Pearl Fishers priestess / WED 5-4-16 / Variety of sherry whose name means little apple / Guitarist Borland / Vocalist known for 1944 song / Muhummad's successor to Shiites / Dante symphony composer / Author of 1841 poem / One-named athlete whose real first name is Edson
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Constructor: Jacob Stulberg
Relative difficulty: Medium (took me longer than normal, but it's bigger than normal (16-wide))
THEME: "INTO / EACH / LIFE / SOME / RAIN / MUST / FALL" — these words sort of "fall" down the grid (in circled squares) and then two more answers in the corners provide examples of where these words have appeared:
- 15A: Author of an 1841 poem that contains the line spelled out by the circled squares (LONGFELLOW)
- 64A: Vocalist known for the 1944 song whose title (and first line) appears in the circled squares (FITZGERALD)
- a rectangular canvas bag, used especially for carrying a soldier's clothes and personal possessions. (google)
LONGFELLOW work is famous at all, though. The title doesn't appear in the clue because it's got "RAIN" in it. It's called "The Rainy Day" and it goes a little something like this (actually it goes precisely like this):
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;Is this famous? Not as famous as the FITZGERALD song, which is not really a FITZGERALD song—it's an Ink Spots song *featuring* Ella. I was wondering why the voice I was hearing in my head was a man's and not Ella's. Then I found it and played it, and there it was, just as I remembered it. This may seem impossible, but I forgot she even sang on it. So ... a not-that-famous poem and a song on which the really famous singer is not the lead ... it's not the strongest theme foundation, but it's solid enough.
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary. [source]
I want to point out some details that relate (for me) to consistency and elegance, though these details are simply details and you may not see them the same way. First, and not really all that important, is the fact that all the lyric words are buried inside other words where their lyric meaning is hidden (good!) .... except LIFER, where the meaning of "Life" still pertains. To be fair, I'm not sure there's a way to hide "LIFE" inside a word in a way that de-Lifes it. And to be double-fair, that clue was Wicked (and good) (29A: Big house party?). I had LIFE- and still had no idea what was going on (a LIFER is one who is serving a life sentence ... in the big house, i.e. the pen, so ... he (usually "he") is a party (i.e. member) of the big house). Ideally you bury all those words, but you do what you can do.
Bigger issue for me was having non-theme answers of equal length to the theme answers stacked right on top of (or below) said theme answers. MANZANILLA and INFILTRATE are both great words (and I love those open corners in general), but it's weirdly distracting to me that the theme answers have these non-theme twins right up against them. Not sure why grid was made that way. Easy enough to design a grid that isolates the 10-letter themers. Add black square and push FITZGERALD up / LONGFELLOW down. Also, what is ALTA MONTE Springs (!?!?!?!)? I'm not sure wide-open corners are worth enduring such a marginal place name ... part. Altamont is a thing. That, I would've accepted. This feels like a themed puzzle that the constructor tried to give the virtues of a themeless (open corners, mostly nice longer answers), but for that reason it feels a little ragged to me. Fine, just a little conceptually and architecturally messy.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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