0407-23 NY Times Crossword 7 Apr 23, Friday

Today’s Wiki-est Amazonian Googlies


1 Go for the big yuks : HAM IT UP

The word “ham”, describing a performer who overacts, is a shortened form of “hamfatter” and dates back to the late 1800s. “Hamfatter” comes from a song in old minstrel shows called “The Ham-Fat Man”. It seems that a poorly performing actor was deemed to have the “acting” qualities of a minstrel made up in blackface.

8 Spiritual journey : HAJ

“Haji” (also “Hajji” and “Hadji”) is the term used for someone who has made a pilgrimage to Mecca, and it is sometimes also used as a form of address for such a person. The journey itself goes by the name “haj”, “hajj” or “hadj”.

12 Dough in Mexico : MASA

“Masa” is the Spanish word for “dough”, with the term often used as an abbreviated form of “masa de maíz”. Masa is used to make tortillas and tamales, for example.

13 Best of the bunch : TOP BANANA

The expression “top banana” is used to mean “the main man” or “the main woman”. The first person to use “top banana” was supposedly Vaudeville performer Harry Steppe in 1927, who applied the term to the top comic on the bill. The phrase comes from a comedy routine in which three comics struggle to share two bananas.

14 Cameo appearance? : OVAL

Cameo is a method of carving, often the carving of a gemstone or a piece of jewelry. The resulting image is in relief (sits proud of the background), whereas an engraved image would be produced by the similar carving method known as intaglio. Nowadays, the term “cameo” is used for any piece of oval-shaped jewelry that contains the image of a head, usually in profile (maybe even a photograph).

16 Whack, biblically : SMITE

To smite is to strike with a firm blow. The term “smite” can also mean “strike down and slay”.

17 City served by the DFW Airport : PLANO

Plano, Texas is located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. Settlers chose the name “Plano” in the 1840s. “Plano” is Spanish for “flat”, a reference to the terrain in the area.

Dallas/Fort Worth Airport (DFW) is the largest hub for American Airlines, and is also the third busiest airport in the world in terms of aircraft landings and takeoffs (Chicago O’Hare is the world’s busiest, followed by Atlanta). At 27 square miles in area, DFW is the second-largest airport in the US, second only to Denver. That makes Dallas/Fort Worth larger than the island of Manhattan!

18 Crowning event : PROM

A prom is a formal dance held upon graduation from high school (we call them “formals” over in Ireland). The term “prom” is short for “promenade”, the name given to a type of dance or ball.

26 Communicated visually, in a way : SIGNED

It’s really quite unfortunate that American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL) are very different, and someone who has learned to sign in one cannot understand someone signing in the other.

28 City known as the “cradle of Italian liberty” : TURIN

Turin (“Torino” in Italian) is a major city in the north of Italy that sits on the Po River. Back in 1861, when the Kingdom of Italy was formed, Turin was chosen as the first capital of the country.

33 Locale depicted in three paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder : BABEL

We use the word “babel” now to describe a scene of confusion, lifting the term from the biblical story of the Tower of Babel. The Tower was built in the city of Babylon, and the construction was cursed with a confusion of languages due to the varied origins of all the builders.

40 Label maker : AVERY

Avery Dennison Corporation was founded as Kum Kleen Products in 1935, by R. Stanton Avery. Kum Kleen Products were the first manufacturers of self-adhesive labels.

41 Lorry units : TONNES

The tonne, also known as a metric ton, is equivalent to 1,000 kg (or 2,205 lb). The tonne isn’t an official unit of mass in the metric system, but it is used a lot.

On the other side of the Atlantic, a truck is called a “lorry”, a term that probably comes from the English dialectal verb “to lurry” meaning “to drag, tug”.

42 “Foolery, sir, does walk about the ___ like the sun, it shines every where”: Shak. : ORB

The lines “Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun. It shines everywhere.” is from William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”. The lines might be paraphrased as “foolishness is everywhere”.

