Edited by: Rich Norris
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Each of today’s themed answers ends with a synonym of “rubbish”, something that Oscar the Grouch might like for his trash can home:
- 40A. Muppet who loves this puzzle’s four longest answers? : OSCAR
- 18A. “Too bad we have to throw out this uneaten food” : WHAT A WASTE
- 60A. Hurls competitive insults : TALKS TRASH
- 4D. Pet product also used for tire traction : KITTY LITTER
- 27D. Taiwan Strait vessel : CHINESE JUNK
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
1. Understand, in slang : GROK
“To grok” is to understand, and is a slang word that’s really only used in “techie” circles. “Grok” is the creation of science fiction author Robert Heinlein, who coined the term in his 1961 novel “Stranger in a Strange Land”.
5. Greek liqueur : OUZO
Ouzo is an aperitif from Greece that is colorless and flavored with anise. Ouzo is similar to pastis from France and also has a flavor like sambuca from Italy.
9. Time-traveling TV character : DR WHO
“Dr Who” is an iconic sci-fi television series that is made in the UK by the BBC. First broadcast in 1963, the show is still running today, making it the longest running sci-fi television show in the world. Dr. Who is a time traveler,from the planet Gallifrey, who “regenerates” from time to time (pun!) so that a new actor fits seamlessly into the storyline. He travels in his famous TARDIS spacecraft. Outwardly, the TARDIS looks like a police call box from the 1950s, but inside it is an enormous, multi-roomed time machine. TARDIS is an acronym standing for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space.
14. Strauss of denim : LEVI
Levi Strauss was the founder of the first company in the world to manufacture blue jeans. Levi Strauss & Co. opened in 1853 in San Francisco. Strauss and his business partner were awarded a patent in 1873 for the use of copper rivets to strengthen points of strain on working pants.
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”.
16. Setting for much of “Moana” : OCEAN
“Moana” is a 2016 animated feature film, the 56th animated Disney movie. The title character is the daughter of a Polynesian chief who heads off in search of the demigod Maui, hoping that he can save her people.
17. Final bio : OBIT
“Obituary” comes from the Latin “obituaris”, originally the record of the death of a person, although the literal meaning is “pertaining to death”.
20. Asian noodle dish : PAD THAI
The delicious dish called Pad Thai is a meld of stir-fried rice noodles with tamarind juice, red chili pepper plus a mix of vegetables and possibly tofu, meat or fish. It is usually topped with crushed peanuts, coriander and lime. The name “Pad Thai” translates as “fried Thai-style”.
23. Earl Grey, e.g. : TEA
The Earl Grey blend of tea is supposedly named after Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey who was Prime Minister of the UK from 1830 to 1834. Earl Grey tea has a distinctive flavor that is largely due to the addition of oil from the rind of the bergamot orange.
37. Sioux City state : IOWA
Sioux City, Iowa has a history that is inextricably linked with the Missouri River. The city grew from a camp established by the Lewis and Clark expedition that traveled up the river in 1804. Today, Sioux City is the navigational head of the Missouri, the furthest point upstream that is accessible by general cargo ships.
39. Small IOU : CHIT
A chit is a note or a short letter. The term tends to be used these days in the sense of an amount owed (as in a poker game). The word used to be “chitty”, which is now obsolete but was closer to the original Hindi term. I feel a tad obsolete myself because when we are at school we would be excused class if we had a “chitty”.
40. Muppet who loves this puzzle’s four longest answers? : OSCAR
Oscar the Grouch is the Muppet that lives in a garbage can. Oscar’s persona comes from various sources. He is named after Oscar Brand who was one of the board members of the Children’s Television Workshop, the backers for “Sesame Street” as the Muppets were being developed in the sixties. Oscar’s personality was inspired by an angry waiter that once served Jim Henson (father of the Muppets). The voice was modeled on a grumpy New York cab driver encountered one day by Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who brings Oscar to life.
41. Astronaut Armstrong : NEIL
Neil Armstrong was the most private of individuals. You didn’t often see him giving interviews, unlike so many of the more approachable astronauts of the Apollo space program. His famous, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind” statement; that was something that he came up with himself while Apollo 11 was making its way to the moon.
42. With perfection : TO A T
The expression “to a T” can also be written as “to a tee”, and has been around at least since 1693.
43. Blueprint : PLAN
Blueprints are reproductions of technical or architectural drawings that are contact prints made on light-sensitive sheets. Blueprints were introduced in the 1800s and the technology available dictated that the drawings were reproduced with white lines on a blue background, hence the name “blue-print”.
44. Chevy muscle car : VETTE
The Chevrolet Corvette was introduced to the world in 1953, and was named after the small maneuverable warship called a corvette. The “vette” has legs. It is the only American sports car that has been around for over 50 years.
48. Darling of baseball : RON
Ron Darling is former Major league Baseball pitcher. Darling now works as a color commentator for TBS.
51. Rooter for the Bulldogs : ELI
The Yale Bulldogs are the athletic teams of Yale University. The Yale school mascot is “Handsome Dan”, the Yale bulldog. The Bulldogs’ logo features a bulldog in front of a letter Y.
