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: 35m 45s
THEME: Q. What makes it itch? A. The added “CH”! so, the theme answers are common phrases with the letters “CH” added e.g. No win-CH situation, one hit-CH wonder
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0
TODAY’S WIKI-EST, AMAZONIAN GOOGLIES
1. “Coffee ___ my cup of tea”: Samuel Goldwyn : ISN’T
Samuel Goldwyn made it big, but the hard way. He was born in 1879 in Warsaw, Poland, the son of Polish Jews, with the original name Schmuel Gelbfisz. When he was young he moved to Birmingham in England, and while there he used the name Samuel Goldfish. He eventually made his way to Upstate New York, and found his calling as a salesman, rising to the level of VP of Sales in the garment industry. He loved the movies, and put together a movie-making business with a friend, Archibald Selwyn. The two combined their names in deciding to call their enterprise Goldwyn Pictures. Schmuel Gelbfisz changed his name soon after to Samuel Goldwyn, and never looked back.
5. World capital at 12,000 feet : LA PAZ
The capital of Bolivia, La Paz, is offically named Nuestra Senora de La Paz (Our Lady of Peace).
10. Rugby gathering : SCRUM
If you’ve ever seen a rugby match, you’ll recognize the scrum, where the players designated as “forwards” bind together and push against the opposing forwards. It’s a way of restarting the game after various types of stoppages. Scrum is short for “scrummage”, which in itself is a variation of “scrimmage”. And “scrimmage” has its roots in the word “skirmish”. Rugby, the greatest sport in the world. If you get the chance, take a look at the Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman movie “Invictus“, directed by Clint Eastwood. It’s all about rugby in South Africa after Nelson Mandela came to power. A powerful film …
20. With 21-Across, native Oklahoma group : OSAGE
21. See 20-Across : TRIBE
The Osage Nation originated in the Ohio River valley in what we now call Kentucky. They were forced to migrate west of the Mississippi by the invading Iroquois tribe. Most of the tribe members now live in Osage County, Oklahoma.
22. Eponymous engineer : WATT
James Watt was a Scottish inventor, a man who figured prominently in the Industrial Revolution in Britain largely due to the improvements he made to the fledgling steam engine. The SI unit of power is called the watt, named in his honor.
27. Pillow fill : KAPOK
The kapok tree is native to tropical areas, particularly Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. It is grown largely for the fiber that can be harvested from its seed pods, giving the tree the alternate name of “Java cotton”. The fiber is not only light and soft, so can be used in stuffing pillows and mattresses, it is also very buoyant. As such, it was commonly used in life jackets until man made materials took over the role.
31. Noodge : NAG
Noodge is a slang term, meaning “to nag”, or as a noun it can mean “a nag”. It comes into English from teh Yiddish word “nudyen” meaning “to bore, be tedious”.
32. ___ culpa : MEA
Roman Catholics are very familiar with the Latin phrase “mea culpa” meaning “my fault”, as it is used in the Latin Mass. The additional term “mea maxima culpa” would translate as “my most grevious fault”.
37. “___ Lincoln in Illinois” (1940 biopic) : ABE
In “Abe Lincoln in Illinois“, Abe was played by Raymond Massey in the 1940 biopic, a role that he also played in the original Broadway play of the same name. The film also starred Ruth Gordon as Mary Todd Lincoln, her screen debut.
43. Kvetch : CRAB
The word “kvetch” of course comes to us from Yiddish, with “kvetshn” meaning “to complain” or “squeeze”.
46. Lead and tin alloy : TERNE
Terne is used as a rust-protecting coat for steel.
51. Food giant based in Downers Grove, Ill. : SARA LEE
In 1935, businessman Charles Lubin bought a chain of three bakeries in Chicago called Community Bake Shops, and soon expanded the operation into seven stores. Lubin introduced a cream cheesecake that he named after his daughter who was only 8-years-old at the time, Sara Lee Lubin. The cheesecake was a hit, and he renamed the bakeries to Kitchen of Sara Lee. The business was bought out by Consolidated foods in 1956, but the brand name Sara Lee persists to this day, as does Ms. Sara Lee herself, now known as Sara Lee Schupf.
