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: BLACK AND WHITE ... all of the five animals in the theme answers are BLACK AND WHITE in color i.e. SNOW LEOPARD, KILLER WHALE, SKUNK, PANDA, ZEBRA
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0
1. AARP or the National Rifle Association : LOBBY
AARP is the official name now for the interest group called the American Association of Retired Persons. The name change reflects the current focus of the group on all Americans aged 50 or over, as opposed to just people who have retired. The AARP was founded by Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus in 1958, and is a successor to the National Retired Teachers Association, also founded by Andrus over ten years earlier.
The NRA is the National Rifle Association, and has been around since 1871. The group was founded as the American rifle Association, and had some celebrated presidents, including President Ulysses S. Grant. It's often been said that the NRA is the most powerful lobbying group in Washington.
6. Without: Fr. : SANS
Sans: the French word for "without".
10. French city in 1944 fighting : METZ
Metz is in the northeast of France, close to the German border. Given the proximity to Germany, Metz has both a strong German tradition and a French tradition. Metz was handed over to the French following WWI, after nearly 50 years of German rule. It quickly fell back into German hands in 1940 during WWII, with many German officers delighted to have back the city of their birth. Perhaps because of this long association with German, the US Army under General Patton encountered stiff resistance when liberating Metz in 1944.
14. "Bird on ___" (1990 film) : A WIRE
"Bird on a Wire" is a fun film released in 1990, starring Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn. The movie title comes from the Leonard Cohen song "Bird on the Wire".
15. Lafayette's state? : ETAT
"Etat" is the French word for "state".
The Marquis de Lafayette was a French military officer who fought in the American Revolutionary War, as well as having a notable career back in France. But, his links to America were strong, so that when he died in 1834, he was buried in Paris under soil transported from the Revolutionary War battlefield at Bunker Hill.
16. Singer India.___ : ARIE
India.Arie is an American soul and R&B singer, born India Arie Simpson.
18. Super star : NOVA
A nova is basically a star that suddenly gets much brighter, gradually returning to its original state weeks or even years later. The increased brightness is due to increased nuclear activity caused the star picking up extra hydrogen from a neighboring celestial body. A supernova is very different. It is a very bright burst of light and energy, created when most of the material in a star explodes. The bright burst is very short-lived compared to a nova.
19. Poetic foot : IAMB
An iamb is a general term for metrical foot in poetry. Iamb was originally the name of a particular meter, a short unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, as in the word itself, i-amb.
20. Asian cat : SNOW LEOPARD
Snow leopards are creatures that tend to keep to themselves, living in high ground in the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia. Given that they are so "secretive" estimates of the size of the snow leopard population are pretty rough, with perhaps 3,500 to 7,000 in the wild.
23. Blue Jays, on a scoreboard : TOR
The Toronto Blue Jays, founded in 1977, are the only team outside the US to win a World Series, doing so in 1992 and 1993. And, now that Montreal Expos have relocated to Washington, the Blue Jays are now the only Major League Baseball Team outside of the US.
25. Heroine of Verdi's "Il Trovatore" : LEONORA
Leonora is the heroine in Giuseppe Verdi's opera "Il Trovatore" ("The Troubadour"). It is one of the few operas with more than one version written by the same composer. Verdi wrote a French translation, with some revisions to the score, which goes by the name "Le trouvere".
27. Euro forerunner : ECU
The European Currency Unit (ECU) was an interim unit of account used in the European Community for just over ten years right before the Euro was launched in 1999. The ECU existed alongside the legacy European currencies as the Community worked to stabilize exchange rates prior to the Euro's launch.
31. Santa ___ winds : ANA
The Santa Ana winds are the very dry air currents that sweep offshore late in the year in Southern California. because they are so dry, they are noted for their influence over forest fires in the area, especially in the heat of the fall. The winds arise from a buildup of air pressure in the Great Basin that lies between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. Under the right conditions, the air spills over the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, and basically "falls" down the side of the Sierra range, heading for the ocean. As the falls, it becomes drier and heats up, so that the relative humidity can even be below 10% as it hits the coast.
34. Penn, for one: Abbr. : STA
Penn Station in New York City may have been the first Pennsylvania Station, but it's not the only one. The Pennsylvania Railroad gave that name to many of its big passenger terminals, including one in Philadelphia (now called 30th Street Station), one in Baltimore, one in Pittsburgh and one in Cleveland, as well as others.
35. Alarm bell : TOCSIN
A tocsin is just that, an alarm sounded on a bell.
39. With 41- and 43-Across, cop cruiser ... or a description of the five animals named in this puzzle : BLACK
41. See 39-Across : AND
43. See 39-Across : WHITE
50. "You love," to Livy : AMAS
Amo, amas, amat ... in Latin, I love, you love, he/she loves.
Titus Livius (aka Livy) was A Roman historian who lived from 59 BC - AD 17. He wrote the definitive history of Rome at that time.
52. Thurman of "Pulp Fiction" : UMA
Uma Thurman's father, Robert Thurman, was the first westerner to be ordained a Tibetan Buddhist monk. He raised his children in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and gave his daughter Uma her name as it is a phonetic spelling of a Buddhist name, Dbuma.
59. Decorative pond fish : KOI
Koi are also called Japanese carp. They have been bred for decorative purposes and there are now some very brightly colored koi found in Japanese water gardens.
60. Shamu, for one : KILLER WHALE
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.
64. "Back in the ___" : USSR
By the time the Beatles recorded "Back in the U.S.S.R", they were having a lot of problems working with each other. The song was recorded in 1968, with band formally dissolving in 1970. Tensions were so great during the recording of "Back in the U.S.S.R" that Ringo Starr actually stormed out saying that he had quit. The remaining three Beatles made the recording without Ringo, with drums being played mainly by Paul McCartney, but there are also drum tracks on the final cut by both George Harrison and John Lennon.
