Edited by: Will Shortz
The ending words of today’s themed answers give us the phrase “LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!”, an on-set cue uttered by FILM DIRECTORS:
- 53A. Speaker of the last words of 20-, 28- and 44-Across : FILM DIRECTOR
- 20A. Feature of the big city : BRIGHT LIGHTS
- 28A. Practical joke show first aired in 1948 : CANDID CAMERA
- 44A. Secret military operation : COVERT ACTION
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies
1. Inn, informally : B AND B
An intimate inn (in the US) is a bed & breakfast (B&B). A bed & breakfast back in Ireland is traditionally more basic, and at least used to be much cheaper than a comparable hotel room.
6. “No ___” (menu phrase) : MSG
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the sodium salt of a naturally-occurring,non-essential amino acid called glutamic acid. It is used widely as a flavor enhancer, particularly in many Asian cuisines. Whether or not it is harmful seems to be still under debate. I say that something produced in a test tube shouldn’t be in our food …
9. Sight on the coast of Norway : FJORD
A drowned valley might be called a ria or a fjord, with both formed as sea level rises. A ria is a drowned valley created by river erosion, and a fjord is a drowned valley created by glaciation.
14. Ancient Greek marketplace : AGORA
In early Greece the agora was a place of assembly. The assemblies held there were often quite formal, perhaps for the reading of a proclamation. Later in Greek history, things became less formal as the agora evolved into a market place. Our contemporary word “agoraphobia” comes from these agorae, in the sense that an agoraphobe has a fear of open spaces, a fear of “public meeting places”.
15. It’s roughly 78% nitrogen : AIR
Air is mainly composed of nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%) and argon (1%). We hear a lot about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It makes up (or should make up!) about 0.04%, but that’s an important 0.04%.
16. Slow, in music : LENTO
A “lento” passage is a piece of music that has a slow tempo.
19. Animal that frolics in streams : OTTER
Male and female otters are known as dogs and bitches, with the offspring called pups. Males and females are are sometimes referred to as boars and sows. A collection of otters is a bevy, family, lodge or perhaps a romp. When in water, a collection of otters can be called a raft.
23. XXX-XX-XXXX fig. : SSN
A Social Security number (SSN) is divided into three parts i.e AAA-GG-SSSS, Originally, the Area Number (AAA) was the code for the office that issued the card. Since 1973, the Area Number reflects the ZIP code from which the application was made. The GG in the SSN is the Group Number, and the SSSS in the number is the Serial Number. However, this is all moot, as since 2011 SSN’s are assigned randomly. However, some random numbers have been excluded from use, i.e. Area Numbers 000, 666 (!) and 900-999.
24. Fawn’s mother : DOE
A fawn is a young deer, one usually less than a year old.
25. Japanese port city : OSAKA
The Japanese city of Osaka used to be called Naniwa, with the name changing to Osaka sometime before 1500. “Osaka” can be translated either as “large hill” or “large slope”. Osaka is sometimes referred to as “the Chicago of Japan” as it is a major center of commerce and industry. The city has also been named the “nation’s kitchen”, and was a center for Japan’s rice trade for centuries.
28. Practical joke show first aired in 1948 : CANDID CAMERA
The hidden-camera prank show called “Candid Camera” was created and produced by Allen Funt, and first aired on television in 1948. The show actually started as “Candid Microphone”, a radio series that was broadcast from 1947 until it was eclipsed by the television version.
36. Coq au ___ : VIN
The French word “coq” actually means rooster, but a more tender bird is usually chosen for the classic French dish “coq au vin”. The most common wine used for the “vin” is burgundy, but sometimes another red wine is chosen, and you can also find on a menu “coq au Champagne” and “coq au Riesling”.
37. Advocate for the 50-and-over crowd : AARP
“AARP” is now the official name for the interest group that used to be called the American Association of Retired Persons. The name change reflects the current focus of the group on all Americans aged 50 or over, as opposed to just people who have retired.
