Edited by: Rich Norris
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Today’s Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
1. Some conversion targets : PAGANS
A pagan is someone who holds religious beliefs that are different from the main religions of the world. In classical Latin “paganus” was a villager, a rustic.
7. Time to “Run for the Roses” : RACE DAY
The first Kentucky Derby took place in 1875, and is a race modelled on the Epsom Derby in England and the Grand Prix de Paris (now called the “Prix de l‘Arc de Triomphe”). As such, the Kentucky Derby was run over 1½ miles, although in 1896 this was shortened to 1¼ miles. The winning horse is presented with a very elaborate blanket made of red roses, and so the Derby is nicknamed “Run for the Roses”. The race is held on the first Saturday in May each year, and is limited to 3-year-old horses.
16. Shout from Speedy : ARRIBA!
When I was a kid, Speedy Gonzales was one of my favorite cartoon characters. He was billed as “The Fastest Mouse in all Mexico” and tore around the place yelling “¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba! ¡Epa¡ ¡Epa! ¡Epa! Yeehaw!”
17. Devils’ playgrounds? : ICE RINKS
The New Jersey Devils are the professional ice hockey team based in Newark. The club was founded in 1974 in Kansas City, originally as the Mohawks, and then quickly renamed the Scouts. The franchise moved to Denver in 1976, becoming the Colorado Rockies. The move to Newark happened in 1982, when the team was renamed the New Jersey Devils.
18. “Losing My Religion” group : REM
R.E.M. was a rock band from Athens, Georgia formed in 1980. The name “R.E.M.” was chosen randomly from a dictionary, apparently.
The REM song “Losing My Religion” was released in 1991. The title is a phrase used in the southern US with the meaning “losing my temper, civility”.
19. “Kiss of the Spider Woman” star Sonia : BRAGA
Sonia Braga achieved fame in her native Brazil playing the title role in the movie “Gabriela”. There followed roles in American films such as “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “The Milagro Beanfield War”. She has also played in the Portuguese version of “Desperate Housewives”.
22. Rotten Tomatoes caution : SPOILER ALERT!
“Rotten Tomatoes” is a website that mainly provides reviews and ratings of movies, although it now covers TV shows as well. The site was launched in 1998 and takes its name from the practice of audience members throwing rotten tomatoes at a unappreciated performer on stage.
26. Canonized pope who persuaded Attila not to attack Rome : ST LEO
The first pope named Leo is now known as Pope Saint Leo the Great. Leo I is famous for meeting with the feared Attila the Hun and persuading him to turn back his invading force that was threatening to overrun Western Europe.
27. Accessory for Miss Piggy : BOA
The Muppet called Miss Piggy has a pretentious air, and so refers to herself as “moi”. In 1998, Miss Piggy even released her own perfume called “Moi”.
30. Half a luau serving? : MAHI
Mahi-mahi is the Hawaiian name for the dolphin-fish, also called a dorado. The mahi-mahi is an ugly looking creature if ever I saw one …
32. Usher’s creator : POE
“The Fall of the House of Usher” is perhaps the most famous short story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1839. The story is a Gothic tale, an interview with Robert Usher in his house which literally “falls”, breaks into two and is swallowed up by a lake. Some believe that the story was inspired by events at a real Usher House that once stood on Boston’s Lewis Wharf. When the Usher House was torn down, the bodies of a man and woman were found embracing in a cavity in the cellar, a fact reflected in the story as Robert Usher’s sister is supposedly buried alive in the crypt.
35. Thatcher or Blair, e.g. : OXONIAN
An Oxonian is a graduate of Oxford University in England. The equivalent term for a graduate of Cambridge University is “Cantabrigian”.
Margaret Thatcher served as Prime Minister of the UK from 1979 to 1990, making her the longest serving leader of the country in the 20th century, and the first woman to hold the office. Thatcher’s nickname in the press was the “Iron Lady”, a moniker bestowed on her by a Soviet journalist. The “Iron Lady” was born Margaret Hilda Roberts, the daughter of a grocer. She studied chemistry at Oxford University and worked for a while as a research chemist.