67. Building usually without a 13th floor : HOTEL
To avoid having a 13th floor, usually the number 13 is skipped, and the 14th floor sits on top of the 12th. But also it can be renamed, to say 12A, or the letter M (the 13th letter of the alphabet). The Radisson Hotel in Manitoba has a pool on the 13th floor, and designates it the Pool Floor.
68. Penury : NEED
Penury is extreme poverty or need, from the Latin "penuria" meaning "want".
69. "La Belle et la ___" (French fairy tale) : BETE
The French know "Beauty and the Beast" as "La Belle et la Bete".
71. Actress Sedgwick of "The Closer" : KYRA
"The Closer" is a crime drama aired on TNT, with Kyra Sedgwick in the lead role. Kyra is married to Kevin Bacon.
72. Cornerstone abbr. : EST'D
2. Wilson of "Wedding Crashers" : OWEN
Not only does the 2005 romantic comedy "Wedding Crashers" star Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan, but if you rent it you'll see cameos from Democratic pundit James Carville, and Republican Senator John McCain.
6. Potential enamorada : SENORITA
"Enamorada" is the feminine form of "love" in Spanish.
10. ___ tai (drink) : MAI
The Mai Tai is strongly associated with the Polynesian islands, but it was supposedly invented in 1944 in Trader Vic's restaurant in Oakland, California. One recipe is 6 parts white rum, 3 parts orange curacao, 3 parts Orgeat syrup, 1 part rock candy syrup, 2 parts fresh lime juice, all mixed with ice, and then a float of 6 parts dark rum.
11. Poetic Muse : ERATO
In Greek mythology, the muses are the goddesses who inspire the creation of literature and the arts. The number of muses seems to be debated a lot, but the most popular view is that there are nine:
- Calliope (epic poetry)
- Clio (history)
- Erato (lyric/love poetry)
- Euterpe (music)
- Melpomene (tragedy)
- Polyhymnia (choral poetry)
- Terpsichore (dance)
- Thalia (comedy)
- Urania (astronomy)
12. Island near Java : TIMOR
The island of Timor is divided into two parts: East Timor, which is an independent state, and West Timor which is part of Indonesia. When Captain Bligh was set adrift after the famous mutiny on HMS Bounty, he and his loyal seamen headed off to the island of Timor. Bligh an his crew of 18 made the journey successfully in their open boat, a distance of about 3,600 miles!
13. Equus quagga : ZEBRA
Equus quagga is the Plains Zebra, the most common species of zebra. The name "zebra" comes from an old Portuguese word "zevra" meaning "wild ass". Studies of zebra embryos show that zebras are basically black in color, with white stripes that develop with growth. Before this finding, it was believed they were white, with black stripes.
21. Prominent features of Alfred E. Neuman : EARS
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.
33. Cause of a beach closure, maybe : E. COLI
Escherichia coli (E. coli) are usually harmless bacteria, found in the human gut, working away quite happily. However, there are some strains that can produce lethal toxins. These strains can make there way into the food chain from fecal matter that comes into contact with food designated for human consumption.
38. "99 Red Balloons" singer, 1984 : NENA
Nena is a German singer, and she had a big hit with one of my favorite songs of the eighties, "99 Luftballons" (or the version she recorded in English: "99 Red Balloons"). The English translation of the title isn't literal, with the color "red" added just so that it sounded correct. A "Luftballon" is the name given to a child's toy balloon (as opposed to a larger, utilitarian balloon).
40. "Hogan's Heroes" colonel : KLINK
On "Hogan's Heroes", Colonel Klink was the Camp Commandant, played by Werner Klemperer. Klemperer was born in Cologne in Germany, and fled the country with his family in 1935 as his family was Jewish. Later, Klemperer joined the US Army, and ended up using his show business talent to entertain the troops in the Pacific.
45. 1970 #1 hit whose title follows the lyric "Speaking words of wisdom ..." : LET IT BE
Let it Be was the last song that the Beatles released as an active group, playing together. The song was written by Paul McCartney, and is clearly one of his own favorites. He says that he was inspired to write the song after having had a dream about his mother (who had died some years earlier from cancer). In fact, in the line "Mother Mary comes to me", the reference is to his mother, Mary McCartney nee Mohan. Paul's second wife, Linda, is singing backing vocals on the song, the only time she is known to have done so in a Beatles recording. 18 years after that 1970 recording was made, Paul, George and Ringo sang "Let it Be" at a memorial service for Linda, who was also lost to cancer. Morbid stuff, but a lovely song ...
47. Bob ___, 2008 Libertarian candidate for president : BARR
Before Bob Barr joined the Libertarian party, he served as one of Georgia's Republican Representatives in the US House. Barr came to prominence during the Clinton administration when he was one of the leaders of the movement to impeach the President, and the first representative to call for the President's resignation after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke.
54. Actress Parker : POSEY
Parker Posey is an American actress who has earned the nickname "Queen of the Indies" due to her success in several indie movies. She did miss out on one mainstream role though, as she was edged by Jennifer Anniston who was selected to play Rachel on "Friends".
55. Choir support : RISER
A riser is a platform that elevates a group of people above a crowd, so is ideal for the performance of a choir.
56. Tart fruits : SLOES
The sloe is the fruit of the blackthorn bush, and is the flavoring that gives gin its distinctive taste.
61. Former Mississippi senator Trent : LOTT
Trent Lott was raised Democrat in Mississippi, but served in Congress as a Republican. He ran into a controversy about remarks that were interpreted as being racially motivated, and ended up resigning in 2007.
65. Nutritional abbr. : RDA
The Recommended Daily Allowances were introduced during WWII, and were replaced by the Recommended Daily Intakes in 1997.