City between Turin Genoa / SUN 8-23-15 / Virginia's Hill Academy alma mater of 20+ NBA players / Unseen winning card in poker lingo / Epitome of desolateness / Saint with alphabet named after him / Pepper Iron Man's love interest
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Constructor: Joel Fagliano
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "Musical Remixes" — Music-related anagrams of five "#1 Billboard artists"; anagrams get wacky "?" clues, while artists all get same clue: [#1 Billboard artist that's an anagram of ***-Across]
- INDIE CLONE (23A: Alternative band that sounds like every other alternative band?) / CELINE DION
- USE MY LYRIC (45A: Invitation for musical plagiarism?) / MILEY CYRUS
- HI, MAESTRO (66A: Greeting to a conductor?) / AEROSMITH
- GENIAL ROCK (87A: Friendly music genre?) / CAROLE KING
- NURSE'S SONG (112A: Part of a hospital playlist?) / GUNS 'N' ROSES
nounnoun: ruche; plural noun: ruches
- a frill or pleat of fabric as decoration on a garment or home furnishing. (google)
• • •
GUNS 'N' ROSES' NURSE'S SONG, or CELINE DION: INDIE CLONE, with clever clues, maybe this would've worked better. But here, the theme is spoonfed to you, and while figuring out anagrams is inherently entertaining (uh, if you're me...), the disconnect between artist and anagram left the puzzle without snap. Or pop. Or crackle.
There's some good stuff in here, though. I love the longer Downs that crash through not one not two but three themers, i.e. SPOILER ALERT and LETTER OPENER. The former beats the latter for freshness (and I had an awful time parsing it), but both are nice. I also liked SAG AWARD, as it was tough and unexpected but perfectly legitimate. I also liked that the puzzle was clued pretty toughly. I got stymied several times, most notably in the west, where an error (TRY MY LYRIC) (?!) combined with tough cluing (and some rough fill) to cause a real problem for me. Don't really know the word RUCHE, so that hurt. Thought the [Till bill] was a ONE. Couldn't parse MERCY ME to save my life (puzzle's oddly heavy on quaint expressions like this. See also MY HAT (!?!?) and DOG IT. Putting in ASSAYS where HAS A GO was supposed to, uh, go, that also caused me some problems in the east, but not nearly as many as I had in that whole area in the west from HAM (fine) down to ANNUIT and ESA (ugh, not fine).
If you read yesterday's write-up some time after mid-morning, you know that crossword legend Merl Reagle died yesterday, quite suddenly and unexpectedly. I spent the first part of the day stunned and wallowing, and then my wife dragged me out of the house and we went up to Ithaca to see "Mr. Holmes" and eat tapas and drink sherry. That helped a little. But then I came back to my house and my computer and my crosswording life (here, now, right now, writing this), and I just feel lost again. Merl was my friend, and had been since 2008, when he wrote me the following email out of the blue—an email that is, in many ways ridiculous:
dear rex,Leaving aside the fact that he seems to have been unable to find the [Shift] key, let's consider how ludicrous it is that this man, who is one of the best known and certainly most beloved crossword makers in the country, wrote me, a total nobody who, if he was known at all, was known primarily for being a crankpot with computer access, and *he* asked *me* if I wouldn't mind solving *his* puzzles. Perhaps I'd be interested. It was as if Cézanne had written me and said, "Hey, you know, I think you might enjoy my paintings." You think?
love your blog, as if you couldn't guess!
there are only so many hours in a week, so i don't expect you to ever solve my sunday puzzle, what with the time and effort you obviously take to make your blog so frigging entertaining! -- but on the occasional sunday when you have an extra minute, i'm hoping you might at least solve it. no need to write about it, but i'm always trying to convince new yorkers that there are some other weekly puzzles in america that might be worth solving! (i'm in the new york observer every week, so at least i do appear in new york.)
but mainly, i wanted to let you know how to remember that "riata" is a lasso -- "la riata" is where we get the word "lariat."
all the best,
So I wrote back sycophantically, making it very clear who was whose fan, and thereafter he became my regular correspondent and probably my most trusted crossword adviser. Anyone who knew him knows this: the guy lived and breathed crosswords, and wordplay in general. There was no pretension. No showing off. He couldn't help it. It was his way of being in the world, and it was joyous. It was contagious. It was inspirational. At least a half a dozen times just this year (according to my Inbox) one of us wrote the other some grumpy note of commiseration about some issue in some puzzle or other (Merl particularly hated half-baked themes—he had a great quote on how patient he was when developing themes: "Sometimes an idea will wait 20 years to become a puzzle"). If I was ever really unsure of my reaction to something in a puzzle, I'd shoot Merl a note to ask for a ruling. From a purely egotistical standpoint, it was a huge (and until now, private) thrill to know that this guy respected what I was doing, that this guy wanted to talk to me, that this guy would take my calls. If you want to know where my confidence in writing about crosswords comes from, well, part of it probably comes from a mother who adored me, and part of it is a put-on to mask a fairly massive insecurity, but the Rest of it comes from knowing that Merl, the guy I respected and admired most in the world of crosswords, had my back. That he believed in what I was doing and deigned to have conversations with me as if we were something like peers. And now *that* guy is dead—that guy who made incredible, hilarious, carefully crafted, often wonderfully ridiculous Sunday-sized puzzles every week for years and years and years. Who gave joy to millions. I don't know anyone who disliked him. Scratch that—I don't know anyone who knew him who didn't actively admire him. Most of us loved him to bits. I'll do his memory more justice next week, when I can think straight. Right now, I'm in a selfish pit of mourning. As a crossword writer person, it's like the floor has dropped out from underneath me. As a human being person, it's like I got sucker-punched. Hard. My deepest sympathies go out to his wife and family.
Here are some nice things that have been written about him in just the past 24 hours.
- Will Shortz's very moving remembrance of his friendship with Merl
- A personal tribute from Deb Amlen (the crossword blogger at "Wordplay")
- Amy Reynaldo's touching words at "Diary of a Crossword Fiend" (like me, she includes a Merl email; she saved and cherished correspondence with him as well)
- Merl's obituary in the Washington Post
- Merl's obituary in the Arizona Daily Star (Merl graduated from U. of A)
- Merl's obituary in The Tampa Bay Times (Merl lived in Tampa)
- A heartfelt crossword made yesterday by Brendan Emmett Quigley (you will need AcrossLite or other software that handles .puz files to open it)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]