Edited by: Will Shortz
Today’s grid includes three GANGS OF FOUR letters that are circled. Those GANGS OF FOUR letters provide clues to three themed answers:
- 62A. Faction in China’s Cultural Revolution … or a hint to each set of circled letters : GANG OF FOUR
- 18A. First set of circled letters : GOOD RATING (FOUR-STAR)
- 23A. Second set of circled letters : MOTOWN SINGERS (FOUR TOPS)
- 53A. Third set of circled letters : GLASSES WEARER (FOUR EYES)
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies
5. Scottish delicacy : HAGGIS
Haggis is the national dish of Scotland. It is savory pudding made from the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep, mixed with onion, oatmeal, suet and spices. The pudding was originally cooked in the sheep’s stomach but these days is usually prepared in a sausage casing.
11. Arabian stimulant : QAT
Khat (also “qat”) is a flowering plant, the leaves of which are chewed by some in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula in particular. The leaves contain an alkaloid called cathinone which stimulates the body like an amphetamine.
16. Colorful card game : UNO
In my youth I remember being taught a great card game, by a German acquaintance of mine, called Mau Mau. Years later I discovered that Uno is basically the same game, but played with a purpose-printed deck instead of the regular deck of playing cards that’s used for Mau Mau. I hear that Mau Mau is derived from the game called Crazy Eights.
17. One side of St. George’s Channel : ERIN
St. George’s Channel is a sea channel lying south of the Irish Sea and north of the Celtic Sea. It separates Wales from the southeast of Ireland.
20. Like some synthetic colorants : AZO
Azo compounds have very vivid colors and so are used to make dyes, especially dyes with the colors red, orange and yellow. The term “azo” comes from the French word “azote” meaning “nitrogen”. French chemist Lavoisier coined the term “azote” from the Greek word “azotos” meaning “lifeless”. He used this name as in pure nitrogen/azote animals die and flames are snuffed out (due to a lack of oxygen).
22. Instrument anyone can play : KAZOO
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).
23. Second set of circled letters : MOTOWN SINGERS
The original lineup of the Four Tops agreed to form a vocal quartet when they were high school students together in Detroit. The group started out using the name “The Four Aims”, but changed it to Four Tops to avoid confusion with the Ames Brothers.
28. Vardalos of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” : NIA
Nia Vardalos is an actress and screenwriter whose biggest break came with the 2002 film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, which she wrote and in which she starred. The film tells the story of a Greek-American woman marrying a non-Greek Caucasian American who converts to the Greek Orthodox Church to facilitate the marriage. The storyline reflects the actual experiences of Vardalos and her husband, actor Ian Gomez. Vardalos and Gomez appear together as hosts of the reality competition “The Great American Baking Show”.
32. Bonds, e.g. : SLUGGER
Barry Bonds is a former baseball player who holds numerous records as a batter. He is a controversial figure in the sport, mired for years in baseball’s steroids scandal.
36. Like Tylenol PM, for short : OTC
Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs don’t need a prescription (Rx).
40. About 1,400 of them is the record for a human: Abbr. : LBS
The unit of mass that we know today as a pound is descended from the old Roman unit of weight known as a libra. That libra connection is why we abbreviate “pound” to “lb”. The name “pound” though comes from the Latin “pondo” meaning “weight”. Our term “ounce” (abbreviated to “oz.”) comes from the Latin “uncia”, which was 1/12 of a Roman “libra”.
43. Barrymore and Liu’s “Charlie’s Angels” co-star : DIAZ
“Charlie’s Angels” is a fun action movie from 2000 that is a spinoff from the iconic TV show of the same name from the seventies. The “Angels” in the movie version are Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu, with Bill Murray as John Bosley. John Forsythe provides the voice of the unseen “Charlie”, just as he did in the original television show.
The Hollywood actress Cameron Diaz started out her professional life as a model. Diaz’s first acting role was in the 1994 film “The Mask”, starring alongside Jim Carrey.