William Shakespeare wrote his comedy “Twelfth Night” as a Christmas entertainment (Twelfth Night being the end of the Christmas season). The play’s protagonist is a young woman named Viola. The plot calls for Viola to dress as a eunuch named Cesario who goes into the service of Duke Orsino. Orsino has Cesario go to Duchess Olivia to express his love for her. But Olivia falls for Cesario, Cesario (Viola) falls for Orsino, and hilarity ensues …

50 They’re good for handling delicate situations : KID GLOVES

Back in the late 1600s, “kid gloves” were gloves made from the skin of a young goat, a kid. Kid gloves were expensive and became associated with the nouveau riche, and so the wearing of kid gloves was viewed as ostentatious. When the phrase “kid gloves” crossed the Atlantic to America, the notion of using kid gloves morphed into the current meaning of “treating with delicacy and care”.

54 Co. once known as Quantum Computer Services : AOL

Founded as Quantum Computer Services in 1983, the company changed its name in 1989 to America Online. As America Online went international, the initialism AOL was used in order to shake off the “America-centric” sound to the name. During the heady days of AOL’s success the company could not keep up with the growing number of subscribers, so people trying to connect often encountered busy signals. That’s when users referred to AOL as “Always Off-Line”.


2 Fathers’ attire : ALBS

An alb is a white, neck-to-toe vestment worn by priests, usually with a rope cord around the waist. The term alb comes from “albus”, the Latin word for “white”.

3 City with the highest concentration of Art Deco buildings in the world : MIAMI

The coastal city of Miami Beach sits on a string of islands on the Florida coast, separated from Miami proper by Biscayne Bay. Miami Beach is home to the Art Deco Historic District, which is home to the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world.

6 Magazine founder Eric : UTNE

The “Utne Reader” is known for aggregation and republishing of articles on politics, culture and the environment from other sources in the media. It was founded in 1984 by Eric Utne, with management taken over by Eric’s wife Nina Rothschild Utne in 1990.

7 Free spot, for short : PSA

Public service announcement (PSA)

9 Some seated postures : ASANAS

“Asana” is a Sanskrit word that translates literally as “sitting down”. The asanas are the poses that a practitioner of yoga assumes. The most famous is the lotus position, the cross-legged pose called “padmasana”.

10 Heap : JALOPY

The origins of our word “jalopy”, meaning “dilapidated, old motor car”, seem to have been lost in time, but the word has been around since the 1920s. One credible suggestion is that it comes from Xalapa, Mexico as the Xalapa scrap yards were the destination for many discarded American automobiles.

12 Hot flow : MOLTEN LAVA

Lava is a phenomenon that results from the eruption of magma from a volcano. Depending on the type of lava and the volcano it comes from, lava can reach temperatures of up to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit (1,200 degrees Celsius). That’s hot enough to melt steel …

15 Start-up launches, in brief : IPOS

An initial public offering (IPO) is a significant event for a company as it marks the first time it becomes a publicly traded company. IPOs are often accompanied by a so-called “lock-up period.” This is a period of time, typically 90 to 180 days after the IPO, during which company insiders, such as executives and early investors, are not allowed to sell their shares on the open market. The purpose of the lock-up period is to prevent a flood of shares from hitting the market and potentially driving down the price of the stock.

21 Montana player : CYRUS

Miley Cyrus became famous playing the Disney Channel character “Hannah Montana”. Miley is the daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus. When she was born, Billy Ray and his wife named their daughter “Destiny Hope”, but soon they themselves calling her “Smiley” as she was always smiling as a baby, and this got shortened to Miley over time. Cute …

30 Traffic org. : DEA

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

32 Some bakery treats : TORTES

A torte is a type of cake made primarily with eggs, sugar and ground nuts (but no flour).

35 Place for 15-Down: Abbr. : NYSE [15D Start-up launches, in brief : IPOS]

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is the world’s largest stock exchange by market capitalization, and it has been in operation for over 230 years. The first company to be listed on the NYSE was the Bank of New York. It was traded alongside four other securities when the exchange opened.

