Edited by: Rich Norris
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Each of today’s themed answers include the title of a song from “West Side Story”:
- 50A. 9/26/1957 Broadway debut featuring the consecutive songs found at the start of 20-Across, the middle of 25-Across and the end of 43-Across : WEST SIDE STORY
- 20A. Julie Andrews’ “The Sound of Music” role : MARIA VON TRAPP (giving “Maria”)
- 25A. Jimmy Fallon hosts it : THE TONIGHT SHOW (giving “Tonight”)
- 43A. Avengers member with a patriotic shield : CAPTAIN AMERICA (giving “America”)
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
1. Sales pitch : SPIEL
A spiel is a lengthy speech or argument designed to persuade, like a sales pitch. “Spiel” comes to us from German, either directly (“spiel” is the German for “play”) or via the Yiddish “shpil”.
6. Outback birds : EMUS
In Australia, the land outside of urban area is referred to as the outback or the bush. That said, I think that the term “outback” is sometimes reserved for the more remote parts of the bush.
16. Home to billions : ASIA
Most of the world’s population lives in Asia (60%), and Asia is the largest continent in terms of landmass (30% of the world). Asia also has the highest population density (246 people per square mile), and the most populous city on the continent is Shanghai, China.
20. Julie Andrews’ “The Sound of Music” role : MARIA VON TRAPP (giving “Maria”)
“The Sound of Music” is a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that was made into a celebrated movie in 1965 starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. The musical is based on “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers”, a memoir by Maria von Trapp. The von Trapp family ended up in Stowe, Vermont after the war, and one family descended from the Vermont von Trapps lives here in the same town in which I live in California.
“Maria” is a song from the Broadway musical “West Side Story”.
Say it loud and there’s music playing,
Say it soft and it’s almost like praying.
I’ll never stop saying Maria!
23. Risk, e.g. : GAME
Risk is a fabulous board game, one first sold in France in 1957. Risk was invented by a very successful French director of short films called Albert Lamorisse. Lamorisse called his new game “La Conquête du Monde”, which translates into English as “The Conquest of the World”. A game of Risk is a must during the holidays in our house …
24. Healthful berry : ACAI
Açaí is a palm tree native to Central and South America. The fruit has become very popular in recent years and its juice is a very fashionable addition to juice mixes and smoothies.
25. Jimmy Fallon hosts it : THE TONIGHT SHOW (giving “Tonight”)
“Tonight” is one of several hit songs from the Broadway musical “West Side Story”. In the 1961 film adaptation of the show, the song was ostensibly sung by Natalie Wood. It was actually dubbed by the celebrated playback singer Marni Nixon.
“The Tonight Show” has had six permanent hosts so far:
- Steve Allen (1954-57)
- Jack Paar (1957-62)
- Johnny Carson (1962–92)
- Jay Leno (1992–2009, 2010–14)
- Conan O’Brien (2009–10)
- Jimmy Fallon (2014–present)
31. “Homeland” spy org. : CIA
“Homeland” is a psychological drama shown on Showtime about a CIA officer who is convinced that a certain US Marine is a threat to the security of the United States. The show is based on a series from Israeli television called “Hatufim” (Prisoners of War”). I saw the first season of this show and highly recommend it …
33. Nebraska city : OMAHA
Omaha is the largest city in the state of Nebraska. It is located on the Missouri River, about 10 miles north of the mouth of the Platte River When Nebraska was still a territory Omaha was its capital, but when Nebraska achieved statehood the capital was moved to the city of Lincoln.
34. “Apocalypse Now” setting, familiarly : NAM
The epic war drama “Apocalypse Now” was released in 1979 and starred Martin Sheen as Captain Willard and Marlon Brando as Colonel Kurtz. The premise of the film is that both Willard and Kurtz are special ops officers, with Willard sent into the jungle to assassinate Kurtz who has “gone rogue”. The film is notorious for the trouble that director Francis Ford Coppola had completing the shoot. Brando turned up on set grossly overweight (as a special ops guy!), and poor Martin Sheen had a heart attack during filming.
35. Gathering for fans of graphic novels, anime, etc. : COMICON
Comic convention (“Comic-Con” or “Comicon”)
43. Avengers member with a patriotic shield : CAPTAIN AMERICA (giving “America”)
The Avengers are a team of superheroes in the Marvel Comics universe. The original lineup, which dates back to 1963, consisted of Ant-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and the Wasp. Soon after their formation, the Avengers rescued Captain America trapped in ice, and thereafter he joined the team. There is a 2012 movie called “The Avengers” that features Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and Thor.
