Merl Reagle crossword Jan. 23
Turns out that today is the 25th anniversary of the first induction ceremony for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I didn’t know that until I stumbled upon this pop quiz in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer — but how serendipitous considering the topic of Merl Reagle’s puzzle.
Reagle doesn’t come right out and tell you his theme, although the “Tower of Power” title is a hint. (I think the title is also a reference to the black-box acrostic plopped into the top of the grid, but I’m not sure.) At any rate, Reagle’s rather lengthy editor’s note states only that “a handful of people were the first to receive a certain honor” on this date 25 years ago. Most of them appear in the grid as the answers to 11 clues simply represented by a “?” They include ELVIS (79 Down), LITTLE RICHARD (4 Down), CHUCK BERRY (12 Down) and FATS DOMINO (14 Down). (Left out? The Beatles.)
This is where things get weird. Reagle has shaded parts of certain answers that are then supposed to be transferred to the acrostic. Those words provide the theme — THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM — and, when placed in the correct order, align to spell the name of a lesser-known inductee: ALAN FREED, the DJ widely credited with coining the term “rock and roll.”
Now, I admire any constructor who pushes the envelope to do something cool with a grid (see the NYT’s “On A Roll”). But this mishmash of a crossword and an acrostic seemed forced and, well, inelegant. The editor’s note explaining the puzzle took up almost as much column space as the Across clues.
Reagle acknowledges in the editor’s note that the puzzle “breaks a lot of rules” — including the use of about a dozen two-letter words. (For instance, “Sodium’s symbol” is NA [38 Across].) But he says breaking the rules is OK this time, considering the puzzle’s subjects. Meh. I still don’t see why he had to shade the ROLL in TROLL (“Fairy tale lurker,” 8 Down) instead of just having ROLL as an answer in the grid. The same goes for HALL in SHALL (“Must, in legalese,” 1 Down).
But I’ll give him points for trying something different. And I’m glad he gave a starting hint to the acrostic (an “F” in the top row). Alan Freed may be a hall of famer, but I don’t think I would have solved it without that help.