36 Fellini’s “La ___” : STRADA

“La Strada” is a 1954 drama movie from Italy directed by Federico Fellini and starring Anthony Quinn. Quinn plays a strongman who makes a living as an itinerant strongman, performing “on the road”. “La Strada” translates into English as “the road”.

Federico Fellini was a film director and scriptwriter from Rimini in Italy. Fellini won more Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film than anyone else.

37 Exclamation that might be followed by “D’oh!” on “The Simpsons” : WOO HOO!

“The Simpsons” is one of the most successful programs produced by the Fox Broadcasting Company. Homer Simpson’s catchphrase is “D’oh!”, which became such a famous exclamation that it has been included in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) since 2001. “D’oh!” can be translated as “I should have thought of that!”

38 Fabergé material : ENAMEL

Fabergé eggs are beautiful jeweled eggs made by the House of Fabergé from 1885 to 1917. The tradition of fabricating the eggs started when Tsar Alexander III commissioned Fabergé to create a jeweled egg for his wife in 1885. After this, the House of Fabergé produced more and more elaborate designs, year after year.

39 Food chain : KROGER

The Kroger supermarket chain is the largest grocery store company in the US. It is also the second largest retailer in the country, after Walmart, and the fifth largest retailer in the world. The company was founded in 1883 in Cincinnati, Ohio by Barney Kroger.

43 Bag End resident : BILBO

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel “The Hobbit”, the title character is Bilbo Baggins. He is a hobbit who stumbles across a magical ring and then embarks on a series of adventures.

46 Predecessor of a copter : GIRO

An autogyro (sometimes “autogiro”, or simply “giro”) is an aircraft that uses an unpowered rotor to create lift, and a powered propeller to provide thrust. The first autogyro was flown in 1923 in Spain, where it was invented.

Our term “helicopter” was absorbed from the French word “hélicoptère” that was coined by Gustave Ponton d’Amécourt in 1861. d’Amécourt envisioned aircraft that could fly vertically using rotating wings that “screwed” into the air. He combined the Greek terms “helix” meaning “spiral, whirl” and “pteron” meaning “wing” to give us “helicopter”.

47 Reason for being denied entry, perhaps : NO ID

Identity document (ID)

50 Popeyes rival : KFC

The famous “Colonel” of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) fame was Harland Sanders, an entrepreneur from Henryville, Indiana. Although not really a “Colonel”, Sanders did indeed serve in the military. He enlisted in the Army as a private in 1906 at the age of 16, lying about his age. He spent the whole of his time in the Army as a soldier in Cuba. It was much later, in the 1930s, that Sanders went into the restaurant business making his specialty deep-fried chicken. By 1935 his reputation as a “character” had grown, so much so that Governor Ruby Laffoon of Kentucky gave Sanders the honorary title of “Kentucky Colonel”. Later in the fifties, Sanders developed his trademark look with the white suit, string tie, mustache and goatee. When Sanders was 65 however, his business failed and in stepped Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s. Thomas simplified the Sanders menu, cutting it back from over a hundred items to just fried chicken and salads. That was enough to launch KFC into the fast food business. Sanders sold the US franchise in 1964 for just $2 million and moved to Canada to grow KFC north of the border. He died in 1980 and is buried in Louisville, Kentucky. The Colonel’s secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices is indeed a trade secret. Apparently there is only one copy of the recipe, a handwritten piece of paper, written in pencil and signed by Colonel Sanders. Since 2009, the piece of paper has been locked in a computerized vault surrounded with motion detectors and security cameras.

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen is a chain of fast food restaurants that specializes in fried chicken. The first Popeyes restaurant was opened in 1972 in a suburb of New Orleans, and was known as “Chicken on the Run”. The name of the chain was changed to Popeyes, originally a reference to Popeye Doyle, the lead character in the movie “The French Connection”. Since then, the company has purchased the right to use the cartoon character Popeye the Sailor in its marketing efforts. By the way, the correct spelling of the restaurant name is “Popeyes”. The owner claims that he was too poor to afford an apostrophe.

51 Civic center? : VEE

The center of the word “civic” is a letter V (vee).