This is my solution to the crossword published in the New York Times today ...
COMPLETION TIME: N/A (watching "The Wire" on DVD ... what a great show!)
THEME: GR is placed ahead of well known phrases/words creating the theme answers e.g. (GR)ILL AT EASE, (GR)ANDIRON, GR(OUTLAWS)
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0
1. ___City (computer game) : SIM
"SimCity" is a very clever computer game, in which players build and grow cities and societies by creating the conditions necessary for people (the Sims) to move in and thrive. "SimCity" first came out in 1989, and to this day is consistently ranked as one of the greatest computer games of all time.
4. Columbia org. : NASA
Columbia was the name and call sign of the command module that accompanied the lunar module Eagle that landed the first man on the moon in the Apollo 11 mission. Columbia was also the name of the first space shuttle sent into space in 1981. Tragically, Columbia was destroyed during the reentry phase of its 28th flight in 2003.
8. N'awlins sandwiches : PO' BOYS
A po' boy is a submarine sandwich from Louisiana. There are a lot of theories about where the name came from, and none sound too convincing to me. A po' boy differs from a regular submarine sandwich in that it uses Louisiana French bread, which is soft in the middle and crusty on the outside.
14. Cable channel : TNT
TNT stands for Turner Network Television. It made a big splash in the eighties when it started to broadcast old MGM movies that had been "colorized", not something that was a big hit with the public. In recent years, the TNT programming lineup is governed by the tagline "We Know Drama", and includes shows like "Judging Amy", "ER" and "Cold Case".
15. Actor Omar of "House" : EPPS
Omar Epps is the actor who plays Dr. Eric Foreman on the excellent television series "House".
18. Barbecue comfortably? : GRILL AT EASE
(GR)ILL AT EASE
20. "Are your Southern breakfast vittles satisfactory?" : GRITS OKAY
23. When doubled, a #3 hit of 1968 or a #1 hit of 1987 : MONY
"Mony Mony" was a hit in 1968 for Tommy James & The Shondells. The name Mony was inspired by the the company name, MONY (Mutual of New York). Billy Idol released a cover version in 1987 that became another big hit.
24. Nonmigratory goose : NENE
The Nene is a native of Hawaii, and is also known as the Hawaiian goose. The name "nene" is imitative of its call. It is estimated that when Captain cook landed on the islands in 1778, there were 25,000 nene living there. By 1950, the number was reduced by hunting and to just 30 birds. Conservation efforts have brought the numbers back somewhat.
28. Jeans brand : GITANO
Gitano brand jeans are sold at K-Mart apparently.
31. Actress Merrill : DINA
Dina Merrill was in 22 movies, including two of my favorites, "Desk Set" with Tracy & Hepburn, and "Operation Petticoat" with Cary Grant. Nowadays she carries some sway in the business world. Until 2007 she was on the compensation committee of Lehman Brothers, the band that approved all those big bonuses. She probably doesn't talk about that too much these days!
32. Marvelous golf club? : GRAND IRON
Andirons are those horizontal bars on which you rest logs to burn in an open fireplace. They usually come in pairs, and can be quite decorative, often made out of wrought iron.
35. Purple outfit? : GRAPE SUIT
37. Rules regarding tile setting? : GROUT LAWS
44. "Little" title figure in a Beach Boys hit : ST NICK
The title of the Beach Boy hit is usually written "Little Saint Nick". It was written for the Christmas market of 1963, and made it to number three in the charts. That year was a quiet holiday season, as it just followed the assassination of President Kennedy.
46. Enzyme suffix : ASE
For example, amyl-ase, the enzyme in saliva (that breaks down starches in food).
50. "___ Jury" : I, THE
"I, The Jury" is the first novel in the Mike Hammer series, written by Mickey Spillane. The story was filmed twice, once in 1953, and again in 1982 starring Armand Assante as Mike Hammer.
51. Silents star Nita : NALDI
Nita Naldi was an American silent film actress, who usually played a "femme fatale" type of role.
54. Big black bird? : GREAT CROW
56. Passenger gorging on fried chicken and potato chips? : GREASY RIDER
The 1969 classic movie "Easy Rider" not only starred Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, but Peter Fonda was the film's producer, and Dennis Hopper the director.
58. Grossglockner, for one : ALP
The Grossglockner is the highest mountain in Austria, and second highest in the Alps (the highest peak being Mont Blanc).
60. Pulitzer winner James : AGEE
James Agee was a noted, American film critic. He wrote an autobiographical novel "A Death in the Family" that was published in 1957, and won him his Pulitzer, albeit posthumously, in 1958.
61. ___ chi : TAI
More properly called tai chi chuan, tai chi is a martial art mostly practiced for improving overall health and increasing longevity.
