Sunday, March 10, 2013

Veni, Vidi, Vici

I found a lot to love in this Premier Crossword puzzle which Frank A. Longo calls "March of Ides". The first thing to love is that the title itself is a play on the Ides of March, which Frank reminds us is coming right up on the FIFTEENTH of this month (17d - Ides of March date).  Even more impressive, though, is how Frank translates the title into action in the grid where IDE literally marches across the grid, from left to right as it moves down the puzzle.  The triumphant procession looks like this:

23a - IDEALWEIGHT (It's not too light or too heavy)
31a - WIDEVARIETY (Big, diverse collection)
44a -  SPIDERPLANT (Lily-family member with long, narrow leaves)
58a -  INSIDESTORY (Scoop)
70a - COLLIDEWITH (Hit into)
86a - INRESIDENCE (Dwelling)
98a - SELFEVIDENT (Requiring no proof)
109a- KNIGHTRIDER (1980s David Hasselhoff series)
125a- TRAVELGUIDE (Tourist office publication)

That exhibition of construction wizardry by itself is enough to make me love the theme of the puzzle but Frank didn't stop there. He continued his tour de force by adding a slew of theme-related entries throughout the grid, beginning with the literal reference I've already mentioned. He even reminds us why the Ides of March is such a famous date by including the immortal (the words, not the speaker) line ETTUBRUTE? (85d - Ides of March cry) spoken by Julius Caesar as he lay dying on the Senate steps (at least in the play - it may or may not be historically accurate, but who cares?). We're reminded of the city where the event occurred at 62d, Roman fountain name (TREVI), and Caesar's reign was by all accounts a TYRANNY (48a - Dictatorship). We have the Roman love god, AMOR (66a), who no doubt was acquainted with the APHRODITE (22a - Greek love goddess) (I told you there was a lot to love here).  A couple of NEROS (19d - Pianist Peter and a Roman emperor) even make an appearance.

But wait, there's more! Frank sprinkles the grid with random words that owe their origins directly to the Romans whose language, Latin, may be dead but it lives on forever as the root of many English words. The PLEBE (78a - West Point freshman) originates from the common people of Rome, the plebs, and surely the Roman Legion included LANCER(s) (79d - Armed cavalry soldier). We still call low-altitude clouds (64a) STRATI just like they did back in the day, VIA (4d - By means of) is the Latin word for "road", and if ATTICUS (96a - "To Kill a Mockingbird" Finch wasn't named after some famous Roman I'll eat my hat.  As the cherry on top of this cruciverbalists' delight Frank adds three random Roman numerals (all "I", interestingly - do you think he might have been bragging, "Look at what I did"?) by taking us to ARTI (55d - Intro painting class, maybe), introducing another dictator, PETERI (82d - "Great" czar) and capping the whole thing off with III (124d - Sundial's 3). I'd call that a pretty theme-rich puzzle and an amazing construction feat - thank you, Frank A. Longo, for demonstrating how good a puzzle can be.

I'll leave you with "AGAL (7a - ___in Calico" (1946 hit)) because it's as old as I am and it still sounds pretty good - enjoy!

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