This is my solution to the crossword published in the New York Times today ...
COMPLETION TIME: N/A (watching "Doc Martin" on TV)
THEME: GRADE INFLATION ... all the theme answers are well-known phrases in which a "B" has been changed to an "A"
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0
5. Actor Danny of "The Color Purple" : GLOVER
Danny Glover played Albert Johnson in Steven Spielberg's "The Color Purple", the 1985 screen adaptation of the novel of the same name by Alice Walker.
14. "___ 911!" (former Comedy Central show) : RENO
"Reno 911!" is what nowadays is called a "mockumentary", a documentary-style comedy that parodies the television show "COPS". I am afraid I don't watch either ... not my cup of tea.
16. English novelist Radcliffe : ANN
Ann Radcliffe was an English author, one of the first to develop what became the Gothic novel. One of her most successful titles was "The Romance of the Forest" published in 1791. Her 1794 title "The Mysteries of Udolpho" supposedly provided inspiration for Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey".
19. Like zinfandel wines : DRY
Zinfandel is my favorite red wine varietal. It amazes me that the rich and heavy red Zinfandel comes from the same grape as does the blush, White Zinfandel varietal.
20. Chokes after bean eating? : GOES OUT ON A LIMA
(From "goes out on a limb")
24. The Engineers of the N.C.A.A.: Abbr. : RPI
The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is a private school in Troy, New York. The university is named after its founder Stephen Van Rensselaer, who set up the school in 1824. The goal of RPI has always been the "application of science to the common purposes of life", an objective set by the founder. Given that, an apt name for the sports teams is the Engineers.
29. Monk's karate blows? : LAMA CHOPS
(From "lamb chops")
"Lama" is a Tibetan word, meaning "chief" or "high priest".
37. When clocks are set ahead: Abbr. : DST
On the other side of the Atlantic Daylight Saving Time is known as "summer time". The idea is to move clocks forward an hour in spring and backwards in the fall, so that afternoons have more daylight.
38. Movie finales featuring actress Miles? : VERA ENDINGS
(From "verb endings")
Vera Miles is an American actress who has been associated with a few celebrated movies. In 1954 she played Tarzan's love interest in "Tarzan's Hidden Jungle" (and ended up marrying "Tarzan", actor Gordon Scott). Plans for her to play the female lead in "Vertigo" were shelved when she became pregnant. She did get to play in Hitchcock's "Psycho" though, playing Lila Crane, the woman who discovered the secrets of Norman Bates and his motel.
41. ___ Lanka : SRI
The name Sri Lanka translates from Sanskrit into English as "venerable island". Before 1970, Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon, a name given to the country during British rule. The lion on the flag symbolizes the fight against British colonialism.
44. Fr. holy woman : STE
Sainte: the French word for a female saint.
45. Result of a sweetener overload? : HONEY COMA
(From "honey comb")
48. Wife of Hägar the Horrible : HELGA
"Hagar the Horrible" was created by the late Dik Browne, and is now drawn by his son, Chris Blowne. "Hagar the Terrible" (not "Horrible") was the nickname given to Dik by his sons.
53. China's Chou En-___ : LAI
Zhou Enlai (also Chou En-Lai) was the first government leader of the People's Republic of China, and held the office of Premier from 1949 until he died in 1976. He ran the government for Communist Party Leader Mao Zedong, often striking a more conciliatory tone than his boss with the West. He was instrumental, for example, in setting up President Nixon's famous visit to China in 1972. Zhou Enlai died just a few months before Mao Zedong, leading to unrest and a change in political direction for the country.
55. Metalliferous rock : ORE
Metalliferous: containing metal, a term used to describe ores rich in metal.
56. Modern educational phenomenon ... or a hint to 20-, 29-, 38- and 45-Across : GRADE INFLATION
Grade inflation is an artificial improvement in grades, without an actual improvement in standards.
63. Fearsome wooden roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure : EL TORO
El Toro (the Spanish for "the bull") is a wooden roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure, a theme park in Central New Jersey. It's a coaster of thirds: the third fastest, and third highest in the world. It is somewhat notorious as a ride that can't cope with "larger guests". There's actually a test seat set up at the front of the park so that potential riders can check if they fit into the tight restraints ahead of time, so that they know not to join the long lines.
64. Plains Indian : OTOE
The Otoe were the first Native American tribe encountered in the West by the Lewis and Clark. The explorers met with the Otoe (and Missouria) tribes in 1804 at a spot that became known as Council Bluff. The site is now a National Historic Landmark known as Fort Atkinson, Nebraska, as a fort was built there on the recommendation of Lewis.