Drew Barrymore has quite the pedigree, being a granddaughter of Hollywood icon John Barrymore. She appeared in her first movie at the age of five, in 1980’s “Altered States”, but her big break was in 1982’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”. That same year she became the youngest host of “Saturday Night Live” at the age of seven. She has been invited back to host the show quite a few times and has now hosted six times, more than any other female celebrity.
Lucy Liu is an actress from Queens, New York. Liu’s big break came when she was chosen to play the Ling Woo character in “Ally McBeal”. I liked her in the 2000 film “Charlie’s Angels” but as I am no fan of Quentin Tarantino, I did not enjoy the movie “Kill Bill”. I am having fun watching one of Liu’s more recent projects, in which she plays Jane Watson, one of the two lead characters in the TV crime drama “Elementary”.
48. Impetus for a bungee jump, maybe : DARE
The elastic cord known as “bungee” cord is also known as “shock” cord. The term “bungee” probably comes from Britain where it was schoolboy slang for “rubber eraser”, likely coming from the words “bouncy” and “spongy”.
49. ESPN broadcaster Bob : LEY
Bob Ley works as a sportscaster with ESPN. Ley has worked with ESPN longer than any other on-air employee.
50. Parlays : BETS
A parlay is a combination wager, one that links two or more bets. All bets have to win in order to collect on a parlay.
62. Faction in China’s Cultural Revolution … or a hint to each set of circled letters : GANG OF FOUR
The Gang of Four was a group of four Communist Party officials that came to the fore during the Cultural Revolution in China in the sixties and seventies. The most prominent member of the group was Jiang Qing, the last wife of Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong. The Gang of Four fell from favor within one month of Mao Zedong dying, in 1976. They eventually appeared in court and received lengthy jail sentences.
65. River through Bath, England : AVON
The River Avon that flows in the southwest of England is sometimes referred to as the Lower Avon or Bristol Avon. The extra wording is to distinguish it from a number of other River Avons in the country, including the famous one through William Shakespeare’s Stratford. The Lower Avon passes through the cities of Bristol and Bath.
Bath is a beautiful city in South West England of which I have very fond memories. Bath is an old Roman spa town, and the city’s name comes from the Roman baths that have been excavated and restored.
67. River paralleled by I-80 through a long stretch of the Plains : PLATTE
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”.
71. Delta 88, e.g., informally : OLDS
The last Oldsmobile 88 came off the production line in 1999. The first 88 was made way back in 1949. The Oldsmobile 98 was discontinued in 1996, but had been introduced in 1940.
2. Russian wolfhound : BORZOI
The borzoi breed of dog looks like a hairy version of a greyhound. The borzoi is also known as the Russian wolfhound.
5. Golfer Walter with 11 major championships : HAGEN
Walter Hagen won 11 major tournaments, in the first half of the 20th century. Only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have won more majors.
6. Smithereens : ATOMS
“Smithereens” is such a lovely word and I am proud to say that it comes from Irish. The Irish word “smiodar” means fragment. We add the suffix “-in” (anglicized as “-een”) to words to indicate the diminutive form. So, “little fragment” is “smidirin”, anglicized as “smithereens”.
8. Subj. of a Kaplan prep course : GED
The General Educational Development (GED) tests are a battery of five tests designed to demonstrate that a student has the academic skills of someone who has graduated from an American or Canadian high school.
Kaplan Inc. was founded in 1938 by Stanley Kaplan, who started out tutoring students for the New York State Regents Exam in the basement of his parents’ home in Brooklyn. He opened up locations for tuition around the country, and in 1984 sold the company to the Washington Post. Revenue for Kaplan was over 2½ billion dollars in 2009.
12. A.D. part : ANNO
The designations Anno Domini (AD, “year of Our Lord”) and Before Christ (BC) are found in the Julian and Gregorian calendars. The dividing point between AD and BC is the year of the conception of Jesus, with AD 1 following 1 BC without a year “0” in between. The AD/BC scheme dates back to AD 525, and gained wide acceptance soon after AD 800. Nowadays a modified version has become popular, with CE (Common/Christian Era) used to replace AD, and BCE (Before the Common/Christian Era) used to replace BC.
