I had lots of fun constructing this one; I hope you have as much solving it. The seeds were 1 and 7 Across, which I’d been saving while looking for a happy home. 24 Down and 30 Down had been chilling in my word/clue list for a while as well. 1 Down is a terrific song from my youth (e.g., a moldy oldie). You can listen to it here.
I saw 16 Down on SNL last month and was blown away by her talent. Of course, I’ve heard her on the radio many times, but seeing her live underscored how amazing she is. Then it occurred to me that a seemingly inordinate number of musicians/compositions have “Zs” in their names, ranging from pop to rock to opera to jazz to conductors, and that there ought to be a grid acknowledging that observation. Et voila!
Difficulty: If you know a bit about jazz, it’s like soloing on All Blues. If not, it’s like soloing on the tune spelled out by the circled letters.
I played in a jazz trio for years, and even though I mostly listen to rock these days, I still put on a jazz classic every so often. Last week I listened to the album that’s the subject of this puzzle for the first time in ages. I’d forgotten how amazing and revolutionary it is.
I’d also forgotten how difficult the title track on the album is to play, let alone blow a coherent solo over. I managed that feat once in my life: one year in college, the great Mary Lou Williams was an artist-in-residence. After our jazz band rehearsals, she’d hang around and play piano while some of us would take a crack at improving our improvisation. (I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t realize at the time what a precious and rare opportunity this was.)
One night, she had us play and solo over the song in question. I don’t remember how she did it, but she managed to get me out of my head (where I was frantically trying to anticipate the chord changes) and into the flow of the music. It hasn’t happened again.
Difficulty: Like a $600 question in the Shakespeare category
While the Professors’ Tournament gives her a two-week break, I thought I’d drop a tribute puzzle focusing on 21 Across, who is brilliant, accomplished, serene, and truly inspirational. May her reign continue!