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 52s
THEME: SWITCH POSITIONS (ON and OFF) … all the theme answers are phrases using the words ON and OFF e.g. ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0
TODAY’S WIKI-EST, AMAZONIAN GOOGLIES
1. Pet rocks, once : FAD
The Pet Rock lives on history, even though the fad really only lasted about 6 months, in 1975. It was enough to make inventor Gary Dahl a millionaire though. His next idea, a “sand farm”, didn’t fly at all.
10. Message runner : PAGE
The use of the word “page” to denote a messenger boy dates back to about 1300, when a page was a youth preparing to be a knight. The word comes into English via French from the Latin “pagius” meaning “servant”.
15. It may come before the end of a sentence : PAROLE
The term “parole” is a French word that we use, with the French “parole” meaning “word, speech”. In particular there is the French phrase “parole d’honneur” which translates as “word of honor”. In the early 1600s we started using “parole” to mean a promise by a prisoner of war not to escape, as in the prisoner giving his word of honor not to run off. Over time, parole has come to mean conditional release of a prisoner before the full term of a sentence has been served. Interesting, eh?
17. Intermittent, as a relationship : ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN
25. Plumlike fruit : SLOE
The sloe is the fruit of the blackthorn bush, and is the flavoring that gives gin its distinctive taste.
27. Leaves the main topic temporarily : IS OFF ON A TANGENT
38. Org. with audits : IRS
The Internal Revenue Service does lots of audits, everyone’s nightmare!. The IRS came into being during the Civil War, to raise money to pay for war expenses. Prior to the introduction of income tax in 1862, taxation was limited to levies on trade and property.
48. Start to exit an Interstate : GET ON THE OFF-RAMP
58. Stick it in your ear : Q-TIP
Cotton swabs were invented in the twenties by one Leo Gerstenzang, a Polish-born American. He marketed his new product under the name “Baby Gays”, but this was changed in 1926 to “Q-Tip“, with the Q standing for “quality”. Probably not a bad idea to change that name …
62. Trade places … or a hint to parts of 17-, 27- and 48-Across : SWITCH POSITIONS
66. Smuggler’s unit : KILO
Drug smugglers in particular, move their goods by the kilo(gram).
67. Francis of old game shows : ARLENE
I only discovered the wonderful old American TV show “What’s My Line” a few years ago. I was familiar with it’s British version, but hadn’t spotted the US version in reruns until relatively recently. I fell in love with the beautiful Arlene Francis watching those reruns. She was a regular panelist on the show, and the epitome of elegance. I think I have seen every show ever made at this point.
68. Show hosts, for short : MCS
MCS: Masters of Ceremony.
2. Rice who wrote “The Vampire Chronicles” : ANNE
Anne Rice is the American author of erotic and Gothic novels, and was born Howard Allen O’Brien (no wonder she changed her name!). Here series of novels “The Vampire Chronicles” centers on her character Lestat de Lioncourt, a French noble who was turned into a vampire in the 18th century. One of the stories, “Interview with the Vampire” was adapted for the big screen in 1994, and starred Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, as well as others in a star-studded cast. Not my kind of movie though …
4. Place to relax : SPA
The word “spa” comes to us from Belgium, as Spa is the name of a health resort there. The name “Spa” comes from the Walloon word “espa” meaning “spring, fountain”.
6. River of Normandy : ORNE
Orne is a department and river in the northwest of France. Perhaps one of the most famous locations in Orne is the village of Camembert, the home of the famous (and delicious) cheese.
9. Whistle blower, in brief : REF
Whistle blower … another nicely worded clue
11. Tiny battery : AAAA
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. A AAAA battery is just over 4 cm long, and only 8.3 mm in diameter. Yep, it’s pretty tiny …
25. Quadraphonic halved : STEREO
Monophonic sound (“mono”) is sound reproduced using just one audio channel, and it is usually played out of just one speaker. Stereophonic sound is reproduced using two audio channels, with the sound from those channels usually played out of two speakers positioned apart from each other so that sound appears to come in various directions. Quadraphonic sound (4.0 surround sound) uses four audio channels with the sound played back through four speakers usually position at the corner of the room in which one is listening.
