Tracy Bennett & Victor Fleming’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Occupational Therapy”—Jim P’s review
Today we get a tribute and quote puzzle in one. The quote begins at 28a [Start of a quote by this puzzle’s honoree, whose 120th birthday is August 13, 2019], and continues at 64a and 96a: THE ONLY WAY TO GET RID / OF MY FEARS IS TO / MAKE FILMS ABOUT THEM.
So it sounds like we’re looking for a horror film director from the past. Which one? The answer lies in the *’d clues.
- 19a [*Wildly excited state] FRENZY
- 21a [*Mandy’s role on “This Is Us”] REBECCA
- 47a [*One of 20 on the Titanic] LIFEBOAT
- 83a [*Skier’s direction] DOWNHILL
- 113a [*Reeling feeling] VERTIGO
- 117a [*Start to analyze?] PSYCHO
- 1d [*Tudor queen] MARY
- 15d [*Unfavorably known] NOTORIOUS
- 74d [*Illegal extractions] BLACKMAIL
- 106d [*Hitch material, and one of ten one-word movies in this puzzle directed by the honoree] ROPE. Odd beginning to this clue until you realize that “Hitch” is a not-so-subtle hint to the director in question…Alfred Hitchcock, of course.
I’m not a huge fan of quote themes, but I’m not as opposed to them as others. If it’s done right, I think it can be quite good. This one is quite good. Yes, the quote breaks up a little awkwardly, but it’s symmetrical and very apropos to the man behind the quote, and the title of the puzzle is just so perfect. Plus, the addition of one-word film titles, clued as regular words, is a very nice touch.
I’m really impressed with the grid construction here. Our constructors found a perfect quote which breaks nicely enough in a symmetrical fashion. Then they found
eight ten one-word film titles that are also arranged symmetrically, with four of them crossing. And not only that, two others cross the quote. Well done!
I’m not exactly sure how many one-word titles Hitchcock made (I know of Marnie, Topaz, and Suspicion, off the top of my head). I’m sure there are others, as many films as the man made. So it sounds like our constructors had enough to give them some leeway. Still, some of these films are lesser known. I didn’t recognize DOWNHILL (1927), BLACKMAIL (1929), MARY (1931), or LIFEBOAT (1944). But that didn’t stop my enjoyment of the theme.
There isn’t much in the sparkly fill department with all that theme material everywhere, but there’s enough CHARM in the mid-range stuff: BRIGADE, OLD PRO, AUNT BEE, BAD BET, TREKKIE, BEAGLE, GALOOT, etc. WAAH [Cry from a crib] feels a little random, but I was able to get it just on the W. And we do get a vocabulary test in OBDURACY (73a [Bullheaded refusal to change]), but the crossings are all fair enough.
Fave clue goes to [Bread machine?] for ATM. I suspect that’s not new, but I don’t recall seeing it, and it’s just so good.
Good puzzle! As nice a tribute/quote grid as you’ll find, I think. 4.1 stars.
Woo-ooo! If you’ve ever seen the British kids show Horrible Histories (now on American Netflix), you might have seen the sketch “You’ve Been Artois’d!”, a parody of hidden camera/prank shows like Punk’d. It cracked our family up so much that “You’ve Been Artois’d!” became a catchphrase for us. Ergo, I couldn’t let ARTOIS (22a, [Stella ___ (Belgian brew)]) go by without sharing the fun. Woo-ooo!
Christopher Adams’s Universal Crossword, “Sound Quintet”—Judge Vic’s write-up
Five different spellings for the same sound, BO. Hmm. At a certain point, I was staring at all the answers I knew and I had three blank boxes: For 3d, I had
?ETAW??CAR. I had no clue regarding what turned out to be RPG, NAGILA and ARYA.
