Paul Coulter’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Type Casting”—Jim P’s review
More fun with famous last names—that is, if you thought yesterday’s NYT theme was fun. In today’s version, Paul is linking actors’ last names to specific roles they played in specific films.
- 17a [Aptly surnamed star searching for tornadoes in “Twister”] HELEN HUNT. I guess you can call “storm chasing” a hunt for a storm. Apparently the Oscar-winning actress was involved in a serious rollover car crash the other day. She is reported to be recovering at home.
- 38a [Aptly surnamed star beset by outlaws in “My Little Chickadee”] MAE WEST. The film was a spoof of the western genre.
- 61a [Aptly surnamed star burning a lot of gas in “The Fast and the Furious”] VIN DIESEL. AFAIK, diesel fuel is never referred to as “gas.” Why not just use “fuel” in the clue? Your factoid of the day, per Wikipedia: Mark Sinclair got into acting as a 7-year-old when he and some buddies broke into a theater to vandalize it. Instead of calling the cops, the artistic director who caught them offered them roles in an upcoming show.
- 11d [Aptly surnamed star eating out with pals in “Diner”] KEVIN BACON.
- 27d [Aptly surnamed star on a lifeboat in “Souls at Sea”] GEORGE RAFT.
I thought the theme was fine. It didn’t get me too excited, as I thought some of the connections were a bit of a stretch, and it’s unfortunate that it arrived a day after another last-name theme. But I do like the actor/role angle.
On to more important matters. If you doubt the veracity of Six Degrees of KEVIN BACON, let’s see how it works with this group.
- HELEN HUNT was in Mad About You with Paul Reiser who was in Diner with KEVIN BACON.
- VIN DIESEL was in Saving Private Ryan with Tom Hanks who was in Apollo 13 with KEVIN BACON.
- GEORGE RAFT was in Some Like It Hot with Jack Lemmon who was in JFK with KEVIN BACON.
- MAE WEST was in Sextette with Alice Cooper who was in Skum Rocks! with KEVIN BACON
As you can see, each of our actors has a Bacon number of only 2 (the lower the Bacon number, the stronger the connection), even Raft and West if you can believe it. Try it online here.
Back to the puzzle. Highlights in the fill include ALL TALK, EYESHADE, and “NOT A BIT.” I wanted ON EARTH to be UNEARTH though that would cause POKES to be PUKES which doesn’t really pass the breakfast test. TIE A BOW, STIMULI, STEW POT, NBA GAME, SPRIEST, and VERITAS are more workmanlike than sparkly.
Clues of note:
- 23a [Meeting place in ancient Rome]. BATHS. I sure wanted the answer to be singular like the clue, but I can see a bathhouse being referred to as “the baths.” Conversely, 18d [Magic moments?] seems like it wants a plural answer, but we get a singular NBA GAME.
- 34d [Haile religious people?]. RASTAS. This of course refers to former Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie. If you don’t know the pronunciation, it’s a homophone of “highly,” hence the punny clue. I once visited a church in rural Suffolk, England where Emperor Selassie had stopped on his UK tour in 1954.
That’s it from me. 3.5 stars.
Jennifer Nutt’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme is a blend between historical trivia and a quote theme:
- 20a. [Famous erupter of A.D. 79]. MOUNT VESUVIUS.
- 56a. [Roman writer who came to a bad end by 20-Across], PLINY THE ELDER. He was also a naval commander (who knew? not I) and is said to have uttered the quote (or rather, its Latin equivalent) to his son, Pliny Jr., before setting sail to check on his buddy in Pompeii. Flew too close to the volcano, so to speak.
- 28a. [With 41- and 48-Across, what 56-Across declared while approaching the eruption of 20-Across], FORTUNE / FAVORS / THE BOLD. The grid is 16 squares wide to accommodate that central 6.
I knew the phrase, didn’t know its origins.
Not sure how “in the language” a thing a TUNA BURGER is, and I’d never seen the noun ANIMATRONS before (now envisioning an “animatron of honor” at a wedding).
Five more things:
- 38d. [Top scout], EAGLE. Well, not in the Girl Scouts of America.
- 9d. [Flag], LOSE SPIRIT. If you know someone who’s lost their spirit, show them some love and encouragement.
- 45d. [___ Caovilla (brand of high-end women’s shoes)], RENÉ. A new-to-me RENE clue, I think. Let’s see what they’ve got … oh! If you have ever bedazzled a jean jacket or something, and you’ve got $1500 to blow, these are the shoes for you.
- 32a. [Cricket segments], OVERS. We watched a little Women’s Big Bash League cricket the other evening on the Willow channel, which I’d never heard of before. The WBBL teams who were playing were the Brisbane Heat and the Sydney Thunder. My husband watches a lot of different sports, but cricket was eluding his understanding.
- 54d. [Small, round and shiny], BEADY. Like opossum eyes more than marbles.
3.25 stars from me. Good night!
Susan Gelfand’s Universal crossword, “If I Wrote the Thesaurus”—Rebecca’s review
THEME: Common expressions clued as alternate definitions of other common expressions
- 3D [Expression that ought to relate to “goes into a spin”] TAKES TURNS
- 21A [Expression that ought to relate to “even the score”] FIT TO BE TIED
- 29D [Expression that ought to relate to “for the birds”] CAN OF WORMS
- 49A [Expression that ought to relate to “child’s play”] FUN AND GAMES
This is a great theme that had me genuinely excited to go around the grid looking for and solving the entries. I don’t always love the mix of across and down theme answers, but here it worked to keep the puzzle moving in a way that allowed me to really enjoy getting to each of the above answers.