54. Chief Norse deity : ODIN
In Norse mythology, Odin is the chief of the gods. His wife, Frigg, is the queen of Asgard, and the deity that gave us our English term Friday (via Anglo-Saxon).
57. G.M. tracking system : ONSTAR
The OnStar system started back in 1995, a joint venture between GM, EDS and Hughes. The product itself was launched in 1996. Today it is only available on GM cars, although it used to be available on other makes of car through a licensing agreement. OnStar is a subscription service that packages vehicle security, telephone, satellite navigation and remote diagnostics. You’ve seen the ads, I am sure.
68. What kind, decent people wear? : MENSCH FASHION
Mensch is yet another word that comes to us via Yiddish, ultimately derived from the German “mensch” meaning “human being”. We use the term to mean someone of integrity and honor.
72. Colt’s fans, for short? : NRA
Samuel Colt was fascinated a a young man by the science behind gunpowder and its used in weapons. He decided early on in his life, that he would respond to the challenge of the day, how to achieve the impossible, a weapon that fire more than the two times available at the time using a double-barreled rifle. He came up with the concept of the revolver while at sea, modeling his design on the spoked wheel that steered the ships on which he served. His revolver made him a very rich man in his own lifetime. By the time he died in 1862, his estate was valued at around $15 million. Can you imagine? $15 million back in 1862?
73. Grouchy Muppet : OSCAR
Oscar the Grouch is the Muppet that lives in a garbage can. His persona comes from various sources. He is named after Oscar Brand, one of the board members of the Children’s Television Workshop, the backers for Sesame Street as the Muppets were being developed in the sixties. Oscar’s personality was inspired by an angry waiter that once served Jim Henson (father of the Muppets). And the voice was modeled on a grumpy New York cab driver encountered one day by Carroll Spinney, the puppeteer who performs Oscar (if that’s the right term!).
78. Cuddly cat : BURMESE
Most Burmese cats today can be traced back to a single ancestor, a female cat given the name Wong Mau, who was brought from Burma to America in 1930. Amazing …
80. “___ Mucho,” #1 hit for Jimmy Dorsey : BESAME
“Besame Mucho” was written in 1940, by Mexican songwriter Consuelo Vealsquez. Besame mucho translates into “kiss me a lot”, and the remarkable thing is that according to Valsquez, at the time she wrote the song, she had never even been kissed herself! “Besame Mucho” was just one of Jimmy Dorsey’s eleven number one hits, all from the thirties and forties.
86. Machu Picchu people : INCAS
Machu Picchu is of course known as “The Lost City of the Incas”, and it can be visited in on a mountain ridge in Peru, 50 miles northwest of Cuzco. The name Machu Picchu means “old peak”.
88. Wall Street landmark? : NEW HIGH
Clever clue. No, it’s not a school in the financial district of New York. A stock or an index hits a new high when it reaches a trading price that it has never achieved before.
101. Handicapper’s hangout, for short : OTB
Off-Track Betting is the legal gambling that takes place on horse races outside of a race track. A betting parlor can be referred to as an OTB.
105. Big Apple neighborhood : SOHO
TriBeCa is a clever little acronym that expands into “TRI-angle BE-low CA-nal Street. The name was developed by local residents who basically copied the technique used by residents of the neighboring area of SoHo, which is short for SO-uth of HO-uston Street.
106. Twice tre : SEI
Twice three (tre) is six (sei, in Italian).
114. Colorado resort : ASPEN
Aspen, Colorado used to be known as Ute City, with the name change taking place in 1880. Like many communities in the area, it was a mining town, and in 1891 and 1892 it was at the center of the highest production of silver in the US. Nowadays of course, it’s all about the skiing and the movie stars.
116. Years, in Rome : ANNI
Annus is the Latin for year, plural anni.
128. Leader of the Untouchables : NESS
Eliot Ness was portrayed by Kevin Costner in “The Untouchables” (good movie).
