Edited by: Will Shortz
Each of today’s themed clues is something negative. The corresponding themed answer puts a positive spin on the clue:
- 24A. Falling down : TESTING GRAVITY
- 32A. Speeding ticket : AWARD FOR FAST DRIVING
- 61A. Lying : ECONOMICAL WITH THE TRUTH
- 87A. Layoff : CAREER-SHIFT OPPORTUNITY
- 114A. Tax increase : BUDGET REINFORCEMENT
- 130A. Dead : POST-RETIREMENT
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies
8. Tight garment : CORSET
A corset is a close-fitting undergarment that is stiffened with a material such as whalebone. Corsets are more usually worn by women, to shape the body. The word “corset” is a diminutive of the Old French “cors” meaning “body”.
22. Blogger’s pick for a pic : AVATAR
The Sanskrit word “avatar” describes the concept of a deity descending into earthly life and taking on a persona. It’s easy to see how in the world of “online presences” one might use the word avatar to describe one’s online identity.
23. Utility worker : LINEMAN
A lineman is a worker who specializes in the rigging and maintenance of telephone and electric power lines. According to the Glen Campbell hit “Wichita Lineman” from 1968, a lonely lineman can be missing his loved one that he hears “singing in the wire”. Presumably, the absent lover can be heard in the vibration caused by the wind blowing through the wires.
26. Mean : AVERAGE
In a set of numbers, the mean is the average value of those numbers. The median is the numeric value at which half the numbers have a lower value, and half the numbers a higher value. The mode is the value that appears most often in the whole set of numbers.
28. Earth goddess : GAIA
In ancient Greek religion, Gaia was the Earth goddess, the mother of everything. The Roman equivalent was the goddess Terra.
29. G.P.A. killers : EFS
Grade point average (GPA)
30. “Sprechen ___ Deutsch?” : SIE
“Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” is the German for “Do you speak German?”
31. Robert of “The Sopranos” : ILER
The actor Robert Iler’s most famous role was A.J., son of mob leader Tony Soprano in HBO’s “The Sopranos”. Apparently Iler’s screen persona has spilled over into his personal life, as he was arrested for armed robbery of two tourists in 2001 (and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge).
40. Ball ___ : PEEN
The peen of a hammer is on the head, and is the side of the head that is opposite the striking surface. Often the peen is in the shape of a hemisphere (as in a ball-peen hammer), but usually it is shaped like a claw (mainly for removing nails).
41. Besmirch : TAR
“Besmirch” is a derivative of “smirch”, with both words meaning to “make dirty”. In particular, to besmirch is to sully someone’s reputation.
43. Climbing Mount Everest, e.g. : ORDEAL
Mount Everest was first summited in 1953 by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Nepalese sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Hillary and Norgay were part of an expedition from which two pairs of climbers were selected to make a summit attempt. The first pair were Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans, and they came within 330 feet of their goal but had to turn back. The expedition sent up the second pair two days later, and history was made on 29 May 1953.
45. Be Kind to Editors and Writers Mo. [for real!] : SEPT
Yep, September is National Be Kind to Writers and Editors Month. I guess that means “Three cheers for Will Shortz, and for all of the folks who construct our crosswords”. Thank you!
48. Notable features of Stockholm and Amsterdam : CANALS
Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and most populous city in the country. Over one fifth of all Swedish residents live in Stockholm.
Amsterdam is the cultural capital and the commercial capital of the Netherlands, but not the administrative capital. That honor goes to the Hague. Amsterdam’s name translates as “Dam on the river Amstel”.
51. It “exists when one goes against one’s conscience,” per Pope Francis : SIN
Pope Francis was elected on 13 March 2013 as the 266th Bishop of Rome and leader of the Roman Catholic church. The new pope is famously taking a much simpler and more modest approach to the office, as he did with his life back in Argentina. Francis is the first pope since 1903 not to reside in the papal residence, choosing to live instead in the less lavish Vatican guesthouse.
55. D.C. lobby for seniors : AARP
“AARP” is now the official name for the interest group that used to be called the American Association of Retired Persons. The name change reflects the current focus of the group on all Americans aged 50 or over, as opposed to just people who have retired.
