Sunday, February 23, 2014

ADAGIOS, CADENZAS, a Hymn and a Ballad - all in one puzzle!

The Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo for today is titled "Title Starters", and it turned out to be a different sort of puzzle than I have come to expect. A quick scan of the clues revealed no "?-style" clues to indicate wacky answers were called for, and there was no indication of a riddle being involved, so what, I wondered, might Frank be up to? The only way to find out was to start the puzzle and see what develops, so to speak, and that's what I did. By the time I came to the clue for the first long theme answer I had enough crosswords filled in to see that the answer was a very straight-forward answer to a literal clue; no punniness or humor appeared to be afoot. So it went through the whole grid, and try as I might I could detect no theme that would tie the answers together in a way that could be inferred from the title. So with the grid almost complete I was pondering these long answers and hoping that Frank would provide a hint in the clue for the final theme answer:

23a - KILLING FROST (Vegetation-destroying weather event)
33a - ME MYSELF AND I ((Number one, redundantly)
52a - SOFTLY AND TENDERLY (Hymn that repeatedly urges "come home")
70a - WITH THAT THOUGHT IN MIND ("Having planted the idea...")
87a - HIS SERENE HIGHNESS (Title for Monaco's Prince Albert II)
105a-SONG SPARROWS (Sweetly melodious birds of North America)

Maybe with the answers written out like that, instead of occupying the squares in the grid, I could eventually have seen the connection to 'Title Starters' but the concept still eluded me. I toyed with the idea that maybe there were movie titles that began with the phrases, but the only example I could come up with was "Me, Myself and Irene" (starring Jim Carrie?) but that seemed implausible so I abandoned the idea and moved on to finish the grid. It turned out that Frank explicitly spelled out the connection in the last theme clue: "She scored a #1 with the hit found at the starts of this puzzle's longest answers". The answer, of course, is ROBERTA FLACK (121a) and her song "Killing Me Softly with His Song" is one of my favorites from back in the day (that being the early '70s, as I recall).

So the TITLE of the song is made up of the STARTERS of the six long answers - I guess that works OK. I didn't love it and I didn't hate it, but I'm happier when I can figure out the theme on my own.  As to the answers themselves, I really like some of them and I'm always impressed when Frank comes up with a grid-spanning themer to divide the puzzle in half and as always the symmetry of the grid is a joy to behold.

Let's see what other hidden features can we find in the grid today?

-The grid opens by mixing ACID (1a - Tums target) with an ALKALI (1d - strong base), which I suspect was not an accident by the constructor.
-The folks in the top-right section of the grid are being FED (15d - Nurtured) an OVO-lacto diet (16d), while the south-easterners are being REGALEd (102d - Provide a feast for). Those on the left coast are eating SEAWEEDS (52d - Kelp and Irish moss) and FRITTATA (54d - Italian omelet) while taking ORLISTAT (53d - Weight-loss drug), which seems strangely appropriate. To complete the dietary mini-theme, we have north-westerners subsisting on DELI MEAT (4d - Salami, say). (The mid-Atlantic region, with no food references at all, is EMACIATEd (49d - Make unhealthily thin).
-EASTER (10d - Egg-hiding occasion) is coming up and it surely will not be celebrated with a LOW MASS (30a - Catholic service with minimal ceremony).
-Having LEG (92d - Pants part) ADJOINED (124A - Was next to) by HEMS (87d -Pants parts) must have been the reason for the similar clues, I think.
-The IPHONE (96d - Device that features Siri) necessarily has a RINGTONE (118a).
-NETSALES are a company's bottom line (90d) only if the company has no other expenses, which seems unlikely (especially at tax time).
-GOOD OMEN (25a - It bodes well) or HEX (89d - Put a jinx on)? We'll have to consult the ORACLE (103d - Delphi shrine).
-Weed B-GON (119d) and so am I for this week.

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