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: 32m 27s
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TODAY’S WIKI-EST, AMAZONIAN GOOGLIES
15. Photons, e.g. : QUANTA
A quantum in physics, is the minimum-sized unit of a physical entity. Quantum comes from the Latin “quantus” meaning “how much”. In the case of light, the minimum unit, the smallest light “particle”, is called a photon.
18. Writing style of old Latin manuscripts : UNCIAL
Uncial letters were between the 3rd and 8th centuries AD, both for writing in Latin and Greek. Uncial is a majuscule script, meaning that the letters written are all capitals.
20. Rare battery varieties : A CELLS
Because batteries have been around for so long now, there were many different standards set for sizes and configurations by different countries. There is now an international standard which tries to bring as many of the old disparate standards together as possible. An A cell battery is a cylindrical single cell type, with a length of 50mm and a diameter of 17mm. Definitely very rare …
21. Options for thinning : ACETONES
You can use acetone to thin paints, as well as removing nail polish.
22. Harsh-sounding bird that immobilizes its prey by impalement : SHRIKE
Shrikes are nasty little creatures. They look very cute and cuddly, and are about 20 inches long. They do have a slightly hooked beak, just like a bird of prey. They have the remarkable habit of catching their prey, usually insects, or small birds or mammals, and impaling them on thorns. This way they can rip the cadaver apart, and possibly store it on the thorn for future meals.
24. 1995 Literature Nobelist : HEANEY
Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet and writer. I like his response when asked if there was any figure in popular culture who aroused interest in poetry and lyrics. 64-year-old Heaney answered … “There is this guy Eminem. He has created a sense of what is possible. He has sent a voltage around a generation. He has done this not just through his subversive attitude but also his verbal energy.” I am not sure I agree …
27. Limerick neighbor : CLARE
One of my favorite counties in Ireland is Clare, home of the Burren, a beautiful, desolate landscape, as well as the world-famous Cliffs of Moher that greet the Atlantic Ocean.
44. Explosive stuff : 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.
46. Cathedral candle : VOTIVE
The word “votive” applies to an object left as a ritual offering in some sacred place. The tossing of coins into a fountain can be considered a votive offering. A votive candle also serves the purpose of an offering, particularly in the Christian churches.
48. People taking les examens : ELEVES
Pupils (eleves) in French schools take exams (examens).
51. Eye muscles attach to it : SCLERA
The sclera is the white part of the eye. Usually the sclera is white, but in horses for example, it is black. Really, go check!
1. Stealthy fighters : NINJAS
The ninjas were around in Japan at the time of the samurai, but were very different type of warriors. The ninjas were covert operatives, specializing in the use of stealth to accomplish their missions. As they were a secretive cadre, they took on a mystical reputation with the public, often with the ability to become invisible or perhaps walk on water.
3. 1984 Best New Artist Grammy winner : LAUPER
Cyndi Lauper is quite the character. Her version of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” appeared on her first album “She’s So Unusual” in 1983, and she won the Grammy the following year.
10. Compounds that smell of rotting fish : ANILINES
Aniline is a relatively simple organic compound, and the smell should warn you off, because it also a poison.
12. Vice admiral on the U.S.S. Enterprise : HALSEY
Vice Admiral William Halsey’s flagship was the USS Enterprise, the ship he was on board in the Pacific when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Apparently right after the attack, he remarked, “Before we’re through with ’em, the Japanese language will only be spoken in hell.”
14. Fixed some greens : RESEEDED
Greens on a golf course can sometimes be repaired by reseeding them.
26. Glorified gatekeeper, in Goiás : SAO PEDRO
Sao Pedro (St. Peter) mans the gates of heaven. Goias is a state in Brazil, where Portuguese is spoken.
28. Feen-a-mint was one : LAXATIVE
The active ingredient in Feen-a-Mint was phenolphthalein, the indicator chemical that we all used in chemistry class to help determine the pH of a solution. Feen-a-Mint was taken off the market due to suspicions that phenolphthalein is a carcinogen (surprise, surprise!).
29. Certain full house, in poker lingo : ACES OVER
The series of full houses in which the three matching cards are aces, is called “aces over”.
32. Mandolin effect : TREMOLO
The tremolo effect was invented by Claudio Monteverdi in the 16th century, first applied to the violin (by rapid bowing). In the case of a mandolin, the tremolo effect is achieved by rapidly plucking the same note, to create the effect of the note being sustained.
33. White item in a 1944 Matisse painting : TULIP
Henri Matisse’s 1944 painting is called “Annelies, White Tulips and Anemones”.
36. He was served to the Olympians as food : PELOPS
In Greek mythology, Tantalus wanted to make an offering to the Olympic gods, so he cut up his son, Pelops, into pieces and made up a stew. After his shoulder was consumed, the gods stopped the feasting and reassembled the boy’s body. They replaced his shoulder with one made of ivory.
39. Noel opener : ADESTE
The lovely hymn “Adeste Fideles” was written by one John Francis Wade in the the 13th century. Well, he wrote the original four verses, with four more verses being added over time.
41. It’s S. of the Vale of Tempe : MT. OSSA
The Vale of Tempe isn’t in Arizona, it’s in Greece. It is a gorge located between Mt. Olympus and Mt. Ossa.