Archive for the ‘New York Stuff’ Category

Comings and Goings

February 3, 2010

Triviography Breakdown

Friday’s puzzle was a lot of fun for me, as the format of picking places in Manhattan allowed me to poke around the city both virtually and physically.  I both learned some new things and got to reminisce about places past.  Some of the pairs that I chose for the “which is further uptown puzzle/quiz” were done strictly for wordplay i.e. two Terminals, John Jay Park or College, but others were trips through time and space for me.  For instance, I went to college at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center Campus and still have a nostalgia for Lincoln Center and the surroundings.  Also, at one point of my life just about everyone who I was close to worked or lived on West 57th Street, so Carnegie Hall was a stones throw away.  I remember the GM Building for my early childhood as a place to stop near F.A.O Schwatz’s, and with the state of the American automotive industry, I thought putting it and the Chrysler building together in a puzzle was timely.

I also wanted to use two fictional addresses, and I had found one for Nero’s Wolfe’s brownstone, but I could not find any other landmarks for any other fictional New York private eyes!  That’s when the Fantastic Four’s HQ the Baxter Building jumped into my head, and fortunately when Stan Lee was creating his Marvel-verse he put things in locations he knew.  Avengers Mansion is pretty much the Frick Museum BTW.

As for Extra Virgin and Diablo Royale, the two restaurants I picked for the “West Fourth is further uptown than West Tenth” question, I must admit that I have never even set foot in either place (anyone know if either is any good?).  I just needed two restaurants and I liked the contrast of the names.  The whole West Fourth Street crossing West Tenth, Eleventh etc. is one of my favorite things to throw at newbies to the city.  Blows their mind every time, and it also gives the Village its reputation of difficulty in navigation.  This preserves what little charm the West Village has left.  Speaking of which:

Heinz Dept. – O. Henry’s and the Bar Was Called Jimmy Armstrong’s

In my musings post after Puzzle #30 I had asked for some help regarding two places that have disappeared from New York landscape, the Greenwich Village Eatery O Henry’s and a bar that a great friend of mine worked at (bloody well ran) on West 57th Street.  My sister found the location of O. Henry’s from a blog called New York Songlines, and according the site’s this virtual walking tour of West 4th Street, the location, 345 6th Avenue is now a bank.  Talk about the village losing its charm!  The bank in question is now a Capital One Bank and that is now directly across the street from a WaMu.  Sigh.  There is pretty much nothing else about the place on a google search.  I may have to, like go to a library or something for this one.  Shudder.

The bar who’s name I could not remember was Jimmy Armstrong’s.  This Clinton neighborhood joint had some tales to tell, but it too had the bad fortune to close in 2002 so precious little appears on the internet about it, but I did find a post mortem in the Times about it.

And so it goes.  New York is change isn’t it?  For those of us who desperately want to leave a mark in or on the world New York is a cruel place to live.  Beloved places vanish, majestic buildings crumble and as the people who made these places “places to be” pass on, the memories also recede.  What made O. Henry’s a long time village staple?  What made Jimmy Armstrong’s so inviting?  Mostly the people who ran the places and the people who came.  When they go, the rest of us get a bank or now a chain “pub” in the case of Armstrong’s.  In fact, right now in New York if the people who make a place special die or fall on hard times the chains are all too eager to gobble up them up and spit out a high-rise or a retail hell in their place.  I find this more than a little sad.  Which leads me to:

Brooklyn’s Loss is Seattle’s Gain

Scott M.X. Turner is one of those guys that makes something special.  He fought the Atlantic Yards Project, he hosted the Rocky Sullivan’s Pub Quiz, and he did great graphic design work for the fair people of Brooklyn (yours truly included, the Puzzling New York Blog’s logo and banner are his work).  Scott is unfortunately for us Brooklyn dwellers leaving us for the Emerald City.  I have only known Scott for a few months, but he has been more than generous to me with his time and energy.  He went to great lengths to focus my ideas for this blog’s look.  He allowed me to do many guest rounds at the pub quiz to promote my blog even though my following was nil, and he was a great “talk”.  Politics, sports, music, you name it he was sharp and game.  I will miss having him around, but Seattle won’t know what hit it.  If you want to catch Mr. Turner’s final go at quizmastering check him out tomorrow at 8:00 PM.  Need Info?  Sure thing.


