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Constructor: Aimee Lucido
Theme: Songs and movies mashed together
- 24A: CAN’T FEEL MY FACE/OFF – Hit song from a musical in which The Weeknd assumes a new appearance to catch a terrorist?
- 31A: BLANK SPACE BALLS – Hit song from a musical starring Taylor Swift satirizing Star Wars?
- 56A: HOTLINE BLING RING – Hit song from a musical in which Drake steals clothes from L.A. celebrities?
- 77A: BACK IN BLACK SWAN – Hit song from a musical starring AC/DC as a ballet company in the midst of a mental breakdown?
- 90A: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF PI – Hit song from a musical in which John Lennon plays a boy trapped on a small boat with a ferocious beast?
Ben: Initially thought this was a Sunday-size grid, but no — it’s an unusual 19×18.
Fun theme. I think BACK IN BLACK SWAN is the best answer here, but they’re all pretty good. I wish there were a couple more, mostly because I enjoyed uncovering them quite a bit. Leaves room for some good midlength fill like ARCHDUKE (67D: Franz Ferdinand’s title), ANTIVAX and FAKE TAN (5D: Source of orange skin, perhaps).
My solve was weird on this one, because I jumped around a bunch and filled in bits and pieces until the theme clicked, and then I filled in all five themers immediately. The only one that gave me any trouble was A DAY IN THE LIFE OF PI, and only because I didn’t know the Lennon song. But I ended up with the core of the puzzle done, tendrils stretching out in every direction, and a whole lot of isolated pockets left to solve. Ended up playing like a series of mini-puzzles.
Sunday-ish grids always mean a few gluey bits of fill. SHAN’T (3D: Old-fashioned contraction) is pushing it despite the clue, and I’ve never heard of ZALE’S. That one section in the SE with LILA (92D: Arnold’s love, in cartoons) crossing VIVO (96A: In ___ (occurring naturally)) also gave me some trouble. But otherwise it’s quite smooth, so I’m not complaining.
This is the first time I’ve ever seen ELIE (6D: Designer Tahari) clued as anything other than the author. Always nice to get a fresh clue.
The cluing is usually the highlight of AVCX puzzles for me, and this one’s no exception. My favourites were MEDIA (70A: Source of everything bad, at GOP debates) and HOT TUB (4D: Wet place to have sex that, while fun, raises important safety concerns). Oh, and I just saw ICK (69D: “GETITAWAYGETITAWAY!”), which I completely missed while solving — nice.