This is my solution to the crossword published in the New York Times today ...
COMPLETION TIME: 49m 11s
THEME: MONUMENTAL ACHIEVEMENT ... The circled letters spell out the word Pyramid, and can be used to draw a pyramid when lines are connected from letter-to-letter in the right order. The word PYRAMID is also missing from the theme clues.
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0
6. Dead : KAPUT
Kaput comes to us from French (via German). "Capot" means "not having won a single trick" in the French card game called Piquet.
15. Imported cheese : EDAM
Edam cheese takes the name after the Dutch town of Edam in North Holland. It is famous for its coating of red paraffin wax, a layer of protection that helps it travel well and prevents spoiling. You might occasionally come across an Edam cheese that is coated in black wax. This means that the underlying cheese has been aged for a minimum of 17 weeks.
19. Tribe of Israel : ASHER
In the Book of Genesis, Asher was the second son of Jacob, and the founder of the tribe of Asher. Asher collaborated in the plot to sell his brother Joseph into slavery.
20. Resident of a country that's 97% mountains and desert : OMANI
Oman is lies on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula, neighbored by the OAE, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Most of central Oman is covered by a gravel desert, with mountains along the north and southeast coasts.
21. Sailor's direction : ALEE
The direction "alee" is the direction away from the wind. If a sailor points into the wind, he is pointing "aweather".
22. "Here I ___ Worship" (contemporary hymn) : AM TO
"Here I am to Worship" was written by singer Tim Hughes, and was released on an album of the same name in 2001.
23. [ Pyramid ] : CHEER-LEADING FORMATION
29. "Le Déjeuner des Canotiers," e.g. : RENOIR
"Le Déjeuner des Canotiers" is also known in English as "Luncheon of the Boating Party". It can be seen in the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C.
31. Gwen who sang "Don't Speak," 1996 : STEFANI
Gwen Stefani is the lead singer for the rock band No Doubt. She joined the band in 1986, focused on a solo career from 2004-2008, but is now back singing and working with No Doubt.
37. [ Pyramid ] : IMAGE ON A DOLLAR BILL
Conspiracy theorists love to point out "suspicious" symbols on the dollar bill. The pyramid on the bill is unfinished, with 13 steps. The number 13 has been associated with the occult, but ... it is also the number of original colonies which declared independence from Britain forming the United States.
46. Charles, for one : ROI
Charles I was king ("roi") of the Franks from 768 to 800. He was known as "Charles the Great" or ... Charlemagne.
49. Start of a famous J.F.K. quote : ASK NOT
The line "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." comes from President Kennedy's inaugural address from January, 1961. Although Kennedy started pulling the speech together himself soon after he was elected in the prior November, the final speech was drafted by Ted Sorenson. And what a great speech it was ...
52. Price part: Abbr. : CTS
I assume this is the abbreviation for "cents" in the context of a price.
55. [ Pyramid ] : YOGA POSE
In yoga, the pyramid pose (parsvottanasana) is quite a stretch. It involves standing with legs wide apart, and bending at the waist, with head resting beside one of your feet. Don't try this at home ...
59. Glossy black birds : DAWS
Daws are beter known today as jackdaws. It belongs to the crow family. The jackdaw features in a famous pangram (a short sentence containing all 26 letters of the alphabet) ... "Jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz".
60. New York City transport from the Bronx to Coney Island : D TRAIN
The D Train is more correctly known as the D Sixth Avenue Express. The can take a look at the D Train on an episode of "Seinfeld". In "The Subway", Jerry takes the D Train out to Coney Island.
65. After, in Avignon : APRES
Apres: the French word for "after".
66. Paris attraction that features a [ Pyramid ] : THE LOUVRE
When I. M. Pei became the first foreign architect to work on the Louvre in Paris, he not only designed the famous glass and steel pyramid, but also worked on renovations throughout the museum.
73. Low clouds : STRATI
Stratus clouds are very common, and as they are wider than they are tall, and flat along the bottom, we might just see them as haze in a featureless sky above us. Stratus clouds are basically the same as fog, but off the ground. Indeed, many stratus clouds are formed when morning fog lifts into the air as the ground heats up.
75. Fannie ___ (some investments) : MAES
The Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) is know as Fannie Mae for short.
76. Prenatal procedures, informally : AMNIOS
Amnio is short for amniocentesis, a testing of the amniotic fluid that surrounds the unborn child in the mother's womb.
78. [ Pyramid ] : CARD GAME
I don't think we are talking about building a house out of playing cards here, but rather we are referring to the game of solitaire called "Pyramid". At the start of the game, all the cards are laid out in a triangular formation resembling a pyramid, hence the name.
84. Willy who wrote "The Conquest of Space" : LEY
Willy Ley was a German rocket scientist who did much of his work here in the US. Unlike many of his compatriots, Ley left Nazi Germany and moved the US prior to WWII, in 1935. He wrote books about space travel that were very approachable and helped popularize the concept with the general public. "The Conquest of Space" was published in 1949.