The Internet is a Very Interesting Thing…

January 20, 2010

First thing’s first, the answer to  the bonus question from Monday.  What former iconic place in New York City would be just a lone apostrophe if your removed all of the consonants from its name?  See for yourself.  (Be thankful I had my safe search on.) 

Yep, the late great CBGB’s.

This is the kind of puzzling that I love to do.  One of the goals of this blog is to discover as well as amuse and bedevil.  I always want to learn more about New York, and this puzzle gave me that opportunity.  For instance, did you know that:

The now defunct Gage and Tollner’s restaurant in Brooklyn had its interior landmarked, so that anyone who took over the space had to honor the insides of it?  Including Arby’s.

Not only is the New York Coliseum gone, but so is Coliseum Books?  This is a real shame because I have a fondness for independent bookstores, and I had great memories of this old place.  Also, did you know that while the Coliseum and Coliseum Books are gone that the Coliseum Bar is still going strong?  It seems to have upscaled a bit since I hung out there in my college days, but I will let those tales lie for now.

The other sad thing about New York is that many of the things that are disappearing are either independent stores like Manny’s Music that are getting swallowed up but national chains, or quirky things like Astroland and McHale’s (which was a great fucking bar/burger joint) that are being sacrificed at the altar of “development”.  I know I am über-Polyanna when I lament the loss of New York’s independent entrepeneurs,  (I am fully aware that this is the way of the world right now, thank you very much) but I still want the phrase “Only in New York” to live on in some establishments.

The other very interesting thing about doing this puzzle is that I wanted to include a couple of things in the examples of the puzzle that were a bit personal to me.  I did work Snooky’s into it, but there were two other places that I could not remember some exact details, and I figured that the ol’ internet would bail me out on it.  Guess what?  Since both of the places were never hugely iconic (although big in their circles/time) and since both disappeared before the internet boom, I could not find them.

This is a very interesting aspect of the internet.  Lesser known things, like the closing of Snooky’s, are documented now, and sometimes in great detail, but things that went to pass before, oh say the late 1990’s or so are gone.  Anything that strikes a bloggers fancy is living on in the search engines of the internet, and people/places/ and things that didn’t hit a critical mass before the internet did are not documented well at all.  I find that to be a very tangible example of the power of the internet.

Here’s another one.  I know some people who can straighten me out on the two lost places that my memory failed me on.  So here’s the shout out:

Mom and/or Dad:  Was the name of the restaurant you guys liked so much called O. Henry’s, and if so where the hell was it?

Tony and/or Jay:  I can’t believe I am blanking on this, but the bar you guys worked your way through college at was called Jimmy- what?

If you could post the answers in the comments section, then these places will also get a toe hold in searchengineland.

Answers to Puzzle #28 Brainteaser New York A to Z: Famous New Yorkers

December 22, 2009

I’m a day late on this one, due to the holiday crunch (which only confirms to me that the decision to take the holidays off is a good one!).  Anyway, this week’s puzzle challenged you to go through the alphabet by naming celebrated New Yorkers.  The challenge was to use up all the letters in the alphabet in as few names and/or letters as possible.  Here’s my  shortest list:

Humphrey Bogart – Famed Movie Star was born in NYC on Christmas Day (so it even keeps with the holidays)

Liz Smith – New York Gossip Columnist

Robin Quivers – Howard Stern’s Sidekick Extraordinaire

Jack Gilford – Very Funny Character Actor Who Befell the McCarthy Blacklist

Max Weinberg – Bandleader for Conan O’Brien

That is five names totaling 56 letters.  If you can do better than that, drop a comment to this post.

Da Year Dat Wuz

December 15, 2009

If I had come into this puzzle blog with the idea that I was going to do a year-end puzzle, I would have paid more attention to what the hell happened this year.  I found it funny that after seven or eight things that popped directly into my head to use for this puzzle, I really had to think about major events that occurred within or with the help of New Yorkersto expand the list.  After a bit of Googling, I was able to flesh out the list nicely, but I am now positive that reporters that know that they will be doing ye olde year in review column save stories in a file throughout the year and bust it out come Yuletime.

