Meta: half an hour or so?
Good afternoon! Neville here with puzzle #354 of Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest, which is titled “Hollywood Ending, or Be Sure to Look at the Instructions”. Our prompt: This week’s contest answer is a Renee Zellweger motion picture. Well straight away there’s something off; who says “motion picture” when “film” or (probably more appropriately) “movie” will suffice? What game are you playing, Gaffney?
Actually, in fairness, I had lunch with Matt on Thursday, and he seemed a little excited about this puzzle. And after seeing it, I can see why. I solemnly swear that I received no spoilers!
So there’s no doubt about it: Matt’s starred four of the clues in an effort to give us a little help. Let’s take a look.
- [Hostage rescue team’s tool*] – TACTICAL WEAPON
- [They have to listen*] – CAPTIVE AUDIENCE. So I always thought that this meant the same thing as a “captivated audience,” but apparently that’s not the case at all. I guess my students are a captive audience, and when they laugh at my terrible math puns, that’s Stockholm syndrome?
- [http://chriswords.com, e.g*] – INTERNET ADDRESS (and that particular Internet address gets a thumbs up from me)
- [Best Director winner for “Forrest Gump”*] – ROBERT ZEMECKIS
So what’s going on? My first thought was that the starred clues might all relate to rhyming phrases, since that could play off “Hollywood Endings.” You know, like the tactical weapon STUN GUN and, well… that was that. Next! Maybe something to do with the fact that there are four theme entries? Can we add the same letters somewhere? Nope. Nothing’s making any sense. (Not that the feeling is unusual.)
Robert Zemeckis was a producer on Real Steel (or so Wikipedia tells me)… and was Renee Zellweger in Steel Magnolias? She was not. There goes a shot at chaining together related words. Hey, wait a second… Robert Zemeckis… Renee Zellweger… RZ… something’s going on here.
And indeed, that’s the mystery here. Let’s follow Matt’s directions and be sure to look at the instructions to create a Hollywood ending:
So we need a Renee Zellweger
movie motion picture with the initials MP, which would be Miss Potter. Very clever to use the standard “This week’s contest answer is…” format to hide the primary clue for the answer! And now the use of “motion picture” in the prompt makes sense, because otherwise we wouldn’t have the symmetry of looking for another two-word phrase.
Here are some other thoughts about clues/answers in this grid, because that’s how we roll around here.
- [It pluralizes to the same word as 22-Down/24-Across] – AXE/AXIS… or maybe AVE/AVIS? AVES has been clued in crosswords frequently as the Latin word for “birds” as well as the plural of “ave” as in Ave Maria or “Ave.” as in Lexington Ave. It’s rare that a puzzle can unintentionally have multiple correct solutions (though it’s happened to me before), but I know which one Matt was going for. I hope.
- [Many were baked on 3/14/15] – PIES. Mmm… Pi Day! I celebrated by wearing this shirt to a comic convention; what did you do to mark the occasion?
- [He wrote: “Death, thou shalt die”] – DONNE. Well, I can firmly say that I do not understand poetry. Someone please explain this to me like I’m five.
- [Farrar’s successor] – WENG. Those are Margaret Farrar and Will Weng, the first two editors of the New York Times crossword puzzle. In my mind, everything crossword-related these days is post-Farrarian.
- [Marshal law?] – FIRE CODE is just a really cute clue that couldn’t go unmentioned.
I thoroughly enjoyed this. How’d you manage?