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REEL-LIFE ANNIVERSARY

New York Times, Sunday, February 23, 2014

Author: A Namesake of 119-Across
Editor: Will Shortz
Victor Fleming
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1.55023
The other Victor Fleming

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 70 Missing: {Q} This is puzzle # 39 for Mr. Fleming. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Victor Fleming notes: At the age of six, watching the credits roll after the annual TV airing of The Wizard of Oz, I saw 'Directed by Victor Fleming' on the screen. 'Mother,' I shouted, 'my name's on TV.' She looked up from her ... more
Victor Fleming notes: At the age of six, watching the credits roll after the annual TV airing of The Wizard of Oz, I saw "Directed by Victor Fleming" on the screen. "Mother," I shouted, "my name's on TV." She looked up from her knitting, but it was gone by then. "Uh huh," she said. I knew she thought that I'd imagined it. Neither my parents nor any of their friends were movie buffs, and my efforts to find someone who would vouch for what I'd seen on the screen were futile. I had to wait a year to prove I was right!

I've used my name once before in a puzzle — a Thursday Themeless in the New York Sun, in September 2004. Symmetrically juxtaposed to VICTOR FLEMING was the answer CHAMP AT THE BIT, for a synonym mini-theme.

Back to the puzzle at hand: Nine theme answers, with two crossing and a total of 97 letters, felt reasonable, vis-à-vis the universe of titles directed by the honoree. Will helped a bit on this after my first draft needed revising. I don't remember the specifics, but he suggested a film that was not in my original lineup. It was either Red Dust or Bombshell. He also rewrote about half my clues. Okay, 60%. Would you believe 65?

I wanted phrases and compound words for the theme, and I think Will did, too. That ruled out Adventure, Hula, Reckless, Renegades, Mantrap, and The Virginian. And some of Fleming's early work is not known at all, e.g. The Mollycoddle, Mama's Affair, Red Hot Romance, Empty Hands, and several others. I hated not to use Treasure Island, Captains Courageous, and Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, because those titles are well known, if only from the novels that bear the same titles.

I admit to being self-indulgent in this puzzle. But c'mon, man! Victor Fleming directed 40+ films over a 29-year period. And his 125th birthday fell on a Sunday! How could I not make a puzzle about this?

Jeff Chen notes: I can't help it — I love it when people break rules. These days so many things have been done before that it's pretty difficult to find a completely new way of breaking a crossword rule. But Judge Vic does ... more
Jeff Chen notes: I can't help it — I love it when people break rules. These days so many things have been done before that it's pretty difficult to find a completely new way of breaking a crossword rule. But Judge Vic does it today, integrating his own name into the puzzle, while hiding his identity in the byline. Neat idea.

I hadn't heard of the other Victor Fleming or some of the movies referenced today, so this puzzle played hard for me. I can totally see how many will find this puzzle a "classic" though, especially considering how prolific Victor Fleming (the movie director) was — jaw-dropping to read up on him and see how many great movies the man directed.

I really like it when we see a constructor's personality come through in a puzzle. Really neat to have two Supreme Court appointees at the top of the puzzle (ROBERTS and ALITO), clearly a nod to Judge Vic's profession. (Judge Vic is a judge, if that wasn't clear.)

Some nice fill today, what I would expect from an experienced constructor. Not a lot of ugly short stuff, plus some beautiful entries like STUDENT ID and SHEEPDOG, not to mention CAR STEREO and SOLIPSIST worked in the across direction. The layout was a bit unusual, having nine-letter fill worked in like this. Hmm, to that point...

I did like learning facts today, but I would have preferred a layout that made the theme answers stand out a little better. Granted, it's hard to do that when some of the themers are short, like RED DUST. Perhaps grouping the themers in single rows would have helped? RED DUST and A GUY NAMED JOE could have been in a single row, for instance. Even just switching the two down-oriented theme answers into the across direction might have helped. It is sort of neat that RED DUST intersects BOMBSHELL (and LORD JIM crosses JOAN OF ARC) but I felt like the confusion wasn't worth the neatness factor.

Fifty years from now, another JEFF CHEN better write a puzzle about me (listing all of JEFF CHEN's Nobel Prizes, including in three categories devised just for him, including the Nobel Prize in Mediocrity). Young constructors, get cracking!

