This is my solution to the crossword published in the New York Times today ...
COMPLETION TIME: N/A (watching the HBO series "The Wire" on DVD)
THEME: Sounds like a composer ... the theme answers include the name of a classical composer. The sound of the composer's name is used to create a common phrase. i.e. BIZET SIGNAL (busy signal), PLAY LISZT (playlist), THROW BACH (throwback), HAYDN GO SEEK (hide and go seek)
ANSWERS I MISSED: 0
1. Veracruz's capital : JALAPA
Jalapa (more usually Xalapa) is the capital city of the Mexican state of Veracruz. A rough translation of the Xalapa is "spring in the sand".
7. Its motto is "Semper paratus": Abbr. : USCG
The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the armed forces that falls under control of the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime. During time of war, the USCG can be transfered to Department of the Navy. The USCG motto is "Semper Paratus", a Latin phrase meaning "Always Prepared".
11. Bonobo, for one : APE
The Bonobo used to be called the Pygmy Chimpanzee, and is a cousin of the Common Chimpanzee. The Bonobo is an endangered species, found in the wild only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. Along with the Common Chimpanzee, the Bonobo is genetically the closest species to humans.
14. You can count on it : ABACUS
The abacus was used as a counting frame long before man had invented a numerical numbering system. It is a remarkable invention, particularly when one notes that it is still widely used today across Africa and Asia.
15. Kelly of "Live With Regis and Kelly" : RIPA
When Kelly Ripa secured the co-host spot on morning television with Regis Philbin, she was still acting in "All My Children", in a role she had been playing for over ten years. After a year of holding down two jobs, she eventually gave up the acting job.
16. Word with band or sand : BOX
A bandbox is light, cylindrical box used to hold small items of apparel, like a hat.
17. Command to a French composer at an intersection? : BIZET SIGNAL
BIZET, SIGNAL! (sounds like "busy signal").
Georg Bizet was a French composer active in the Romantic era. Bizet's most famous work has to be his opera "Carmen". "Carmen" received a lukewarm reception from the public, even though his fellow composers had nothing but praise for it. Sadly, Bizet died very young, at only 36, before he could see "Carmen's" tremendous success.
19. Conciliatory gift : SOP
Cerberus is a dog with three heads that is found in both Greek and Roman mythology. His job is to guard the gates of Hades, and prevent those that have crossed the River Styx from ever escaping. A sop is a piece of food that has been dipped in some liquid, as one might sop a piece of bread in soup. There is an idiomatic expression, "to give a sop to Cerberus", which means to give someone a bribe, or pay someone not to pursue an inquiry. The idea is that if one could bribe Cerberus, give him a Sop to eat, then he would let you pass and escape from Hades.
22. Uccello who painted "The Battle of San Romano" : PAOLO
Paolo Uccello was a an Italian painter, as well as a mathematician. As such, he is well noted for his work on visual perspective in the world of art. For the first time, his paintings had a sense of depth, setting him apart from his contemporaries. Uccello's most famous work is "The Battle of San Romano", a work divided into three large panels. Today, you've got to travel to see all three panels; one is in London, one in Paris, and one in Florence.
24. Don Corleone : VITO
Mario Puzo created Corleone Mafia family in his 1969 novel "The Godfather". The head of the family is Vito Corleone (whose birth name was Vito Andolini), a native of Corleone in Sicily. He was given the name Corleone by immigration officers at Ellis Island.
27. City south of Luxor : ASWAN
The city of Aswan is one of the driest places on earth, so dry in fact that many locals do not bother putting roofs on all the rooms in their dwellings. The last time it rained in Aswan (apparently the latest info, as early April 2010) was a thunderstorm on May 13, 2006. The nearby Aswan Dam is very famous, and is actually two dams. The Low Dam was first built in 1902 (and modified later). The High Dam was completed in 1970.
30. Command to a Hungarian composer at the piano? : PLAY LISZT
PLAY, LISZT! (sounds like "playlist").
Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was a Hungarian composer, and a fabulous pianist. Particularly towards the end of his life, he gained a tremendous reputation as a teacher. While he was in his sixties, his teaching profession demanded that he commute regularly between the cities of Rome, Weimar and Budapest. It is quite remarkable that a man of such advanced age, in the 1870s could do so much annual travel, estimated to be at least 4,000 miles every year.
