Jeffrey Lease’s New York Times crossword, “Film Adaptations” — Nate’s write-up
In this week’s Sunday puzzle, we’re treated to a number of popular movies, adapted here for our puzzle brains and solving screens:
– 18A / 23A: ONE FLEW / THE CUCKOOS NEST [With 23-Across, second film to win all five major Academy Awards (1975)] (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)
– 41A: THE EMPIRE SEKIRTS [Blockbuster sequel with an iconic plot twist (1980)] (The Empire Strikes Back)
– 50A: THE LAND TIME [Animated dinosaur film that spawned 13 sequels (1988)] (The Land Before Time)
– 67A: TRANSLOSTLATION [Romantic dramedy directed by Sofia Coppola (2003)] (Lost in Translation)
– 89A: READING BURN [Coen brothers farce involving the C.I.A. (2008)] (Burn After Reading)
– 97A: JEOPARDY JEOPARDY [Crime thriller that takes some liberties with its namesake legal concept (1999)] (Double Jeopardy)
– 114A: CROUCHING TIGER [With an unseen portion of 128-Across, Oscar-winning martial arts film (2000)] (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
– 128A: (drag on)ES FEET [Deliberately procrastinate]
– 16D: A RIVER RUNS [Semiautobiographical film set in rural Montana (1992)] (A River Runs Through It, with I and T in circles at the base of the RIVER, whose shading / circles don’t not look phallic…)
– 74D: (SHOP) OF HORRORS [Dark comedy about a carnivorous plant (1960, 1986)] (Little Shop of Horrors, with SHOP as a rebus square)
Ok, wow! Each of this puzzle’s 9(!) long theme entries literally reimagines a movie’s title in how that title is represented in the grid. This puzzle certainly has incredible theme density going for it, especially with two vertical themers crossing horizontal ones!
Most of the applications of the theme were pretty straightforward, like ONE FLEW being literally over THE CUCKOO’S NEST or LOST being hidden inside TRANSLATION. The one I’m stuck on is THE LAND (before) TIME, since THE LAND already comes before TIME in the title of the film, so it looks like “before” is just missing for some reason – for a while, I thought this was “The Land that Time Forgot,” but the date doesn’t line up. What am I missing there?
– With such theme density, there are bound to be some sacrifices in the fill, including the weirdly plural LETTUCES. SOHOS, NODDERS, PARS, and SONNYS as well as partials like I ATE, A LID, and A BOY. Other than that, a pretty smooth grid, I think!
– The NE corner was the toughest for me, with MOTO / ATTICA / AHMAD / AMALIE / HOT SAKE all tripping me up and DECENT not being obvious to me based on the clue. Did anyone else get stuck there?
– That said, even with all of the themer shenanigans and that corner, this was one of my quickest Sunday solve times in a while. I hope others had quick solving luck too, if that’s what you’re into.
– I imagine the MASAI / ESSIE crossing could be tough for some, but hopefully folks have an inroad to at least one of the two.
What did you think of the grid? Can you think of any other films that would have worked well with this theme? Let us know in the comments. Have a great weekend and happy October!
Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “7-Up” — Matt’s write-up
Tough sledding to get going here, and no obvious theme answers from the grid design. Some clues have asterisks. The first I found was 30a, having skipped past the NW corner: [*Sculpture garden seen in the video game “GoldenEye 007”], but STA didn’t make sense.
Things became clearer with the numerically first themer at 27a, where I knew that [*NBA Hall of Famer nicknamed “The Pearl”] is EARL MONROE. These were the first of seven starred clues which don’t fit in their grid spots, with an eighth entry serving as a revealer near the bottom:
- 27a [*NBA Hall of Famer nicknamed “The Pearl”] EARL MONROE
- 30a [*Sculpture garden seen in the video game “GoldenEye 007”] STATUE PARK
- 58a [*”Is that all?”] ARE WE DONE
- 60a [*Michigan city on the Great Lake in its name] PORT HURON
- 81a [*They’re thick as thieves] BEST FRIENDS
- 111a [*Prepares an ambush] SETS A TRAP
- 114a [*Anesthetizes] PUTS UNDER
- 129a [Walking trip that may last from morning till evening … and a hint to this puzzle’s theme] DAY HIKE
While 27a only has space for EARL, we can piece together EARL MONROE by continuing up a row, and dropping back down, such that the MON is “hiked” up. Each themer has the three-letter abbreviation for a day of the week (in order) popping up in this way. A well-done theme that puts quite a bit of constraint on the grid. The first two themers are bit less general than the others, but I found that delayed and enhanced the eventual aha moment.
