This is my solution to the crossword published in the New York Times today ...
COMPLETION TIME: 9m 36s
THEME: Cryptic Entertainers ... each of the theme answers is a well known, two-part term, with the last part being an entertainer
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0
1. Harry James's "___ the Craziest Dream" : I HAD
Harry James was a very popular bandleader, particularly in the swing era. After a stint with Benny Goodman's orchestra, Harry James set up his own band based in Philadelphia. One member of his band, back in 1939, was a vocalist that James wanted to rename as Frankie Satin, but the singer decided to hold onto his own name, Frank Sinatra.
"I Had the Craziest Dream" was published in 1942, and played by Harry James and his orchestra in the Betty Grable movie released that year, "Springtime in the Rockies".
9. Bedding item : SHAM
A sham is something that is imitation, fake. In the world of bed linens, a sham is also imitation and fake, in the sense that it is a decorative cover designed to cover up a regular pillow used for sleeping.
13. Marisa of "The Wrestler" : TOMEI
Marisa Tomei's first screen role was in "As the World Turns", but her break was a recurring role in "The Cosby Show" spin-off "A Different World". She won an Oscar for her delightful performance in "My Cousin Vinny" in 1992.
"The Wrestler" is a really hard and gritty movie from 2008, a comeback film for actor Mickey Rourke. Rourke stars as an over-the-hill professional wrestler, with Marisa Tomei playing a faded stripper, the love interest. The film received really strong reviews, but it's a tough movie to watch (I found).
15. Georgetown athlete : HOYA
The athletic teams of Georgetown University are known as the Hoyas. The name is derived from a traditional "cheer" yelled out at Georgetown games, as far back as 1893: "Hoya Saxa". The term is a mixture of Greek and Latin, with the Greek word "hoya" meaning "such" or "what", and "saxa" translating from Latin as "rocks" or "small stones". The cheer is usually rendered into English as "what rocks!".
16. Rabbit punch target : NAPE
The rabbit punch, a blow to the nape of the neck, is illegal in boxing because it so dangerous. It can damage the vertebrae of the neck, and ultimately the spinal cord. The punch is named after the practice used by hunters to kill trapped rabbits, rendering a sharp strike to the back of the neck.
17. Conk the "You Were Meant for Me" singer? : CROWN JEWEL
Conk (CROWN) the "You Were Meant for Me" singer (JEWEL) = CROWN JEWEL
The singer Jewel's full name is Jewel Kilcher. She is married to nine-time world champion rodeo cowboy, Ty Murray. You might have seen both of them on "Dancing with the Stars" not too long ago. As I recall, Jewel was meant to compete, but had to pull out at the last minute, so her hubby took her spot. He did surprisingly well!
21. Did improv : AD LIBBED
Ad libitum is a Latin phrase meaning "at one's pleasure". In common usage, the phrase is usually shortened to "ad lib". On the stage, the concept of an "ad lib" is very familiar. For example, an actor who substitutes his own words for forgotten lines uses an ad lib. Or, a director may instruct an actor to use her own words at a particular point in a performance, to promote a feeling of spontaneity.
23. Rogers and Bean : ROYS
Cowboy actor and singer Roy Rogers' real name was Leonard Franklin Slye.
Judge Roy Bean was an eccentric saloon-keeper and Justice of the Peace in the Wild West, and his full name was Phantly Roy Bean, Jr.
25. The "A" of A.D. : ANNO
The designations Anno Domini (AD) and Before Christ (BC) are found in the Julian and Gregorian calendars. The dividing point between AD and BC is the year of the conception of Jesus, with AD 1 following 1 BC, without a year "0" in between. The AD/BC scheme dates back to AD 525, and gained wide acceptance soon after AD 800. Nowadays, a modified version has become popular, with CE (Common/Christian Era) used to replace AD, and BCE (Before the Common/Christian Era) replacing BC.
33. Dernier ___ : CRI
The French phrase "dernier cri" translates literally as "the latest cry or scream", but is used to denote the latest fashion.