85. Whites or colors, e.g. : LOAD
I do the laundry in this house. Why is it impossible to teach teenagers how to separate whites and colors?
86. NASA's ___ Research Center : AMES
The Ames Research Center is just down the road here, located at Moffet Field, at the southern tip of San Francisco Bay. Jospeh Ames was a member of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics when it was formed in 1915, and chaired the committee from 1919-1939.
89. [ Pyramid ] that was the creation of an architect born 4/26/1917 : GLASS DESIGN BY I. M. PEI
Pei's design for the Pyramid at the Louvre was very controversial, causing a lot of ill feeling among the public. Eventually, when the work was complete, public opinion became more favorable. Personally, I think it is magnificent, both inside and out.
97. Humdingers : LULUS
Humdingers and lulus are things that are quite extraordinary and remarkable.
99. Mozart's birthplace : AUSTRIA
Mozart was born in Salzburg in Austria, on 27 January 1756.
103. Network that airs "WWE Raw" : USA
"WWE Raw" is a professional wrestling TV show. Apparently it is the longest running, weekly television show in history (that hasn't taken a break), having been on the air continuously since 1993.
104. Breakdown of social norms : ANOMIE
The word "anomie" comes to us via French from Greek. The root words are "a-" (without) "nomos" (law).
108. Bop : CONK
To bop and to conk are verbs meaning to strike, especially on the head. Where I grew up, "conk" was also slang for a nose.
109. [ Pyramid ] : THREE DIMENSIONAL SHAPE
114. O'Neill's "Desire Under the ___" : ELMS
"Desire Under the Elms" is a classic American play written by Eugene O'Neill and published in 1924. It is basically a retelling of a Greek tragedy, but set in contemporary New England. Sophia Loren stars in a movie version released in 1958.
115. "___ Death" (Grieg movement) : ASE'S
"Ase's Death" is a movement in Edvard Grieg's beautiful "Peer Gynt" suite. The suite is a collection of incidental music that Grieg composed for Ibsen's play of the same name. Ase is the widow of a peasant, and the mother of Peer Gynt.
117. Headless Horseman, e.g. : RIDER
The Headless Horseman is a character in Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleep Hollow".
119. Larry who played Tony in "West Side Story" : KERT
Larry Kert originated the role of Tony on Broadway in 1957. Hew was upset at not being cast as Tony in the famous 1961 screen adaptation. I'm not really sure why, as he was 30 in 1961, and Tony is a teenager ...
3. "___ Foolish Things" (1936 hit) : THESE
"These Foolish Things" was written especially for a radio broadcast by the BBC, by Eric Maschwitz and Jack Strachey. Maschwitz was Head of Variety at the BBC at the time. It wasn't very popular back in 1936, but it has become a repertoire standard, recorded by the likes of Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby and, more recently, Bryan Ferry. It even made it onto "American Idol".
5. Canadian-born hockey great : ORR
Bobby Orr is regarded as one of the greatest hockey players of all time. By the time he retired in 1978 he had undergone over a dozen knee surgeries. At 31 years of age, he concluded that he just couldn't skate any more. Reportedly, he was even having trouble walking ...
6. Walter of "Star Trek" : KOENIG
Walter Koenig played Pavel Chekov in the original "Star Trek" series. Mr Chekov was a Russian character, but Koenig was born in Chicago, the son of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania.
7. "Diary of ___ Housewife" : A MAD
"Diary of a Mad Housewife" is a novel by Sue Kaufman published in 1967. The 1970 screen adaptation was received well by critics and won a Golden Globe, but despite that it has never made it to DVD. If you have a VHS copy, head for eBay as you could make some decent money ...
11. Seattle's ___ Field : SAFECO
Safeco Field is the home of the Seattle Mariners. Safeco Insurance was the highest bidder when it came to christening the new stadium opened in 1999, paying $40m for a 20-year contract.
13. Part of a Virgin Atlantic fleet : AEROPLANE
Yep, on the other side of the pond we call them aeroplanes, and not airplanes, although I think the Americans are winning this battle!
14. Prefix with monde : DEMI
The demimonde ("half-world" in French) was name given to the courtesan class in French, British and American society in the 19th century. The term "half-world" is meant to suggest that these women lived on the fringes of polite society. Famous characters of the demi-monde in the arts would be Violetta ("La Traviata"), perhaps Becky Sharp from "Vanity Fair" and maybe Colette's "Gigi".
16. Composer Shostakovich : DMITRI
Dmitri Shostakovich was Russian composer, producing works in the Soviet period. He had a difficult relationship with the Communist Party, twice being officially denounced.
17. Like Berg's "Wozzeck" : ATONAL
"Wozzeck" is the first opera composed by Alban Berg. I can't stand atonal music. It is just beyond me ...
