“I want to throw my mercy on the court.” Twice from the bench I’ve heard a defendant say that. The first time, my initial thought was, “What a great start to a heroic couplet!” It’s iambic: “I WANT to THROW my MER-cy ON the COURT.” I did not have a good line ready with which to respond.
The second time, years later, I was ready: “Well, throw a lot. We’re a little bit short.” It’s not as rhythmic, but I got the point across. What was the point? Good question. I can’t say for sure that anyone got the joke, such as it was. The defendant certainly didn’t; it went right over the poor guy’s head. It gave me a story to tell. Which I worked into a song I wrote.
You’re thinking that was a long way to go to say I’m not sure that anyone really gets that each week there is some overlap between this column and the I Swear Crossword. I get some feedback from time to time on the column. And some from time to time on the crossword. But very seldom, if ever, have I received feedback aimed at the points at which the two intersect.
This week’s puzzle bears the title “Spring Seventy.” If you search the puzzle for signs of spring or for anything that might come in groups of 70, you’ll labor in vain. There are 70 answers in the puzzle, which is being published in early spring. That’s it. There is no theme.
I write themeless puzzles much like I write puzzles with themes – around specific longer answers. I typically pick phrases that seem never to have been in a puzzle before. If you had been working my themeless puzzles for the past few years, that would be plain to see – a phrase I can’t find in any puzzle to date.
For “Spring Seventy,” I started with a French-American actress who, based on some discussion I’d seen online, I thought had not been in a puzzle before. Only after I got the grid to an advanced state did I realize that she had been in a few non-mainstream puzzles – props to Brendan Emmett Quigley, Henry Hook, Barry Tunick, and the late Sylvia Bursztyn.
But she had not been in a New York Times and, thanks to a polite rejection note that, in passing (literally), called the current I Swear Crossword “an expert level of work,” she still hasn’t.
Not long ago, a Times crossword by Elizabeth Gorski appeared with the clue “What a big mouth might have.” The answer: DELTA. The last name of the actress anchoring today’s ISC was edited to DELTA because the editor found it more “appealing.” Gorski took exception, saying this actress was a “strong, accomplished, contemporary woman.” I might say the same about Gorski, who certainly didn’t throw her mercy on the editor.
And so, while the Times misses another opportunity, this paper can now claim to be the first mainstream periodical to feature Julie Delpy in its crossword!
Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.