This is my solution to the crossword published in the New York Times today ...
COMPLETION TIME: I didn't finish!
THEME: Is there an echo in here? All the theme answers sound like well known phrases, but with sound of the last word repeated, like an echo e.g. MAY IT EVER BE SO SO (may it ever be so), MEDITERRANEAN SI SI (Mediterranean Sea), LICENSING FIFI (licensing fee)
ANSWERS I MISSED: 6 in the top left corner!
1. Writer of the short story "The Overcoat" : GOGOL
Nikolai Gogol was a Russian writer, born in Ukraine. He wrote a lot of satirical pieces that attacked the corrupt bureaucracy in Russia, which led to his being exiled. His most famous work is probably "Taras Bul'ba" from 1836.
"The Overcoat" is a short story written by Nikolai Gogol, published in 1842. The story was so well received and influential in Russian literature circles that it led to the famous writer Fyodor Dostoevsky saying, "We all come out from Gogol's "Overcoat".
6. Sitcom with three stars : M*A*S*H
Yep, the title of "M*A*S*H" has three stars in it, three asterisks. These asterisks first appeared on the poster for the 1970 movie, but they were omitted in the opening titles. The TV series went on to use the asterisks from the poster.
10. Compos mentis : SANE
"Compos mentis" is Latin, and translates literally as "in command of one's mind", and is a term used in law.
14. Some Latinas: Abbr. : SRTAS
Some Latinas are senoritas.
19. Hersey novel setting : ADANO
"A Bell for Adano" is a novel written by John Hersey, about an Italian-American US Army officer, Major Joppolo, who found a replacement for the town's bell stolen by the fascists. It was made into a film in 1945, the same year the novel won a Pulitzer.
20. Cream, e.g. : TRIO
Cream were a rock trio from Britain that made it big in the sixties. The three members of Cream were guitarists Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton (who both went to extraordinarily successful solo careers), and drummer Ginger Baker.
23. Underachiever's motto? : MAY IT EVER BE SO-SO
From: may it ever be so.
The term "so-so" meaning "mediocre" has been around a long time, and dates back at least to 1530.
26. SALT topic : ICBMS
There were two rounds of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, and resulting treaties (SALT I & SALT II), between the US and the Soviet Union. The first round of SALT I talks were in Helsinki as far back as 1970.
There are still hundreds Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) in service, with most of them dotted around the landscape of the plain states. I was driving through the area not so long ago and counted five missile silos and two launch control centers, just sitting there, at the side of the road.
27. Vladimir Nabokov novel : PNIN
"Pnin" is a novel written in English by Vladimir Nabokov, and published in 1957. The title character is Timofey Pnin, a Russian-born professor living in the US. "Pnin" raised some money for Nabokov, as it was published in installments in "The New Yorker" magazine. He needed the money while he worked hard to find someone to publish his more edgy novel, "Lolita".
28. It's noble : NEON
Neon is a noble gas, meaning that it is very nonreactive.
29. Sol mates? : LAS
Do re mi ... sol la ...
30. Some court pleas, for short : NOLOS
"Nolo contendere" is a legal term that translates from the Latin as "I do not wish to contend". That is, it's the plea of "no contest", an alternative to "guilty" or "not guilty", meaning that one doesn't admit guilt, but does not dispute the charge.
31. U.N.-created land: Abbr. : ISR
After WWI, the League of Nations gave Britain the Mandate for Palestine, in effect administrative responsibility for Palestine but with the specific responsibility to establish in Palestine a national home for the Jewish people. After WWII, the United Nations proposed partition of Palestine and creation of a Jewish state (leaving an Arab state, and a UN-administered Jerusalem). This was not accepted by all parties, and civil war ensued. Israel declared independence in 1948, and Arab states immediately attacked. The conflict, as we all know, continues to this day.
33. Places where masseurs massage : SPAS
The word "spa" comes to us from Belgium, as Spa is the name of a health resort there. The name "Spa" comes from the Walloon word "espa" meaning "spring, fountain".
