Edited by: Rich Norris
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Each of today’s themed answers ends with a brand of pen:
- 41A. Pseudonym … and what the end of each answer to a starred clue is : PEN NAME
- 20A. *Spider-Man’s alter ego : PETER PARKER (giving “Parker pen”)
- 58A. *Striped African equine : PLAINS ZEBRA (giving “Zebra pen”)
- 11D. *Midsize SUV : HONDA PILOT (giving “Pilot pen”)
- 29D. *Hellenic religious symbol : GREEK CROSS (giving “Cross pen”)
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
1. Blue gem, briefly : LAPIS
Lapis lazuli is a blue, semi-precious stone mined mainly in Afghanistan. “Lapis Lazuli” is Latin for “stone of Lazhward”, referring to the Persian name for the location where the stone was mined. Our word “azure”, a shade of blue, has the same root.
10. Units of electrical resistance : OHMS
The unit of electrical resistance is the ohm (with the symbol omega) named after German physicist Georg Simon Ohm. Ohm was the guy who established experimentally that the amount of current flowing through a circuit is directly proportional to the voltage applied, (V=IR) a relationship that every schoolkid knows as Ohm’s Law.
16. Actress Cusack : JOAN
Joan Cusack is a wonderful actress, I think, although she always seems to be cast in supporting roles. She is the sister of actor John Cusack, and has appeared with him in many films including “Sixteen Candles” and my personal favorite, “Grosse Pointe Blank”.
19. Number after dix : ONZE
In French, “dix et un” (ten and one) come to “onze” (eleven).
20. *Spider-Man’s alter ego : PETER PARKER (giving “Parker pen”)
Spider-Man was a creation of Stan Lee, along with Steve Ditko, and first appeared in comics in 1962. Spider-Man was a somewhat groundbreaking character in that his alter ego was a teenage high school student (named Peter Parker), marking the first time that a young person featured front and center as the superhero.
The Parker Pen Company was founded in 1888 in Janesville, Wisconsin by George Safford Parker. Parker had repaired and sold fountain pens as a sideline for many years. With this experience, he created pens that were less likely to leak ink and founded his company based on these patented designs.
23. DOJ anti-narcotics arm : DEA
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was set up in 1973 while President Nixon was in office.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) was created in 1870 by the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant, although the office of the Attorney General had been operating since 1789. The DOJ Building in Washington, D.C. was completed in 1935, and was named the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building in 2001.
24. Gen-__: boomers’ kids : X-ERS
The term Generation X originated in the UK where it was the name of a book by Jane Deverson. Her book detailed the results of a study of British youths in 1964, contrasting their lifestyle to those of previous generations. It was Canadian author Douglas Coupland who was responsible for popularizing the term, with his more successful publication “Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture”. By the latest accepted definition, Gen-Xers were born between 1961 and 1981.
A baby boomer is someone who was born in the post-WWII baby boom. The rate of births had been falling fairly steadily in the US at least since 1900, but this trend was sharply reversed in 1946 after WWII. The higher birth rate continued until 1964, when it returned to pre-war levels. Since then the birth rate has continued to decline, although at a slower pace. The period between 1946 and 1964 is defined as the “baby boom”.
25. Lustrous patterned fabric : DAMASK
Damask was originally a weaving technique associated with the Byzantine and Islamic weaving centers of the Middle Ages. “Damask” comes from the name of Damascus which was a major trading city at that time.
30. SOS responder : USCG
The US Coast Guard (USCG) has the distinction of being the country’s oldest continuous seagoing service. The USCG was founded as the Revenue Cutter Service by Alexander Hamilton in 1790.
The combination of three dots – three dashes – three dots, is a Morse signal first introduced by the German government as a standard distress call in 1905. The sequence is remembered as the letters SOS (three dots – pause – three dashes – pause – three dots), although in the emergency signal there is no pause between the dots and dashes, so SOS is in effect only a mnemonic. Similarly, the phrases “Save Our Souls” and “Save Our Ship” are also mnemonics, introduced after the “SOS” signal was adopted.
43. Texter’s guffaw : LOL
Laugh out loud (“LOL” in text-speak)
44. Like shish kebab : SKEWERED
The term “kebab” (also “kabob”) covers a wide variety of meat dishes that originated in Persia. In the West, we usually use “kebab” when talking about shish kebab, which is meat (often lamb) served on a skewer. “Shish” comes from the Turkish word for “skewer”.
46. A __: based on deduction rather than experience : PRIORI
In the world of philosophy, one can have “a priori” knowledge or “a posteriori” knowledge. A priori (“from the earlier”) knowledge is independent of experience, it is just known or assumed. For example, one might say that “all boys are males” is a priori knowledge. A posteriori knowledge relies on experience or some empirical evidence. For example, one might say that “boys are more likely to diagnosed with ADD” is a posteriori knowledge.