18. Williams of TV : MONTEL
Montel Williams is a military man, and has a degree in international security affairs from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. He served in the Navy as a cryptology officer and saw active duty during the invasion of Granada. When he retired from the Navy after twelve years of service he was at the rank of Lieutenant Commander. The Montel Williams Show was cancelled amidst controversy in 2008, after Williams had appeared on Fox criticizing the media's lack of coverage of the Iraq War.
24. Smallville girl : LANA
Smallville is the town on Earth in which Superman grew up (as Clark Kent). One of Clark's best friends in Smallville, and romantic interest, was Lana Lang.
25. Sudoku feature : GRID
"Sudoku" is a Japanese word meaning "single number". No doubt many of you are fans ...
26. Genesis landing site : ARARAT
Mount Ararat is in Turkey, and according to the Book of Genesis it is where Noah's ark "landed". Ararat is a snow-capped dormant volcano, with two peaks. The higher of the two, Greater Ararat, is the tallest peak in Turkey. Ararat takes its name from a legendary Armenian hero called Ara the Beautiful (or Ara the Handsome).
34. "Krazy" one : KAT
"Krazy Kat" was a successful comic strip that ran from 1913-1944, drawn by George Herriman.
36. Financial inst. that bought PaineWebber in 2000 : UBS
UBS was adopted as the official name of what was intended to be the United Bank of Switzerland when it was formed by a merger in 1998. Paine Webber was a old company, founded in 1880 in Boston by Alfred Paine and Wallace G, Webber.
47. French pronoun : TOI
Toi, meaning "you" (singular, and familiar).
51. 1980s Chrysler debut : K-CAR
The K-cars we designed to carry 6 passengers, on two bench seats. Remember taking a corner a little too fast in the days when no one wore seat belts?
52. April first? : CAPITAL A
58. Covered walkways : STOAS
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.
59. Joltin' Joe : DIMAG
Joe DiMaggio was born not too far here, in Martinez, California, the son of Italian immigrants. The family moved to San Francisco when Joltin' Joe was just a baby. Joe's Dad was a fisherman, and it was hope that all his sons would follow him into his trade. But Joe always felt sick at the smell of fish ... thank goodness for baseball.
61. "Thin Ice" star Sonja : HENIE
Sonja Henie was a World and Olympic Champion figure skater from Norway, in the days when "amateur" sports stars were not paid. She made up for it in Hollywood, where she was one of highest paid stars at the height of her career. In the 1937 movie "Thin Ice", Henie starred opposite Tyrone Power.
74. Bygone daily MTV series, informally : TRL
Total Request Live (TRL) ran from 1998-2008. As part of the show it ran the top ten most requested music videos of the day, based on votes from viewers.
78. "___ fan tutte" : COSI
"Cosi fan tutte" (Thus Do They All) is an opera buffa by Mozart. It is sometimes called "The School for Lovers" in English.
81. Anatomical cavities : FOSSAE
Fossa is the Latin word for a trench, and anatomically is used to describe cavities or depressions in a bone.
83. Tina of "30 Rock" : FEY
"30 Rock" is Tina Fey's own creation, and tells the behind-the-scenes story of a live sketch show not dissimilar to Saturday Night Live (where Fey first achieved celebrity). "30 Rock" is the address of the NBC studios, located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.
86. "Wheel of Fortune" purchase : AN E
Contestants have been buying "an E" on "Wheel of Fortune" on the the air since 1975.
88. They're nuts : LITCHIS
Litchis are better known in English as lychees. One can't eat the skin of the lychee fruit, which is why you'll notice that you are only served the sweet flash (if you've ever had them ... they're delicious). Even thought there is a nut-like seed within the edible flesh of the lychee fruit, I wouldn't eat it as it is poisonous.
89. Sitting areas, slangily? : GLUTES
There are three gluteal muscles in the human body, the largest of which is the gluteus maximus. It's the glueteus maximus which really dictates the shape and size of the human buttocks. In evolutionary terms, the human "glutes" are larger than those in related species because they play a big role maintaining our erect posture.
101. How some people solve crosswords : IN PEN
Not me ...
102. Singer/actress Karen of Broadway's "Nine" : AKERS
Karen Orth-Pallavicini decided to go with the name Akers for her acting and singing career, the name she took from her first marriage, to Tom Akers.
106. Mrs. Dithers of "Blondie" : CORA
"Blondie" was created as a comic strip by Chic Young. It was first published in 1930, and is still being created today (although the strip is now controlled by Chic's son, Dean). The series spawned a series of radio programs (1939-1950) and a series of Blondie films (1938-1950). Blondie is married to Dagwood Bumstead, and Dagwood's tyrannical boss id Julius Dithers. Cora, is Julius's wife.
112. Chemical suffix : IDE
The -ide suffix is used for anions e.g the chlorine anion is called chloride, sulfur is sulfide.