41. "The Mystery of ___ Vep," 1990s Off Broadway play : IRMA
"The Mystery of Irma Vep" is a satirical play written by Charles Ludlam. It opened off-Broadway in 1984 and ran for almost two years. It sounds a hoot, with two actors playing eight characters, with lots of quick changes (35 in all).
42. E is its lowest note : G-CLEF
A clef (the French word for "key") is the symbol used in music to indicate the pitch of written notes. The G-clef is also known as the treble clef. When the G-clef is placed on a musical staff, the five lines on which the notes are written, the bottom line then becomes the note "E".
43. Majorcan affirmation? : MEDITERRANEAN SI SI
From: Mediterranean Sea
The Island of Majorca (Isla Mallorca) is Spain's largest island, and is located in the Mediterranean Sea. The population of the island ballooned over the past few decades as it is a mecca for tourists from all over Europe.
47. She-bear: Sp. : OSA
In Spanish, "osa" is a female bear, and "oso" is a male.
52. Portuguese wines : MADEIRAS
Madeira is an Portuguese owned archipelago that lies to the southwest of mainland Portugal. Madeira is famous for its wine, which is a fortified beverage (as is port, sherry and Marsala wine).
56. "The lowest form of humor," per Samuel Johnson : PUN
Samuel Johnson (also known as Dr. Johnson) was a British author active in the 1700s. He is famous for producing a "Dictionary of the English Language" published in 1755. Johnson's dictionary was the standard used until the OED was published 150 years later.
57. Grps. that know the drill? : ROTCS
The Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) is a training program for officers based in colleges all around the US. The ROTC program was established in 1862, when as a condition of receiving a land-grant to create colleges, the federal government required that military tactics be a part of the new school's curriculum.
67. Registering a poodle? : LICENSING FIFI
From: licensing fee.
Fifi is a diminutive form of at least three different girls' names: Fiona, Josephine and Sophia.
71. Steve Martin's "boy king" : TUT
Comedian Steve Martin wrote the comic song "King Tut" himself, and it appeared on his 1978 album "Wild and Crazy Guy". The song was later released as a single, and made it as high as number 17 in the charts. some of the song's success might have been due to the fervor surrounding the exhibition of the real king's tomb artifacts that were touring the country at the time.
72. What atoms do : BOND
Atoms bond together, to make molecules!
74. Liza Minnelli's father : VINCENTE
Vincente Minnelli was a Hollywood movie director. One movie he directed was 1944's "Meet Me in St. Louis", during the filming of which he fell in love with the film's star, Judy Garland. The following year the two were married, and a year later, along came their only child, Liza Minnelli. The marriage only lasted another five years.
77. N.S.A. concern, for short : INTEL
The National Security Agency was set up in 1952 by President Truman, a replacement for the Armed Forces Security Agency that had existed in the Department of Defense since 1949. The agency has always been clouded in secrecy. Even the 1952 letter from President Truman that set up the agency was kept under wraps from the public for over a generation.
80. Hulk Hogan or Andre the Giant, slangily : RASSLER
"Rassler" is slang for "wrestler".
83. "Vitruvian Man" artist : LEONARDO
You know that drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, of a man with his arms outstretched, confined in a circle? Well, that drawing is known as the Vitruvian Man. Da Vinci was trying to illustrate the thesis by Roman architect Vitruvius, that pleasing architectural proportions were related to proportions found in the human boy.
87. "Twin Peaks" actor Jack : NANCE
Jack Nance was an American actor who worked a lot with director David Lynch. He was won of the stars of the TV series "Twin Peaks", playing Pete Martell, a henpecked lumberjack. Coincidentally, the Log Lady in "Twin Peaks" was played by Catherine E. Coulson, one-time wife of Nance.
92. Guy holding a Hostess snack cake? : THE MAN WITH THE HO-HO
From: "The Man With the Hoe".
"The Man With the Hoe" is a poem by Edwin Markham, inspired by the painting of the same name by Jean-Francois Millet ("L'homme a la houe").
Ho-Hos were first produced in San Francisco in 1967, not the best thing to come out of the sixties I'd say ...
