Sunday, June 22, 2014

Solar Summit Sec

Either I'm way over-thinking the puzzle or this week's Premier Crossword, titled "Remaking The Longest Day" " is the most deviously clever puzzle Frank Longo has offered up recently.  The title suggested to me that the theme answers might involve anagrams of "the longest day" since "remaking" in puzzle terms can mean rearranging letters. When I arrived at the first long answer, clued with a "?" of course, I could see the answer should be MOISTER MUSCLES which clearly is not a rearrangement of "the longest day", but I'm pretty good a doing the Jumble ("That Scrambled Word Game" by David L. Hoyt and Jeff Knurek, that appears on the same page as the crossword puzzles) and it didn't take me long to see that the letters could be arranged to spell "Summer Solstice" which of course is "the longest day" in astronomical terms. Since we in the northern hemisphere enjoyed that phenomenon just yesterday (June 21) it seems appropriate to celebrate with a puzzle tribute.

I was cruising through the grid and having fun trying to guess the theme answers just from the available letters and I had all but one filled in by the time I arrived at the bottom of the grid. That one theme answer (or so I thought) caused me immeasurable grief because one crossword which was rock-solid produced an "A" in the answer, and there is no "A" in "summer solstice". And yet there it was, and I couldn't get rid of it, so what's up? Well, it turns out Frank had planted a little trap for unsuspecting solvers.

The answer in question appears at 98 across which is symmetrical with the other theme answers and exactly the same length, and it's clued with a "?" so it HAS to be a theme answer, right? Well, maybe it is but it's not the same as the other ones because it's not an anagram of "summer solstice".  I finally realized this when I re-read the reveal clue that Frank had provided at 121 across: "June event "remade" six times in this puzzle". I had originally thought this was expounding the obvious until I went back and counted and discovered I had seven "theme answers":

23a - MOISTER MUSCLES (Biceps with more sweat?)
32a - MILERS COSTUMES (Running specialists' outfits?)
44a - RECLOSE SUMMITS (Shut down skiing peaks again?)
67a - IMMERSE LOCUSTS (Put cicadas under water?)
74a - CRUMMIEST SOLES (Most inferior shoe bottoms?)
98a - IMMORTAL CUSSES (Never-forgotten four-letter words?)
106a-CUSTOMER SMILES (What a store manager likes to see on faces?)

Frank Longo's grid symmetry is legendary - there's no way he's going to stick a non-theme answer in a place that should by all rights be included in the theme. So I played around with "immortal cusses" and the best anagram I could come up with, consistent with the theme, is SOLAR SUMMIT SEC, which I suppose could be a term to describe the exact moment when the sun reaches its northern-most point in the sky. That would be a literal definition of "Summer Solstice" so I could certainly make that work in terms of the theme.

That's my theory, anyway. I'd be interest to hear if anyone else has any ideas as to what's going on with that rogue answer, but I'm sure it's not just a failed attempt at a seventh anagram of "summer solstice" - at least I hope it's not.

The rest of the fill is all pretty standard stuff and I spent so much time studying the theme issue that I really didn't notice much to comment on. There was one of those unfortunate SMASHUPS (89d - Bad wrecks) of proper names that often cause me grief, with "Whoopie's "The Color Purple" role (42a - CELIE) intersecting with both "Sci-fi writer Stanislaw ___" (34d - LEM) and " "How the Other Half Lives" author Jacob) (36d - RIIS) - I guessed right in both crosses but honestly, any vowel seemed like it would work in either place.

That's all.


  1. Hiya. Nope, you aren't missing anything. It's just my boneheaded mistake. I'm actually at a loss as to how it could have happened! I am mortified, but I'm glad you caught it, so at least I can give King Features a heads-up about it. They'll probably be getting exasperated e-mails about it. Curiously, the French word for "immortal" is "immortel," so theoretically I could make that "a" an "e" for an easy fix, and make the clue {Never-forgotten four-letter words, in France?}. Yeah, I know, that's ugly as sin!

    Well, I'm off to apologize profusely, then spend the rest of the day with my head buried in the sand.


    --Frank Longo

    1. Frank Longo (if that's really who you are) - first, thanks for reading my post; it's pretty exciting to think that my thoughts about your puzzles are of any interest to you as the constructor. Second, I'm not buying the "boneheaded mistake" explanation - you're much too accomplished an artisan to make such an error. I like my more complicated explanation better, and I think "Solar Summit Sec" is a fine phrase to describe the exact moment of the Summer Solstice, so I sticking by my theory (your denial notwithstanding). But really, thanks for reading and especially for commenting - it made my day!

  2. I'm late to comment on this post, but I'm only here because I just recently completed this puzzle (and had already tossed the part of the newspaper with the solution), and was curious about the very point you make here, namely the A/E mystery. I couldn't figure out how there could be an A and not two Es in IMMORTAL CUSSES from SUMMER SOLSTICE, and a search for a solution led me to your blog. So thanks for being here, and I'll be checking back in the future!

    I'm sure that is indeed Frank Longo, constructor, in the post above, but despite his sincere mea culpas, he fails to address your perceptive discovery that he references six, not seven, theme answers in his clue for 121a. That's far too specifically coincidental to be an oversight! What gives, Frank?

    1. @Bruce Wrighte, thanks for confirming my suspicions - something is definitely amiss.