56. Bennie’s band, in an Elton John hit : THE JETS
“Bennie and the Jets” was a big hit for Elton John in 1974 and was first released the year before on his famous “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album. “Benny” or “Bennie”, that is the question! The spelling “Bennie” was was used on the label of the 1973 album’s vinyl disk, but “Benny” was used on the album’s track listing and on the sleeve of the single released the following year.
63. D-Day beach : UTAH
The Normandy landings on D-Day in 1944 took place along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. The worst fighting by far took place on Omaha Beach, a sector assigned to the US Army that was transported by elements of the US Navy and the Royal Navy.
66. One of Emeril’s New Orleans eateries : NOLA
Emeril Lagasse is an American chef, born in Massachusetts. Lagasse first achieved notoriety as executive chef in Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. Now famous for his television shows, his cuisine still showcases New Orleans ingredients and influences. Lagasse started using his famous “Bam!” catchphrase in order to keep his crew awake during repeated tapings of his show.
68. Many a Punjabi : SIKH
Sikhism is a religion that was founded in the Punjab region, which straddles the India-Pakistan border. Even though Sikhism was established relatively recently, it is now the fifth-largest organized religion in the world. Sikhism was founded in the 15th century by Guru Nanak.
Punjab is the most populous province in Pakistan and is home to over half of the country’s citizens. “Punjab” (also “Panjab”) translates as “Five Waters”, a reference to five rivers that form tributaries to the Indus River: Chenab, Jhelum, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej.
2. First name in country music : REBA
Reba McEntire is a country music singer and television actress. McEntire starred in her own sitcom called “Reba” that aired on the WB and the CW cable channels from 2001 to 2007.
3. Roman poet exiled by Augustus : OVID
The Roman poet Publius Ovidius Naso is today known simply as Ovid. Ovid is usually listed alongside the two other great Roman poets: Horace and Virgil. Although he was immensely popular during his own lifetime, he spent the last ten years of his life in exile. He fell foul of Emperor Augustus, although what led to this disfavor isn’t truly understood.
5. Disney’s Lucky Rabbit : OSWALD
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is a character created by Walt Disney in the 1920s, and the first animated character to appear in their own series. Oswald made his first appearance in 1927, whereas Mickey Mouse first hit screens a year later. Oswald is now back in the limelight after showing up as a major character in a 2010 Disney video game called “Epic Mickey”.
7. New Mexico tribe with a Sun symbol : ZIA
The Zia are a Native American people in New Mexico, a branch of the Pueblo community. Historically, the Zia are home-dwellers and became expert at farming in a very arid environment. The most important crops were the so called three sisters: corn, bean and squash.
9. Searches for water : DOWSES
Dowsing is the practice of divining for not just water, but also buried metals and gemstones. Often a dowser will use a Y-shaped or L-shaped rod as a tool, which can also be called a dowser. Here in the US, the tool used might be referred to as a “witching rod”, as it is usually made from witch-hazel.
11. Way to go, per Horace Greeley : WEST
Horace Greeley was a newspaper editor and politician. In the media industry, Greeley founded and edited the “New York Tribune”, which was a very influential paper in the 1800s. In an 1865 editorial he wrote the famous words “Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.” As a politician, Greeley ran for US President in the 1872 election. He lost that election to Ulysses S. Grant in a landslide. Greeley died not long after the votes were cast, making him the only presidential candidate to have died prior to the counting of electoral college votes.
13. Draft category : 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 (SSS). 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).
25. Ski resort vehicles : SNO-CATS
The brand name Sno-Cat is owned by the Tucker company. All “snowcats” are tracked vehicles built to work in snow, famously used in expeditions to the polar regions. The modern Sno-Cat from Tucker differs from its competitors in that it has four independently-mounted tracks.
27. Taiwan Strait vessel : CHINESE JUNK
A junk is a sailing boat often seen in Chinese waters today, and as far back as 200 BC. The English word “junk” is just a phonetic spelling of a Chinese word for “ship”, although it would more correctly be pronounced “joong”.
The Taiwan Strait is the body of water that separates Taiwan from mainland China. The strait is just over 100 miles wide, and there have been plans made to link the mainland city of Fuzhou with the city of Taipei in Taiwan. However, given the chilly political relationship between mainland China (the People’s Republic of China) and Taiwan (the Republic of China), it seems unlikely construction will start soon. If a tunnel was built, it would far exceed any man-made tunnel that exists in the world today.
28. Trivia quiz fodder : FACTS
Trivia are things of little consequence. “Trivia” is the plural of the Latin word “trivium” which means “a place where three roads meet”. Now that’s what I call a trivial fact …
30. Prickly shrub : BRIAR
“Briar” is a generic name for several plants that have thorns, including the rose. Famously, Br’er Rabbit lives in a briar patch.
