Edited by: Rich Norris
Quicklink to comments
Each of today’s themed answers contains a series of three circled letters in the grid. Those circled letters spell out a TV CHANNEL, but written backwards:
- 62A. Unofficial means of communication, and a hint to each set of circled letters : BACKCHANNEL
- 17A. Two-time Emmy winner for “30 Rock” : ALEC BALDWIN (hiding “ABC” backwards)
- 39A. San Francisco neighborhood : NOB HILL (hiding “HBO” backwards)
- 11D. Umami detectors : TASTE BUDS (hiding “BET” backwards)
- 34D. Where to pick up “will call” tickets : BOX OFFICE (hiding “FOX” backwards)
Bill’s errors: 0
Today’s Wiki-est, Amazonian Googlies
1. Latvian capital : RIGA
Riga is the capital city of Latvia. The historical center of Riga is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, declared as such because of the city’s magnificent examples of Art Nouveau architecture.
11. Blues great __ Mahal : TAJ
“Taj Mahal” is the stage name of blues musician Henry Fredericks. Fredericks says that his stage name came to him in a dream about Gandhi and India, and social tolerance.
14. Turow book set at Harvard : ONE L
Scott Turow is an author and lawyer from Chicago. Turow has had several bestselling novels including “Presumed Innocent”, “The Burden of Proof” and “Reversible Errors”, all three of which were made into films. He also wrote the autobiographical book “One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School”.
15. __ pork: Chinese dish with pancakes : MOO SHU
Moo shu pork (also “mu shu pork”) is a traditional dish from northern China, with the main ingredients being shredded pork and scrambled egg. In North America, the dish is served with tortilla-like wrappers that are sometimes referred to as “moo shu pancakes”.
16. Yellowfin tuna : AHI
Yellowfin and bigeye tuna are usually marketed as “ahi”, the Hawaiian name. They are both big fish, with yellowfish tuna often weighing over 300 pounds, and bigeye tuna getting up to 400 pounds.
17. Two-time Emmy winner for “30 Rock” : ALEC BALDWIN (hiding “ABC” backwards)
Alec Baldwin is the oldest of the acting Baldwin brothers. I think Alec’s big break was playing Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan in “The Hunt for Red October”, but thank goodness that role was taken over by Harrison Ford for the subsequent Jack Ryan movies. Baldwin also made a name for himself playing Jack Donaghy on “30 Rock”, opposite Tina Fey. More recently, he is known for impersonating Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live”.
The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) is the world’s largest broadcaster in terms of revenues. ABC was formed in 1943, created out of the former NBC Blue radio network.
19. Bart, to Homer : SON
Bart Simpson is the main character in television’s “The Simpsons”. Bart’s name was chosen by the writers as it is an anagram of “brat”. Bart is voiced by actress and comedian Nancy Cartwright.
20. Vixen teammate : DASHER
We get the names for Santa’s reindeer from the famous 1823 poem called “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, although we’ve modified a couple of the names over the years. The full list is:
- Donder (originally “Dunder”, and now often “Donner”)
- Blitzen (originally “Blixem”)
Rudolph was added to the list by retailer Montgomery Ward, would you believe? The store commissioned Robert L. May to create a booklet that could be handed out to children around Christmas in 1939, and May introduced us to a new friend for Santa, namely Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
21. ’80s Indiana senator Quayle : DAN
Dan Quayle served as both a US Representative and a US Senator from Indiana before becoming the 44th Vice President, under President George H. W. Bush. Quayle refused to run for office in 1996, going up against the Clinton/Gore ticket, but entered the fray again in 2000 seeking the Republican nomination for president. Ironically, he was defeated by the son of his former Commander-in-Chief, George W. Bush.
22. Underworld river : 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”.
23. Dug up dandelions, say : WEEDED
The name “dandelion” comes from the French “dent de lion” meaning “lion’s tooth”. The name is a reference to the coarse, tooth-like edges of a dandelion’s leaves.
32. Red gemstone : RUBY
Ruby is a precious stone made from the mineral corundum, also called aluminium oxide. The corundum includes some of the element chromium, which results in the red or pink color.