95. Canadian curling championship, with "the" : BRIER
The full name of the annual men's curling championship is the Tim Horton's Brier, recognizing the event's sponsor, the Tim Hortons coffee and doughnut chain.
101. Dom ___, "Inception" hero : COBB
I haven't seen "Inception" yet, a 2010 sci-fi movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cobb, a professional thief who infiltrates people's dreams for gain. I hear it is great ...
106. 300 to 3,000 MHz range : UHF
The radio spectrum is the is divided up into bands based on the frequency. So, a high band would be a band with relatively high frequencies. FM radio falls into the band called Very High Frequency, or VHF. On the other hand, AM radio uses lower frequencies, and so falls into the lower bands of Low, Medium and High Frequency (LF, MF, and HF). Television signals use frequencies even higher than VHF, the Ultra High Frequency band (UHF).
107. ___ fixe : IDEE
An idee fixe (a French term) is basically a fixed idea, an obsession.
109. Popular fragrance : TABU
Tabu was a whole line of cosmetics and perfumes produced by the House of Dana. The company's brand names were purchased by a Florida company called Dana Classic Fragrances in 1999.
113. Words of caution from Rodolfo? : DON'T TREAD ON MIMI
From: Don't tread on me.
The phrase "don't tread on me" appeared on many early American flags. The phrase usually appeared with a rattlesnake. Notably, it was included in the first Navy Jack.
Mimi is a pet name for Marilyn and Miriam.
119. "___ Diana's altar to protest": Shak. : OR ON
"Or on Diana's altar to protest" is a lone from William Shakespeare's play "A Midsummer Night's Dream".
120. Dinner crumbs : ORTS
Orts are small scraps of food left after a meal. The word comes from Middle English, where it was used for to describe scraps of food left by animals.
121. Certain Central Asian : TATAR
Tatars are an ethnic group of people, mainly residing in Russia (a population of about 5 1/2 million). Actor Charles Bronson had a Tatar heritage. His real name was Charles Buchinsky.
122. Puts back in : STETS
Stet is the Latin word meaning "let it stand". In editorial work, the typesetter is instructed to disregard any change previously marked by writing the word "stet" beside the change, and then underscoring the change with a line of dots (or dashes).
123. Politico Gingrich : NEWT
Newt ... what a name! Newt Gingrich was born Newton Leroy Gingrich in 1943, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
1. Group of whales : GAM
Nope, not a pod, but a gam of whales.
2. Harem room : ODA
"Oda" is the Turkish word for "room", and is the name used for a room within a harem from the Ottoman Empire. We use the derivative word "odalisque" for "a concubine" or "a chamber girl".
3. Annual parade subject : GAY PRIDE
The first gay pride parades was held on the same weekend in 1970, in New York city, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
5. Fin de siècle writer Pierre ___ : LOTI
Pierre Loti was a French writer, and also an officer in the French Navy.
Fin de siècle is a term referring to the close of the 19th century (French for "end of the century").
6. V.J.'s employer : MTV
MTV (the Music Television Network) started using the term Video Jockey (VJ) for the media personalities that introduced music videos. The term is of course a derivative of the already well-established "disk jockey".
7. The "A" of sports' A.F.L. : ARENA
Arena Football is played indoors, on a smaller field that American (and Canadian) football. The sport was invented in 1981, and the Arena Football League (AFL) was around from 1987 till 2008. There's a new AFL in business now, which started playing games in 2010 apparently.
9. Red Skelton persona : HOBO
Red Skelton was an American comedian, who started out in show business as a teenager working with the circus. He had a very successful career on radio, that he moved to television in the early fifties. His popularity only began to fade in the early seventies, when he had difficulty appealing to younger audiences. Skelton spent less time performing in his latter years, and turned to his other great love: painting.
10. Organizer of many a sit-in: Abbr. : SDS
Students for a Democratic Society was a student activist group in the sixties. The group organized the largest student strike in the history of the United States, on April 26, 1968, with about a million students staying away from class that day.
11. Windblown : AEOLIAN
Aeolus was the ruler of the winds in Greek mythology, and he gave his name to the adjective "aeolian" meaning "windblown", something produced or carried by the wind.