57. Locale for two of the Quad Cities : IOWA
The Quad Cities are a group of five cities located on the Iowa-Illinois border and on either side of the Mississippi River. The Iowa cities are Davenport and Bettendorf, and the Illinois cities are Rock Island, Moline and East Moline. The grouping was originally just three cities (Davenport, Rock Island and Moline) and used the name “Tri-Cities”. This changed to “Quad Cities” as East Moline grew to a size comparable to the original three cities. With the growth of Bettendorf, the list of linked cities became five. There has been talk of changing the name to “Quint Cities”, but it doesn’t seem to be catching on.
66. Heat, as to soften metal : ANNEAL
One anneals glass or metal by exposing to a very specific temperature profile, resulting in a tougher or less brittle product.
67. “u r hilarious!” : LMAO
Laughing my a** off (LMAO)
68. How scallops are often prepared : SEARED
A scallop is a marine mollusk that is served as seafood. Scallops are often served baked in milk and this method of preparation has become known as “scalloping”. So, scalloped potatoes are potatoes baked in milk.
69. French horticulturist after whom a variety of fruit is named : BOSC
Bosc is a cultivar of the European pear grown in the northwest of the United States. The Bosc is that pear with a skin the color of a potato, with a long neck. I always seem to use the potato as my point of reference. How Irish am I …?
77. Google ___ : MAPS
Google Maps was developed as a web mapping service for desktops. The (wonderful!) Google Maps mobile app was released in 2008, and is now the most popular smartphone app in the world.
81. Go over in blackjack : BUST
The card game known as “twenty-one” was first referred to in a book by Cervantes, the author famous for writing “Don Quixote”. He called the game “ventiuna” (Spanish for “twenty-one”). Cervantes wrote his story just after the year 1600, so the game has been around at least since then. Twenty-one came to the US but it wasn’t all that popular so bonus payments were introduced to create more interest. One of the more attractive bonuses was a ten-to-one payout to a player who was dealt an ace of spades and a black jack. This bonus led to the game adopting the moniker “Blackjack”.
94. Old sitcom character who was 229 years old : ALF
“ALF” is a sitcom that aired in the late eighties. ALF is a hand-puppet, supposedly an alien from the planet Melmac that crash-landed in a suburban neighborhood. “ALF” stands for “alien life form”.
99. Florae and faunae : BIOTAS
The biota of a region is the total collection of flora and fauna found there.
The fauna is the animal life of a particular region, and the flora is that region’s plant life. The term “fauna” comes from the Roman goddess of earth and fertility who was called Fauna. Flora was the Roman goddess of plants, flowers and fertility.
105. TWA competitor : USAIR
From 1953, what we recently referred to as US Airways was called Allegheny Airlines. In the seventies, customers became very dissatisfied with the company’s service levels as it struggled to manage a rapid expansion in its number of flights. These problems earned the airline the nickname “Agony Air”. Allegheny tried to leave the “agony” behind in 1979 and changed its name to USAir, but commuters then just used the nickname “Unfortunately Still Allegheny”. The name was changed again, in 1997, to US Airways. US Airways merged with American Airlines in 2013, and the “US Airways” brand name was gradually replaced with “American Airlines”.
108. Classic Jag : XKE
Auto manufacturer Jaguar started out as a manufacturer of sidecars for motorcycles back in 1922, when the company was known as the Swallow Sidecar Company (SS for short). The company changed its name to Jaguar after WWII, because of the unfortunate connotations of the letters “SS” in that era (i.e. the Nazi paramilitary organization).
120. Cheers in un estadio : OLES
In Spain, one might hear a shout of “ole!” in “un estadio” (a stadium).
121. Canon camera : EOS
I’ve been using Canon EOS cameras for decades now, and have nothing but good things to say about both the cameras and the lenses. The EOS name stands for Electro-Optical System, and was chosen because it evokes the name of Eos, the Titan goddess of dawn from Greek mythology.
124. Some W.S.J. topics : IPOS
An initial public offering (IPO) is the very first offer of stock for sale by a company on the open market. In other words, an IPO marks the first time that a company is traded on a public exchange. Companies have an IPO to raise capital to expand (usually).
“The Wall Street Journal” (WSJ) is a daily newspaper with a business bent that is published in New York City by Dow Jones & Company. The WSJ has a larger US circulation than any other newspaper, with “USA Today” coming in a close second place.
