Wooden coasters, wax figures, Prime Minister!

New York city with an amusement park that’s a National Historic Landmark

Rye, the city, New York, is a city in Westchester County, New York.  It is separate from the town of Rye, New York.  Rye the city was originally Rye the village until it was given its charter in 1942.  Huh?

Now for the easy part – in Rye, the city (got it?) is an amusement park called Playland.  Interestingly, it is an amusement park run by Westchester County – one of the very few in the United States.  It was started in 1927 under the direction of Frank Darling who had previous experience with Coney Island. Dragon-Coaster

Its most famous ride is the Dragon coaster which was unveiled in 1929.  The logo for Playland features the coaster, which is one of the few remaining wooden coasters in the U.S.  It has over 3000 feet of track and its tunnel is the body of a dragon which has eyes that light up and bellows smoke from its nostrils.

Playland has been featured in several movies and television episodes including The Muppets Take Manhattan, Big, Fatal Attraction, Mad Men, and How I Met Your Mother.

Medium for Madame Tussaud

Madame Tussauds, a wax musuem, is a major attraction in London as well as many branches in other cities.  Marie (nee Grosholtz) Tussaud was born in Strasbourg, France.  Her mother was a housekeeper for Dr. Philippe Curtius, a physician, who taught young Marie the art of wax modeling.

In 1777, she created her first sculpture, Voltaire.  Other well-known figures of the day that she sculpted were Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin.  Keeping busy even during the French Revolution, she became famous for her death masks.  After the death of Dr. Curtius, she inherited his wax collection and began touring Europe.  After marrying Francois Tussaud, the show was renamed, Madame Tussaud’s.  CharlesandCamila

She received an invitation to come to London and worked there for a while with Philidor and then began to tour Great Britain as the political climate in France with the rise of Napoleon was not considered advantageous for her.  Eventually she returned to London and settled in Baker Street.

Today Madame Tussauds has branches worldwide, with the most recent one opening this year in Seoul.

1990s Indian P.M.

The tenth Prime Minister of India, Pamulaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao, served as the head of state from 1991 – 1996.  His rise to that position was considered significant as he was the first from the non-Hindi speaking southern India.  His administration was also significant for his economic reforms, with the dismantling of the Licence Raj, which halted the socialist policies instituted by Rajiv Gandhi.  Also, unlike Nehru, he favored a market-driven economy.  During his reign, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a right-wing party, gained strength over the Indian National Congress which had enjoyed prominence since the early days of independence.pvn

In addition to his knowledge of the law and politics, he held a variety of interests including literature and computer programming.  His knowledge of Sanskrit was vast, and he spoke seventeen languages.

All Things French! – June 29, 2015

French city historically known for its silk

This one took me back to the history books because, these days, Lyon, is a city better known for its gastronomy.  We must go all the way back to Louis XI in 1466 who set up a silk manufacturer in Lyon.  Later on, Francois I, granted the silk monopoly to the city of Lyon.  After 1540, all silk coming to France or Italy passed through the city of Lyon and its warehouses.

As a result, the silk industry thrived in France for over a century until Henri IV and his A.-C.-Canova-Carre-de-soie_banniere1 infamous  revocation of the Edict of Nantes.  For those who do not recall, the annulment of the Edict of Nantes was implemented by Henry IV, a Catholic, to restore France to its Catholic prominence.  Bad news if you were a Protestant (in other words, a Huguenot).  Many of the Huguenots were experts in the textile industry, and they now fled to other countries taking their knowledge and techniques elsewhere.

It wasn’t until the years prior to the reign of Louis XVI that the silk industry picked up – to decorate the King’s apartments.  The designer, Lacroix, created the royal design school.  Things were progressing well until the French Revolution when many were guillotined or shot – definitely putting a crimp in the industry – one source states that almost 90% of the silk workers were either killed or fled the country.

It took the arrival of Napoleon and Josephine to revitalize the industry, and the 19th century saw the silk industry reach its peak.

