I tried the hack described above with the DOS VM, but with no success (running Ubuntu 12.04 guests on a MacBook Pro with OS X). I also tried the kernel parameter changes mentioned in the Oracle thread, again no change. No matter what I did, my guests seemed to eat 15-20% CPU each. However, I noticed that the one guest I happened to assign 2 CPUs was not chewing 15-20% - it was behaving as expected.
Sure enough, when I switched the others to 2 CPU's the issue disappeared. From previous experience, I know that switching to 2 CPUs also enables the IO APIC option in the motherboard section so I suspected that was the truly interesting change. That is, this one:
Note that you have to have the machine shut down to change this setting, otherwise it is greyed out. Once I had enabled this on the guests and restart, it didn't matter if I had 1 or more CPUs, the 15-20% CPU utilization went away, so I thought I would share my solution here.