32. McGregor of TV’s “Fargo” : EWAN
Ewan McGregor is a very talented Scottish actor, one who got his break in the 1996 film “Trainspotting”. McGregor’s first big Hollywood role was playing the young Obi-Wan-Kenobi in the “Star Wars” prequels. Less known is his televised marathon motorcycle journey from London to New York via central Europe, Ukraine, Siberia, Mongolia and Canada. The 2004 trip was shown as “Long Way Round” on TV. McGregor did a similar trip in 2007 called “Long Way Down”, which took him and the same travelling companion from the north of Scotland to Cape Town in South Africa.
“Fargo” is a TV series inspired by the 1996 film of the same name by the Coen brothers. The small-screen version first aired in 2014, with the credits including Joel and Ethan Coen as executive producers. Each season of the show features a new cast. The 2014 cast is led by Billy Bob Thornton, 2015 cast by Kirstin Dunst, and the 2017 cast by Ewan McGregor. Each episode, and indeed the original film, includes the on-screen claim that “This is a true story”. However, the claim of truth is in fact false.
33. “Golden Boy” playwright : ODETS
Clifford Odets was a playwright, screenwriter and director from Philadelphia. “Waiting for Lefty” was the first play by Clifford Odets that made it to stage, in 1935. The storyline deals with cab drivers who are planning a strike. Famously, the play breaks through the “fourth wall” by placing actors within the audience who react to the action taking place on the stage.
“Golden Boy” was a play written by Clifford Odets that was first performed in 1937 on Broadway. There was a film adaptation released in 1939 that starred a young William Holden. “Golden Boy” was the film that launched Holden’s career.
35. Tennis great Monica : SELES
Monica Seles has a Hungarian name as she was born to Hungarian parents, in former Yugoslavia. Seles was the World No. 1 professional tennis player in 1991 and 1992 before being forced from the sport when she was stabbed by a spectator at a match in 1993. She did return to the game two years later, but never achieved the same level of success.
37. Iona, for one : ISLE
Although the small island of Iona lies just off the west coast of Scotland, it was the site of a monastery built in the Middle Ages by a monk from Ireland names Colm Cille (also known as Columba). Colm Cille and his followers were sent into exile from the Irish mainland and settled in Iona, as at that time the island was part of an Irish kingdom. This monastery in Iona expanded its influence over the decades and founded other institutions all over Ireland and Great Britain. It is believed that the famous Book of Kells may have been written, or at least started, at the monastery on Iona. Iona is also the burial site for Macbeth, King of Scotland who was immortalized in Shakespeare’s fictional account of the king’s life.
44. “__ la France!” : VIVE
“Vive la France” is usually translated from French for “Long live France” or “Hurrah for France”.
46. “Woman in the Mists” subject Dian : FOSSEY
Dian Fossey carried out her famous study of gorilla populations in the mountain forests of Rwanda (NB: it was Jane Goodall that worked with chimpanzees). Sadly, Fossey was found dead in her cabin in Rwanda in 1986, murdered in her bedroom, her skull split open by a machete. The crime was never solved.
“Woman in the Mists” is a 1987 biography of Dian Fossey, the celebrated zoologist who lived with and studied mountain gorillas over a period of 18 years.
51. Sicilian World Heritage Site : ETNA
Mount Etna is the largest of three active volcanoes in Italy. Etna is about 2 1/2 times the height of its equally famous sister, Mt. Vesuvius. Mt. Etna is home to a 110-km long narrow-gauge railway, and two ski resorts.
52. Mekong River land : LAOS
The official name for the country of Laos is the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. In the Lao language, the country’s name is “Meuang Lao”. The French ruled Laos as part of French Indochina, having united three separate Lao kingdoms. As there was a plural of “Lao” entities united into one, the French added the “S” and so today we tend to use “Laos” instead of “Lao”.
The Mekong is the twelfth longest river in the world, at over 2,700 miles in length. It rises in the Tibetan Plateau and empties into the South China Sea at the famed Mekong delta system in Vietnam.
55. Bikini tops : BRAS
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!
57. Kind of collar or jacket : ETON
An Eton collar is a wide, stiff, buttoned collar that is still part of the formal school uniform at Eton College near Windsor in England.
An Eton jacket is usually black in color, cut square at the hips and has wide lapels. It is named for the design of jacket that is worn by the younger students at Eton College just outside London.
59. “Pygmalion” playwright : SHAW
George Bernard Shaw was a very successful Irish playwright. Shaw is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature, and an Oscar. He won his Oscar for adapting his own play “Pygmalion” for the 1938 film of the same name starring Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller. Most people are more likely to have seen the musical adaptation of “Pygmalion” that goes by the title “My Fair Lady”.
61. Bicycle maker turned automotive giant : KIA
Kia Motors is the second largest manufacturer of cars in South Korea, behind Hyundai (and Hyundai is a part owner in Kia now). Kia was founded in 1944 as a manufacturer of bicycle parts, and did indeed produce Korea’s first domestic bicycle. The company’s original name was Kyungsung Precision Industry, with the Kia name introduced in 1952.
62. __ Baba : ALI
In the folk tale “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”, the title character is a poor woodcutter who discovers the magic words “open sesame”, which open the thieves’ den.