________ l’œil (literally, “deceives the eye”)

Personally, I find trompe-l’œil, paintings endlessly fascinating.  While the artwork most often seen with perspectival illusionism is associated with the Baroque period, its true beginnings go back much farther  to Greek and Roman times where such drawings and murals were seen.  Even the ruins of Pompeii show the trompe-l’œil murals.arches

It was during the Renaissance when the understanding of perspective drawing took off, that painters of the Quattrocento such as Andrea Mantegna and Melozzi di Forli created illusionist ceiling paintings.  Their works were done primarily in fresco and used the technique of foreshortening.

800px-Andrea_Pozzo_-_Apoteose_de_Santo_InacioJesuit churches during the Baroque period used the ceiling effect to great use with the “opening” created illustrated the heavens or Jesus and other saints ascending.  A truly amazing example is the dome in Vienna created by Andrea Pozzo.

In addition to artwork seen in galleries and churches, the trompe-l’œil has been employed a great deal in the stage and theater design – again to create the illusion of more space.  It has also been employed in film with one of the more famous being Donald O’Connor in Singin’ in the Rain in his “Running up the wall” scene.


OK, I know this was a bit of a stretch to include this in the French category, but the other two were perfect, so I found a word that had its origins in French:  melee.    I assume that most who are reading this already know the definition, but for those who don’t and for those who want a review, here goes:  a confused hand-to-hand fight among several people, or confusion, turmoil or jumble.  This last part is also thought to have given rise to the word, medley.  Of course, when the French spell it, they use accents and make it look so much more presentable:  mêlée.

Now you may ask, why is there a picture of diamonds with this definition?  I’m glad you O_E_melee_diamondasked!  For those wishing to stump someone in a definition, melee is also the name of a group of diamonds each weighing less than 0.25 carat.  How’s that for adding to your already voluminous knowledge?  Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls as they used to say on Laugh-In!



Muses, Empiricism and O Canada! – June 28, 2015

Sister of Clio

One would hope that with all the time I have spent doing crosswords that I would have all those Greek Muses down pat.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  I was fortunate with this clue, that it only had five letters, and I was able to come up the correct answer, Erato.

So who were the Muses and why should we care?  Well, they were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory.  These daughters were the goddesses that ruled over the arts and sciences and offered inspiration to those pursuing those subjects.  Since there were no books, they had to rely on their muses.Erato

The Nine Muses were:

  1. Calliope – the muse of epic poetry
  2. Clio  – the muse of history
  3. Erato – the muse of love poetry
  4. Euterpe – the muse of music
  5. Melpomeme – the muse of tragedy
  6. Polyhymnia – the muse of sacred poetry
  7. Terpsichore – the muse of dance
  8. Thalia – the muse of comedy
  9. Urania – the muse of astronomy

Throughout the centuries, the muses have served as inspiration for various artists.  Homer asks the Muses at the beginning of both the Iliad and the Odyssey to tell the story.

 “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” philosopher

Born in Edinburgh in 1711, David Hume, became one of the most influential philosophers of his day.  While his family had some wealth, as the younger son he was forced to consider making a living on his own.  Entering university at the tender age of ten, he had initially considered a career in law but later abandoned it in favor of reading more books.  At the age of eighteen, he envisioned a new “scene of thought”.  He spent the next ten years reading and writing to the point that he was near a mental breakdown.  Calling it the “Disease of the Learned”, he was ordered to take a course of bitters and then after completing that course, he was told to drink a pint of claret every day – such wisdom his doctor had!

David HumeAt age twenty -eight, he published A Treatise of Human Nature, considered by most to be his best work.  People of the day were inclined to disagree and it was not well-received.   In this he strove to show the psychological basis for the human race.  In opposition to the rationalists such as Rene Descartes, he believed that desire rather than reason was the guiding force behind human behavior.  He also scoffed at the idea of innate reasoning as he thought that man could only have knowledge about things that he could experience firsthand.