38. Artist Yoko : ONO
Yoko Ono is an avant-garde artist. Ono actually met her future husband John Lennon for the first time while she was preparing her conceptual art exhibit called “Hammer a Nail”. Visitors were encouraged to hammer in a nail into a wooden board, creating the artwork. Lennon wanted to hammer in the first nail, but Ono stopped him as the exhibition had not yet opened. Apparently Ono relented when Lennon paid her an imaginary five shillings to hammer an imaginary nail into the wood.
39. San Francisco neighborhood : NOB HILL (hiding “HBO” backwards)
Nob Hill is a very elevated and central location in the city of San Francisco. Because of its views of the surrounding city and environs, Nob Hill became a desirable place to live for the wealthy in the 1800s. The area is still one of San Francisco’s most affluent neighborhoods and is home to upscale hotels as well as the magnificent Grace Cathedral. The name “Nob Hill” comes from the slang term for someone who is well-to-do, a “nob”.
Home Box Office (HBO) is the second largest network of premium channels in the US, after Encore. HBO is a favorite of mine as I really like many of the HBO made-for-television movies and especially the HBO original series. Among the list of original series from HBO are “Mildred Pierce”, “The Pacific”, “John Adams”, “Big Love”, “Extras”, “The Wire”, “Sex and the City”, “From the Earth to the Moon”, “The Sopranos” and “Band of Brothers”. What great television …
42. The South : DIXIE
“Dixie” is a nickname sometimes used for the American South, and often specifically for the original 11 states that seceded from the Union just prior to the Civil War. It’s apparently not certain how the name “Dixie” came about. One theory is that it comes from the term “dixie” which was used for currency issued by banks in Louisiana. The 10-dollar bills had the word “dix” on the reverse side, the French for “ten”. From the banknote, the French speaking area around New Orleans came to be known as Dixieland, and from there “Dixie” came to apply to the South in general.
44. Boo Boo’s pal : YOGI
Yogi Bear made his debut for Hanna-Barbera in 1958, on the Huckleberry Hound Show before he was given his own series. Do you remember that collar that Yogi wore around his neck? That was a little trick from the animators. By using the collar, for many frames all they had to do was redraw everything from the collar up, saving them lots and lots of time. Yogi and Boo Boo lived in Jellystone Park, and made Ranger Smith’s life a misery.
48. Records for later watching : TIVOS
TiVo was introduced in 1999 and was the world’s first commercially successful Digital Video Recorder (DVR).
50. Castro of Cuba : FIDEL
Fidel Castro studied law at the University of Havana and there became a follower of left-wing ideals. He launched his first rebellion against Cuban president Fulgencio Batista in 1953, which landed him in jail for a year. He later led rebels in a guerrilla war against the Cuban government, which led to the Cuban Revolution and the overthrow of Batista in 1959. Castro took control of the country, and immediately formed a strong relationship with the Soviet Union. Concern over the alliance in the US led to the botched Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961. There followed the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Fidel Castro started to transfer power to his brother Raúl in 2008, and passed away in 2016.
52. Electric cars named for a physicist : TESLAS
Tesla Motors is a manufacturer of electric vehicles based in Palo Alto, California. Tesla is noted for producing the first electric sports car, called the Tesla Roadster. The company followed the sports car with a luxury sedan, the Model S. The Model S was the world’s best selling plug-in electric vehicle of 2015.
Nikola Tesla was born in Serbia, but later moved to the US. Tesla’s work on mechanical and electrical engineering was crucial to the development of alternating current technology, the same technology that is used by equipment at the backbone of modern power generation and distribution systems.
57. Chinese chairman : MAO
Mao Zedong (also “Mao Tse-tung”) was born on December 16, 1893 in the Hunan Province of China. As Mao was the son of a peasant farmer, his prospects for education were limited. Indeed he left school at age 13 to work on the family farm but did eventually get to secondary school in Changsha, the provincial capital. In the years following, Mao continued his education in Beijing and actually turned down an opportunity to study in France.
59. Monopoly square with a question mark : CHANCE
Players of the board game Monopoly are familiar with the accompanying sets of Chance and Community Chest cards. The original version of the game came with just the Chance cards, and those cards came with quotes attributed to Thomas Jefferson, John Ruskin and Andrew Carnegie.
