Edited by: Rich Norris
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Today’s themed answers each start with a synonym of NOTHING. So, the ends of the themed answers are NEXT TO NOTHING:
- 54A. Virtually zero, and where the ends of 20-, 32- and 43-Across are literally situated : NEXT TO NOTHING
- 20A. Player who shoots par regularly : SCRATCH GOLFER
- 32A. Floppy disk backup device : ZIP DRIVE
- 43A. Ballad for a valentine : LOVE SONG
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
10. Modern organizers, for short : PDAS
Personal digital assistant (PDA)
14. Countenance : MIEN
One’s “mien” is one’s bearing or manner. “Mien” shares the same etymological root as our word “demeanor”.
16. Wine prefix : OENO-
In Greek mythology, Oeno was the goddess of wine, giving us “oen-” as a prefix meaning “wine”. For example, oenology is the study of wine and an oenophile is a wine-lover.
18. Football with scrums : RUGBY
If you’ve ever seen a rugby match, you’ll recognize the “scrum”, where the players designated as “forwards” bind together and push against the forwards on the opposing team. It’s a way of restarting the game after various types of stoppages. Scrum is short for “scrummage”, which in itself is a variation of “scrimmage”. And “scrimmage” has its roots in the word “skirmish”. If you get the chance, take a look at the Matt Damon-Morgan Freeman movie called “Invictus”, directed by Clint Eastwood. It’s all about rugby in South Africa after Nelson Mandela came to power. A powerful film …
19. Songwriter Kristofferson : KRIS
The singer Kris Kristofferson was born in Brownsville, Texas and was the son of a USAF Major General. Indeed, Kristofferson’s paternal grandfather was also a military officer, but in the Swedish Army. Kristofferson himself went into the US Army and served in West Germany, achieving the rank of Captain.
20. Player who shoots par regularly : SCRATCH GOLFER
A golfer whose handicap is zero is known as a “scratch golfer”. A player with a handicap of 18, given that there are 18 holes in a full round, is known as a “bogey golfer”.
23. Malted relative : SHAKE
Walgreens claims to have introduced the malted milkshake, back in 1922.
24. Magnolia State school, familiarly : OLE MISS
“Ole Miss” is the nickname for the University of Mississippi. The name “Ole Miss” dates back to 1897, the first year a student yearbook was published. The graduating class held a competition to name the yearbook and “Ole Miss” emerged as the winner. The name stuck to the yearbook, and also as a nickname for the school itself. The University of Mississippi sports teams have been known as the Rebels since 1936. Prior to 1936, they were known as the Mississippi Flood.
The Mississippi state quarter features two magnolia blossoms, and was first issued on October 15, 2002. Mississippi is known as the home to many stately Magnolia trees, giving it the nickname “the Magnolia State”.
31. Calendar page : MONTH
Our word “calendar” ultimately derives from the Latin “calendae”. “Calends” were the first days of each Roman month. The Latin “calendarium” was an account book, as the debts fell due and accounts were reckoned on the first day of each month.
32. Floppy disk backup device : ZIP DRIVE
Zip drives were hugely popular in the late nineties. Made by Iomega, Zip drives and their portable Zip disks were used the same way as standard 3.5-inch floppy drives and disks. But, Zip disks had a much, much higher storage capacity.
36. Angsty rock genre : EMO
The musical genre of “emo” originated in Washington D.C. in the 80s, and takes its name from “emotional hardcore”. “Emo” is also the name given to the associated subculture. Not my cup of tea …
37. Michelangelo statue : PIETA
The Pietà is a representation of the Virgin Mary holding in her arms the dead body of her son Jesus. The most famous “Pietà” is probably the sculpted rendition by Michelangelo which is located in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. In some depictions, Mary and her son are surrounded by other figures from the New Testament, and these depictions are known as “Lamentations”.
39. R&B’s __ Hill : DRU
Dru Hill is an R&B singing group from Baltimore, Maryland. Dru Hill was formed in 1992, and is still going strong today. The name “Dru Hill” comes from Druid Hill Park which is found on the west side of Baltimore.
43. Ballad for a valentine : LOVE SONG
Saint Valentine’s Day was introduced by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD to honor various martyrs with the name Valentine. However, the saint’s’ day was dropped by the Roman Catholic church in 1969, by Pope Paul VI. Try telling that to Hallmark though …
46. Start of a Poitier film title : TO SIR …
“To Sir, with Love” is an excellent 1967 drama film starring Sidney Poitier that is based on a novel of the same name by E. R. Braithwaite. The film is about an inexperienced teacher in a tough school in the East End of London. If you see the movie keep a lookout for a couple of supporting actors. Lulu plays the student called Babs Pegg, and also sings the hit theme song from the movie. Patricia Routledge plays fellow teacher Clinty Clintridge, and later in her career played Hyacinth Bucket in the enduring BBC comedy series “Keeping Up Appearances”.