Other with whom Hume engaged were Jean Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith and James Boswell.  Despite all of the luminous connections he had, he never did obtain a university appointment owing to the unrest his religious or anti-religious views depending on the source.

In addition to his philosophical essays and books, his History of England which depicts English history from the invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688 was widely popular in its day and continues to be a text that is used as a reference.

Locale of the Battle of Stoney Creek in the War of 1812

As the clue suggests, the Battle of Stoney Creek occurred during the War of 1812 – in what was Ontario.  In what can hardly be considered America’s finest hour on the battlefield, General Henry Dearborn, flush with victory after the capture of Fort George, was poised to stage an aggressive attack in Upper Canada.  The attack was planned for June 5, but indecision and poor weather stalled matters, and the troops did not arrive until June 2.  By then the British had been warned by a local youth, Billy Green, who had observed the troops and noted their locations.Stoney Creek

Lieutenant Colonel John Harvey, armed with the information from Green as well as the passwords obtained from a prisoner, convinced General John Vincent to stage a bold night raid on the troops.  It was a successful, albeit costly, maneuver.  The Americans were forced to retreat, and this battle became a turning point in the war as the Americans were forced to give up ideas of control of the Niagara peninsula.  It was also a launching point for Harvey who went on to distinguish himself in other victories.


Baseball trio, Island Time, Cheers!

One of Jesus’ brothers in baseball

This takes me back to the days of Trivial Pursuit – remember that game?  Sports was always my worst category, but one question I could answer was, “Who were the three Alou brothers?”  Answer:  Jesus, Felipe and Matty – the answer to today’s clue.

imageWhile there is a legend that says that all three brothers started in the outfield in a San Francisco Giants game, it is not true.  They all did play outfield in a game, but they did not start – an important difference.  How’s that for someone who claims to know next to nothing about sports?

While his career with the Giants was not remarkable, he did have one moment worth remembering.  In 1962, he hit a pinch-hit single in a tie-breaking game three which rallied the Giants, giving them the game win over the Dodgers as well as the pennant.  While known as an outfielder, he did pitch one game in 1963, leading to two scoreless innings.

Whne he was traded to the Pirates, he consulted with Harry “the Hat” Walker, whose tutelage produced impressive results.  He won the National League Batting Title in 1966 and was named All-Star twice in 1968 and 1969.

Denmark sold it to the U. S. in 1917

Really?  We purchased something from Denmark in 1917?  Yes, indeed, the U. S. purchased St. Croix as well as St. Thomas and St. John for the sum of $25 million dollars in gold.

imageSt. Croix was ruled mostly by indigenous tribes until the arrival of Columbus in 1492.  After that, it passed through numerous hands including Spain, the Netherlands, Malta, Great Britain and France.  In 1733, France sold it to Denmark.  For the next 200 years, the islands were known as the Danish West Indies.  In 1917, the sale was made; by 1927 the citizens were granted U. S. citizenship.

While St. Croix had always been an agrarian community, it soon became industrialized.  It was home to HOVENSA, one of the largest oil refineries in the world.  However, in 2012, it was closed.  Now agriculture is again in the forefront, with sugar and rum production leading the way.  It has been home to Cruzan Rum Distillery since the 1700’s and is now competing with Puerto Rico and Bermuda with their own single-barrel premium rum.

Its logo was the U.K.’s first registered trademark

The Bass Brewery was founded in 1777  by William Bass in Burton-Upon-Trent.  Bass Ale, one of its main brands, was once the number one selling ale in the U.K.  Its unique red triangle became the first registered trademark in the U.K.image

The Bass Brewery assumed control of a number of other smaller breweries throughout the 1960’s and later merged with Charrington Breweries, making it the largest brewery in the U.K.  In 2000, Anheuser-Busch InBev purchased the brewery, while the retail remained in the United Kingdom.



Down with the ship, How smart are you?