61. Former White House Press Secretary Fleischer : ARI
Ari Fleischer was the White House Press Secretary for President George W. Bush. Fleischer now runs his own media consulting firm that specializes in representing sports players and organizations. Fleischer helped Mark McGwire handle the media when he had to admit to the use of steroids, and was briefly hired by Tiger Woods as he planned his return to the PGA after dropping out of the spotlight to handle the problems in his personal life.
64. Attack, to Fido : SIC
“Sic ’em” is an attack order given to a dog, instructing the animal to growl, bark or even bite. The term dates back to the 1830s, with “sic” being a variation of “seek”.
“Fido”, the name for many a dog, is Latin for “I trust”.
65. Five Nations tribe : ONEIDA
The Iroquois Confederacy was also known as the Five Nations and was comprised of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca nations.
1. “Rocky __ to Dublin”: Irish tune : ROAD
“Rocky Road to Dublin” is one of my favorite Irish folk songs, one that you’re bound to hear in a pub in Ireland when everyone breaks into song. If you can make out the lyrics, they’re all about someone traveling from the Irish town of Tuam over to England via Dublin. He travels a “rocky road”, encountering all sorts of difficulties along the way.
3. Sixth-day-of-Christmas gift : GEESE
The fabulous Christmas Carol called “The Twelve Days of Christmas” dates back at least to 1780 when it was first published in England, though it may be French in origin. The concept of twelve days of Christmas comes from the tradition that the three kings came to visit the Christ Child twelve days after he was born. This same tradition is the origin of the title to Shakespeare’s play “Twelfth Night”.
4. Lead-to-gold pseudoscience : ALCHEMY
One of the main goals of the ancient practice of alchemy was to change base metals into gold, a process known as transmutation.
5. Almond-flavored liqueur : AMARETTO
Amaretto is an Italian liqueur with a sweet almond flavor. Even though the drink is sweet, it has a bitterness lent to it by the bitter almonds that are often used as a flavoring. The name “amaretto” is a diminutive of the Italian word “amaro” meaning “bitter”.
7. Broadway barber Sweeney __ : TODD
“Sweeney Todd” was originally a 1936 film, and later in 1973 a play, then a 1979 musical and a movie adaptation of the musical in 2007. After Sweeney Todd has killed his victims, his partner in crime Mrs. Lovett helped him dispose of the bodies by taking the flesh and baking it into meat pies that she sold in her pie shop. Ugh!
8. Dam on the Nile : ASWAN
The Aswan Dam on the River Nile is actually two dams. The Low Dam was first built in 1902 (and modified later). The High Dam was completed in 1970.
9. Safari herbivores : RHINOS
There are five types of rhinoceros that survive today, with the smaller Javan Rhino being the most rare. The rhinoceros is probably the rarest large mammal on the planet, thanks to poaching. Hunters mainly prize the horn of the rhino as it is used in powdered form in traditional Chinese medicine.
11. Umami detectors : TASTE BUDS (hiding “BET” backwards)
Umami is one of the five basic tastes, along with sweet, sour, bitter and salty. “Umami” is a Japanese word used to describe “a pleasant savory taste”. Umami was proposed as a basic taste in 1908, but it wasn’t until 1985 that the scientific community finally accepted it as such.
Black Entertainment Television (BET) is a TV network with programming primarily aimed at the African-American community. BET was launched in 1980, and is now owned by Viacom.
13. Bring bad luck : JINX
A jinx is a charm or a spell, and the word “jinx” comes from an older word “jyng” from the 17th-century. A “jyng” was another word for the wryneck, a type of bird much used in witchcraft.
18. George Eliot’s “Adam __” : BEDE
“Adam Bede” was the first novel written by the English writer George Eliot (aka Mary Ann Evans). It was published in 1859 and has been in print since then, over 150 years.
22. Navy commando : SEAL
SEAL is an acronym used by the US Navy’s SEa, Air and Land teams. The SEALs were born out of the Navy’s special warfare groups from WWII, like the Underwater Demolition Teams and the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons. The Navy SEAL unit was established soon after President Kennedy’s famous speech in which he announced the plan to put a man on the moon, as in the same speech the president allocated $100m of funding to strengthen special operations forces. The Navy used some of this money to set up guerrilla and counterguerrilla units, which soon became the SEALs.
