Sunday, May 17, 2015

Trial Balloons

The Premier Crossword by Frank Longo for this week has the title "Common Endings" and if the constructor hadn't provided a revealing entry as the last theme answer I never would have figured out what that meant.  I'm sure it was a failure of imagination on my part that I couldn't see, even with most of the grid filled in, that the "common endings" of the theme answers are all things that, literally or metaphorically, "fly". Here's the list - did you spot the common feature without seeing the final theme entry?

23a - VICIOUS RUMORS (Cruel canards)
33a - UNITED STATES FLAG (Old glory)
42a - STRANGE BIRD (Odd sort)
57a - EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME (Summer hours in Ohio)
66a - RABBIT FUR (Cottontail's coat)
74a - MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL (The Tigers are part of it)
88a - PATROL PLANE (Lockheed P-3 Orion, e.g.)
95a - FALSE ACCUSATIONS (Libelous claims)

111a-THINGS THAT FLY (What the ends of eight long answers in this puzzle are)

The list seems to be evenly divided between things that literally "fly" (flag, bird, baseball, and plane) and things that "fly" in an idiomatic sense (rumors, time, fur, and accusations), which I guess is a nice touch. The clues are totally straightforward so it's entirely possible to solve the grid without having any idea what the theme is - that's basically what I did - but I like it better when figuring out the theme provides an "AHA!" moment and/or helps solve the puzzle.

I had some trouble gaining traction as the entire top portion of the grid eluded me, but things picked up when I saw "Old glory" and had just enough crosswords in place to know it had to be UNITEDSTATESFLAG. That told me that there was no trickery afoot, and I was able to cruise through the rest of the puzzle with only a few missteps, all easily (if not neatly) fixed. Then I was able to go back and piece together the top of the grid. In the end I was left with one blank square staring out from the bottom of the puzzle where "Actress Stevens" (99d) met "Milk-curdling stuff in a calf's stomach" (118a) - I had ING_R/RENN_T, and an "a" seemed more likely for the name but an "e" looked better for the enzyme. In the end I just gave up and looked up the answer - I hate it when that happens.

A couple of entries gave the puzzle a local flavor for me. I live about 15 miles from Brunswick Naval Air Station which was, until it was closed a few years ago, home to several squadrons of P-3 Orions that were regularly deployed to patrol the Atlantic in search of potentially hostile submarines. They often flew right over my house when they were coming and going and it was always a joy to see them. In a bit of crossword serendipity, PATROLPLANE provided the initial letter for the other item that was near and dear to my heart, LOBSTER (89d - Dined-upon decapod) - if there is one item that is associated with my home state, surely it's Homarus Americanus, or the Maine lobster.

After a hiatus of several weeks, Sue Grafton reappears in the puzzle with "O IS for Outlaw" (87a).

Seeing Major League (Baseball) in the grid inspires me to post a clip of one of my all time favorite scenes from the movie bearing that title - enjoy, and I'll be back next  week.

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