39. 1943 penny material : STEEL
During WWII there was a shortage of copper, so the US Mint switched to zinc-coated steel for production of one-cent coins in 1943. The coins had all sorts of problems in circulation, so the mint had to change again for the 1944-46 production, using a brass/copper alloy. For obvious reasons, the 1943 coin is called a "steelie", and is the only coin every issued by the US mint that can be picked up by a magnet.
41. Architect Saarinen : EERO
Eero Saarinen was a Finnish American architect, renowned in America for his unique designs for public buildings, such as Dulles International Airport Terminal, and the TWA building at JFK.
44. Instrument that's usually played cross-legged : SITAR
The sitar has been around since the Middle Ages. It is a stringed instrument that is played by plucking, and is used most often in Hindustani classical music. In the west we have been exposed to the sitar largely through the performances of Ravi Shankar, and some music by George Harrison, a one-time student of Shankar.
49. "Billy Budd" and "Of Mice and Men" : NOVELLAS
"Billy Budd" is a novella by American author Herman Melville, although he never actually finished it before he died in 1891.
"Of Mice and Men" is a novella written by American author John Steinbeck, published in 1937. The title comes from the famous poem by Robert Burns, "To a Mouse". The inspirational line is "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men, gang aft agley."
52. Nike competitor : FILA
Fila was originally an Italian company, founded in 1911, but is now based in South Korea. Fila was started in Piedmont by the Fila brothers, primarily to make underwear for people living in the Italian Alps. The company started to focus on sportswear in the seventies, using tennis great Bjorn Borg as their major endorser.
57. Site of a 1976 South African uprising : SOWETO
Soweto is an urban are in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. The name comes from SOuth WEstern TOwnship, a black township that was set up the days of apartheid South Africa. The Soweto Uprising took place in 1976, triggered by government policy forcing education in Afrikaans rather than English.
62. Scratch the "2 Legit 2 Quit" rapper? : CLAW HAMMER
Scratch (CLAW) the "2 Legit 2 Quit" rapper (HAMMER) = CLAW HAMMER
Rapper MC Hammer (aka Hammer and Hammertime) was born Stanley Kirk Burrell, and was very popular in the 80s and 90s. Being around that early, MC Hammer is considered to be one of the forefathers on rap. Nowadays, MC Hammer is a preacher, and uses the initials MC to stand for "Man of Christ".
67. Torah holders : ARKS
The Torah ark is found in a synagogue, and is the ornamental container in which are stored the Torah scrolls.
69. Defense grp. since 1949 : NATO
NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or OTAN in French, l'Oganisation du traite de l'Atlantique Nord.
2. Dance done to "Hava Nagila" : HORA
The hora is circle dance that originated in the Balkans. It was brought to Israel by Romanian settlers, and is often performed to traditional Israeli folk songs. The hora (also horah) is a regular sight at Jewish weddings.
3. Andy's partner in old radio : AMOS
"Amos 'n' Andy" was originally a radio sitcom that was on the air from the twenties right up to the fifties. It was about Amos Jones and Andy Brown, two farm workers from outside Atlanta, who head to Chicago to make good for themselves. They eventually start up the Fresh Air Taxi Company. The show was somewhat groundbreaking for the time, as it depicted African Americans for the first time in positions of influence as business owners. There was a TV adaptation that aired from 1951 to 1953, and in syndication right up to 1966. I have never seen/heard the show, but it sounds like it is a classic ...
4. White Label Scotch maker : DEWAR'S
Dewar's is a blended Scotch whisky introduced in 1846 by John Dewar. Dewar's White Label is the company's most popular Scotch, first created in 1899, with a taste that is described as "heather and honey". Dewar's also make some single malts, under the labels Aberfeldy 12 and Aberfeldy 21. Today, Dewar's is owned by Bacardi.
6. Early caucus state : IOWA
The Iowa caucuses have been the first major electoral event in the nominating process for President since 1972.
8. Miss Ellie's soap : DALLAS
Miss Ellie was the matriarch of the famed Ewing family, around which the TV series "Dallas" was written. For most of the series, Miss Ellie was played by Barbara Bel Geddes, and once in a TV movie of Dallas by Molly Hagan. Barbara Bel Geddes left the show in 1984, and was replaced by the much more famous Donna Reed. When Bel Geddes decided to return to the show the following year, Donna Reed was fired, much to her chagrin, and a law suit ensued.
