Edited by: Will Shortz
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies
1. Reversible fabric : DAMASK
Damask was originally a weaving technique associated with the Byzantine and Islamic weaving centers of the Middle Ages. “Damask” comes from the name of Damascus which was a major trading city at that time.
7. Egyptian charm : SCARAB
Scarabs were amulets in ancient Egypt. Scarabs were modelled on the dung beetle, as it was viewed as a symbol of the cycle of life.
15. Marching ___ (Midwest college band) : ILLINI
The Illini (also “Fighting Illini”) are the athletic teams and marching band of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Illinois” is a French name that was given to the people who lived in the area (called “Illiniwek”).
20. Remains of a wreck : FLOTSAM
“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.
28. Person in a trailer, in two senses : ACTOR
The term “trailer” was originally used in the film industry to describe advertisements for upcoming features. These trailers were originally shown at the end of a movie being screened, hence the name. This practice quickly fell out of favor as theater patrons usually left at the end of the movie without paying much attention to the trailers. So, the trailers were moved to the beginning of the show, but the term “trailer” persisted.
33. Either Bill or Hillary Clinton, once : LAWYER
President Bill Clinton was born not as a Clinton, but as William Jefferson Blythe. Bill’s father was killed in a car accident just three months before he was born. His mother remarried a few years later, to Roger Clinton. Bill didn’t formally adopt the Clinton name until he was fourteen years old, although he used it as he was growing up.
Hillary Rodham was born in Chicago, Illinois to Hugh Rodham (a businessman in the textile industry) and Dorothy Howell (a homemaker). Hillary was raised in a conservative home, and she campaigned for Republican candidate Barry Goldwater in the 1964 US presidential election. The following year, she served as president of the Young Republicans at Wellesley College. Our former First Lady left the Republican Party expressing disappointment at what she witnessed at the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami, citing “veiled” racist messages prevalent at that time.
37. ___ Lesser, player of Uncle Leo on “Seinfeld” : LEN
On the sitcom “Seinfeld”, Jerry’s eccentric maternal uncle is Leo, played by actor Len Lesser. Lesser acted in movies and television for many years, alongside some of the greats of stage and screen. He was fond of telling a marvelous story about acting in the 1973 film “Papillon” starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. In his role as a prison guard, Lesser was required to shove McQueen, but McQueen didn’t think that Lesser was pushing him roughly enough. He turned to Lesser and told him “Don’t think of me as a movie star. Think of me as a character in a show”, encouraging him to be more aggressive. When McQueen walked away, Hoffman was left standing there beside Lesser. He paused and quietly said to Lesser, “Think of me as a movie star …”
42. Big name in home security systems : ADT
ADT is a home and small-business security company based in Boca Raton, Florida. The company was founded back in 1874 by Edward Calahan. Calahan had invented the stock ticker several years earlier, and ran the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company. Calahan was awoken one morning by the sound of a burglar in his house, and so he decided to develop a telegraph-based security alarm system. The success of the system led to the founding of American District Telegraph, later known as ADT.
45. A screwdriver might be added to it : BAR TAB
The cocktail called a screwdriver is a mix of fresh orange juice with vodka. Apparently the drink originated with a group of engineers in the late forties who used to spike small cans of orange juice with vodka, and then stir it in with their screwdrivers.
46. Dash part : TACH
The tachometer takes its name from the Greek word “tachos” meaning “speed”. A tachometer measures engine revolutions per minute (rpm).
50. Six-Day War leader Dayan : MOSHE
Moshe Dayan had a long and distinguished military career (including command of Israeli forces during the 1956 Suez Crisis). He also played a pivotal, and militarily active, role as Minister for Defense during the Six-Day War of 1967. He was a very recognizable figure with a black patch over his left eye. Dayan received that injury when he was fighting for the Allies in Vichy French Lebanon during WWII. He was using a pair of binoculars that was hit by an enemy bullet, smashing metal and glass fragments into his eye.
The Six-Day War took place from June 5th to June 10th, 1967, and was fought between Israel and its neighbors Egypt, Jordan and Syria. By the time the ceasefire was signed, Israel had seized huge swaths of land formerly controlled by Arab states, namely the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank of the Jordan River and the Golan Heights. The overall territory under the control of Israel grew by a factor of three in just six days.
