Sunday, August 25, 2013

Howie WHO?!

(I now see by comparing my completed grid to the solution printed in the paper that for the second week in a row I finished with an error: NAGASAKe/REeD (31d-Port of Japan/73a-Tara of "American Pie")

This week's Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo is titled "Job Screening" which didn't offer much help in figuring out what might be going on in the puzzle and a quick scan of the clues didn't reveal any "?"s to indicate there would be whacky cluing, so I launched into the solve without knowing what Frank might be offering up for our solving pleasure. The mystery was short-lived, though, as the clue at 23a revealed that the puzzle is one of his (usually punny) riddles! So okay, game on!

The riddle is revealed to us in six parts placed throughout the grid with the answer completing the symmetry. With the grid solved and all the parts in place we discover it goes like this:

23a - What is the name of a
32a - new reality series
50a - featuring comic Mandel
65a - working on his chores and
84a - struggling to complete
102a-his assigned tasks?

115a-"The Howie Duty Show"!

The first thing that strikes me about this is that if you don't know who Howie Mandel is, and I suspect many do not, the whole thing falls flat on its face, riddle-wise anyway.  In fact, the crossing of SALMA (36d-Hayek of Hollywood) with the comic's name may stymie some solvers who are, like me, pop-culture illiterate. I have at least heard of Howie Mandel - others may not have. For the answer of the riddle to work as a pun, you also have to be old enough to remember the "Howdy-Doody Show", which I obviously do but younger solvers may still be scratching their heads (or more likely heading to google to figure it out). So as punny riddles go, this one will work for some solvers and leave others flat - Frank A. Longo usually does better.

Disregarding the riddle the puzzle is pretty standard Longo fare. I didn't have much trouble with the grid and had only a few write-overs, which are apparent in the copy of my grid which is reproduced above. I also ended with a mistake at the crossing of a Japanese port, which I most certainly should have known since the anniversary of the date (August 9, 1945) it became the second (and so far last) city to have an atomic bomb dropped on it was just in the news; not knowing the spelling of Tara Reid's name bothers me a lot less. As for my write-overs, I tried duck where Frank wanted BLUE (25a - Teal, e.g.), and anger where FUROR belonged (50d - Rage). I also started with RunSINTO before IRAN (90a - Gulf nation) came along and made me change it to RAMSINTO (86d - Collides with).  I also had to change OPIate to OPIOID (100d - Narcotic) to make the bottom right corner work. That's where I finished up with a lucky guess at the crossing of NATHAN (99d - Lane of Broadway) with TIA (113a - Actress Carrere), both of which were unknowns for me.

Miscellaneous thoughts on looking back on the solve:

 - They often elicits groans > PUNS (55a) reminds me that this puzzle was only partially successful in that regard.
- "There it is!" >VOILA (96a) is OK but I wanted the answer to be "Ta-Dah!" which is what I am more likely to say upon completing a difficult puzzle.
- Jaguar, e.g. (4d) could as easily have been a CAr as a CAT - that's pretty sneaky and I suspect it caught some who didn't wait for the crosses to determine which one Frank wanted.
- ERIN (5d - ___Brockovich) was my first entry into the grid, which is pretty surprising considering my ignorance of most pop-culture names. I guess the fact that it's a real name from the news as well as a movie title helped me remember her.
- Arcane (62d) produced one of my favorite words, ESOTERIC - it's fun to see it in the grid.
- Twin clues at 66d ("Right, bro") and 103d (Beatnik's "Got it!") confused me for a while because I wanted the Beatnik to say IDIG instead of IMHIP, but of course it didn't fit.
- The Random Roman Numeral at 79d (Ovid's 1,051) > MLI could have been clued a number of different ways: (per Wiki)
MLI may refer to:
Some of those references are pretty interesting but probably none of them are suitable as a clue in a Sunday crossword puzzle.
- Made-up word of the day: GOERS ( 104d - People on the move) - I have seen this used only in conjunction with other words, as in beachgoer or churchgoer; it doesn't stand on it's own, I think.
- Suffix with colour > ISE (117d) utilizes a classic constructor's gimmick that's handy to know about: the spelling of "colour" (which my spell-check keeps marking as wrong) signals that the answer is going to be the British version of the suffix, not the American version which would be IzE. We say "colorize", they say "colourise" - great cluing!

Here's something from a RAPALBUM (21a - CD from Eminem or Jay-Z, say) to send you on your way until next week:

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