Edited by: Will Shortz
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies
6. 7 is in the middle of it : PH SCALE
As we all recall from chemistry class, a pH of 7 is considered neutral. Anything less than 7 is an acid, and anything above 7 is a base.
17. Fledgling feeder : MAMA BIRD
A young bird is said to have fledged when its wing muscles and feathers have developed enough for it to fly. The term “fledgling” is used for a bird that has fledged, but is still reliant on a parent for food and protection. The verb “to fledge” means “to acquire feathers”.
20. “Yours truly,” facetiously : MOI
“Moi” is the French word for “me”. One might say “Moi?” when feigning innocence.
22. Reception figures : DJS
The world’s first radio disc jockey (DJ) was one Ray Newby of Stockton, California who made his debut broadcast in 1909, would you believe? When he was 16 years old and a student, Newby started to play his records on a primitive radio located in the Herrold College of Engineering and Wireless in San Jose. The records played back then were mostly recordings of Enrico Caruso.
24. Subject of a controversial tax, once : TEA
The famous destruction of tea in Boston Harbor to protest against the Tax Act took place on December 16, 1773. The action was referred to as the “destruction of the tea” for decades, and it wasn’t until 1834 that the term “Boston Tea Party” first appeared in print.
25. Best Picture after “The Artist” : ARGO
“Argo” is a 2012 movie that is based on the true story of the rescue of six diplomats hiding out during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. The film was directed by and stars Ben Affleck and is produced by Grant Heslov and George Clooney, the same pair who produced the excellent “Good Night, and Good Luck”. I saw “Argo” recently and recommend it highly, although I found the scenes of religious fervor pretty frightening …
“The Artist” is a 2011 movie from France that was filmed in black-and-white, and without sound. This dated format reflects the movie’s subject matter. The story takes place in Hollywood during the days when silent movies were being replaced by “talkies”. “The Artist” has won more awards than any other French film in history, including a Best Picture Oscar.
27. Flower whose name is Greek for “flame” : PHLOX
Phlox is a genus of flowering plants found mainly in North America. A common name for the plant is Jacob’s Ladder.
29. Plot progression : ARC
A story arc is a continuing storyline in say a television show that has a number of episodes. Story arcs are also found in comics, books, video games, and other forms of media.
30. Sausage at an Oktoberfest : BEER BRAT
A bratwurst (sometimes “brat” in the US) is a German sausage. The name comes from “brät-” meaning “finely chopped meat”, and “Wurst” meaning “sausage”.
Oktoberfest is a 16-day beer festival in Munich that actually starts in September. About six million people attend every year, making it the largest fair in the world. I’ve been there twice, and it really is a great party …
32. Hindu goddess of prosperity : LAKSHMI
Lakshmi (also “Laxmi”) is the Hindu goddess of prosperity and fertility, and the wife of Vishnu. She is the focus of prayers during Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
38. Brand of machine that turns change into cash vouchers : COINSTAR
Coinstar is a brand of coin-cashing kiosk that can be found at various locations, such as grocery stores and banks. Users can cash in their collections of loose change for a voucher, with the Coinstar operator deducting a fee. I tend to avoid the fee by opting to receive an Amazon.com gift voucher for the full amount of the coins.
40. Crack team’s initials? : DEA
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
Crack cocaine is manufactured from powdered cocaine in a simple process. The powder is dissolved in an aqueous solution of baking soda, and the liquid is boiled off leaving a solid residue. The residue is broken up into chunks, and sold as crack. Apparently the crack is smoked, delivering an awful lot of cocaine into the body very quickly though the lungs. Sounds like nasty stuff …
41. Chain once self-styled as “the Saving Place” : KMART
Kmart is the third largest discount store chain in the world, behind Wal-Mart and Target. The company was founded by S. S. Kresge in 1899, with the first outlets known as S. S. Kresge stores. The first “Kmart” stores opened in 1962. Kmart is famous for its promotions known as “blue light specials”, a program first introduced in 1965 and discontinued in 1991. I remember being in a Kmart store soon after coming to live in the US. That evening an employee installed a light stand an aisle away from me, switched on a flashing blue light and there was some unintelligible announcement over the loudspeaker system. I had no idea what was going on …
45. Seat of Utah’s Grand County : MOAB
Moab is a city in eastern Utah that attracts a lot of visitors each year, mainly those heading for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, which are nearby.
