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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 “Big Love”, the HBO series … intriguing!)
THEME: PLEASE … SAY THE MAGIC WORD (from the circles and diagonal). All the theme answers are phrases used in the field of magic
ANSWERS I MISSED: 2 CEY (CAY) & EMA (AMA)
TODAY’S WIKI-EST, AMAZONIAN GOOGLIES
14 MAME: The musical “Mame” opened on Broadway in 1966, with Angela Lansbury in the title role. The musical is based on the 1955 novel “Auntie Mame” written by Patrick Dennis.
16 ACURA: Acura is a division of the Honda Motor Company, the luxury brand. Infiniti is the equivalent luxury brand for the Nissan Motor Company.
17 ENYA: Enya’s real name is Eithne Patricia Ni Braonain, which can translate from the Irish into Enya Brennan. Her Donegal family (in the northwest of Ireland) formed a band called Clannad, which included Enya. In 1980 Enya launched her very successful career. Personally, I don’t like her music, as it all sounds the same to me, but she sure does turn up in crosswords a lot!
18 HOCUS POCUS: There appears to be a lot of speculation about the origin of the magician’s phrase “hocus pocus”, but nothing stands oout to me as being very clear.
23 RMS: The full name of the Titanic was the Royal Mail Ship Titanic, signifying that it was contracted by the Royal Mail to carry mail.
26 LESE: Lese majeste is the crime of offending the dignity of the “majesty” or sovereign, or the state. The term is from French Law, and comes from the law of Ancient Rome. In Latin, “laesa maiestas” means “injured majesty”. Clearly, the term has no relevance in the United States, but in other countries, including many in Europe, the law is occasionally cited.
28 CEY: Ron Cey played third base not only for the Dodgers, but also for the Cubs and the As.
33 TAMMIE: Tammie Green won one major championship, the 1989 du Maurier classic.
37 ABRACADABRA: Abracadabra has a long history. It was used as far back as the 2nd century AD in Ancient Rome, when it was prescribed by a physician to be worn on an amulet, to help his emperor recover from disease. The word is Aramaic, and has the approxiimate translation of “I will create as I speak”.
39 OLIO: Olio is a term meaning a hodgepodge or a mixture, coming from the mixed stew of the same name. The stew, in turn, takes its name from the Spanish “olla”, the name of the clay pot used to make the stew.
40 ANGLIA: The Romans Britain “Brittania”, from which Britain of course takes it name (and Scotland was “Caledonia”, and Ireland “Hibernia”). Centuries after the Romans left, a German tribe called the Angles settles in the part of Britain now known as England. The Angles are the root of the name “England”, as in medieval times the country was called Anglia, it’s late Latin name.
43 EIS. “Eis”, the German word for ice, may be found in a Rathskeller. A city hall in Germany is called a Rathaus, in days gone by, there were often restaurants located in the basements or cellars of a Rathaus, which was given the name Rathskellar. Now any bar located below street level is called a Rathskellar.
44 OTT: The original Polo grounds in New York city was built in 1876, and as one might expect, it was used to play polo. The property was leased in 1880 by the New York Mets, and converted into a baseball stadium. By 1883, the stadium was used jointly, by the Mets and the Giants, until the Mets left in 1886, leaving it to the Giants. The Giants moved out in 1889, and eventually built a new stadium but they brought the name the “Polo Grounds” with them. The Ott in the clue, is Mel Ott, but ye all knew that …
47 OPEL: Adam Opel actually founded his company in 1863, first making sewing machines in a cowshed, would you believe. commercial success brought new premises and a new product line in 1886, penny-farthing bicycles. Adam Opel dies in 1895, leaving his two sons with a company that made more penny-farthings, and sewing machines, than any other company in the world. In 1899 the two sons partnered with a locksmith, and started to make cars (as the clue states), but not very successfully. Two years later, the locksmith was dropped in favor of a licencing arrangement with a French car company. By 1914, Opel was the largest manufacturer of automobiles. My Dad had an Opel in the seventies, a station wagon (we’d say “estate car”) called an Opel Kadett.
48 ABC: “Variety” magazone has been proud of its “slanguage” from it’s early days, not long after it was launched in 1905. In addition to calling the ABC television network “the Alphabet web”, it calls NBC “the Peacock web, CBS “the Eye web”, and my personal favorite, PBS is a “pubcaster”.
51 CANEA: Canea, more commonly called “Chania”, is the second largest city on the island of Crete. It was the capital city, until 1971, when that function moved to Heraklion, the largest city.
53 MAV: i.e. the Dallas Mavericks …
56 OWENS: Jesse Owens is of course famous for winning four gold medals at the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936, much to the chagrin of Adolph Hitler. Jesse’s real name was James Cleveland Owens, and went by “JC”. However, his Alabama accent was misconstrued at school when his family moved to Cleveland, and he was named Jesse at school, a name that stuck.
