Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” – Jenni’s writeup
The puzzle itself is fairly straightforward; the meta did not reveal itself it to me. Ah, well, I will keep trying.
Peter asks “What amusing group is hinted at by this puzzle?” The theme answers are the longest Across entries in the puzzle – I got that far.
- 16a [Fashionably nostalgic] is RETRO CHIC. My daughter to me: Mom! Look at this! It’s a shirt that’s kind of like a leotard, but it has buttons down at the bottom so you can go to the bathroom! Me: Yes, honey, I know. I lived through the ’70s. Daughter (in disbelief): You wore these?
- 22a [Wind instrument?] is the AEOLIAN HARP. Aeolian harps are seriously cool. If you’ve never seen one, check out this example from the Exploratorium in San Francisco.
- 37a [He has a pet worm named Slimey] spans the grid, since the grid is 14×15): OSCAR THE GROUCH.
- 48a [Judy Garland’s birth name] was FRANCES GUMM.
- 59a [Woman who married Lyndon LaRouche in 1977 and founded Germany’s Bürgerrechtsbewegung Solidarität (Civil Rights Movement Solidarity) party in 1992] This gives up a patented Peter Gordon Very Long Clue with a bonus German Very Long Word. The answer (entirely from crossings) is HELGA ZEPP. Wikipedia tells me that the Bürgerrechtsbewegung Solidarität is part of the worldwide LaRouche movement and had approximately 300 followers in 2007. I feel better about not knowing who she was.
At first glance, these answers seem to have nothing in common. If you look at the last word of each answer, something may begin to ring a faint bell in your subconscious. Listen carefully, and you might consider adding an O to each of those words: CHICO, HARPO, GROUCHO, GUMMO, and ZEPPO. Those were the five Marx Brothers, arranged from eldest to youngest. Don’t work too hard trying to remember what role Gummo played in the movies; he left the vaudeville circuit when he entered the army in WWI and never performed again.
A few other things:
- “Beavis and Butthead” make two appearances – 4d [“Beavis and Butt-head” spinoff] and 9a [Beavis : Metallica :: Butt-head : ___ ] Heh heh heh. I said “butt.”
- Music, new and old, juxtaposed at 19a and 20a with SO SICK by Ne-Yo and the IKETTES, of Ike and Tina Turner fame.
- And more music crossing IKETTES: 9d [1968 album whose first track is “Think”] would be ARETHA NOW.
- 24d [Dog] is not a canine companion, nor the “following closely” meaning; it’s FLOP.
- 51d [“Blues Clues” host before Joe] was STEVE. My kid watched in the Steve era. No Joe around here.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: well, there’s HELGA ZEPP, and I also didn’t know that DARIA was a Beavis and Butt-head spinoff, because I am old.
I leave you with Aretha. Because Aretha.