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Spoiler Saturday: Prime-Time Rhyme Chime
The first wordplay most of us ever learn.
Sharp-voiced and goofy, whether you like it or not?—SHRILLY SILLY, WILLY-NILLY
Show off useful sweets?—BANDY HANDY-DANDY CANDY
“He owns Jeopardy! Inc. now”?—QUIZ BIZ IS HIS
Roundups of wordplay tend to mention anagrams, palindromes, and homophones. Sometimes they’ll get into more exotic forms. But they’ll often skip over rhymes. Sometimes we don’t even think of rhymes as wordplay, just because we learn them so early in life that they feel more like “language as usual.”
That’s an oversight on our part. Hip-hop and more traditional poetry have proven rhyme’s an art form of its own, as worthy of study and experimentation as any other.
Still, when I decided the theme for Ubercross Abecedaria R, rhyme was one of three options…and other letters soon stole away the other two, rebuses and riddles.
I already knew I wanted to use a number rebus as my basis for N. I could have done some other rebus theme for R, but if R’s theme was “rebus,” it would feel like cheating to have another puzzle in the set that was also a rebus. Also, beyond “numbers,” I wasn’t sure I could come up with a rebus theme that would be flexible and variable enough to justify the size it would take up in the grid.
Maybe the periodic table of the elements would work, but (1) some of those elements are just one letter long, (2) the shape of the periodic table doesn’t look anything like an R, so I couldn’t put the element squares in “appropriate” places on the grid, and (3) how many people remember the symbol for copernicium, anyway?
I have seen riddle-themed puzzles where some answers spell out a question for the bottom part of the puzzle to answer. I decided not to go this route for the same reason I went with “quick quotes” in the Ubercross Q, not one long quote. It just seemed like any riddle long enough to fill the theme areas of a giant crossword would ramble on and on, not offering the solver enough satisfaction to make the journey worth it. I ended up using shorter riddles instead, in a section we haven’t gotten to yet.
So rhyming it was! I decided the big theme entries should be collections of four-way rhymes like the BANDY HANDY-DANDY CANDY-type examples at the top of this post. Since such answers can often be longer than 21 letters, the Ubercross format was a good place to explore such an idea.
I tended to use at least one word or phrase that already had a rhyme going within it, like MAYDAY, BOHO, JEEPERS CREEPERS, or HERKY-JERKY. That way, I’d only be tying two or three different ideas together, not four. You can get away with two or three in a theme crossword clue, but you don’t want to risk straining yourself to tie together too many…something I learned, I think, by putting together the F section.
At the time, I thought I’d come up with all the best answers for this theme, but maybe I was a little tired then, because I can think of a lot more now.
But I did “sweeten” the rhyming theme a bit when it came time to clue the R puzzle later. More on that tomorrow.