This layout also allowed for a lot of entertaining fill with answers like ZIPPO, SQUIRM, RYE BEERS, CREVICES, and CORGI keeping me constantly interested. We also had quite an interesting feast to EAT in this puzzle, with OYSTERS, CRAWDADS, and PASTRAMI.
Favorite clues of the day go to SEW [What a Singer does best] and KILO [DEA bust unit]. Fell into both of those misdirection traps and loved figuring them out. I love when a constructor can energize the short words in a grid by using clues – and both of these took common answers and made them so much more.
Ben Tausig’s AVCX, “Love + Letters” — Ben’s Review
It’s an AVCX from editor Ben Tausig today, with guest editing from Francis Heaney, a fun switcheroo from last week’s puzzle/editor. This one’s called “Love + Letters” and that title does a pretty good job of spelling out what’s going on with the theme on this 2/5 difficulty puzzle:
- 18A: Qualifying hurdle for future Shreks? — OGRE TEST
- 24A: Dating apps for apex ocean predators? — ORCA CONNECTORS
- 39A: Forget to mention a puzzle competition? — OMIT MYSTERY HUNT
- 49A: Vintage truck with a creamy center? — OREO SPEEDWAGON
- 59A: Digital image of actor Katz from “Dallas”? — OMRI SCAN
An “O” in tennis is love, and place it next to some otherwise normal phrases (GRE TEST, RCA CONNECTORS, MIT MYSTERY HUNT, REO SPEEDWAGON, and MRI SCAN) and you get wacky things.
Ace of Base’s “The Sign” was released in 1993, which was 26 years ago, which means it’s probably an OLDIE now! How do the 90s constantly feel like they were only 10 years ago, y’all?
Some other fill notes:
- Speaking of OLDIEs, Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8ter BOI” was released in 2002, meaning it’s 17 years young.
- XRAY clued as “Film shown after a break?” might be my favorite clue in this puzzle. Such a great, slightly unexpected angle to approach cluing that from.
- An EMU can weigh 88 pounds!
- A clue noting ITS is “often incorrectly punctuated” reminded me of the Strong Bad guide to how to not mix those up:
Happy Wednesday, all!
Gary Larson’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
I’m guessing this is an early Halloween theme of sorts. The entries are a list of “candy” that ends in ‘S’ and is clued to be associated with a profession: SNICKERS (comedian), SMARTIES (teacher), GUSHERS (oil tycoon), WARHEADS (submarine pilot) and WHOPPERS (fisher). I don’t know a heck of a lot about these products as they are mostly sold here as imports if at all.
(now envisioning an “animatron of honor” at a wedding).
Now I am as well.
I’m surprised at the low ratings on the NYT. The quote and the two other theme answers are nicely arranged and the fill is pretty clean. It was also educational for me: I knew the phrase but didn’t know who first said it and in what circumstances. I hesitated a little at ANIMATRONS and TUNABURGER but the crosses were straightforward. I’m not generally fond of quote puzzles because usually they come in the form of feeble humor, so this was a nice contrast.
Thanks, David L. I too am mystified by the low rating for the NYTimes puzzle.
I thought Rex Parker’s analysis was pretty spot on (he’s usually too negative for my taste). As for me personally, this puzzle was totally off my wavelength and wasn’t fun at all. I wasn’t even able to finish it and it has been a long time since I haven’t been able to complete a Wednesday puzzle.
What is the meaning of 64D “State of Japan” clue, and answer ZEN in the NYT puzzle?
Zen state of mind I believe.
I thought it might mean that, felt it was far fetched but tend to agree. I loved Japan when I visited in 2010.
ANIMATRONS really helped turn me off to the NYT puzzle. The longer non-theme fill should be where a puzzle shines and that… didn’t.
Jim – I liked your Kevin Bacon, Six Degrees game and the cool link you provided. As for Kevin himself, I also thought Bacon/Diner was a bit of a stretch. I actually liked this one that was in my original submission better: GLENNCLOSE – Appropriately surnamed actress who gets much too familiar in “Fatal Attraction.”
I also take your point about fuel rather than gas for diesel. But the singular “meeting place” is correct for BATHS in ancient Rome. The Latin term thermae referred to a singular such facility. This is because going to the baths in the Roman Empire was an elaborate event, involving a Tepidarium (warm water, or sometimes warm steam for sweating,) a Caldarium (hot water for bathing) and a Frigidarium (cold water for cooling off.) There were also facilities for exercise. Then there was scraping, massage, and oiling. In VERITAS, it was generally an hours-long affair.
Thanks, Paul. That’s way more information than I ever expected to know about Roman baths (though I did visit some in Bath, England).
I like your GLENN CLOSE alternative as well.
This makes twice in four days no LAT report: please why is this happening again?
Re:AVX I was stumped by what was going on after completing the first three themers. It was only after I got to 49A that the light dawned… and I actually laughed out loud! Very puzzled at the large number of 1’s and 1.5’s in the ratings.
PS: sorry this is a few days late.