62. Family of George's fiancée on "Seinfeld" : ROSSES
In "Seinfeld", George Costanza was engaged to one of the executives at NBC who gave the go ahead to Jerry and George's sitcom. Her name was Susan Biddle Ross. George accidentally "kills her off" by exposing her to toxic glue on cheap envelopes Susan was using to send out wedding invitations.
63. Narcissist's love : SELF
Narcissus was a proud and vain hunter in Greek mythology. He earned himself a fatal punishment, being made fall in love with his own reflection in a pool. So, take was he by his own image, that he could not leave it and wasted away and died by the pool.
1. Hester Prynne's "A," e.g. : STIGMA
Hester Prynne is the main character in Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel "The Scarlet Letter". when Hester is convicted by her puritanical neighbors of the crime of adultery, she is forced to wear a scarlet "A" on her clothing for the rest of her life. The "scarlet letter" was a stigma, no question.
3. Name of many hospitals and cemeteries : MT SINAI
According to the Bible, Mount Sinai is the mountain on which Moses was given the Ten Commandments.
6. Lace : SPIKE
To lace a drink, is to spike it, by adding perhaps some alcohol or other strong substance.
7. Lion of Narnia : ASLAN
In the C. S. Lewis books, Aslan is the name of the lion character (as in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"). Aslan is actually the Turkish word for lion. Anyone who has read the books will recognize the the remarkable similarity to the story of Aslan and the story of Christ, including a sacrifice and resurrection.
9. "___ be in England": Browning : OH TO
Robert Browning met Elizabeth Barrett in 1845. Elizabeth was a sickly woman, confined to her parents’ house in Wimpole Street in London, largely due to the conservative, protective nature of her father. The two eventually eloped in 1846, and lived in self-inflicted exile in Italy. Away from the country of his birth, Browning was moved to write his now famous "Home Thoughts, From Abroad", the first line of which is "Oh, to be in England ..."
13. Hamlet, to Claudius : STEPSON
King Claudius is the brother to King Hamlet, and uncle of Hamlet, the hero of Shakespeare's famous play. Claudius kills his brother Hamlet by poisoning him, and later in the play tries to do the same thing to his nephew. But the prince survives as Claudius's wife drinks the potion instead. At the end of the play, Hamlet forces Claudius to drink the same poison that had been intended for him.
19. A corrosive : LYE
Historically, lye was hydrated potash (potassium hydroxide). Nowadays when we purchase lye it caustic soda (sodium hydroxide).
27. Pâtisserie offering : TARTE
A patisserie is a French bakery that sells pastries, or "tartes".
28. Animal with a silent head? : GNU
The G is silent in GNU ... clever ...
30. It went down in history : TITANIC
The full name of the Titanic was the Royal Mail Ship Titanic, signifying that it was contracted by the Royal Mail to carry mail.
33. Opposite of FF : REW
The opposite of Fast Forward is Rewind ...
36. Municipal pol. : ALD
The term "alderman" comes from English law, and is used for a member of a municipal assembly or council. In some locations in the US, instead of a city council, some cities have a Board of Aldermen.
37. 19th-century farmer : GRANGER
Granger was a term describing a farmer, mainly used in the Upper Midwest.
38. Karen's maid on "Will & Grace" : ROSARIO
I always thought the real stars of "Will & Grace" were Jack and Karen. Karen Walker was played by the lovely Megan Mullally. As the worst type of wealthy socialite, she was always abusing her maid, Rosario Salazar, played by Shelley Morrison. Shelly Morrison is best known for playing Rosario, but she also had a regular role in "The Flying Nun", as Sister Sixto.
39. Egg foo yung dishes, basically : OMELETS
Egg foo yung probably takes its name from a flower, the Fu Yung.
41. Measure the strength of, in a way : TITRATE
Most of us remember measuring the strength of solutions using titrations. To jog your memory, for titrations we needed indicators, pipettes and burettes.
45. Kind of doll : KEWPIE
Kewpie dolls were very popular in the early 1900s. The name "kewpie"comes from the Roman god "Cupid". They were first produced in Germany (one was mentioned in "The Diary of Anne Frank"), and were made out of bisque, then celluloid and eventually hard plastic. If you have one of the older ones in your attic, get it out. It might be worth thousands of dollars.
48. Met expectations? : ARIAS
One might expect to hear arias at the Metropolitan Opera. Clever clue ...
52. Morse bits : DAHS
Dahs and dits are the sound equivalents of dashes and dots of Morse Code. Samuel Morse didn't invent Morse code, but it took his name because it was invented for use on the electric telegraph invented by him.
55. Not kosher : TREF
According to Jewish dietary law, kosher food is "fit" to eat, and food that is not kosher is called treif (or tref).