Edited by: Rich Norris
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Today’s themed answers each start with a word that can describe RAIN:
- 60A. Start of a hopeful rhyme about bad weather, and a hint to what the first word of 16-, 24- and 46-Across may describe : RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY
- 16A. Awkward situation : FINE HOW-DO-YOU-DO (giving “fine rain”)
- 24A. Weekly paycheck, e.g. : STEADY INCOME (giving “steady rain”)
- 46A. Golf practice facility : DRIVING RANGE (giving “driving rain”)
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
1. Spiders’ fly catchers : WEBS
The silk that makes up a web is a protein fiber that is “spun” by a spider. Spider silk is about one sixth of the density of steel, but has a comparable tensile strength.
13. Mine, to Marcel : A MOI
“À moi” (literally “to me”) is French for “mine”.
14. Batted ball into the dugout, say : FOUL
That would be baseball.
15. Lane at the Daily Planet : LOIS
Lois Lane has been the love interest of Superman/Clark Kent since the comic series was first published in 1938. Lois and Clark both work for the big newspaper in the city of Metropolis called “The Daily Planet”. The couple finally got hitched in the comics (and on television’s “Lois and Clark”) in 1996. But never mind all that … one has to wonder how challenging the crossword is in “The Daily Planet” …
19. Mournful poem : ELEGY
Perhaps the most famous elegy in the English language is that written by Thomas Gray, completed in 1750. His “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” is the source of many oft-quoted phrases, including:
- Celestial fire
- Far from the Madding Crowd
- Kindred spirit
34. Actress Shire : TALIA
The actress Talia Shire is best-known for playing Rocky’s wife Adrian in the “Rocky” series of movies. She also played Connie, the daughter of Don Corleone, in “The Godfather” films. Shire is the sister of movie director Francis Ford Coppola and the aunt of actor Nicolas Cage. Her son is the actor Jason Schwartzman.
35. Courtroom hammer : GAVEL
The small hammer that one raps on a table or desk to call a meeting to order, or perhaps to signify a sale at an auction, that’s called a gavel. The term “gavel” is actually American English, a word that emerged in the early 19th century.
36. Sheet music symbol : CLEF
“Clef” is the French word for “key”. In music, a clef is used to indicate the pitch of the notes written on the stave. The bass clef is also known as the F-clef, the alto clef is the C-clef, and the treble clef is the G-clef.
38. Henry or Jane of “On Golden Pond” : FONDA
“On Golden Pond” was originally a play, written by Ernest Thompson. It was adapted into the famous movie in 1981, with Henry Fonda playing Norman Thayer, and Katherine Hepburn as his wife Ethel, and Henry’s real-life daughter Jane Fonda playing the screen couple’s daughter. There was also a television adaptation of the play released in 2001, with another distinguished cast that included Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer as the leads.
Actor Henry Fonda had already started his Hollywood career when along came WWII. Fonda enlisted in the Navy, and served for three years on the destroyer USS Satterlee. Then he served as a Lieutenant Junior Grade in Air Combat Intelligence in the Pacific, earning the Bronze Star.
Jane Fonda is the daughter of Henry Fonda, sister of Peter Fonda, and aunt of Bridget Fonda, making the Fondas quite the acting family. Jane Fonda had many memorable screen performances, but is equally memorable for her anti-war activism. Most famously she was outspoken against the Vietnam War, going so far as to visit North Vietnam during the height of the conflict in 1972, posing for photographs and making radio broadcasts denouncing American leaders as “war criminals”. For her stance, Fonda earned the nickname “Hanoi Jane”.
40. Walrus feature : TUSK
Walruses are large marine mammals, with very prominent tusks, that are found in and around the northern hemisphere’s Arctic Ocean.
43. Gymnast Comaneci : NADIA
Nadia Comaneci won three golds in the 1976 Summer Olympics and was the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of a ten in the gymnastics competition. Comaneci published a book called “Letters to a Young Gymnast” in 2003, and now lives in the United States.