Some other random observations, puzzlewise.  I really tried to get the Mets into the puzzle, but it just wasn’t to be.  The disastrous season was just like a summer long slow motion train wreck and there was just too many people getting hurt and/or playing poorly that I could not come up with one thing for a clue.  The only thing I was toying to use for the Mets was Ct Fld for Citi Field (the other brand spanking new ballpark that opened this year) but how could I leave out Chesley “Sully” Sullenburger? 

Sully landing the plane in the Hudson was the first thing that came into my head when I conceptualized the puzzle, and even though his name is easy to work out without the vowels in it, he just had to make the list.  The man landed a freaking plane in the freaking Hudson River and the worst thing that happened to the passengers was that they got a little wet.  Sorry Metsees, maybe you should’ve hired Mr. Sullenburger as manager to see if he could’ve prevented two disasters in 2009.

Lastly, a couple of thoughts on what did and didn’t make my list.  On the “made it” side of the ledger included some good brainteasers.  Hideki Matsui and Lady Gaga were particularly challenging to figure out without vowels.  Others like Meb Keflezighi and George Stephanopoulos where just awesome bunches of letters that I just had to include.  On the other hand, I wanted to include Bll llt for the Tony award-winning musical Billy Elliot, but I just couldn’t leave out Bernie Madoff.  Billy was a good story, but Bernie is pretty much a symbol for our times.  The last two things that didn’t make the cut were anything that could have worked for the puzzle that began with Q or Z.  I liked the clean feel of trying to get on person/thing event per consonant, but I came up two short.  If anyone remembers something Q or Z from 2009 drop it in the comments field.



November 18, 2009

I get so pleased with myself sometimes.  I really wanted to do a word pyramid that started with a NYC-centric “X” clue, but I wanted to steer clear of Malcom X.  For me, the use of Malcom X to start the word pyramid was both too clichéd and politically charged.  Also, strictly from a puzzling standpoint, I couldn’t come up with a good ending word that contained X in it to link back to the 60’s icon.  I remembered the X-Men of Marvel Comics fame weeks ago, but only recently remembered “Excelsior!” as a Stan Lee catch phrase.  The rest is history.  5 word pyramids down, 21 to go.

Comic books are something that makes me think of my generation.  I am in my early forties now, a post Boomer, Gen X (see what I did there?) kinda guy, and comic books is one of the things that defines my generation.  We were the first bunch of kids that didn’t “outgrow” comics and many of my friends still read them today.  The holding on the childhood things well into adulthood is a big part of my generation and I don’t know what to make of it.  In some ways, this makes Gen X a bit Polyanna-ish with a mix of creepy guy living in his parent’s basement thrown in, but also this shows a sense of fun and imagination that can be found lacking in previous generations.  Some will see my generation as Peter Pan’s who won’t grow up and avoid hard things like grown up work.  Others will see us as those who changes the rules regarding work and play, and while we certainly can be a frivolous lot, we also have a lot of heart and passion.  I think that both sides of the coin are accurate, but I like being able to embrace my geeky passions amongst my peers with minimal eye rolling, so I will lean towards the positives on this one.

Comic books did reinforce my sense of right and wrong as a youth.  Peter Parker’s revelation that “With great power comes great responsibility” resonated with me as much as anything my parents or CCD classes did.  I am also very much a left leaning person, so comics underlying messages about justice, equality, and responsibility were pretty much in sync with my basic personality in the first place.

I have a co-worker who is into super hero comics more so than I, and he told me about a conservative comic fan who lamented the fact that an overwhelming majority of mainstream comics lean left.  This is the real connection and legacy of New York on the super-hero world.  Many of the original super-heros were written and drawn by left leaning New York Jews.  They set the formulas down that work for the cape and tights lot, and that formula stems from this New York sensibility.  New York City has more than its fair share of conservatives within it boarders, but it has been a liberal town for a long time.  The New York qualities of independence linked with community, acceptance of new ideas, and progressiveness have been laid down in the DNA of the super-hero, and through this New York’s world view has spread into the minds of the youth of said world.  I for one find this to be a great thing.