67. Johnston in 2008-09 news : LEVI
Levi Johnston hit the headlines when Sarah Palin announced that her daughter, Bristol, was pregnant, and Levi Johnston was the father. The couple split up before the wedding. Johnston's latest flirtation with celebrity was a nude photoshoot in "Playgirl" magazine.
70. Harriet Beecher Stowe novel : DRED
Harriet Beecher Stowe's first novel ended up being her most famous, "Uncle Tom's Cabin". She followed it up with an 1856 novel, "Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp".
9. Novel on which "Clueless" is based : EMMA
I am going to have to check out this film now that I've learned it is based on "Emma", a favorite of mine. However, 1995's "Clueless" is set in a Beverly Hills high school, so I had best prepare myself for disappointment ...
21. Hospital attendant : ORDERLY
The noun "orderly" has been around at least since 1781, when it was applied to a military person who "carried orders", so it might be an orderly corporal for example, depending on rank. The term spread into military hospitals first, and then into other hospitals where it applied to people responsible for keeping items in the hospital in order and clean.
28. Time off from l'école : ETE
In France one has time off from school (ecole) during summer (ete).
30. Per ___ : ANNUM
Per annum, from Latin, meaning literally though or by the year.
31. Magazine featuring 47-Down : MAD
"Mad" magazine has been around since 1952, although back them it was more of a comic book than a magazine. The original founder and editor was Harvey Kurtzman, and in order to convince him to stay, the publisher changed the format to a magazine in 1955, when the publication really took off in terms of popularity.
32. Alamo competitor : AVIS
Avis has been around since 1946, and is the second largest car rental agency, after Hertz. It has the distinction of being the first company to locate a branch at an airport. The third largest car rental company right now is Alamo, a relative newcomer founded in 1974. Alamo made inroads into the market by popularizing the idea of "unlimited mileage".
33. "Sex and the City" actress Nixon : CYNTHIA
My wife is going out with the girls next week (her words, not mine!) to see the latest "Sex and the City" movie. I liked the series, I have to say, with Cynthia Nixon's character (Miranda Hobbs) being my favorite of the four leads. I've seen Cynthia Nixon in loads of television and film roles, so wasn't surprised to learn that she had her first television appearance when she was just 9-years-old. You might remember her playing a student building a nuclear bomb in the 1986 film "The Manhattan Project". Years later she played a really great Eleanor Roosevelt in the HBO movie "Warm Springs" (I recommend this one). Nixon has been a very visible figure in the gay rights movement after coming out in 2006, following a 15-year relationship with a man that produced two children. She is also a breast cancer survivor, and now serves as Ambassador for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
39. Abbr. in help-wanted ads : EEO
Equal Opportunity Employment is a term that has been around since 1964 when the Equal Employment Commission was set up by the Civil Rights Act.
47. ___ E. Neuman : ALFRED
Alfred E. Neuman is the mascot of "Mad" magazine, although the image of the smiling, jug-eared youth had been around for decades before the magazine. "Mad" first used the image in 1955, although it took a few issues before the boy was finally christened Alfred E. Neuman. Young Mr. Neuman has appeared on the cover of almost every issue of the magazine since then. Neuman's name was inspired by the name of American composer Alfred Newman, a prolific writer of film scores.
51. Origin of the phrase "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts" : AENEID
The Aeneid is Virgil's epic poem that tells of the journey of Aeneas, a Trojan that voyaged to Italy to become the ancestor of all Romans. The origin of the phrase, "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts" lies of course in the story of the Trojan Horse. When the gift of the horse turns up outside the walls of Troy, a priest declares,"Do not trust the horse, Trojans! Whatever it is, I fear the Danaans even if they bring gifts". Over time, we have paraphrased Virgil's words.
58. She, in Cherbourg : ELLE
Cherbourg lies on the northern coast of France, a port on the English Channel. Interestingly, the wreck of the Confederate States of America warship CSS Alabama was recently discovered just outside the port. The Alabama was sunk by the Union cruiser Kearsarge in 1864, after she left the port of Cherbourg to engage the Kearsarge who was lying in wait offshore.
60. ___ Scotia : NOVA
The Canadian province of Nova Scotia lies on the east coast of the country, a peninsula surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. It was settled by Scots starting in 1621, and Nova Scotia is Latin for "New Scotland".
62. When doubled, a dance : CHA
I think this is technically an error, as the dance is correctly called a cha-cha-cha, not a cha-cha.
The cha-cha-cha is a Latin dance with origins in Cuba, where it was introduced by composer Enrique Jorrin in 1953.