Peter A. Collins’s Fireball contest crossword, “Grand Finale”—Jenni’s write-up
I am really *not* good at this kind of thing. The question was “What common affliction is hinted at by this puzzle?” I finished the puzzle without a problem, stared it for a long time over several days, and had no idea what the answer was. The title was no help. “Grand Finale” – a deadly illness? Something involving a thousand of something? Not a single clue. This writeup is showing up late because I had to wait for the answer to drop into my Email box this evening.
Turns out that the theme answers are the names that show up in symmetrical locations: ETHAN, OLIVIA, IONE, THOMAS, HORTON, LENA and RALPH. What do they have in common? They are all the first names of people whose last names are a common English word with a silent E on the end – ETHAN Hawek, OLIVIA Wilde, IONE Skye, THOMAS Paine, HORTON Foote, LENA Horne and RALPH Bunche. So if you figured THAT out, you might have noticed that the grid also contains GREEN HORN and WILD BUNCH, using four of the six words in the last names. That leaves the final two names – FOOT PAIN.
Is it because I’m a doctor that I thought an “affliction” would be the name of an actual disease? Maybe. In any case, while I have suffered from FOOT PAIN, I’ve never thought of it that way. And even if I had, there’s no way I would have made the connections to figure it out. Sometimes when I see the solution to a meta that stumped me, I am impressed and amused. Not this time.
There are a lot of theme constraints in this puzzle, which usually means some compromise on fill. The most egregious is ALEAK (“Not showing watertightness”) which is just awful. There’s also REHEMS (which is amusing clued as “Converts to a long jumper, perhaps?”) and IN A PET, which I have never heard or seen outside of crosswords.
On the plus side: one of my favorite FB clues ever – 51D is clued “With 51D, sings”. The answer is NAMES (as in NAMES NAMES). Very nice. I also enjoyed BLOOMIES (happy memories of my adolescence, now shared with my daughter), “Guess again!” for WRONG (the clue gives the answer a specific tone) and NON clued as the “Only spoken word in ‘Silent Movie’.” It’s not Mel Brooks’ best work and it’s still pretty damn funny.
What I learned from this puzzle: that SURINAME is a neighbor of Brazil. Yeah, yeah, my geography knowledge is almost as weak as my meta-solving ability.
I leave you with Mel Brooks, Marty Feldman and Dom DeLuise. A classic.