Edited by: Rich Norris
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Today’s FOUR themed answers each start with a type of ALARM:
- 60A. Hot chili designation, and a literal description of the starts of 17-, 25-, 35- and 51-Across : FOUR ALARM
- 17A. Unwise act that could be dangerous : FALSE MOVE (giving “false alarm”)
- 25A. Time-out for a cigarette : SMOKE BREAK (giving “smoke alarm”)
- 35A. Dashboard music provider : CAR STEREO (giving “car alarm”)
- 51A. Pre-talkies movie : SILENT FILM (giving “silent alarm”)
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
1. “Death of a Salesman” salesman Willy : LOMAN
“Death of a Salesman” is a famous play by Arthur Miller, first produced in 1949. “Death of a Salesman” won a Pulitzer and several Tony Awards over the years. The “salesman” in the play is the famous character Willy Loman. The play originally opened up on Broadway and ran for 724 performances. The lead role was played by the veteran actor Lee J. Cobb.
6. Abysmal grades : EFS
That would be the letter F (ef).
9. “__ Cross”: 1949 Lancaster movie : CRISS
“Criss Cross” is a 1949 black-and-white film noir that is based on a 1934 novel (titled “Criss-Cross”) by Don Tracy. The movie’s cast is headed by Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo. “Criss Cross” was remade in 1995 as “The Underneath”.
19. Video game pioneer : ATARI
At one point, the electronics and video game manufacturer Atari was the fastest growing company in US history. However, Atari never really recovered from the video game industry crash of 1983.
21. Vicinity : AREA
A vicinity is an area surrounding a place. The term “vicinity” ultimately comes from the Latin “vicus” meaning “group of houses, village”.
22. Type of cleansing acid : BORIC
Boric acid is a weak acid that usually comes as a white powder for domestic use. The powder can be dissolved in water and used as an antiseptic.
23. Actress Skye : IONE
Ione Skye is an American actress born in Hertfordshire in England. She is best known for portraying the character Diane Court in the 1989 high school romance movie “Say Anything …”, starring opposite John Cusack. Skye is the daughter of the Scottish folk singer Donovan.
29. Courage and fortitude : METTLE
“Mettle” is such a lovely word. It means “courage, fortitude, spirit”. “Mettle” is simply a variant spelling of the word “metal”.
31. Swoosh company : NIKE
I remember seeing a lady named Carolyn Davidson on the television show “I’ve Got a Secret”. Davidson created the Nike “swoosh” back in 1971 when she was a design student at Portland State. She did it as freelance work for Blue Ribbon Sports, a local company introducing a new line of athletic footwear. The “swoosh” is taken from the wing of the Greek goddess of victory, Nike. Years later, BRS changed its name to Nike, so I suppose the company should be grateful to Carolyn for both the great design, and a great company name.
34. Cold War state: Abbr. : SSR
Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR)
The term “Cold War” was coined by the novelist George Orwell in a 1945 essay about the atomic bomb. Orwell described a world under threat of nuclear war as having a “peace that is no peace”, in a permanent state of “cold war”. The specific use of “cold war” to describe the tension between the Eastern bloc and the Western allies is attributed to a 1947 speech by Bernard Baruch, adviser to Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
35. Dashboard music provider : CAR STEREO (giving “car alarm”)
Back in the 1800s, “dashboard” was the name given to a board placed at the front of a carriage to stop mud from “dashing” against the passengers in the carriage, mud that was kicked up by the hoofs of the horses. Quite interesting …
39. Oral health org. : ADA
The American Dental Association (ADA) is the largest and oldest national dental association in the world. Today the ADA is based in Chicago, but the association was founded in Niagara Falls, New York in 1859. The ADA started out as a group of 26 dentists, and it now has more than 152,000 members.
43. Real doozies : LULUS
We call a remarkable thing or a person a “lulu”. The term is used in honor of Lulu Hurst, the Georgia Wonder, who was a stage magician active in the 1880s.
A “doozy” is something extraordinary or bizarre. The word’s exact origins aren’t clear, but it might be a derivative of the name Eleanora Duse, an Italian actress popular early in the 20th century. Some say that the term comes from the Duesenberg brand of automobile, which was indeed referred to as a “duesy”. However, the use of “doozy” in print occurs before the Duesenberg hit the market.
56. Illegal lending tactic : USURY
“Usury” was originally the name given to the practice of lending money at interest, but the term now refers to lending at excessive rates of interest.
57. Wrath, in a hymn : IRAE
“Dies Irae” is Latin for “Day of Wrath”. It is the name of a famous melody in Gregorian Chant, one that is often used as part of the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass.
60. Hot chili designation, and a literal description of the starts of 17-, 25-, 35- and 51-Across : FOUR ALARM
The full name of the dish that is often called simply “chili” is “chili con carne”, Spanish for “peppers with meat”. The dish was created by immigrants from the Spanish Canary Islands in the city of San Antonio, Texas (a city which the islanders founded). The San Antonio Chili Stand was a popular attraction at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and that stand introduced the dish to the rest of America and to the world.
63. “The Accidental Tourist” actress Davis : GEENA
As well as being a successful Hollywood actress, Geena Davis is an accomplished archer and came close to qualifying for the US archery team for the 2000 Summer Olympics. Davis is also a member of American Mensa. She is quite the lady …
“The Accidental Tourist” is a 1985 novel by Anne Tyler. The book was famously adapted into a 1988 movie starring William Hurt, Kathleen Turner and Geena Davis (who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance).
