The Old Song and Dance Midrash

The Old Song and Dance
by George Barany, Noam Elkies, Michael Hanko, and Martin Herbach
"Midrash" by George Barany (October 2013)

This is the "official puzzle" of Hava Nagila (The Movie), directed by Roberta Grossman (42-Across).  We begin our dissertation by revealing TWO answers that fit the clues. which of course hinges on the fact that the Jewish rite of passage (16-Across) is called a BAR_MITZVAH for boys and a BAT_MITZVAH for girls. To make that work, the crossing 4-letter word (3-Down) needed to be one in which the third letter could be either R or T, with the same clue working for both answer words. After considerable brainstorming during which several other possibilities were strongly considered, we settled on CA(R/T)S.

Jim Horne, taking a cue from Joon Pahk, refers to this general "trick" as "Schrödinger puzzles," which is a definite upgrade from the moniker "schizophrenic" that was used earlier. Of course, the most famous example of the genre is the legendary Election Day 1996 puzzle by Jeremiah Farrell, and others that have been published in the New York Times are compiled here at Horne's site. Furthermore, you may click here and here for discussions (with the solutions revealed) of non-NYT examples, by Caleb Rasmussen and Ben Tausig respectively. Then, T Campbell penned a wonderful retrospective covering the field through June 2011. On our own pages, we ran Tom Pepper's amazing Executive Decision, and discussed it extensively. By those lofty standards, our own foray is exceedingly modest.

Far be it for me to wax over all the surprising twists and turns of Roberta's documentary, a few of which are hinted at by answer words and corresponding clues in this puzzle. Just see the FILM (52-Down) yourself, and/or visit her thoroughly detailed website (which includes this 2-minute 42 second trailer). Just be prepared to have difficulty getting a certain tune or two out of your head for several hours following. It is a great pleasure to thank Roberta, who is not a puzzle person, for patient e-mail correspondence with me as I was trying to come up with theme entries and develop suitable grids, and for reviewing the final clues for accuracy. It is an equal pleasure to express my gratitude to this puzzle's co-constructors (listed in alphabetical order) for their creativity and scholarship in figuring out how to make the "Schrödinger gimmick" work, and for working with me and each other to embue as many clues as possible with Jewish and/or musical allusions. Solvers are invited to Google specific clues and/or answer words and phrases—there follow a few of my personal favorites, with links, to get you started.

ZERO Mostel (15-Across) of "Fiddler on the Roof" (clip of "If I Were a Rich Man"); Meryl STREEP (48-Across) of "Sophie's Choice"; EPIC (51-Across) movies like "Exodus," "The Ten Commandments," and "Ben-Hur"; YMCA (the song, 64-Across); Frank ZAPPA or Moon Unit ZAPPA (15-Down); Bella ABZUG (28-Down); Jewish pitchers (with E.R.A.s, 37-Down) Sandy Koufax and Ken Holtzman; the late great critic Roger EBERT (43-Down), and Leonard Bernstein's "Glitter and be GAY" (58-Down).

We hope that you enjoy our puzzle as much as we enjoyed creating it! Mazel tov!

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