51. Not standing, in a way : AD HOC
The Latin phrase “ad hoc” means “for this purpose”. An ad hoc committee, for example, is formed for a specific purpose and is disbanded after making its final report.
56. Ice cream treat : TORTONI
Biscuit Tortoni is an ice cream dessert made with eggs and heavy cream and usually enhanced with a couple of teaspoons of rum. “Tortoni” was apparently an 18th century owner of an Italian café in Paris.
58. French vineyards : CRUS
“Cru” is a term used in the French wine industry that means “growth place”. So, “cru” is the name of the location where the grapes are grown, as opposed to the name of a specific vineyard. The terms “premier cru” and “grand cru” are also used, but the usage depends on the specific wine region. Generally it is a classification awarded to specific vineyards denoting their potential for producing great wines. “Grand cru” is reserved for the very best vineyards, with “premier cru” the level just below.
59. 1997 film whose poster shows a woman wearing dog tags : GI JANE
G.I. Joe was the original “action figure”, the first toy to carry that description. G.I. Joe first hit the shelves in 1964. There have been a few movies based on the G.I. Joe figure, but, more famous than all of them I would say is the 1997 movie “G.I. Jane” starring Demi Moore in the title role. I thought that “G.I. Jane” had some potential, to be honest, but it really did not deliver in the end.
64. Brand in the frozen food section : ORE-IDA
Ore-Ida frozen foods are all made using potatoes. The company is located in Oregon, just across the border from Idaho. “Ore-Ida” is a melding of the two state names.
65. What a laryngitis sufferer may do : WHISPER
The suffix “-itis” is used to denote inflammation, as in laryngitis (inflammation of the larynx), otitis (inflammation of the ear) and sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses).
1. Bits of information? : DIGITAL DATA
In the world of computing, a bit is the basic unit of information. It has a value of 0 or 1. A “byte” is a small collection of “bits” (usually 8), the number of bits needed to uniquely identify a character of text. The prefix mega- stands for 10 to the power of 6, so a megabyte (meg) is 1,000,000 bytes. And the prefix giga- means 10 to the power of 9, so a gigabyte (gig) is 1,000,000,000 bytes. Well, those are the SI definitions of megabyte and kilobyte. The purists still use 2 to the power of 20 for a megabyte (i.e. 1,048,576), and 2 to the power of 30 for a gigabyte.
2. Long-running Fox sitcom : AMERICAN DAD!
“American Dad!” is an adult-oriented animated sitcom. Famously, one of the show’s creators is Seth MacFarlane, who also created “Family Guy”. Personally, I cannot stand either show …
6. Big no-no at a T.S.A. checkpoint : KNIFE
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the agency that employs the good folks that check passengers and baggage at airports.
9. Roberto ___, only Baseball Hall-of-Famer inducted as a Blue Jays player : ALOMAR
Roberto Alomar is a former Major League Baseball player, considered by many to be the greatest ever second baseman. Alomar won 10 Gold Glove awards in his career, which is more than any other second baseman in history.
11. CNN anchor Cabrera : ANA
Ana Cabrera is a journalist from Denver who joined CNN in 2013. She took over as anchor of CNN’s weekend show “CNN Newsroom” in 2017.
14. 18th-century pioneer in graph theory : EULER
Leonhard Euler was a brilliant Swiss mathematician and physicist, a pioneer in the fields of logarithms and graph theory.
17. Major city on the Tigris : MOSUL
Mosul is located in northern Iraq and is the third largest city in the country, after Baghdad and Basra. Mosul is located on the west bank of the Tigris river, opposite the ruins of the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh in the east bank.
21. Wagner’s Siegfried, for one : TENOR
Richard Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” is more properly called “Der Ring des Nibelungen” (The Ring of Nibelung), and comprises four very, very long operas. The individual operas are:
- “Das Rheingold”
- “Die Walkure”
26. Places to see Wagner : OPERA HOUSES
Richard Wagner was born in the Jewish quarter of Leipzig in 1813. Decades later, Wagner became known not only for writing magnificent music, but also for his anti-semitic views and writings.
