Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Can You Pause It?”—Dave Sullivan’s write-upThis week, every-other-weekly constructor Matt Gaffney is again in the constructing chair and he asks us for a Will Smith movie that would have made a good sixth theme entry. So, first off, we’re on the hunt for five theme entries in the grid, and we find them as the longest across entries:
- 17a. [First Pixar Movie nominated for the new Best Animated Feature Oscar], MONSTERS, INC. – if we’re putting in punctuation here, don’t forget the period at the end!
- 26a. [Wim Wenders drama that won the 1984 Palme d’Or at Cannes], PARIS, TEXAS – not too many Wims out there, so he’s a favorite on constructors’ fill lists.
- 41a. [1999 movie that won Angelina Jolie an Oscar], GIRL, INTERRUPTED – nice central 15-letter entry
- 51a. [Coen brothers comedy of 2016], HAIL, CAESAR! – again, more than one punctuation mark in the title
- 63a. [Ang Lee thriller of 2007], LUST, CAUTION – only because PI was already used at 1a. in PI DAY
So, as you can see, Matt’s playing on the crossword convention that punctuation marks aren’t (typically) entered into the grid, so the solver has to recognize that the formal title of all of these movies all include a comma. (Hence the “pause” in the title. I’m wondering if that’s a play on “parse” or has something to do with playing a movie on your DVD or Tivo player?) Back to the meta instructions, we’re on the hunt for a Will Smith movie that has a comma in its name, and we find it in I, ROBOT, our meta solution. I read the original by Asimov back in my formative college years as an engineering student, but never saw the movie. Amazing that it took 60 years to be made into one (unless there are other adaptations I’m not aware of).
Nice meta, I wonder though two things: first, I wish there were not other extraneous punctuation marks in two of the theme entries (a period and exclamation point), and I also wonder if I, ROBOT qualifies as a “good” theme entry if it’s only 6 letters long. Guess it would’ve had one of those other punctuation marks on the clue, the asterisk.
As for the puzzle itself, I found DEER PARK (clued as [Aquafina rival]) obscure, but it seems to rattle a few memory cells in the back of my brain. Is this a national brand? I enjoyed how ETHEL crossed MERMAN at the E; let’s close with a video of her singing “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” shall we?
One of the easiest metas ever, IMHO.
Not exactly to the point, but brings to mind the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” Thus. No question mark, as one would expect. I’m too lazy to find a citation, but I recall that at the time of its release, the person responsible was asked, and he said, approximately, “I was sure that movie titles never use punctuation.”
Thanks, Evad, for, that, review.
This, joke, is, getting, old, so, I, will, stop, now.
Yes, it, is.
It was the oddest thing… for some reason, I initially started looking for foreign words for “stop,” “pause,” etc., because of the title and because I thought the embedded letters “ARISTE” looked like something I’d seen for “STOP,” and (already given “INTERRUPT”) I thought “CAESA” could be something like “cease/halt” in Latin or Italian. It showed up as meaning “COMMA/PAUSE.” “COMMA”? It hit me then like the answer hit James Coburn in “Charade” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09JR4bG1rYI).
I was not familiar with either Hail, Caesar or Lust, Caution. I did not look them up nor infer the commas. I see that commas are a pause, and I now get the meta. But until now I did not understand, “Can you pause it?” in that way, and so I was looking for something else.
It finally occurred to me that I could see a pause in these ways:
MONSTERSINC — INC for incomplete pass, which stops the clock and pauses the game
PARISTEXAS — TEXAS as in Texas Hold ‘Em — a hold is a kind of pause, or hold ’em=stop
GIRLINTERRUPTED — INTERRUPTED — when your work is interrupted it is paused.
HAILCAESAR — HAIL — to call out to in order to stop, as in hailing a cab.
LUSTCAUTION — CAUTION — If you caution someone you may give them pause.
Looking then at Will Smith movies I find “Hitch,” and this word has as one definition a temporary interruption or problem, which can certainly be interpreted as a pause.
Seemed pretty solid to me so that is what I submitted. Thinking about it more today, I realize that those would all be straightforward except Texas Hold ‘Em, which is one level of indirection the others don’t have.
What do you think?