This is my solution to the crossword published in the New York Times today ...
COMPLETION TIME: 14m 48s
THEME: EACH ANSWER HAS AN ODD NUMBER OF LETTERS (an unusual grid design!)
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0
1. Rattlebrains : DODOS
The dodo was a direct relative of the pigeon and dove, although the fully grown dodo was usually three feet tall. One of the reasons the dodo comes to mind when we think of extinction of a species, is that it disappeared not too long ago, in the mid-1600s, and humans were the reason for its demise. The dodo lived exclusively on the island of Mauritius, and when man arrived, we cut back the forest that were its home, and we introduced domestic animals, such as dogs and pigs, that ransacked the dodo's nests.
23. King with a statue in Trafalgar Square : JAMES II
One one side of Trafalgar Square in London, stand two statues guarding the entrance to the National Gallery. James II stands to the east of the entrance, and more interestingly, a statue of George Washington is standing to the west. Washington at one time had pledged that he would never again set foot on British soil, so his statue does not stand on British soil either. A gift from the State of Virginia, the statue actually stands on soil imported from the United States.
28. "Interest paid on trouble before it falls due," per W. R. Inge : WORRY
The author of these words is William Ralph Inge, an English author and Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Because of his position at St. Paul's he was often referred to simply as "Dean Inge". He was also nicknamed the Gloomy Dean because he regularly expressed very pessimistic views in newspaper articles. He is remembered as a great supporter of animal rights.
32. Asian spiritual guide : ZEN MASTER
Zen is one of the Buddhist schools, that became it's own tradition in China back in the 7th century AD. Zen is a Japanese spelling of the Chinese word "chan", which in turn derives from the Sanskrit word "dhyana" meaning "meditation".
36. "Jerusalem Delivered" poet : TASSO
Torquato Tasso was an Italian poet who lived in the 1500s. He wrote "Jerusalem Delivered" in 1580, a narrative poem telling his version of the siege of Jerusalem at the end of the First Crusade.
42. Lizard that chirps : GECKO
The gecko actually takes its name from the sound it makes, a unique trait in the world of lizards. The word "gecko" comes from an Indonesian/Javanese word "tokek", imitative of the chirping sound. More interesting to me than a gecko's chirping sound is their ability to cling to walls and other vertical surfaces. There feet are specially adapted, with "toes" that make extremely intimate, close contact to a surface. It isn't suction that supports them, but rather van der Waals forces (like weak "gravitational" attractions). Fascinating stuff ...
44. Actress Harper : VALERIE
Valerie Harper is best known for playing Rhoda Morgenstern on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", and on her own spin-off sitcom "Rhoda".
51. "___ fancy you consult, consult your purse": Benjamin Franklin : ERE
I think it means, before going off on a flight of fancy, see if you have the money to do so. Wise words ...
59. W.W. II blockade enforcer : U-BOAT
U-boat stands for "Unterseeboot (undersea boat). U-boats were primarily used in WWII to enforce a blockade against enemy commercial shipping, with a main objective being to cut off the supplies being transported to the Britain from British colonies and the US. The fight for control of the supply routes became known as the Battle of the Atlantic.
60. Hagen with three Tonys : UTA
Uta Hagen was a German-born American actress. She married Jose Ferrer in 1938, but were divorced ten years later after it was revealed that she was having a long-running affair with Paul Robeson. Her association with Robeson, a prominent civil rights activist, earned her a spot on the Hollywood Blacklist during the McCarthy Era. This forced her away from film, and towards a successful stage career in New York City.
64. U.S. term for a British "saloon" : SEDAN
The American sedan car, is the equivalent to the British saloon car. By definition, a sedan car has two rows of seating, and a separate trunk (boot in the UK), although in some models the engine can be at the rear of the car.
2. 60 minuti : ORA
The are 60 minutes in an hour, in Italy too ...
4. Autumn shade : OCHRE
Ochre is often spelled "ocher" in the US (it's ochre where I come from).
5. Maurice of Nixon's cabinet : STANS
Maurice Stans was trained as an accountant, and rose through the ranks of the civil service eventually becoming Secretary of Commerce in the Nixon administration. He resigned from the cabinet to head up the finance committee of Richard Nixon's reelection campaign. Famously, money raised by this committee was used to finance some of the Watergate crimes.