64. Z, alphabet-wise : END
The letter named “zed” has been around since about 1400, and derives from the Greek letter zeta. The spelling and pronunciation of “zee”, used in America today, first popped up in the 1670s.
67. Part of GPS: Abbr. : SYS
Global positioning system (GPS)
1. Southpaws : LEFTIES
A southpaw is a left-handed person. The term arose as baseball slang in the mid-1880s to describe a left-handed pitcher. Back then, baseball diamonds were often laid out with home plate to the west. So, a pitcher’s left hand would be on his “south” side as he faced the batter.
2. Winning at craps, say : ON A ROLL
If one considers earlier versions of craps, then the game has been around for a very long time and probably dates back to the Crusades. It may have been derived from an old English game called “hazard” also played with two dice, which was mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” from the 1300s. The American version of the game came here courtesy of the French and first set root in New Orleans where it was given the name “crapaud”, a French word meaning “toad”.
3. First lady after Michelle : MELANIA
When President Donald Trump took office, his wife Melania Trump was the first naturalized US citizen to become First Lady of the US. President Trump’s wife was born Melanija Knavs in the city of Novo Mesto in Slovenia, which was then part of former Yugoslavia. But, Melania Trump isn’t the first First Lady born overseas. That honor goes to London-born Louisa Adams, the wife of President John Adams.
Michelle Obama née Robinson grew up on the South Side of Chicago and is sister to Craig Robinson, former coach of men’s basketball at Oregon State University. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Michelle Robinson worked as an associate at the Chicago office of the Sidley Austin law firm. Barack Obama joined the firm as a summer associate and Michelle Robinson was assigned to mentor him, and as they say, one thing led to another …
5. PBS “Science Guy” Bill : NYE
That would be “Bill Nye the Science Guy”. Bill’s show ran on PBS for four years, from 1993-97.
7. “Hawaii __”: TV cop show : FIVE-O
The cop show “Hawaii Five-O” originally ran from 1968 until 1980, with Jack Lord and James MacArthur playing detectives Steve McGarrett and “Danno” Williams. The famous theme music was composed by Morton Stevens. The show was rebooted as “Hawaii Five-0”, premiering in 2010, with Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan playing Steve McGarrett and “Danno” Williams. Notice the important difference in the titles of the two versions of the show: the former using a capital letter O, and the latter the numeral zero.
9. Buster who played Flash Gordon : CRABBE
As an actor, Buster Crabbe was best known for playing Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Before taking up acting, Crabbe was a championship swimmer, the winner of the 1932 Olympic gold medal for the 400 meter freestyle.
“Flash Gordon” was originally a comic strip that was first published in 1934 and drawn by Alex Raymond. It was created to compete with the already successful strip titled “Buck Rogers”.
11. Turkish travel shelters : IMARETS
Imarets were inns or hostels used by pilgrims throughout the Ottoman Empire. The network of imarets was set up to provide food to anyone in need, so they also served as “soup kitchens”.
18. Sunday service : MASS
The principal act of worship in the Roman Catholic tradition is the Mass. The term “Mass” comes from the Late Latin word “missa” meaning “dismissal”. This word is used at the end of the Latin Mass in “Ite, missa est” which translates literally as “Go, it is the dismissal”.
26. 911 situation: Abbr. : EMER
The first use of an emergency phone number nationally was in the UK in 1937, where the number 999 was introduced to call emergency services. If you need emergency services in the UK or Ireland to this day, you have to dial 999. It’s not really clear why 911 became the emergency number in the US. The most credible suggestion (to me) is that when it was introduced by the FCC in 1967, it was a number that “fit” with the numbers already used by AT&T for free services (211-long distance; 411-information; 611-repair service).
28. Disney doe : ENA
Ena is Bambi’s aunt in the 1942 Disney film “Bambi”. The movie is based on the novel “Bambi, A Life in the Woods” written by Austrian author Felix Salten and first published in 1923. There is a documented phenomenon known as the Bambi Effect, whereby people become more interested in animal rights after having watched the scene where Bambi’s mother is shot by hunters.
37. Overhead trains : ELS
Elevated railroad (El)
40. Yellow-disked flowers : DAISIES
The flowers of the daisy plant close tightly at sunset and then open up again in the morning. It is this behavior that led to the name “daisy”, from the Old English for “day’s eye”. So, the daisy could be called a “well-rested” plant. And, someone who is well-rested attacks the day “fresh as a daisy”. Interesting, huh?
44. Spotted wildcat : LEOPARD
The four “big cats” are the tiger, lion, jaguar and leopard. The smallest of these is the leopard.
48. Williams of tennis : SERENA
Serena Williams is the younger of the two Williams sisters playing professional tennis. Serena has won more prize money in her career than any other female athlete.
52. Small winds paired with drums : FIFES
A fife is a small flute that is often used in military and marching bands. The name “fife” comes from the German “Pfeife” meaning “pipe”.
62. Golfer Trevino : LEE
Lee Trevino is an American golfer of Mexican descent, and so has the nicknames “The Merry Mex” and “Supermex”. He is well known for his great sense of humor and for playing pranks on the golf course. For many years, Trevino wore a Band-Aid on his arm while playing, covering the tattoo with the name of his ex-wife.