13. Opposite of Thanatos, to Freud : EROS
Sigmund Freud believed that we humans are driven by two desires, the desire for life (the libido, or Eros) and the desire for death (Thanatos). Personally, I don't think so ...
16. Reservation at a Johannesburg restaurant? : TABLE FOR TUTU
From: table for two.
Desmond Tutu is a South African, a former Anglican bishop who was an outspoken opponent of apartheid. Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, among other distinguished awards.
18. 112-Across sound : SSSSS
SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS ... the sound of a COBRA.
25. Hors d'oeuvre follower : ENTREE
Entree of course means "entry" in French. In Europe, even in English speaking parts, the entree is the name for the "entry" to the meal, the first course. I found it very confusing to order meals when I first came to America!
31. Pet food company since 1946 : IAMS
Iams dog food was produced by an animal nutritionist Paul Iams. He felt that household pets were suffering somewhat by being fed a diet of table scraps, so he developed a dry dog food that he felt was more nutritious and suitable for pet dogs. He founded the Iams company in 1946, and it has been part of Proctor & Gamble.
36. "Toe" of the Arabian Peninsula : OMAN
The Arabian Peninsula is that almost rectangular piece of land that lies at the junction of Africa and Asia. At the most southerly point (the toe) is the country of Oman.
37. Coll. in La Jolla : UCSD
The University of California, San Diego is located in La Jolla, San Diego.
The name of the city of La Jolla is often said to be a corruption of the Spanish "La Joya" meaning "the jewel", giving rise to the city's nickname "Jewel City". However, the scholars dispute this etymology apparently.
39. Tuscan town, home of the painter Duccio : SIENA
Duccio di Buoninsegna produced his work at the turn of the 11th century, and as was the fashion in those days, most of his work depicted religious scenes and subject matter. His most famous work is "Maesta", an elaborate altarpiece commissioned for the cathedral of Siena, his hometown. The work is a collection of a number of panels, with most still to be seen in Siena, but a dozen or so scattered around the world in various galleries.
40. Biblical correspondent : ST PAUL
St. Paul the Apostle wrote thirteen epistles that are found in the New Testament of the Bible (although authorship of some is disputed).
42. Designer Versace : GIANNI
Gianni Versace was an Italian fashion designer. His death was perhaps as famous as his llife. He was murdered in 1997 outside his mansion in Miami Beach by Andrew Cunanan. It is not certain that Cunanan knew who his victim was, as this was the last in a spree of five murders committed by him over a four month period. A few days after killing Versace, Cunanan used the same gun to commit suicide.
44. Gently roast ... or something that's roasted : RIB
To rib someone is to gently "roast" him or her, and a rib of beef or pork is also roasted.
46. Blue pixie : SMURF
The Smurfs were little blue men created by a Belgian cartoonist in 1958. The characters became famous in the US when Hanna-Barbera used them in a children's cartoon series.
48. Hipbone attachment : SACRUM
As children we have five vertebrae at the base of our spine that will have fused into one bone called the sacrum by the time we hit 26-years-old.
53. Sports org. since 1894 : IOC
The International Olympic Committee was founded in 1894, and has its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.
55. Year Columbus returned from his final voyage to the New World : MDIV
Christopher Columbus made four voyages in all to the Americas. The last of these expeditions departed from Cadiz in May 1502, returning to Sanlucar, Spain in November 1504.
58. Where the driver is driving Miss Daisy : MOBILE
The 1989 "Driving Miss Daisy" movie is based on the 1987 play by Alfred Uhry. Not only did Uhry win the Pulitzer for the play, he also won an Academy Award for the screenplay for the movie.
When Miss Daisy's driver, Hoke, takes her from Atlanta to Mobile for her brother's 90th birthday party, Hoke reveals to his passenger that this marks the first time her has left his home state of Georgia.
60. Landlord's ultimatum? : RENT OR BYE-BYE
From: rent or buy.