The Lusitania made her maiden voyage in 1907. Having been built to be the fastest liner afloat, she was nicknamed the “Greyhound of the Seas”. Unbeknownst the general public, the British admiralty had subsidized her manufacturing with the proviso that she would be later be consigned to government service. With the war looming in 1913, she was fitted with ammunition and gun mounts which were concealed under the deck.

In 1915, she left New York for Liverpool. While those unboard were unaware, the Germans were onto her secret arms. As she neared the coast of Ireland, a torpedo from the German uboat U 20 struck her. Another explosion on board ripped the liner apart. As the ship listed badly, lifeboats struck passengers trying to board them. The giant ship sank in eighteen minutes, killing 1,119 of the 1,924 on board (the total included 114 Americans).Lusitania

In the ship’s nursery, Alfred Vanderbilt, of the famously rich American family, and playwright Carl Frohman desperately tried to save the infants on board by piecing together life jackets as miniature life boats for them. All of this was to no avail – none of the infants survived, and both Vanderbilt and Frohman perished as well.

American public opinion was enraged. Not surprisingly, the fallout was immediate and widespread. President Wilson issued strong protests to the Germans. William Jennings Bryan, the Secretary of State, who was also a pacifist, resigned as a result. American antipathy towards the Germans had grown to dangerous proportions. Within two years, America declared war.


Psychologist Alfred who invented the intelligence test

Alfred Binet was a French psychologist who invented what became the first intelligence test. The initial purpose of his test was to identify students who would struggle with the traditional curriculum, not test who was a genius or not.

During his early years after law school, Binet studied the memories of ches220px-Alfred_Binets players and then studied the effects of hypnotism under Jean-Martin Charcot. Never attaining a major position with a university, his career had more or less stalled, when in 1899, he was asked to be a member of the Free Society for the Psychological Study of the Child. French education had changed over the years, and it was now mandatory for children ages six to fourteen to attend school.

With the help of a medical student, Theodore Simon, Binet developed a test for measuring intelligence, called the Binet-Simon scale. The scale was used to represent tasks typical of children’s abilities at various ages. In a practical sense, the scores revealed the child’s mental age. Binet believed that intelligence was diverse and responsive to environment and not just based on genetics.

Lewis Terman took the Simon-Benet scale and standardized using an American sample. Despite Binet’s initial purpose to advocate education for all children, the test was used in “curtailing the reproduction of feeble-mindedness and in the elimination of an enormous amount of crime, pauperism, and industrial inefficiency”.

That Binet did not speak out against the use of his name and test in such a manner seems implausible, but he was somewhat of an isolationist and never traveled outside of France and seldom participated in professional organizations. His test did not receive the same attention in France and did not have the same results.

He continued to study children throughout his life, and in his honor the Free Society for the Psychological Study of the Child was renamed La Societe Alfred Binet in his honor.


Mother of Perseus

Watch Jeopardy! with any regularity, and you will know that Greek mythology is a frequent category and with good reason. Greek and Roman mythology have existed for centuries, inspiring stories and artists of all kinds.

Danae was a princess of Argos in the Greek Peloponessos, a daughter of King Akrisios. When her father learned from a prophet that he would be killed by a son of his daughter, he did the only thing he could: he locked Danae away in a subterranean bronze chamber. However such a prison was no match for Zeus who impregnated her in the guise of a golden shower.

1280px-Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn_026Once he learned of this, Akrisios had both Danae and her son, Perseus, placed in a chest and set them afloat on the sea. Through the intervention of various deities, they landed safely on the island of Seriphos where the fisherman, Diktys, brought them ashore and into his home.

In an effort to thwart King Polydectes’ proposal of marriage, Perseus brought back Medusa’s head and rescued Andromeda. He started for Argos, but after hearing the prophecy, went instead to Larissa where athletic games were ongoing. By chance, Akrisios was there and Perseus accidentally struck him on the head with a javelin – fulfilling the prophecy.

Deep Blue, high heels and Revolution!

Groundbreaking chess-playing computer

IBM was more than happy to introduce their chess-playing computer, Deep Blue.  It was the first piece of artificial intelligence to win a chess game and match against the reigning world champion, Gary Kasparov.