Yeah, I slapped myself upside the head when GETAWAY finally came to me, but its clue, as clever as it is, is weekend tough. Just saying, asking, really, if anyone else had issues with the three words I did not know. I’ve not watched “Game of Thrones.” I’ve never played “Dungeons & Dragons.” And my knowledge of Israeli folk music is zilch.
Themers and thoughts:
- 17a Generous deeds BEAUX GESTES. I did not know there was an X in this term. I’d have been eliminated from a BEE if I’d drawn it to spell on a quilt.
- 23a Infamous 2009 deserter BOWE BERGDAHL. I listened to every episode of Sarah Koenig’s podcast about this guy’s case, but would not have known how to spell his first or last name, I don’t think. On a quilt or otherwise.
- 37a “Bolero” star BO DEREK. Why have I not heard of this film? I asked myself. And then I looked it up. 0% from Rotten Tomatoes. Winner of Six Golden Raspberries! And more.
- 50a Iconic English fashionista BEAU BRUMMELL. Does calling him iconic signal that he was a real person? I, frankly, did not know.
- 58a Valentine’s Day couple? BOW AND ARROW. Hmm, again. What’s the rationale for giving one theme answer a punny clue and the rest straightforward ones? I found this punny clue challenging.
That said, I enjoyed this crossword; it just didn’t feel like a Universal. Though, this type of stuff is more and more seeming to be what Universal is going to be. And, ultimately, I will be fine with that.
Other stuff that grabbed my attention:
- 9d Alaskan city where Sarah Palin was once mayor WASILLA. Even with the Palin connection, this is not a common crossword word. And why are we using Alaskan in the clue, rather than Alaska? I noticed in another Universal puzzle recently that OMAHA was clued as a Nebraskan city, and I failed to ask the question then. Is there a correct-and-incorrect issue? Or is it a preference thing?
- 29d Burn, as trash INCINERATE. What about the verb incinerate prompts the use of trash as a helper-hint here?
- 30d Fugitives often try to cross them STATE LINES. Nice clue, rare answer. Good fill.
- 42d Responsible (for) TO BLAME. Infinitives are almost total no-shows in crosswords. This clue, like it or not, passes the substitution test. She is responsible for this. She is to blame for this. The parenthetical for is not even necessary. I say, More like this! Thumbs up.
- 1a D&D, e.g. RPG. It still has not come to me what RPG stands for, and this review is taking way too long to write.
- 27a “Hava ___” (Israeli folk song) NAGILA. Now that I have looked this up, I think I’d have gotten it, if the clue had referenced Jewish weddings.
- 28a Speech-based deaf education method ORALISM. I’d never heard of this, and I missed its two prior appearances in 1993 and 1994 NYT’s.
- 32a Maisie’s “Game of Thrones” role ARYA. Having looked her up, I now am familiar with Maisie Williams.
- 48a Literary thief Lupin (RANEES anagram) ARSENE. One might argue that if you have to use a plural variant of foreign crosswordese as a hint, … oh, forget it!
I had fun with this one, but spent way too much time with it.
Anna Gundlach & Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Daaaang! This one took me longer than any other Saturday NYT in the last year. Anyone else get their butt kicked by this puzzle? Nothing unfair or mystifying, just not coming together for me without a struggle.
Fave fill: cinematic STEADICAM, a POWER MOVE, YELPER, UPSOLD, “WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?”, “NO RUSH,” HALTER TOP, “DEAR SANTA,” PARASITIC (just watched Monsters Inside Me last night—there was a Peace Corps volunteer who ended up with Entamoeba histolytica, and a traveler with a botfly problem), “I’M HERE TO HELP” (which just might be Erik’s personal motto—he’s such a mensch), ESPORTS (yes, it’s a real thing now—playing video games for money), and IN ITALICS.
Did not know: 29a. [Enemies, in slang], OPPS. Short for opponents? Opposites? I’m guessing the former. Did know the slangy TURNT (are people still using this one?) and “IT’S LIT,” however.