135. Pasta recipe phrase : AL DENTE
The Italian expression “al dente” literally means “to the tooth” or “to the bite” and is used to describe not only pasta, but also vegetables that are cooked so that they are tender and yet still crisp.
1. New Testament book : ACTS
The Acts of the Apostles is the fifth book of the Christian New Testament. It is believed that the author of the Gospel of Luke was the same person who wrote “Acts”.
3. Radio host John : TESH
John Tesh is a pianist and composer, as well as a radio and television presenter. For many years Tesh presented the show “Entertainment Tonight”. For “ET” he once covered the filming of an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. As part of the piece, he volunteered to act as a Klingon warrior. If you see the “Star Trek: TNG” episode called “The Icarus Factor” in reruns, watch out for John Tesh engaging in ritual torture with Mr. Worf as his victim.
4. Life in the big city, to some : RAT RACE
We use “rat race” figuratively to describe an endless, pointless pursuit. The term comes from the laboratory, where one might imagine rats racing around a maze in search of some cheese.
6. Dance with a kick : CONGA
The conga line is a dance that originated as a Cuban carnival march. It became popular in the US starting in the thirties. The dance is apparently named after the Congo region of Africa, and it was originated by slaves who were brought from there to Cuba.
7. John Irving protagonist portrayed by Robin Williams : TS GARP
John Irving’s 1978 novel “The World According to Garp” is somewhat biographical. In fact, Irving’s mother found parts of the novel difficult to read, recognizing elements of herself in Garp’s mother Jenny Fields.
13. Five-point rugby play : TRY
In the game of rugby, a try is scored by grounding the ball behind the opposition’s goal line. A try is similar to a touchdown in American football, although in rugby the ball must be manually placed on the ground by the player making the score. The term “try” is used as originally that act of touching the ball to the ground simply qualified a team for a “try at goal”, an opportunity to kick the ball at goal to make the score.
14. Stripes mismatch, traditionally : PLAID
Tartan is sometimes called “plaid” over here in the US, a word not used in the same sense outside of this country. In Scotland a “plaid” is a blanket or a tartan cloth slung over the shoulder.
15. Amazon, e.g. : RIVER
The Amazon River of South America is the world’s largest in terms of volume, and accounts for an amazing one-fifth of the world’s total river flow. Perhaps even more amazing is that there are no bridges across the Amazon! There isn’t even one, mainly because the river flows through tropical rainforest where there are few roads and cities.
18. Charlotte ___, Virgin Islands : AMALIE
Charlotte Amalie is the capital and largest city in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The city was named after the queen consort of King Christian V of Denmark, Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Kassel.
25. André ___, 1947 Literature Nobelist : GIDE
André Gide was an author from Paris who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1947. His works weren’t popular with the Roman Catholic church, and were placed on the Index of Forbidden Books in 1952.
33. Part of an accusation in Clue : WEAPON
Clue is board game that we knew under a different name growing up in Ireland. Outside of North America, Clue is marketed as “Cluedo”. Cluedo was the original name of the game, introduced in 1949 by the famous British board game manufacturer Waddingtons. There are cute differences between the US and UK versions. For example, the man who is murdered is called Dr. Black (Mr. Boddy in the US), one of the suspects is the Reverend Green (Mr. Green in the US), and the suspect weapons include a dagger (a knife in the US), and a spanner (a wrench in the US). I think it’s a fabulous game, a must during the holidays …
34. Laker named to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016 : O’NEAL
Retired basketball player Shaquille O’Neal now appears regularly as an analyst on the NBA TV show “Inside the NBA”. Shaq has quite a career in the entertainment world. His first rap album, called “Shaq Diesel”, went platinum. He also starred in two of his own reality show: “Shaq’s Big Challenge” and “Shaq Vs.”
37. 12 cc, maybe : DOSE
Cubic centimeters (ccs)
38. Country star Church : ERIC
Eric Church is a country singer/songwriter from Granite Falls, North Carolina. Church’s second album is titled “Carolina”.
44. Draw, as a scene : LIMN
“To limn” is to describe, or portray in a painting or a drawing. “Limn” has the same root as “illuminate”, in the sense of illuminating a manuscript.
