Edited by: Rich Norris
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Today’s themed answers as shown in the grid are well-known words or phrases, but aren’t the answers to the clues. We have to TURN the words in the PHRASES to come up with the real answers:
- 51A. “Nice” expression … and a hint to the answers to starred clues : TURN OF PHRASE
- 19A. *Idle : NOTHING DOING (turns into “doing nothing”)
- 27A. *Athlete’s time-out on a hot day : BREAKWATER (turns into “water break”)
- 34A. *Maestro’s signals : BEATS DOWN (turns into “downbeats”)
- 44A. *Returned : BACKHANDED (turns into “handed back”)
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
1. Prickly case : BUR
“Bur” is a variant spelling of the word “burr”. Both terms apply to a seed vessel that has hooks or prickles on the outside.
4. Retired flier : SST
The most famous Supersonic Transport (SST) was the Concorde, a plane that’s no longer flying. Concorde had that famous “droop nose”. The nose was moved to the horizontal position during flight to create the optimum aerodynamic shape thereby reducing drag. It was lowered during taxi, takeoff and landing, so that the pilot had better visibility. The need for the droop nose was driven largely by the delta-shaped wings. The delta wing necessitates a higher angle of attack at takeoff and landing than conventional wing designs, so the pilot needed the nose lowered so that he or she could see the ground.
7. Wombat relatives : KOALAS
The koala bear really does look like a little bear, but it’s not even closely related. The koala is an arboreal marsupial and a herbivore, native to the east and south coasts of Australia. Koalas aren’t primates, and are one of the few mammals other than primates who have fingerprints. In fact, it can be very difficult to tell human fingerprints from koala fingerprints, even under an electron microscope. Male koalas are called “bucks”, females are “does”, and young koalas are “joeys”. I’m a little jealous of the koala, as it sleeps up to 20 hours a day …
Wombats are marsupials that are native to Australia. Apparently, wombats are often mocked in their native land, as they are viewed as fat, slow, lazy animals. The “unofficial” mascot of the 2000 Sydney Olympics was “Fatso the Fat-A***ed Wombat”.
14. School gp. : PTA
Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)
15. “Hannity” airer : FOX NEWS
Sean Hannity is a conservative political commentator who is perhaps best known from his syndicated radio broadcast called “The Sean Hannity Show”. Hannity also host the news show called “Hannity” on the Fox News Channel. Hannity has written a few bestselling books, including “Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalism”.
22. Protein producer : 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.
23. “Eldorado” rockers : ELO
“Eldorado” is a 1974 song recorded by the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). “Eldorado” is one of those songs that some claim has a hidden message when played backwards. In this case, some Christian Fundamentalists claimed that the message was satanic in nature. Dearie me …
26. Communiqué segue : AS TO
A “segue” is a transition from one topic to the next. “Segue” is an Italian word that literally means “now follows”. It was first used in musical scores directing the performer to play into the next movement without a break.
32. Extinct New Zealanders : MOAS
Moas were flightless birds native to New Zealand that are now extinct. The fate of the Moa is a great example of the detrimental effect that humans can have on animal populations. The Maoris arrived in New Zealand about 1300 AD, upsetting the balance of the ecosystem. The Moa were hunted to extinction within 200 years, which had the knock-on effect of killing off the Haast’s Eagle, the Moa’s only predator prior to the arrival of man. Moas were huge creatures, measuring up to 12 feet tall with their necks stretched upwards.
34. *Maestro’s signals : BEATS DOWN (turns into “downbeats”)
“Maestro” is often used to address a musical conductor. “Maestro” (plural “maestri”) is the Italian word for “master, teacher”. The plural in English is usually “maestros”.
37. “Amadeus” director Forman : MILOS
Miloš Forman is a film director from former Czechoslovakia, where he learned his craft. Since starting to work in Hollywood in 1968, Forman has been at the helm of some memorable films including: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, “Amadeus” and “The People vs. Larry Flynt”.
The magnificent 1984 film “Amadeus” is an adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s 1979 stage play of the same name. Tom Hulce played Mozart, and F. Murray Abraham played Mozart’s rival, Antonio Salieri. Both Hulce and Abraham were nominated for that season’s Best Actor Oscar, with the award going to the latter. There hasn’t been a movie since “Amadeus” that garnered two Best Actor nominations.
41. Albanian coin : LEK
The official currency of Albania is called the lek. The first lek was introduced in 1926, and was apparently named after Alexander the Great.
50. Lively French dance : GIGUE
A gigue is a dance from the baroque era. Popular in France, the dance was derived from the British jig.
55. Group that’s mostly secretaries : CABINET
In the Westminster system, the Cabinet is a group of sitting politicians chosen by the Prime Minister to head up government departments and also to participate collectively in major governmental decisions in all areas. In the US system, the Cabinet is made up not of sitting politicians, but rather of non-legislative individuals who are considered to have expertise in a particular area. The Cabinet members in the US system tend to have more of an advisory role outside of their own departments.
