Edited by: Will Shortz
Today’s grid contains THREE RINGS of letters. Each of those rings spells out the name of a CIRCUS performer. Those performers are:
- GLASS EATER
- FIRE DANCER
- WIRE WALKER
- 42A. Confusing situation … or what this puzzle contains literally? : THREE-RING CIRCUS
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies
1. Power figure? : WATT
James Watt was a Scottish inventor. He figured prominently in the Industrial Revolution in Britain, largely due to the improvements he made to the fledgling steam engine. The SI unit of power is called the watt, named in his honor.
5. Parts of airplane wings : FLAPS
In an airplane wing, a slat is a moving surface on the leading edge of the wing, primarily having the same effect as the flap on the trailing edge. With slats and flaps deployed, a plane can fly more slowly, and take off or land in a shorter distance.
10. “South Park” kid voiced by Trey Parker : STAN
Trey Parker is one of the co-creators of the animated television show “South Park”, along with Matt Stone.
14. Victims of the fictional Morlocks : ELOI
In the 1895 novel by H. G. Wells called “The Time Machine”, there are two races that the hero encounter in his travels into the future. The Eloi are the “beautiful people” who live on the planet’s surface. The Morlocks are a race of cannibals living underground who use the Eloi as food.
15. Fabric with diagonal ridges : SERGE
Serge is a type of twill fabric with diagonal ridges on both sides. The name “serge” comes from the Greek word for “silken”.
16. 1993 Branch Davidians/F.B.I. standoff site : WACO
In recent years, Waco is perhaps most famous as the site of a siege and shootout between ATF agents and members of the Protestant sect known as the Branch Davidians. Shortly after ATF agents tried to execute a search warrant, shots were fired and at the end of the fight six people inside the Branch Davidian compound were dead, as were four agents. A fifty-day siege ensued at the end of which a final assault resulted in members of the community setting fire to the compound. Only nine people walked away from that fire. 50 adults and 25 children perished.
17. Rob of “Parks and Recreation” : LOWE
The actor Rob Lowe is one of the “founding members” of the so-called Brat Pack, having appeared in the movie “St. Elmo’s Fire”. More recently, he played a regular character on the TV show “Parks and Recreation”. My favorite of his roles though, was playing Sam Seaborn on Aaron Sorkin’s great drama series “The West Wing”. When “The West Wing” first aired, Seaborn was billed as the show’s main character, but outstanding performances from the rest of the cast and some great writing meant that Lowe’s role became “one of many”. This led to some dissatisfaction on Lowe’s part, and eventually he quit the show.
“Parks and Recreation” is a sitcom that started airing on NBC in 2009, and is a show that has grown on me. It stars the “Saturday Night Live” alum Amy Poehler. The creators of “Parks and Recreation” are part of the team responsible for the American version of “The Office”, so you’ll notice some similarities in the style of the two shows, and some actors that have appeared in both.
20. Where caribou roam : TUNDRA
Tundra is an ecosystem that is treeless, or very nearly so. There are three types of tundra. Arctic and Antarctic tundra can’t support the growth of trees as the ground is pretty much frozen. Alpine tundra cannot support tree-growth due to high altitude.
“Caribou” is the North American name for reindeer.
22. Big workers’ grp. : AFL-CIO
The American Federation of Labor (AFL) was founded in 1886, making it one of the first federations of unions in the country. Over time the AFL became dominated by craft unions, unions representing skilled workers of particular disciplines. In the early thirties, John L. Lewis led a movement within the AFL to organize workers by industry, believing this would be more effective for the members. But the craft unions refused to budge, so Lewis set up a rival federation of unions in 1932, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The two federations became bitter rivals for over two decades until finally merging in 1955 to form the AFL-CIO.
28. Area in a sultan’s palace, once : HAREM
“Harem” is a Turkish word, derived from the Arabic for “forbidden place”. Traditionally a harem was the female quarters in a household in which a man had more than one wife. Not only wives (and concubines) would use the harem, but also young children and other female relatives. The main point was that no men were allowed in the area.
34. Dwarf planet beyond Pluto : ERIS
Eris is the largest known dwarf planet in our solar system. It is also the ninth largest body orbiting the sun, a fact that helped relegate Pluto (the tenth largest body) from its status of planet in 2006. Eris was discovered in 2005.
37. Nabokov novel : PNIN
“Pnin” is a novel written in English by Vladimir Nabokov, and published in 1957. The title character is Timofey Pnin, a Russian-born professor living in the US. “Pnin” raised some money for Nabokov, as it was published in installments in “The New Yorker” magazine. He needed the money while he worked hard to find someone to publish his more edgy novel, “Lolita”.