41. Reggae relative : SKA
Ska originated in Jamaica in the late fifties and was the precursor to reggae music. No one has a really definitive etymology of the term “ska”, but it is likely to be imitative of some sound.
42. “Beloved” author Morrison : TONI
The writer Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Amongst other things, Morrison is noted for coining the phrase, “our first black President”, a reference to President Bill Clinton.
43. Violet variety : PANSY
The garden flower called the “pansy” takes its name from the French word “pensée” meaning “thought”. This name was chosen as the flower was often used as a symbol of remembrance.
50. A, in Acapulco : UNA
The Mexican city of Acapulco is on the southwest coast of the country, in the state of Guerrero. The name “Acapulco” translates from the local language into “at the big reeds”.
61. Sacred choral work : MOTET
A motet is a simple musical composition based on a sacred text, usually sung without an accompaniment. The term “motet” is a diminutive form of “mot”, the French for “word”.
62. The first one begins “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked” : PSALM
The Greek word “psalmoi” originally meant “songs sung to a harp”, and gave us the word “psalms”. In the Jewish and Western Christian traditions, the Book of Psalms contains 150 individual psalms, divided into five sections.
66. “To ___ is human …” : ERR
Alexander Pope’s 1709 poem “An Essay on Criticism” is the source of at least three well-known quotations:
- A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.
- To err is human, to forgive divine.
- For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
67. Like almost every major character on “The Big Bang Theory” : NERDY
“The Big Bang Theory” is very clever sitcom aired by CBS since 2007. “The Big Bang Theory” theme song was specially commissioned for the show, and was composed and is sung by Canadian band Barenaked Ladies. The theme song was released in 2007 as a single and is featured on a Barenaked Ladies greatest hits album.
5. Capital of Iraq : BAGHDAD
According to the University of Baghdad, the name “Baghdad” dates way back, to the 18th-century BCE (yes, BCE!). The name can be translated into English from the language of ancient Babylon as “old garden” (bagh) and “beloved” (dad).
7. iPhone assistant : SIRI
Siri is a software application that works with Apple’s iOS operating system. “Siri” is an acronym standing for Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface. You’ve probably seen the ads on television, with folks talking to their iPhones asking for information and responding with a voice. I hear that Google is a little scared by Siri, as Siri is non-visual. There’s no need to touch a screen or a keyboard to work with Siri, no opportunity to click on one of Google’s ads! By the way, voice-over artist Susan Bennett revealed herself as the female American voice of Siri not that long ago. The British version of Siri is called Daniel, and the Australian version is called Karen. Also, “Siri” is a Norwegian name meaning “beautiful woman who leads you to victory”, and was the name the developer had chosen for his first child.
9. Detritus at sea : FLOTSAM
10. Detritus at sea : JETSAM
“Flotsam” and “jetsam” are both terms used to describe garbage in the ocean. Flotsam is floating wreckage from a ship or its cargo. Jetsam is similar to flotsam, except that it is part of a ship or cargo that is deliberately cast overboard, perhaps to lighten a vessel.
11. Toronto’s prov. : ONT
Beautiful Toronto, Ontario is the largest city in Canada, and the fourth largest city in North America (after New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston).
12. GPS offering: Abbr. : RTE
A global positioning system (GPS) might point out a route (rte.).
13. Palme ___ (top prize at Cannes) : D’OR
The “Palme d’Or” (or “Golden Palm” in English) is the highest award given at the Cannes Film Festival. The Palme d’Or goes to the director of the film selected as the best shown at the festival that year. The palm was selected as an emblem for the award as there is a palm featured on the coat of arms of the Commune of Cannes.
21. Weight unit for a bridge : TON
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 …
22. ___-pocus : HOCUS
There appears to be a lot of speculation about the origin of the magician’s phrase “hocus pocus”, but nothing stands out to me as being very definitive.
