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REEL-LIFE ANNIVERSARY

New York Times, Sunday, February 23, 2014

Author:
A Namesake of 119-Across
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
463/29/20055/12/201724
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
75106666
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.55023
Victor Fleming
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 ... read more

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 ... read more

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. 0223 ( 23,483 )
Across
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
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*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
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Foreign traveler's purchase, maybe : ADAPTOR
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Source of the line "What's past is prologue," with "The" : TEMPEST
Down
1
Massage therapeutically : ROLF
2
___-blue : OPAL
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"I should ___ lucky" : BESO
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Put into a sepulcher : ENTOMB
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*1932 Clark Gable/Jean Harlow film : REDDUST
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La-la lead-in : TRA
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Perhaps : SAY
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Migratory seabird : PETREL
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Vier + vier : ACHT
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What Babe wants to be in "Babe" : SHEEPDOG
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Finish (up) : SEW
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New Haven reuner : ELI
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"Frasier" role : ROZ
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Major glitch : SNAFU
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Puts together : ADDS
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Things that should be tied up by the curtain? : LOOSEENDS
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Playfully : INFUN
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Complete, informally : THORO
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Transudes : OOZES
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Beatles title girl : RITA
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Queen of literature : ELLERY
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Send off : SHIP
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Gave up : CEDED
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Birthplace of 22-Across : OAHU
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Hunts, with "on" : PREYS
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Lacking variety : ONENOTE
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Gives up, in slang : BAILS
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"Then again, I could be wrong" : ORNOT
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Adult's counterpart : MINOR
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Obsessed with : DEEPINTO
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Fortunetelling aids : TAROTS
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1980s-'90s series based on the fictional firm McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak : LALAW
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Doing ___ (dancing springily) : AJIG
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Basis in accounting : COST
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Head to Paris? : TETE
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Overly confident : SMUG
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Recipe instruction : MIXIN
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Wiry-coated terriers : SCOTTIES
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Lead-in to Pen, commercially : EPI
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Genuflect : KNEEL
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Night that "Friends" aired: Abbr. : THU
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Swashbuckles, say : STRUTS
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Some London lords : EARLS
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Effected, in a bad way : WREAKED
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"___ ba-a-ack!" : HES
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"Ed Wood" star : DEPP
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When the story begins, perhaps : ACTI
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1960s U.S. bombing target : LAOS
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Flight board info: Abbr. : ARRS
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Milan's La ___ : SCALA
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Go-getter : TIGER
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Unemotive : STOIC
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Means of access to a cafeteria, maybe : STUDENTID
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In past centuries : OFOLD
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Joint parts : TENONS
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Specialties : AREAS
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Give off coherent light : LASE
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Overreacting sort : ALARMIST
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Essen article : EINE
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*1925 Percy Marmont film : LORDJIM
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One way to the top : TBAR
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Pub measure : JIGGER
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1960s western sitcom : FTROOP
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Chopped ___ : LIVER
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___ Heep (Dickens character) : URIAH
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Blade brand : XACTO
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Red opening? : INFRA
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Bit : IOTA
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"Render ___ Caesar ..." : UNTO
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Shelfmate of Vogue : ELLE
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Tavern stock : ALES
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Place for a topgallant : MAST
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Lash holder : LID
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Green monitor, for short? : EPA
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Finish (up) : MOP
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Fate : LOT
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"___ we done?" : ARE

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?