A Namesake of 119-Across’s Sunday, 2/23/14 NYT crossword puzzle (ed. Will Shortz)

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February 23, 2014 by manvspuzzle

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Title: REEL-LIFE ANNIVERSARY

Theme: VICTOR FLEMING.  The director.  Dude directed lots of movies.  He also shares a name with this puzzle’s constructor.  Today is also his 125th birthday.

Theme Answers:

  • 24A — *1939 Judy Garland film : THE WIZARD OF OZ
  • 37A — *1933 Jean Harlow film : BOMBSHELL
  • 54A — *1943 Spencer Tracy/Irene Dunne film : A GUY NAMED JOE
  • 68A — *1939 Vivien Leigh/Clark Gable film : GONE WITH THE WIND
  • 89A — *1942 Spencer Tracy/Hedy Lamarr film : TORTILLA FLAT
  • 103A — *1948 Ingrid Bergman film : JOAN OF ARC
  • 119A — Director of the eight starred films in this puzzle, who was born on 2/23/1889 : VICTOR FLEMING
  • 5D — *1932 Clark Gable/Jean Harlow film : RED DUST
  • 98D — *1925 Percy Marmont film : LORD JIM

***

Something Good: Incorporating The Constructor’s Name Into The Puzzle.  This is a very limited medium.  There’s really only so much you can manipulate in order to enchant your solvers.  The byline is a little-used tool in this regard, so it’s kinda cool when it actually becomes a part of your solving experience.  A rare, neat little thing.

***

2 23 14

Uh oh.  Shame shame, Jeff Chen and Evan Birnholz.  If you read Evan’s notes over at Xword Info yesterday, you’ll see that he unwittingly dropped a major spoiler for this puzzle.  I’m one of the people who read those notes.  So I immediately knew the answer to 119-Across, which kinda took the only trickery in this theme out of my solving experience.  Oh well.

The puzzle?  It’s for old people and serious movie buffs.  I’m not really either of those things (I’m old enough for “Back to the Future” to feel like a classic, basically).  Truthfully, if you don’t have some knowledge of these movies or this director, this will just be sort of a foggy 140-word journey into the abyss.  You’ll be better off for it, of course; I, for one, did not know of this Victor Fleming guy (other than the constructor/mentor, who by the way has advised me in the past and helped me out immensely), so I’m smarter now.  Yesterday I didn’t know who directed GONE WITH THE WIND or THE WIZARD OF OZ.  Now I know.  And I bet I’ll never forget it.  In my opinion, that’s the second-best thing that can happen with a crossword puzzle (the first is having your brain melted by a very innovative theme that seriously tricks you somehow).

I bet almost every constructor toys with the idea of incorporating their own name into a puzzle somehow, at least once, even if it just sits in their files unpublished.  I know that David Steinberg and Tyler Hinman have both done it in themeless puzzles in the NYT.  So it’s not unheard of.  Maybe Xword Info should have a new section.  It could be called “Narcissistic Puzzles.”  Ahh, that’s probably too mean.  I’m not trying to be mean, by the way.  If I come up with an awesome theme someday that would incorporate my name, I’ll unapologetically submit it, cause I’m awesome.  So are Vic and Tyler and David.

So anyway, I thought this puzzle was fine.  Not really my kind of thing, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.  I can really see families sitting around their living rooms today, drinking coffee and calling out clues to each other.  The idea of that makes me happy, and it should make you happy, too.  I don’t care if the puzzle didn’t do much for you personally.  It’s not all about you.  There are other people in the world.  Try to remember that.

Thanks, Vic!

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