38. Near-impossibility on a par-4 hole : ACE
One well-documented hole in one (ace) was during a round of the British Open in 1973. American golfer Gene Sarazen achieved the feat that day, at the age of 71. A less well-documented series of holes in one was reported by the North Korean press in a story about the Korean leader Kim Jong-il. The report was that Kim Jong-il scored 11 holes in one in his one and only round of golf.
39. One waving a red cape : MATADOR
“Matador” is a Spanish word used in English for a bullfighter, although the term isn’t used in the same way in Spanish. The equivalent in Spanish is “torero”. “Matador” translates aptly enough as “killer”.
41. Roadside bomb, briefly : IED
Having spent much of my life in the border areas between southern and Northern Ireland, I am sadly all too familiar with the devastating effects of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). One has to admire the bravery of soldiers who spend their careers defusing (or attempting to defuse) such devices in order to save the lives and property of others.
45. Rock’s Cream was one : TRIO
Cream were a “supergroup” from Britain, meaning the band was comprised of musicians from other successful groups. The band’s members were Eric Clapton (from the Yardbirds), and Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker (both from the Graham Bond Organisation).
47. Nelson Mandela’s org. : ANC
As a young man, Nelson Mandela led the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). Mandela was eventually arrested and admitted to charges of sabotage and was sentenced to life in prison in 1964. He remained behind bars for 27 years, mainly in the infamous prison on Robben Island. As the years progressed, Mandela became a symbol of the fight against apartheid. He was released in 1990, and immediately declared his commitment to peace and reconciliation with South Africa’s white minority population. Mandela was elected president of the Republic of South Africa (RSA) in 1994, an office that he held until 1999. Nelson Mandela passed away on December 5, 2013.
54. Evidence in paternity suits : DNA
I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the DNA of living things is so very similar across different species. Human DNA is almost exactly the same for every individual (to the degree of 99.9%). However, those small differences are sufficient to distinguish one individual from another, and to determine whether or not individuals are close family relatives.
55. Chicago mayor Rahm : EMANUEL
Rahm Emanuel was an Illinois representative in the US House before resigning in 2009 to take up President Obama’s offer to become the White House Chief of Staff. Emanuel moved on from the White House the following year in order to run as a candidate in Chicago’s mayoral election in 2011. He won the 2011 race, and was re-elected in 2015.
61. Mormons, in brief : LDS
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is known colloquially as the Mormon Church.
62. Very, in music : ASSAI
The Italian term “assai” translates as “very”, and is used in music with the same meaning.
64. Petty swindle : GRIFT
Grift is money made dishonestly, especially as the result of a swindle. The term is perhaps an alteration of the the word “graft”, which can have a similar meaning.
68. Magic 8 Ball response : YES
The Magic 8 Ball is a toy, supposedly a fortune-telling device, introduced by Mattel in 1946. There are 20 answers that the Magic 8 Ball can provide, including:
- Without a doubt
- Ask again later
- My sources say no
- Outlook not so good
- Signs point to yes
69. “Siddhartha” author : HESSE
The 1922 novel “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse focuses on the spiritual journey of a man called Siddhartha. Even though the Buddha’s name was Siddhartha Gautama before he renounced his former life, Hesse’s Siddhartha is a different character who lived around the time of the Buddha.
2. Surname of three Giants outfielders in 1963 : ALOU
Felipe Alou is a former professional baseball player and manager. Alou managed the Montreal Expos from 1992 to 2001, and the San Francisco Giants from 2003 to 2006. Alou was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and came to the US to play for the Giants in 1955. Felipe’s brothers Matty and Jesús followed him to the US, and into Major League baseball.
3. News spreader of long ago : TOWN CRIER
Town criers make public announcements on the streets, usually shouting “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!” to attract attention. The term “oyez” derives from the Anglo-Norman word for “listen” and is used in this instance to me “Hear ye!”
5. Polaris, e.g., in astronomy : F STAR
Stars are usually classified based on the color of the light that they emit. These classifications are, from hottest to coolest, O, B, A, F, G, K and M. One way to remember the order of these letters is to use the mnemonic “Oh, be a fine girl, kiss me”. The colors of these stars range from blue (class O) to red (class M). Our sun is class G, a yellow star, but I think we all know that …
Because the orientation of the Earth’s axis shifts, albeit very slowly, the position of north relative to the stars changes over time. The bright star that is closest to true north is Polaris, and so we call Polaris the North Star or Pole Star. 14,000 years ago, the nearest bright star to true north was Vega, and it will be so again in about 12,000 years time.
