Get a Load of This!

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For example, I know that the first letter in the entry is going to be the key itself, because that’s how writing out keys works, but I’m not sure which one it is yet, so I’ll leave that blank for now. That means I have four letters left. That’s not enough for the answer to be major, minor or sharp, so the answer must be __ FLAT. I was able to get the E in E FLAT from the crossing at 22D. See? I can’t even carry a tune, but I could figure out the key of Beethoven’s “Eroica.” Go forth and use that trick to impress your friends.

41A. Take note of that “maybe” in the clue “C.D. holders, maybe.” We are not supposed to be thinking about a rack for compact discs. These C.D.s are certificates of deposit, and the answer is IRAS, which hold C.D.s as part of their investment portfolios.

64A. At first, I thought the answer to “What was cool for a long time?” was going to be ICE CAP, which would have made this a heartbreaking clue, but the answer is ICE AGE.

4D. Partner clues want the solver to find a word that is usually connected to the other word in the clue using the conjunction “and.” What does that mean in English? It means we are looking for a word that would complete the sentence “here and ___.” It could be “there,” but we only have three squares. The phrase that comes to mind is “here and NOW.”

26D. I have still not seen CATS, so I was not aware of the Jellicle Ball. I solved it, but thought it might be a toy for the Jellicle Cat. It’s the annual Ball where the Jellicle CATS dance and hope to be chosen to go to heaven, which is an odd choice for a dance, unless you happen to be on the bad side of someone named Carrie.

29D. “This” in “Get a load of this!” is LAUNDRY, which is done in loads.

33D. Yes, I thought this was racy at first, too. Let us get our minds out of the gutter. Just because the answer to “More than a couple” is THREESOME doesn’t mean that it is a double entendre. Nor is it a triple one, so stop snickering.

Today’s Theme

Scene: The desk of Joel Fagliano, in an undisclosed location. Mr. Fagliano’s Slack alert “dings.” He notices that the message is from me and takes a long swig from his bottle of Pepto-Bismol.

Solution to Evan Birnholz’s Jan. 17 Post Magazine crossword, “Captain Obvious Starts a Book Club”

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This had two main practical effects. First, I had trouble staying on-topic with most conversations. A little kid’s brain might jump from thought to thought in rapid succession, but in my case there wasn’t a great way to follow my train of thought at all. I would hear my parents or a teacher utter a specific phrase, and that would often trigger for me a memory of some tangentially related phrase from a completely different context — for example, a line from a movie that I’d watched — and I assumed that I could say it and others would understand what I was thinking and how I arrived there. To everyone else, it made no sense whatsoever. In regular conversation, there’s a logical progression that leads people from A to B to C and so on, or at least most of the sentences you say to someone else have some coherent relation to one another. But if someone started a conversation with A, that would send me not to B but to a train of thought all the way to some distant thought like L or M, and I would come out and say that, which left people confused. This might seem like a benign problem to have, but consider that this was a daily communication breakdown that made conversations very hard for me to understand and participate in, especially with other kids, who don’t have the same faculty of language or understanding of behavior that adults do.

‘Gridman’ goes off the grid, crossword community loses a giant

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C.G. Rishikesh, a devotee of the craft till the very end, passed away in Chennai on Wednesday after a brief illness

The crossword community has lost one of its giants. C.G. Rishikesh, whom most readers of The Hindu will have been familiar with as the ‘Gridman’, passed away in Chennai on Wednesday after a brief illness. He was 78.

A veteran setter of cryptic crosswords, with over a thousand published puzzles to his credit, ‘Gridman’ was more fondly known as Chaturvasi sir — or simply as “Rishi” — among countless friends, cruciverbalists and protégés in crossword forums and websites across the world. He was “the face of Indian crosswords in the international community”, being the first Indian setter to gain visibility in several global crossword groups.

He joined The Hindu Group’s Frontline magazine in 1986 after an 18-year stint with The Indian Express. He retired from service in 2003, but not before donning his ‘Gridman’ cape in 2001, when he made his historic entry into the TH setters’ panel. He has also made significant contribution as a crossword consultant for The Hindu, helping set the tone for fairness and high standards in the paper’s cryptic crossword feature.

Remembered as a rare individual with a prodigious memory and knowledge of English literature, whose passion for lexical whimsy was soundly matched by his zeal for scouting, guiding and nurturing budding crossworders, C.V. sir was a devotee of the craft till the very end. His enthusiasm scarcely waning with age or health, he marched on and continued to set puzzles till February 2021, when the last of his grids (THC 13177) were published in the pages of The Hindu.

Well-versed in Tamil and English, C.V. sir enjoyed translating, building a bridge — as was his wont — between tongues as well as minds. Among the many works from his long career, he has edited Lettered Dialogue, by historian and author K.R.A. Narasaiah.

His oeuvre is hugely popular among aficionados and novices alike. His clues, brewed to a highly satisfying blend, are so clean that, once you have familiarised yourself with his style, you can almost feel the wordplay morph from cryptic to obvious. They dwell in that Goldilocks zone of “neither too tough, nor too easy”. He encouraged setters to garnish their grids with an “Indian” flavour, including references to national motifs and dictionary-approved terms, and led distinctively by example.

C.V. sir was an eminently approachable person who was generous in his appreciation of good work, as many co-setters attest. During his days as crossword consultant, he could be sighted at The Hindu Crossword desk, ensconced snugly in a spare chair, spectacles pinched between index finger and thumb, and squinting astutely at a sheet of clues, rising from his reverie only to crisply pass on his perspicacious comments to the crossword editor.

For a man of his stature, he displayed tremendous grace and compassion — be it as an arbiter in crossword contests, mediator of disputes in comment forums, or while sharing his keen insights. He reportedly remained curious, always open to feedback and eager to evolve.

He is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.