This is my solution to the crossword published in the New York Times today ...
COMPLETION TIME: N/A (watching HBO's "The Wire" on DVD)
THEME: OPTICAL ILLUSION ... the bottom half of the gird is symmetrical about a vertical axis, but the top is not (check out the black squares)
ANSWERS I MISSED: 2 ... MOTT (POTT), MERL (PERL)
16. Support: Var. : INDORSE
Indorse is a variant of "endorse".
17. Thing that may appear to be symmetrical but isn't ... like this puzzle's grid : OPTICAL ILLUSION
The left side of the grid is a mirror image of the right, on the bottom. But, at the top, some of the black squares have been "moved", so the top is not symmetrical.
19. ___-être (perhaps, to Pierre) : PEUT
The French for "perhaps" is peut-etre, and translates literally as "able to be".
20. Melodic subject, in music : TEMA
Tema: the Italian for "theme".
21. Lobster claw : CHELA
The term "chela" is Latin, meaning "claw". In English a chela is a large, pincer-like claw on perhaps a lobster, crab or scorpion.
22. Immemorial : OLDEN
From time immemorial, from the olden days.
24. Hose shade : TAUPE
Taupe is a dark, gray-brown color. The name "taupe" comes from the Latin name of the European Mole, which has skin with the same color.
26. Blocker of 1960s TV : DAN
Dan Blocker was the actor who played Hoss Cartright on the famous TV show "Bonanza". Hoss was the "slow" character on the show, yet paradoxically, Dan Blocker was the most educated member of the cast having earned a Masters Degree in the dramatic arts. Sadly, Blocker passed away while "Bonanza" was still running. He was undergoing relatively routine gall bladder surgery, and developed a pulmonary embolism which killed him. Bonanza ran for just one more season.
27. "30 Rock" creator : FEY
"30 Rock" is Tina Fey's own creation, and tells the behind-the-scenes story of a live sketch show not dissimilar to Saturday Night Live (where Fey first achieved celebrity). "30 Rock" is the address of the NBC studios, located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. I was shocked to read that Tina Fey has a scar on her face, a few inches song on her left cheek, the result of a childhood "slashing" incident. When she was just five years old, playing in the front yard of her house, someone just came up to her and slashed her with a knife. How despicable!
28. Tolstoy's Vronsky : ALEXEI
I have to admit to not having read the Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina", but I did see the excellent 1977 British television adaptation starring Nicola Pagett. Count Alexei Vronsky is Anna Karenina's lover.
30. 19th-century women's rights advocate : MOTT
Lucretia Coffin Mott (what a name!) was an American Quaker, and an advocate for women's rights. She has been called the first American "feminist". Mott's first job was teaching in the Quaker school in which she was educated. There she learned that her salary was to be one third of that paid to the males with the same job (she married one of the male teachers!). That injustice initiated her interest in women's rights.
31. Introduced surreptitiously : FOISTED
The word "foist" comes from the Dutch word meaning "take in hand". The original concept came from playing dice, in which one die was held surreptitiously in one hand.
33. TV's Francis and others : ARLENES
A few years ago I discovered the wonderful American TV game show "What's My Line?" in rerun. I fell in love with the beautiful Arlene Francis, a regular panel member. She was so charming, and so elegant. A regular guest panelist on the show was Martin Gabel, Arlene's second husband, and a famous actor and producer in New York City.
35. First name among linguists : NOAM
Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at MIT, and is known as one of the fathers of modern linguistics.
36. Gas: Prefix : AERI
Aeri- is an alternative to aero-, and is a prefix indicating "gas".
37. Symbol of electromotive force : EPSILON
Electromotive force (emf) is the name given to the "force" which causes current to flow through a conductor. Roughly speaking, emf is equivalent to voltage. The higher the voltage, the more current tends to flow. The Greek letter epsilon is the symbol used to represent emf.
40. Buffaloed : AT A LOSS
To be buffaloed is to be confused, at a loss.
43. Egg holder : SAC
Spiders reproduce sexually, but the process is a bit "different". Male spiders deposit sperm on specially made sperm webs. He then collects the sperm inside a syringe-like structure, and drops that into the female's genital opening (if he doesn't get eaten by the female!). The female then lays eggs in egg sacs, with about 3,000 eggs per sac.
44. Buried : INURNED
To inurn is to put ashes into an urn, but it has come to be an alternative word for entomb.
52. Blade handle? : ATRA
What a clever clue! The Atra was introduced by Gillette in 1977, and sold as the Contour in some markets, and its derivative products are still around today.
53. Potential pond poisoner : ALGAE
When algae growth takes over a body of water, it is known as an "algal bloom". When this happens, the water gets very discolored, and the algae suck up the oxygen in the water basically asphyxiating other life forms.
