“Hit the Low Notes”

by Jessie Bullock & Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] Difficulty: 3.25/5

This past Valentine’s Day, Jessie and I decided to build a puzzle together on Twitch in lieu of a romantic dinner. And we’re all about romantic dinners. But as it happened, Valentine’s Day fell on a Monday, and it was just more convenient for us to get wine-drunk and weird on the preceding Saturday, which was what we did! If you happen to have been tuned in to that Twitch stream, I hope enough time has elapsed that the solve feels fresh.

I chose to post this puzzle today because, well, Jessie is out of town. She was invited to present her research on how criminal groups act as political brokers at a conference in Reggio Calabria. (Apparently academics who study organized crime convene where the organized crime historically has been, which, yay!) And her absence represents one of the very few times we’ve been apart for more than 12 hours at a time over the last 26 months. And I miss her. On top of everything, her trip took her nearly to the very slopes of none other than Mount Etna! GAH!

Anyway, thanks for abiding a little love note to my forever collaborator. A couple brief thoughts/spoilers for “Hit the Low Notes” after the photo below of the beautiful jet-setting polymath in question.

Sicilian smoker? More like Sicilian smokeshow!

I don’t actually remember the original raison d’être was–it was a “sax” homophone puzzle–but at some point Jessie offered BASS SAX as a revealer with vertically-oriented answers, and suddenly the whole thing felt a lot more interesting. Especially since there were at least four viable theme set works with four distinct spellings to work with. I would have much preferred to work OLIVER SACKS (pictured above) into the puzzle, but ultimately the symmetry didn’t allow for its, specifically because of the relative lack of ___ SACS options from which to choose.

Happy solving, friends!


6 thoughts on ““Hit the Low Notes”

  1. Etna, I’m glad I met ya. I assume 16A was the rationale for publishing this one while she was away? I still don’t understand 1A, though.

    • After I learned the 16A clue I went into a deep wiki hole reading about Joe Colombo’s influence on the production of the movie. Wild stuff. And 1A is sort of a Britishism I think. If you score a decisive goal at the very end of the match, you’ve “pipped” your opponent.

  2. Re 49A… Is there a word, in XW-speak, for people/places/things that have renown in crossworld far out of proportion to their current profile simply because of the brevity of their names? Like the depicted ETNA, Alan ALDA, Yoko ONO, Mel OTT, ANI Skywalker, etc.? I feel like the entire crosswording population must jump for joy every time a newcomer with a three-letter name enters pop culture gains currency in the historical lexicon. Thank you for directing, Ms. Duvernay! For being mathematical, Ms. Lovelace! For acting, Ms. de Armas! For songwriting, Ms. Difranco!

    Someone invent a word for that, and then use it liberally in new grids! (Remember “Sniglets”?)

    Oh yeah – nice puzzle! Though as an 18-year veteran of 21D I would argue that it is not fully-defined by the activities cited in Wikipedia. There were and are a lot of terrific people there doing fine, less controversial work.

    • You know, answers like the ones you cite above often get lumped into the “crosswordese” definition, but I don’t think that’s quite right. To my mind, crosswordese is stuff like ECARD or ERN or ASEA etc., stuff that doesn’t often show up in the wild, so to speak, but appears in crosswords at highly disproportionate rates. I’m open to suggestions for a word to describe popular crossword fodder that’s popular IRL!

      As for 21D, I can only say what I’ve heard myself say many times before… crossword clues are hints, not necessarily exhaustively descriptive definitions! With trivia clues like that, I’m often just looking for something particular outré or notable to include. (And, you must admit, 20 is notable!)

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