58. Protein that allows skin to stretch or contract : ELASTIN
Elastin is a very pliable protein found in the body’s connective tissue. It is the elasticity of elastin that helps skin to return to its original position when it is pressed or pulled at.
63. Marienbad, for one : SPA
Mariánské Lázně is a relatively young spa town in the west of the Czech Republic, located close to the border with Germany. Known in German as “Marienbad”, the town was a very popular getaway for the European elite and was visited by the likes of Frédéric Chopin, Thomas Edison, and Richard Wagner, as well as the UK’s King Edward VII, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. Most of the ethnic Germans in Marienbad, which was part of Sudetenland, were expelled after WWII, and it came under communist control along with the rest of Czechoslovakia as a result of the 1948 coup d’état. The town was largely closed to foreigners for decades, but has been flourishing again as a tourist destination since the return of democracy in 1989.
1. Dorm room seat : BEANBAG
The original beanbag chair was designed by an Italian company called Zanotta in 1969. That first model was called “il sacco” and is still made today. The idea came from staff at the Zanotta factory who would take their breaks sitting on bags filled with styrofoam.
4. Nautical pole : SPRIT
A sprit is a pole that extends out from a mast, often supporting a special sail called a spritsail.
5. “South Park” boy : STAN
“South Park” is an adult-oriented cartoon series on Comedy Central. I don’t do “South Park” …
7. Big bear : KODIAK
Brown bears are found over much of northern Europe, Asia, and North America. The biggest subspecies of brown bear is the Kodiak bear, which is the largest land-based predator in the world. Named for the Kodiak Archipelago in Alaska, the Kodiak bear grows to about the same size as the enormous polar bear.
9. Course for Crusoe?: Abbr. : ANAG
The name “Crusoe” is an anagram of the word “course”.
10. The Eagle, briefly : LEM
In the Apollo program, the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) was the vehicle that actually landed on the moon and returned the astronauts to the command module that was orbiting overhead. The third LEM built was named “Spider”, and it participated in the Apollo 9 mission which tested the functionality of the LEM design in space. The fourth LEM was called “Snoopy” and it flew around the moon in the Apollo 10 mission, the dress rehearsal for the upcoming moon landing. Apollo 11’s LEM was called “Eagle” and it brought Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to and from the moon’s surface. Another famous LEM was Apollo 13’s Aquarius. Although Aquarius never landed on the moon, it did serve as a “lifeboat” for the three astronauts after the explosive rupture of an oxygen canister in the Service Module.
12. 81-yr.-old ID : SSN
The main purpose of a Social Security Number (SSN) is to track individuals for the purposes of taxation, although given its ubiquitous use, it is looking more and more like an identity number to me. The social security number system was introduced in 1936. Prior to 1986, an SSN was required only for persons with substantial income so many children under 14 had no number assigned. For some years the IRS had a concern that a lot of people were claiming children on their tax returns who did not actually exist. So, from 1986 onward, it is a requirement to get an SSN for any dependents over the age of 5. Sure enough, in 1987 seven million dependents “disappeared”.
15. Musical Apple : FIONA
Fiona Apple is a singer-songwriter and pianist from New York City. “Fiona Apple” is the artist’s real name, although “Apple” is a given name. She was born Fiona Apple McAfee-Maggart.
24. “Malcolm X” director : LEE
Film director Spike Lee was born in Atlanta, Georgia but has very much made New York City his home and place of work. Most of Lee’s films are set in New York City, including his first feature film, “She’s Gotta Have It”. That film was shot over two weeks, with a budget of $175,000. “She’s Gotta Have It” grossed over $7 million at the US box office.
“Malcolm X” is a 1992 biographical film about the African American activist Malcolm X. The movie starred Denzel Washington in the title role and was co-written and directed by Spike Lee.
25. “Catch-22” pilot : ORR
The bomber pilot in Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” is called Orr, and he has no other name, just “Orr”.
“Catch-22” is a novel by Joseph Heller set during WWII. The title refers to absurd bureaucratic constraints that soldiers had to suffer. Heller’s “Catch 22” was invoked by an army psychiatrist to explain that any pilot requesting to be evaluated for insanity, to avoid flying dangerous missions, had to be sane as only a sane man would try to get out of such missions. The term “catch-22” has entered the language and describes a paradoxical situation from which one can’t escape due to contradictory rules; one loses, no matter what choice one makes.
30. Prince Valiant’s son : ARN
In the comic strip, Arn is the eldest son of Prince Valiant and Aleta is his wife. Edward, the Duke of Windsor, called the “Prince Valiant” comic strip the “greatest contribution to English Literature in the past one hundred years”. I’m not so sure …
34. __ choy : BOK
Bok choy is a variety of Chinese cabbage. “Bok choy” translates as “white vegetable”.