Answers to Puzzle #24 Word pyramid V: True Believers

November 17, 2009

If you haven’t tried Friday’s puzzle yet go here.  If you have tried the puzzle, and you are stumped and awaiting someone to send the correct answer to me so I will post the answers for you, weeeeellllllll, nobody did so yet.  I am going to post the answers below anyway, even though the prize is still unclaimed.  Why?  You have to click below to find out. (more…)

Twelve Shows, Twelve Thoughts

November 13, 2009

Heinz Dept.

It’s funny how one day of my week can get mussed up (sick child) and I fall into catch up mode.  Anyway, as promised here are some takes on the twelve shows that were the answers to last week’s puzzle.

Guys and Dolls:  I love the old Damon Runyon stories, and this musical captured the feel and style of those tales beautifully.  Also for my money, “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” is the best 11:00 o’clock number E-V-E-R. 

The Sound of Music:  I run hot and cold on this one.  I find it both charming and corny.  It did inspire a great YouTube clip though.

In the Heights:  I included In the Heights because it is one of the newer musicals that I haven’t gotten to see yet.  Sort of puzzle note to self.

The Fantasticks:  For my folks.  They loved this musical, and they still have some confetti that they swiped from the original Greenwich Village production in a playbill.  I did the same for the current revival, but it doesn’t have the same feel.

The Producers:  I talked this one over with a fellow Broadway theatre goer and we are in agreement that the first of this show was the perfect first act for a Broadway comedy.  The second act was very, very good, but the first act was just hysterically funny on point throughout.

West Side Story:  Funny how things age.  This was shocking for its time, and now not so much.  Still the score and choreography remain timeless.

Les Mis:  I am the type of person who is overly wary of hype.  To this day, I have still not seen the movie ET because the hype was so big for that film that I thought the movie could not live up to it.  I caught Les Mis ten years into its run because of hype-averssion, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the show really did live up to its reputation.

Sweeny Todd:  I saw the stripped down revival of Sweeny Todd a couple years back and loved it.  In my circles there was no middle ground with that production people either loved the stripped down intimate feel and innovation (all the cast members also played the instruments for the show on stage).  Other thought it couldn’t hold a candle to the original production.

Chicago:  When I started working for Broadway ticket sellers lo these many, many moons ago, the revival of Chicago was the first show I saw.  I caught an early preview and the show was not set yet, one of the leads was sick and/or had blown her voice out, and I wasn’t sold with the concert style staging.  I proclaimed that the show wouldn’t run three weeks.  Tomorrow the show will mark its thirteenth year on Broadway.  I have never been so wrong about a show before or since.

Camelot:  Another nod to my parents.  Very big fans of the show.  I grew up with parents whose LP collection consisted of Dylan, Baez, The Beatles, The Stones etc.  Camelot was one of only two Broadway cast albums they owned.

Phantom:  There are two types of Broadway fans in NYC:  those who like Andrew Lloyd Weber’s stuff and those who do not.  I am in the do not camp, but this is the longest running show in Broadway’s history, so it must be doing something right.

On The Town:  I have a soft spot for this show.  It is not the greatest show ever, but it is quirky and fun.  New York, New York is a hell of a town, and this show revels in that wonder and awe one can ave when first setting foot in our marvelous madcap metropolis.

New York Sports in the Fall

November 4, 2009

They’re Baaa-aaaack in the Bronx

Sometimes inspiration comes to me out of the blue.  I did not have a Halloween themed puzzle ready to go for last weekend, in fact I was working on a completely different generic word puzzle when the idea of “poltergeists” hit me.  In a fit of inspiration, I included the Yankees and I went from zero to timely in 48 hours.  BTW, completely hard-core old school Yankee fans will note that I listed the former and current Yank in uniform number order.  I also included WHITE, as in Roy White because I attended his baseball camp as a youth, and if he was too obscure for you, I apologize.

It is pretty heady times again for Yankee fans with the return of the Bombers to the World Series, and I find myself pulled back into interest.  I was a huge Yankee fan as boy in the 70’s and I still follow the team and attend the odd game now and again.  I drifted from full-time baseball nut and casual fan of just about everything else to full-time hockey nut and casual fan of just about everything else in the 80’s and hockey still holds the greatest interest for me.

