"Midrash" by Martin Ashwood-Smith (April 1, 2014)
As reflected by its release date, this puzzle is not supposed to be taken too seriously. If you are familiar with stacked 15s puzzles (both triple and quadruple), you may already know that they have not been that popular with two leading members of the crossword blogosphere. Critics have singled out stacked 15 puzzles for a variety of sins, most notably the perception that the same 15-letter phrases occur far too frequently, but also overall weaknesses in fill.
With this in mind, and just for fun, I took two of the worst "repeater" 15s, i.e., A_LOT_ON_ONES_PLATE and SCARLET_TANAGERS, and framed the whole grid around them. [GB notes: links are to their usage in the Shortz era, but click here and here for information/images]
Also, just for fun, I have included some old school fill words and larded the clues with some deliberate old-timey clues ... in other words, the puzzle has been "geezerized"! For example, references to long obsolete vehicles (Speedwagons), and songs and movies from over half a century ago. Much of the fill is decidedly old-school too, with answers I would never (or very rarely) use normally, such as ONER and EDE. There are many more accessible ways to clue DEL and DIME, but we chose the middle name of the winner of a long-ago horse race and a classic Depression-era song respectively.
I deliberately placed into the grid rather nasty partial word duplication (see if you can find it!) and upped the word count to 74 ... a number which is too high for the modern Will Shortz-edited themeless. In short, I've deliberately made a puzzle that is designed to "tweak" the proverbial crossword blogger's tail [look closely and you'll see AMY (Crossword Fiend), DEB (Wordplay), and REX (Parker) in the grid, albeit not clued for the respective bloggers]. The scowls and grimaces that this puzzle may elicit are all meant in good humor. So I hope you enjoyed the solve, and may the spirit of E.T. Maleska live on ... if only to remind us just how far crosswords have evolved in the past quarter century.
GB adds: I learned about the existence of this grid back in January 2014, when Martin was one of our test solvers for A Tribute to N.C. Wyeth: The 40th Worst Crossword in the Universe that was co-constructed with Michael Hanko. I encouraged Martin to clue the puzzle, in time for release to our website in time for April Fools' Day. The Barany and Friends beta testers mentioned on this puzzle's main page vetted both the fill and the clues carefully; I am pleased that Martin was able to work in some of our suggestions, in particular, Michael's inspired ideas for the puzzle's title as well as its illustration with a stack of ONES. Also, please click here for a relevant memento that friend Arlene Romoff called to my attention, and here to watch Ray Bolger sing and dance a relevant Frank Loesser song. Finally, I have always wanted to sneak my beloved daughter's name into a puzzle, and there it is smack center.
Incidentally, I love Martin's obscure clue for PIA, who is usually clued for this starlet [and don't get me started on the plural]. With the kind indulgence of my friend Paul Luftig, a retired banker, I can now share two stories that arise from his interactions with Pia's sugar daddy of an ex-husband, čber-businessman Meshulum Riklis. At their very first meeting, an arranged luncheon, the first words from Meshulum to Paul were "I don't know why I'm having lunch with you; I usually get laid at lunch." Years later, when Riklis was recovering from some prostate treatment, he confided in Paul that Pia would not sleep with him because she thought it was contagious.
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