36. Jacques Cousteau's middle name : YVES
Jacques Cousteau was French, and "mer" is the French word for "sea". Jacques-Yves Cousteau started off his career in the French Navy, heading for a working life in aviation. Because of a car accident, he had to abandon that objective, and instead went to sea. Famously, he invented the aqualung, and is the father of SCUBA diving.
37. "Tippecanoe and Tyler ___" : TOO
"Tippecanoe and Tyler too" was a campaign song and slogan in the 1840 US presidential election. The song supports the Whig candidates, William Henry Harrison and John Tyler, and denigrates the Democrat's candidate, Martin Van Buren. Harrison gained the nickname of "Old Tippecanoe" when he was in the military, as he emerged victorious leading the US forces against American Indians at the Battle of Tippecanoe.
39. Sophia of "Marriage Italian-Style" : LOREN
Sophia Loren certainly has her place in the world of movies. In 1962 she won an Oscar for Best Actress for her role in the Italian film "Two Women", the first actress to win an Academy Award for a non-English speaking performance. Loren received a second nomination for Best Actress for her role in "Marriage Italian-Style", another Italian-language movie, released in 1964.
42. Sch. supporter : PTA
The Parent Teacher Association supports schools.
43. Author who famously ended a short story with the line "Romance at short notice was her specialty" : SAKI
Hector Hugh Munro was a British writer, actually born in Burma. He was most famous for his short stories, which he published using the pen name "Saki". His most well-known story is "The Open Window", which ends with the line "Romance at short notice was her specialty".
44. Cell on a slide : AMOEBA
An ameba (or "amoeba" as we spell it back in Ireland) is a single-celled microorganism. The name comes from the Greek "amoibe", meaning change. The name is quite apt, as the cell changes shape readily as the ameba moves, eats or reproduces.
46. Command to a German composer on a baseball diamond? : THROW BACH
THROW, BACH! (sounds like "throwback")
Like so many of the great composers, the extent of Bach's contribution the repertoire was only fully recognized long after his passing. Johann Sebastian Bach was undoubtedly the greatest composer of the Baroque period, and is ranked by many as the greatest classical composer of all time.
50. Jay Gatsby's love : DAISY
"The Great Gatsby" of course, is the 1925 novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, that tells of the prosperous life of Jay Gatsby during the Roaring 20s. Gatsby develops an obsessive love for Daisy Fay Buchanan, a girl he met while serving during WWI, and meets again some years later after he has improved his social standing.
51. Mayberry boy : OPIE
Ron Howard sure has come a long way since playing Opie on "The Andy Griffith Show". He has directed some fabulous movies, including favorites of mine like "Apollo 13", "A Beautiful Mind" and "The Da Vinci Code". And now Opie is even a grandfather ...
55. Czar of Russia between Feodors : BORIS
Boris Godunuv was the Tsar of Russia from 1598 to 1605. He is perhaps better known these days because of the artistic works that are based on his life. Alexander Pushkin wrote the play "Boris Godunov", partially using Shakespeare's "Macbeth" to structure the storyline of Godunov's life. Modest Mussorgsky then wrote a famous opera "Boris Godunov", based on the Pushkin play.
57. Initials at sea : HMS
Her/His Majesty's Ship, is used primarily by the British Royal Navy. The initials HBMS used to used fro some vessels, standing for He/His Britannic Majesty's Ship.
60. Snap, Crackle or Pop : ELF
The three elves Snap, Crackle and Pop are the mascots for Kellogg's Rice Krispies. They first appeared in an ad campaign in 1933, although the phrase "snap, crackle and pop" had been used for the cereal before then in a radio ad campaign. By the way, the elves are selling "Rice Bubbles" in Australia, and the elves have different names in other parts of the world (like "Cric!, Crac! and Croc! in Quebec).
