has been used for a five-pound note in Britain since 1868.
24. Serving-mom-breakfast-in-bed occasion : MOTHER’S DAY (giving “daybreak”)
Note the official punctuation in “Mother’s Day”, even though one might think it should be “Mothers’ Day”. President Wilson and Anna Jarvis, who created the tradition, specifically wanted Mother’s Day to honor the mothers within each family and not just “mothers” in general, so they went with the “Mother’s Day” punctuation.
30. Land bordering Suisse : ITALIE
In French, “Italie” (Italy) borders “la Suisse” (Switzerland).
31. Rodeo skill : ROPING
“Rodeo” is a Spanish word that is usually translated as “round up”.
37. Asian plant named for the shape of its pink and white flowers : BLEEDING-HEART (giving “heartbreak”)
Asian bleeding-heart is a plant in the poppy family with heart-shaped pink and white flowers. It is sometimes called lyre flower or lady-in-a-bath. What imaginative names …!
50. Local hoosegow : COUNTY JAIL (giving “jailbreak”)
“Hoosegow” is a slang term for “jail”. “Hoosegow” is a mispronunciation of the Mexican-Spanish word “juzgao” meaning “court, tribunal”.
55. Russian river : URAL
The Ural River rises in the Ural Mountains in Russia and flows for half its length through Russian territory until it crosses the border into Kazakhstan, finally emptying into the Caspian Sea.
57. This, in Tijuana : ESTO
Tijuana is the largest city in the Mexican state of Baja California, and lies just across the US-Mexico border from San Diego. Tijuana is also the most westerly of all Mexican cities. A lot of Tijuana’s growth took place in the twenties as tourists flocked south of the border during the days of prohibition in the US. One of the many casinos and hotels that flourished at that time was Hotel Caesar’s in the Avenida Revolución area. Hotel Caesar’s claims to be the birthplace of the now ubiquitous Caesar Salad.
58. Fey of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” : TINA
Comic actress Tina Fey has a scar on her face a few inches long on her left cheek, which I was shocked to learn was caused by a childhood “slashing” incident. When she was just five years old and playing in the front yard of her house, someone just came up to her and slashed her with a knife. How despicable!
“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is a 2016 film based on a memoir called “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan” by Kim Barker. Tina Fey stars as a TV journalist on assignment as a war correspondent in Afghanistan. Despite the somber setting, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is a comedy-drama. The title is the initialism WTF spelled out using the NATO phonetic alphabet. WTF stands for “what the fudge?!”, or similar …
63. Ice formation : FLOE
An ice floe is a sheet of ice that has separated from an ice field and is floating freely on the ocean.
64. E pluribus __ : UNUM
From 1776, “E pluribus unum” was the unofficial motto of the United States. The phrase translates from Latin as “Out of many, one”. It was pushed aside in 1956 when an Act of Congress designated “In God We Trust” as the country’s official motto. “In God We Trust” had appeared on US coins since 1864, but was only introduced on paper currency in 1957.
66. Snorkeling gear : FINS
Our word “snorkel” comes from German navy slang “Schnorchel” meaning “nose, snout”. The German slang was applied to an airshaft used for submarines, due to its resemblance to a nose, in that air passed through it and it made a “snoring” sound. “Schnorchel” comes from “Schnarchen”, the German for “snore”.
67. Dosage amts. : TSPS
2. “Seinfeld” regular : ELAINE
The character called Elaine Benes, unlike the other lead characters (Jerry, Kramer and George), did not appear in the pilot episode of “Seinfeld”. NBC executives specified the addition of a female lead when they picked up the show citing that the situation was too “male-centric”.
5. Old Olds creation : REO
The REO Motor Company was founded by Ransom Eli Olds (hence the name REO). The company made cars, trucks and buses, and was in business from 1905 to 1975 in Lansing, Michigan. Among the company’s most famous models were the REO Royale and the REO Flying Cloud.
6. “The Hobbit” hero : BILBO
In J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel “The Hobbit”, the title character is Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who stumbles across a magical ring and then embarks on a series of adventures.
10. “Seven Samurai” director Akira : KUROSAWA
Akira Kurosawa was an Oscar-winning Japanese film director. His most famous movie to us in the West has to be “The Seven Samurai”, the inspiration for “The Magnificent Seven” starring Yul Brynner, and indeed a basis for “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”.
11. L.A. Times publishing family name : CHANDLER
Otis Chandler took over as publisher of the “Los Angeles Times” in 1960 from his father Norman Chandler. Otis retired from his position in 1980.
