This is my solution to the crossword published in the New York Times today ...
COMPLETION TIME: I didn't!
THEME: Short song titles ... the shortest title of any number one hit record is "3" released by Britney Spears in 2009 (and 3 goes in the center square of the grid). There isn't a song title with only two characters, but there are eight number ones with only three characters, and they all appear in today's grid (at least that is what I am told!)
ANSWERS I MISSED: Lots!
5. *Jackson 5, 1970 : ABC
"ABC" topped the charts for the Jackson 5 in 1970, and is perhaps the Jackson 5 signature song.
8. Soupçon : CRUMB
Soupçon translates literally from French into English as "suspicion", and can be used in the sense that a "suspicion" of something is a just a hint, a crumb.
16. Dirt accumulator? : YENTA
Yenta is actually a female Yiddish name. In Yiddish theater it came to mean a busybody. The name (and busybody characteristics) is used for the matchmaker character in the musical "Fiddler on the Roof".
19. Capital whose name is Urdu for "place of peace" : ISLAMABAD
When Pakistan gained it's independence from Britain in 1947, the country's capital city was Karachi. President Ayub Khan was in favor of moving the capital in order to break away from Pakistan's colonial history, and to distribute wealth and power more reasonably across the country. The capital was moved temporarily from Karachi to Rawalpindi as Islamabad was prepared for its new role. As it is such a "young" capital, it is considered to be one of the greenest, cleanest and most well-planned cities in South Asia.
20. Year of the Great Fire of Rome : LXIV
The Great Fire of Rome raged for five and a half days in 64 AD. Of the fourteen districts of Rome, three were completely destroyed, and seven more suffered serious damage. The emperor at the time was of course Nero, although reports that he fiddled, played his lyre or sang while the city burned, those accounts are probably not true. In fact, Nero was staying outside of Rome when the fire started, and rushed home on hearing the news. He organized a massive relief effort, throwing open his own home to house many of the citizens who were left lliving on the street.
21. Unagi sources : EELS
Unagi is the Japanese word for freshwater eel.
22. *Usher feat. will.i.am, 2010 : OMG
"OMG" is a song released by Usher in 2010. I assume the OMG stands for Oh My God, but I could be wrong. Not my cup of tea ...
26. "Harlequin's Carnival," for one : MIRO
"Harlequin's Carnival" is one the most famous paintings by Catalan artist Joan Miro. You can go see it at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York.
37. Book of Judges judge : DEBORAH
In the Book of Judges, Deborah was a prophetess, and the only female judges.
41. "Network" director : LUMET
The movie "Network" was released in 1976. It was directed by Sidney Lumet and stars Peter Finch in his final role, for which he won a posthumous Academy Award. That Oscar for Peter Finch was remarkable in that it was the time the Best Actor award had been won after the actor passed away, and it was the first time it had been won my an Australian.
43. Taft and Bush, collegiately : ELIS
Eli is the nickname for a graduate of Yale University, a term used in honor of the Yale benefactor Elihu Yale.
President William Howard Taft graduated from Yale in 1878. President George W. Bush became an Eli in 1968.
45. *Michael Jackson, 1972 : BEN
The song "Ben" was recorded by Michael Jackson in 1972. The song was originally written for Donny Osmond, but as he wasn't available to record, it was offered to Michael Jackson. The song was written as the theme song for the 1972 horror film "Ben", the sequel to the icky but successful "Willard", a killer rat movie.
46. Catch, as flies : SHAG
To shag (I am reliably informed, never having played a baseball game in my life) is to chase and catch a fly ball.
50. Gospel singer Winans : CECE
CeCe Winans (real name Priscilla) is a Gospel music singer. She is part of a duo with her brother, BeBe Winans (real name Benjamin).
51. Earliest million-dollar movie role : CLEOPATRA
The 1963 movie "Cleopatra" really was an epic work. It was the highest grossing film of the year, taking in $26 million dollars at the box office, yet it still lost money. The original budget for the film was just $2 million, but so many things went wrong the final cost swelled to a staggering $44 million dollars, making it the second most expensive movie ever made (taking into account inflation). Elizabeth Taylor was supposed to earn a record amount of $1 million for the film, and ended up earned seven times that amount due to delays. But she paid dearly, as she became seriously ill during shooting and had to have an emergency tracheotomy to save her life. The scar in her throat can actually be seen in some of the shots in the film.
