The name’s William Ernest Butler, but please call me Bill. I grew up in Ireland, but now live out here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m retired now, from technology businesses that took our family all over the world. I answer all emails, so please feel free to email me at email@example.com, or leave a comment below.
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This is my solution to the crossword published in the New York Times today …
COMPLETION TIME: N/A (Watching the excellent HBO series “Rome”)
THEME: A TO Z … the theme answers are common phrases, with one word rearranged in an anagram, and that anagram has its letters in alphabetical order (a to z)
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0
TODAY’S WIKI-EST, AMAZONIAN GOOGLIES
1 HEARTS: One quarter of a deck of cards it the hearts suit.
20 ALTHEA: Althea Gibson was known as “the Jackie Robinson of tennis” as she broke the “color barrier”, and became the first African-American woman to win a Grand Slam title, in France in 1956. She was quite the athlete, and she became the first African-American woman to play in the Ladies PGA tour, although she never had a win. Outside of sport, she sang a little, and recorded an album, and even appeared in a movie (“The Horse Soldiers“) with John Wayne and William Holden. Sadly, towards the end of her life she ended up destitute and on welfare in the the nineties. When her plight was made known in a tennis magazine, well-wishers from all over the world sent her gifts of money, a total of nearly one million dollars. Quite a story …
22 PLICATE: Plicate is another word for “pleated”. It evolved from the Latin word “plicare” meaning “to fold”.
29 NIEMAN: Herbert Marcus, his sister Carrie Marcus Nieman, and her husband A. L. Neiman, found themselves partners with a tidy of profit of $25,000 from business they had founded. This was 1907 Atlanta, and they were offered the chance to invest in a new company that was just starting to make “sugary soda drinks” called Coca-Cola. The partners declined, instead returning to their home of Dallas and founding a department store they called Nieman-Marcus.
40 EPINAL: Epinal is the capital city of the French department of Vosges, in the very northeast of France.
49 ED KOCH: Ed Koch was a Democratic Representative in the US Congress from 1969-73, and then Mayor of New York City from 1978-89. In 2004, he collaborated with his sister, Pat Koch, and wrote a children’s book called “Eddie, Harold’s Little Brother“, a tale about Ed’s own childhood experiences.
60 RON: Harry Potter has two “best” friends in Hogwarts, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.
62 ONE: Did you work it out, or maybe have you heard the riddle before? It’s Kentucky (KY) …
65 KLUTZ: Klutz of course comes from Yiddish … the Yiddish word for a clumsy person is “klots”.
76 RONIN: I haven’t seen “Ronin“, a 1998 action thriller about a group of ex-special forces and intelligence agents who collaborate to steal a mysterious suitcase. It stars Robert De Niro and Jean Reno, and sounds like my kind of film.
77 ALEPH: The Hebrew letter, aleph, has the same root as the Greek “alpha”, and hence out Latin A.
85 GEER: Will Geer died in 1978, just after filming the sixth season of “The Waltons“, in which he played Grandpa Zeb Walton. He was a noted social activist, and was blacklisted in the fifties for refusing to appear before the all-powerful House Committee on Un-American Activities.
86 TAPA: Tapa is the Spanish word for “lid”, and there is no clear rationale for why this word came to be used for “an appetizer”.
92 MOT: One finds lists of French words (mots) in a French dictionary (dictionnaire).
96 AMATOL: Amatol is a mixture of TNT and ammonium nitrate. It is no longer used today, but featured extensively in the two world wars. Basically, the expensive TNT was able to “go further” with the addition of cheaper ammonium nitrate (fertilizer) with very little degradation in destructive power.
105 ODIN: Mount Odin is the highest mountain on Baffin Island in Canada, and is clearly named after Odin, the Norse god.
125 ELOISE: “Lost” is a program I’ve had no interest in watching. I do admire the whimsical naming of the characters Daniel Farady (a physicist!), and his mother Eloise Hawking, named after the celebrated physicist Stephen Hawking. Don’t tell anyone, but Eloise kills her son, Daniel, in season 5.
127 LOUIS VI: Louis le Gros (the fat) ruled France until his death in 1137. Apparently he died of dysentry brought on by the gluttonous lifestyle that had made him grossly overweight.
2 ELMO: Elmo is the only puppet to have testified before Congress, when he lobbied for an increase in funding for music education (Rep. Duke Cunningham was there too!).