24. Annual Kentucky event : DERBY
The first Kentucky Derby took place in 1875, and is a race modelled on the Epsom Derby in England and the Grand Prix de Paris (now called the “Prix de l‘Arc de Triomphe”). As such, the Kentucky Derby was run over 1½ miles, although in 1896 this was shortened to 1¼ miles. The winning horse is presented with a very elaborate blanket made of red roses, and so the Derby is nicknamed “Run for the Roses”. The race is held on the first Saturday in May each year, and is limited to 3-year-old horses.
30. Clean up Time? : EDIT
“Time” magazine has a readership of about 25 million, making it the largest-circulation weekly news magazine in the world.
32. Anglers’ gear : RODS
We use the verb “to angle” to mean “to fish” because “angel” was an Old English word for a hook.
34. Where to pick up “will call” tickets : BOX OFFICE (hiding “FOX” backwards)
The term “box office” may date back to Shakespearean times. In those days long past, patrons would deposit fees for seeing theater performances in boxes. The full boxes would be collected and placed in an office called, imaginatively enough, the “box office”.
Although Fox Broadcasting Company (FOX) was founded in 1986, the related 20th Century Fox film studio had been involved in television production as early as the 1950s. Fox Broadcasting Company was launched soon after Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation purchased a 50% stake in 20th Century Fox’s parent company. The fledgling Fox network’s inaugural program was “The Late Show” hosted by comedian Joan Rivers.
36. Entry in a sudoku square : DIGIT
Number puzzles similar to our modern-day Sudoku first appeared in French newspapers in the late 1800s. The format that we use today was created by Howard Garns, a 74-year-old freelance puzzle constructor from Connersville, Indiana and first published in 1979. The format was introduced in Japan in 1984 and given the title of “Sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru”, which translates to “the digits are limited to one occurrence”. The rather elaborate Japanese title was eventually shortened to Sudoku. No doubt many of you are fans of Sudoku puzzles. I know I am …
39. “All You __ Is Love” : NEED
John Lennon wrote the 1967 Beatles hit “All You Need Is Love” as a commission for the BBC. It was the UK’s contribution for the first ever global television broadcast, a collaboration between broadcasters from many countries including Britain’s BBC.
43. Eye part : IRIS
The iris is the colored part of the eye with an aperture in the center that can open or close depending on the level of light hitting the eye.
49. Labor Dept. arm : OSHA
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created in 1970 during the Nixon administration. OSHA regulates workplaces in the private sector and regulates just one government agency, namely the US Postal Service.
53. “Tomorrow” musical : ANNIE
“Tomorrow” is a song written for the Broadway musical “Annie”. The musical was based on the Harold Gray comic strip “Little Orphan Annie”. There were two subsequent film adaptations, both really quite successful, including one released in 1982 directed by John Huston of all people. It was his only ever musical.
54. Movie trailer segment : SCENE
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 practise 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.
56. Buffalo’s Great Lake : ERIE
Buffalo is the second most-populous city in the state of New York. The city takes its name from Buffalo Creek that runs through the metropolis (although the waterway is called Buffalo River within the city). The source of the name Buffalo Creek is the subject of much speculation, but one thing is clear, there were never any bison in the area.
58. Sooner migrant : OKIE
“Okies” was a derogatory term used during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s for farming families who migrated from Oklahoma (hence the name), Arkansas, Kansas and Texas in search of agricultural jobs in California. The road used by many of these migrant families was Route 66, which is also called “Mother Road”.
60. Part of BPOE : ELKS
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) was founded in 1868, and is a social club that has about a million members today. It started out as a group of men getting together in a “club” in order to get around the legal opening hours of taverns in New York City. The club took on a new role as it started to look out for poor families of members who passed away. The club now accepts African Americans as members (since the seventies) and women (since the nineties), but atheists still aren’t welcome.
63. Fixed-term investments, briefly : CDS
A certificate of deposit (CD) is like a less-flexible and higher-paying savings account. Instead of depositing money into a savings account and earning interest periodically, one can open a CD. With a CD one deposits a minimum amount of money but must leave it there for a specified length of time. In return for committing the funds for a fixed period, one is given a higher interest rate than a savings account and can redeem that interest and the initial deposit when the term has expired. CDs are relatively low-risk investments as they are FDIC insured, just like savings accounts.