“Stay Strong, Y’all”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 🧗🏼‍♀️ 🖼 🍸 Difficulty: 3/5

There’s no way around the fact that it’s a subdued week here on Rosswords. Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of 9/11, which date tends to have unpredictable effects on the emotional landscape of New Yorkers like me. I happened to be a high school senior in class on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. More on that in a moment.

It’s also the case that Texas’s SB8 recently went into effect, which bill I find unjust and insidious in its potential to erode constitutional rights well beyond the extent to which it does so on its face. Here in crossworld, there’s a fundraiser on to support the rights of Texas women who are immediately affected by the law. I donated this week’s Rossword as an incentive grid for that effort, organized by Wordplay columnist Rachel Fabi, so if you enjoy the puzzle I encourage you to make a donation.

These days its pretty common for me to make-a-crossword-about-it when I’m frustrated at the state of affairs, but 20 years ago, in the aftermath of 9/11, I didn’t have this particular outlet. (Hell, I don’t think I solved a whole crossword until 2010.) Back then, I was more likely to write my feelings. I’ll leave you with what I wrote a couple of summers after the fact, with thoughts and spoilers for “Stay Strong, Y’all” after the jump.

9/11

After the second plane hit, they cancelled classes but kept us in school. Kids milling around. Someone would run by every few minutes. Adults had no answers, so they put CNN on in the auditorium. They got the big screen down just in time for us to watch the first tower collapse. There were people in that room with family who worked in the Twin Towers; I’ve never asked anyone how many. One person I talked to remembers tower one falling impossibly slowly, a heavy stone traveling down their throat to their stomach. But I recall it like a gunshot wound. Some gasped, some screamed. Some grabbed the arm next to them and said, No. 

The next day (and the next, and the next) we watched mom on the television, because what else could we do. The first day we had waited in line to give blood. It turned out later that very few people down there actually needed a transfusion. You either made it out or you didn’t. Standing there on a corner, one of my friends thought there was video but no sound in the chapel. Another said we watched the second tower fall, not the first. Nobody remembers 9/11. The only thing we could agree on was that there was no way we’d get to give blood before the station closed for the night. But we didn’t go anywhere. We just waited on Amsterdam, standing in a line that went around the block, and down the street, and out of sight. 

This is a pretty classic Rossword Puzzle formulation. I’m generally drawn to words that have various distinct meanings, and when they get buried in evocative colloquialisms–like the “hang” in HANG IN THERE, GUYS–they tend to light up my theme radar.

I toyed with the idea of the hanging you’d do in, say, a SPACE STATION or INDOOR PARACHUTING. It felt distinct enough from the hanging [from your fingernails] you do in a ROCK CLIMBING GYM. But ultimately, the three examples felt like enough theme material, especially with a 15-letter revealer.

And, this week, that’s all I have to say about that.

Happy solving, friends.

-Ross

4 thoughts on ““Stay Strong, Y’all”

  1. Lovely puzzle. I wonder if “passengers” might be better than “pilots” in the clue to 46A. But, either way it is clued, I find that themer a little too evocative of the events of twenty years ago. I am thinking about putting some Bailey’s in my Sunday morning coffee.

    But I’m one of those New Yorkers you describe in your second sentence, so maybe mine is not a universal reaction.

    On a (much much) lighter note, kudos on the clever clue to 25D.

    1. You’re probably right about the 46A clue, Rich. I don’t know why, but it always strikes me as weirdly comforting when I do see the pilots in the departure lounge, cooling their jets, so to speak. I might have added a little liquid courage to my own coffee this morning. Hope yours helped!

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