Edited by: Will Shortz
Each of today’s themed answers includes the name of an ISLAND, hidden right in the CENTER of that answer:
- 36A. With 38-Across, feature of an upscale kitchen … or of 17-, 23-, 47- and 58-Across? : CENTER …
- 38A. See 36-Across : … ISLAND
- 17A. One might stare at the Sun : BALTIMOREAN (hiding “Timor”)
- 23A. It holds four pecks : BUSHEL BASKET (hiding “Elba”)
- 47A. Manager at a train depot : STATION AGENT (hiding “Iona”)
- 58A. Discussions that might lead to a treaty : FORMAL TALKS (hiding “Malta”)
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies
1. River to the Caspian Sea : VOLGA
The Volga is the longest river in Europe, and is also considered the national river of Russia.
The Caspian Sea is a landlocked body of water lying between Asia and Europe. By some definitions, the Caspian is the largest lake on the planet. The name “Caspian” comes from the Caspi people who lived to the southwest of the sea in South Caucasus.
11. ___ the line (obey) : TOE
The idiomatic expression “to toe the line” means “to obey”. The etymology of the phrase is disputed, although it is likely to come from the Royal Navy. Barefooted sailors were required to stand to attention for inspection lined up along the seams for the wooden deck, hence “toeing the line”.
14. Like some walls at Harvard : IVIED
The term “Ivy League” originally defined an athletic conference, but now it is used to describe a group of schools of higher education that are associated with both a long tradition and academic excellence. The eight Ivy League Schools are: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale.
15. Tureen dipper : LADLE
The verb “to lade” meaning “to load” comes from an Old English word “hladan”. “Lade” also used to mean “draw water” and indeed gave us our word “ladle”. So “lade” and “ladle” are close cousins.
A tureen is a deep dish used for serving soups and stews. This should not be confused with “terrine”, the name of a cooking dish made from glazed earthenware that has a tightly-fitting lid.
17. One might stare at the Sun : BALTIMOREAN (hiding “Timor”)
Maryland’s largest-circulation newspaper is “The Baltimore Sun”. “The Sun” has been around for a long time, having been founded in 1837.
Timor is an island in Maritime Southeast Asia. The island is politically divided into West Timor, belonging to Indonesia, and the independent state of East Timor. The name “Timor” comes from a Malay word for “east”, and is used as Timor lies at the eastern end of the Lesser Sunda Islands.
20. Paris’s ___ Palace : ELYSEE
The Élysée Palace is the official residence of the French President, and is near the Champs-Élysées in Paris. In the 1800s, there used to be a tunnel between the Élysée Palace and the nearby Tuileries Palace, a tunnel used quite often by Napoleon Bonaparte. While Napoleon lived in the Tuileries Palace, he would meet his mistresses in the Élysée Palace. He was ever the soul of discretion …
22. Linux forerunner : UNIX
Unix is a computer operating system that was developed at Bell Labs in 1969. The initial name for the project was Uniplexed Information and Computing Service (Unics), and this evolved over time into “Unix”.
23. It holds four pecks : BUSHEL BASKET (hiding “Elba”)
In the imperial system of weights and measures, a bushel is a unit of dry volume made up of 4 pecks. In the US system, a bushel is a dry volume of 8 gallons. We have used the term “bushel” to mean “large quantity” since the 14th century.
I had a lovely two-week vacation in Tuscany once, including what was supposed to be a two-night stay on the island of Elba. I had envisioned Elba as a place full of history, and maybe it is, but it is also overrun with tourists who use it as a beach getaway. We left after one day and we won’t be going back again …
26. NBC host Carson : DALY
Carson Daly is a radio and television personality who is perhaps best known today as host of the reality show “The Voice”. If you stay up late enough on New Year’s Eve, you might also know him from NBC’s “New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly”.
29. 1986-2001 Earth orbiter : MIR
The Russian Mir Space Station was a remarkably successful project, with the station still holding the record for the longest continuous manned presence in space, at just under ten years. Towards the end of the space station’s life however, the years began to take their toll. There was a dangerous fire, multiple system failures, and a collision with a resupply ship. The Russian commitment to the International Space Station drained funds for repairs, so Mir was allowed to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up in 2001. “Mir” is a Russian word meaning “peace” or “world”.