- 32a [Bachelor party venue?] plays on ‘bachelor’s degree’ to point to ALMA MATER
- 67a [Initials of a driver’s club] AAA. Not “driver” and “club” from golf, but drivers of automobiles.
- 79a [Brand for treating nasal congestion] AFRIN. Here’s something I haven’t seen in a puzzle in a while, but it’s sure a great entry to make this theme work.
- 88a [Where a boater might rest] HAT TREE. A boater being a type of hat.
- 117a [One of Macaronesia’s archipelagos] AZORES. The etymology for “Macaronesia” is neat. The Azores are the northernmost of the group; Madeira and the Canary Islands are near the Moroccan coast, while Cape Verde is further south.
- 128a [Clinton who presided over the construction of the Erie Canal] DEWITT. Folks may recognize the derogatory name for the canal project (before it started making money, anyway): “Clinton’s Ditch”
- 11d [Sorta expensive] A BIT STEEP. From time to time every solver runs across a multiword entry that just doesn’t parse right and click in their eyes. I wonder if this one got anyone.
- 123d [Org. for the Milwaukee Admirals] AHL. That’s the American Hockey League, the highest level of North American pro hockey below the top-flight NHL.
Jay Silverman’s Universal Sunday crossword, “A Dying Art”—Jim’s review
The letters -DY are added to the ends of certain words in familiar phrases causing crossword wackification. Some pronunciations change as needed.
- 22a. [Dora’s cousin, on a desert trek?] SANDY DIEGO. San Diego. This entry made me think the theme was about repeating syllable sounds.
- 28a. [“Oh, dear god, not another improv troupe”?] “COMEDY AGAIN.” “Come again?” Yeah, I hate it when people try to make me laugh repeatedly.
- 36a. [Tom tossing ridiculously improbable touchdowns?] MIRACLE BRADY. Miracle Bra.
- 49a. [Evil twin?] SEEDY DOUBLE. See double.
- 67a. [Abstinence program?] RANDY INTERFERENCE. Ran interference.
- 81a. [King under Morgan le Fay’s spell?] BEADY ARTHUR. Bea Arthur. Not sure I buy this one. Eyes can be beady but I didn’t think a person could be. Unless they’re breaking out in a sweat.
- 97a. [The junkiest of junk food?] GARBAGE CANDY. Garbage can. I like this one best; it’s the most natural of the lot. Actually, I think this was a real thing, wasn’t it? Yup, it was. Or is.
- 106a. [Many fraternity headquarters?] ROWDY HOUSES. Row house.
- 115a. [Rice farmer’s security measures?] PADDY LOCKS. Padlocks.
I don’t think I got any chuckles from the theme answers, but your mileage may vary of course. It’s a plenty solid theme with consistent execution, though, so I don’t mind. Can you think of any other potential theme answers? PITCHING WOODY? BRANDY FLAKES? DISCO STUDY?
Fill highlights include KANGAROOS, BREAD BOX, BIG HORN, BONA FIDE, RIPS OPEN, and WARLORD. I liked seeing YEET [Toss, in Zoomer slang] as well. It was a tough start to the grid with OIKOS, but I recognize the name so it only needed a few crossings.
Clues of note:
- 18a. [Target rival, once]. KMART. It’s crazy to see this store go away after all these years. There are only three left in the States, and the last New Jersey store is closing this month. One in Miami and one on Long Island remain open. And there’s a big one on Guam, too, and I doubt it will ever go away. It’s part of the fabric of the island now.
- 59a. [Trevor who won the 2023 Erasmus Prize]. NOAH. Never heard of the prize, but it sounds interesting. NOAH won because of “his sharp-minded, mocking yet inclusive political comedy.”
- 31d. [Serve well done?]. ACE. Good clue.
- 37d. [Slushy drink]. ICEE. What? No cross reference to KMART? Back in the day, getting an ICEE at KMART was a highlight of the week.
Nice puzzle with clean fill. 3.75 stars.