100 Years Ago

New York Times crossword March 11 / Constructed by Victor Fleming and John Dunn

Ugh. I am totally going to have a Celine Dion earworm all day because of this crossword. The grid pays homage to that sunken metaphor the TITANIC (“Theme of this puzzle,” 63 Across) to mark the 100th anniversary of its demise.

Studying the puzzle title and many cross-referential clues — especially 3 Down (“2003 James Cameron documentary about the 63-Across”) — helped me figure out the theme before I had entered a word. The main answers tell the story of the luxury liner’s ill-fated MAIDEN VOYAGE (88- and 13 Down), in which it set sail from SOUTHAMPTON (65 Down) and crossed the ENGLISH CHANNEL (96 Across) en route to NEW YORK CITY (5 Down). But, of course, it hit a BERG (“Maritime danger, 86 Across) and never made it. More than 1,500 passengers died, including Jack Dawson (just kidding) and JOHN JACOB ASTOR (“American millionaire lost with the 63-Across,” 27 Across). The tragic tale has been commemorated many times over, including in the musical (The) UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN (33- and 88 Across); the “1955 Walter Lord book” A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (38 Down); and the aforementioned James Cameron documentary GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS (3 Down).

Despite the incessant overplaying of Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” interest in the wreck seems unabated, as evidenced by a planned April 1 auction of Titanic artifacts. Among the items for sale: gold coins, fine china and a 17-ton section of the ship’s hull.

All that being said, I have to admit a bit of puzzlement at the timing of the crossword: It appears to be a full month before the centennial of the vessel’s sinking off the coast of Newfoundland in April 1912.

Other Titanic Terms Dept.: “Stern” is REAR (17 Down). “Transmitted, as an S O S” is SENT (65 Across). “Recover, as a sunken ship” is RAISE (51 Across).

Another Anniversary Dept.: Today is the first anniversary of the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear disaster that devastated Japan. “Like tsunami-affected areas” is COASTAL (69 Across).

Words With Friends Dept.: “Short outings” are JAUNTS (27 Down), which reminds me of my personal high-score for a word in Scrabble — JAUNTED, for 116 points.

From My Childhood Dept.: I’m a “Generation ___” XER (58 Across), which means as I kid I watched the sitcom “Benson” with Robert Guillaume and Inga SWENSON (“Benson” actress, 47 Down).

For Fun Dept.: “Birth announcement” is IT’S A BOY (108 Across). “Work in wildlife preservation?” is TAXIDERMY (48 Down). “Newspaper or magazine offering” is a PRINT AD (84 Down). And a “Classic black-and-white film featuring gigantic irradiated ants” is THEM! (73 Across).

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