Marie Kelly’s (Really Mike) Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Alternate Endings”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upToday editor and constructor Mike Shenk offers up a timely Oscar-related meta. Our theme entries (conveniently starred) are:
- 18a. [*Disease fought by Plains farmers], WHEAT RUST
- 20a. [*Bombing comic’s assessment], TOUGH CROWD
- 31a. [*Feigned ignorance in order to expose another’s real ignorance], SOCRATIC IRONY
- 40a. [*Regiment with a museum in Edinburgh Castle], THE ROYAL SCOTS
- 56a. [*Slivovitz, e.g.], PLUM BRANDY
- 61a. [*Opera patron, perhaps], BOXHOLDER
This is one where the title helps a lot to point the solver in the right direction. Each of the final words becomes the name of an actor who has won a Best Actor Oscar by changing the last letter:
- Geoffrey RUSH, Shine (1996)
- Russell CROWE, Gladiator (2000)
- Jeremy IRONS, Reversal of Fortune (1990)
- George C. SCOTT, Patton (1970)
- Marlon BRANDO, The Godfather (1972)
- William HOLDEN, Stalag 17 (1953)
(Notably, both Scott and Brando declined their awards.) Taking these “alternate endings” from top to bottom, we have another Best Actor winner, Charlton HESTON, winner in 1959 for Ben-Hur and our meta solution.
Fun and timely meta; it’s also a nice touch that no anagramming was necessary. The puzzle itself was pretty tough going, though, beginning with 1-Across’s [“The gymnasium of the mind,” to Pascal] for CHESS. Other tough entries were 7-Down’s [Like ___ (enthusiastically)] which is either A SHOT or AS HOT, I’m not sure which; COAT for [Duster, e.g.] (I had FORD at first, even though I see here, it was a Plymouth); probably the hardest clue for EEE you’ll see (referring to the foot-measuring Brannock Device) and the spelling of the song WIMOWEH, or “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Take a listen:
See you next week!
Beautiful puzzle and meta. I struggled in the SW even after I figured out the theme and meta answer. Tough clues down there meant I had next to nothing filled in. I convinced myself 61a was going to be _____PEN_ (because Sean Penn seemed the right choice), but nothing was working. Finally I got KEPT UP ON which led to RIPPLES which made me abandon Sean Penn and look for other choices.
Didn’t take too long to figure out how to get the meta, though I had trouble with RUST at first. Wasn’t until I got Russell Crowe, Jeremy Irons, and George C. Scott that I saw the answer was Charleton Heston and that it was Geoffrey Rush.
I thought this was a pretty good puzzle. It took me a day to get the meta. I had to set it aside for some time and then it came to me the next day.