New York Times crossword Feb. 17 / Constructed by Ian Livengood and J.A.S.A. Crossword Class
This puzzle had me stumped for a while. I figured there was some kind of trick — two letters in one square, maybe? — but old-fashioned punctuation was about the farthest thing from my mind. The cryptic title (“Mark My Words”) certainly didn’t offer the hint it sometimes does.
I knew something was up after getting _ _ R FILM for 95 Down (“‘Halloween,’ e.g.”). It had to be HORROR FILM, but how? There were only two empty squares. And the “Co-founder of Death Row Records” (126 Across) was certainly DR DRE, or even DOCTOR DRE, but my grid showed D _ _ DRE. What was going on here? I finally got it after solving 94 Across: “Tony-nominated play made into an Oscar-nominated movie“: FROST / NIXON, with the ” / ” (slash) occupying its own box. That made “Halloween” a (SLASH)ER FILM. Everything fell into place after that.
DR . DRE, with the period in its own box, creates EDWARDIAN (PERIOD) at 72 Down (“Early 20th century, in British history”). The dash in THE IN-CROWD (“Cool people,” 45 Across) leads to BALDER(DASH) in 6 Down (“Twaddle”). The “1968 movie directed by Paul Newman” — RACHEL , RACHEL (67 Across) — uses a comma that creates the answer WING (COMMA)NDER at 47 Down (“Rank below group captain”). And “Gotham police procedural” is CSI : NY (12 Across), enabling 15 Down to be the very clever (COLON)EL MUSTARD (“One of the usual suspects?”).
So the title (“Mark My Words”) was an invitation to use punctuation marks. A pretty challenging crossword. My only complaint is that there weren’t more theme answers. (Easy for me to say as a solver. As a fledgling constructor, I’m still struggling to create daily-size puzzles, much less Sunday grids.)
What’s In A Name Dept.: The theme entailed several proper names, which made me wary of a couple monikers that simply turned out to be fun entries: “Jeopardy” host ALEX TREBEK (“Answer man?” 76 Down) and James Bond cohort MONEYPENNY (“Miss at the movies?” 4 Down). The latter is prominently featured in “Skyfall,” the latest film featuring 007. Also included in the grid: ETHAN (“Tom Cruise’s character in ‘Mission: Impossible,’” 59 Down) and AIDAN (“Actor Quinn,” 80 Across).
In the News Dept.: “Pastime for Barack Obama at Camp David” (128 Across) is SKEET shooting, something only recently revealed to the public through this photo.
Not A Moment Too Soon Dept.: Many of the Phillies reported to spring training in Clearwater, Fla., this past week, including slugger Ryan Howard — the man we hope will once again be our BIG BAT (“Baseball team’s leading hitter,” 6 Across).
Punny Dept.: “Apple core, briefly” is a CPU (12 Down). “Work from a folder” is ORIGAMI (119 Across). “Magic, once” is LA LAKER (23 Across). “Opportunity creator” is NASA (96 Down), referring to the agency the made the Mars rover Opportunity.
Where In The World? Dept.: “Island SW of Majorca” is IBIZA (122 Across). “Body of water on the Uzbek border” is the ARAL SEA (19 Across). And the “Fictional Indiana town where ‘Parks and Recreation’ is set” is PAWNEE (86 Across).
About the Author(s) Dept.: So what exactly is this “J.A.S.A. Crossword Class” sharing credit with constructor Ian Livengood? It’s a course taught to senior citizens at the Jewish Association of Services for the Aged. They also created a daily puzzle back in December.