Oh, Say …

New York Times crossword puzzle July 6 / Constructed by Daniel C. Bryant

Happy Fourth! Or, as we say in the City of Brotherly Love, Happy Phourth!

It’s actually the Sixth of July, but the puzzle’s patriotic theme makes it feel like Independence Day all over again. The grid’s subject is none other than THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER (65 Across), written by FRANCIS SCOTT KEY (24 Across).

Oh, say, can you see ... the musical notes? (Click to enlarge.)
Oh, say, can you see … the musical notes? (Click to enlarge.)

The anthem has been in the news a lot lately as the nation marks its 200th anniversary. It was written in EIGHTEEN-FOURTEEN (30 Across), apparently while Key was involved in a PRISONER EXCHANGE (99 Across) during the War of 1812. The flag itself flew over Fort McHenry in BALTIMORE HARBOR (114 across). And the tune – once a BRITISH PUB SONG – has been sung countless times over two centuries, notably in 1991 by WHITNEY HOUSTON (88 Across).

But say, can you see what’s hidden in the shaded squares? They are the first notes to the song we know so well – SOL, MI, DO, MI, SOL, DO – placed in correlation to their position on sheet music. As you can see from my write-over at 8 Down, I thought these notes were located on a musical SCALE (which they are – C major, I think?) but the constructor was looking for the answer musical STAFF (“Locale for this puzzle’s shaded squares”).

A pretty easy crossword, but also informative –it made me curious enough to look up Key’s bio. Summary: He was a lawyer working to get a prominent doctor released from British custody when he witnessed the ultimately unsuccessful attack on Fort McHenry. Inspired by the sight of the flag, he wrote a poem whose words were later set to music. The tune became the national anthem on March 3, 1931; composer John Williams premiered a new arrangement of it on Friday in Washington.

Fun Facts Dept.: Other things I learned from this puzzle include the real name of a former “Tonight Show” host – James Douglas Muir LENO (57 Across). Also never heard of XERES, a Spanish town whose “name was the source of the word ‘sherry'” (103 Down). And did you know that ECUADOR (82 Across) is a “Country whose national currency is the U.S. dollar”?

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “Penn station?” is IVY LEAGUE (42 Down). The top-tier University of Pennsylvania, located here in Philly, goes by the nickname Penn – not Penn State!

Need some solving tips and tricks? I’ve posted some here. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below. You can also visit my Facebook page, or tweet me @crosswordkathy. And here’s a little more about me.