The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best, and therefore never scrutinize or question.
~ Stephen Jay Gould
One of the reasons I moved to New York City (other than for overtly-serious reasons, like college) was . . . live jazz. I love the hole-in-the-wall blues bars and jazz clubs, like the one near my alma mater -- Smoke.
I need music to write puzzles. And so, I rely on my home state (NJ) for a fantastic late-night soundtrack; the radio is tuned to WBGO, a great jazz station out of Newark.
"Oleo" is a jazz standard that weaves through Ken Burns's documentary Jazz. It's immediately recognizable to those with even a cursory knowledge of music. Written by Sonny Rollins in 1954, "Oleo" is a cut on Bag's Groove: Miles Davis's classic album and one of the most important jazz recordings ever.
The song has been in circulation for over 55 years. And yet, it doesn't appear as a crossword clue. In puzzles, OLEO is invariably associated with the weird, non-dairy spread that doesn't melt. (Oh yeah, I can believe it's not butter!)
This is why I don't buy the old, unquestioned crosswordese myths. It's my job, as a puzzlemaker, to uncover new ways of cluing words like OLEO -- with an openness to the far corners of music, art, literature, classics.
Art Blakey said: "Jazz is known all over the world as an American musical art form, and that's it. No America, no jazz." The jazz OLEO is more than welcome in an American crossword puzzle.
OLEO . . . crosswordese? Hey, don't say that about my "Oleo."
Recognize this tune?
June 21, 2010: Inspired by the recommendations of Mr. Charles Mingus (see comments), I've added Phineas Newborn Jr.'s excellent "Oleo" to the play list. Thanks, Charles!