28. Delhi wrap: Var. : SAREE
A sari (also saree) is a strip of cloth, as one might imagine, but is usually unstitched along its length. In length it can range from four to nine meters (that’s a lot of material!). The sari is usually wrapped around the waist, then draped over the shoulder leaving the midriff bare. I must say, they can be beautiful items of clothing.
30. Arizona tribe : NAVAHO
The Navajo (also Navaho) Nation mainly live on a reservation in the Four Corners area of the US. It is the largest land area in the US assigned to a Native American jurisdiction, and occupies most of northeastern Arizona.
31. Pain reliever brand : ALEVE
Aleve is a anti-inflammatory drug, Naproxen sodium.
32. ___ Kagan, Obama nominee to the Supreme Court : ELENA
Currently Elena Kagan is the Solicitor General of the United States, and is a pending nominee to the US Supreme Court. She would replace Justice John Paul Stevens who intends to retire. I hear she is a fan of Jane Austen, and used to reread “Pride and Prejudice” once a year. Not a bad thing …
33. Caesar’s nine : NOVEM
Novem is the Latin word for “nine”. Our month of November comes from “novem”, as it was the ninth month in the old Roman calendar.
40. Terrestrial salamanders : EFTS
Newts wouldn’t be my favorite animals in the world. They are found all over the world, living on land or in the water depending on the species, but always associated with water, even if it is only for breeding. Newts metamorphose through three distinct developmental stages during their lives. They start of as larvae in water, fertilized eggs that often cling to aquatic plants, unlike the eggs of frogs and toads which float freely. The eggs hatch into tadpoles, the first developmental form of the newt. After living some months as tadpoles swimming around in the water, they undergo metamorphosis, sprouting legs and replacing their external gills with lungs. At this juvenile stage they are known as efts, and leave the water to live on land. A more gradual transition takes place then, as the eft takes on the lizard-like appearance of the adult newt.
44. Aid for skiing uphill : ROPE TOW
I don’t know if I’d call it “skiing uphill”, but you do go uphill on your skis when you grab hold of the rope tow.
47. Modern dweller in ancient Ur : IRAQI
Chaldea was a marshy land located what is now southern Iraq and Kuwait. The wet and fertile plain was created from deposits from the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, and the tribes that moved into the area became known as the Chaldaeans. In Biblical terms, the town of Ur, was also known as Ur Kasdim, or Ur of the Chaldees, and was located in this area. Many believe this was the city where Abraham was born.
49. Crack officer? : NARC
Lovely wording again! Crack cocaine is manufactured from powdered cocaine in a simple process. The powder is dissolved in an aqueous solution of baking soda, and the liquid is boiled off leaving a solid residue. The residue is broken up into chunks, and sold as crack. Apparently the crack is smoked, delivering an awful lot of contain into the body very quickly though the lungs. Nasty stuff …
50. Hot breakfast cereal : FARINA
Farina is semolina, or cream of wheat. It is made from wheat grain in which much of the nutritious ingredients are removed leaving a fine “flour”. The name “Farina” is the Latin word meaning “flour”.
54. Loretta of “M*A*S*H” : SWIT
Loretta Swit started playing “Hot Lips” Houlihan on “M*A*S*H” in 1972. She and Alan Alda were the only actors who appeared in both the pilot and the series finale. Swit has written a book on needlepoint, would you believe? It’s called “A Needlepoint Scrapbook”.
60. Member of a Pre-Columbian empire : INCA
Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro discovered the Incas in 1526, the beginning of the end for the ancient civilization, ravaged by force and by imported smallpox.
63. ___ Solo, Harrison Ford role : HAN
Han Solo was the space smuggler in “Star Wars” played by Harrison Ford. Ford was originally hired by George Lucas read lines for actors being cast in “Star Wars”, and over time Lucas became convinced that Ford was right for the pivotal role of Han Solo.
65. ___ Aviv : TEL
The full name of Israel’s second largest city is Tel Aviv-Yafo. Tel Aviv translates into “Spring Mound”, a name chosen in 1910.