Sunday, May 4, 2014

"Pabés" are not savory spreads!

I attended the same college at the same time as Stephen King - that particular factoid has never been particularly helpful to me until today, when I opened up the paper to the Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo and discovered a puzzle with the title "Horror Stories". I'm not really a fan of King's books but because he's an old college-mate I follow him closely enough to at least know the titles of many of his works and that was all I needed to get a leg up on the puzzle today.

I set upon the puzzle in my usual methodical fashion, reading the clues in numerical order both across and down and filling in the answers I was more or less "certain" of, so by the time I came to the first long theme answer I could see CARRIE somebody and my first thought was Carrie Nation which obviously doesn't have enough letters so I thought maybe we would be adding letters to invent some kind of Frankenstein Monster type creation a la the horror films of old. By the time I moved on to the second theme answer CHRISTINE was apparent and that's when I realized the Mr. King might be involved and I confirmed it a little later with MISERY. In the end the list looks like this:

23a - CARRIE CHAPMAN CATT (Women's suffrage leader)
39a - CHRISTINE TAYLOR (Actress who played Marcia in "The Brady Bunch Movie")
55a - IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO ("We can only do this as a pair")
68a - MISERY INDEX (Measure of national economic health)
80a - INSOMNIA TREATMENT (It might include light therapy)
99a - DESPERATION SHOT (Three-point buzzer beater, often)

For those solvers who didn't go to college with Stephen King and don't otherwise know the title of every book he ever wrote (there must be other besides me who don't read his fictional stories of horror), Frank helpfully adds a reveal answer to clear things up:

116a-STEPHEN KING NOVELS (Their titles are found at the starts of...)

The King of horror has more than 50 novels to his credit (you can see the list here: so Frank A. Longo had a lot to work with but I'm glad he stuck with single-word titles to keep it simple. King has also written five non-fiction books, numerous short stories and other works (including a play and two comics) and his books have sold more than 350 million copies - obviously I should have gotten on his good side when I had the opportunity.

Carrie Nation, if anyone is interested, was not a women's suffrage leader but rather a radical leader of the Temperance Movement in the late 19th-/early 20th- centuries, known for smashing bars with her hatchet. It seems like there may be the basis for a horror story right there.

The non-theme fill was vintage Longo fare which is to say mostly pretty easy with a couple of areas guaranteed to create fits, at least for me.  There were a couple of traps that I fell into and I suspect may have caught others at least for a while. At 13d "Made knotty" I was sure sNARLED was correct but that produced the nonsensical TANsLE for "Entrap" (10a). I complicated the situation by deciding that answer might be "enisle" fit the definition, so that whole area took some straightening out to get me to TANGLE/GNARLED. My second mistake was figuring "Not fixed in one place" (52d) was MObILE; in fact I was so sure of it that I never questioned PAbES as the "Savory spreads" at 65a. I didn't realize my mistake until I copied the answers to post here and discovered that Frank had in mind the much more specific MOTILE ( "Moving or able to move by itself. Sperm and certain spores are motile") which of course produces the obvious PATES for the spreads - I'm embarrassed that I didn't catch that earlier. I always create at least on problem for myself by writing in an answer without checking any crosses because I am so sure it is right, and today that was throwing in geom for "H.S. math" (41d) because I didn't take TRIG until my first year of college.

There was not much else that I thought was especially problematic, although I was grateful when the crosses produced KAHLIL (16d - "The Prophet" author ___Gibran) and OVIEDO (17d - Spanish city) or that corner could have been trouble for me. For some reason HEFT (40d - Hold to test the weight of) crossing FOIST (48a - Force (upon)) tickled me although I have no idea why. OTALGIA (94d - Earache, formally) will be a handy word to use the next time I visit my doctor as I do suffer from it from time to time.

As I contemplate the completed grid I wonder why Frank chose MISERY INDEX as his central theme answer as I would think he's be going for just the opposite - I'll leave that for you to ponder until next week. In the meantime remember: IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO.


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