Tony Blair was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for ten years, from 1997 to 2007. Blair led his Labour Party from the left towards the center, helped along by the phrase “New Labour”. Under his leadership, Labour won a landslide victory in 1997, and was comfortably elected into power again in 2001 and 2005. Blair stepped down in 2007 and Gordon Blair took over as prime minister. Labour was soundly defeated at the polls in the next general election, in 2010.
38. Capital since 1797 : ALBANY
New York’s state capital of Albany was founded as a Dutch trading post called Fort Nassau in 1614. The English took over the settlement in 1664 and called it Albany, naming it after the future King of England James II, whose title at the time was the Duke of Albany. It became the capital of New York State in 1797.
42. “It Don’t Come Easy” singer : STARR
Ringo Starr’s 1971 song “It Don’t Come Easy” was his first release following the breakup of the Beatles. Although Starr is credited as the sole songwriter, Starr has acknowledged that he wrote it with fellow Beatle George Harrison.
44. “Star Trek” record : LOG
The word “logbook” dates back to the days when the captain of a ship kept a daily record of the vessel’s speed, progress etc. using a “log”. A log was a wooden float on a knotted line that was dropped overboard to measure speed through the water.
49. Dixie elision : MA’AM
“Dixie” is a nickname sometimes used for the American South, and often specifically for the original 11 states that seceded from the Union just prior to the Civil War. It’s apparently not certain how the name “Dixie” came about. One theory is that it comes from the term “dixie” which was used for currency issued by banks in Louisiana. The 10-dollar bills had the word “dix” on the reverse side, the French for “ten”. From the banknote, the French speaking area around New Orleans came to be known as Dixieland, and from there “Dixie” came to apply to the South in general.
52. Cellular messenger : RNA
Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) is an essential catalyst in the manufacture of proteins in the body. The genetic code in DNA determines the sequence of amino acids that make up each protein. That sequence is read in DNA by messenger RNA, and amino acids are delivered for protein manufacture in the correct sequence by what is called transfer RNA. The amino acids are then formed into proteins by ribosomal RNA.
53. Soaking solution : MARINADE
Our verb “to marinate” comes from the French “mariner” meaning “to pickle in sea brine”, which in turn comes from the Latin “marinus” meaning “of the sea”. So, “marinade” is related to “marine”.
57. Fashion item used for protection in ancient Egypt : EYELINER
Eyeliner has been used for a long time. There is evidence that the Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians used a dark black line around the eyes to protect the skin from the sun as early as 10,000 BCE.
59. Leafs, e.g. : NISSANS
The Leaf is an electric car made by Nissan that was introduced in 2010. The model name is an acronym standing for “leading environmentally-friendly affordable car”.
60. Yoga class regimen : ASANAS
“Asana” is a Sanskrit word literally meaning “sitting down”. The asanas are the poses that a practitioner of yoga assumes. The most famous is the lotus position, the cross-legged pose called “padmasana”.
2. “Mad Men” extra : AD REP
“Mad Men” was the flagship show on the AMC television channel for several seasons. Set in the sixties, it’s all about an advertising agency located on Madison Avenue in New York (hence the title). “Mad Men” became the first show created by a basic cable channel to win an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series.
4. “The Phantom Menace” boy : ANI
Anakin “Ani” Skywalker is the principal character in the first six of the “Star Wars” movies. His progress chronologically through the series of films is:
- Episode I: Anakin is a 9-year-old slave boy who earns the promise of Jedi training by young Obi-Wan Kenobi.
- Episode II: Anakin is 18-years-old and goes on a murdering rampage to avenge the killing of his mother.
- Episode III: Anakin is 21-years-old and a Jedi knight, but he turns to the Dark Side and becomes Darth Vader. His wife Padme gives birth to twins, Luke and Leia Skywalker.
- Episode IV: Darth Vader, comes into conflict with his children, Luke Skywalker and the Princess Leia.
- Episode V: Darth Vader attempts to coax his son Luke over to the dark side, and reveals to Luke that he is his father.
- Episode VI: Luke learns that Leia is his sister, and takes on the task of bringing Darth Vader back from the Dark Side in order to save the Galaxy. Vader saves his son from the Emperor’s evil grip, dying in the process, but his spirit ends up alongside the spirits of Yoda and Obi-Wan. They all live happily ever after …
5. Angler’s hope : NIBBLE
We use the verb “to angle” to mean “to fish” because “angel” was an Old English word for a hook.