The Hollywood actor Sidney Poitier was born in Miami, but grew up in the Bahamas. Poitiers breakthrough role in movies came with 1955’s “Blackboard Jungle”, in which he played an incorrigible high school student. I find it interesting that one of Poitier’s most respected performances found him playing a teacher of a rough set of students in 1967’s “To Sir, with Love”. Off the screen, Poitier entered the diplomatic service for the Bahamas, serving as the nation’s non-resident ambassador to Japan from 1997 until 2007.
48. O. Henry works : STORIES
O. Henry was the pen name of writer William Sydney Porter from Greensboro, North Carolina. O. Henry is famous for his witty short stories that have a clever twist in the tail.
50. Mexican dip : SALSA
“Salsa” is simply the Spanish for “sauce”.
61. Cupid : AMOR
Cupid was the god of love in Roman mythology. Cupid’s name comes from the Latin verb “cupere” meaning “to desire”. Cupid’s Latin name was Amor, and his Greek counterpart was Eros.
62. Save for binge-watching, say : TIVO
TiVo was introduced in 1999 and was the world’s first commercially successful Digital Video Recorder (DVR).
63. ’50s nuclear trial : A-TEST
Atomic test (A-test)
65. River of Hades : STYX
The River Styx in Greek mythology was the river that formed the boundary between the Earth and the Underworld (or Hades). The souls of the newly dead had to cross the River Styx in a ferry boat piloted by Charon. Traditionally, a coin would be placed in the mouths of the dead “to pay the ferryman”.
Hades was the god of the underworld to the ancient Greeks. Over time, Hades gave his name to the underworld itself, the place where the dead reside. The term “Hades” was also adopted into the Christian tradition, as an alternative name for hell. But, the concept of hell in Christianity is more akin to the Greek “Tartarus”, which is a dark and gloomy dungeon located in Hades, a place of suffering and torment.
66. Barcelona babies : NENES
“Nene” is the Spanish word for a male baby or young child.
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain, after the capital Madrid. Barcelona is the largest European city that sits on the Mediterranean coast. It is also the capital city of the autonomous community of Catalonia.
3. Aquarium fish : TETRA
The neon tetra is a freshwater fish, 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.
5. Artist Chagall : MARC
Marc Chagall was a Russian-French artist, one of the most successful of the 20th century. Unlike so many painters, Chagall was able to achieve wealth and notoriety for his work during his own lifetime. It did help that Chagall lived to a ripe old age though. He passed away in 1985, when he was 97 years young. One of Chagall’s most famous works is the ceiling of the Paris Opera. The new ceiling for the beautiful 19th-century building was commissioned in 1963, and took Chagall a year to complete. Chagall was 77 years old when he worked on the Paris Opera project.
7. __ Mason: investment giant : LEGG
Legg Mason is a large investment management company that was founded in 1899 in Baltimore, where it is still based today.
9. Poem of rustic life : IDYLL
An “idyll” (also “idyl”) is a short poem with a pastoral theme, usually depicting the scene in romantic and idealized terms. The word comes from the Greek “eidyllion”, which literally translates to “little picture” but was a word describing a short, poem with a rustic theme.
10. Critters hunted with a hugely popular 2016 mobile app : POKEMON
“Pokémon GO!” is a reality-based video game in which players must locate, capture, battle and train virtual creatures known as Pokémon. The Pokémon are hidden in the real world, in the sense that they have to be located on an electronic device (like a smartphone) in “the real world”, for which a GPS location is needed. Players see the Pokémon overlaid on a view of the real world on their smart device.
11. Heroic exploits : DERRING-DO
As one might expect, “derring-do” (plural is “derrings-do”) comes from the phrase “daring to do”, which back in the 14th century was written as “dorrying don”.
12. Young Darth’s nickname : ANI
Anakin “Ani” Skywalker is the principal character in the first six of the “Star Wars” movies. His progress chronologically through the series of films is:
- Episode I: Anakin is a 9-year-old slave boy who earns the promise of Jedi training by young Obi-Wan Kenobi.
- Episode II: Anakin is 18-years-old and goes on a murdering rampage to avenge the killing of his mother.
- Episode III: Anakin is 21-years-old and a Jedi knight, but he turns to the Dark Side and becomes Darth Vader. His wife Padme gives birth to twins, Luke and Leia Skywalker.
- Episode IV: Darth Vader, comes into conflict with his children, Luke Skywalker and the Princess Leia.
- Episode V: Darth Vader attempts to coax his son Luke over to the dark side, and reveals to Luke that he is his father.
