This is my solution to the crossword published in the New York Times today ...
COMPLETION TIME: 15m 31s
THEME: Initials with initials ... e.g. R&R in the A&P, Q&A by the B&B
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0
1. Brimless hat : TOQUE
A toque was a brimless style of hat that was very fashionable in Europe, and France in particular, in the 13th to 16th centuries. Nowadays we associate toques with chefs, as it is the name given to a chef's hat (toque blanch, "white hat", in French). A chef's toque is quite interesting. Many of them have exactly 100 pleats, often said to signify the number of ways that an egg can be cooked.
6. Chinese vessel : JUNK
A junk is a sailing boat often seen in Chinese waters today, and as far back as 200 BC. The English word "junk" is just a phonetic spelling of a Chinese word for "ship", although ti would more correctly be pronounced "joong".
14. Arboreal critter : ORANG
Orangutans are indeed arboreal creatures, in fact the largest arboreal animals known to man. They are native to Indonesia and Malaysia, inhabiting the rain forests. Like most species in rain forests these days, orangutans are endangered creatures, with only two species surviving. The word "orangutan" is Malay, meaning "man of the forest".
15. Like many limericks: Abbr. : ANON
No one knows for sure how the limerick got its name, although there does seem to be agreement the name does indeed come from the city or county of Limerick in Ireland.
16. Italian bread : PANE
Pane ... Italian for "bread".
17. Grocery leisure? : R AND R IN THE A AND P
Rest and Recuperation (or Rest and Relaxation) in the A&P ... A&P used to be known as the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company. The company started out selling tea directly from plantations in china in 1859, and cutting out the middle man it undercut the market and was very successful. A&P moved into groceries, still with the philosophy of undercutting prices, building large stores and even getting into legal trouble for using predatory pricing tactics. They completely dominated the retail grocery market until competition ate into their share starting in the seventies.
21. Dancer in Jabba the Hutt's court, in "Return of the Jedi" : OOLA
(Talking about limericks ... Oola is the name of a village in Co. Limerick)
Oola was a slave-girl dancer that was eaten by a scary creature in the movie. She was played by British actor Femi Taylor.
22. Calendario unit : DIA
In Spanish we look at a day (dia) on the calendar (calendrio).
23. "Guernica," e.g. : ARTE
"Guernica" is a painting (a work of "arte" in Spanish)by Pable Picasso, completed in 1937. Picasso painted it soon after the aerial bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. The attack was carried out by German warplanes sent by Adolf Hitler at the request of the Spanish Nationalist government. The town was regarded as a bastion of Republican resistance, although it had no military significance. As the town was largely left without men who were fighting for the Republican cause, the vast majority of casualties were women and children.
33. Baseball All-Star, 1954-73 : MAYS
Willie Mays nickname was the "Say Hey Kid", although his friends and teammates were more likely to refer to him as "Buck".
36. Explosive stuff : NITRO
Nitroglycerine is very, very explosive, oil, colorless liquid. It is usually used as the explosive ingredient in a stabilized product like dynamite or cordite. Nitroglycerin is also used medically, as a vasodilator. Right after it hits the bloodstream is causes the blood vessels to dilate to that the heart has less work to do. I had occasion to take it a couple of times, and boy, what a speedy and fundamental effect it has.
39. Narrow strip of land: Abbr. : ISTH
The word "isthmus" comes the Greek word for "neck". it is a narrow strip of land that usually connects two large land masses. The most notable examples of the formation are the Isthmus of Corinth in the Greek peninsula, and the Isthmus of Panama, connecting North and South America.
42. "A Yank at ___," Mickey Rooney flick : ETON
"A Yank at Eton" was released in 1942, and is a sequel to the 1938 comedy "A Yank at Oxford". The film had some use as "propaganda" as the movie's message was that "Yanks" and "Limeys" could get along. This was helpful as American forces were pouring into the UK in preparation for the invasion of Europe during WWII.
43. "The Merry Widow" composer : LEHAR
"The Merry Widow" is an operetta composed by Franz Lehar. It was first performed in 1905 and has been popular since. Franz Lehar was a Hungarian, and had a difficult relationship with the Nazi regime when it was in control of the country. His wife was born Jewish, but converted to Catholicism. Fortunately Hitler enjoyed Lehar's music, and Goebbels intervened officially as a result, making Sophie Lehar "an honorary Aryan by marriage".
46. Elisabeth of "Hamlet 2" : SHUE
"Hamlet 2" is a comedy film released in 2008. In the movie, Elisabeth Shue actually plays herself, the favorite actress of the Dana Marschz, the film's hero. I've always enjoyed Elisabeth Shue's movies, and my favorite is "Adventures in Babysitting" from 1987, her first starring role.
47. Bird with two sets of eyelids : EMU
An emu has one set of eyelids to blink with, keeping the eyeball moist. The second set is used to keep out dust.
51. Bone below the femur : FIBULA
The fibula is the calf bone, and lies beside the tibia, with both bones sitting under the femur.
57. Dr. Schneider of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" : ELSA
Elsa Schneider was the femme fatale of the movie, a character who seduced both Indiana Jones and his father. She was played by Alison Doody, an Irish actress. Ms. Doody is very much against taking roles with nudity, and famously turned down the lead in "Basic Instinct", the role taken by Sharon Stone.
63. Railroad's work to produce new products? : R AND D ON THE B AND O
Research and Development on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
67. "Heads up!" : FORE
No one seems to know for sure where the term "fore!" comes from. It has been used at least as far back as 1881, and has always been called out to warn other golfers that a wayward ball might beheading their way. My favorite possibility for its origin is that it is a contraction of the Gaelic warning cry "Faugh a Ballach!" (clear the way!) which is still called out in the sport of road bowling, a game where players bowl balls along roads between villages, trying to do reach the end of the course in as few bowls as possible, just like in golf!
