Paul Coulter’s Fireball Crossword, “Mathematics, Italian-Style” – Jenni’s writeup
I solved this puzzle when it arrived and decided to wait until David returned from his travels to ask him for help with the meta, since he’s more mathematically inclined than I am. He got home Friday night with a wicked cold, so I never asked. The answer was revealed in Peter’s Email this evening. Congrats to all who got it right!
We have three theme answers:
- 18a [35-Across beginning] stumped me at first. It’s ONE ONE TWO THREE. That looked familiar once I figured it out.
- 35a [The ratio of each term in it to the preceding term approaches the golden mean asymptotically] didn’t tell me anything. Once I filled in a few letters from crossings, I realized it was the FIBONACCI SERIES. The golden mean (also known as the golden ratio) crosses from mathematics into art and biology. Two quantities are in the golden ratio if their ratio is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities. It can be expressed geometrically thusand served as the foundation of perspective and proportion in much of medieval and Renaissance art. I thought the nautilus shell was an example of the golden mean expressed in nature; turns out it’s more complicated than that.
- 49a [35-Across mathematician] is LEONARDO OF PISA, later known as Fibonacci.
So that’s the theme. What’s the meta? The Fibonacci series is 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765, etc. If we look at the crossword squares corresponding to each number in the series up to 55, we see that each has a letter that serves as a Roman numeral. If we use square #1 twice, as indicated at the beginning of the sequence, we get MMMMCLXXXI, or 4181, and that’s our answer.
I’m sure someone will either correct me or expand on this in comments. Have at it.
A few other things:
- 12a [___ Appia] gives us a little hint of ancient Rome. The answer is VIA.
- 13a [Company that pioneered the graphical user interface] is not Apple. Was anyone fooled? I was not. It’s XEROX. They apparently didn’t know what to do with it (or were taken advantage of, or both).
- I thought 14a [Oscar winner for his final film role] was a gimme and confidently filled in TRACY. “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” was Spencer Tracy’s last film role, and he won a posthumous Oscar. Turns out Henry FONDA also won an Oscar for “On Golden Pond.” He was still alive, but did not attend the ceremony. Katharine Hepburn won the Best Actress Oscar for both films. “On Golden Pond” was her final Oscar, giving her a record four Best Actress wins spanning 48 years.
- Some compromises were necessary in order to fit all the necessary Roman numerals in the right boxes. 21a [Crosses off] is XES OUT, which is not unprecedented and which I still find awkward.
- 29a [“El Hipnotizador” channel] is not UNIVISION, as I first thought. It’s HBO LATINO.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the NHL sportsmanship award is the Lady BYNG Memorial Trophy. The trophy is named in honor of Marie Evelyn Moreton, (Lady Byng, wife of Viscount Byng of Vimy, a Vimy Ridge war hero who was Governor General of Canada from 1921 to 1926. Lady Byng, who was an avid hockey fan, decided to donate the trophy to the NHL in 1925. OK then.