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 (still watching the excellent HBO series “Big Love”)
ANSWERS I MISSED: 4 … BMXER, LIANE, MILLE BORNES, XAVIER CUGAT
TODAY’S WIKI-EST, AMAZONIAN GOOGLIES
1 BMXER: BMX stands for Bicycle Motocross, and it’s that sport where folks on bicycles race around what is in effect a regular motocross track. Medals were awarded for BMX for the first time at the Beijing Olympics, with a Latvian winning for the men, and a Francaise winning for the women.
6 COBB SALAD: Ty Cobb’s first cousin, Robert H. Cobb, owned the Brown Derby chain of restaurants. One of his regular customers was the famous Sid Grauman, who ran Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Late one night, Grauman asked for a snack, and Cobb came up with a chopped salad made from ingredients he had in the refrigerator. Grauman liked it so much, he kept requesting it, and the Cobb salad was born.
15 LIANE: Liane is better known as liana, and is the name give to vines that generally grow in moist areas such as rain forests. They grow using the trees in teh forest as support. My bet is that Tarzon swung from tree to tree on liana vines.
16 ORO Y PLATA: Oro y plata is the motto of Montana, meaning “gold and silver”. The motto is apt, as gold and silver lie right at the top of the list of the state’s natural resources.
17 ELVIS: Andy Warhol’s painting “Eight Elvises” is perhaps second in fame only to his “Campbell’s Soup”. However, the 1963 Elvis painting is the most valuable of all of Warhol’s work, having sold for $100 million.
23 WES: Wes Anderson’s most famous movie is probably “The Royal Tenenbaums“, released in 2001. Not my favorite film by any stretch. However, his 2007 work, “The Darjeeling Limited“, that I enjoyed.
31 LEDS: Light-Emitting Diodes are getting more and more popular. You can buy LED bulbs now, and they will soon replace halogens as they are much more efficient. Just ask Ed Begley, Jr.
33 TITAN: “The Sirens of Titan” is Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s second novel, a work of science-fiction as one might expect. The film rights to the book were sold to the Grateful Dead guitarist, Jerry Garcia (would you believe?) in the early eighties. Garcia collaborated with others and produced a screenplay, but it didn’t make it to the screen before he died in 1995.
40 PEASE: Pease pudding, or pease porridge, is a very English dish, similar to split pea soup. We used to sing a nursery rhyme as kids “Pease pudding hot, pease pudding cold, pease pudding in the pot, nine days old”.
41 ESSE: I did a bit of Latin at school. Ab esse would mean to be (esse) ab (away).
42 ‘TIL: “‘Til There Was You” was released in 1997, a romantic drama starring Jeanne Tripplehorn and Dylan McDermott. I don’t think it did well …
52 SALADA: When we moved house as kids, everything would me packed in “tea chests”. We drank so much tea in that part of the world, the wooden boxes, used to transport loose tea across the ocean, were readily available. Everyone had a few up in their attics. Salada Tea was founded in 1892 to provide tea packaged in foil to the consumer, as opposed to smaller wooden tea chests. This kept the tea fresher and more consistent in favor.
54 SOCRATICS: In Ancient Greece, Socrates was the main man. One of his most clever students was Plato, who spent much of life espousing the work and thinking of his mentor, Socrates. In later life, Plato himself had a student who built on the work of both Socrates and Plato. That second generation student was none other than Aristotle.
58 BORON: The mineral ulexite was discovered by (you guessed it) a German chest called Georg Ulex. Ulexite is also called “TV rock”, because of the unusual optical transmission properties of the fibrous crystals within the rock. If he rock is cut and polished on two sides, the crystalline fibers running between the two sides act like modern day fiber optic cables, transmitting light through the rock, so that you can actually see through it. It isn’t transparent as such, and only tranmits the light along the length of the fibers. Fascinating stuff …
59 INNOCENT I: Pope Innocent I to his name from his “supposed” father, a man called Innocens of Albano. However, it is also believed that Innocent I was the son of the preceding pope, Anastasius I. The celibacy rules came later, I guess …
61 GENDER GAP: Title IX is a 1972 law that prohibits discrimination in the field of education on the basis of gender. The statue doesn’t mention sports in particular, but it in the field of athletics that the law has had the biggest effect. The number of female sports teams ballooned in schools, as funds started to flow more fairly through the system.