6. Peruvian volcano El ___ : MISTI
El Misti is also known as Guaga-Putina, and lies in Southern Peru near the city of Arequipa.
8. Olympic sport since 2000 : TAEKWONDO
Taekwondo is the national sport of Korea. The translation is rather "complete". Tae means "to strike or break with foot"; kwon means "to strike or break with fist"; do means "way" or "art". Along with judo, it is one of the only two of the martial arts that is included in the Olympic Games.
11. ___ metabolism : BASAL
One's basal metabolism refers to just the basic processes of the body, the one's essential to maintain life. The Basal Metabolic Rate is the number of calories needed to maintain that basal metabolism, sufficient energy to maintain function of the vital organs such as heart, lungs, kidneys. Excluded is the energy needed to move around, to eat, or to absorb food.
19. Abrogate a peace treaty, maybe : REARM
Abrogate is such a lovely sounding word. It means to annul or do away with, especially by authority.
24. City on the Nile : ASWAN
The city of Aswan is one of the driest places on earth, so dry in fact that many locals do not bother putting roofs on all the rooms in their dwellings. The last time it rained in Aswan (apparently the latest info, as early April 2010) was a thunderstorm on May 13, 2006. The nearby Aswan Dam is very famous, and is actually two dams. The Low Dam was first built in 1902 (and modified later). The High Dam was completed in 1970.
26. Big name in vacuum cleaners : DYSON
Dyson vacuum cleaners do not use a bag to collect dust. James Dyson invented the first vacuum cleaner to use cyclonic separation in 1979, frustrated at the poor performance of his regular vacuum cleaner. As Dyson cleaners do not use bags, they don't have to deal with collection bags that are blocked with fine dust particles, even after emptying. Cyclonic separation uses high speed spinning of the dust-containing air so that the dust particles are thrown out of the airflow into a collection bin. We should buy one ...
30. County name in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma : OSAGE
The Osage Nation originated in the Ohio River valley in what we now call Kentucky. They were forced to migrate west of the Mississippi by the invading Iroquois tribe. Most of the tribe members now live in Osage County, Oklahoma. Osage County, Kansas and Osage County, Missouri are both named after the Osage River that runs through them.
34. French beings : ETRES
Etre is the French word for "to be".
35. Gun, for one : RHYME
Clever ... "gun" rhymes with "one".
44. Mythological subject for Titian and Botticelli : VENUS
Titian created a whole series of paintings called "Venus and Adonis". I would venture that Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" is more well known.
45. One of the ABC islands : ARUBA
The ABC Islands is the nickname given to the three western-most islands of the Leeward Antilles in the Caribbean. The nickname comes from the first letters of the island names: Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. All three of the ABC Islands are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
46. It may be found often in a shop : LEMON
A lemon is an informal term given to something that is unsatisfactory or defective, most often applied to a car these days.
48. Who wrote "I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him" : POE
The line is from Edgar Allen Poe's story "The Tell-Tale Heart", arguably one of Poe's most disturbing works. It is a tale of cold-blooded and premeditated murder, with some dismemberment thrown in for good measure.
50. First name in perfume : ESTEE
Estee Lauder was quite the successful business woman, with a personal reputation as a great sales person, at all levels. She introduced her own line of fragrances starting in 1953, a bath oil called "Youth Dew". "Youth Dew" was marketed as a perfume, but it was added to the bath water. All of a sudden women were pouring whole bottles of Ms. Lauder's "perfume" into their baths, while using only a drop or two of French perfumes behind their ears. Clever ...
56. Busy co. on Mother's Day : FTD
Back in 1910, fifteen florists from around America agreed to fulfill each others orders using the telegraph system, and so set up what they called the Florists' Telegraph Delivery. The concept grew so large that in 1965 the group started offering international service, and changed its name to Florists' Transworld Delivery.
57. Material in protein synthesis : RNA
I know I am over-simplifying the explanation, but basically RNA takes the information necessary to create proteins, carrying the sequencing code from DNA to where the proteins can be manufactured.
58. Colorado's ___ Luis Peak : SAN
San Luis Peak is in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. Apparently it's a relatively easy hike to the summit, up over 14,000 feet.