Sunday, August 24, 2014

The missing letter is "A"

This week the Premier Crossword by Frank Longo bears the title, "Employee-Consumer Policy" and a quick glance at the clues reveals that there's a riddle afoot so there's nothing to do but launch into the puzzle and see what develops. As you can see from my (almost) completed grid I had some trouble with a couple of bad guesses right at the outset. I wanted "Ma's ma" (9d) to be "Gram", which seemed perfectly reasonable, and a "Volunteer's declaration" is certainly "I'll do it", right? Frank had other answers in mind and they appeared soon enough from the crosswords but, Jeez, I hate to start off with rooky mistakes like that.

Anyway, after I got the top part of the grid sorted out I was able to piece together the first part of the riddle so I soldiered on and with only a couple more wrong guesses I managed to plug in all of the parts of the riddle and it's punny answer:


(wait for it)


The common phrase is, of course "beggars can't be choosers" which informs us means "Those in dire need must be content with what they get. For example, The cheapest   model will have to do—beggars can't be choosers.", but you already knew that, right? I'll leave it to the individual solver to decide if the punch line deserves a guffaw or a groan (I'm in the "groan" camp).

I have one major complaint with the non-theme fill.  Sharp-eyed readers probably noticed an empty square in my (almost) completed grid, where "Clinton cabineteer Donna" (8d) crosses the end of " "Resident Evil" Actress Jovovich" (24a). I'm sad to say that I didn't know either of those proper names and from my perspective an "I" or a "Y" seemed equally likely and when I'm faced with a 50 - 50 possibility I'm almost certain to guess wrong, so I just left it blank. I have to admit that I was totally gobsmacked when I checked the solution and discovered it was neither - the correct letter for that square is "A", a possibility that never entered my mind! So the individuals are Donna SHALALA and MILLA Jovovich, respectively. I probably should have know the former Cabinet member but I think I can be forgiven for not knowing the actress, whose full name, by the way, is Milica Natasha Jovovich  according to Wiki.  Still, I think it's a lousy cross.

The rest of the puzzle was fair enough (i.e., I was able to fill it in) although the extreme bottom-left corner could have been troublesome if the down answers hadn't produced ATHOL (115a - "A Lesson From Aloes" playwright Fugard), DEANE (119a - Diplomat Silas) and MASSE (123a - Curving billiards shot). I learned a new phrase with Table d'HOTE about which Wiki informs: "In restaurant terminology a table d'hôte menu is a menu where multi-course meals with only a few choices are charged at a fixed totalprice. Such a menu may also be called prix fixe ("fixed price"). The terms set meal and set menu are also used. The cutlery on the table may also already be set for all of the courses". 

Nothing else really reached out and grabbed me, for better or for worse, so rather than subject you to random blather and risk having you say DANG YOU (17D - "A pox upon thee!", updated) I'll leave you with this:


  1. Gotta love Frank's (I assume) deliberately atrocious puns!

    I know you didn't like the cross with the A, but it was fine with me as I was familiar with Milla Jovovich (Fifth Element, Resident Evil, etc.) even if I didn't know the Clinton cabineteer. It's natural to rail against the inclusion of something we've never heard of, but, as will no doubt appear as a riddle's answer in an upcoming Longo opus, "One man's meat is another man's poisson".

    I see your point, though, which I believe is that crossing two obscure proper names can be risky.

  2. Bruce, thanks for your comment. I know that my ignorance of all things pop-culture related is my fault, not the constructor's, but I'll bet a lot of solvers got stumped by the crossing of those two names. I do look forward to Frank's upcoming opus, though!