6. Durocher in the Baseball Hall of Fame : LEO
Baseball player and manager Leo Durocher was noted for being outspoken, and was given the nickname “Leo the Lip”. In 1946, while he was manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Durocher expressed the opinion that teams like his successful Dodgers would always do better than teams replete with personable individuals (naming Mel Ott in particular). He used his most memorable phrase to encapsulate the sentiment … “nice guys finish last”.
8. ___ Tour : PGA
The Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) was founded in 1916 and today has its headquarters (unsurprisingly) in Florida, where so many golfers live. Back in 1916, the PGA was based in New York City.
9. Interjection occurring frequently in Psalms : SELAH
“Selah” is a word that appears commonly in the Book of Psalms in the Bible. Apparently the exact meaning of the term is unclear, but it is used as an instruction in reading or singing the text.
12. Smoothie 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.
13. Hideo ___, 1995 N.L. Rookie of the Year : NOMO
Hideo Nomo is a former professional baseball pitcher from Osaka, Japan. After achieving success in Japan, Nomo became the first Japanese-born player to appear in Major League Baseball in the US. Nomo threw two no-hitters while playing here in the Majors. He is the only Japanese-born player to have thrown even one no-hitter.
21. Tachometer abbr. : RPM
The tachometer takes its name from the Greek word “tachos” meaning “speed”. A tachometer measures engine revolutions per minute (rpm).
23. Garden of Eden tree : FIG
The third plant named in the Bible, after the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge, is the fig tree. Adam and Eve used leaves from the fig tree to sew garments when they realized that they were naked.
26. Kitchen wrap brand : SARAN
What’s known as plastic wrap in America, we call cling-film in Ireland. The brand name Saran is often used generically in the US, while Glad wrap is common down under. Plastic wrap was one of those unintended inventions, a byproduct of a development program to create a hard plastic cover for cars.
29. Keystone’s place : ARCH
The keystone of an arch is the last piece put in position, the placement of which allows the arch to bear weight. The keystone sits right at the apex.
32. “In ___ of flowers …” : LIEU
As one might imagine perhaps, “in lieu” comes into English from the Old French word “lieu” meaning “place”, which in turn is derived from the Latin “locum”, also meaning “place”. So, “in lieu” means “in place of”.
35. The “Ba” of BaSO4 : BARIUM
Barium is the chemical element with the atomic number 56, and the element symbol “Ba”.
36. Epoch characterized by the rise of mammals : EOCENE
The Eocene Epoch lasted from 56 to 34 million years ago. The name “Eocene” comes from the Greek “eos” meaning “dawn” and “kainos” meaning “new”. This is a reference to the “new dawn” for mammals, which emerged during the Eocene epoch.
39. La Baltique, par exemple : MER
In French, “la Baltique” (the Baltic), “par exemple” (for example), is a “mer” (sea).
The Baltic is a sea in northern Europe that is much less saline than the oceans. The lower amount of salt in the Baltic partially explains why almost half of the sea freezes over during the winter. In fact, the Baltic has been known to completely freeze over several times over the past few centuries.
44. Soldier from Seoul : ROK
A South Korean soldier is known as an ROK, an initialism standing for the Republic of (South) Korea.
Seoul is the capital city of South Korea. The Seoul National Capital Area is home to over 25 million people and is the second largest metropolitan area in the world, second only to Tokyo, Japan.
55. “Symphony in Black” artist : ERTE
“Erté” was the pseudonym of French (Russian born) artist and designer Romain de Tirtoff. Erté is the French pronunciation of his initials “R.T.” Erté’s diverse portfolio of work included costumes and sets for the “Ziegfeld Follies” of 1923, productions of the Parisian cabaret show “Folies Bergère”, as well as the 1925 epic movie “Ben-Hur”. Erté’s most famous work by far is an image titled “Symphony in Black”. It depicts a tall and slender woman dressed in black, holding a black dog on a leash.
56. Backing for plaster : LATH
The words “lath” and “lattice” have the same root in Old French. Laths are thin strips of wood that are nailed across a frame forming a backing to which plaster can be applied to finish a wall. The term is also used for the main elements in a trellis, or the lengths of wood in a roof to which shingles are nailed.
63. Abba’s home: Abbr. : SWE
I am an unapologetic fan of ABBA’s music. ABBA was the Swedish group who topped the charts in the seventies and eighties. The name ABBA is an acronym formed from the first letters of the given names of each of the band members: Agnetha, Benny, Bjorn and Anni-Frid. Early in their careers, the four fell in love and formed two married couples: Agnetha and Bjorn, and Benny and Anni-Frid. However, at the height of their success, the relationships became strained and both couples divorced.