“NAME THAT ANIMAL” by Matt Gaffney
Name that Animal
Constructor: Matt Gaffney
Theme: Famous last names replacing animals in common phrases.
- 16A: AS THE CROWE FLIES – Actor Russell’s quickest route from Sydney to L.A.?
- 21 / 49A: DEERE IN THE HEADLIGHTS – With 49-Across, farm equipment company founder John blinded by your car’s high beams?
- 37A: A WOLFE AT THE DOOR – Author Tom demanding entry to your home?
- 59A: WATCH LIKE A HAWKE – See only the movies actor Ethan sees?
Ben: Nice long themers today. DEERE IN THE HEADLIGHTS gets split in two — I know that bugs some solvers, but I’m fine with it. It gave me a nice foothold on the bottom half of the puzzle. Not that it was needed — as soon as I understood the theme, all of the themers pretty much fell immediately, so this was easy.
Michael: The split bugs me. I don’t know why. It’s a matter of taste. Broke-up themers don’t bug me per se, but when just a single element of an answer is really *themed* (here, the e-added part), and then there’s this cut-off, wholly separate continuation of the answer with no thematic anything to it … yeah, feels wonky.
Lena: It bugged me. I sighed impatiently.
Ben: Very straightforward, but I like the grid-spanners and the added consistency of every animal just having an E added to the end. I wonder if this started as a meta where Matt couldn’t find a way to cleanly connect the E to the topic of animals to produce an elegant answer.
Michael: Oh, look, they’re all animals. I really should read the titles more often.
Lena: I wasn’t familiar with the phrase A WOLF(E) AT THE DOOR and the reason, I find out, is because it’s the title of a movie I haven’t seen. The rest of the themers are familiar phrases.
Ben: Smooth fill. I guess ELEVENTH (8D: Like November, monthwise) is a little arbitrary, but it’s an unusual enough word that I don’t mind. A little iffy in the short stuff — I have no idea what DHL (56D: FedEx alternative (and it’s not UPS so don’t put that in even though it’s the right number of letters)) is. I’m also missing the ELLE Woods reference, which I’m assuming is a dance of some kind.
Lena: ELLE is the blonde in “Legally Blonde” and that’s her… mating ritual?
Ben: Could have done without ENOS — I appreciate the cute clue, but there’s really no way to clue him that doesn’t boil down to “Biblical figure” or “Sitcom cop”, and I only know the name from crosswords.
Lena: Nrrrghh… I’m trying really hard to come up with a Brian Eno clue here…
Ben: Really liked seeing SHE clued as 6A: Pronoun for Caitlyn Jenner. Socially conscious crosswords are my jam. (I wonder if she gets tired of being a de facto representative of an entire group, though — seems like it would be stressful.)
Lena: I feel like the clue for IN PRINT (29A: On dead trees) is good but could have been great with one or two extra words and maybe a question mark. I remembered it as my favorite, and I like that I’m still thinking about it!
Ben: 64A: Like most pre-digital technologies, now (OBSOLETE) is true and a little depressing, but I liked the clue. I’ve seen that ONION headline referenced before, but it’s still pretty funny.
Ben: Is OREOS (68A: Cookie with approximately 3,000 varieties, including Cotton Candy and Candy Corn) a singular-plural mismatch? I was mulling it over (as one does), and I think you can use the plural OREOS as a singular brand, but I’m honestly not sure.
Michael: Yeah, this feels off. The brand is OREO. Plural OREOS, legit, but not as a singular brand. I don’t think.
Ben: Days Without a Harry Potter Reference – 12.
Michael: This started out with me noticing that three of the first six answers I encountered were actors (JENNA JESSE ARCHIE, to say nothing of CROWE…). All tightly bunched in the NW. I get that BZF is a poppy puzzle, but this felt like overload. More variety in cluing scope … always welcome. Also, all “Kardashian” stuff immediately lowers my estimation of a puzzle. I don’t mind people who are famous for … doing something. Anything. But that clan: to coin a phrase, no no no.