52. Prickly plant : CACTUS
The cactus (plural “cacti”) is a member of a family plants that are particularly well-adapted to extremely dry environments. Almost all cacti are native to the Americas, although some succulent plants from the old world are similar in appearance and are often mislabeled as “cacti”.
57. “Ben-__” : HUR
The celebrated Charlton Heston movie “Ben-Hur” is a dramatization of a book published in 1880 by Lew Wallace titled “Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ”. The 1959 epic film won a record 11 Academy Awards, a feat that has been equaled since then but has never been beaten. The other winners of 11 Oscars are “Titanic” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the Rings”.
58. *Striped African equine : PLAINS ZEBRA (giving “Zebra pen”)
The name “zebra” comes from an old Portuguese word “zevra” meaning “wild ass”. Studies of zebra embryos show that zebras are basically black in color, with white stripes that develop with growth. Before this finding, it was believed they were white, with black stripes.
Zebra, the pen company, was founded in Japan in 1914.
66. BMW competitor : AUDI
The predecessor to today’s Audi company was called Auto Union. Auto Union was formed with the merger of four individual entities: Audi, Horch, DKW and Wanderer. The Audi logo comprises four intersecting rings, each representing one of the four companies that merged.
The abbreviation BMW stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke, which translates into Bavarian Motor Works. BMW was making aircraft engines during WWI, but had to cease that activity according to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The company then started making motorcycles, and moved into automobile production starting in 1928. BMW moved back into aircraft engine manufacturing during the build-up of the Luftwaffe prior to WWII.
68. Sushi bar soup : MISO
Miso is the name of the seasoning that makes the soup. Basic miso seasoning is made by fermenting rice, barley and soybeans with salt and a fungus to produce a paste. The paste can be added to stock to make miso soup, or perhaps to flavor tofu.
71. Cancún cash : PESO
The coin called a “peso” is used in many Spanish-speaking countries around the world. The coin originated in Spain where the word “peso” means “weight”. The original peso was what we know in English as a “piece of eight”, a silver coin of a specific weight that had a nominal value of eight “reales”.
Cancún is a city and island on the east coast of Mexico, on the other side of the Yucatan Channel from Cuba. The city is growing rapidly due to its booming tourist business. Cancún is the center of what’s often called “The Mexican Caribbean” or the “Mayan Riviera”.
73. Furry sci-fi creatures : EWOKS
The Ewoks are creatures who live on the moon of Endor, first appearing in “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi”. They’re the cute and cuddly little guys that look like teddy bears.
2. Soul singer India.__ : ARIE
India.Arie is an American soul and R&B singer who was born India Arie Simpson in Denver, Colorado.
6. Mercedes line of autos : E CLASS
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a range of executive-size cars. Originally, the “E” stood for “Einspritzmotor”, the German for “fuel injection engine”.
7. __-Pei: wrinkly dog : SHAR
The Shar-Pei breed of dog is that one with the wrinkly face and really dark tongue. The breed originated in China, with “Shar-Pei” being the British spelling of the Cantonese name.
9. Hitched together, as oxen : YOKED
A yoke is a wooden beam used between a pair of oxen so that they are forced to work together.
11. *Midsize SUV : HONDA PILOT (giving “Pilot pen”)
The Honda Pilot is mid-size crossover SUV that was introduced in 2002. The luxury version of the vehicle is sold as the Acura MDX.
Pilot is a Japanese pen company. It is the largest manufacturer of pens in Japan, and the third largest manufacturer in the US. The “Pilot” name was adopted in 1938, a change from the original Namiki Manufacturing Company.
22. Roof support : RAFTER
Rafters are the beams that slope from the ridge of a roof down to the tops of the supporting walls.
26. Witty remark : MOT
“Bon mot” translates from French as “good word”. We use “bon mot” (and sometimes just “mot”) to mean a quip, a witticism.
27. Long narrative poem : EPOS
“Epos” is the Greek word for a story or a poem. We have absorbed the term into English with the same meaning, and also as “epic”, describing a long narrative poetic work featuring heroic deeds and ventures.
28. Chocolate option : DARK
Chocolate is made from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree. The seeds are very bitter and the traditional drink made with the seed was called “xocolatl” by the Aztecs, meaning “bitter water”. That’s how our “chocolate” got its name.
29. *Hellenic religious symbol : GREEK CROSS (giving “Cross pen”)
Someone from Greece can be called a Hellene. “Ellas” is the Greek word for “Greece”, the name of the country. Greece is also known as the “Hellenic” Republic.
A. T. Cross is a company that claims to be the oldest manufacturer of fine pens. Cross was founded in 1846 in Providence, Rhode Island by one Richard Cross. Richard passed the company on to his son Alonzo T. Cross, who gave it the current name.
31. Apartment type : CONDO
The terms “condominium” and “apartment” tend to describe the same type of residential property, a private living space with facilities shared with others residing in the same building or complex. The difference is that a condominium is usually owned, and an apartment is rented. At least that’s how it is in the US. The word “condominium” comes from the Latin “com-” (together) and “dominum” (right of ownership).