Still though, I always find the Yankees fascinating.  The decades of championships, the tradition, the striving for excellence, juxtaposed with the greed, the bully with the most money, and a nearly pathological need to win makes the Yankees the sports equivalent of a Rorschach test.  Every sports fan can look at the ball club from the Bronx and take away their own conclusions.  Oddly enough, just about any position you take on the Yankees is both debatable and defendable.  That’s what makes the question, “What do the New York Yankees represent?” such a vexing one.  Are the Yankees the example of excellence in professional sports franchises?  Yep.  Are they also the benefactor of a hugely non-level playing filed in the terms of resources?  Hell, Yep.

Here’s one aspect of the Yankees franchise and its relevancy in, well, the world, that I find interesting.  The Yankees are the only professional sports team from our fair city that can legitimately be used for a metaphor as New York City’s standing in both the USA and the world.  New York holds a special place in US culture, commerce, and folklore and only the Yankees tap into that aspect of New York City.  The Mets, Rangers, Jets, Giants, and Knicks are local teams.  While these teams followings are spread out past the boundaries of the five boroughs due to New York’s reach across the world, but the Yankees are actually a part of that reach.  Like Broadway.  Like Wall Street.  The Yankees have a global reach, and outside of the US they are as easily associated with the USA as NYC.  You just can’t say that about the rest of the sports teams here.

The word guy in me thinks that it has something to do with the teams very name.  When you name your team the Yankees, you are not thinking locally.  Yanks are Americans.  Remember the team started life as the Highlanders, ’cause they played on a hill.  Well, what team would strive for 26 (perhaps 27) championships if they were a bunch of guys on a mound of dirt?  If you area Yankee, you have to win.  America doesn’t cotton to losers.  All of the other teams in the New York have distinctly local roots in their nicknames.  The Mets were named for Metropolitan New York.  The Rangers were named to go with their original owner’s nickname of “Tex”.  The “Knick”-name Knickerbocker came directly from New York’s mythology.  One just has to look at the skyline of Manhattan to know how the nickname Giants stuck, and the when the Titans rang too much of a rip off of Giants, the team named themselves after the planes that flew over their heads from La Guardia.  All locally flavored names.  All invoke the symbols and myths of New York to a degree, but only the Yankees add the symbols and myths of America as well.  The success of the team has added to an American legend as well as a New York story.

I’m not saying that luck, and vast amount of money didn’t contribute to the Yankees success.  I am saying that words matter, and certain expectations come from a Yank.  Personally, I prefer to root on a more locally flavored team (see Devils, New Jersey), but I do appreciate the Yankees and all that their name and their franchise has become.

The Real Great Annual Fall Sports Event in NYC

Yankee fans like to think that participating in the World Series is their teams birthright, but alas there have been more Fall Classics without Yankee participation than with.  Sunday marked the true annual autumnal sporting event in New York and that was the New York City Marathon.  Very recently, the marathon has come to hold a special place in my heart, and every November I go down to Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn to cheer on as many of the runners as I can.

The September 11th attack on New York was the hardest thing I have ever had to live through in my life to date.  I will always remember walking home to Brooklyn from Midtown Manhattan that day, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and seeing the impossibly large plume of smoke that had been the two towers of the World Trade Center just hours before.  I remember the sorrow and the dread of the weeks that followed.  The fear of losing my job because the field I worked in, Broadway tickets, was crippled in the first months after the attack.  I remember attending the funeral of a fire fighter I knew and learning just what a brotherhood New York’s Bravest truly had.  I remember attending the wake of a friend’s aunt who had died of old age a week after the attacks and how everyone admitted that they felt relieved to be attending a viewing of someone who had died naturally.  I also remember how nothing felt normal, day after day after day.

I had never attended the Marathon before, but in 2001, I did.  I didn’t want to attend, but  I had a friend running that year and my friends and I were going to support him.  It was one of those, “The terrorist have won if I don’t do this” moments that we all went through that fall.  The day was sunny, the runners ran down Fourth Avenue and I cheered my friend and thousands of other runners without any reservations.  That was the first time since the attacks that anything felt normal for me, and that felt good.  Very good.  All New Yorkers had their moment like this, when we learned to remember but without dread.  To not just move on, but also move up.  We realized that normal was going to be different, but also OK.  There was a day for almost all of New York that we finally felt OK again, and that it was OK to feel OK.  For me that day was 11/4/01 and it was the New York City Marathon that did it.  I will always be grateful for that, and I haven’t missed a year since.