46. Ratcheting wheel mechanism : PAWL
In a ratchet, there’s a rotating gear over which runs a spring-loaded finger, the piece of metal that makes the clicks as the gear rotates. That finger is called a “pawl”.
47. Adjust with Photoshop, maybe : TRIM
Photoshop is a wonderful piece of software used for editing graphics. When I first bought a copy of Photoshop, it was really expensive (about $300, ten years ago), but now there are cost-effective, stripped-down versions available. Also, the full version of Photoshop is now only available as a monthly subscription service.
49. Japanese drama : NOH
Noh is a form of musical drama in Japan that has been around since the 14th century. Many of the Noh performers are masked, allowing all the roles to be played by men, including the female parts.
56. School support grps. : PTAS
Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)
60. Most profs : PHDS
PhD is an abbreviation for “philosophiae doctor”, Latin for “teacher of philosophy”. Often, candidates for an earned PhD already hold a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, so a PhD might be considered a “third degree”.
62. Mother-of-pearl : NACRE
Nacre is the strong iridescent material laid down by some mollusks on the inside of their shells, and it’s also what makes up pearls. The creature lays down nacre as a defensive mechanism, protecting the soft tissue of its body from the rough surface of the outer shell. Similarly, it uses nacre to encapsulate harmful debris or a parasite that penetrates the shell, and that’s how a pearl is formed.
63. Out in court : ALIBI
“Alibi” is the Latin word for “elsewhere” as in, “I claim that I was ‘elsewhere’ when the crime was committed … I have an ‘alibi’”.
64. Boost the horsepower of : HOP UP
The unit of horsepower was introduced along with the steam engine, where the output of the engine was compared with the power of draft horses. Largely, this comparison with the horse was a marketing ploy, as the intent was to demonstrate that one steam engine could negate the need for a number of draft horses used for work.
65. Dish served with chopsticks in a bowl : RAMEN
Ramen is a noodle dish composed of Chinese-style wheat noodles in a meat or fish broth flavored with soy or miso sauce. Ramen is usually topped with sliced pork and dried seaweed. The term “ramen” is a also used for precooked, instant noodles that come in single-serving, solid blocks.
69. Florida beach city, informally : BOCA
The name of the city of Boca Raton in Florida translates from Spanish as “Mouse Mouth”. There doesn’t seem to be a definitive etymology of the name but one plausible explanation is a nautical one. “Boca”, as well as meaning “mouth” can mean “inlet”. “Ratón”, as well as meaning “mouse” was also used to describe rocks that chewed away at a ship’s anchor cable. So possibly Boca Raton was named for a rocky inlet.
71. Lowly worker : SERF
A serf was a member of the lowest feudal class, someone attached to land owned by a lord. “Serf” comes from the Latin “servus”, meaning “slave”.
75. Those, in Tijuana : ESOS
Tijuana is the largest city in the Mexican state of Baja California, and lies just across the US-Mexico border from San Diego. Tijuana is also the most westerly of all Mexican cities. A lot of Tijuana’s growth took place in the twenties as tourists flocked south of the border during the days of prohibition in the US. One of the many casinos and hotels that flourished at that time was Hotel Caesar’s in the Avenida Revolución area. Hotel Caesar’s claims to be the birthplace of the now ubiquitous Caesar Salad.
76. Complaining fish? : CARP
The word “carp” used to mean simply “talk” back in the 13th century, with its roots in the Old Norwegian “karpa” meaning “to brag”. A century later the Latin word “carpere” meaning “to slander” influenced the use of “carp” so that it came to mean “find fault with”.
Carp are freshwater fish that are used as food around the world, although they aren’t very popular in North American kitchens. The ornamental fish that we know as goldfish and koi are all types of carp.
80. “Creme sandwich” introduced over a century ago : OREO
The Oreo cookie was introduced in 1912. The Oreo was intended to be a competitor to the very similar Hydrox cookie which had debuted four years earlier. The Oreo won the resulting battle on the grocery store shelves …
82. Animal depicted in Edwin Landseer’s “The Monarch of the Glen” : STAG
A male deer is usually called a buck, and a female is a doe. However, the male red deer is usually referred to as a stag. The males of even larger species of deer are often called bulls, and females cows. In older English, male deer of over 5 years were called harts, and females of over 3 years were called hinds. The young of small species are known as fawns, and of larger species are called calves. All very confusing …
85. Air-conditioner fig. : BTUS
In the world of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), the power of a heating or cooling unit can be measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). This dated unit is the amount of energy required to heat a pound of water so that the water’s temperature increases by one degree Fahrenheit.