Five more things:
- 62a. [Start of an anti-coal petition], “DEAR SANTA.” Oh, brilliant. “Dear Santa: I have been very good, so please bring me toys rather than a lump of coal.”
- 44a. [Business card abbr.], RES? If I had business cards, they certainly would not include my home address or home PHONE LINE. Can’t help feeling like this was not the constructors’ clue.
- 45a. [California W.N.B.A. team, on scoreboards], LAS. Short for Los Angeles Sparks, presumably. There’s only one WNBA team in L.A., so is it not more likely that the scoreboard would just say LA? Whaddaya know, the WNBA site uses 3-letter abbrevs, and here’s LAS.
- 60a. [Woman’s name that’s an anagram of INTERNEES], ERNESTINE. My go-to Ernestine is Lily Tomlin’s character from Laugh-In eons ago, but seeing INTERNEES in the clue reminds me—if you’re looking for a way to help people who’ve been detained by Immigration, consider donating to RAICES, a Texas nonprofit that helps refugees.
- 58d. [What you can take that I can’t?], ARE. Listen. I are going to use whatever form of “to be” I wants to.
4.25 stars from me.
Evan Kalish’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I have not solved too many of Evan’s puzzles, but this one went fairly easily. The stacked 13s in the middle make for a great wide open grid, but they aren’t too difficult. I got NUCLEAR WINTER at 36A quickly, and that helped to make the puzzle fall that much faster. A true joy to solve. 4.5 stars.
- 9A [Myers partner in personality type research] BRIGGS – I have no idea how I remembered this. The brain is a marvelous thing sometimes!
- 16A [“Ni-i-ice!”] “OH, COOL!” – Great casual phrase.
- 35A [“I know, right?”] “TELL ME ABOUT IT!” – I wonder if this was the seed entry for this puzzle?
- 46A [Red state?] RASH – Tricky! Maybe the best clue in this puzzle.
- 53A [Rustic home] LOG CABIN – I have grown to like these, especially if it has tons of modern conveniences. I just don’t want a brown house.
- 6D [Exchanged insults, as competitors] TALKED SMACK – I like this entry the best. I’ll bet this has no NYT hits. (It doesn’t!)
- 11D [Confident assertion] I CAN – There is a Generation UCAN that makes fitness supplements. Add it to your word lists! (Maybe!)
- 21D [Sinus-clearing condiment] WASABI – I have sushi fairly often, and maybe this is why I rarely get a head cold!
- 26D [Nonkosher lunch, probably] BACON BURGER – Small nit to pick here: Does anyone get a burger with bacon and no cheese? I don’t think I have ever done that!
- 32D [Group of local amateur teams] REC LEAGUE – There are a few local pickle ball leagues around here, and I am going to start up one of these days!
That is all!
Andrew Bell Lewis’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
I had a great start on this puzzle, but the E/SE section just buried me. I had most of this puzzle done in about 8 minutes, but it took nearly a full 10 MORE minutes to finish! Brad and Matthew have made another great puzzle, and although I would call this slightly easier than the toughest Stumpers, I was still fully STUMPED, especially in that lower right corner! 4.6 stars.
- 15A [What Freud called narcissism] EGO LIBIDO – I barely remember this term from my rudimentary psych class in HS. That made this a little tough.
- 16A [Most easily tied] UP ONE – Totally fooled on this one. I was thinking shoelaces …
- 27A [About 15% of raw quinoa] PROTEIN – I actually like quinoa. This is the kind of stuff you have to eat more of as you get older! I am now 50, and it is slowing me down!
- 36A [Christian Grey’s eventual spouse] STEELE – I never read these books, so I had no idea. I thought it might be STELLA for a while! (Note the error marks in the grid!)
- 49A [Bag of tricks] ARSENAL – The English Premier League starts back up this weekend. Live sports on weekend mornings!
- 61A [Traffic flow facilitator] GREEN WAVE – I have no idea what this means!
