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New York Times, Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Author:
Gordon Johnson
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
23/15/20167/20/20160
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0011000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61001
Gordon Johnson

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 34 Missing: {QXZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Johnson. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Gordon Johnson notes:
Not long ago I rewatched Baz Luhrmann's take on 'Romeo + Juliet' starring a very young Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. Set in a ... read more

Not long ago I rewatched Baz Luhrmann's take on "Romeo + Juliet" starring a very young Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. Set in a fictitious but thoroughly modern "Verona Beach," the movie is true-ish to Shakespeare with the Montagues and Capulets at war, swords and knives replaced with a lot of guns, and of course "a pair of star-cross'd lovers." A fun movie if you haven't seen it.

It made me wonder though if we'd ever seen star-crossed lovers crossed up in a crossword puzzle. This was all the more interesting since I noticed that STAR CROSSED LOVE is 15 letters long. If I ran this phrase across the middle of a puzzle, could I find sets of star-crossed lovers to go in each of the four corners?

Let me tell you, there are a lot of options! John Lennon and Yoko Ono would do. But then so would Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Or Janet Leigh and Spencer Tracy. There's also Burns-Allen, Cash-Carter, Geller-Green and Butler-O'Hara!

The trick was to find couples who were real star-crossed lovers, whose last names could be crossed, and hopefully who could be set up symmetrically in a grid. BURTON-TAYLOR fit the bill, and it just so happens that their names fit symmetrically right across from BEATTY-BENING. (Although in fairness Burton-Taylor was a famously rocky relationship while Beatty-Bening have been together for years.)

BOGART-BACALL was another obvious choice. But here the symmetry failed me. In the original version of this puzzle, I did have a solution: I used Clyde BARROW and Bonnie PARKER in perfect symmetry across from BOGART-BACALL.

The problem of course is that all of the others are actors and actresses who are/were together on and off the screen. Bonnie and Clyde were real-live people who have been portrayed in the movies, but it just wasn't consistent with the rest of the theme. So we went with PITT-JOLIE instead, damn the symmetry. And so far, damn the "star-cross'd"-ness. They're still together, right?

Jeff Chen notes:
Gordon gives us some STAR CROSSED LOVE, using four pairs of famous actors literally crossing each other in the grid. I've highlighted ... read more

Gordon gives us some STAR CROSSED LOVE, using four pairs of famous actors literally crossing each other in the grid. I've highlighted them below in case you missed them.

It was great to see pairs that were easily recognizable even to this pop culture idiot. It's hard to avoid seeing stories about Angelina JOLIE and Brad PITT, and Humphrey BOGART and Lauren BACALL are uber-famous. Even Warren BEATTY and Annette BENING rung a bell. I couldn't figure out who TAYLOR was, but some research shows that of course Elizabeth TAYLOR was a gigantic star, along with Richard BURTON.

I would have loved some symmetry in the pairings. That would have been difficult though, perhaps even impossible given the constraints of crossing the two names at a common letter. Perhaps it could have been achieved by using lesser-known stars? But that would have lessened the impact for many solvers, just as my not figuring out who TAYLOR was made that pair less interesting than the others for me.

It was also a little odd to see STAR CROSSED LOVE, rather than STAR CROSSED LOVERS. Too bad that the latter is 17 letters! Even a slight expansion of a normal 15x15 grid couldn't accommodate that. I wonder if simply STAR CROSSED would have been better. It would have made the grid much more difficult to construct, forcing placement of four black squares right off the bat, but I do think STAR CROSSED is a more natural-sounding phrase.

What with all the themers Gordon had to work with, I think he did a good job with his grid. It might not seem that hard to work around those pairs, given the total flexibility to place any of the four pairs into any of the four corners, but trying to incorporate four sets of crossing answers — plus a central 15! — means you have to work around a ton of heavily-constrainted areas. A bit of A BITE and A RUN and the odd ENSOUL, but to keep it to just that made for a smooth solve.

