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?