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This is my solution to the crossword published in the New York Times today ...
COMPLETION TIME: 7m 52s
THEME: Something OLD, something NEW, something BORROWED, something BLUE.
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0
18 OLD HICKORY: Like many of the earlier US presidents, Andrew Jackson was a career military man. He distinguished himself as commander of American forces during the War of 1812, particularly in the defense of New Orleans. He had a reputation of being fair to his troops, but strict. It was during this time that he was described as "tough as old hickory", creating a nickname that stuck with him for life.
20 NEW CALEDONIA: New Caledonia was discovered by Captain Cook, the son of a Scotsman. He thought that the rugged coastline of his newly found land resembled that of Scotland (Caledonia in Latin), so he named the new territory "New Caledonia". Napoleon ordered the taking of New Caledonia from Britain in 1853, and since then it has been a French colony. The territory is due to hold a referendum in some time over the next few years, sanctioned by the United Nations, at which time New Caledonia may become an independent nation.
31 RADIO: During WWI, the US government actively discouraged the loss of certain technologies to other countries, including allies. The developing wireless technologies were considered to be particularly important by the army and navy. The government prevented the General Electric Company from selling equipment to the British Marconi Company, and instead facilitated the purchase by GE of the American Marconi subsidiary. This purchase led to GE forming The Radio Corporation of America ... RCA.
33 GHETTO: The first "ghetto" was an island in Venice that was used for confining Venetian Jews. The same island was used to store slag from a foundry, and getto was the Venetian word for "slag". The term ghetto spread across Europe, at the beginning always associated with repressed Jewish populations. Ultimately it came to mean any urban area housing a a minority group under economic and social pressure.
42 RAMONE: The Ramones were a punk rock band that formed Forest Hills, New York in the mid-seventies. Arguably, they were the first punk rock group, defining the genre. Something else that's not my cup of tea ...
47 PAPUA: Papua New Guinea is a country occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea (the western side of the island is part of Indonesia).
2 LAVERNE: Penny Marshall played Laverne (De Fazio) on "Laverne & Shirley", and Cindy Williams played Shirley (Feeney). The show was a spin-off of "Happy Days", in which Laverne and Shirley were friends of the Fonz.
7 REDD: Redd Foxx was the stage name of John Elroy Sandford, best known for starring in "Sanford and Son". "Sanford and Son" was an American version of a celebrated hit BBC sitcom that I grew up with in Ireland, called "Steptoe and Son".
8 SOHO: TriBeCa is a clever little acronym that expands into "TRI-angle BE-low CA-nal Street. The name was developed by local residents who basically copied the technique used by residents of the neighboring area of SoHo, which is short for SO-uth of HO-uston Street.
10 ANKARA: Ankara is the second largest city in Turkey, after Istanbul (formerly Constantinople). After WWI, the Ottoman Empire had been defeated and the Allies occupied the Ottoman capital of Istanbul, and planned to break up most of Turkey, leaving native Turks just part of their country for their own. In the inevitable War of Independence that followed, the Turkish Nationalists used Ankara as their base. When they emerged victorious, they declared Ankara the new capital of Turkey.
29 SETON: Seton Hall is a private, Roman Catholic college in South Orange, New Jersey. The most famous of their sports programs is of course the men's basketball.
33 GMA: Good Morning America.
37 ORATOR: Daniel Webster was a famous senator, renowned for his articulate and persuasive speeches. He entered the race for president three times, clearly never winning.
50 SID: Sid Caesar achieved fame in the fifties on TV's "Your Show of Shows", but I know him mainly from the fun film version of "Grease" in which he played Coach Calhoun.
54 RIPA: When Kelly Ripa secured the co-host spot on morning television with Regis Philbin, she was still acting in "All My Children", in a role she had been playing for over ten years. After a year of holding down two jobs, she eventually gave up the acting job.
56 OB-LA: "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" was one of many songs credited to Lennon/McCartney, that was actually written by just one of the pair. Paul McCartney wrote this one, a song that John Lennon really did not like at all. Apparently he was quite obstructionist during the recording of the song, walking out at one point.