26. Actor Costner or Spacey : KEVIN
Kevin Costner attributes some of his motivation to pursue an acting career to the great Welsh actor, Richard Burton. Back when Costner was taking acting classes, and was undecided about whether to continue chasing his dream, he ran into Burton on a flight from Puerto Vallarta. Burton agreed to chat with him for a little while, and so Costner was able to ask him if acting meant tolerating the kind of personal drama that had plagued Burton’s own life. Burton told him, “You have green eyes. I have green eyes. I think you’ll be fine”.
27. Leo : lion :: ___ : ram : ARIES
Aries the Ram is the first astrological sign in the Zodiac, and is named after the constellation. Your birth sign is Aries if you were born between March 21 and April 20, but if you are an Aries you would know that! “Aries” is the Latin word for “ram”.
29. Greek column style : IONIC
The Ionic was one of the three classical orders of architecture, the others being the Doric and the Corinthian. An Ionic column is relatively ornate. It usually has grooves running up and down its length and at the top there is a “scroll” design called a “volute”. The scroll motif makes Ionic columns popular for the design of academic buildings. The term “Ionic” means “pertaining to Ionia”, with Ionia being an ancient territory that is located in modern-day Turkey.
31. Tennis’s Murray : ANDY
Andy Murray is a tennis player from Scotland who became British number in 2006, rising to world number one in 2016. Much to the delight of the locals, Murray won the Wimbledon Championship in 2013, making him the first British male player to win in 77 years. Murray also won Olympic gold in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and again in the Rio Games in 2016.
33. Comedian Smirnoff : YAKOV
The Ukrainian-born comedian Yakov Pokhis is better known by his stage name, Yakov Smirnoff. Smirnoff was popular on television in the eighties, playing comedic roles with a thick Russian accent. He is a smart cookie, and holds a master’s degree in positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.
38. Ritz-Carlton, for one : HOTEL
César Ritz was a Swiss hotelier, who had a reputation for developing the most luxurious of accommodations and attracting the wealthiest clientèle. He opened the Hotel Ritz in Paris in 1898 and the second of his most famous hotels, the Ritz Hotel in London, in 1906. Ritz was lucky in his career, as before starting his own hotel chain he had been dismissed from the Savoy Hotel in London, implicated in the disappearance of a substantial amount of wine and spirits. Today’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company was founded in 1983, although the chain has its roots in the properties developed by César Ritz.
39. Good “Wheel of Fortune” purchase for the answer PANAMA CANAL : AN A
Contestants have been spinning the “Wheel of Fortune” since the game show first aired in 1975.
43. Character on a collectible card : POKEMON
“Pokémon GO!” is a reality-based video game in which players must locate, capture, battle and train virtual creatures known as Pokémon. The Pokémon are hidden in the real world, in the sense that they have to be located on an electronic device (like a smartphone) in “the real world”, for which a GPS location is needed. Players see the Pokémon overlaid on a view of the real world on their smart device.
46. Le Carré’s “Tinker ___ Soldier Spy” : TAILOR
John Le Carré is the pen name of David Cornwell, an English author famous for his spy novels. Cornwell worked for British Intelligence during the fifties and sixties, even as he was writing his spy thrillers. He left MI6 soon after his most famous 1963 novel “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold”, became such a great success.
47. Tel Aviv’s land: Abbr. : ISR
The full name of Israel’s second largest city is Tel Aviv-Yafo. Tel Aviv translates into “Spring Mound”, a name chosen in 1910.
54. Labyrinth : MAZE
A labyrinth is a maze, and is named after the maze in which the Minotaur was confined in Greek mythology.
55. Designer Christian : DIOR
Christian Dior was a French fashion designer. As WWII approached, Dior was called up by the French military, drawing a temporary halt to his career in fashion. He left the army in 1942 and for the duration of the war designed clothes for wives of Nazi officers and French collaborators. After the war his designs became so popular that he helped reestablish Paris as the fashion center of the world.