Sunday, January 18, 2015

Screw the "rules"

This week's Premier Crossword by Frank Longo is titled "Colossal Coinage" and as intriguing as that may be, it was very little help figuring out what was going on in the puzzle. There are no ?-style clues to indicate punniness and it's not a riddle or a quote, so what could Frank be up to, I wondered. The answer had to wait until I had solved the puzzle all the way down to the clue for the last long answer where Frank revealed his cleverness: the starts of the eight long answers combine to spell a very long "word" known to everyone but not at all apparent to me until I looked back and saw this:

23a - SUPER MARKET (It has many food aisles)
34a - CALIFORNIA (Rialto locale)
44a - RAGING WATERS (Strong rapids, say)
59a - LISTICLES (Posts such as "10 Signs You're a Puzzle Addict")
67a - EXPIRATION DATES (Product label stamps)
78a - ALIGNMENT (Straightening)
92a - DOCILE NATURE (Sheeplike disposition)
99a - OUSTED FROM (Kicked out of)

All of which gives us SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS, which of course originated with MARY POPPINS (115a)

I confess I was a little disappointed as I was solving the puzzle at how straight-forward and non-whimsical the cluing was, but now I think that was just Frank's way of building the solver up to really appreciate the surprise when the "colossal coinage" is finally revealed. Solvers more imaginative than me may have seen the conceit earlier than I did, but it gave me a real "Aha" moment at the end of the puzzle that I really enjoyed.

While I'm confessing things, I also have to admit that I wasn't certain of two answers and checked the solution in my paper to be certain of my entries before I scanned my completed grid. THORA (36a - Actress Birch) crossing OGEES (38d - S-curves) could conceivably have an "a" at the junction, I think, but I was pretty sure I had it right. On the other hand, I had to run the alphabet twice to produce LISTICLES (59a), a word which I had never seen before but was delighted to learn actually exists - here's the definition from "An article on the Internet presented in the form of a numbered or bullet-pointed list." I've seen hundreds of these but never knew that they had a name - now I do! I have to say that crossing that word with "Tesla Motors CEO Musk" (52d- ELON and "Fast whirling dance of Italy" (16d - TARANTELLA) was less than helpful but in the end both "L"s are inferrable so no harm, no foul.

Most of the messiness in my grid was the result of entering answers of which I was 100% certain, until they were wrong. "Flip one's lid" is GO mad, right? No, dear reader, it's GO APE (30a). I was even more confident that "Week-old baby, e.g." was a NEwborn until I had to write over most of it to produce NEONATE (41d) in its place. Not really problematic but certainly messy.

I noticed another thing that I for which was prepared to call out the constructor until I came across a second occurrence that made me think it had to be deliberate - maybe as a poke in the eye to critics who insist on complete obedience to the "rules" of puzzle construction. Some bloggers who know a lot more than I do about cruciverbalism insist that a word that appears in a substantive way in a clue should not also appear as an answer in the puzzle. So with the clue for ALUM (2d) being "Grad" I was certain that the answer for "Diploma holder" would not be GRAD (26a), until it had to be. But then it happened again when TWA (90a) was clued with "Old Delta alternative" was followed by "River deposit" being DELTA (125a). I'll eat my hat if that wasn't deliberate.

OVER PRICE (4d - Charge too much for) crossing SUPERMARKET (23a) seems appropriate.

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