Kyrgyz province / SUN 5-24-15 / PBS craft show for 21 seasons / Sci-fi narcotic / AI woman in 2015's Ex Machina / Bariton in Mikado / Local theater slangily / Warrior in Discworld fantasy books / Former Jets coach Ewbank / Speed-skating champion Kramer / Sun's 10th planet once /
Sunday, May 24, 2015
Constructor: Kevin G. Der
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "A Tale of Many Cities" — celebrating the 142nd anniversary of the publication of JULES / VERNE's "Around the World in Eighty Days"; puzzle note reads:
- SAINT FRANCIS COLLEGE (San Francisco)
- THE NEW YANKEE WORKSHOP (New York)
- LETTING ONE'S HAIR DOWN (London)
- LEMON SQUEEZER (Suez)
- BORN TO BE MY BABY (Bombay)
- SPECIAL COURT MARTIAL (Calcutta)
- THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT (Hong Kong)
- YOU KNOW WHAT I'M SAYING? (Yokohama)
The New Yankee Workshop is a woodworking program produced by WGBH Boston, which aired on PBS. Created in 1989 by Russell Morash, the program is hosted by Norm Abram, a regular fixture on Morash's This Old House. The series aired for 21 seasons before broadcasting its final episode on June 27, 2009. (wikipedia)
• • •
I got the gist of the theme very early—if you get 1D, you get 141D, and very quickly you're down to a finite number of books this puzzle can be about. Here's what my grid looked like less than a minute in:
[So ... Journey to the Center of the Earth?]
My philosophy on puzzles with "Notes" is "Ignore Them." I like the challenge of figuring out what's going on for myself. So I just plowed forward and had faith that the gimmick would reveal itself to me. And quickly I could see that the letters were spelling out "Around the World in Eighty Days." I didn't stop to see how, exactly, or what the pattern was, but I could tell that's the book I was dealing with. The only question that nagged at the back of my mind for the entirety of the solve was "What do those secondary clues mean?" But I didn't stop to think about it much, because the puzzle seemed to be coming together just fine without my knowing. And indeed, I finished the whole thing and got the Happy Pencil sign and everything and still didn't know what the secondary clues were all about. But shortly after I started thinking about it in earnest, I got it. The numbers had to be word lengths, and the countries had to be places that Phileas Fogg visited ... so, cities. Aha, there's NEW YORK, there's SAN FRANCISCO ... got it. Pretty dang cool. And of course the path of the circled letters, like Fogg's journey, starts and ends in "London" (i.e. 6D), and follows Fogg's globe-circling itinerary—an eastward voyage through SUEZ, BOMBAY, CALCUTTA, HONG KONG, YOKOHAMA, SAN FRANCISCO, NEW YORK, in order—precisely.
It's an oversized grid, so if it seemed to take you longer than usual, that could have something to do with it. Also, perhaps you're like me and you've Never Heard Of several of the theme answers. SAINT FRANCIS COLLEGE? Mystery. Inferable mystery, but still, mystery. "THE NEW YANKEE WORKSHOP"? This is literally the first I'm hearing of it. I know a lot of Bon Jovi songs, but not "BORN TO BE MY BABY." As for SPECIAL COURT MARTIAL ... I'm sure it's a thing, but it's an adjective attached to COURT MARTIAL, as far as I know. And "THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT" ... well, I confess I knew that one. But I don't know how. In my mind, it co-starred Chow Yun-Fat, but that's "The Replacement Killers," a 1998 movie with Mira Sorvino. "THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT" co-starred Samuel L. Jackson. I don't think I've seen it, despite the fact that the title is so close to the title of my favorite novel I probably should've seen it now, if only by accident.
Ambition and cleverness will get you everywhere, and it will certainly excuse some infelicities in the fill (ATRI is comically crosswordesish, and a few other things are less than lovely, but they just don't seem that significant when the Big Picture is this grand. Wait, what's an UDE ??? (60A: Ulan-___ (capital of a Russian republic)). That and OSH and EROO and TEA OR and the like are of course unideal, but I still say those hiccups are too small to significantly diminish my enjoyment and admiration today. Sundays have been ... not great, of late. This, *this*, is the level of artistry and complexity the Sunday should be aiming for most if not all of the time. Haven't seen much from Kevin Der lately. If he can make one of these fantastic Sundays only about once per year ... fine. I can wait. Now we just need 51 more like-minded, like-talented constructors to step up.
P.S. we're just one week away from the inaugural Indie 500 Crossword Tournament in lovely downtown Washington, D.C. Solve six puzzles by some of the top young constructors in the country! Hang out with dorks just like you! Realize you have no hope of winning and realize also that you don't care because that's not why you go to crossword tournaments! (That last one applies especially to me). Also, there will be pie. I have been promised. The puzzles will be good and the vibe will be loose and fun and if you've ever been tourney-curious, this will be a good place to start. All the info you need is here. Hope to see you there: Saturday, May 30, D.C.
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