Marie Kelly Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Central Casting”—Laura’s review
Let’s go to the movies! Mike Shenk challenges us to find a movie technique.
[17a: 2003 movie starring Billy Bob Thornton and Bernie Mac]: BAD SANTA
[21a: 1994 movie starring Robin Williams and John Turturro]: BEING HUMAN
[34a: 1971 movie starring Woody Allen and Louise Lasser]: BANANAS
[47a: 2005 movie starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Scarlett Johansson]: MATCH POINT
[53a: 1963 movie starring Albert Finney and Susannah York]: TOM JONES
This was a metapuzzle where I went down any number of rabbit holes, eventually asked a solving-group buddy for a hint, and then only found the solution by talking it out with another solving buddy. Rabbit holes included:
- There are four other movies in the grid: MARSHALL (2017), MONSTER (2003), SISTERS (2015, which I watched on a plane and laughed so hard I woke up the guy next to me), ALI (2001)
- Three of the movies start with B
- Two are directed by Woody Allen
- Two are comedies, one is a drama, one is a fantasy-drama, and one is an adaptation of Henry Fielding’s 1749 picaresque novel, with a very sexy meal scene:
Finally, I asked for help and was hinted to: 1) look only at the across themers; and 2) see how I could apply the title, Central Casting. This generated another rabbit hole, since I saw anagrams in the center of several of the themers: SAND, HUNG, CHOP, MOJO … but that just seemed silly. It took forever, but in a moment I finally saw it (with help from chatting it out via twitter DM): look for the central letters in each word, not in each title/entry as a whole:
Which add up to spell ANIMATION, which is indeed a movie technique.
One fill note: [15a: “Hallelujah, I’m ___”]: A BUM is the title of an early 20th-century hobo song by Harry McClintock, and gave the name to a 1933 movie starring Al Jolson. Carl Sandburg included it in The American Songbag (which Dan Zanes covered on Parades and Panoramas in 2004). The Freedom Riders adapted it as an activist anthem in the early 1960s, which was subsequently recorded by Pete Seeger (who was my dad’s camp counselor!).