Beverage introduced as Brad's Drink / THU 7-25-13 / Pirate portrayer of film / Pro bono promo for short / Brew whose name is article of clothing when read backward / Mary of early Hollywood
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Constructor: Patrick Blindauer
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: DOUBLE FEATURE (14D: Drive-in theater draw ... with a literal hint to 4- and 21-Down) — the double-feature answers are movie titles of identical lengths that must be written in side-by-side, in the same single answer, for the Acrosses to make any sense:
- 4D: 14-Down starring Jack Lemmon (first feature: "GRUMPY OLD MEN"; second feature: "THE APARTMENT")
- 21D: 14-Down starring Frank Sinatra (first feature: "OCEAN'S ELEVEN"; second feature: "GUYS AND DOLLS")
Word of the Day: Mary AST[OR] (32A: Mary of early Hollywood) —
Mary Astor (born Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke; May 3, 1906 – September 25, 1987) was an American actress. Most remembered for her role as Brigid O'Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon (1941) with Humphrey Bogart, Astor began her long motion picture career as a teenager in the silent movies of the early 1920s. (wikipedia)
• • •
ITAGO, for instance) are minimal and can easily be excused given how perfectly, neatly, delicately this puzzle comes together in the theme material. Like two perfectly functioning zippers, those DOUBLE FEATURE answers are. This Thursday puzzle did what a Thursday puzzle should do, at its best—go off book, make me work to figure out what's up, and then make me go "whoa..." when I figure it out. It helps that this puzzle was not exceedingly difficult. My time was above average, but that's just because I had to keep mentally re-entering the second feature (since I was solving online, against the clock, and thus could enter only one of the movies). Not surprisingly, I got the entire middle section of the puzzle first, and then couldn't move outward. Entire middle done, but I couldn't build off of it. Wanted both OB[EY] and OR[EO], but ... not enough room. Managed to get into that NE corner w/ ABYSS and then began to get a sense of what was going on with [OG]RES. I typed in "OCEAN'S ELEVEN" and then realized shortly thereafter that it would have to be running alongside "GUYS AND DOLLS." At that moment, I was Just So Impressed. One real challenged with that Sinatra DOUBLE FEATURE is the "VL" sequence—not at all common in English. So I loved the very tricky "?" clue on HOV LANE (63A: Perk for a pool party?). It highlighted both the awkward letter sequence and the creative escape therefrom.
Jack Lemmon DOUBLE FEATURE was slightly harder for me to come up with. I'd been wanting "THE APARTMENT" from the second I saw the clue, but (early on) I chucked it when crosses didn't work. The fact that WIDTH fits in 1A: One of the three dimensions (LEN[GT]H) is exquisite torture, or at least a very effective little trap. Once I had the theme, I knew LEN[GT]H had to be right, and the dominoes started to topple from there. I don't think of "GRUMPY OLD MEN" as classic Lemmon, but no matter. That's not the point. Someone pointed out to me that "THE ODD COUPLE" fits in there as well. I didn't fall into that particular hole, luckily. Finished up in the SW and then gave the puzzle a mental standing ovation.
OK, wait. I have one problem with the puzzle. I don't understand why APR wasn't changed to ... something else. First, that's a three-abbr. little section (PSA, APR, OPER). Seems unnecessary. But the bigger issue, for me, is that APR. is an abbr. for APRIL, which is also in the grid (55D: You may be fooled at its beginning). The fact that APR is given loan cluing (8D: Loan letters) doesn't matter much to me. It's still a distraction (*esp.* in such a sterling puzzle). There are probably half a dozen ways to change that section—to lose APR and maintain or improve fill quality. Without doing anything else, you could make APR into UPN or ATL. I would love to see TON there, because DEPO is a very common shortening of "deposition," but ... whatever. The point is, I hate APR. Again, I hate it because this puzzle is a masterpiece and so APR is bugging me in ways it might not otherwise.