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: 15m 05s
THEME: MARCH, In like a LION and out like a LAMB … the asterisked answers form a word ladder progressing from LION to LAMB
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0
TODAY’S WIKI-EST, AMAZONIAN GOOGLIES
1 LION: The idiomatic description of the month of March is that it “comes in like a lion, out like a lamb”. The meaning is clear, that March marks a transition, with poor weather at the beginning of the month, and calmer weather at the end. I couldn’t really find anything believable as the origins of the phrase, but there are some ramblings about positions of the constellations Leo (the LION) and Aries (the Ram/LAMB) in the sky at the beginning and end of the month.
9 FAUNS: Fauns come from Roman and Greek mythology. They have a human form above the waist, and that of a goat below, but with horns on the head. The Rubens reference in the clue is to his painting, dating back to 1638-40, “Diana and her Nymphs Surprised by the Fauns“.
14 OSLO: Oslo is an ancient city, founded around 1048. The medieval city was destroyed by fire in 1624, and was rebuilt by the Danish-Norwegian king Christian IV. He named the new city Christiana. In 1877, there was an official change of the name to Kristiana, and then more recently, only in 1925, the name was restored to the original Oslo. Things have gone full circle, for now the center of Oslo, the area that would have been contained by the original medieval walls, it has apparently been renamed Christiana.
16 ORSON: Orson Welles achieved his first national and international recognition after his famous radio adaptation of the classic novel “The War of the Worlds” created panic across America as people heard what they thought were news reports describing real landings of creatures from Mars.
17 UTEP: The University of Texas at El Paso.
20 THARP: I love Twyla Tharp’s choreography, and her patented “moves”. Twyla was born in Portland, Indiana in 1941. She was named after Twila Thornburg, the “Pig Princess” of the 89th Annual Muncie Fair in Indian. That’s one to tell to the grandkids …
22 STOA: A stoa was a covered walkway in Ancient Greek architecture. They usually consisted of columns lining the side of a building or buildings, with another row of columns defining the other side of the walkway. The columns supported a roof. Often stoae would surround marketplaces in large cities.
27 SHEL: Author Shel Silverstein had a varied career, and did more than write books. He was a poet, composer, cartoonist and screenwriter among other things.
43 ANSON: Anson Williams played the lovable “Potsie” character on “Happy Days“. After “Happy Days” finished its run, Williams moved into directing, and has directed episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Xena : Warrior Princess, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210 and other shows. But his true fame has to be that he is the second cousin of Dr. Henry Heimlich, who invented the Heimlich Maneuver!
48 COMB (& 9D FOB): “The Gift of the Magi” is a short story by O. Henry. It tells of a financially strapped young couple, Jim and Della, who strive hard to give wonderful Christmas gifts to each other. The irony is that Jim sells his father’s pocket watch to buy Della a set of combs for her beautiful hair. Della gets her hair cut off and sells it to buy a lovely chin for Jim’s watch. Still, love conquers all …
50 ANSA: Ansa is the Latin word for handle, so an archaeologist might dig up a pot, for example, with an ansa. The term is also used to describe anatomical structures that are shaped like a handle, froming a loop or an arc.
57 LUCA: Luca Brasi is one of Don Corleone’s most loyal “enforcers” in Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather”. In the movie, Luca Brasi was played by ex-wrestler and professional bodyguard, Lenny Montana. The role launched a very successful television character acting career for Montana.
60 ILSA: Ilsa Lund was of course the role played by Ingrid Bergman in the 1942 movie “Casablanca“. I love the words of one critic describing the chemistry between Bogart and Bergman in this film: “she paints his face with her eyes”. Wow …
71 ANOS: There are ten anos (years) in una decada (a decade) … Spanish.
1 LOUTS: The word “lummox” comes from East Anglian slang (northest of London). It is probably a contraction of “lumbering ox”.
3 OLEAN: Olean is a brand name for the fat substitute, Olestra. Naturally occuring fats are made of of a glycerol molecule holding together three fatty acids. Olestra is made of a sucrose molecule, holding together several fatty acid chains. Olestra has a similar taste and consistency as natural fat, but has zero caloric impact on the body because it is too large a molecule to pass through the intestinal wall. It passes right out of the body. Personally, I would steer clear of it. It is banned in Britain and Canada due to concerns about side effects, but I guess someone knows the right palms to grease (pun intended!) here in America, so it’s in our food.
5 ALB: The alb is the white, neck-to-toe vestment worn by priests, usually worn with a rope cord around the waist. The term alb comes from “albus”, the Latin word for “white”.
6 LOOS: Back in the old country folks urinate (“go”) in the toilet (“to the loo”).
10 ARABELLA: “Arabella” is a comic opera written by Richard Strauss. The heroine, Arabella, must marry into a rich family to save her family from ruin, but a love interest enters the scene, and you know the rest …
32 AMCS: The Hornet was a compact produced by AMC in the seventies. The Hornet platform was used in the design of the Gremlin, a smaller sub-compact, that was developed to compete with smaller cars being shipped in from Japan.
33 CAHN: Sammy Cahn wrote for them all, including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Doris Day. his most famous song was probably “Three Coins in the Fountain“.
38 SHA: The group Sha Na Na got together in the sixties, and in some form are still performing today. Do you remember the band “Johnny Casino & The Gamblers” in the movie “Grease“. That was actually Sha Na Na.
41 MOON PIES: Marshmallow cream was developed in 1927. Soon after, workers in the coal mines around Chattanooga, Tennessee started dipping graham crackers in marshmallow cream as a snack. Then a local baker jumped on the idea, and came up with a sandwich made with a marshmallow filling between two round graham crackers. His young grandson remarked that the popped bubbles in the marshmallow (from baking) looked like moon craters, and the Moon Pie was born. I used to love them as a kid, although we called them “Wagon Wheels” in our part of the world.
52 UVULA: The uvula is that conical, fleshy projection hanging down at the back of the soft palate. It plays an important role in human speech. The Latin word from grape is “uva”, so “uvula” is a little grape.
55 CAEN: Herb Caen was a San Francisco columnist. He started writing “It’s News to Me” back in 1938. he was the first person to coin the phrase “beatnik”. He also famously referred to San Francisco as “Baghdad by the Bay”, a reference to the exotic nature of the city. Not such a popular description these days.
59 CAAN: John Seybold was a jewel thief, turned novelist. Under the pen name, Frank Hohimer, he wrote “The Home Invaders: Confessions of a Cat Burglar“. This novel was the basis for the 1981 movie “Thief” starring James Caan. Seybold actually worked on the set as technical advisor, even though he had FBI warrants outstanding. His past eventually caught up with him, and he served time in a New Jersey prison from 1995 to 2001.
63 TSO: General Tso’s chicken is an American invention for the menu of Chinese Restaurants. The name General Tso may be a reference to General Zuo Zontang of the Qing Dynasty, but there is no clear link.