32. Start-the-day ABC talk show, familiarly : GMA
“Good Morning America” (GMA) is ABC’s morning show, and has been since 1975. There was even a spinoff show called “Good Afternoon America”, although that only lasted for a few months in 2012.
38. “You’ve Got Mail” director Ephron : NORA
Nora Ephron had many talents, including writing film scripts and novels. Many of the movies that she wrote, she also directed. These would include some of my favorite movies of all time like “Sleepless in Seattle”, “You’ve Got Mail” and most recently, the wonderful “Julie & Julia”. And, did you know that Nora Ephron’s second marriage was to journalist Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame? She wrote an autobiographical novel based on her life with Bernstein, dealing in particular with Bernstein’s affair with the daughter of British Prime Minister James Callaghan.
“You’ve Got Mail” is a 1998 romantic comedy film starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, directed by Nora Ephron. The film is an adaptation of the Miklos Laszlo play “Parfumerie”. The storyline of “Parfumerie” was also used for the movies “The Shop Around the Corner” (from 1940 starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan) and “In the Good Old Summertime” (from 1949 starring Van Johnson and Judy Garland).
The iconic phrase “You’ve got mail” was first used by AOL in 1989. The greeting was recorded by voice actor Elwood Edwards. Edwards has parlayed his gig with AOL into some other work. He appears in an episode of “The Simpsons” as a doctor who says the line “You’ve got leprosy”. Edwards also worked as a weatherman for a while and got to use the line “You’ve got hail” …
42. Platte River st. : NEB
The Platte River used to be called the Nebrakier, which is an Oto word meaning “flat river”. Indeed, the state of Nebraska takes its name from “Nebrakier”. For a while it was also called the River Plate as “plate” is the French word “flat”. Later this became “Platte”, the phonetic spelling of the French “plate”.
50. From Copenhagen, e.g. : DANISH
Copenhagen is the largest city and the capital of Denmark. I haven’t had the privilege of visiting Copenhagen, but I hear it is a wonderful metropolis with a marvelous quality of life. The city is also very environmentally friendly, with over a third of its population commuting to work by bicycle.
52. Zoo primate : CHIMP
The Common Chimpanzee is a species of ape, a member of the Hominidae family (along with gorillas, humans and orangutans). The human and chimpanzee branches of the Hominidae family tree diverged 4-6 million years ago, making the chimp our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom.
Primates are mammals, many of whom are omnivorous and make good use of their hands. They also have larger brains relative to their body size, compared to other animals. The order Primates includes apes, lemurs, baboons and humans.
53. WWII hero Murphy : AUDIE
Audie Murphy was a highly-decorated combat veteran from WWII before he launched a successful career as a Hollywood actor. One of his most famous films is 1955’s “To Hell and Back” that is based on Murphy’s own memoirs published in 1949. Sadly, he was killed in a private plane crash in 1971.
56. Depleted atmospheric layer : OZONE
Ozone gets its name from the Greek word ozein, meaning “to smell”. It was given this name as ozone’s formation during lightning storms was detected by the gas’s distinctive smell. Famously, there is a relatively high concentration of the gas in the “ozone layer” in the Earth’s stratosphere. This ozone layer provides a vital function for animal life on the planet as it absorbs most of the sun’s UV radiation. A molecule of ozone is made up of three oxygen atoms, whereas a “normal” oxygen has just two atoms.
60. Mid-month date : IDES
There were three important days in each month of the old Roman calendar. These days originally depended on the cycles of the moon but were eventually “fixed” by law. “Kalendae” were the first days of each month, originally the days of the new moon. “Nonae” were originally the days of the half moon. And “idus” (the ides) was originally the day of the full moon, eventually fixed at the 15th day of a month. Well, actually the ides were the 15th day of March, May, July and October. For all other months, the ides fell on the 13th. Go figure …
61. “Charles in Charge” actor Scott : BAIO
Scott Baio is the actor who played Chachi Arcola in the great sitcom “Happy Days” and in the not-so-great spinoff “Joanie Loves Chachi”. Baio also played the title role in a later sitcom called “Charles in Charge”. Earlier in his career, he played another title role, in the 1976 movie “Bugsy Malone”, appearing opposite a young Jodie Foster.
“Charles in Charge” is a sitcom starring Scott Baio as a college student living with a family and caretaking the younger children. The show initially ran for only the 1984-85 season, but was then rebooted in syndication starting in 1987, resulting in four more seasons.
63. Warring son of Zeus and Hera : 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.
65. Lav, in Leeds : LOO
It has been suggested that the British term “loo” comes from Waterloo (water-closet … water-loo), but no one seems to know for sure. Another suggestion is that the term comes from the card game of “lanterloo”, in which the pot was called the loo!
Our word “lavatory” (sometimes “lav”) originally referred to a washbasin, and comes from the Latin “lavatorium”, a place for washing. In the 1600s, “lavatory” came to mean a washroom, and in the 1920s a toilet.