- 64A [Silk-spinning spider] ORB WEAVER – I also didn’t know this term! My family cannot believe I hadn’t heard this term before.
- 6D [2019 G20 summit host] ABE – I think this is referring to Shinzo Abe, the president of Japan.
- 12D [Exceed what’s deemed to be possible] GO TO ELEVEN – Best entry in the grid. Great “a-ha!” moment here!
- 28D [Shirley Temple was its Grand Marshal in early 1939 and 1999] ROSE PARADE – I actually filled this in first. What else could it be??
- 46D [What Eminem calls himself in a 2013 song] RAP GOD – I don’t know which Eminem song this is, but I had an idea early on this is what it would be. Sounds vain enough for a rapper to use!
- 62D [What a certain crook might catch] EWE – Yes, a shepherd’s crook! Great clue!
Whew! Time for a nap. Have a great weekend!
Hardest NYT Sat in a while for me and a really good one. Knew EA had to have his hands in this one when I was struggling more than usual and saw a WNBA reference. “Start of an anti-coal petition” is a great clue.
WSJ: Thanks, Jim P, for your nice review of Tracy and Victor’s ingenious tribute puzzle. I was quite amazed by their inclusion of the titles appearing in 1 Down and 83 Across which are relatively obscure unless you are a big fan like I am. If you care to investigate, 74 Down (from 1929) is sensational and just came out in a new US-formatted edition on Blu ray from Kino. It has the sound and silent versions which were made simultaneously. The silent is the much better of the two and has a great musical score. Another quote: “Some of our most exquisite murders have been domestic, performed with tenderness in simple, homey places like the kitchen table.”
Thanks for the tip. The quote sounds like it came from Arsenic and Old Lace, which I assumed was a Hitchcock film but isn’t. It was by none other than Frank Capra.
Also, your comment made me realize I didn’t highlight MARY or ROPE in my grid image and that I stated that the puzzle contained 8 films, not 10. I’ve made the corrections above.
Vic: In the Universal, RPG stands for Role Playing Game. I also had trouble with that section and did not get GETAWAY CAR until the very end. I had heard of Hava NAGILA, but I haven’t watched “Game of Thrones,” so I didn’t know ARYA.
Hi, Derek! This puzzle is a close cousin of my NYT themeless from a few weeks back, whose inspiration traces to a Peter Wentz themeless from 2013 (which also featured a 13-stagger stack). I was obsessed with the concept of implementing a lively/all-debut stack of 13s, and this was my favorite set (which I arrived at working largely manually) at the time. Years later I revisited the task. In my mind the entire stack was the ‘seed,’ though I was especially happy to include that particular central entry.
NYT solving seemed slow, but actual solving time for me was only a bit longer than average. NW corner was last to be completed.
Liked the WSJ, but haven’t we seen this quote and recently as well? I like Hitch, so I don’t care.
NYT – decent puzzle although Will’s cluing threshold for body parts is too loose for me. Grr.
Back after solving the next two, late I suppose. Good Saturday on the whole so far.
Thanks for all the nice comments.
I don’t think the quotation has been in a puzzle before. The only ways it will parse are as we have it–18-13-18– and 18-4-5-4-18.
A Ginsberg search for THEONLYWAY* produces no hits; ditto for OFMYFEARSISTO and MAKEFILMS*.
Make no mistakes, I loved it, maybe I just knew the quote, but not verbatim.
enjoy the master
Newsday’s “Saturday Stumper”: Derek, 61A GREEN WAVE is about synchronized traffic lights.
I just heard TURNT on a recent episode of Grown-ish. But it wasn’t used to mean drunk. It meant something like exciting or fun – they were talking about the NCAA finals. This is the way I’ve seen the word used in the past (eg, online).
I’m way too old to use this word, or have any friends who use it, but the NYT clue seemed a bit off.
NYT has lots of vocabulary new to me along with the dated phone line and dsl. Challenging and interesting. Hope I remember some of it.