10. Protect the "Kiss From a Rose" singer from the cops? : HARBOR SEAL
Protect from the cops (HARBOR) the "Kiss From a Rose" singer (SEAL) = HARBOR SEAL
Seal is an English soul singer, of Nigerian and Brazilian descent. He has a famous wife, German model Heidi Klum.
Seal's song "Kiss From a Rose" was originally released in 1994, and re-released in 1995 when it was included in the soundtrack of the movie "Batman Forever".
11. Cathedral recess : APSE
The apse of a church or cathedral (or an oratory: a room for prayer) is a semicircular recess in an outer wall, usually with a half dome as a roof, and often where there resides an altar. Originally, apses were used as burial places for the clergy and also for important relics.
12. Drink in "Beowulf" : MEAD
"Beowulf" is an old epic poem from England, although the story is set in Scandinavia. There's a lot of drinking of mead in the poem, in mead-halls, sitting on mead-benches.
14. Bars at Fort Knox : INGOTS
Fort Knox is actually a US Army base, but it gives its name to the adjacent facility, the United States Bullion Depository. Most of the US gold reserves are in Fort Knox, although it isn't the biggest repository in the US. That honor goes to the vault under the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in Manhattan. Most of the gold stored in that vault belongs to foreign nations and banks.
22. Quechua speaker : INCA
Quechua was the existing Native American language that was adopted and by the Incan Empire and favored over other dialects. Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro discovered the Incas in 1526, the beginning of the end for the ancient civilization, ravaged by force and by imported smallpox.
27. "Three Sisters" sister : IRINA
Anton Chekhov wrote his play "Three Sisters" using as his inspiration the lives of the three Bronte sisters and their brother. Irina is the youngest of the sisters.
28. Amuse the "Get the Party Started" singer? : TICKLE PINK
Amuse (TICKLE) the "Get the Party Started" singer (PINK) = TICKLE PINK
Pink is the stage name of American singer Alecia Beth Moore.
29. Oktoberfest memento : STEIN
Oktoberfest is a 16-day beer festival in Munich that actually starts in September. About six million people attend every year, making it the largest fair in the world. I've been there twice ... it is a great party ...
31. Singer of the "Casta diva" aria : NORMA
"Norma" is an opera written by Vincenzo Bellini, first performed in 1831. The aria "Casta diva" was one of the most popular arias in the 1800s.
38. Mendeleev's tabulation : ELEMENTS
Dmitri Mendeleev was a Russian chemist. When he classified elements according to their chemical properties, he noticed patterns and was able to group elements into his famous 1869 Periodic Table. So powerful was his table, that he was able to predict the properties of elements that had not even been discovered in 1869. Appropriately enough, element number 101, mendelevium, was named after Mendeleev.
43. Children's author Carle : ERIC
Eric Carle's most famous title is "The Very Hungry Caterpillar".
45. Do a musketeer's job : RELOAD
A musketeer was an infantry soldier who was equipped with a musket. Funnily enough, Alexander Dumas' "Three Musketeers" really didn't use muskets. They were pretty good with swords though.
48. IHOP servings : STACKS
The International House of Pancakes was founded in 1958, with the first restaurant located in Toluca Lake, Los Angeles.
50. Wyatt Earp, e.g. : LAWMAN
Wyatt Earp participated in what has to be the most famous gunfight in the history of the Old West, the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, in Tombstone, Arizona. Strangely enough, the fight didn't happen at the O.K. Corral, but happened six doors down the street in a vacant lot next to a photography studio.
54. River through Flanders : YSER
The Yser originates in northern France, and flows though Belgium into the North Sea.
56. ___ Modern (London gallery) : TATE
The Tate Modern (as opposed to the original Tate Gallery) lies on the banks of the Thames in London. It's a beautiful building, a converted power station, that you have to see to believe.
58. Austen classic : EMMA
"Emma" is just a wonderful novel by Jane Austen, first published in 1815. I had the privilege a few years ago of attending the premier of "Emma", a delightful musical adaptation for the stage. If you ever get the chance to see it, I highly recommend it ...