45. Live __: Taco Bell slogan : MAS
Taco Bell was founded by a former US Marine, 25-year-old Glen Bell. His first restaurant was Bell’s Drive-In, located in Southern California. After opening that first establishment, Bell bought up some more restaurants including four named El Taco. He sold off the El Taco restaurants but used the name in part when he opened his first Taco Bell in 1962. Bell sold then sold franchises, with the 100th Taco Bell opening in 1967. The ex-Marine sold off the whole chain to PepsiCo in 1978, and I am guessing he made a pretty penny. Taco Bell has been using the “Live Más” slogan since 2012, with “más” being the Spanish word for “more”.
50. Anatomical sculpture subjects : TORSOS
“Torso” (plural “torsi”) is an Italian word meaning the “trunk of a statue”, and is a term that we imported into English.
63. Swedish furniture giant : IKEA
The IKEA furniture stores use the colors blue and yellow for brand recognition. Blue and yellow are the national colors of Sweden, where IKEA was founded and is headquartered.
64. Scrabble square : TILE
The game of Scrabble has been produced in many international versions, and each of these editions has its own tile distribution to suit the local language. For example, in English we have two tiles worth ten points: one “Q” and one “Z”. If you play the game in French then there are five tiles worth ten points: one “K”, one “W”, one “X”, one “Y” and one “Z”.
66. Where Anna danced with the king : SIAM
“Anna and the King of Siam” is a semi-biographical novel written by Margaret Landon and first published in 1944. The book tells the largely true story of Anna Leonowens who spent five years in Siam teaching English to the children and wives of King Mongkut. The novel was adapted as a 1946 movie of the same name starring Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison. Then followed a 1951 stage musical titled “The King and I”. The musical was written as a vehicle for Gertrude Lawrence, who played Anna. Rex Harrison was asked to play the King, but he turned it down and Yul Brynner was cast instead. A movie version of the stage musical was released in 1956, famously starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr.
1. Nilla product : WAFER
As one might expect, “Nilla” is a shortened form of “vanilla”. However, you won’t find any vanilla in Nilla brand cookies or wafers. They have always been flavored with vanillin, which is synthetic vanilla. Is nothing sacred …?
2. Novelist Zola : EMILE
The most famous work of French writer Émile Zola is his 1898 open letter “J’Accuse!” written to then French president Félix Faure. The letter was published on the front page of a leading Paris newspaper, and accused the government of anti-Semitism in its handling of the trial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus. Dreyfus was a Jewish military officer in the French army, falsely accused and convicted of spying for Germany. Even after the error was discovered, the government refused to back down and let Dreyfus rot away on Devil’s Island rather than admit to the mistake. It wasn’t until 1906, 12 years after the wrongful conviction, that Dreyfus was freed and reinstated, largely due to the advocacy of Emile Zola.
3. What fillets lack : BONES
A fillet is a boneless cut of meat or fish. The term comes from the Old French “filet” meaning “small thread, filament”. Apparently we applied the term to food as the piece of fish or meat was tied up with string after it was boned.
4. All-out attacks : SIEGES
Our word “siege” comes from a 13th century word for a “seat”. The military usage derives from the concept of a besieging force “sitting down” outside a fortress until it falls.
5. Northern Cal. airport : SFO
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) serves as the main base of operations for Virgin America (recently sold to Alaska Airlines), and is also the maintenance hub for United Airlines.
6. Monastic hood : COWL
A cowl is a long garment with a hood that is primarily worn by monks in the the Christian tradition .
7. Quattro automaker : AUDI
Audi introduced the Quattro model in 1980. It was the first car to use Audi’s “quattro permanent” four-wheel drive system, hence the name “Quattro”.
8. Political alliance : BLOC
“Bloc” is the French word for “block”.
12. General __ chicken : TSO’S
General Tso’s chicken is an American creation, often found on the menu of a Chinese restaurant. The name General Tso may be a reference to General Zuo Zongtang of the Qing Dynasty, but there is no clear link.
17. High-end hotel chain : HYATT
The Hyatt hotel chain takes its name from the first hotel in the group, i.e. Hyatt House at Los Angeles International Airport that was purchased in 1957. Among other things, Hyatt is famous for designing the world’s first atrium hotel, the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta.