61. Command to an Austrian composer on a scavenger hunt? : HAYDN GO SEEK
HAYDN, GO SEEK! (sounds like "hide and go seek")
Josef Haydn was an Austrian composer, often called the "Father of the Symphony" due to his prolific and output of symphonies that helped define the form. Haydn was also the "father" of the big three composers of the Classical period, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Hayden was a good friend to Mozart, and a teacher of Beethoven.
65. Adm. Zumwalt, chief of naval operations during the Vietnam War : ELMO
When Elmo Zumwalt was made Rear Admiral during the Vietnam War, he was put in command of the famous flotilla of Swift Boats that patrolled coasts, harbors and rivers. In 1970, he was made Chief of Naval Operations, and at 49 years of age, he was the youngest man to hold that post. His tenure at Chief of Naval Operations was noted for the progress he made in easing racial tension in the service, and promoting gender equality.
67. Guerra's opposite : PAZ
In Spanish, the opposite of guerra (war) is paz (peace).
4. Point of no return? : ACE
Wonderful clue! When a tennis player, say, serves an "ace" it is a "point of no return".
5. Green skill : PUTTING
Putting on golf course, that would be a "green" skill.
8. Symbol of simple harmonic motion : SINE WAVE
A sine wave is a mathematical function that describes a simple, smooth, repetitive oscillation. The sine wave is found right throughout the natural world. Ocean waves, light waves and sound waves all have a sine wave pattern.
11. Hard core? : ABS OF STEEL
Another nicely worded clue ...
18. Denny's competitor : IHOP
The International House of Pancakes was founded in 1958, with the first restaurant located in Toluca Lake, Los Angeles.
Denny's was the first restaurant I ate at on my first visit to the US over 30 years ago. I thought I was in heaven. I've changed my opinion a little since then! Denny's is famous for being "always open" (almost), something that blew my mind as a visitor from Ireland back in 1980. Denny's was founded in 1953 in Lakewood, California, and originally went by the name "Denny's Donuts". The infamous "Grand Slam" breakfast has been on the menu since 1977.
23. Talent agent ___ Emanuel : ARI
Ari Emanuel is a very successful talent agent based in Beverly Hills, California. Among those listed as his client are Conan O'Brien, Matt Damon, Michael Moore, Martin Scorsese and Mark Wahlberg. Emanuel is the real-life inspiration for the characters Stevie Grant on the "The Larry Sanders Show" and Ari Gold on the HBO series "Entourage". Oh, and the White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, that's Ari's Brother.
24. Roof topper : VANE
26. Relative of an aardwolf : HYENA
An aardwolf is a small hyena native to Eastern and Southern Africa. Aardwolf is an Afrikaans name meaning "earth wolf".
28. Truth, archaically : SOOTH
The archaic word for truth, "sooth", is the root of the terms "soothsayer" and "for sooth!"
29. 1939 title role for Frank Morgan : WIZARD OF OZ
American Actor Frank Morgan's most famous role was that of the title character in the 1938 movie "The Wizard of Oz". He won the role of the Wizard when MGM ran out of patience negotiating a contract with W. C. Fields.
32. 1964 title role for Anthony Quinn : ZORBA
Anthony Quinn was an American actor, of Mexican descent, born in Chihuahua. His role in the 1964 movie "Zorba the Greek" perhaps marked the high point of his distinguished career, and earned him an Oscar nomination. Quinn was also an accomplished artist, and his work is very collectible.
33. Hungarian wine : TOKAY
"Tokay" is the English version of what are more correctly called Tokaji wines; wines from the Tokaj-Hegyakja region of Hungary. Most Tokaji wines are relatively sweet.
45. "But of course!," in Marseille : MAIS OUI
The literal translation of the French term "mais oui!" is "but yes!".
48. Device making a 53-Down : HORN
53. Sound made by a 48-Down : BEEP
54. Kurylenko of "Quantum of Solace" : OLGA
Olga Kurylenko is a Ukranian actress and model, and played the Bond girl Camille Montes in the latest movie in the series, "Quantum of Solace".
56. Febreeze target : ODOR
There is a typo here, as the correct spelling of the brand name odor eliminator is "Febreze".
59. ___ terrier : SKYE
The Skye terrier is a breed that is actually under threat of extinction. A few years ago there were only 30 born in its native UK.