Over the Moon
"Midrash" by George Barany and Ellen Ross (October 2014)

As soon as we read the news that William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd President of the United States and a well-known crossword aficionado, had become a grandfather for the first time, we knew that we had to celebrate the occasion with a tribute puzzle. We wanted the puzzle to be difficult—answer words, clues—and we were not afraid to flout a few conventions of the cruciverbal trade—including grid dimensions—to get to this goal. Our puzzle's title is a direct quote from a tweet sent out by Hillary Rodham Clinton right after she and Bill had met their new granddaughter for the first time [see also photo on our main page]. For a bit more fun, please click here, here, and/or here. Finally, please note that we went out of our way to make the contents and cluing of this puzzle entirely non-partisan; it was vetted by beta testers (listed on the main page) from across the full political spectrum.

[Technical note: The discussion that follows refers to the main puzzle, found in various formats on the page reached via the link. However, at some points, we refer to an earlier version, which had the same theme entries but different fill in several regions—the aforementioned version can be accessed by clicking╩here;╩here╩for interactive play; and here╩for the solution.]

After bouncing around a few other ideas, we settled on a plan to saturate the puzzle with as many relevant proper names as we could fit into the grid, but whenever possible to clue them orthogonally. Even names peripheral to the main theme would get orthogonal clues (details below). The marquee entry would, of course, be the newborn: CHARLOTTE_MEZVINSKY [48-Across; spanning the 18-column grid], flanked symmetrically by her parents MARC_AND_CHELSEA (19-Across) and maternal grandparents BILL_AND_HILLARY [78-Across; click here for more]—what a nice gift from the crossword gods to have these latter two entries the same length. But we also worked in the paternal grandparents, EDWARD (14-Down) Mezvinsky and MARJORIE (59-Across) Margolies, as well as Charlotte's middle name CLINTON (30-Across) and Hillary's maiden name RODHAM [61-Down; although unfortunately, we were unable to place it symmetrically to 14-Down]. For the last two symmetrically placed theme entries, we selected SIDWELL (63-Across), the elite D.C. area school that Chelsea attended while her parents lived in the White House, and STANFORD (32-Across), the prestigious West Coast University where Marc and Chelsea first met and fell in love.

With so much primary theme material, and several Down answers crossing three theme entries, we were lucky to fill the grid with relatively little "crosswordese" [notable exceptions being ANOA (67-Across) and ELA (61-Across) both in the SW corner], and even came up with some auxiliary words that could be clued opportunistically. On the other hand, we were stuck with the unfortunate and dreaded Var. spelling CURARI (3-Down) and—in the earlier draft—with the Naticky crossing of HUIA [72-Across; clued as "What an (extinct) wattlebird!"] with LIERNE [65-Down; clued as "Architectural rib"]. The deal breaker [spoiler for those planning to try it] in the first version was an entirely unacceptable duplication of HAT [21-Down, clued with reference to this book by Michael Arlen] with SUNHAT (63-Down); this discovery made it necessary for us to overhaul of significant portions of the puzzle. In making the necessary revisions, we lost the delightful CRIB [original 8-Across; clued as "Where one can retire young?"], CAREW [original 76-Across; clued as "He appeared on the cover of the June 18, 1977 Time with the headline 'Baseball's Best Hitter'"], END_RUN [original 6-Down; clued as "Evasive tactic, in football as well as politics"]; RUSSET [original 9-Down; clued as "potato or ginger"]; BEAR [original 11-Down; clued as "Bull's antithesis" with a wink to Marc's chosen profession, and eschewing obvious references to Chicago professional sports franchises], MAIDEN (59-Down, a chance to learn about horse racing], and LAWYER [original 66-Down; clued as "Abraham Lincoln, for one"], among others, but we hope that you like the veritable Charlotte's Web that we finally wound up with.

There follows, in order, a highly selective subset of additional material from the puzzle (both "main" and "original" versions) that we thought might be deserving of commentary.

  • 4-Across with 21-Down refers to BROS before HOS [link is to a 2013 Dutch comedy with this title; you are on your own to research further in urbandictionary.com and other internet sources].
  • 17-Across: PANIC: The punny clue, "Terror haute?" was an inside joke to the appearance of HAUTE at the exact same position of the first version of this puzzle. The answer word itself brings back fond memories of a central entry (crossing MANIC) in one of GB's first puzzles of this genre.
  • 44-Across: Of the many possible ways we could have clued TOT, we went with the definition that means a short, quick drink of something alcoholic, what ER's grandfather used to call a "snort."
  • 58-Across: DER Bingle. BTW, a much earlier draft of the puzzle had DER clued as a "Sumerian city-state at the site of modern Tell Aqar (Iraq)," but even our most knowledgable beta testers thought that was too hard.
  • 63-Across: SIDWELL Friends School, a highly selective Quaker private school located in Bethesda, Maryland and Washington, D.C., was founded in 1883 by Thomas Sidwell with the motto "Eluceat omnibus lux" (Let the light shine out from all). A video link given earlier is repeated here, and relevant text [including a listing of past and present students who were/are children of prominent politicians] can be found here.
  • 84-Across: WAR was clued with respect to a powerful #1 hit song recorded by Edwin Starr in 1970. Click on our first link to listen, and here for more about the song.
  • 86-Across: SACS has a clue that befuddled those of our beta testers who were not big baseball fans.  In brief, there are sacrifice flies and sacrifice bunts, both called SACS.  Batting averages (BAs) are calculated by dividing the number of hits by the number of at bats (ABs). Sacrifices, while outs, do not count as at bats, so they affect neither the numerator nor the denominator of the calculation. [Incidentally, this answer word is a homophone of 7-Down, discussed below.]
  • 5-Down: RIN Tin Tin is one of the go-to dogs of both TV-land and the crossworld.
  • 33-Down: AZOV has (deliberately) a particularly brutal clue, based on this [rather than this easier angle].
  • 38-Down: Uncle REMUS was the fictional narrator of several collections of African-American folklore compiled in the 1880's by Joel Chandler Harris.
  • 51-Down: Click here to learn about NARWAHLs, and here for all you ever wanted to know about unicorns. Notice a resemblance?
  • 56-Down: Learn more about OJAI, California by clicking here. We've been told that the town's name is pronounced in the same way as the name of a frequent battleground state in Presidential electoral politics.
  • 61-Down: We were unable to think of an orthogonal clue for RODHAM, but our crackerjack research turned up this.
  • 64-Down: EU_LAWS. Check out the link. Sometimes, constructors need to do what needs to be done.
  • 66-Down: GB first learned of LYNYRD Skynyrd while researching a puzzle (still under consideration) with a fascinating theme ... we'll tell you more once an editorial decision has been rendered.
  • 69-Down: We were pleased to be able to come up with two ADAS: Lovelace, a pioneer in scientific computing [and a daughter of the poet Lord Byron], and Huxtable, long-time architectural critic of the New York Times.
  • 76-Down: A joyous clue for TV show GLEE, which was created by [hence is the "baby" of] Ryan Murphy.
  • 80-Down: As everyone knows, the outfield walls of Wrigley Field ("The Friendly Confines") in Chicago are covered by IVY.  For more on this subject, please solve this crossword puzzle created for the centennial of the Cubs' ballpark.

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