2. Expo ’74 city : SPOKANE
Back in 1974, Spokane was the smallest city ever to host a World’s Fair. The theme of the fare was “the environment”, which I suppose was ahead of its time. Notably, Expo ’74 was the first American-hosted World’s Fair attended by the Soviet Union after WWII.
3. Shirley MacLaine, notably : NEW AGER
The New Age Movement is a western philosophy that traces its roots back to the early 1800s. The movement focuses achieving the highest human potential as an individual and embraces many traditionally eastern spiritual practices, but eschews all religious doctrines.
8. Currency exchange premium : AGIO
The term agio derives from the Italian “aggio” meaning exchange rate, discount, premium. Most often, the agio is defined as the difference between the actual exchange rate and the nominal exchange rate for two currencies. That difference is mainly made up of the service fee for making the exchange.
11. Computer screen, for short : CRT
Cathode Ray Tube: there aren’t may of them around in the stores these days …
12. Jacob who wrote “How the Other Half Lives” : RIIS
Jacob Riis is famous for his photographs and and newspaper articles that highlighted the plight of the impoverished in New York City. “How the Other Half Lives” was originally an extensive article that appeared in “Scribner’s Magazine” in 1889, at Christmas. It had such an impact, that he was commissioned to expand the article to a book, published the following year.
14. Beggar : MENDICANT
Mendicant somes to us from Latin, via Old French. “Mendicare” is the Latin verb meaning “to beg”.
17. Six-time baseball All-Star Rusty : STAUB
Rusty Staub had a relatively long career in baseball, playing his first game at the age of 19, and his last at age 41. He is one of only three players who hit home runs in the majors before the age of 20 as well as after the ago of 40. The others are Ty Cobb Gary Sheffield (never heard of him!) and Ty Cobb (heard of him!).
30. Charlie Chan creator Earl ___ Biggers : DERR
Earl Derr Biggers was an American novelist and playwright. It was he who wrote the original stories that were adapted into the highly successful, and entertaining, Charlie Chan series of movies.
31. Postman’s creed conjunction : NOR
There is no official creed or motto for the US Postal Service. However, there is the oft-quoted inscription found posted (pun!) at the James Farley Post Office in New York City … “It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey, so many are the men and horses that stand along the road, each horse and man at the interval of a day’s journey; and these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.”
33. Courthouse records : ACTA
Actum (plural acta) is the latin word for “deed”. It is used in English to describe many official records, including minutes, proceedings etc.
40. Hint offerer : HELOISE
Today we read the second generation of the “Hints from Heloise” advice column. The current author is Poncé Kiah Marchelle Heloise Cruse Evans (would you believe?). She took over the column when her mother passed away in 1977. The original column was started back in in 1959 by Heloise Bowles. It first appeared in the “Honolulu Advertiser” under the name “Readers Exchange”.
41. Follower of Christopher or Carolina : WREN
Christopher Wren was the famous English architect, whose most famous work is St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The Carolina wren is species of bird, the state bird of South Carolina in fact.
42. Slowing down, in mus. : RIT.
Rit. (or sometimes ritard.) is the abbreviation for ritardando, the musical direction to slow down the tempo.
49. Rugged range : SIERRAS
Sierra is the Spanish word for “mountain range”. I suspect the reference here is to “the Sierras”, the familiar name for out own Sierra Nevada located in California and Nevada.
53. Sunscreen additive : PABA
PABA: Para-AminoBenzoic Acid. PABA (or now its derivatives) is the “active” ingredient in sunscreens in that it absorbs UV radiation. PABA derivatives are used today as PABA fell out of favor due to its tendency to stain clothes and cause an allergic reaction in some users.
58. Ohio political dynasty : TAFTS
The Taft family of Ohio traces its roots back to England via Robert Taft Sr., an immigrant who died in Massachusetts. The Ohio branch of this old Massachusetts family includes President William Howard Taft.
60. Old Japanese coin : RIN
The rin was a Japanese coin that was worth one thousandth of a yen. After WWII the Japanese yen was greatly devalued, so the rin became completely obsolete and was pulled from circulation in 1953.
68. Field ration, for short : MRE
The Meal, Ready-to-Eat comes in a lightweight package, easier to tote around. It replaced the more cumbersome Meal, Combat, Individual (MCI) in 1981, a meal in a can.
74. Bygone brand with a torch in its logo : AMOCO
Amoco is an abbreviation for the American Oil Company. Amoco was the first oil company to introduce gasoline tanker trucks and drive through filling stations. There a few of them still around!
77. Bygone title of respect : SAHIB
Sahib is actually an Arabic word, that translates to “owner” or “proprietor”, or it can also mean “friend” I believe. It is perhaps most recognized as a term of address used in India, where it is now often used to mean “mister”.
81. Home of Elmendorf Air Force Base : ANCHORAGE
Work started on the original Elmendorf Field in 1940. The name was taken in honor of Captain hugh M. Elmendorf, a test pilot killed near Wright, Ohio in 1933, while testing out an experimental fighter aircraft. Today, in addition to its military role, Elmendorf AFB is an alternative landing site for the Space Shuttle.
82. “Fly ___ the Moon” : ME TO
If you know the lyrics of this old standard, you’ll known that “in other words” features prominently. Actually, “In Other Words” was the original song title. Over time, it was more often designated by its opening line, “Fly Me to the Moon“. My mother’s favorite version is by Perry Como, but Frank Sinatra’s rendition is probably best known …
87. Filch : COP
Both “filch” and “cop” are verbs that mean “to steal”.
91. Genesis son : ENOS
Enos, as the son of Seth, was the grandson of Adam.
94. Tony and Emmy winner Fabray : NANETTE
Nanette Fabray started her showbiz career in vaudeville as a child. She moved into musical theater, winning a Tony in 1949, and then into television, winning three Emmy Awards playing opposite Sid Caesar on “Caesar’s Hour”. She is also the aunt of Shelley Fabares, Christine on “Coach” and the singer of the great 1962 hit “Johnny Angel“.
95. Candleholders on a wall : SCONCES
A sconce is a light fixture used today with electric lights, but also in the past with candles and torches. The defining feature of a sconce is that it is supported by a wall, and does not have a base that stands on the ground. Usually the light is indirect, projected upwards towards the ceiling.
96. Ticker tape letters? : EKG
Clever clue …
100. Punk’s piece : HEATER
Go ahead, punk. Make my day. Try shooting me with your heater …
101. City in Florida’s horse country : OCALA
Thoroughbred horse farming in Florida started in Ocala, back in 1943. Some folks today call Ocala the “Horse Capital of the World”, but I bet that’s disputed by others …
104. Prince Valiant’s love : ALETA
There she is again, Aleta, the wife of Prince Valiant. Edward, the Duke of Windsor, called the “Prince Valiant” comic strip the “greatest contribution to English Literature in the past one hundred years”. I’m not so sure …
109. “Swoosh” brand : NIKE
I remember seeing Carolyn Davidson on the television show “I’ve Got a Secret”. She created the Nike “swoosh” back in 1971 when she was a design student at Portland State. She did it as freelance work for Blue Ribbon Sports, a local company introducing a new line of athletic footwear. The “swoosh” is taken from the wing of the Greek goddess of victory, Nike. Years later, BRS changed its name to Nike, so I suppose the company should be grateful to Carolyn for both the great design, and a great company name.
118. Parseghian of Notre Dame : ARA
Ara Parseghian coached Notre Dame football team from 1964 to 1974, a period known as “The Era of Ara”.
120. Britannia letters : HMS
HMS Britannia was the name born by a number of Royal Navy vessels (and even one shore establishment) dating back to 1682. Although the familiar Royal Yacht (decommissioned in 1997) was called the Britannia, it bore the designation HMY: Her Majesty’s Yacht. You can visit HMY Britannia on permanent exhibition near Edinburgh, in Scotland.