Thrice in Rxs / SUN 7-17-16 / Heraldic border / Cathedral music maker / Bandleader who popularized conga line / Longtime all my children role / Hall of fame slugger Johnny / Stephen King novel with pyrokinetic character
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Constructor: Jerry Miccolis
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Double Features" — imagined double features, which are really imagined single features in which two movie titles have been fused together [addendum—please read the P.P.S., below]:
- FROZEN WATERWORLD (22A: Double feature about the Arctic Ocean?)
- ALIEN CONTACT (38A: ... about the search for extraterrestrial life?)
- TITANIC SKYFALL (49A: ... about baseball-sized hail?)
- BIG CONSPIRACY THEORY (67A: ... about Lee Harvey Oswald not being the lone gunman?)
- SAW THE DEPARTED (87A: ... about attending a funeral?)
- ROCKY SLEEPER (96A: ... about an insomniac?)
- NOTORIOUS KINGPIN (116A: ... about Pablo Escobar?)
politician, popular historian, author, and journalist. He has been Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs since 13 July 2016 and has served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Uxbridge and South Ruislip since 2015. He had previously served as MP for Henley from 2001 until 2008 and as Mayor of London from 2008 until 2016. A member of the Conservative Party, Johnson identifies as a One-Nation Conservative and has been associated with both economically liberal and socially liberal policies. [...] Johnson is a controversial figure in British politics and journalism. Supporters have praised him as an entertaining, humorous, and popular figure with appeal beyond traditional Conservative voters. Conversely, he has been criticised by figures on both the left and right, accused of elitism and cronyism, laziness and dishonesty, and using xenophobic, racist, and homophobic language. Johnson is the subject of several biographies and a number of fictionalised portrayals. (wikipedia)
• • •
PART A (ugh, I say): it is infinitely replicable. Just plunk two movie names next to each other. You could probably do a Sunday-sized puzzle from post -2010 movies alone. Getting symmetrical theme answers is really your only challenge. "The Martian Room"! "Brooklyn Bridge of Spies"! I haven't even left 2015 yet. There is nothing here. Not only that, I guarantee you that this theme has been done, and been done better, and been done more cleverly. Even the title is just a [shrug]. A bored "how's this?" And then Part B, the execution. These answers ... it's like the creators weren't really sure what "funny" was. Like they looked up "humor" on the internet at the last minute. How else to explain the singularly weak BIG CONSPIRACY THEORY? You Can Plunk "Big" In Front Of Anything, why why why would you do that??? Nothing Clever Is Happening Here! And ALIEN CONTACT!?!?! You know that CONTACT was actually about ... alien ... contact ... so ... literally nothing clever is happening here. It is negative clever. Also, SAW THE DEPARTED would just never work ever on any level. I can imagine the other pairings as coherent phrases, but not that one. Titles so rarely begin with the perfect tense and no clear subject. Everything about this puzzle, including how it got approved for publication, is utterly baffling. Also, the fill isn't great.
[NOTORIOUS ... BIG]
MITRAL x/w CARRÉ = rough (7D: Kind of heart valve + 26A: French for "square"). Very rough. I'm actively relearning French as we speak and couldn't come up with CARRÉ, probably because there are no accents aigus in crosswords. PART A (not I!?) and GNMA (blargh) were also dire and made ALIEN hard to see (because, again, who would've expected so banal a pairing as ALIEN and CONTACT!). MEIS! ASYE! TER! I have to stop now. This appears to be a debut, and it's one a discriminating editor should've sent back, with notes on how to make it NYT-worthy. Only Merl Reagle could pull off something like this—could give it the ridiculous, clever, ingenious humor it *needs* to come off. He would've added some twist that made it all seem worthwhile. I miss him.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
P.S. this tweet
Please read the following comment from reader Martin Abresch, who found out from reading another blog (one in the "NYT Family," ironically...) that:
the submitted version was much *MUCH* better. The theme answers were not designed to be wacky movie combinations. The design was for a two-movie answer to describe a one-movie clue.This is jaw-dropping, honestly. One of the worst editing fails I've ever heard of. The original clues are the raison d'etre of the whole puzzle. They actually make sense of the title, for *&%^'s sake. Maybe it's time the NYT started seriously considering a changing of the guard. Yeesh. Sorry Will ruined your puzzle, Jerry. Better luck next time.
FROZEN WATERWORLD = Ice Age?
ALIEN CONTACT = ET The Extraterrestrial?
TITANIC SKYFALL = Armageddon?
BIG CONSPIRACY THEORY = JFK?
SAW THE DEPARTED = The Sixth Sense?
ROCKY SLEEPER = Insomnia?
NOTORIOUS KINGPIN = The Godfather?
I mean, this goes beyond issues of one clue being better or worse than the other. The answers were designed to provide accurate descriptions of movies. They were not written to be wacky. In the published puzzle, SAW_THE_DEPARTED (Double feature about attending a funeral?) is dull as a doorknob and barely makes sense. In the original version, SAW_THE_DEPARTED ("The Sixth Sense?") is clever and precise.
Personally, feel sorry for the constructor, Jerry Miccolis. The theme was solid, and several of the theme clue-answer pairs made me smile. The editors utterly ruined it. I do not understand why they changed the clues at all. Epic fail.
P.P.P.S. See Will's disavowal in the comments...
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