Sorry, Right Number

Billy Mumy, "Long Distance Call" (The Twilight Zone, 1961)


Sunday, October 28, 2007

TALKING HEADS -- Puzzle by Ben Tausig, edited by Will Shortz

Eight inter-related entries are featured in this mystifying hodgepodge, drawing upon the "talk" personalities of Al Franken, Bill Maher, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Phil Donahue, and Don Imus, as follows:

PUNNEDIT (84D. What the puzzlemaker did to the name in each of this puzzle's theme answers?)
FRANKENSENSE (25A. Al's impressions?)
WHYPAYMAHER (27A. "What did Bill do to earn this check anyway?"?)
LIFEOFOREILLY (48A. Bill's biography?)
YOUREGETTINGCOULTER (64A. "And tonight's guest is ...Ann!"?)
DOTHELIMBAUGH (77A. Dance like Rush?)
DONAHUEDARE (104A. Phoning Phil and hanging up immediately?)
IMUSBEOFFNOW (106A. Don's party words?)

A quotation from Ben Tausig, this Sunday's "puzzlemaker" -- "Here is the dirty secret of crosswords: They are made by human beings. We stash our friends’ names in grids, allude to our lives and pull theme ideas from drunken conversations at the bar. The last has actually happened numerous times; I keep a black pen in my pocket and write reminders on my hand. Once, I thought of a puzzle about being underemployed while biking home from my then-job as a barista at a kitschy dessert café in Hell’s Kitchen, New York." --
"The Puzzler Laid Bare" by Ben Tausig, BAY WEEKLY, Volume 15, Issue 13, March 29 - April 4, 2007.

It's little wonder today's puzzle feels like it's from the twilight zone!

The closing lines of "Long Distance Call" from the Twilight Zone -- "A toy telephone, an act of faith, a set of improbable circumstances, all combine to probe a mystery, to fathom a depth, to send a facet of light into a dark after-region—to be believed or disbelieved depending on your frame of reference. A fact or a fantasy, a substance or a shadow, but all of it very much a part...of the Twilight Zone."

I'm all for a good connection -- but in this new day of the cellphone, it becomes difficult to decipher sanity. It seems that in this case, the "puzzlemaker" phoned in the puzzle and fled on his bicycle to other more important things in a world beyond the Twilight Zone!

I understand this mélange of puns -- "pundit", "frankincense", "why pay more?", "life of Riley", ""you're getting colder", "do the limbo", "don't you dare", and "I must be off now", but what? Are we talking to ourselves here? Are we even connected? Flashing through my mind are those advertisements on network television where the caller loses contact and everything just sounds so bad! Or worse yet, the rush hour on the Long Island Railroad where "Honey, I'm home!" has become the tepid "Honey, I'm almost there..."

This is a free call!

1. pirate spirits 5. jarhead's rank: abbr. 8. presidential candidate born in hawaii 13. kids may take them to school in boxes 19. authors' list ender 20. corn product 21. japanese apples named for a mountain 22. like bollywood films 23. writer steel 25. al's impressions? 27. "what did bill do to earn this check, anyway?"? 29. unaided perception 30. sum in english 31. protected by law 32. "a la recherche du temps perdu" author 34. 1960 pirates world series hero, familiarly 35. vietnam's _____ dinh diem 36. first name in beauty products 37. natural riser 38. flirt 40. it might make you sick 42. bit 43. capital of lorraine 44. flavorful seed source 46. half of an athletic pair 48. bill's biography? 53. deutsch article 54. flair, e.g. 55. carnatic pieces 56. sequel's sequel 57. lonely trucker, perhaps 59. maestro toscanini 62. have a bawl 63. go postal 64. "and tonight's guest is ... ann!"? 68. old english bard 69. 2007 hall of fame inductee ripken 70. seconded 71. ages and ages 72. lou gehrig's disease: abbr. 73. andrea _____ 75. "_____ time" 76. ger. neighbor 77. dance like rush? 81. excites 85. "just _____!" 86. boring 87. many a fed. holiday 88. when doubled, a robin williams character's catchphrase 89. as a friend, in france 92. set of web pages 93. hawaiian staple vegetables95. _____-x 96. chem. unit 97. rags' opposite 100. juddof"numb3rs" 101. mantel piece 102. like the era of highest sheet music sales 104. phoning phil and hanging up immediately? 106. don's parting words?109. number revealer 110. disconcert 111. spinning 112. "helping doctors help patients" org. 113. singer braxton 114. comes after 115. laughs heartily 116. sunday delivery: abbr. 117. an nco 1. joe louis arena team 2. tony winner for "who's afraid of virginia woolf?" 3. frequent end of an anniversary toast 4. boo-boo 5. a synthetic 6. clooney or rooney 7. like baseball shoes 8. iced 9. power-driven shop tool 10. 1977 double-platinum steely dan album 11. clock div. 12. beginning of a noted political admonition 13. high _____ 14. perturbs 15. carded 16. the silver screen 17. what astrophysics and advanced calculus probably arent 18. reaction to pepper, maybe 24. overhang 26. mer filler 28. snicker syllable 32. red rose 33. triple-header, maybe 37. magazine exec in a robe, familiarly 39. _____ lilly 41. partner of kissed 43. wee 44. be a benefactor 45. ex-yankee hideki 47. "the galloping gourmet" host graham 48. riga resident 49. roman symbol of power 50. sheet material51. yarn spinners 52. litter cry 54. qualifying round, informally 57. pedicab alternative 58. back59. mushroom with an umbrella cap 60. wrestler flair famous for the figure four leglock 61. where angels come from 63. hot 65. word before primaire or secondaire 66. style with dark clothes and heavy eyeliner 67. look like a creep? 68. deplorable 73. pleasing 74. hoffman who once backed a pig for president 76. like human vision 78. cut-up 79. hgts. 80. ajman's home: abbr. 81. "tsk!" 82. arizona state flowers 83. perfect 84. what the puzzlemaker did to the name in each of this puzzle's theme answers? 87. position in a rhythm band 89. see 90-down 90. with 89-down, historic part of nw europe91. some seal hunters 92. rabbi's instrument 93. material for a whitesmith 94. illustrator silverstein98. they may come to une tete 99. a.f.l's partner 100. laughs heartily 103. set before v 104. action figure? 105. some "csi" figs. 107. black pride cut, informally 108. pbs supporter