The first match on February 10, 1986 – Deep Blue beat Kasparov in game one.  However, Kasparov then won two and drew three thereby beating Deep Blue 4 -2  IBM then upgraded Deep Blue and a rematch on May 6 ended with a winning game six, giving Deep Blue the match.

Kasparov accused IBM of cheating and demanded a rematch.  IBM refused and promptly retired Deep Blue


The “high heel” of Italy’s bootimage

While the spellings vary, Apulia or Puglia is the region in southern Italy forming the “heel” of the boot.  It is known for its whitewashed hill towns and sunny weather.  The towns of Alberobello and the Itria Valley are home to stone huts with conical roofs (called trulli).  The town of Lecce is known as the “Florence of the South” because of its many examples of baroque architecture.


“The Death of _____” (1793 David painting)

In one of the most famous images of the French Revolution, Jacques-Louis David depicted the murder of Jean-Paul Marat by Charlotte Corday.  Known as “The Death of Marat“, David depicted Marat as a victim, drawing on paintings of Christian martyrs.  It was hugely popular during the Reign of Terror with several copies being ordered by the leaders of the time.


However, after Robespierre’s overthrow  and execution, its popularity waned.  David, himself was also prosecuted for his role in the Terror as a member of the Comite de Surete General.  Today the original hangs in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels where David lived in exile until his death.

Broadway shows and Southern stars – June 24, 2015

Richard who won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony and Pulitzer

While I knew Richard Rodgers had talent and had won more than one award, the number that he actually was awarded is staggering. Born in New York, as a child his family moved to Upper Manhattan, and he actually grew up only a few blocks from both Oscar Hammerstein and Lorenz Hart who would later collaborate with him.

It was while studying at Columbia University that he met Lorenz Hart. The two worked in New York until the Depression when they moved west to Hollywood, working for MGM on several movies. It was during this time that “Blue Moon” was released. After the Depression, the two returned to New York where shows such as Jumbo, On Your Toes and Pal Joey were produced.

After Lorenz Hart died in 1943, Rodgers partnered with Oscar Hammerstein II. Their collaboration, Oklahoma! was ground-breaking in musical theatre as it was the first to include complex storylines and the first where songs were incorporate into the story rather than simply being diversions. The two were enormously successful with subsequent projects, with Forbes stating that they were the second-most successful dead entertainers in history.

So what were a few of the awards given to Rodgers:

  1. Pulitzer Prize in Drama for South Pacific and for Oklahoma!
  2. Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song for “It Might As Well Be Spring” from State Fair
  3. Emmy for Winston Churchill the Valiant Years
  4. Tony for Best Musical – Sound of Music and South Pacific
  5. Tony for Best Original Score – No Strings, South Pacific
  6. Grammy for Best Show Album for Sound of Music

In addition to all of these, he was one of the first recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors.


Constellation visible in Melbourne and Sydney

The Southern Cross is one of the most visible constellations in the southern hemisphere. It was viewed by 16th century seafarers as a symbol of the Christian faith. Its symbol adorns the New Zealand flag including the tomb of the Unknown Warrior in New Zealand. It is visible throughout the entire year and can occasionally be seen in the northern hemisphere in the southern United States.
Lying in the Milky Way – the Southern Cross is found from its proximity to two bright stars called the Pointers (Alpha and Beta Centauri). Extending an imaginary line between them reaches the Southern Cross.


The orientation and position of the cross in the sky are constantly changing. It appears to rotate around a point in space known as the South Celestial Pole (it is in fact the earth that is rotating). During the night the orientation of the constellation changes in a regular manner from upright, to lying sideways, to upside-down. Both its position and orientation change over the course of a year. At midnight on 1 April it is upright and high in the sky, but three months later it is lying on its side in the south-west. It will be found upside-down and low in the sky at midnight on 1 October, and at midnight on 1 January it will be lying on its side in the south-east.

