Sunday, February 2, 2014

It could have been a puzzle about OWLETS

The Premier Crossword Puzzle by Frank A. Longo for this week is titled "Hoo's Hoo", but even more noticeable than the title is the giant monogram HH that jumps out from the center of the grid and I suspected right away that we were going to be on a search for celebrities with those initials. What I didn't suspect was that the theme answers would be found in the down answers as well as the across one, all symmetrically arranged, of course.  In the end we have seven notable personages all of who share the the same initials:

23a - HOLLY HUNTER ("The Piano" star)
32a - HAL HOLBROOK ("All the President's Men" actor)
32d - HERBERT HOOVER (Depression president)
35d - HUGH HEFNER (Tycoon on "The Girls Next Door")
43d - HELEN HAYES ("Airport" Oscar winner)
103a-HEDDA HOPPER (Old Los Angeles Times gossip columnist)
116a-HENRY HUDSON (New York Bay explorer)

There are two more down answers that begin with H that I initially thought might be themers but they both came up one H short, so maybe they are bonus answers that can be combined to form another HH pair for the grid:

24d - HEROINES (Main female characters)
74d - H ROSS PEROT (1992 and '96 also-ran)

I really wish Frank had replaced those answers to get one more iconic (to a man of my age, anyway) HH into the puzzle: HUBERT HUMPHREY.  Here's a brief biography of his political career (from wiki):
Humphrey was elected to the Senate in 1948, the year his proposal of ending racial segregation was included into the party platform at the Democratic National Convention, where he gave one of his most notable speeches on the convention floor, suggesting the Democratic Party "walk into the sunshine of human rights."[1] He served three terms in the Senate from 1949 to 1964 and was the Democratic Majority Whip from 1961 to 1964. During his tenure, Humphrey was the lead author of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, introduced the first initiative to create the Peace Corps, sponsored the clause of the McCarran Act to threaten concentration camps for 'subversives', proposed making Communist Party membership a felony and chaired the Select Committee on Disarmament.
Humphrey ran two failed campaigns for President in the 1952 and 1960 Democratic primaries. When Lyndon B. Johnson assumed the role of the Presidency after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Humphrey was chosen by Johnson as his running mate to fill the vacancy during their landslide victory in the 1964 presidential election.
After Johnson made the surprise announcement that he would not seek reelection in March 1968, Humphrey launched his campaign for the presidency the following month. Humphrey's main Democratic challengers were anti-Vietnam War Senators Eugene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy. Humphrey, who was loyal to the Johnson administration's policies on the Vietnam War as Vice President, saw opposition from many within his own party and avoided the primaries to focus on receiving the delegates of non-primary states at the Democratic Convention. Humphrey's delegate strategy succeeded in clinching the nomination, choosing Senator Edmund Muskie as his running mate. With the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Kennedy that year, and heightened opposition to the Vietnam War, the convention saw major protests which later proved costly to Humphrey's campaign. On November 5, 1968, Humphrey lost to former Vice President Richard Nixon in the general election."
In fact, I think I'll unilaterally proclaim this to be a tribute puzzle to the great man, who died on January 13, 1978 - R.I.P., HH.

Usually Frank's long theme answers all run across the grid and the down answers tend to be short and uninteresting; not so today. The unique shape allows for some nice long answers running down the grid, my favorite being BANANA SHAPED (40d - Like some kitschy yellow phones). RING NECKED (7d - Like some pheasants and ducks) also has a nice "ring" to it (sorry). Maybe an alternate title could be "Frank MAKES A CHANGE" (28d - Does some modifying) to signal the difference. 

There are some nice long non-theme answers going across, too. ERIE CANAL (21a - Albany - Buffalo waterway) sitting over WIDE ANGLE (25a - WIDE ANGLE (Like a lens for seeing the big picture?) is nice, as is CENTER ICE (114a - Hockey face-off spot) atop KNEE SOCKS (118a - Shin-covering footwear).  Even the little 3 x 3 squares necessitated by the HH contain some interesting words. I'm of the right age to well-remember Beat-NIKs (50a) and the MOD (53a) Squad, and POL (59a) is a nice alternative answer to a clue that usually produces the more mundane SEN. Sometimes a lot of short fill means a lot of dreck, so kudos to Frank for avoiding that in favor of more fun stuff.

Let's see, what else caught my eye:

-HAPLESS (91d - Unlucky) looks like a lost theme answer looking for its other half.
-Shout-out to my dear puzzle-friend Andrea, with her initials appearing in the clue for ON TOP (119a - At the ACME)
-I always wondered where the phrase, "...but will it play in PEORIA (2d)?" came from - at least it was helpful today.
-When I read the clue for 100d, "Gave lip to" I briefly entertained the idea the answer might be "kissed" which I like better than SASSED.
-I wonder why Frank clued "Joan of ARC" (63a) in English when he could have paired "Jean d'___" with the clue for 65a, Coup d' ETAT? Maybe he wanted the grid to maintain an ANGLO-Saxon (16d) flavor. But then we have "OOH-la-la" (54d) and "Big name in French Lexicography" LAROUSSE (48d) in there, so he's not a total Franco-phobe.
-Oscar DE LA Hoya (4d) makes an appearance to represent Hispanics, since I'm giving NOTICE (96d) to ethnic groups.
-ANNO Domini (82a) reminds me there's not a single random Roman Numeral in the grid.
-"Beanery" is a fun clue for DINER (105d).

OK, I'll close with a confession: when I first saw the title I misread it as "Hoo Hoo's" and got a little excited for a few seconds. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, this will explain it (but remember, sometimes ignorance really is bliss - you have been warned):

Here's another possibility for the more faint of heart:

Either one would have made an interesting puzzle, I think.

I'll let singer Della REESE (120a) send you on your way:

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