62 NEWTS: The clue is referring to the famous lines spoken by one of the witches in Macbeth:
“Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,–
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”
2 MILLE BORNES: Milles Bornes translates into “A Thousand Milestones”, and is a French card game. It’s a relatively young game, invented in 1954, and you can buy it in stores today. I’ve read that it is similar to an american card game called “Touring”, but I don’t know either.
3: XAVIER CUGAT: Xavier Cugat was an American bandleader born in Spain, and who arrived in the United States via Cuba. He worked in Holywood on movies, although at the same time he was in charge of the Hotel Orchestra in the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, for 16 years. I might have heard of him actually, as he I do recognize the description that he used to conduct with one arm, and hold his pet Chihuahua in the other. His fourth marriage was to comic actress, Charo, the first marriage ceremony in Caesar’s Palace.
4 ENID: Enid is a Welsh name, from “einit” an old Welsh word meaning “purity”. The literature reference in the clue I think is to the Welsh story of Geraint and Enid. Geraint was one of King Arthur’s knights, and Enid his wife, “the personification of spotless purity”.
7 OREO: If you look at the design on the faces of an Oreo cookie, it looks like something out of “The DaVinci Code”. Ah, now there’s an idea for a storyline for Dan Brown!
11 ALBS: The amice is sometimes worn around the shoulders under the alb, by Roman Catholic priests.
12 LAO: Lao, the language of Laos, does not use spaces between words (or periods!), although this is apparently changing. Spaces are used, however, between sentences and clauses.
13 ATV: A “mud bogger” drives through that mud and bog on his/her All Terrain Vehicle.
14 DAE: Daniel Dae Kim is an American actor, and plays Jin-Soo Kwon on “Lost“. I have avoided the show, as I heard a long time ago that it was heavy on the mystery and light on the resolution. The series is coming to an end soon, and I imagine there will be a lot of annoyed viewers if questions aren’t answered before they pull the plug! Kim has been signed up as one of the leads in an upcoming CBS remake of “Hawaii Five-O”. Won’t it be interesting to see how that show turns out?
20 NELLIS: Nellis AFB in Las Vegas (which is right “in town”) was named after Lt. William Nellis, who was killed in his P-47 in the Battle of the Bulge.
30 RIELS: The Cambodian riel was first introduced in 1953, and was taken out of circulation by the Khmer Rouge in 1975, when they completely abolished money on taking control of the country. After the Vietnamese invasion of 1978, money as reintroduced, the “second” riel, in 1980.
36 ALIEN RACE: The Vulcans of course are from the Star Trek franchise. The most famous (half) Vulcan is Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy.
37 ROVERS: There were five rovers sent to Mars in all. Mars 2 landed in 1971, and failed. Mars 3 landed the same year, and also failed. Mars Pathfinder landed in 1997 (what a great day that was!) and operated from July to September. Spirit landed in 2004, and is still operating today, 6 years after its mission was due to end. However, it is now bogged down in sand, but will continue to operate as a stationary science platform. Opportunity also landed in 2004, and it is still going, going, going … because the Energizer Bunny is driving it …
45 RATER: Michelin rates restaurants and accommodation in its famous Michelin Travel Guides.
47 SABIN: Albert Sabin developed the oral polio vaccine. Sabin’s vaccine was a “live”, controlled vaccine. the equally famous Salk vaccine was a “killed” vaccine.
51 ACTA: Actum (plural acta) is the latin word for “deed”. It is used in English to describe many official records, including minutes, proceedings etc.
53 LOME: Lome is the capital city of Togo, in West Africa.
56 CNN: American Morning is CNN’s flagship morning show. It tries to differentiate itself from the competition by avoiding much of the banal “chat” between the news presenters, focusing more on the stories themselves.