18. Bigfoot cousin : YETI
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.
26. Iraqi money : DINAR
The Dinar is the official currency in many countries, such as Iraq and Serbia. The Gold Dinar dates back to the early days of Islam, with the name deriving from the Roman currency called “denarius” meaning “ten times” (as it was originally a coin worth ten asses).
27. When tripled, “and so on” : YADDA
“The Yada Yada Yada” is actually the name of the 153rd episode of “Seinfeld”. Before “Seinfeld” made “yada yada yada” famous, we were more likely to hear the phrase “yadda yadda”, often used by comedian Lenny Bruce, for example.
29. Flat-topped elevation : MESA
“What’s the difference between a butte and a mesa?” Both are hills with flat tops, but a mesa has a top that is wider than it is tall. A butte is a much narrower formation, taller than it is wide.
30. Lodge fellows : ELKS
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) was founded in 1868, and is a social club that has about a million members today. It started out as a group of men getting together in a “club” in order to get around the legal opening hours of taverns in New York City. The club took on a new role as it started to look out for poor families of members who passed away. The club now accepts African Americans as members (since the seventies) and women (since the nineties), but atheists still aren’t welcome.
33. Emmy nominee Russell of “The Americans” : KERI
Actress Keri Russell got her big break on television when she was cast in the title role in the drama show “Felicity” that ran from 1998 from 2002. The lead character in the show is Felicity Porter, a young lady introduced to the audience with a head of long curly blonde hair. Famously, Russell cut her hair extremely short at the start of the second season, an action that was associated with a significant drop in the show’s viewership. Russell had to grow out her hair over the season. I haven’t seen “Felicity”, but I really do enjoy Russell playing one of the leads in the entertaining Cold War drama called “The Americans” that is aired by FX.
“The Americans” is a very engaging drama series set during the Cold War that features two KGB spies living as a married couple just outside Washington, D.C. The show was created by Joe Weisberg, who is a novelist and former CIA officer. The lead roles in “The Americans” are played by real-life couple Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys.
39. “__ Misbehavin'” : AIN’T
“Ain’t Misbehavin’” is a song written in 1929 by Fats Waller and Harry Brooks, with lyrics by Andy Razaf. Waller was the first to record the song, quickly followed by six other artists that same year. The song also provided the title for a successful stage musical that premiered in 1978.
44. Disco era term : A GOGO
Discotheques first appeared during WWII in Occupied France. American-style music (like jazz and jitterbug dances) was banned by the Nazis, so French natives met in underground clubs that they called discotheques where records were often played on just a single turntable. After the war, these clubs came out into the open. One famous Paris discotheque was called “Whiskey a Gogo”. In that Paris disco, non-stop music was played using two turntables next to a dance-floor, and this concept spread around the world.
48. List of mistakes : ERRATA
“Errata” is the past participle of the Latin word “errare” meaning “to err”. We use “errata” (singular “erratum”) to mean a list of errors that have been noted in some publication.
51. 2005 slasher film sequel : SAW II
The “Saw” franchise of movies is gruesome in the extreme. I’ve only seen a few minutes of “Saw” footage (accidentally). The storylines center on imprisoned victims who are faced with having to mutilate themselves in order to escape. Ugh …
53. Eyelid maladies : STYES
A stye is a bacterial infection of the sebaceous glands at the base of the eyelashes, and is also known as a hordeolum.
56. Orator’s platform : DAIS
Ultimately our word “dais”, meaning “raised platform for a speaker”, comes from the Latin “discus” meaning a “disk-shaped object”. I guess that the original daises had such a shape.
57. Polynesian carving : TIKI
A tiki is a large carving of wood or stone resembling a human form that is found in Polynesian cultures. The carvings often mark out boundaries surrounding sites that are sacred to the locals.
58. Most eligible for service : 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).
61. Pinup’s leg : GAM
The American slang term “gams” is used for a woman’s legs. The term goes back to the 18th-century “gamb” meaning the leg of an animal on a coat of arms.