Finding south

There is no bright pole star in the southern hemisphere sky that can be used to locate due south in the same way that Polaris indicates north in the northern hemisphere. Instead, there are various ways of locating south by the Southern Cross.

First use the Southern Cross to locate the South Celestial Pole, then drop a vertical line from the South Celestial Pole to the horizon – this marks due south.


First Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1948

Omar Nelson “Brad” Bradley (February 12, 1893 – April 8, 1981) was a United States Army field commander in North Africa and Europe during World War II, and a General of the Army. From the Normandy landings through the end of the war in Europe, Bradley had command of all U.S. ground forces invading Germany from the west; he ultimately commanded forty-three divisions and 1.3 million men, the largest body of American soldiers ever to serve under a U.S. field commander. After the war, Bradley headed the Veterans Administration and became Chief of Staff of the United States Army. In 1949, he was appointed the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the following year oversaw the policy-making for the Korean War, before retiring from active service in 1953.



Down east and Old Order – June 23, 2015

Maine college town

If you have done crosswords with any regularity, this one should come to you automatically. The University of Maine, is located in Orono, a small town of just over 8,000 people. Interesting facts about it: it is the only land grant university in the United States that is situated on an island in the Penobscot and Stillwater rivers. Its campus was designed by Olmsted who also designed New York's Central Park. It was also the first university in the nation to have a woman chair a major department.

Of particular note – it is one of the few college campuses whose student government is incorporated. They are an actual 501(c) corporation with its own legislative and executive branch. They pass resolutions and help organize speakers and other events. Its student paper, The Maine Campus, is also incorporated.

Wisconsin v. ________ (landmark 1972 Supreme Court case on religious freedom)

Don't you just hate it when a clue says “landmark” or “famous” or “well-known” and you don't know? That was the case in this clue. Chalk up another one for the New York Times crossword in teaching me some more history and law in this case. The landmark case was Wisconsin v. Yoder, and it involved those rabble-rousing Amish folks – I kid you not. The issue came down to the Amish desire to not educate their children beyond the 8th grade vs the state's compulsory education laws.

Three Amish students declined to continue their eductation at New Glarus high school in New Glarus, Wisconsin. The three families were represented by Jonas Yoder when the case went to trial. At the initial case, the three were found guilty and fined five dollars each. The Wisconsin Supreme Court found in the Yoder's favor, at which time, Wisconsin appealed to the Supreme Court.

Since the Amish favor non-confrontation, a Lutheran minister, William C. Lindholm, represented them at the Supreme Court. The Amish argument against compulsory education of their children was that they felt further knowledge put their own salvation in danger. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Amish, with William O. Douglas offering the only partial dissent.


Geography, state birds and Yogi

June 22, 2015

Former name of Congo

A better question would be – which Congo? On today's map you will find Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Republic of Congo is also known as Congo Republic, West Congo or Congo-Brazzaville – its capital is Brazzaville.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is also known as DR Congo, DROC, RDC, East Congo, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply Congo. From 1965 – 1997 it was named Zaire – the answer to today's clue.


Hawaii's state bird

The Hawaiian goose, or Nene (pronounced “nay-nay”) or Branta sandwicensis was named the Hawaiian state bird in 1957. Interestingly, it seldom swims and is not bothered by predators or cold temperatures. It does not fly as much as other geese so its wings are weaker. Its feet are less webbed with longer toes for climbing rocks.

Of note, the species has been endangered, and while it breeds well in captivity, it is still considered the rarest of the state birds.




Who said “Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't go to yours.”

From one of the most quotable sports stars ever, Yogi Berra. He was born in St. Louis, an area known as “The Hill”. He and Joe Garagiola attended the same school. Jack Buck, an early Cardinals announcer also grew up on the same block. He is considered one of the best catchers in baseball history, once catching for an entire 22-inning game when he was 37. He was also deemed one of the best hitters, able to hit almost anywhere in the strike zone. Besides baseball, he is well known for his “Yogisms”, but in his own words, he said, “I really didn't say everything I said.”