57 OPEN SESAME: In the Arabic tale “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves“, the magical cave entrance is opened with the words “Open, Simsim”, but this mutated into “Open Sesame” in European translations.
60 AOUT: The month of August in French. I used to live in France … EVERYONE goes on vacation in August, even the people making money off the tourists!!
51 DEREK: Derek Bok was President of Harvard from 1971 to 1991, returning in 2006 for a year to act as President after the resignation of Lawrence Summers (who appeared in a recent puzzle).
62 OLIN: Lena Olin is a Swedish actress, who had a relatively small part to play in the 2008 film “The Reader“. I know I am always recommending movies and shows, but here’s another one worth seeing, telling an interesting love story against the backdrop of a holocaust trial in Germany.
65 XK-ES: In my part of the world growing up, we knew them as E-type Jags, but they were marketed over in the US as the Jaguar XK-E line, manufactured from 1961 to 1974.
3 AMY TAN: Amy Tan lives not too far from here in Sausalito, just north of San Francisco. She is an American writer of Chinese descent, and her most successful work was indeed “The Joy Luck Club“, made into a movie produced by Oliver Stone in 1993.
4 BEATS: Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg were part of the Beat Generation, American writers who embraced the beat culture of the fifties. The term “Beat Generation” was coined by Karouac back in 1948, describing the youth of the day who had been “beaten down” and who were refusing to conform to the social norms of the time. The beatniks of the fifties, were to morph into the hippies of the sixties.
8 KNUTE: Knute Rockne, America’s most famous footlball coach many say, was born in the city of Voss in Norway. He came to the United States with his family when he was 5-years-old. Years later he graduated Notre Dame with a degree in Chemistry, but abandoned that career path when he was offered his first real coaching job.
11 LUCRETIA: By all accounts, Lucretia Garfield was a remarkably intelligent and gracious woman, and represented herself well as First Lady. She was devoted to her husband, and after his assassination she spent much of her remaining life preserving President Garfield’s legacy in a wing of the family farmstead in Ohio, that was to become his Presidential Library. Her work set the precedent … and now all former Presidents have Presidential Libraries (wonderful institutions, in my humble opinion).
19 SABU: The 1937 film “Elephant Boy” starred a young, Indian elephant driver called Sabu Dastagir. Sabu made more films over the next few years, and moved to the US. He had starring roles in “The Thief of Bagdad” in 1940 and played Mowgli in the 1942 version of “The Jungle book“. Sadly, Sabu died very young, at 39 from a heart attack.
21 OH, CAROL: Neil Sedaka’s “Oh, Carol” is written about his former girlfriend and classmate, Carole King. King returned the favor, writing a song called “Oh, Neil” …
29 EMA: Ema Savahl .. they’re dresses, that’s all I care to know …
30 YMCA: Seeing as “YMCA” was released by the Village People, it has been adopted as an anthem by the gay community. However, the song was written by Victor Willis, a straight member of the band, and he clarifies that the lyrics are extolling the virtues of the “Y” as a source of recreation for black, urban youth. I think he might have been winking when he said that.
32 NABISCO: National Biscuit Company: Nabisco.
34 IAN: Janice Ian wrote her lovely song “At Seventeen“, when she herself was 22, lookinig back at that earlier age with a little maturity. It was inspired by a newspaper article she read about a teenage debutante who had learned the nard way that her popularity at school was not the answer to life’s problems.
38 ALI: “When We Were Kings” is a documentary by Leon Gast, released in 1996. It tells of the “Rumble in the Jumble” world heavyweight title fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. That’s the fight with the famous “rope-a-dope” tactic that tired out Foreman, and left him selling grills for the rest of his life.
41 KOMODO: A Komodo dragon is so named because it is found on the island of Komodo (and others) in Indonesia. It can grow to a length of over 9 1/2 feet, so I guess that explains the dragon part of the name …
49 BO-SOX: The Bronx Bombers (the Yankees) I just found out are so called because they are from the Bronx (duh!) and because they are a big hitting team (it says here …). You’ll have to excuse me, I grew up playing rugby …
55 AMIE: Une amie is a girlfriend in French. She might write a billet-doux to her ami. Billet-doux is a French term for a love letter. A billet is a short note, and doux is “sweet”.
58 NEL: The song we know as “Volare” doesn’t actually have that name. It’s real name is “Nel blu dipinto di blu” (In the Blue Painted Blue). The Italian lyrics tell of how the singer feels like he is flying when he iw with his lover. And “Volare”, is the Italian for “to fly”. The original version has a prelude, which helps put the blue and the flying in perspective … “I think that a dream like that will never return; I painted my hands and my face blue, then was suddenly swept up by the wind and started to fly in the infinite sky.”