On Puzzles Blogs and Quizes And Yankee Fans and Free Drinks Answers

October 27, 2009


I must admit that I am very excited to give out my first prize for this puzzle blog.  It is a milestone for the blog, and a fun thing to do.  It is also a good spring-board for reflecting on this internet endeavor of mine, and upon self-review, I have discovered one truth about Puzzling New York City.  I am pretty good at the puzzling part of puzzle blogging, and not so good at the blogging part.  

Creating puzzles has been the relatively easy part of this shindig.  Of the 21 puzzles that have appeared so far, only two or three have been caused me stress in creation.  I am better at some puzzle forms than others, but by in large I like the puzzle construction, and this is the “work that doesn’t feel like work”. 

The blogging part has been much more difficult for me.  The technical aspects of blogging have caused me innumerable headaches, and the relentless march of time has made posting things on time more difficult than I had anticipated.  I find that I am a good writer, but a bad editor.  So even if I have a puzzle ready to be posted for a given week, the actual posting takes much longer than the time I have budgeted to post it.  I am also a bad marketer of the blog, as I do not yet get how to get my blog linked to others.  I mean how do you do this without being totally rude?

“Love your blog Bob, BTW could you mention my utterly fabulous blog?”

I know from past experience with a theatre company that the creating part of what you like to do, be it painting, theatre, writing etc., is always the easy part of the job.  Getting your name out in front of people, finding the time or getting paid to do it, and finding an audience are the real chores.  It has been said to me that a big problem is that creative people just aren’t wired to do the “grunt” work.  I have thought about that, and that assessment does have a ring of truth to me.  I think that more accurately though is that the grunt work to get out your creative work is just plain more time-consuming.  What bloggers and artists do have very little financial return initially, if ever, and the time needed to promote is time taken away from earning a living or actually living. 

I wish I knew the “tricks” that get one’s blog noticed.  Oh well, I’m afraid that I will have to just keep producing puzzles, expand some ideas for interaction, and try to find a core audience.  I am not too distraught over readership levels, since I enjoy making the puzzles.   If nothing else, I am getting good practice in puzzle construction.


An interesting thing happened when I gave my Ends of the Earth quiz at Rocky Sullivan’s on Thursday.  The event coincided with the Yankees/Angels playoff series Game 5.  The Yanks were up 3-1 and a win would wend them back the to World Series after an “agonizing” six-year drought for Bomber fans.  One of the teams that participated in the quiz was a band of boisterous Yankee fans, who expressed their displeasure with Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett with the team name “Burnett Sucks Clocks”.  They lived and died the game loudly, as was their right, but here’s the interesting thing.  I had a Yankee question on my quiz, “What Yankee won the AL MVP in 1963?”.  This team did not get the answer, Elston Howard, correct.  Now to be fair, the team also did not pick up on the theme of my quiz which was all answers had the initials E.H., but still Elston Howard does have his number retired by the Yankees.  He was the first African-American Yankee.  He is kind of a big deal, and not one of the Yankee fans could come up with that one.  The Yankees always go on and on about their fans being the best and most knowledgeable fans in the game.  Well, I can point to one instance where best is shown in passion, but not in knowledge of a team’s truly rich and fascinating history.


I hid the free drink question that I had asked at Rocky’s in the answers to the pub quiz.  The answer is:


Answers to Puzzles #20 Su-do-kode AND #21 The Ends of the Earth

October 26, 2009

Pencils up and walk away, because we have a winner for the Su-do-kode puzzle from two weeks ago!  From the vast amount of entry received, the winner is:  Max Symuleski (I hope I’m pronouncing that right).  Max’s entry went above and beyond supplying the answer and the row or column it appears on, but was a pdf of the entire puzzle solved.  Well done!  Here is the completed puzzle: 

sudokode answer

Yes the answer is Katz’s Deli!  Your humble puzzler is in contact with Max right now on the prize, and when a choice is made I will let you know!  Congratulations to Max for being the inaugural prize winner in the life of The Puzzling New York City Blog!


I also have the answers to the Trivia Quiz which was the guest round that emceed at the World Famous Rocky’s Sullivan’s Pub Quiz!  If you haven’t tried the Quiz yet use the link above.  If you need the answers, then continue by clicking below. (more…)