55. See 53-Down : PISA
Pisa is right on the Italian coast, sitting at the mouth of the River Arno. Pisa is famous for its Leaning Tower. The tower is actually the campanile, or bell tower, of the city's cathedral. It has been leaning since the tower was completed in 1173. Just shows you how important good foundations are.
60. Demonstrating control? : TEAR GAS
What great wording for a clue ...
61. Alternative to a jumper : SET SHOT
A set shot is a two handed basketball shot taken while standing still. A jumper, or jump shot, is a shot taken by a player at the highest point of a jump.
2. One of 13 religious leaders : POPE LEO
The first Pope Leo led the church from 440-461 AD. He is famous for having met with the feared Attila the Hun, and persuading him to turn back his invading force that was threatening to overrun Western Europe. The last Pope Leo was Leo XIII, who reigned from 1878-1903. He died at the age of 93, making him the oldest of all popes.
3. Seminal mystery of 1887 : A STUDY IN SCARLET
Sherlock Holmes made his first appearance in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1887 novel, "A Study in Scarlet". Amazingly, Conan Doyle wrote the novel in under three weeks, while working as a 27-year-old doctor. Mind you, he only got paid 25 pounds for all the rights to the story, so I suppose it's a goo job he only devoted a few weeks to it.
6. "Hoc ___ in votis": Horace : ERAT
Among Horace's works are a set of poems called satires ("Sermones" in Latin). One of the satires is called "Hoc erat in votis" which translates from Latin into, "This is in my prayers".
8. World's most active volcano : KILAUEA
Kilauea, the world's most active volcano, is on the Big Island of Hawai'i. The name Kilauea translates from Hawaiian into "spewing" or "much spreading", very apt considering that lava is usually pouring, non-explosively, out of the Pu'u 'O'o vent on the eastern side of the volcano.
9. Development order: Abbr. : ENL
When developing film, one might ask for an enlargement (ENL).
10. Develop : EDUCE
To educe is to draw out, although it can also have a similar meaning to deduce.
11. Far from shabby : POSH
No one really knows the etymology of the word "posh". The popular story that POSH stands for Port Out, Starboard Home is completely untrue, a story that can be traced back to the 1968 movie "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". The myth is that wealthy British passengers travelling to and from India would book cabins on the port side for the outward journey, and the starboard side for the home journey, that way keeping their cabins out of the direct sunlight.
14. Flat population : TENANTS
A flat is what we would call an apartment on the other side of the Atlantic.
18. Means of seeing the big picture? : IMAX
The IMAX Corporation, which is behind the IMAX film format, is a Canadian company. The impetus for developing the system came after Expo 67 in Montreal. Back then large format screenings were accomplished using multiple projectors with multiple screens, with images basically stitched together. The team behind the IMAX technology set out to simplify things, and developed a single-camera, single-projector system.
23. Merchant selling records : NATALIE
Another clever, deceptively-worded clue. Natalie Merchant is an American musician, who sang for the band 10,000 Maniacs for twelve years, until launching a solo career in 1993.
25. Take the wrong way? : PIRATE
More lovely wording ...
30. European black thrush : MERL
A merl (or merle) is often called a blackbird over in Europe. The male merl is completely black, with a yellow beak.
34. Results of "Unsolved Mysteries" airings : LEADS
"Unsolved Mysteries" is a TV show that profiles real-life mysteries, such as unsolved crimes as well as paranormal phenomena. The show originally aired in 1987, with host Raymond Burr. Robert Stack then hosted for many years, and it is still broadcast today, with Dennis Farina as host.
37. Chihuahua and others : ESTADOS
Chihuahua is a state (estado) in northern Mexico, sharing a border with Texas and New Mexico. It is the largest state in the country, so has the nickname "El Estado Grande". The state takes its name from the Chihuahuan Desert which lies largely within its borders. And of course the Chihuahua breed of dog takes its name from the state.
39. It has zero measure, in math : NULL SET
Null set: it's not a concept that I can say I understand!
40. Slowly scored? : ANDANTE
Lovely wording! Andante is the tempo marking in a musical score that means "at a walking pace".
42. Berlin boulevard : STRASSE
Strasse, the German word for "street".
45. European capital : RIGA
Riga is the capital city of Latvia. The historical center of Riga is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, declared so because of the magnificent examples of Art Nouveau architecture.
54. Starting point? : EDEN
Another clever clue ...
58. Nanny ___ : CAM
From what I just read, it is legal to record video with a hidden camera, at least to monitor the behavior of a caregiver in your home. Apparently there is a law, however, that prohibits the recording of audio. So, "nanny cams" are sold without audio capability. But (disclaimer) that's just what I read, so don't take my word for it!