“HE GIVES YOU THIS PUZZLE” by Jeffrey Harris
I can already tell I’m going to need more coffee for this process. Spoilers below — solve the puzzle first.
“He Gives You This Puzzle”
Constructor: Jeffrey Harris
Theme: Movies with cold-related titles — well-suited to NETFLIX AND CHILL.
- 34A: NETFLIX AND CHILL – Transparently sexual Tinder come-on… where it would be fitting to watch the answers to the starred clues?
- 17A: SNOWPIERCER – *2013 Chris Evans action movie that takes place entirely on a constantly moving train of apocalypse survivors
- 22A: ICE AGE – *2002 animated movie dealing with themes of acorn addiction and the plight of the squirrel
- 50A: FROZEN – *2013 Idina Menzel musical that’s the highest-grossing animated movie of all time, so more like “Let It Rain”
- 54A: WINTER‘S BONE – *2010 Jennifer Lawrence drama where she plays a teenager who has to hunt to provide for her younger siblings, sound familiar?
Ben: So I liked this one a lot. It’s not complicated but it’s fun.
Lena: I agree! My hackles went down and I found it really enjoyable– a quick solve with tons of good fill. And the clues definitely seem to have struck a better balance between conversation and content this time.
Ben: Sure — you’ve got the Buzzfeed style showing up in some of the theme clues, or in 14A: Skewered Southeast Asian dish often served with peanut sauce and now I’m salivating (SATAY), but you’ve also got interesting facts like the Amazing RANDI at 48D (Magician whose foundation offers a million dollars to anyone who can prove they have psychic powers).
Michael: I am old and married so the NETFLIX AND CHILL meme / thingie / whatever passed me straight by. I had NETFLIX AND CH– and sincerely thought CHIPS. I know *I* would enjoy NETFLIX AND CHIPS.
Lena: I grinned when I filled in the first themer: SNOWPIERCER. I love that ridiculous movie to bits– it’s so, so bad.
Michael: You are insane it is great
Lena: I KNOW Snowpiercer is great, man. Someone once told me I shouldn’t put it in one of my puzzles because it wasn’t mainstream enough– and would you look at it now. But, like, it is not a “great” movie.
Ben: I’ve heard it’s really something. I’m actually 0-4 on having seen the themers, to be honest — not even FROZEN.
Lena: 3-4 for me (haven’t seen FROZEN either). Once I realized nothing weird was going on in the theme answers I could just relax and solve the puzzle left to right, smoothly moving down towards the central revealer.
Michael: 2-4 for me. Saw the grown-up movies, not the kiddie ones. Because, again, I am BuzzFeed’s dad.
Ben: This is really a pretty straightforward trick — common expression reparsed as literal instructions — but I think the modern phrase and cute theme clues elevate it.
Lena: Did you notice a typo in 33D: Stack at the beginning of a buffet (PLATE)?
Ben: Yeah, it should read “Part of a stack”. Looking over the rest of the clues, there’s not a lot here that sticks out one way or the other. Nothing super-clever, nothing super-blah. I kind of like LOSSES (43D: Number after the dash on a team’s record). And I’m not sure why LOS Angeles and NEW York (40A and 56A) are both clued as fun cities.
Lena: The BAT (55D:___ an eye) and EYE (57D: Bat an ___) thing, especially with one on top of the other, made my eye twitch a little. I’m okay with some repeating clue elements, but with the double arbitrary “(fun city)”s it felt like too much.
Ben: Oh wow, I didn’t even notice that while solving. Yeah, that’s too cute for my taste.
Michael: I love the middle finger quality of the BAT / EYE thing. Same way I did not mind *at all* the “BALANCE” dupe yesterday (it was the answer and was in the clue). I can see its being too cute for some, but it’s early-week, you want newbies to get toe-holds … I’m all for minor rule-nose-thumbing.
Lena: My top three favorite clue/fill combos this time were:
-YES (64A: Great response to “Can I have a million dollars?”) – Simple, funny. It takes three-letter fill and makes it fun.
–PAW (7D: Command to a dog that ideally allows for an interspecies handshake) – When a no-frills answer and clue can come together to deliver an adorable visual, everybody wins.
–SHRED (12D: Go crazy on that sick solo!!!!!) – Yes. This is the clue I want to see for SHRED.
Ben: I like SHRED too. I also enjoyed the clue on A TO Z (6D) referring to “Wannabe”. Normally I hate that fill, but that was a good way of salvaging it.
Lena: The resulting earworm wasn’t necessarily appreciated (fine, maybe it was a little…), but that the answer tumbled into my brain in song was definitely an improvement to how that fill has been clued in the past.
Ben: Conversely I did not enjoy CAMEL (23D: One or two humps and they’re done). A little too much for me.
Lena: I didn’t like the clue for AMP (29A: Energy drink that implies you are a guitar that needs to be louder).
Michael: Any time ESTELLE is not clued via a “Golden Girls” reference, I get upset (I’ve honestly never heard of whoever this ESTELLE is) (21A: Kanye’s 2009 “American Boy” collaborator).
What is KONAMI (27A: “Metal Gear Solid” and “Dance Dance Revolution” company)? KON-AMI? Obi Wan KON-AMI? Is that a known thing? I’d’ve gone with BON AMI there. Insert additional joke here about being in my mid-40s.
I think RAE Sremmurd was in the NYT this past week (in a clue for DUO … did I imagine that?) [ed: well, I imagined the NYT part; it was in WSJ, not NYT. h/t Erik Agard]. And now here they are today (20D: ___ Sremmurd (“No Flex Zone” rap group)). So they’re having a crossword moment. Look forward to seeing their whole insane name in the grid some day.
Ben: So on the whole, good theme and fill, clue voice is a work in progress but more good than bad.