Shepherd co-wrote Christmas Story / WED 7-20-11 / 1951 Bogart/Hepburn film / Requested gift in Christmas Story / Hall's partner pop music
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Constructor: Peter A. Collins
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: ROYAL FLUSH (1A: [see blurb])
Blurb: "When this puzzle is done, you will find that the ends of the answers to the five starred clues, when in the 15-/67-Across [SAME / SUIT], comprise a 1-/71-Across [ROYAL / FLUSH]."
Word of the Day: NORIA (40D: Waterwheel) —
A noria [...] is a machine for lifting water into a small aqueduct, either for the purpose of irrigation or, in at least one known instance, to feed seawater into a saltern. (wikipedia)
Off-putting from the get-go. Bad enough when 1A = [see blurb] —I just started the puzzle, I don't want to see any damned blurb right now— but when that blurb is utterly nonsensical and unhelpful, as this one was, then things have really gone off the rails. Decided that after wasting those ten seconds, I'd just plow ahead and worry about making sense of the blurb later. Grid was mostly a piece of cake. Junky in places, but not overwhelmingly so, and I really enjoyed the long Acrosses in the middle, especially SIGOURNEY (a lovely actress who looks lovely in the grid) (44A: Weaver of tales on the big screen). But then I hit NORI- / -IRACE and stopped cold. Knew I'd seen that damned [Waterwheel] before in some crosswordy crossword gone by, but couldn't remember specifics, and couldn't make sense of 59A: *Shooting star?. I think I thought an AIR ACE was a flying star, primarily. Also, I thought -IRACE was one word. Good thing that clue was starred so I could separate ACE out and see my problem. But when I put the "A" in, I didn't get the "Congratulations!" sign. Turns out I still had a blank, up top at SA-E / E-ALL. [See blurb]! @##$%! Needed the blurb to get figure out SAME, because I *never* would've figure out EMALL, which is about the worst partial I've ever seen. E-MALL, which has been used many times, is also terrible, but at least it's inferrable. 'EM ALL is horrendous. I would've loved KILL 'EM ALL — a great full title. But that partial is JUNK (62A: Kind of mail). Trying to decided if it's junkier than NORIA (I think so) or DESIS (uh, probably) or ACNES (oh, man, close call).
- 20A: *Midwest conference (BIG TEN)
- 22A: *Pancake (FLAPJACK)
- 39A: *1951 Bogart/Hepburn film ("THE AFRICAN QUEEN")
- 56A: *Billy Crystal's "Memories of Me" co-star (ALAN KING)
- 59A: *Shooting star? (AIR ACE)
The theme is just a dressed-up version of a "last words=10-to-ACE" theme that must have been done before. Unfortunately the dressing up (valiant) is accomplished via a convoluted blurb. In the end, this is a well-meaning and mildly ambitious attempt to make something new and interesting out of something old and not-so-interesting, but I can't say it succeeds.
- 17A: Requested gift in "A Christmas Story" (BB GUN) — You'll shoot your eye out!
- 50A: One-named female singer with the 2002 #1 hit "Foolish" (ASHANTI) — couldn't remember if she ended in "I" or "E." Thank god I guessed right, because that last letter runs smack into NORIA, which I couldn't recall confidently to save my life.
- 68A: Hall's partner in pop music (OATES) — My first concert! [seriously]. The bulk of their career spans my childhood and adolescence. This is one of the first songs I remember being my "favorite" song (I was in 5th grade):
- 10D: Pilgrims to Mecca (HAJJIS) — let's just hope you know who JEAN Shepherd is, because you could just as easily guess HADJIS / DEAN here. I guessed "J" and was correct. I have no idea why I guessed "J."
[The following announcement will be up all week]
I'm coming to NYC for the Lollapuzzoola Tournament on Saturday, Aug. 6 (you should go—info here). But you know that. What you don't know (yet) is that I'm coming several days early to do some interviews for a crossword project I'm working on, and I'm hoping to interview some of You (New Yorkers) about your xword habit. I'm especially interested in talking to people who think they are unlikely solvers, or who solve in weird / interesting / iconic places, or who have good solving anecdotes, or who are famous / prominent in their fields, or any combo of the above. I'm also interested in ordinary everyday solvers. I'm not looking for fast or accomplished solvers. Just interesting solvers. If you live in NYC, this (probably) means you! If you are going to be in town on Aug. 4-5 and are willing to talk to me for a few minutes, drop me a line at rexparker at mac dot com. I'll be exceedingly grateful. I'll see what kind of response I get and set up a schedule from there. If I don't hear from you, I'll just have to wander the streets harassing anyone I see solving a crossword, even though this may result in my getting punched, or worse. So help me out. Thank you!