Man of Many Words

New York Times, Nov. 15

Wow, another birthday puzzle this week.  A couple of weeks ago it was the Guggenheim. Today, it’s songwriter JOHNNY MERCER (115 Across, “Lyricist born 11/18/09 who wrote the words to the 10 songs with asterisked clues”).

Connecting the circled letters in alphabetical order yields a G clef, in celebration of the upcoming 100th anniversary of Johnny Mercer's birth.
Connecting the circled letters in alphabetical order yields a G clef, in celebration of the upcoming 100th anniversary of Johnny Mercer's birth.

I’m giving away my age here (or at least my generation — Generation X and proud of, thank you very much!) but I think the first time I heard of Johnny Mercer was while reading “Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil” back in the mid-1990s. The book, nominally about a murder trial in Savannah, Ga., is really a fascinating study of the city and its most eccentric residents — mostly Jim Williams, proprietor of the grand and historical Mercer House. Legend has it that Johnny Mercer grew up there, but that’s not exactly true; he did grow up in Savannah, and references to him and his music are woven throughout the book.

So I can’t sing the lyrics (or even hum the tunes) to the songs in this puzzle, including ONE FOR MY BABY (21 Across), TANGERINE (26 Across), GREAT GUNS (108 Across) and HAYRIDE (11 Down). I think I might know a couple of bars of MOON RIVER (67 Across) and JEEPERS CREEPERS (3 Down) but I wouldn’t bet my paycheck on it.

The second part of this puzzle was the connect-the-letters image at the end, where by drawing a line between the circled letters (as explained in a note with the grid) you get a G clef.

Speaking of music, I was a little surprised at the specificity of 11 Across, “‘___ Nagila’ (song title that means ‘Let us rejoice’).” Really? You need the translation to figure out that the answer is HAVA? I guess it’s interesting, since I actually didn’t know what “Hava Nagila” meant, but it’s hardly essential to solving the clue.

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

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