90. Liquid-___ : PLUMR
Liquid-Plumr is a chemical drain opener that is produced by Clorox.
91. Pet food with a paw print logo : IAMS
Iams dog food was introduced by the animal nutritionist Paul Iams. He felt that household pets were suffering somewhat by being fed a diet of table scraps, so he developed a dry dog food that he felt was more nutritious and suitable for pet dogs. He founded the Iams company, now part of Procter & Gamble, in 1946.
92. Where to accent “Laotian” : THE O
The official name for the country of Laos is the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. In the Lao language, the country’s name is “Meuang Lao”. The French ruled Laos as part of French Indochina, having united three separate Lao kingdoms. As there was a plural of “Lao” entities united into one, the French added the “S” and so today we tend to use “Laos” instead of “Lao”.
100. Suffix with brew : -SKI
“Brewski” and “cold one” are slang terms for “beer”.
102. Underbrush clearer : MACHETE
A machete is a large knife, one usually 13-18 inches long. The term “machete” is the diminutive of “macho” meaning “male, strong”.
105. W.W. II shipping worries : U-BOATS
“U-boat” stands for the German “Unterseeboot” (undersea boat). Notably, a U-boat sank the RMS Lusitania in 1915, an event that helped propel the US into WWI.
106. Oman’s leader, e.g. : SULTAN
Oman lies on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula and is neighbored by the OAE, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Oman is a monarchy, and the official name of the state is the Sultanate of Oman. All of the country’s legislative, executive and judiciary power resides with the hereditary sultan.
107. Antarctic penguin : ADELIE
The Adélie penguin is found along the Antarctic coast, and are named after the Antarctic territory called Adélie Land that is claimed by France. Adélie Land was discovered by French explorer Jules Dumont D’Urville in 1840, and he named the territory after his wife Adéle.
109. Officially prohibit : ENJOIN
In legal terms, “to enjoin” means “to prohibit”, to issue an injunction prohibiting a specific act.
112. It goes up to about 1700 : AM DIAL
In telecommunications, a radio signal is transmitted using a sinusoidal carrier wave. Information is transmitted using this carrier wave in two main ways, by varying (modulating) the instantaneous amplitude (signal strength) of the carrier wave, and by modulating the instantaneous frequency of the carrier wave. The former is referred to as an AM signal (for “amplitude modulation”), and the latter as an FM signal (for “frequency modulation”).
115. Aquarium fish : TETRA
The neon tetra is a freshwater fish that is native to parts of South America. The tetra is a very popular aquarium fish and millions are imported into the US every year. Almost all of the imported tetras are farm-raised in Asia and very few come from their native continent.
118. Holy Roman emperor called “the Great” : OTTO I
Charlemagne was the first king to use the title “Holy Roman Emperor”, even though the Holy Roman Empire was not actually founded until over a century later when Otto I was crowned Emperor. Otto was the first of an unbroken line of Holy Roman Emperors who ruled Central Europe until 1806.
119. Country rocker Steve : EARLE
Steve Earle is an American songwriter and performer, with a reputation as a man who has lived a hard life. Earle’s brushes with the law and drug addiction problems have earned him the nickname “the hardcore troubadour”.
125. One of the Ivies : PENN
The University of Pennsylvania (Penn or UPenn) was founded in 1740 by by Benjamin Franklin. Penn was the first school in the country to offer both graduate and undergraduate courses. Penn’s sports teams are known as the Quakers, or sometimes the Red & Blue.
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.
127. Let stand, editorially : STET
“Stet” is a Latin word meaning “let it stand”. In editorial work, the typesetter is instructed to disregard any change previously marked by writing the word “stet” and then underscoring that change with a line of dots or dashes.
130. U.N. observer since ’74 : PLO
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964. The PLO’s early stated goal was the liberation of Palestine, with Palestine defined as the geographic entity that existed under the terms of the British Mandate granted by the League of Nations back in 1923. The PLO was granted observer status (i.e. no voting rights) at the United Nations in 1974.