“America” is a song from Broadway musical “West Side Story” with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and music by Leonard Bernstein. The lyrics used in the stage version of the musical differ somewhat from the lyrics used in the 1961 film adaptation. The original lyrics were reportedly changed to present a more honest view of the immigration experience, and to remove wording that demeaned Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican people.
48. Tolstoy’s Karenina : ANNA
I have to admit to not having read Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”, but I did see the excellent 1977 British television adaptation starring Nicola Pagett. I also saw the 2012 film adaptation with a screenplay by Tom Stoppard, and found that to be far from excellent …
49. Dutch cheese : EDAM
Edam cheese takes its name from the Dutch town of Edam in North Holland. The cheese is famous for its coating of red paraffin wax, a layer of protection that helps Edam travel well and prevents spoiling. You might occasionally come across an Edam cheese that is coated in black wax. The black color indicates that the underlying cheese has been aged for a minimum of 17 weeks.
50. 9/26/1957 Broadway debut featuring the consecutive songs found at the start of 20-Across, the middle of 25-Across and the end of 43-Across : WEST SIDE STORY
Leonard Bernstein’s musical “West Side Story” is based on William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”. The musical is set in New York City and features two rival gangs: the Sharks from Puerto Rico and the Jets with working-class, Caucasian roots. Tony from the Jets (played by Richard Beymer) falls in love with Maria (played by Natalie Wood) from the Sharks. All this parallels Romeo from the House of Montague falling for Juliet from the House of Capulet in the Italian city of Verona.
56. Oscar winner Kazan : ELIA
Elia Kazan won Oscars for best director in 1948 for “Gentleman’s Agreement” and in 1955 for “On The Waterfront”. In 1999 Kazan was given an Academy Lifetime Achievement Award. He also directed “East of Eden”, which introduced James Dean to movie audiences, and “Splendor in the Grass” that included Warren Beatty in his debut role.
57. Aquafina rival : EVIAN
Évian-les-Bains (or simply Évian) is in the very east of France, on the shores of Lake Geneva directly across the lake from Lausanne, Switzerland. As one might imagine, Évian is the home of Évian mineral water, the most successful business in town. Personally, I can’t stand the distinctive taste of Évian water …
Aquafina is a Pepsico brand of bottled water. Aquafina is just plain old municipal water that has been purified.
62. Military meal : MESS
“Mess” first came into English about 1300, when it described the list of food needed for a meal. The term comes from the Old French word “mes” meaning a portion of food or a course at a meal. This usage in English evolved into “mess” meaning a jumbled mass of anything, from the concept of “mixed food”. The original usage, in the sense of a food for a meal, surfaced again in the military in the 1500s when a “mess” was a communal eating place.
63. Cafeteria carrier : TRAY
“Cafeteria” is a Mexican Spanish word meaning “coffee store” that we imported into American English around 1840.
64. V-formation fliers : GEESE
Apparently, geese fly in a V-formation for a couple of reasons. One is that it makes for efficient flight and conserves energy. The leading bird gets no advantage, but every following bird gets to “slipstream” a little. It has been noted that the lead bird drops to the back of the formation when he/she gets fatigued. It’s also thought that the flock can stick together more easily when in formation, so it is more difficult to lose someone along the way.
1. “Casablanca” pianist : SAM
The movie “Casablanca” was released in January of 1943, timed to coincide with the Casablanca Conference, the high-level meeting between Roosevelt and Churchill. The film wasn’t a box-office hit, but gained critical acclaim, winning three Oscars including Best Picture. The signature song “As Time Goes By” was written many years earlier for a 1931 Broadway musical called “Everybody’s Welcome”, and was a hit in 1931 for Rudy Vallee. But today we all remember the Casablanca version, sung by Dooley Wilson (who played “Sam” in the film). Poor Dooley didn’t get to record it as a single, due to a musician’s strike in 1943. The 1931 Rudy Vallee version was re-released that year and became an even bigger hit second time round.
2. Formal school dance : PROM
A prom is a formal dance held upon graduation from high school (we call them “formals” over in Ireland). The term “prom” is short for “promenade”, the name given to a type of dance or ball.
3. Corn Belt state : IOWA
The Corn Belt (sometimes “Grain Belt”) is a region in the Midwest where, since the mid-1800s, corn has been the major crop. Geographically, the Corn Belt covers Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and parts of Michigan, Ohio, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota and Missouri. About 40% of the world’s corn production comes from the region, and most of that production is used for the feeding of livestock.
5. Cattleman’s rope : LARIAT
Our word “lariat” comes from the Spanish “la reater” meaning “the rope”.
