This is my solution to the crossword published in the New York Times today ...
COMPLETION TIME: 7m 23s
THEME: SWITCH BLADE ... all the theme answers contain the letters B-L-A-D-E (in the circles), switched into different orders
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0
14. Artist Diego : RIVERA
Diego Rivera was a Mexican painter, famous for his murals. His wife was an equally famous Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.
23. ___-Wan with the Force : OBI
Sir Alec Guinness has played many great roles over a long a distinguished career, but nowadays is best known for playing the original Obi-Wan Kenobi in "Star Wars". The Force is a metaphysical power much cited in all of the "Star Wars" movies, and still today we may hear someone in real life say "May the Force be with you".
29. Certain mustache shape : HANDLEBAR
On this side of the Atlantic, those magnificent handlebar moustaches tend to be associated with the Wild West. On the other side of the Atlantic, the association is often with the members of the Royal Air Force during WWII.
35. Computer capacity, informally : MEGS
A megabyte varies in number depending on the context. A megabyte of computer memory is 1,048,576 bytes (1,024 x 1,024). A megabyte of computer storage (usually) is 1,000,000 bytes (1,000 x 1,000).
43. Yankee nickname starting in 2004 : A-ROD
Poor old Alex Rodriguez earned more nicknames that just A-Rod. He has been called "the Cooler" by some players as there is a perception that teams go cold when he joins them, and hot when he leaves. He has also been called "A-Fraud" by teammates because of another perception, that he is over-demanding.
50. American symbol : BALD EAGLE
The bald eagle was near to extinction in the lower 48 states in recent decades, with most of the blame being laid at the feet of the controversial pesticide DDT. The chemical wasn't dangerous to the fully grown bird, but ingestion caused the females to lay eggs which which had thin and brittle shells. The eggs became too fragile to survive life in the nest. The DDT ban in 1972 seemed to make the difference, and the recovery in the population was so robust that the species was removed from the Endangered List in 2007. Let's heat it for environmental regulations ...
55. Major coll. fraternity : SAE
Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) is the largest college fraternity in the US today. The SAE headquarters is on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, but it was founded at the University of Alabama back in 1856. It is the only college fraternity in existence that was founded in the South before the Civil War.
61. French pronoun : TOI
Toi, meaning "you" (singular, and familiar) in French.
62. Street weapon ... or a hint to the circled letters in this puzzle : SWITCHBLADE
Back in the British Isles we call a switchblade a flick knife, descriptive of the action of the blade as it springs out of the grip when released. Switchblades were somewhat glamorized in the movies on the fifties, such as "Rebel Without a Cause", "West Side Story" and "12 Angry Men". As a consequence, there are specific laws restricting the manufacture, sale and possession of switchblades.
69. Bond girl Kurylenko : OLGA
Olga Kurylenko is a Ukranian actress and model, and played the Bond girl Camille Montes in the latest movie in the series, "Quantum of Solace".
70. Spotted feline : OCELOT
The ocelot is found mainly in South and Central America, although there have been sightings as far norht as Arkansas. An ocelot doesn't look too different from a domestic cat, and some have been kept as pets. Perhaps most famously, Salvador Dali had one that he brought with him everywhere.
72. Wall Street inits. : NYSE
The New York Stock Exchange has its roots back in 1792, when a group of 24 stock brokers set up the New York Stock & Exchange Board. They did so in an agreement signed under a buttonwood tree outside 68 Wall Street. That document became known as the Buttonwood Agreement.
73. Darcy's Pemberley, e.g., in "Pride and Prejudice" : ESTATE
My favorite screen version of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" is the 1995 miniseries starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. Lyme Park, located near Stockport in the north of England, was the used to represent Pemberley.
2. ___ Maria : TIA
Tia Maria is a coffee liqueur, invented just after WWII in Jamaica, using Jamaica coffee beans. The name of course translates to "Aunt Maria".
3. Prefix with duct : OVI
Oviducts are the non-mammalian equivalents of the Fallopian tubes. The eggs travel from the ovaries, along the oviduct (there are usually two oviducts, but sometimes only one) and are released into some other organ or anatomical structure depending on species.
4. Target audience of Details magazine : MEN
"Details" magazine has been in circulation since 1982, and today is published by Conde Nast. It covers male fashion and lifestyle, with reports on social and political issues. I'e never read one ...
5. Country with a Guardian Council : IRAN
The Guardian Council of the Constitution is a 12-member group in the government structure of Iran. One of its functions is to interpret the Constitution of Iran.
7. Lawyers' org. : ABA
The American Bar Association.
8. Ty with batting titles : COBB
Ty Cobb was one of the richest baseball players of all times. When he retired he was a major stockholder of the Coca-Cola Corporation, and when he passed away he had an even bigger investment in General Electric. He left and estate worth about $86m in 2008 dollars.
10. Open grassland : VELDT
Also known as Veld, Veldt is the name given to large rural spaces in southern Africa. We might use the term "boondocks" for the same thing. The word comes from the German for "field".
22. ___ Lonely Boys (rock band) : LOS
Los Lonely Boys is a rock band from San Angela, Texas. The three band members are three brothers.
24. "The Well-Tempered Clavier" composer : BACH
J. S. Bach composed a set of 24 preludes and fugues published as a book in 1722, intended to be used as exercises for students of music. He composed another set of 24 in 1742, and the whole collection is today known as the "Well-Tempered Clavier", the title of the original book.
30. Org. monitoring narcotics smuggling : DEA
The Drug Enforcement Administration was set up in 1973 under the Nixon administration.
31. "___ thousand flowers bloom" : LET A
"Let a thousand flowers bloom" is an idiom meant to encourage many ideas from many sources. It is actually a misquotation of words spoken by Chairman Mao. His actual words were in a speech in Peking in 1957, "Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land."
37. Snick's partner : SNEE
"Snick or snee" is the name given to cut and thrust while fighting with a knife. The phrase is rooted in a pair of Dutch words.
40. Seoul-based automaker : KIA
Kia is the second largest car manufacturer in South Korea (after Hyundai). Kia was founded in 1944, and started out manufacturing steel tubing and bicycle parts. Kia went bankrupt in 1997, and was rescued by Hyundai taking a 51% stake in the company.
42. 10-point Q, e.g. : TILE
The Q tile is worth 10 points in the game of "Scrabble".
45. Actor Beatty : NED
Ned Beatty is probably best remembered for the rather disturbing "squeal like a pig" scene in the movie "Deliverance".
47. Kind of oil : CANOLA
Canola is a type of rapeseed. The oil is made from the seeds. The particular cultivar used in oil production was developed in Canada, and the name Canola comes from "CANadian Oil, Low Acid".
53. Johnny who used to cry "Come on down!" : OLSON
Johnny Olson was the announcer on "The Price is Right" from day one in 1972, until he passed away in 1985.
63. ___ Bo : TAE
Tae Bo isn't an ancient martial art, but was developed as a form of aerobic exercise in the 1990s. It was introduced by taekwondo expert Billy Blanks, who gave it the name tae bo, a melding of taekwondo and boxing.
65. ___ mode : A LA
In French, a la mode simply means "fashionable". In America it has come to describe a way of serving pie, usually with ice cream, or as I recall when I lived in Upstate New York, with cheese.
67. Summer on the Seine : ETE
Ete, the French word for summer.