One of my best friends is a drama teacher — she wouldn’t approve of BREAKING CHARACTER, the new Aries puzzle, but you can read about it below. Subscribe here for the puzzle.
Theme: Tribute puzzle to MERYL STREEP (28D: Subject of this puzzle, who played the title characters “broken” in rows 3, 6, 10, and 13. For the sake of symmetry, we have BEST ACTRESS (3D: Two-time honor for 28-Down).
The title characters are:
- LOSER / ICK / I PASS (from 2015’s Ricki and the Flash)
- CAN SO / PHI / EGO (from 1982’s Sophie’s Choice, one of those two Oscar wins)
- ABS / ILK / WOODS (from 1983’s Silkwood)
- MUZAK / RAM / ERECT (from 1979’s Kramer vs Kramer)
Streep’s other Best Actress win was for The Iron Lady (2011). She actually also won an Oscar for Kramer vs Kramer, but it was Best Supporting Actress.
Difficulty: Easier (played a little harder than that for me)
This is solid work. I’m not really that familiar with Meryl Streep — most of her famous roles were before I was born — but she’s certainly famous enough to merit a puzzle and it’s a cute idea.
The theme answers are very nearly a complete set of Streep title characters — she also played Julia Childs in 2009’s Julie & Julia. I presume that Andrew tried to fit it into the grid, but ULI just isn’t a workable crossword answer, so no dice.
I will say that it feels slightly inelegant to call out Streep’s BEST ACTRESS wins when one of the theme answers, as noted above, is for Best Supporting Actress, but it can’t be helped.
Looking at the grid, you’d expect the fill in the east and west sections to be strained, since each has a long themer in close proximity to triple-checked letters. The east comes out fairly smooth, even to the point of TRISTRAM Shandy (38A: Title character in a Laurence Sterne novel) being worked in very smoothly. I had never heard of Robert GOULET or GOSE (45D: German sour beer style brewed with salt and coriander), but that’s just a knowledge gap on my part.
The west isn’t quite as smooth. AB FAB (36A: Edina Monsoon’s show, for short) and MAHRE (25D: 1984 Olympic star Phil or Steve) in close proximity made for a tough section, and AT THAT (36A: To boot) isn’t great fill. But there’s nothing truly terrible, and I do like FREE MEAL, even if I think the clue (43A: Vegas come-on) could be better.
Since the theme is easy to work out, it’s good that there’s a variety of tough clues to keep things interesting. I liked 1A: Place to see many hoods? (ABBEY), 8D: One who works with their hands? (POKER PRO), and 50D: Much Twitter banter (SNARK). I also found 21A: Steel releasing six novels in 2016, according to Wikipedia (DANIELLE) to be interesting trivia.
Minuses for me are SOCIO (7D: Path’s start?), AKIN TO, LEHI, THUDS and UPI. Nothing too bad (well, except for SOCIO).
The usual solid work.