7. Automaker’s bane : RECALL
Today we tend to use the word “bane” to mean anathema, a source of persistent annoyance. A few centuries ago, a bane was a cause of harm or death, perhaps a deadly poison.
8. Preceder of beauty? : AGE
Age before beauty.
9. Stud venue : CARD ROOM
Stud poker is the name given to many variants of poker, all characterized by the dealer giving each player a mix of cards face-down and face-up. The cards facing upwards are called “upcards”. The cards facing downwards are called “hole cards”, cards only visible to the individual who holds that particular hand. This gives rise to the phrase “ace in the hole”, a valuable holding that only the player with the ace is aware of.
10. Prufrock’s creator : ELIOT
“The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” is a very famous poem by T. S. Eliot, first published in 1915. The rather odd name of “Prufrock” seems to have just come to Eliot, although there was a Prufrock-Littau Company in St. Louis while he lived there.
13. “Roundabout” rock group : YES
Yes is a rock band from England that formed in 1968 and was most successful in the 1980s. The band’s biggest hit was “Owner of a Lonely Heart” from 1983.
15. Tie up in surgery : LIGATE
In the context of surgery, a ligature is a suture tied around an anatomical structure, usually a blood vessel. The term “ligature” comes from the Latin “ligare” meaning “to bind”.
23. Youngest of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” : IRINA
Olga, Masha and Irina were the “Three Sisters” in the play by Anton Chekhov. The three title characters were inspired by the three Brontë sisters, the English authors.
27. Oktoberfest setting : BEER GARDEN
Oktoberfest is a 16-day beer festival in Munich that actually starts in September. About six million people attend every year, making it the largest fair in the world. I’ve been there twice, and it really is a great party …
29. Lhasa __ : APSO
The Lhasa apso breed of dog originated in Tibet and is named after “Lhasa” (the capital city) and “apso” (a Tibetan word meaning “bearded”). The Lhasa apso has been around since 800 BC and is one of the oldest breeds in the world, one very closely related to the ancestral wolf.
30. Safety feature for zoo visitors : MOAT
A “moat” is a protective trench that surrounds a castle, say, or a an exhibit in a zoo. A moat may or may not be filled with water.
36. Problem addressed by counters : INSOMNIA
People with insomnia might count sheep as an aid to falling asleep.
44. Powerball and others : LOTTOS
The Powerball lottery game is available in most states of the US, as is its major rival called Mega Millions.
45. Word in pregame instructions : TAILS
The two sides of a coin are known as the “obverse” and the “reverse”. The obverse is commonly referred to as “heads”, as it often depicts someone’s head. The reverse is commonly called “tails”, as it is the opposite of “heads”.
47. Setting for “Slumdog Millionaire” : INDIA
The brilliant film “Slumdog Millionaire” is a screen adaptation of a 2005 novel by Indian author Vikas Swarup. This low-budget movie won eight Oscars in 2008. I reckon it turned a profit …
50. Father of Phobos and Deimos : ARES
The Greek god Ares is often referred to as the Olympian god of warfare, but originally he was regarded as the god of bloodlust and slaughter. Ares united with Aphrodite to create several gods, including Phobos (Fear), Deimos (Terror) and Eros (Desire). Ares was the son of Zeus and Hera, and the Roman equivalent to Ares was Mars.
53. Valets, e.g. : MEN
A “varlet” was an attendant or servant, perhaps a knight’s page. The term comes from the Old French “vaslet”, which also gave us our contemporary word “valet”.
54. Rockport’s cape : ANN
Cape Ann is 30 miles north of Boston and is on the northernmost edge of Massachusetts Bay. The Cape was first mapped by the explorer John Smith. Early in his adventurous life Smith had been captured and enslaved by the Ottoman Empire. His “owner” in his days of slavery was a woman called Tragabigzanda, and apparently the slave and owner fell in love. Smith originally called Cape Tragabigzanda in her memory, but King Charles I changed the name to Cape Ann in honor of his own mother, Anne of Denmark.
Rockport is a town in Massachusetts located at the very tip of Cape Ann, about 40 miles northeast of Boston. Given its location, the town is surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean.