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. If you are working on the New York Times crossword in any other publication, you are working on the syndicated puzzle. Here is a link to my answers to today’s SYNDICATED New York Times crossword. To find any solution other than today’s, enter the crossword number (e.g. 1225, 0107) in the “Search the Blog” box above.
This is my solution to the crossword published in the New York Times today …
COMPLETION TIME: 6m 30s
THEME: “It ain’t hard!” … all the theme answers are colloquial ways of saying “it ain’t hard e.g. SIMPLE AS ABC and DUCK SOUP
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0
TODAY’S WIKI-EST, AMAZONIAN GOOGLIES
6. “The Zoo Story” playwright Edward : ALBEE
Edward Albee’s most famous play is “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Albee’s first play, a one-acter, was “The Zoo Story”.
11. Manx or Siamese : CAT
I’ve seen Manx cats by the dozen. They’re found all over the Isle of Man (hence the name “Manx”). Manx cats have no tails, they really don’t.
The exact origins of the Siamese cat are very clear, but it is believed be from Southeast Asia. The Siamese takes its name from the sacred temple cats of Thailand (once called Siam).
14. “Remember the ___!” (cry of 1836) : ALAMO
The Battle of the Alamo took place in 1836 after thirteen days of siege by the Mexican Army led by President General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Only two people defending the Alamo Mission survived the onslaught. One month later, the Texian army got its revenge by attacking and defeating the Mexican Army in the Battle of San Jacinto. During the surprise attack on Santa Ana’s camp, many of Texian soldiers were heard to cry “Remember the Alamo!”.
15. Sounds SSTs made : BOOMS
SuperSonic Transports, like the Concorde, broke Mach 1, the speed of sound. As a plane flies through air, it creates pressure waves in front (and behind) rather like the bow and stern waves of a boat. These pressure waves travel at the speed of sound, so as an aircraft itself accelerates towards the speed of sound it catches up with the pressure waves until they cannot “get out of the way”. When the aircraft reaches the speed of sound, the compressed waves merge into one single shock wave, creating a sonic boom.
22. Kind of sleeve named after a British baron : RAGLAN
The hereditary title of Baron Raglan was created in 1852 as a reward for Lord Fitzroy Somerset for his service commanding the British troops during the Crimean War. It’s the raglan sleeve that gives the name to the raglan coat. A raglan sleeve extends right to the collar of the garment, a design used to fit the first Baron Raglan who had lost his arm at the Battle of Waterloo.
24. With 46-Across, “It ain’t hard!” : DUCK
46. See 24-Across : SOUP
The origins of the phrase “duck soup”, meaning anything easily done, aren’t very clear. However, it does at least date back to 1908.
25. Chop-chop : RAPIDLY
“Chop chop” is Chinese Pidgen English, and is just a reiteration of the word “chop” used in the sense of moving quickly.
26. Nadir’s opposite : ZENITH
The nadir is the direction pointing immediately below a particular location (through to the other side of the Earth for example). The opposite direction, the direction pointing immediately above, is called the zenith.
29. School time when kids aren’t studying : RECESS
The name “recess” was applied to a temporary rest from work dating back to the early 1600s. It probably comes from the concept of member of parliament recessing (going back) into their private chambers in the House.
36. Tennis great Monica : SELES
Monica Seles has a Hungarian name, as she was born to Hungarian parent in former Yugoslavia. She was the World No. 1 professional tennis player in 1991 and 1992 before being forced from the sport when she was stabbed by a German spectator at a match in 1993. She did return to the game two years later, but never achieved the same level of success.
37. Source of linen : FLAX
Flax is mainly grown for its seeds (to make oil) and its fibers. Flax fibers have been used to make linen for centuries, certainly back as far as the days of Ancient Egyptians. Flax fibers are soft and shiny, resembling blonde hair, hence the term “flaxen hair”.
Roberta Peters is an American opera singer who spent 35 years working with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She made a lot of television appearances, and was the most frequent guest on “The Ed Sullivan Show”, appearing an amazing 65 times!
46. See 24-Across : SOUP
47. Mama Cass ___ : ELLIOT
Cass Elliot was one of the four singers in the Mamas and the Papas, the sensational group from the sixties. She had a successful solo career after the band split up in the early seventies. She was performing sold-out concerts in London in 1974 when she was found dead one morning, after having a heart attack. She was only 32 years old. Eerily, she died in the same flat (on loan from Harry Nilsson) in which the Who’s drummer, Keith Moon, would die just four years later.
49. Follow the coxswain’s calls : ROW
The coxswain of a boat is one in charge, particularly of its steering and navigating. The name is shortened to “cox” particularly when used for the person steering and calling out the stroke in a competition rowing boat.
57. “The Odd Couple” slob : OSCAR
“The Odd Couple” is a play by the wonderfully talented Neil Simon, first performed on Broadway, in 1965. This great play was adapted for the big screen in 1968, famously starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. The success of the play and the film gave rise to an incredibly good television sitcom that ran from 1970-1975, starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. In 1985, Neil Simon even went so far as to adapt the play for an all-female cast, renaming it “The Female Odd Couple”. I’d like to see that one …
58. Bird on a U.S. quarter : EAGLE
The American quarter is a little unusual in the world of decimal currency if you think about it. Usually there is produced a “20-cent” coin, easier to work with mathematically. The US went for the quarter in deference to the practice of dividing Spanish Milled Dollars in eight wedge-shaped “bits”. That’s also why the quarter is sometimes referred to as “two bits”. State quarters were introduced in 1999, but prior to that the quarter had an eagle on its reverse.
59. B’way sellout sign : SRO
Standing Room Only.
2. Advertising award : CLIO
The Clio Awards are named after Clio, the Greek Muse of history. Clio was also the recorder of great deeds, the proclaimer and celebrator of great accomplishments and a source of inspiration and genius. I guess that was considered a fitting moniker when the awards were initiated in 1959.
4. Guitarist’s accessory, for short : AMP
An electric guitar needs an amplifier to take the weak signal created by the vibration of the strings and turn it into a powerful enough signal for a loudspeaker.
8. Drag queen’s wrap : BOA
The etymology of the tern “drag” as used in the transvestite world seems to be unclear. It perhaps relates to the tendency of a transvestites skirts to drag along the ground in days of old (although why they just didn’t hitch up their skirts is beyond me!).
23. U.S.O. show audience members : GIS
The United Service Organization was founded in 1941 at the request of FDR, “to handle the on-leave recreation of the men in the armed forces”. A USO tour is a tour by a troupe of entertainers, many celebrities, to troop locations, often including combat zones.
The initials G.I. stand for “Government Issue” and not “General Infantry” as is often believed. G.I. was first used in the military to denote equipment made from Galvanized Iron. During WWII, incoming German shells were nicknamed “GI cans”. Soon after, the term GI came to be associated with “Government Issue” and became an adjective to describe anything associated with the Army.
25. T. ___ (fearsome dinos) : REXES
The Tyrannosaurus rex (usually T. rex) was a spectacular looking dinosaur. Tyrannosaurus comes from the Greek words “tyrannos” (tyrant) and “sauros” (lizard), and the “rex” is of course Latin for “king”. They were big boys, measuring 42 feet long, and 13 feet tall at the hops, weighing 7.5 tons.
26. Grey who wrote westerns : ZANE
Zane Grey sure did hit on a the right niche. He wrote romanticized western novels and stories that really lent themselves to the big screen in the days when westerns were very popular. There have been an incredible 110 films made based on his work.
27. Charles Lamb alias : ELIA
Charles Lamb published a collection of essays simply entitled “Essays of Elia“. Elia was actually a clerk, and a co-worker of Charles Lamb. Lamb was the author.
28. “It ain’t hard!” : NO PROBLEMO
“No problemo” is just American slang. It has no basis in any other language (and in particular, not in Spanish).
29. C.S.A. general : R. E. LEE
Just before the Civil War, President Lincoln offered Robert E. Lee the command of the entire Union Army. Lee declined, as his home state of Virginia was planning to secede form the Union (although this was not Lee’s wish).
31. Vice ___ : VERSA
“Vice versa” is a Latin phrase meaning “with position turned”. We always pronounce this term “incorrectly”. In Latin, a “c” is always a hard sound, and a “v” is pronounced like a “w”. The pronunciation should be something like “wee-kay wehr-sa”.
36. Like many tartan wearers : SCOTTISH
Tartan is sometimes called “plaid” over here in the US, word not used in the same sense outside of the country. In Scotland a “plaid” is a blanket or a tartan cloth slung over the shoulder.
39. Pertinent : APROPOS
Apropos comes into English directly from French, in which “a propos” means “to the purpose”.
40. Like a taxidermist’s work : STUFFED
The word “taxidermy” originates in Greek. “Taxis” means arrangement (the same root as “tactics”) and “derma” meaning “skin”. A gruesome practice, if you ask me, but you didn’t …
42. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame architect I. M. ___ : PEI
I. M. Pei is an exceptional American architect, born in China. Of his many wonderful works, my favorite is the renovation of the Louvre in Paris, especially the Glass Pyramid in the courtyard, albeit controversial with Parisians. I’ve never visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame building, but from pictures I can see that there are elements that are very similar to Pei’s work at the Louvre. There is a steel and glass pyramid protruding from the roof of the Hall of Fame building in downtown Cleveland.
44. Uses a Kindle, e.g. : READS
The Amazon Kindle is software and hardware platform designed for the reading of digital books. It was released on November 19, 2007 (and sold online, of course). It sold out in 5 1/2 hours, was was out of stock for a full five months! I am thinking about buying one, but my librarian wife won’t let one in the house!
46. Tarot card readers, e.g. : SEERS
Tarot cards have been around since the mid-1400s, and for centuries were simply used in card games. It has only been since the late 1800s that the cards have been used by fortune tellers to predict the future.
48. Ad-libbing vocal style : SCAT
Ad libitum is a Latin phrase meaning “at one’s pleasure”. In common usage, the phrase is usually shortened to “ad lib”. On the stage, the concept of an “ad lib” is very familiar. For example, an actor who substitutes his own words for forgotten lines uses an ad lib. Or, a director may instruct an actor to use her own words at a particular point in a performance, to promote a feeling of spontaneity.
Scat singing is a vocal improvisation found in the world of jazz. There aren’t any words as such, just random nonsense syllables made up on the spot.
55. Indy 500 entry : CAR
The first Indy 500 race was held on Memorial Day in 1911. The winner that day was one Ray Harroun. He had seen someone using a rear view mirror on a horse-drawn vehicle, and decided to fit one on his Marmon “Wasp” motor car. Supposedly that was the first ever use of a rear view mirror on a motor vehicle.