“Ful Employment” by Randolph Ross – 10:21
Hi, Jeffrey here. Welcome to a very special Wall Street Journal crossword.
Theme: Fodsworth Ulysses Lloydminster’s 100th birthday.
Today’s puzzle by Randolph Ross adds “FUL” to job titles, commemorating Fodsworth Ulysses Lloydminster, who was born on July 30, 1910. “FUL”, as he was known, was the creator of the most historically significant crossword puzzle ever made.
Crosswords used to be very bland, with all the clues straightforward definitions. Theme answers and tricky clues were nonexistent. That all changed accidentally on September 3, 1980.
FUL was completing a grid by hand, as they were all done in those days, when he discovered to his horror that he had miscounted the letters and 53 Across, clued “Dairy Queen treat”, wasn’t ICE CREAM CONE but read ICE CREAM CLONE. He knew that it had to be redone, but as a joke he changed the clue to “Frozen yogurt copy?” The question mark was meant to remind him to correct the puzzle and clue.
However, he forgot about it and sent in the puzzle along with a batch of others. Editing was lax in those days and the puzzle got published as is, marking three firsts:
- First theme answer
- First “add a letter” answer
- First “?” clue
The story doesn’t end there. Michael Jackson, writing songs for an upcoming album then called “Triller”, was solving the puzzle while listening to Weird Al’s song “Eat It”. And so “Beat It” was born.
There are only three known copies of this historic puzzle – One in the Smithsonian, one in Will Shortz’s basement, and one discovered in 2009 in a New Zealand widow’s basement.
23A. [Academic who follows all the rules?] – LAWFUL PROFESSOR
36A. [Commander of the kitchen?] – MASTERFUL CHEF
56A. [Cunning instructor?] – ARTFUL TEACHER
77A. [Vigilant deity?] – WATCHFUL MAKER
92A. [Frolicsome builder?] – PLAYFUL WRIGHT
113A. [Fascinating psychiatrist?] – COLORFUL ANALYST
16D. [Influential trader?] – POWERFUL BROKER
48D. [Productive handicapper?] – FRUITFUL PICKER
34A. [Lady Antebellum, e.g.] – TRIO
111A. [Oscar role for Sissy] – LORETTA
1D. [Lobster feelers] – PALPS. Also called palpus. Now you know.
12D. [Lydian king known for his wealth] – CROESUS. I think he was an early investor in Microsoft.
33D. [Walks through water] – SLOSHES. Fun word.
38D. [Show featuring “Easy to Be Hard“] – HAIR
50D. [Ben’s predecessor at the Fed] – ALAN/57D. [Currency replaced by l’euro] – FRANC – Wall Street Journal required answers.
77D. [“Papa ___ Rollin’ Stone“] – WAS A
78D. [Imperfection] – FLAW. None in my story.
85D. [Four-string instruments] – UKULELES
Your writeup sounds like good fodder for the next Dan Brown book.
Weird Al must be the most underappreciated musical artist of the last 30 years.
Famous groups and artists keep copying his music and scoring big hits.
I think Jeffrey’s ful of it.
The write-up and comments were more fun than the puzzle!
If you think the date might be a typo, the story’s almost believable until Michael Jackson shows up.
And thanks to add-a-letter, we were all spared from MJ’s “Ad”, and later hit compilation “HisToy”.
I want to see a popular artist take one of Weird Al’s original non-parody works, and release a cover version as a single.