68. Many a film festival film : INDIE
Gotta love those independent films ...
70. Popular chocolate bar : TWIX
I remember Twix bars from way back in 1967 when they were introduced in the British Isles. They made it to the US over a decade later, in 1979.
71. They're related : TALES
Nice wording for a clue ...
1. Singer Amos : TORI
Tori Amos is an American pianist and singer. She started playing the piano at two years old, and was composing piano pieces by age five. She was playing in piano bars (chaperoned by her father) when she was 14. I'm going to have to find some of her music (I lead such a sheltered life ...)!
2. Escape route city in "Casablanca" : ORAN
Oran lies on the Algerian coast, and is famous for being the port where the French Navy was largely destroyed by the British Navy during WWII in to avoid the vessels falling into the hands of Nazi Germany after the French surrender. This decisive and unexpected action by the British sent a very strong message around the world that Britain was willing to fight on alone against the axis powers if necessary. In the movie "Casablanca" the escape route from France was Paris to Marseille, across the Med to Oran, and then somehow to Casablanca, hoping for an exit visa to Lisbon.
3. Interview near an inn? : Q AND A BY THE B AND B
Questions and Answers by the Bed and Breakfast. An intimate inn (in the US) is a bed & breakfast. A bed & breakfast back in Ireland is more basic, and usually cheaper than a hotel stay.
5. Wetlands fowl : EGRETS
At one time the egret species was in danger of extinction due to hunting driven by the demand for plumes for hats.
6. Swing bandleader Garber : JAN
Jan Garber was known as "The Idol of the Airwaves" back in the twenties and thirties, famous for his jazz and swing music on the radio.
7. Billy Graham's "___ the Hills" : UNTO
Billy Graham wrote "Unto the Hills" in 1986.
8. It's west of New York's East Village : NOHO
NoHo is short for North of Houston (street), and is the equivalent area to SoHo, South of Houston.
11. Soul music over a financial institution's sound system? : R AND B AT THE S AND L
Rhythm and Blues at the Savings and Loan.
19. Sorkin who created "The West Wing" : AARON
"The West Wing", when it was being written by Aaron Sorkin, was such a fabulous television event. It is remarkable how quickly it went downhill after Sorkin moved on. He is also famous for having written the play "A Few Good Men", and one of my favorite screenplay;s "Charlie Wilson's War".
26. Viennese-born composer ___ von Reznicek : EMIL
Emil von Reznicek was an Austrian composer, born in Vienna, but of Czech ancestry. His most played piece of music is the overture to his opera "Donna Diana".
27. ___ 10 : BASE
Our decimal numbering system is in the base 10. The binary numbering system used deep down in our computers is in the base 2.
29. Physics unit : FERMI
Enrico Fermi was born in Rome, Italy. He moved to US just before WWII largely due to the anti-Semitic feelings that were developing in Italy under Mussolini. It was his work at the University of Chicago that led to the construction of the world's first nuclear reactor. Fermi died at 53 years of age from stomach cancer . Cancer was a prevalent cause of death among the team working on that first nuclear pile. The unit of distance called a fermi is pretty small, one quadrillionth of a meter.
31. Young salmon : SMOLT
When young salmon (born in freshwater) are at the smolt stage, they become adapted to saltwater and head for the sea.
34. Big name at SeaWorld : SHAMU
Shamu was the name of the third orca, or killer whale, ever to be featured in a public exhibition. She starred in a popular SeaWorld show in San Diego in the sixties. After she died in 1971, her name lived on as the name "Shamu" was still used by SeaWorld for its killer whale shows. It is notable given a recent tragedy, that the original Shamu was retired after she grabbed and refused to let go of the leg of a female employee at SeaWorld.
37. Lothario : ROUE
ROUE is a lovely word, I think, describing a less then lovely man. He could otherwise be described as a cad, someone of loose morals. It comes from the French word "rouer" meaning "to break on a wheel". This describes the ancient form of capital punishment where a poor soul was lashed to a wheel and then beaten to death with cudgels and bars. I guess the suggestion is that a ROUE with his loose morals deserves such a punishment.
There is a character Lothario in Don Quixote, and in the "Fair Penitent", a 1703 play by Nicholas Rowe. In both cases the Lothario in question exhibits less than wholesome behavior towards a woman, giving rise to the term lothario to mean a "roue".
38. First-year Harvard law student : ONE L
While a "One L" is a name used in general for first year law students, "One L" is also the title of an autobiographical narrative by author Scott Turow, telling of his experiences as a first year student at Harvard Law School.
49. Queen's ___ : GAMBIT
Queen's Gambit is the name given to a chess opening. It starts off with P-K4, answered with P-K4, and then P-QB3. Aha!
55. Bucky Beaver's toothpaste : IPANA
Ipana toothpaste was introduced in 1915, and hit the height of its popularity in the forties and fifties, with sales declining in the sixties and withdrawal from the US market in the seventies. Bucky the Beaver was the "spokesman" for Ipana. Bucky Beaver's slogan was "Brusha... Brusha... Brusha. Get the New Ipana - it's dandy for your teeth!"
59. Longfellow bell town : ATRI
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote "The Sicilian's Tale; The Bell of Atri", a narrative poem set in the small town of Atri in the Abruzzo region of Italy.
61. "And When ___," 1969 Blood, Sweat & Tears hit : I DIE
Laura Nyro wrote "And When I Die", and saw it recorded by Blood, Sweat and Tears in 1969.
62. European deer : ROES
I grew up with roe deer. They would be the deer shown on television when Robin Hood was out hunting in Sherwood Forest.
64. Pixel : DOT
A pixel is a dot, the base element that goes to make up a digital image.
65. Bad spelling? : HEX