Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Let’s Split the Last One”—Laura’s write-up
Laura here for Dave, who is running a marathon! Rock on, Dave! This week, the contest asks us for a “well-known sitcom.” So let’s see what we have:
[17a: Dumas title characters]: ATHOS PORTHOS ARAmis
- [28a: Famed double play makers]: TINKER EVERS CHAnce
[42a: They sang “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” at Woodstock]: CROSBY STILLS NAsh
- [54a: Men’s clothing retailer since 1887]: HART SCHAFFNER MArx
Took me a bit to figure out that we were supposed to leave off the ends; I got those mostly through the crosses. Which led me to suspect that “split[ting] the last one,” as the puzzle’s title suggests, had something to do with the meta. And indeed (after briefly glancing down the rabbit hole of trying to use the leftover bits to spell something), inspiration burst through my mental fog like getting canned must have burst through the fog of Charlie Sheen’s career: each themer is TWO AND A HALF MEN — the improbably long-running sitcom starring Sheen against character as a total asshole (one man), Jon “Duckie” Cryer as his put-upon brother (two men), a cute young kid (and a “half”) who aged and then was Cousin-Olivered out of the cast in the final seasons to be replaced by a cuter, younger kid, plus many fine B-list actors. The show is credited with propelling Chuck Lorre along a meteoric rise to fame, so that he could create The Big Bang Theory, which is a marginally better show that does a wonderful job of enforcing stereotypes about scientists.
The names of The Three Musketeers — ATHOS, PORTHOS, and ARAMIS — are safely in the wheelhouse of literary trivia, and CROSBY, STILLS, and NASH are classic rock legends. Neil YOUNG was indeed at Woodstock — but he didn’t sing on their performance of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” although he was introduced with the rest of the band. (Note: I am available for your pub trivia team if you need a ringer for the classic rock round.) But heads will likely be scratched regarding the 1910 Chicago Cubs Joe TINKER, Johnny EVERS, and Frank CHANCE, who were immortalized in the poem “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” in the New York Evening Mail. I only remember them from the 1949 movie musical Take Me Out to the Ballgame, in which the poem was parodied as “O’Brien to Ryan to Goldberg.” (Note that I’m also available for the movie musical trivia round.) As well, you may be wondering why Matt expected average puzzle solvers to know men’s clothier HART SCHAFFNER & MARX. The Chicago company was Barack Obama’s favorite suitmaker. He wore HartMarx (as they are now known) suits exclusively during the 2008 presidential campaign, when he accepted the nomination at the Democratic National Convention, and at his inauguration. Full disclosure: the label was vaguely familiar to me, but I had to look up the full name of the brand.
Something inside is telling me that I’ve got your secret.