Wednesday, September 28, 2011

TV Guide crosswords make me feel smart

I've been on a TV Guide crossword puzzle kick lately, partly because of an ongoing research project I'm trying to tame (it's mentioned in the penultimate post before my hiatus), and partly because it's awesome that in any given puzzle, Abe Vigoda is apt to be one of the clues.


I have the gigantic TV Guide crossword puzzle book, which spans entire decades, and I also have a small pocket-size compilation I picked up in 1992 and promptly stored for almost 20 years. I've just about filled that one up during the train ride portion of my commute.

Aside: My commute consists of a 15-20 minute drive to a park-and-ride lot, a hour-to-hour-and-a-half bus ride to BART, and then 45 minutes to an hour on BART to the office. Round trip, that's close to 6 hours a day. So if I seem punchy in a blog post, I may have written it while commuting. You have been warned.

The older puzzles from the 1950s are probably the hardest, not just because I'm not as familiar with the shows, but because they don't contain as many slow-pitch clues and answers. A recurring pair of clues are like 33 Down: A comedy program | 6 Across: Host of 33 Down. Was there really that little on back then? I think not. The puzzles from the 70s and 80s are the easiest, since damn near every clue reminds me of something I used to watch as a kid. It's weird; I read TONS of books as a kid, and I remember playing outside a bunch, but the amount of 50s-80s TV programming that is locked in my brain breaks some kind of math.

Over the course of doing dozens of puzzles, with clues both hard and easy ("'Magnum __ (abbr.)"), there are certain "crossword words" that stick out, like eel, alee, alit, oleo; filler words that no one outside of puzzle circles has probably encountered.

But these being TV Guide puzzles, there are certain TV-related standbys as well. Abe Vigoda is one, mostly for his first name, though occasionally for his character's name (Fish, of course). Actress Sue Ane Langdon came up an awful lot, almost always thusly: "Actress Sue ___ Langdon." Ane is great for filling spots in your puzzle. While the name sounded familiar, I couldn't figure out exactly why. I looked her up on and saw that she'd been in scores of TV shows since the late 1950s. But then I saw the one credit that explained why I recognized her name.

Zapped! (1982) 
Rose Burnhart

"Do I have to, Miss Burnfart?"

Ah, yes, the teacher from the classic cable-TV mainstay of the early 80s with the dream team of Scott Baio and Willie Aames. I have a soft place in my heart for this movie, presumably with a soft spot in my brain to match. You've seen it, I hope? Baio plays a nerdy kids who accidentally gains telekinetic powers after a lab experiment. Imagine if "Carrie" had been melded with "Charles in Charge" and you're pretty much there, except during the prom at the end, telekinesis is used to remove girls' clothes instead of killing everyone.

It is, I must say, the best film to ever incorporate a dream sequence that involves Scatman Crothers (no relation to anyone involved with the "Human Centipede" movies), pot, Albert Einstein, and salami. You doubt me?

It's even better if you close your eyes and imagine it's Hong Kong Phooey talking to Einstein.

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