12. Just fine : A-OK
Our term “A-OK” is supposedly an abbreviation for “A(ll systems are) OK”, and arose in the sixties during the Space Program.
13. Baseball scoreboard letters : RHE
On baseball scoreboards we see the letters RHE, standing for Runs, Hits and Errors.
18. Flee : LAM
To be “on the lam” is to be in flight, to have escaped from prison. “On the lam” is American slang that originated at the end of the 19th century. The word “lam” also means to “beat” or “thrash”, as in “lambaste”. So “on the lam” might derive from the phrase “to beat it, to scram”.
22. Dated PC monitor : CRT
Cathode Ray Tube (CRT)
26. “It __ over till it’s over”: Berra : AIN’T
Yogi Berra is regarded by many as the greatest catcher ever to play in Major League Baseball, and has to be America’s most celebrated “author” of malapropisms. Here are some greats:
- It ain’t over till it’s over.
- 90% of the game is half mental.
- Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.
- When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
- It’s déjà vu all over again.
- Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t go to yours.
- A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.
37. U2 lead singer : BONO
Irish singer Bono is a Dubliner, born Paul David Hewson. As a youth, Hewson was given the nickname “Bono Vox” by a friend, a Latin expression meaning “good voice”, and so the singer has been known as Bono since the late seventies. His band’s first name was “Feedback”, later changed to “The Hype”. The band members searched for yet another name and chose U2 from a list of six names suggested by a friend. They picked U2 because it was the name they disliked least …
40. Sushi fish : EEL
Anyone going to a sushi restaurant can order all types of raw fish (known collectively as “sashimi”). However, eel is always served cooked, and that’s because the blood of eels contains a protein that cramps muscles if eaten. If the heart muscle “cramps”, the result can be death. The protein is easily rendered harmless by applying heat, i.e. cooking.
44. Inc., in the U.K. : LTD
In Britain and Ireland the most common type of business (my perception anyway) is one that has private shareholders whose liability is limited to the value of their investment. Such a company is known as a private limited company, and has the letters “Ltd” after the name. If the shares are publicly traded, then the company is a public limited company, and has the letters “plc” after the name.
A company that has incorporated uses the abbreviation “Inc.” after its name. By incorporating, a company forms a corporation, which is a legal entity that has legal rights similar to those of an individual. For example, a corporation can sue another corporation or individual. However, a corporation does not have all the rights of citizens. A corporation does not have the Fifth Amendment right of protections against self-incrimination, for example. It is perhaps understandable that the concept of “corporations as persons” is a frequent subject for debate.
47. “Murder on the __ Express” : ORIENT
“Murder on the Orient Express” is perhaps the most famous detective novel penned by the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie. Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot has to determine which of the passengers on the Orient Express train committed a murder. Spoiler alert: they all did!
49. Quenches : SLAKES
“To slake” is to satisfy a craving, as in slaking one’s thirst.
51. Denim trousers : JEANS
Denim fabric originated in Nimes in France. The French phrase “de Nimes” (meaning “from Nimes”) gives us the word “denim”. Also, the French phrase “bleu de Genes” (meaning “blue of Genoa”) gives us our word “jeans”.
52. Invite to the penthouse : ASK UP
Originally, the term “penthouse” was used to describe a modest building attached to a main structure. In fact, in centuries past, the manger in which Jesus was born was often referred to as a penthouse. The modern, more luxurious connotation dates back to the early twenties.
54. Mauna __ : LOA
Mauna Loa on the “big island” of Hawaii is the largest volcano on the planet (in terms of volume). The name “Mauna Loa” is Hawaiian for “Long Mountain”.
59. Favorite pal, in texts : BFF
Best friend forever (BFF)
60. __ Baba : ALI
There is some controversy about the story “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” in that it has been suggested it was not part of the original collection of Arabic tales called “One Thousand and One Nights”. The suggestion is that the Ali Baba tale was added by one of the European translators of the collection.
61. Preteen king : TUT
“King Tut” is a name commonly used for the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. Tutankhamun may not have been the most significant of the pharaohs historically, but he is the most famous today largely because of the discovery of his nearly intact tomb in 1922 by Howard Carter. Prior to this find, any Egyptian tombs uncovered by archaeologists had been ravaged by grave robbers. Tutankhamun’s magnificent burial mask is one of the most recognizable of all Egyptian artifacts.
62. Bikini half : BRA
The origin of the word “bikini”, a type of bathing suit, seems very uncertain. My favorite story is that it is named after the Bikini Atoll, site of American A-bomb tests in the forties and fifties. The name “bikini” was chosen for the swim-wear because of the “explosive” effect it had on men who saw a woman wearing the garment!