7. Venus de __ : MILO
The famous “Venus de Milo” is so named as she was discovered in the ruins of the ancient city of Milos, on the Aegean island of the same name. I’ve been lucky enough to see the statue, in the Louvre in Paris, and was surprised at how large it is (6 ft 8 in tall).
10. Arp’s art movement : DADAISM
Jean Arp was a French artist renowned for his work with torn and pasted paper, although that wasn’t the only medium he used. Arp was the son of a French mother and German father and spoke both languages fluently. When he was speaking German he gave his name as Hans Arp, but when speaking French he called himself Jean Arp. Both “Hans” and “Jean” translate into English as “John”. In WWI Arp moved to Switzerland to avoid being called up to fight, taking advantage of Swiss neutrality. Eventually he was told to report to the German Consulate and fill out paperwork for the draft. In order to get out of fighting, Arp messed up the paperwork by writing the date in every blank space on the forms. Then he took off all of his clothes and walked with his papers over to the officials in charge. Arp was sent home …
11. Right away, in a memo : ASAP
As soon as possible (ASAP)
12. Namby-pamby person : WIMP
The term “namby-pamby”, meaning “excessively sentimental”, has a very specific etymology. It was coined in 1726 as a satiric nickname for English poet Ambrose Philips. The nickname mocked the poet’s pastoral poems that were addressed to infant members of the nobility.
21. Gas brand that had a torch in its logo : AMOCO
“Amoco” is an abbreviation for “American Oil Company”, an oil company that merged with BP in 1998. Amoco was the first oil company to introduce gasoline tanker trucks and drive-through filling stations. I wonder did they know what they were starting …?
22. Florida’s Boca __ : RATON
The name of the city of Boca Raton in Florida translates from Spanish as “Mouse Mouth”. There doesn’t seem to be a definitive etymology of the name but one plausible explanation is a nautical one. “Boca”, as well as meaning “mouth” can mean “inlet”. “Ratón”, as well as meaning “mouse” was also used to describe rocks that chewed away at a ship’s anchor cable. So possibly Boca Raton was named for a rocky inlet.
26. Exaggerate, as a stage role : HAM UP
The word “ham”, describing a performer who overacts, is apparently a shortened form of “hamfatter” and dates back to the late 1800s. “Hamfatter” comes from a song in old minstrel shows called “The Ham-Fat Man”. It seems that a poorly performing actor was deemed to have the “acting” qualities of a minstrel made up in blackface.
27. Spanish island in the Mediterranean : IBIZA
Ibiza is a Mediterranean island almost 100 miles off the Spanish coast. It is a very popular tourist destination, largely for its legendary nightlife.
28. Devastation that’s wreaked : HAVOC
Havoc is a great damage or destruction. The term comes from the Anglo-French phrase “crier havok”, which was an order given in the late 1500s to soldiers, instructing them to seize plunder.
29. Scarlett of Tara : O’HARA
Scarlett O’Hara’s home is the Tara plantation, in Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind”. Tara was founded not far from the Georgia city of Jonesboro by Scarlett’s father, Irish immigrant Gerald O’Hara. Gerald won the square mile of land on which Tara was built in an all-night poker game. He named his new abode after the Hill of Tara back in his home country, the ancient seat of the High King of Ireland. Rhett’s rival for the affections of Scarlet is Ashley Wilkes who lives at the nearby Twelve Oaks plantation.
31. “Closing Bell” channel : CNBC
“Closing Bell” is a business show on CNBC that airs each weekday. As the title suggests, the show covers the period just before the end of trading (the “closing bell”) and reviews that that day on the floor after the market has closed.
37. Newspaper opinion pieces : OP-EDS
“Op-ed” is an abbreviation for “opposite the editorial page”. Op-eds started in “The New York Evening World” in 1921 when the page opposite the editorials was used for articles written by a named guest writer, someone independent of the editorial board.
47. Apple software for creating videos : IMOVIE
iMovie is a video editing program published by Apple and distributed free with many of its products.
52. Prima donna : DIVA
The Italian operatic term “prima donna” is used for the lead female singer in an opera company. “Prima donna” translates from Italian as “first lady”. The lead male singer is known as the “primo uomo”. The term “prima donna assoluta” is reserved for a prima donna who is generally accepted as being an outstanding performer. We tend to use “prima donna” for a female performer who has an inflated ego.
55. Play a kazoo : HUM
The modern instrument we know today as the kazoo was invented by one Alabama Vest of Macon, Georgia in the 1800s. The kazoo first came to the public’s attention at the Georgia State Fair of 1852, when it was known as the “Down-South Submarine” (because of it’s shape, I would imagine).
58. TV’s “Science Guy” : NYE
That would be “Bill Nye the Science Guy”. Bill’s show ran on PBS for four years, from 1993-97.