19. Tibia connectors : TARSI
The tarsals (also “tarsi”) are the ankle bones, and are equivalent to the carpals in the wrist.
The tibia is the shin bone, the larger of the two bones right below the knee. The tibia is the strongest weight-bearing bone in the human body. “Tibia” is the Roman name for a Greek flute and it is thought that the shin bone was given the same name because flutes were often fashioned out of the shin bones of animals.
21. Tharp of dance : TWYLA
I love Twyla Tharp’s choreography, and her patented “moves”. Tharp was born in Portland, Indiana in 1941. She was named after Twila Thornburg, the “Pig Princess” of the 89th Annual Muncie Fair in Indiana. That’s one to tell to the grandkids …
25. Nobelist Bohr : NIELS
Niels Bohr was a Danish physicist who won his 1922 Nobel Prize for his work on quantum mechanics and atomic structure. Later in his life, Bohr was part of the team working on the Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic bomb. Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein had a series of public debates and disputes in the twenties and thirties. Although the two respected each other very highly, they held very different views on quantum theory, different views on the laws of physics at the atomic level. The passage of time has shown that Bohr won out in those debates.
26. “Grand Hotel” actress : GARBO
Famously, Greta Garbo lived a life of seclusion in New York City after she retired from the entertainment business. Commentators often associated her need for privacy with a line she uttered in the great 1932 movie “Grand Hotel”. Her character Grusinskaya the Russian ballerina said, “I want to be alone (…) I just want to be alone”.
“Grand Hotel” is a marvelous film released in 1932 based on a book of the same name by William A. Drake. Drake himself had based his book on a novel by Vicki Baum titled “Menschen im Hotel”. The 1932 movie has a stellar cast including Greta Garbo and John Barrymore. “Grand Hotel” was remade in 1945 as ‘Week-End at the Waldorf”, a film I saw not that long ago starring Ginger Rogers and Walter Pidgeon.
33. Range located along the 60th meridian : URALS
The eastern side of the Ural Mountains in Russia is generally regarded as the natural divide between the continents of Europe and Asia.
37. One in la familia : TIA
In Spanish, a “tia” (aunt) is a member of “la familia” (the family).
44. 1983 Woody Allen film : ZELIG
“Zelig” is a 1983 film by Woody Allen. “Zelig” tells the fictitious story, in documentary style, of Leonard Zelig (played by Allen) who has the gift of being able to change his appearance in order to better fit in with the company he keeps. He becomes famous as a “human chameleon”. By using archive footage, the film includes clever “cameos” by real figures from history (like Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Susan Sontag).
46. What knitters need to match, often : DYE LOTS
As the color of dyed yarn can vary slightly from batch to batch, yarn manufacturers put a dye lot number on their product so that consumers can be sure to purchase yarn for a single project that has all been dyed in the same vat.
47. Govt. org. whose funding is perennially debated : NEA
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is an agency funded by the federal government that offers support and financing for artistic projects. The NEA was created by an Act of Congress in 1965. Between 1965 and 2008, the NEA awarded over $4 billion to the arts, with Congress authorizing around $170 million annually through the eighties and much of the nineties. That funding was cut to less than $100 million in the late nineties due to pressure from conservatives concerned about the use of funds, but it is now back over the $150 million mark. I wonder how long that will last though …
51. Commit a court violation : TRAVEL
That would be basketball.
55. Pan-fry : SAUTE
“Sauté” is a French word. The literal translation from the French is “jumped” or “bounced”, a reference to the tossing of food while cooking it in a frying pan.
63. Rapper ___ Rida : FLO
Tramar Dillard is better known as rapper Flo Rida. As you might have guessed, Flo Rida was born in the state of Florida.