1
F
2
I
3
N
4
N
5
B
6
U
7
R
8
B
9
K
10
E
11
B
12
A
13
B
14
O
R
E
O
15
U
S
E
R
16
A
R
O
M
A
17
O
R
B
S
18
R
H
E
A
19
R
I
G
E
L
20
D
I
R
E
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C
T
E
D
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B
A
C
A
L
L
23
T
A
Y
L
O
R
24
B
E
T
25
R
I
O
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G
A
S
27
E
N
S
28
O
U
L
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S
T
A
T
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I
N
K
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I
N
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A
D
L
33
A
I
34
S
T
A
R
C
35
R
36
O
S
S
E
D
L
37
O
38
V
39
E
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K
H
A
K
I
41
D
O
P
E
Y
42
D
43
A
44
M
S
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W
A
S
46
A
47
B
I
48
E
N
E
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E
E
O
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S
L
Y
51
B
E
N
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I
N
G
53
E
R
U
54
P
T
S
55
G
R
A
S
S
F
E
56
D
57
J
O
L
I
E
58
M
O
O
T
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L
I
F
E
60
A
B
I
T
E
61
B
O
A
T
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A
R
U
N
63
Y
E
N
T
L
64
A
N
D
Y
65
M
E
L
T
© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0720 ( 24,361 )

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Across
1
Markka spender, once : FINN
5
Home to many commuters, for short : BURB
9
Skewered fare : KEBAB
14
Snack sometimes eaten from the inside out : OREO
15
Exploitative sort : USER
16
Sachet's quality : AROMA
17
Partners of scepters : ORBS
18
Moon of Saturn : RHEA
19
Brightest spot in Orion : RIGEL
20
Ran : DIRECTED
22
11-Down's partner in life and in "To Have and Have Not" : BACALL
23
5-Down's partner in life and in "The Taming of the Shrew" : TAYLOR
24
Get into the pool? : BET
25
Ipanema's locale, for short : RIO
26
Many a noble element : GAS
27
Fill with a spirit : ENSOUL
29
.215 batting avg., e.g. : STAT
30
Finish, as a tattoo : INKIN
32
Two-time opponent of Dwight : ADLAI
34
Relationship doomed from the start ... or something found in this puzzle four times? : STARCROSSEDLOVE
40
Uniform shade : KHAKI
41
Youngest dwarf : DOPEY
42
Creators of artificial lakes : DAMS
45
Sushi bar condiment : WASABI
48
Suffix with ethyl : ENE
49
Fairness-in-hiring letters : EEO
50
Like some winks and grins : SLY
51
47-Down's partner in life and in "Bugsy" : BENING
53
Blows one's stack : ERUPTS
55
Like beef cattle, dietarily : GRASSFED
57
54-Down's partner in life and in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" : JOLIE
58
Worth debating - or not : MOOT
59
Long sentence : LIFE
60
Grab ___ (eat on the run) : ABITE
61
Punt or junk : BOAT
62
Give ___ for one's money : ARUN
63
Gender-bending Streisand title role : YENTL
64
Garcia of "Ocean's ..." movies : ANDY
65
Go soft : MELT
Down
1
What's spread in a spread : FOOD
2
Smoke in one's eyes, say : IRRITANT
3
Lincoln's locale : NEBRASKA
4
Like a buttinsky : NOSEY
5
See 23-Across : BURTON
6
Theater staff : USHERS
7
English horn, for one : REED
8
Garment with underwires : BRA
9
Jeweler's unit : KARAT
10
Bana of "Troy" : ERIC
11
See 22-Across : BOGART
12
___ Bedelia (children's book character) : AMELIA
13
Where "X" may mark the spot : BALLOT
21
Grip tightly : CLENCH
22
Ball girl : BELLE
24
Springtime arrivals : BUDS
26
U.S.O. show attendees : GIS
28
Spring that's unusually warm? : OASIS
29
Missile's home : SILO
31
Vexes : IRKS
33
Functionality-enhancing computer products : ADDINS
35
Lou who sang "A Natural Man" : RAWLS
36
"Deal!" : OKAY
37
Order to a gun crew : OPENFIRE
38
Looking to get even : VENGEFUL
39
One of 100 for Argus, in myth : EYE
42
Tunes player : DEEJAY
43
Oxygen-dependent organism : AEROBE
44
___ Rouge (Paris cabaret) : MOULIN
46
Where expats live : ABROAD
47
See 51-Across : BEATTY
50
Gird (oneself) : STEEL
52
Hajji's religion : ISLAM
54
See 57-Across : PITT
55
"Continue ..." : GOON
56
Ding : DENT
58
Deg. from Wharton : MBA

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle.

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