The Marian is named not for Maid Marian or Marian Anderson, but for Marian the Librarian, the prim, priggish, proper, self-possessed, self-described spinster of The Music Man.
Like her namesake, the Marian crossword claims to be all business, with no time for frivolity. That bit about “frazzling nerd play” in part 7? That wasn’t original with her! Of course it wasn’t. She’d read it in a book somewhere.
She’s like her fellow fact-finders, bypassing little word tricks and broadly interested in the world. She has no time for fun and games. Or so she says.
But… she… can’t… resist… a little… dabbling…
A guide to contemporary tautologies? Why, certainly, Tyler Hinman! HATERS GONNA HATE, RULES ARE RULES and SEEYA WHEN I SEEYA may be a bit… slangy, but they’ll still get the children interested in a literary device employed by Shakespeare, one with its roots in classical Greek.
This is an activity the Marian could probably admit to in the presence of the listmaker, without starting a fight. It is, after all, a list of tautologies, a straightforward and independent category that just happens to be wordplay-related. But such borderline cases are rare. What’s more common is for the Marian to cross-reference a predilection for wordplay with some other subject.
Patrick Berry’s paean to eponymic reference volumes? Well, how could her fellow fact-finders object to that? It’s a guide to her beloved books. BARTLETT’S Familiar Quotations, GRAY’S Anatomy, BREWER’S Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, BLACKSTONE’S Commentaries on the Laws of England, HOYLE’S Rules of Games, ROBERT’S Rules of Order, JANE’S Fighting Ship and BULFINCH’S Mythology should be on the shelf of any self-respecting fact-finder, anyway. They’re practically the library’s greatest hits collection.
Mixing the eponym with the famous reference work was pretty much a requirement! Without one or the other requirements, there would be far too many possible theme answers to produce a focused and disciplined puzzle. Yes, yes, it might be seen as a “corruption” by the listmaker, but what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.
Now, what about… a list of foods that each begin with the name of a nation or place? Surely this might lead to some illuminating, stimulating conversations about our now-international palate and how it came to be so, or alternatively, our tendency to attribute culinary credit to areas that neither invented nor perfected the dish in question? Americans are such poor citizens of the world, after all. Yes? Yes. Sounds good. Do it. Yes. Do it.
But wait!… Is it possible to also make the last word of each food a slang synonym for “money?” That would certainly lend the cross-referenced theme a little more tightness… a little more… elegance… grace… beauty…
The next morning brings the stomachache that you might expect from eating too much CANADIAN BACON, MONTEREY JACK, ITALIAN BREAD and BOSTON LETTUCE. Admittedly, that sounds like a healthy recipe, but… all things in moderation.
And then, somehow, she ends up spending the afternoon with a list of movies whose titles all play on the theme of “entry.” When the listmaker gets home, she’ll have some ‘splainin’ to do… or else she’ll be headed out to the Bahamas to re-evaluate her life and how much of a free spirit she wants to be. Sometimes wordplay is most beautiful when it isn’t imposed, but is simply found where you find it. And as we crossword-obsessives know, the pull of beauty is a hard one to resist.
A couple additional notes about fact-finders in general. They might be my favorite type to make, because of their cross-disciplinary aspect. Although other types like the quote type and hide-and-seek also find what occurs in nature without imposing any changes upon it, fact-finders are the only types to make such extensive use of knowledge that has nothing to do with wordplay.
This might also make them a useful type for crossword evangelism: as we’ve seen, political passions and various fandoms can all be reflected in the fact-finders’ lenses. In our niche-filled entertainment ecosystem, such diversification strikes me as one of the crossword’s best hopes to remain healthy and strong.
NEXT: Can we make the word “algebra” exciting? Well, we’re sure gonna try, doggone it.
Finally finished with this one. Apologies for its many comical false starts.