54. Wooden-soled shoe : SABOT
Sabot is the French word for "clog".
55. Gypsum variety used in carvings : ALABASTER
Alabaster is the name given to two, distinct materials. In general, in the days of yore, alabaster was the name given to calcite, a mineral made from calcium carbonate. In more recent times, alabaster is the name given to a form of gypsum, a hydrous sulfate of calcium.
56. Worshiping figure : ORANT
An orant is a gesture made during some Christian services. It is the name given to the pose with the hands raised, set apart, and palms facing outwards. If you've looked at many examples of early Christian art, you'll know what I mean.
59. *Frankie Avalon, 1959 : WHY
"Why" was a number one hit for Frankie Avalon in 1959. It is notable in that it was the last number one of the fifties decade (making it to the top of the charts in the last week of December), and it was also the last number one for Frankie Avalon.
1. Hanna-Barbera bear : YOGI
Yogi Bear made his debut for Hanna-Barbera in 1958, on the Huckleberry Hound Show. Pretty soon Yogi got his own show. Do you remember that collar that Yogi wore? That was a little trick from the animators. With the collar, for many frames all they had to do was redraw everything from the collar up, saving them lots and lots of time.
3. "Positive thinking" exponent : PEALE
Norman Vincent Peale was the author of the best seller "The Power of Positive Thinking".
4. Setting for "The O.C.," for short : SO CAL
"The O.C." is a teen drama that aired fro four seasons on Fox finishing up in 2007. I never watched it, but I understand it is set in Newport Beach in Southern California.
5. Longest book of the Book of Mormon : ALMA
"The Book of Alma: The Son of Alma" is the full name of the longest book in the Book of Mormon. Alma was also known as Alma the Younger, a prophet.
6. Faux pas : BOOBOOS
The plural of "faux pas" is "faux pas". The term is French in origin, and translates literally as "false step" (or "false steps").
11. Subject of the 1997 best seller "Into Thin Air" : MT EVEREST
My wife loves the book (and movie) "Into Thin Air". It tells of a 1996 ascent of Mt. Everest which left eight climbers dead after a rogue storm hit the mountain.
12. *Michael Jackson, 1987 : BAD
The song "Bad" was written and sung by Michael Jackson, and released in 1987. The song is about being tough on the streets.
14. Wheels inside a car : CAMS
Cams are wheels found on the cam shaft of a car's engine, that are eccentric in shape rather than circular. The rotation of the cams causes the intake and exhaust valves of the cylinders to open and close.
15. Small anchors : KEDGES
Nowadays we use the term "kedge anchor" to describe a light, small anchor. Traditionally a kedge was a design of anchor that did not completely bury itself in the sea bottom, as the arms at the top of the anchor were at right angles to the flukes at the bottom.
24. Like the first of May or the end of June? : NASAL
The first of "May" is a nasal sound, as is the end of the word "June".
28. Kids : TADS
A tad is a small boy, with the term possibly coming from the word "tadpole".
29. "Fame" actress : IRENE CARA
Irene Cara (as well as acting in "Fame") sang the theme songs to both "Fame" and "Flashdance".
30. 1864 battle site that was the source of the quote "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" : MOBILE BAY
The Battle of Mobile Bay took place in 1864 during the Civil War. Famously, the Federal forces led by Admiral David Farragut raced through a minefield in order to get out of range of shore-based runs, even after one of his shops had been lost to the underwater explosives. Also during the engagement, Farragut is reputed to have ordered one of his ships to move ahead rather than slow down when faced with the danger of torpedoes ... "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!"
31. They often begin with colons : EMOTICONS
Emoticons are those funny symbols used in text messages to convey emotion, e.g :-) ... smiley face, and :-( ... sad face.
32. *Edwin Starr, 1970 : WAR
The most famous recording of "War" was by Edwin Starr in 1970. It went to number one, at the height of the anti-Vietnam War sentiment in the country, and became the song most associated with Starr. The song has also been recorded by the Temptations and Bruce Springsteen.
34. *Flo Rida feat. T-Pain, 2008 : LOW
"Low" is a rap song released by rapper Flo Rida in 2007. I guess I missed it ...
53. Janis's comic-strip husband : ARLO
"Arlo and Janis" is written by Jimmy Johnson.
54. *Rihanna, 2006 : SOS
"SOS" is a dance-pop song released by Rihanna in 2006.