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,483
Across Down
1. Bush judicial appointee : ROBERTS
8. Quarterbacks, often : PASSERS
15. Bush judicial appointee : ALITO
20. Professional tennis since 1968 : OPENERA
21. Rank : ECHELON
22. Singer with the album "Live at the Polynesian Palace" : DONHO
23. Time for the best deals, maybe, in a going-out-of-business sale : LASTDAY
24. *1939 Judy Garland film : THEWIZARDOFOZ
26. There was a great one in Genesis : FLOOD
27. One-named designer : ERTE
28. Lava comes out of it : FISSURE
29. Kind of car or tee : MUSCLE
32. Appear suddenly : POPOUT
36. Slaughter in the 1946 World Series : ENOS
37. *1933 Jean Harlow film : BOMBSHELL
40. "Nuts!" : DARN
41. Gator's tail? : ADE
43. D-backs, on scoreboards : ARI
44. Daily riser : TIDE
45. How things may be brought : TOHEEL
47. Pass : ENACT
51. Restful places : INNS
53. Each : PER
54. *1943 Spencer Tracy/Irene Dunne film : AGUYNAMEDJOE
56. Is threatening, in a way : LOOMS
58. Colorist : DYER
60. Self-absorbed sort : SOLIPSIST
61. Hit : STRUCK
63. Some kitchenware : POTS
66. Call from a curb : TAXI
67. Sprint competitor, once : GTE
68. *1939 Vivien Leigh/Clark Gable film : GONEWITHTHEWIND
73. ___ king : ALA
76. Sprint : TEAR
77. Word of agreement : SURE
78. 2000s events in North Korea, for short : NTESTS
82. Provider of music on the go? : CARSTEREO
85. Court grp. : USTA
88. Footnote abbr. : OPCIT
89. *1942 Spencer Tracy/Hedy Lamarr film : TORTILLAFLAT
92. Odist's preposition : ERE
94. When repeated, a Polynesian capital : PAGO
95. Publish : ISSUE
96. Drinkers' toasts : SKOALS
97. Brother of George W. and Jeb : NEIL
99. Award for Miss Hawaii, in addition to a tiara : LEI
100. Summer hrs. : DST
102. Snow queen in Disney's "Frozen" : ELSA
103. *1948 Ingrid Bergman film : JOANOFARC
105. Elegance : LUXE
108. eBay user : BIDDER
110. Certain newspaper advertisement : INSERT
111. Like Christiane Amanpour, by upbringing : IRANIAN
113. Pub containers : MUGS
115. Perfect, as a home : DREAM
119. Director of the eight starred films in this puzzle, who was born on 2/23/1889 : VICTORFLEMING
123. Torrey Pines Golf Course locale : LAJOLLA
125. Suffer humiliation, in slang : EATIT
126. Comeback : RIPOSTE
127. Brooks Robinson's team : ORIOLES
128. Sitcom with a 1974 wedding : RHODA
129. Foreign traveler's purchase, maybe : ADAPTOR
130. Source of the line "What's past is prologue," with "The" : TEMPEST
1. Massage therapeutically : ROLF
2. ___-blue : OPAL
3. "I should ___ lucky" : BESO
4. Put into a sepulcher : ENTOMB
5. *1932 Clark Gable/Jean Harlow film : REDDUST
6. La-la lead-in : TRA
7. Perhaps : SAY
8. Migratory seabird : PETREL
9. Vier + vier : ACHT
10. What Babe wants to be in "Babe" : SHEEPDOG
11. Finish (up) : SEW
12. New Haven reuner : ELI
13. "Frasier" role : ROZ
14. Major glitch : SNAFU
15. Puts together : ADDS
16. Things that should be tied up by the curtain? : LOOSEENDS
17. Playfully : INFUN
18. Complete, informally : THORO
19. Transudes : OOZES
25. Beatles title girl : RITA
27. Queen of literature : ELLERY
30. Send off : SHIP
31. Gave up : CEDED
33. Birthplace of 22-Across : OAHU
34. Hunts, with "on" : PREYS
35. Lacking variety : ONENOTE
37. Gives up, in slang : BAILS
38. "Then again, I could be wrong" : ORNOT
39. Adult's counterpart : MINOR
42. Obsessed with : DEEPINTO
45. Fortunetelling aids : TAROTS
46. 1980s-'90s series based on the fictional firm McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak : LALAW
48. Doing ___ (dancing springily) : AJIG
49. Basis in accounting : COST
50. Head to Paris? : TETE
52. Overly confident : SMUG
55. Recipe instruction : MIXIN
57. Wiry-coated terriers : SCOTTIES
59. Lead-in to Pen, commercially : EPI
62. Genuflect : KNEEL
64. Night that "Friends" aired: Abbr. : THU
65. Swashbuckles, say : STRUTS
69. Some London lords : EARLS
70. Effected, in a bad way : WREAKED
71. "___ ba-a-ack!" : HES
72. "Ed Wood" star : DEPP
73. When the story begins, perhaps : ACTI
74. 1960s U.S. bombing target : LAOS
75. Flight board info: Abbr. : ARRS
79. Milan's La ___ : SCALA
80. Go-getter : TIGER
81. Unemotive : STOIC
83. Means of access to a cafeteria, maybe : STUDENTID
84. In past centuries : OFOLD
86. Joint parts : TENONS
87. Specialties : AREAS
90. Give off coherent light : LASE
91. Overreacting sort : ALARMIST
93. Essen article : EINE
98. *1925 Percy Marmont film : LORDJIM
101. One way to the top : TBAR
103. Pub measure : JIGGER
104. 1960s western sitcom : FTROOP
105. Chopped ___ : LIVER
106. ___ Heep (Dickens character) : URIAH
107. Blade brand : XACTO
109. Red opening? : INFRA
112. Bit : IOTA
114. "Render ___ Caesar ..." : UNTO
116. Shelfmate of Vogue : ELLE
117. Tavern stock : ALES
118. Place for a topgallant : MAST
120. Lash holder : LID
121. Green monitor, for short? : EPA
122. Finish (up) : MOP
123. Fate : LOT
124. "___ we done?" : ARE

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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