Sunday, June 10, 2007

Puzzle by Bob Klahn, edited by Will Shortz

I worked this puzzle Saturday morning (the Magazine and other Sunday sections are delivered with the Times Saturday subscription) after it was thrown into my driveway in its blue plastic wrapper, flopping violently across the asphalt like inanimate road kill -- somehow, I knew things were wrong. It had arrived late, it was double-wrapped (fear of rain) and its rubber band was askew to one side. Nevertheless, these things will happen I told myself.

I took the bruised blue-plastic covered edition into the house to the kitchen where I prepared an English muffin and hot chocolate with which to drown my meager medication, sliding the blue-wrapped paper out from the first blue wrapper and then the paper itself from the second blue wrapper. I then immediately bypassed the tonnage of news and trivia, going straight to the Magazine -- I ripped out the back page with the puzzle and photocopied it, the better to write upon than the thin glossy paper provided by the Times (not complaining, just making note).

I scanned the puzzle with the HP scanner and e-mailed it to two addresses -- puzzle solvers who like to get it earlier than Sunday morning --- I feel all right about doing this, as it does not deprive the New York Times of remuneration for their publishing services, as both parties make purchases from the publisher, and for many years.

I sat down to start the puzzle -- ACHE (1A Cause for massage) and its corner, fine.
GIGOLO (6D “Just a _____” [Marlene Dietrich’s last film]) brought more into focus; but wait, there’s a title to this puzzle -- it says ‘ALL ABOUT NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO-- hmm… Well, never mind, oh wait CAMPAIGN with seven more squares…hmmm….

And on it went -- ever so often, I’d check back and say, how is this puzzle “all about National Public Radio”? Well, the answer is, it’s not! The title means to be a “helpful” clue for eight long answers that contain the initials NPR.

Yes, that is it! -- don’t dare call this a “theme”! -- no, no, no, don’t, just stop now! It’s not! 24 squares out of 441 squares, 67 of which are black!?!?!! No way! If you really want to say it has a "theme", then it’s “Black Squares and Words”.

To top it off, the long answers have nothing to do with any kind of broadcasting, save for
JASONPRIESTLEY (58A TV star who directed the 1999 documentary Barenaked in America”). The other entries, CAMPAIGNPROMISE (23A Tax relief, e.g.), SEASONPREMIERE (83A Fall even, usually), SILKSCREENPRINT (121A Serigraph), HUMANPRETZEL (3D Contortionist), and PUSHKINPRIZE (66D Russian literary award established in 1881) are antithetical -- only the two diabolical entries MODERNPROMETHEUS (39A Mary Shelley subtitle, with “The”) and MANHATTANPROJECT (101A Matter of W.W. II secrecy) seemed to have any kind of relationship, but what? What was I looking for -- WHAT? The double-blue wrapped missile skidded across my driveway over and over again in my mind, like discarded auto trash!

Further, why have I waited so long to write about this crossword puzzle? To be frank, I thought, I don’t care for it much -- but reminding myself that there is always a Rorschach to be analyzed, I laid it neatly upon my computer desk, glancing at TOAMOUSE (17D Robert Burns poem), then placed my own mouse on top of the completed puzzle, went back to bed (yes, at noon!) and fell asleep while watching Roger Clemens earn one million buckaroos pitching to the Pirates. When I awoke, the game was over and the evil puzzle still lurked next to my computer -- solved, but not blogged! I went about doing what I must do outside of puzzledom and returned again to it in the late evening Saturday. There it was, still prone upon the surface of my desk.

YAKUTSK (92A World’s biggest city built on continuous permafrost), I said to myself -- OGPU (5D K.G.B. predecessor). PLOPPLOP (59D Initial sounds of a relief effort?) -- what? Shoes or excrement? ZENER (128A _____cards [ESP testers]), ENGLUT (63A Consume priggishly), TOE (64A Piggy), it’s sounding like someone is gathering body parts to create a Frankenstein’s monster -- and there's more, yes! STERNUM (99D It sticks to the ribs), REARM (25D Give up on d├ętente), RIM (10D Circular edge), GRIN (11D Put on a happy face), PEC (14D Lifter’s rippler), SEEDS (129A They’re the pits), and back to ACHE and HUMAN PRETZEL with a TWIST (102D New wrinkles)! Wait! Suddenly! There, there in the corner, the last word going down along the right edge of the puzzle -- MONSTRO (100D The whale in “Pinocchio”)!

A deconstruction of this construction reveals a pieced-together monster, a formula for self-destruction and failed promises, twisted pride and lustful longing. It is a walk-in freezer full of unassembled parts awaiting a bolt of lightning during a really scary thunderstorm to bring it to life! Currently, it’s just a DEAD MONSTER!

Well, I have good news -- I just decided to check out Mr. Strong’s appraisal on the REX PARKER DOES THE NYT CROSSWORD PUZZLE blog site-- and it is so on the money, I don’t have to write anything -- all I need do is refer you there!

Ha, ha! ...and I thought it was just me!


For today's cartoons, go to
The Crossword Puzzle Illustrated.

To go to original post with illustrations and puzzle grid, click on title at the beginning of commentary.