30. Outback flock : EMUS
The emu has had a tough time in Australia since man settled there. There was even an “Emu War” in Western Australia in 1932 when migrating emus competed with livestock for water and food. Soldiers were sent in and used machine guns in an unsuccessful attempt to drive off the “invading force”. The emus were clever, breaking their usual formations and adopting guerrilla tactics, operating as smaller units. After 50 days of “war”, the military withdrew. Subsequent requests for military help for the farmers were ignored. The emus had emerged victorious …
32. Banco de México money : PESO
The coin called a “peso” is used in many Spanish-speaking countries around the world. The coin originated in Spain where the word “peso” means “weight”. The original peso was what we know in English as a “piece of eight”, a silver coin of a specific weight that had a nominal value of eight “reales”.
39. Message that might start with “@” : TWEET
I have never tweeted in my life, and have no plans to do so (but one should never say “never”). Twitter is a microblogging service that limits any post sent to just 140 characters. In a sense, it is similar to this blog. Here I send out a post once a day containing information that I think might be useful to folks (thank you for reading!). I don’t think I could send out much of interest using just 140 characters.
40. Whitney and Shasta, for two: Abbr. : MTNS
Mount Whitney in California has an elevation of 14,505 feet, making its peak the highest spot in the contiguous United States. Mt. Whitney was given its name in 1864 by members of the California Geographical Society who named it after Josiah Whitney, the State Geologist at the time.
Mount Shasta is in northern California. The origin of the name “Shasta” seems to be unclear. It may have come from the Russian “tchastal” meaning “white, clean, pure”, a name given to the volcanic peak by early Russian immigrants.
42. “To Kill a Mockingbird” author : LEE
Nelle Harper Lee was an author from Monroeville, Alabama. For many years, Lee had only one published novel to her name. That is a “To Kill a Mockingbird”, a contribution to the world of literature was enough to earn her the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Pulitzer Prize. Harper Lee was a close friend of fellow author Truman Capote who was the inspiration for the character named “Dill” in her novel. Lee was all over the news in 2015 as she had published a second novel, titled “Go Set a Watchman”. The experts seem to be agreeing that “Go Set a Watchman” is actually a first draft of “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Lee passed away less than a year after “Go Set a Watchman” hit the stores.
43. Former piece of an ice shelf : BERG
An iceberg is a large piece of freshwater ice that is floating freely after having broken off from a glacier or ice shelf. Our use of “iceberg” comes from the Dutch word for the same phenomenon “ijsberg”, which translates literally as “ice mountain”.
45. Affirmative in “Fargo” : YAH
“Fargo” is one of my favorite films of all time, and stars perhaps my favorite actress, Frances McDormand. “Fargo” was directed by the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan. Frances McDormand is Joel’s wife.
46. Huskies’ haul : SLED
The Siberian Husky is one of the oldest breeds of dog, and originated in northern Asia. Siberian Huskies were imported into Alaska in great numbers in the early 1900s for use as sled dogs during the gold rush.
47. Manager at a train depot : STATION AGENT (hiding “Iona”)
Although the small island of Iona lies just off the west coast of Scotland, it was the site of a monastery built in the Middle Ages by a monk from Ireland names Colm Cille (also known as Columba). Colm Cille and his followers were sent into exile from the Irish mainland and settled in Iona, as at that time the island was part of an Irish kingdom. This monastery in Iona expanded its influence over the decades and founded other institutions all over Ireland and Great Britain. It is believed that the famous Book of Kells may have been written, or at least started, at the monastery on Iona. Iona is also the burial site for Macbeth, King of Scotland who was immortalized in Shakespeare’s fictional account of the king’s life.
53. Julius who sang “Anywhere I Wander,” 1953 : LA ROSA
Julius La Rosa has been singing on radio and television since the fifties, although doesn’t perform very often now as he is in his eighties. He worked as a disk jockey for many years up to the end of the nineties, introducing old time music on a New York radio station.
58. Discussions that might lead to a treaty : FORMAL TALKS (hiding “Malta”)
The island state of Malta is relatively small (122 square miles), but its large number of inhabitants makes it one of the most densely populated countries in Europe. Malta’s strategic location has made it a prized possession for the conquering empires of the world. Most recently it was part of the British Empire and was an important fleet headquarters. Malta played a crucial role for the Allies during WWII as it was located very close to the Axis shipping lanes in the Mediterranean. The Siege of Malta lasted from 1940 to 1942, a prolonged attack by the Italians and Germans on the RAF and Royal Navy, and the people of Malta. When the siege was lifted, King George VI awarded the George Cross to the people of Malta collectively in recognition of their heroism and devotion to the Allied cause. The George Cross can still be seen on the Maltese flag, even though Britain granted Malta independence in 1964.
