Sunday, December 22, 2013

The tibia parallels the fibula (fun fact from the puzzle)

The "breaking story" on today's Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo, titled Breaking Story, is that there is none. When I first read the title I thought Frank might use the grid in some ingenius way that would "break a story" in the sense of reporting on a news item (from "A breaking story is a news story which is still happening as you report it.")  or in the screenwriting sense ( "Breaking story is mapping out a story and coming up with a logically and dramatically consistent beginning, middle, and end, and the major checkpoints therein.") Frank A. Longo is entirely capable of creating a puzzle that does fantastic things like that, but today's grid is not one of them.

I had the first two theme answers in place when I stopped to study them to see if I could figure out the theme and it didn't take very long to see that both answers contained the word "story", split between the beginning of the long answer and the end. So, Frank's breaking "story" is merely breaking the word in two and sticking the two parts on either end of the theme answers, thus:

23a - SCIENCE LABORATORY (Place for test tubes)
32a - STORAGE FACILITY (Warehouse or silo, e.g.)
48a - SELF CONGRATULATORY (Saying "Yay, me!," say)
68a - STONE QUARRY (Place for excavating building rock)
86a - STORM OF CONTROVERSY (Uproar over a disputed matter)
105a-SPOILS OF VICTORY (Winner's loot)
117a-STEADY STATE THEORY (Obsolete hypothesis about the universe's origin) (Frank stuttered a little there)

Now I don't mean to in any way denigrate the puzzle just because the theme didn't wow me with its creativity - obviously I had set my expectations too high. I was prepared to be AMAZED (11d - Blown away) by the theme, and I still expect to be ONE DAY (60d - Eventually), just not today.  As split word puzzles go, I think this is a pretty good one.  The long answers are all really good phrases that match their clues perfectly and it must have been difficult to find examples of the right lengths to provide the perfect symmetry in the grid for which Frank is famous. A file letter word can only be split in four different places and Frank used them all so we can't be certain where the break will come in any given answer. We do know, though, that every long answer will begin with S and end with Y so once the theme is apparent those letters can go in automatically, which helps a little. Only the last theme answer gave me any pause when it came to filling it in because if I have ever heard of the Steady State theory of the origin of the universe I must have forgotten it, because I needed wiki (post-solve) to learn this: "In cosmology, the Steady State theory is a now-obsolete theory and model alternative to the Big Bang theory of the universe's origin (the standard cosmological model). In steady state views, new matter is continuously created as the universe expands, thus adhering to perfect cosmological principle. While the steady state model enjoyed some popularity in the first half of the 20th century, it is now rejected by the vast majority of professional cosmologists and other scientists, as the observational evidence points to a Big Bang-type cosmology and a finite age of the universe." I love learning new stuff from the puzzle.

As to the non-theme fill, I had never heard of LEELEE (73a - Sobieski of "Max") but she became my favorite answer when google led me to this (which is R-rated so if you are easily offended by such things you might want to ABSTAIN (91d - Not partake) from watching):

Phew, where was I? Oh, yeah - the puzzle. I thought it was serendipitous to discover Bears Hall of Famer Gale SAYERS (59d) almost directly atop SAY YES (104d - Agree (to)) - it's almost like Frank placed a little REPRISE (92d - Musical echo) in the grid. Also, Frank tips his TAM (16a - Cap for a Scot) to Festivus for the rest OF US ( 87d - "That makes two __!") which is celebrated on December 23. (What - you don't know about Festivus?! Well here's the story (from wiki): "Festivus, a well-celebrated parody, has become a secular holiday celebrated on December 23 which serves as an alternative to participating in the pressures and commercialism of the Christmas holiday season. Originally a family tradition of scriptwriter Dan O'Keefe working on the American sitcom Seinfeld, the holiday entered popular culture after it was made the focus of a 1997 episode of the program. The holiday's celebration, as it was shown on Seinfeld, includes a Festivus dinner, an unadorned aluminum "Festivus pole," practices such as the "Airing of Grievances" and "Feats of Strength," and the labeling of easily explainable events as "Festivus miracles."
The episode refers to it as "a Festivus for the rest of us", referencing its non-commercial aspect."
There's also a mini-MOTIF (12d - Recurring subject) involving the more traditional holiday this week, with Christmas carol opener O COME ( 69d) and Ave MARIA ( 109a) both making an appearance. Clearly Frank was in a holiday spirit when he constructed the puzzle.

Not a lot else caught my attention (but that might be because LEELEE kind of distracted me). I did enjoy being reminded that MOLDER (58d - Crumble into particles) is a perfectly good word that I had forgotten about, and I always enjoy seeing Machu PICCHU (2d) in the grid just because I love the way it looks. I only had one MEA Culpa (22a) moment while solving, when I forgot how the French pluralize (or plural-ISE, if you are British - 121a) words so I started out with ADIEUs (3d - Farewells, in France) until the crossword set me right.

I always sign off with a video suggested by something in the grid and today there are plenty of opportunities with Perry COMO (35d), the musical "Grease" (101d), Kathy MATTEA (45d) and Mötley CRÜE all vying for attention, but Frank ended with a KISS (128a - Give lip to?, which is my favorite clue) and so will I.

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