35. Sandra who was the first to play “Gidget” : DEE
The actress Sandra Dee started out as a model before moving into film. After a promising start to her career it seemed to peter out, and the public became more interested in her 7-year marriage to Bobby Darin. And of course she will forever be remembered from the song in the movie and stage-show “Grease” called “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee”.
“Gidget” is an early “beach party film” that was released in 1959. The movie stars Sandra Dee as a teenage girl who falls in love with a young surfer. The surfer’s gang gives the young lass the nickname “Gidget”, a portmanteau of “girl” and “midget”.
37. CEO’s degree : MBA
A chief executive officer (CEO) might have a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.
38. McKellen of “X-Men” : IAN
Sir Ian McKellen is a marvelous English actor, someone who is comfortable playing anything from Macbeth on stage to Magneto in an “X-Men” movie. On the big screen, McKellen is very famous for playing Gandalf in “The Lord of Rings”. In the UK, Sir Ian is noted for being at the forefront of the campaign for equal rights for gay people, a role he has enthusiastically embraced since the eighties.
39. TV screen type : LCD
Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) are the screens that are found in most laptops today, and in flat panel computer screens and some televisions. LCD monitors basically replaced Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) screens, the old television technology.
41. Ties surgically : LIGATES
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”.
43. Soft tissue : KLEENEX
Even though “Kleenex” is sometimes used today as a generic term for a tissue, “Kleenex” is a brand name owned by Kimberly-Clark. Kleenex facial tissues came about after WW1. The material used in the tissue had been developed as a replacement for cotton that was in high demand as surgical tissue during the war. The material developed was called “Cellucotton” and was used in gas mask filters. It was first sold as a facial tissue under the name “Kleenex” in 1924.
46. Beethoven’s __ : NINTH
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is his wonderful “Choral” symphony. When it was composed in 1824 it was the first time that a major composer had used voices in a symphony. By the time of the Ninth’s premier, Beethoven was essentially deaf. He insisted on sharing the stage with the musical director (who was conducting), and was visibly counting out time but was off by quite a few measures. When the last notes were played there was enthusiastic applause, although Beethoven was still conducting. The lead contralto had to walk over to Beethoven, stop him, and turn him to the audience to receive his adulation.
47. White wine apéritifs : KIRS
Kir is a French cocktail, made by adding a teaspoon or so of creme de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) to a glass, and then topping it off with white wine. The drink is named after Felix Kir, the Mayor of Dijon in Burgundy, who used to offer the drink to his guests. My wife is particularly fond of a variant called a Kir Royale, in which the white wine is replaced with champagne.
50. Ivory Coast neighbor : GHANA
The name “Ghana” means “warrior king” in the local language. The British established a colony they called Gold Coast in 1874, later to become Ghana, as part of the scramble by Europeans to settle as much of Africa as they could. One of Ghana’s most famous sons is Kofi Annan, the diplomat that served as General Secretary of the UN for ten years until the beginning of 2007.
The Republic of Côte d’Ivoire is located in West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea. The country is often referred to in English as the Ivory Coast, the direct translation from the French. The official language of the country is French, as for many years it was a French colony.
51. Bleacher feature : TIER
At a sports event one might sit in the bleachers. “Bleachers” is a particularly American term used to describe the tiered stands that provide seating for spectators. These seats were originally wooden planks, and as they were uncovered they would be “bleached” by the sun, giving them the name we use today. Sometimes the fans using the bleachers might be referred to as “bleacherites”.
52. Ton, for one : UNIT
Here in the US, a ton is equivalent to 2,000 pounds. Over in the UK, a ton is 2,240 pounds. The UK unit is sometimes referred to as an Imperial ton or sometimes a “long ton”. Folks over there refer to the US ton then as a “short ton”. To further complicate matters, there is also a “metric ton” or “tonne”, which is equivalent to 2,204 pounds. Personally, I wish we’d just stick to kilograms …
53. Govt. enforcers : FEDS
A “fed” is an officer of a US federal agency, although the term usually applies to an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
55. Whiting cousin : COD
In the British Isles, the most common fish that is used in traditional “fish and chips” is Atlantic cod. Cod has been overfished all over the world, and is now considered to be an endangered species by many international bodies. Confrontations over fishing rights in the North Atlantic led to conflicts called “the Cod Wars” between Iceland and the UK in the 1950s and the 1970s, with fishing fleets being protected by naval vessels and even shots being fired.
Whiting is a food fish that is related to the cod. Both whiting and cod have been used for decades in the British favorite dish of “fish and chips”.
57. Source of support : BRA
The word “brassière” is French in origin, but it isn’t the word the French use for a “bra”. In France, what we call a bra is known as a “soutien-gorge”, translating to “held under the neck”. The word “brassière” is indeed used in France but there it describes a baby’s undershirt, a lifebelt or a harness. “Brassière” comes from the Old French word for an “arm protector” in a military uniform (“bras” is the French for “arm”). Later “brassière” came to mean “breastplate” and from there the word was used for a type of woman’s corset. The word jumped into English around 1900.