4 RHOS: Rho is the Greek letter “p”.
5 TECTONIC: There are eight major tectonic plates, and numerous small plates, that make up the outermost shell of our planet. The heat from within the Earth causes the plates to move, albeit it slowly, creating earthquakes and volcanic eruptions where the plates meet each other … like right under my house here in California …
8 REGO: Rego Park in Queens was farmland up to the early 1900s. Then along came the a developer called the Real Good Construction Company, and building started. Rego Park takes its name from “Real Good”. Creative …
10 VEIDT: Conrad Veidt played the lead German officer in “Casablanca“, Major Heinrich Strasse. He died of a heart attack just one later, at the age of 50.
14 O-LAN: Pearl S. Buck’s novel “The Good Earth” won a Pulitzer in 1932, and helped Buck win the Nobel Prize for literature a few years later. The story tells of life in a Chinese village, and follows the fortunes of Wang Lung and his wife O-Lan. Although “The Good Earth” has been around a while, it hit the best seller list again in 2004 when it was picked by Oprah’s Book Club.
27 LOEB: Did you ever see the Hitchcock film “Rope“? It’s a great movie starring James Stewart, and is inspired by the real story of Leopold and Loeb, two young Chicago students who murdered 14-year-old Bobby Franks in 1942. The pair planned the crime for several months, and simply wanted to prove that they could commit the perfect crime. Their undoing was that Leopold left his distinctive eyeglasses near the body. Chilling stuff …
35 LEDA: Leda, Jupiter’s 13th moon, was discovered in 1974 by an astronomer working at the Mount Palomar Observatory in California. It takes its name from Leda, the lover of the Greek god Zeus.
39 ELKS: Elks are hunted as game, and their antlers are called “racks”.
41 NERO: In the 1967 film “Camelot“, Sir Lancelot was played by Franco Nero, the Italian actor who met Vanessa Redgrave on the set, his future wife.
48 ODETS: The first play that American playwright Clifford Odets had produced, was “Waiting for Lefty” in 1935.
57 ERMA: Erma Franklin was an R&B and gospel singer. She was the elder sister of Aretha Franklin. Erma toured with Aretha and even recorded backup vocals on her sister’s big hit “Respect“. Erma was the first artist to record “Piece of My Heart“, but more famous cover versions have been made since, including a 1994 hit by Faith Hill.
61 N. DAK: The International Peace Garden straddles the US-Canada border, lying in both North Dakota and Manitoba. It was built in 1932, and North Dakota goes by the nickname “The Peace Garden State”, a moniker that can be seen on its license plates. Recently some building remains from the World Trade Center have been placed in the garden. I have to visit there one day …
66 ZEKE: Zeke Bratkowski played football for the Bears, Rams and Packers, and then coached for many years for various teams. His son, Bob Brathowski, plays for the Cincinnati Bengals.
70 HOTEP: The Egyptian word “hotep” translates as “to be satisfied, at peace”. Hotep was often incorporated into the names of pharaohs e.g. Hotepsekhemzy, Neferhotep III.
74 EOE: An Equal Opportunity Employer.
75 NORAH: The beguiling Norah Jones, one of my favorite singers. She is the daughter of sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar. If you haven’t heard her “Come Away with Me“, you haven’t lived …
78 PIAF: Marion Cotillard is the French actress that played Edith Piaf in the 2007 movie “La Vie en Rose“. She won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance, the first time that an actress has won that award for a performance in a French language film.
91 SYSTOLIC: In the heart, systolic describes the rhythmic contraction of the ventricles to pump the blood around the body.
97 MICHENER: “Tales of the South Pacific“, for which James A. Michener won a Pulitzer, is a collection of short stories set in the South Pacific during WWII. The stories are based in Michener’s own experiences and on tales that he learned while stationed there during the war. The book was published in 1946, and three years later the musical “South Pacific” opened, with a storyline drawn from Michener’s book.
99 MAE WEST: We’ve already seen that Mae West played Flower Belle Lee in “My Little Chickadee”. She was Peaches O’Day in the 1937 movies “Every Day’s a Holiday“.
103 WNET: WNET is a television station located in Newark, New Jersey. It is PBS’s station that covers New York City, as well as the rest of the tri-state area.
11 NOLTE: In 1992, Nick Nolte succeeded Patrick Swayze as People’s Sexiest Man Alive, and was supplanted one year later by Brad Pitt.
119 DALI: I have had the privilege of visiting the Dali Museum in Figueres, just north of Barcelona. If you ever get the chance, it’s a must see.