47. Musica o danza : ARTE
In Italian, an “arte” (art, artform) might be “musica o danza” (music or dance).
48. “Ask ___” (syndicated advice column) : AMY
Amy Dickinson is the author and journalist behind the syndicated advice column “Ask Amy”. I listen to Dickinson quite often on the great PBS radio game show called “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!”
49. Home of Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” : RIJKSMUSEUM
The Rijksmuseum is a national museum in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The Rijksmuseum features works by such greats as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals and Jan Steen.
The celebrated Dutch painter’s full name was Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (sometimes “Ryn”). Rembrandt is perhaps most appreciated for his portraits, and left the world a remarkable collection of self-portraits.
55. San Luis ___ : OBISPO
The city of San Luis Obispo is one of the oldest communities in California. The name “San Luis Obispo” translates as “Saint Louis, the Bishop of Toulouse”. In 1990, San Luis Obispo was the first municipality in the world to ban smoking in all indoor public areas.
56. Substance obeying Boyle’s law : IDEAL GAS
Irishman Robert Boyle is regarded as one of the founders of modern chemistry, although his early work would better be described as “alchemy”. His name is best known from Boyle’s Law, his experimental observation that the pressure of a gas decreases proportionally as its volume increases.
58. Dress-up at a comic con : COSPLAY
Cosplay (costume play)
Comic convention (comic con)
59. Point ___ National Seashore : REYES
Point Reyes is a picturesque cape on the Northern California coast about 30 miles west-northwest of San Francisco. The cape was named “Punto de los Reyes” (Kings’ Point) by Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno, when his ship anchored nearby on the Day of the Three Kings (January 6th) in 1603.
1. Chardonnay or merlot : VARIETAL
The Chardonnay grape is believed to have originated in the Burgundy wine region of France. Now it’s grown “everywhere”. Drinkers of California “Chards” seem to be particularly fond of oak flavor, so most Chardonnay wines are aged in oak barrels.
Merlot is one of the main grapes used to make Bordeaux wines, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
4. Norse mythology sources : EDDAS
The Poetic Edda and Prose Edda are two ancient works that are the source for much of Norse mythology. Both Eddas were written in the 13th century, in Iceland.
5. 2013 Best Actor nominee for “Nebraska” : DERN
Bruce Dern is a Hollywood actor with quite a pedigree. Dern is the grandchild of former Utah governor and Secretary of War, George Henry Dern. Bruce’s godparents were Adlai Stevenson and Eleanor Roosevelt!
“Nebraska” is a really interesting 2013 movie starring Bruce Dern as an elderly man who heads to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect a million-dollar sweepstakes prize that is clearly a scam. This one is filmed in black & white, which adds to the mood nicely. I note that a local movie theater here did a one-day showing of a color version.
7. WWW letters : HTML
HTML is HyperText Markup Language, the language used to write most Internet web pages (including this one).
In essence, the World Wide Web is a vast collection of documents that is accessible using the Internet, with each document containing hyperlinks which point to other documents in the collection. So the “Web” is different from the Internet, although the terms are often used interchangeably. The Web is the collection of documents, and the Internet is global network of computers on which the documents reside. The Web was effectively the invention of British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee. The key to Berner-Lee’s invention was bringing together two technologies that already existed: hypertext and the Internet. I, for one, am very grateful …
9. Certain ride : CAB
A hansom cab is a very specific design of horse and buggy that was patented by Joseph Hansom in 1834 in England. The “cab” in the name is short for “cabriolet”, an earlier design of carriage on which the hansom was based. It’s from “hansom cab” that we get our modern term “cab”.