27. Totally lost it : WENT BERSERK
Our word “berserk” meaning “deranged” comes from the “Berserkers”, Norse warriors described in Old Norse literature. Berserkers were renowned for going into battle in a fury, and some believe that they consumed drugged food to get themselves worked up for the fighting ahead.
29. Castor ___ of old comics : OYL
“Thimble Theater” was the precursor comic strip to the famous “Popeye” drawn by E. C. Segar. Before Popeye came into the story, the brother and sister characters Castor Oyl and Olive Oyl were the protagonists. And then along comes a sailor …
31. Lowly navy person : SWAB
“Swabbie” (also “swabby, swab, swabber”) is a slang term for a sailor that we’ve been using since the late 1700s. A “swab” was originally a member of the crew assigned to the swabbing (mopping) of the ship’s decks.
34. Pete Rose’s 1,314, for short : RBIS
Pete Rose was a talented baseball player who holds the record for all-time Major League hits. Rose’s nickname was “Charlie Hustle”. In recent years of course his reputation has been tarnished by admissions that he bet on games in which he played and managed.
36. Bombards with fake offers : SPAMS
The term “spam”, used for unwanted email, is taken from a “Monty Python” sketch. In the sketch (which I’ve seen) the dialog is taken over by the word Spam, a play on the glut of canned meat in the markets of Britain after WWII. So “spam” is used for the glut of emails that takes over online communication. I can just imagine nerdy Internet types (like me) adopting something from a “Monty Python” sketch to describe an online phenomenon …
47. Blather : HOT AIR
Our term “blather” meaning “nonsensical talk” probably came to us via Scottish, and ultimately perhaps from an Old Norse word for “mutter”.
49. Source of strength : SINEW
“Sinew” is another name for a tendon. Tendons are bands of collagen that connect muscle to bone. Tendons are similar to ligaments and fasciae, which are also connective tissue made out of collagen, but ligaments join bone to bone, and fasciae connect muscle to muscle. We also use the term “sinew” to mean muscular power.
52. Airbnb listing : CONDO
Airbnb is a website-based service that matches people wanting to rent out short-term living quarters to people seeking accommodation.
58. Port vessel : CASK
Portugal’s city of Oporto (“Porto” in Portuguese) gave its name to port wine in the late 1600s. Oporto was the seaport through which most of the region’s fortified red wine was exported.
59. Letters leaning to the right? : GOP
The Republican Party has had the nickname Grand Old Party (GOP) since 1875. That said, the phrase was coined in the “Congressional Record” as “this gallant old party”. The moniker was changed to “grand old party” in 1876 in an article in the “Cincinnati Commercial”. The Republican Party’s elephant mascot dates back to an 1874 cartoon drawn by Thomas Nast for “Harper’s Weekly”. The Democrat’s donkey was already an established symbol. Nast drew a donkey clothed in a lion’s skin scaring away the other animals. One of the scared animals was an elephant, which Nast labeled “The Republican Vote”.
60. Certain investment, for short : IRA
Individual retirement account (IRA)
61. Jacuzzi part : JET
Jacuzzi is one of those brand names that has become so much associated with the product that it is often assumed to be a generic term. The Jacuzzi company was founded in 1915 by the seven(!) Jacuzzi brothers in Berkeley California. The brothers, who were Italian immigrants, pronounced their name “ja-coot-si”, as one might suspect when one realizes the name is of Italian origin. The company started off by making aircraft propellers and then small aircraft, but suspended aircraft production in 1925 when one the brothers was killed in one of their planes. The family then started making hydraulic pumps, and in 1948 developed a submersible bathtub pump so that a son of one of the brothers could enjoy hydrotherapy for his rheumatoid arthritis. The “hydrotherapy product” took off in the fifties with some astute marketing towards “worn-out housewives” and the use of celebrity spokesman Jack Benny.
63. “___ for Ricochet” (2004 best seller) : R IS
Sue Grafton writes detective novels, and her “alphabet series” features the private investigator Kinsey Millhone. She started off with “A Is for Alibi” in 1982 and is working her way through the alphabet. Apparently Ms. Grafton has already decided that “Z is for Zero” will be the final title in the series. What a clever naming system!