“FIRM RAKER” by Sam Trabucco
Get cracking! Solve the puzzle!
Constructor: Sam Trabucco
Theme: Pixar movie titles with one letter changed to R
- 18A: A RUG’S LIFE – Animated film where the main character is an Afghan that’s sick of being walked all over?
- 23A: FINDING NERO – Animated film where the main character journeys to the excavation site of a Roman emperor’s corpse and learns a little something along the way?
- 49A: TRY STORY TWO – Animated film about a doorman who’s always reminding people that the elevator doesn’t work from the first floor?
- 56A: INSIDE RUT – Animated movie about the boring routine of the microbes that live around road indentations?
- 39: PIXAR – The producer of 18-, 23-, 49-, and 56-Across… or, when you say it out loud, what each answer does to one of the characters from the original movie?
Ben: This is a good puzzle — I like the concept and I like the fill. The theme didn’t hit quite as hard for me as it should have — I get that you have to parse PIXAR as PICKS R, but how is that 39A: …what each answer does to one of the characters from the original movie?
Lena: It comes across as complete nonsense to me. Awkwardly-worded revealer, and nonsense theme answers. INSIDE RUT? This isn’t a pun, it’s not even a phrase. The clue [Animated movie about the boring routine of the microbes that live around road indentations?] is rambling and weird. Boring routine = RUT, road indentation = RUT. Yeah, and?? I just put question marks in all the squares that had Rs subbed in (“picked??”).
Ben: I think this might be one where I get more out of it because I haven’t been solving for all that long. I still get a certain thrill out of cracking a theme, even if the puns are kind of lame. I will say that the clue for TRY STORY TWO has to go a very long way to make the joke work. Nice to see “Inside Out” show up in the list, though — I loved that movie, and it’s probably my new favourite from Pixar.
Lena: I guess FINDING NERO and A RUG’S LIFE the only just-passable themers imo. Weak puns, but at least they’re puns.
Ben: I have a weakness for long fill, so I was delighted to see stuff like BLOOD MONEY (4D: Green for a successful hit?) and the understated clue for NICELY DONE (30D: *fist bump*).
Lena: NICELY DONE is quite possibly the only thing I like in this puzzle, I’m sorry to say…
Ben: The fill isn’t bad. Wasn’t sure about SMIZE (46D: Portmanteau coined by Tyra Banks), but apparently it means “smiling with your eyes”. YAS is modern enough that I liked it, although I bet the clue 27A: “OMG das rite queen!!!” gave some people trouble. It’s crossed fairly.
Lena: Oh. I thought it was “small size.”
Ben: Wasn’t thrilled by ERN, EGAN, non-English spelling for BERNE, ZEES, INURE, ENL, EXE, GON — most of it is real stuff, but between four theme answers, a revealer, and a bunch of long stuff, you can see the grid straining a bit. I do love the clue for APOLO, who I usually regard as crutch fill — 14A: Ohno on skates (as opposed to “oh no,” which I usually say when on skates.
Lena: Yeah, that was a pretty endearing clue. I liked the clever 57D: Dig in, yet fill a hole? for EAT.
Ben: There were a lot of clues I liked today, but I’ll single out 31A: It throws mad shade for VISOR and 42D: Put the king into a sticky situation for MATED. Nicely understated. I do object to HOSER being clued as Canadian slang — maybe forty years ago, sure. I have never heard that term used unironically in my life.
Ben: Days Without a Harry Potter Reference – 1. Days Without “Jane Eyre” and “Princess Bride” references – 0. BuzzFeed, classing it up!
Lena: Yeaaah I dunno about class… it’s almost like they [Decided against class]– a clue I did like for SKIP— in this one.
Ben: I did think there were going to be dick jokes here — 28A: A part of the body known for being hard (ENAMEL) and 55A: Made everything all better by doing something hard (ATONED) — but the puzzle lulled me into a false sense of security. And then BAM! SEMEN! Gross. (I literally shouted “EW!” when I got the clue)
Lena: I commute to work on the train with a co-worker, and we solve a puzzle on the way in– usually the NYT, but sometimes indies and BZFs. Today it was BZF. We got to 67A [Pearl necklace material that isn’t pearl] and I cringed. I started to fill it in and said “I’m really, really embarrassed right now.” She hadn’t known what a “pearl necklace” and, well, now she does. It was really uncomfortable– and I had to push crude and debasing porn imagery out of my head BEFORE 8AM. This is beyond Breakfast Test. This is beyond Brocentricity. It’s just disgusting, unnecessary, and Not Funny or Clever.
Ben: It really is beyond the lines of good taste. There are very few topics I would consider off-limits for crosswords, but this is one of them.