10. How Superman often stands : AKIMBO
“Akimbo” is such a lovely word, I think (as in “arms akimbo”). I failed to dig up anything too exciting about the term’s etymology. It seems to stem from Middle English, “in kekbowe” or “on kenbow” meaning “bend in a curve”. When the arms are held akimbo, the hands are on the hops and the elbows are pointed outward.
11. Gaston ___, Frenchman who wrote “The Phantom of the Opera” : LEROUX
Gaston Leroux was a French author and journalist best known for writing “The Phantom of the Opera”, first published in 1910. As a journalist, Leroux was involved in an investigation into the Paris Opera. The basement of the opera house contained a cell that was used to hold prisoners in 1871, something that Leroux featured in his most famous novel.
14. Like many asylum seekers in the 2010s: Abbr. : SYR
Since the onset of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, a refugee crisis has developed involving almost 7 million internally displaced persons and almost 5 million displaced persons outside of Syria (as of February 2016). Those are staggering numbers, especially when one compares them to the estimated Syrian population of 17 million in 2014.
15. Setting of “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” : G MAJOR
Mozart’s ”Serenade No. 13 for Strings in G major” is better known as “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”, which translates into “a little serenade”, but the more literal English translation of “a little night music” is often used. It is a delightful piece in four, very recognizable movements, although there is much debate about a “lost” fifth movement.
27. Final Trojan king : PRIAM
Priam was king of Troy during the Trojan War. Reputedly, Priam was father to fifty sons and many daughters with his many wives. His eldest son and heir to the throne was Hector. Paris was another of Priam’s sons, the man who caused the Trojan War by eloping with Helen, Queen of Sparta.
28. Badger : HARRY
“To badger” is “to harass”. The term comes from the cruel practice of badger-baiting, which dates back to medieval times. Badger-baiting is a blood sport in which a dog is used as bait for a badger in its den, to draw it out into the open. The den is an artificial structure built to resemble a natural badgers’ den, complete with a tunnel entrance. The dog is sent down the tunnel causing the badger and dog to lock their jaws on each other. The badger and dog are then removed from the den by pulling on the dog’s tale.
33. Strike fear? : SCAB
We first started calling strikebreakers “scabs” in the early 1800s, and before that a scab was a person who refused to join a trade union (back as early 1777). The word probably comes from the use of “scab” as a symptom of a skin disease, and so is a term that is meant to insult.
37. She’s been on the cover of British Vogue more than anyone else : KATE MOSS
Kate Moss is an English supermodel. Moss is reported to have earned $9 million for her work in 2007. In 2008, a gold statue valued at almost $3 million was made of Moss for an exhibition in the British Museum. It is thought that the work is the largest gold statue to have been produced since those made by the Ancient Egyptians.
41. Island after which a lizard is named : KOMODO
The large lizard called a Komodo dragon is so named because it is found on the island of Komodo (and others) in Indonesia. It can grow to a length of over 9 1/2 feet, so I guess that explains the dragon part of the name …
42. Some R.S.V.P.s : MAYBES
RSVP stands for “répondez s’il vous plaît”, which is French for “answer please”.
45. Study at Hogwarts : MAGIC
In J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” universe, The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was founded by the four most brilliant witches and wizards of their time: Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw and Salazar Slytherin. Each of the founders lent their name to a House in the school, i.e. Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin.
46. Time of surrender in ’45 : V-J DAY
World War II started in 1 September 1939 with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany. V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day) was celebrated on 8 May 1945, when the German military surrendered in Berlin. V-J Day (Victory over Japan Day) was celebrated on 2 September 1945 when the Japanese signed the surrender document aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
50. “Young Frankenstein” assistant : INGA
I am not really a big fan of movies by Mel Brooks, but “Young Frankenstein” is the exception. I think the cast has a lot to do with me liking the film, as it includes Gene Wilder (Dr. Frankenstein), Teri Garr (Inga), Marty Feldman (Igor) and Gene Hackman (Harold, the blind man).