61. Capital of Jordan : AMMAN
Amman is the capital city of Jordan, and is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world. Amman has been occupied by a number of different civilizations over the centuries, including the Greeks who called it Philadelphia, a name retained by the Romans when they occupied the city just after 100 AD.
65. Catch at a rodeo : LASSO
Our English word “lasso” comes from the Spanish “lazo”, and ultimately from the Latin “laqueum” meaning “noose, snare”.
3. Water ___ (pond plant) : LILY
Water lilies have leaves and flowers that float on the surface of a body of water. However, the roots of the plant are embedded in soil, soil at the bottom of the pond or lake.
5. Parting word that’s 80% vowels : ADIEU
“Adieu” is the French for “goodbye” or “farewell”, from “à Dieu” meaning “to God”. The plural of “adieu” is “adieux”.
7. Medal of Honor recipient : WAR HERO
The highest military decoration awarded for gallantry is the Medal of Honor. The second highest medal is specific to the service, namely the Distinguished Service Cross (Army), the Navy Cross (Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard) and the Air Force Cross. The third highest award is the Silver Star.
9. Served in blazing liquor : FLAMBE
Flambé is the French word for “flamed”, and was originally a term used to describe certain types of porcelain. The word “flambé” crept into cookery just after 1900.
10. <-- : TEN
That arrow in the clue is pointing to the clue number, the number 10.
18. Famed German hypnotist : MESMER
Franz Mesmer was a German physician, and the person who coined the phrase “animal magnetism”. Back then the term described a purported magnetic field that resided in the bodies of animate beings. Mesmer also lent his name to our term “mesmerize”.
22. Bar habitué’s order, with “the” : USUAL
A “habitué” is someone who frequents a particular spot. “Habituer” is the French word for “to accustom”.
28. Player who might tackle a wide receiver : LINEBACKER
That would be football.
32. Kind of dish at a lab : PETRI
Julius Richard Petri was a German bacteriologist and was the man after whom the Petri dish is named. The petri dish can have an agar gel on the bottom which acts a nutrient source for the specimen being grown and studied, in which case the dish plus agar is referred to as an “agar plate”.
34. Old-fashioned dagger : SNEE
A “snee” is a type of dagger formerly used by Scottish highlanders.
35. Had too much, briefly : ODED
40. Neighbor of Bangladesh : MYANMAR
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar is the official name of the Asian country that some nations still recognize as the Union of Burma.
The independent nation of Bangladesh was established after the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, when the province of East Pakistan was seceded by the State of Pakistan. The struggle for independence really started when the British exited the region, dividing British India into the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan in 1947. The Union of India became today’s Republic of India, and the Dominion of Pakistan eventually split into today’s Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.
49. “Psycho” mother : NORMA
The classic Alfred Hitchcock suspense film “Psycho” released in 1960 is based on a 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. The Bloch novel in turn is loosely based on actual crimes committed by murderer and grave robber Ed Gein. When “Psycho” was making its initial run in theaters, latecomers were not granted admission, abiding by a policy instigated by Hitchcock himself. He felt that anyone missing the opening scenes would not enjoy the film.
54. Plaza de toros cries : OLES
We translate the Spanish phrase “Plaza de Toros” as “bullring”, and bullfighting is known as “corrida de toros” in Spain. Bullfighting can also be seen in Portugal, southern France and in parts of Latin America.
55. Tackles a black diamond trail, say : SKIS
In North America, ski runs are given a standardized rating in terms of skiing difficulty. The ratings are:
- Green circles: easy to ski, often termed “bunny slopes”.
- Blue squares: medium difficulty
- Black diamond: steep and challenging terrain
- Double black diamond: experts only (I’ve never braved one!)
58. Liposculpture target : FAT
Liposuction (lipo) dates back to the 1920s when it was developed by a surgeon in France. However, the procedure quickly lost favor when a French model developed gangrene after surgery. As a result it wasn’t until the mid-seventies that modern liposuction took off, after being popularized by two Italian-American surgeons in Rome.