- Episode VI: Luke learns that Leia is his sister, and takes on the task of bringing Darth Vader back from the Dark Side in order to save the Galaxy. Vader saves his son from the Emperor’s evil grip, dying in the process, but his spirit ends up alongside the spirits of Yoda and Obi-Wan. They all live happily ever after …
13. Distress signal at sea : SOS
The combination of three dots – three dashes – three dots, is a Morse signal first introduced by the German government as a standard distress call in 1905. The sequence is remembered as the letters SOS (three dots – pause – three dashes – pause – three dots), although in the emergency signal there is no pause between the dots and dashes, so SOS is in effect only a mnemonic. Similarly, the phrases “Save Our Souls” and “Save Our Ship” are also mnemonics, introduced after the “SOS” signal was adopted.
21. La. or Dak., once : TERR
In the Louisiana Purchase, the US government bought French Louisiana from France. Soon after the purchase was made, the newly acquired land was split into the Orleans Territory (lands south of the 33rd parallel) and the Louisiana Territory (lands north of the 33rd parallel). The Louisiana Territory stretched northwards as far as the Great Lakes, and the seat of government was chosen as the city of St. Louis. Just to confuse everyone (such as foreigners like me), the Orleans Territory was admitted to the Union in 1812 as the State of Louisiana. At the same time, in a measure designed to prevent confusion, the Louisiana Territory was renamed to the Territory of Missouri.
The Dakota Territory was formed in 1861 and ceased to exist with the admission to the Union of the states of North Dakota and South Dakota. The territory was split into two states in 1889 largely due to lobbying by the Republican Party, which enjoyed a lot of support in the Dakota Territory. The admission of two states added to the political power of the party in the US Senate, by adding four safe Republican seats.
22. Disaster relief org. : FEMA
Federal emergency management has been structured for over 200 years, but what we know today as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was created in 1979 in an Executive Order issued by President Jimmy Carter.
25. Titanic rear end : STERN
The RMS Titanic set off on her tragic maiden voyage in 1912, sailing from Southampton, England bound for New York City. Regulations only required that the ship have lifeboat capacity for 1,178 people, even though a full complement of passengers and crew was 3,547. When the order was given to abandon ship, the captain adhered to the traditional protocol of “women and children first”. As a result, only 20% of male passengers survived the disaster, compared to 75% of the female passengers. Perhaps more telling is that 61% of those in first class survived, and only 25% of those in third class. The crew fared even worse though, with only 24% making it.
34. Plant responsible for much itching : POISON IVY
Two of the plants that are most painful to humans are poison oak and poison ivy. Poison oak is mainly found west of the Rocky Mountains, and poison ivy to the east.
35. Sitarist Shankar : RAVI
The sitar has been around since the Middle Ages. The sitar is a stringed instrument that is played by plucking, and is used most often in Hindustani classical music. In the West we have been exposed to the instrument largely through the performances of Ravi Shankar and some music by George Harrison of the Beatles, a onetime student of Shankar.
42. Cereal coveted by a silly rabbit : TRIX
Trix is a corn-based breakfast cereal that has been around since 1954, produced by General Mills. Ads for the cereal featured Trix Rabbit, who would try hard to get hold of bowls of the cereal. He would always get caught though, and be admonished with, “Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!” With 46% sugar content, the rabbit probably wouldn’t have liked it anyway …
45. Seattle football pro : SEAHAWK
The Seattle Seahawks joined the NFL as an expansion team in 1976, along with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Seahawks have enthusiastic fans, often referred to as the “12th man”, a reference to how well their support can buoy the team. The Seahawks fans have twice broken the Guinness World Record for the loudest crowd noise at a sporting event.
49. Wharton’s Frome : ETHAN
“Ethan Frome” is a novel by New York and Massachusetts author Edith Wharton, first published in 1911. Wharton started “Ethan Frome” as a composition in French that she wrote while studying the language in Paris. The novel was adapted into a 1993 film of the same name starring Liam Neeson in the title role, opposite Patricia Arquette.
51. Chihuahua citrus fruit : LIMON
In Spanish, “limón” (lemon) is a “fruta” (fruit).
Chihuahua is a state in northern Mexico that shares a border with Texas and New Mexico. Chihuahua is the largest state in the country, so has the nickname “El Estado Grande”. The state takes its name from the Chihuahuan Desert which lies largely within its borders. The Chihuahua breed of dog takes its name from the state.
57. Leftover bits : ORTS
Orts are small scraps of food left after a meal. “Ort” comes from Middle English, and originally described scraps left by animals.
58. Classic sports cars : GTS
GT stands for “Grand Touring” or “Gran Turismo”.