62. Sculptor Maya : LIN
Maya Lin is a Chinese American, born in Athens Ohio, and is an artist and architect. Her most famous work is the moving Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Lin was only 21-years-old when she won a public design competition in 1981 to create the memorial. Although her design, I think, is very fitting, sadly, Lin was not a popular choice for the work, given her Asian heritage. As she said herself, she probably would not have been picked had not the competition been judged without the knowledge of who the submissions were from.
64. Purveyor of nonstick cookware : T-FAL
Tefal (also T-Fal) is a French manufacturer of cookware, famous for its non-stick line. The name "Tefal" is a portmanteau, of TEFlon and ALuminum, the key materials used in producing their pots and pans.
69. Div. of biology : ENTOM
Entomology is the branch of zoology concerned with the study of insects. The etymology of entomology (!) is the Greek "entomon" (meaning "insect") and "logia" (meaning "study of"). In turn, the Greek word "entomos" for insect is literal translation into Greek of "having a notch or cut", in deference to the observation by Aristotle that insects have segmented bodies.
70. Actresses Kristen and Graff : ILENES
Ilene Kristen is an American actress famous for her roles in daytime soaps. She played Delia Reid on "Ryan's Hope" and Roxy Balsom on "One Life to Live".
Ilene Graff is an American actress, probably best known for playing Marsha Owens, the wife of George in the TV series "Mr. Belvedere".
76. Astronomer Tycho ___ : BRAHE
Rather than read about Tycho Brahe as an astronomer, maybe you'd like to know that he lost his nose in a duel, and wore a replacement made of either silver or gold pasted onto his face!
81. Univ., e.g. : SCH
A university is a school.
84. First president of South Korea : RHEE
Syngman Rhee was born in Korea, but received much of his education in the US, including a Ph.D. from Princeton. He returned, very much westernized as this point, to Korea in 1910, a Korea that by then had been annexed by Japan. He found himself President of a Provisional Government of Korea based in Shanghai, but was eventually ousted for misuse of power. After WWII, the westernized Rhee was installed as President heavily backed by the United States. However, Rhee's rule proved to be more like tyranny, and during the Korean War, his relationship with the US Government became very strained. He stayed in power until 1960, when student revolts became popular enough to force him out of office. The CIA flew him out of the country, and he went into exile in Hawaii, where a few years later he died of a stroke.
86. Nearly worthless : TWO-BIT
The American quarter is a little unusual in the world of decimal currency if you think about it. Usually there is produced a "20-cent" coin, easier to work with mathematically. The US went for the quarter in deference to the practice of dividing Spanish Milled Dollars in eight wedge-shaped "bits". That's also why the quarter is sometimes referred to as "two bits". We've been using the adjective "two-bit" to mean cheap and tawdry at least since 1929.
89. What's expensive in Paris? : CHER
Cher: the French word for dear, expensive.
99. Library shelfful: Abbr. : DICTS
A library has loads of dictionaries.
103. Track meet events : HEATS
The term "heat", meaning a qualifying race, dates back to the 1660s. Originally a heat was a run given to a horse to prepare it for a race, to "heat" it up.
106. Japanese noodle : UDON
Udon noodles are made from wheat-flour, very popular in Japanese cuisine like tempura.
108. Sell-off, say : DROP
A sell-off causes a drop in the stock market.
110. Play money? : ANTE
You need to "ante up" if you want to play (poker, say).
114. It has a blast : TNT
TNT is an abbreviation for TriNitroToluene. The explosive chemical was first produced by the German chemist Joseph Wilbrand in 1863, who used it as a yellow dye. TNT is relatively difficult to detonate, so it was used as a dye for some years before its more explosive properties were discovered.
115. Mar. weekend shortener : DST
On the other side of the Atlantic, Daylight Saving Time (DST) is known as "summer time". The idea is to move clocks forward an hour in spring and backwards in the fall, so that afternoons have more daylight.
117. Operator of the original N.Y.C. subway : IRT
The Interborough Rapid Transit Company was the original, private operator of the New York Subway when it opened in 1904. The city took over ownership of the system in 1940, and the original lines operated by the IRT are still known by the IRT moniker.