This puzzle intrigued me even before I read the first clue. What was up with this mysterious byline: “By a namesake of 119-Across”?
Making a beeline for that entry, I saw that solvers were in for a Sunday matinee – eight of them, actually. The theme is about the “Director of the eight starred films in this puzzle, who was born on 2/23/1889.”
I’m no film buff, but it was pretty easy to kick off the entries with GONE WITH THE WIND (“*1939 Vivien Leigh/Clark Gable film,” 68 Across) and THE WIZARD OF OZ (“*1939 Judy Garland film,” 24 Across). Yet even after putting those biggies in the grid, I was embarrassed to think I didn’t know who directed them. The name David O. Selznick bubbled to the surface of my brain at one point, and wouldn’t you know it fit at 119 Across! Luckily, I tried some crossing words first and realized that it was wrong – but not far off. Turns out Selznick produced “Gone With The Wind.”
I’m also embarrassed to say those are the only two movies in the puzzle that I’ve seen. Worse, I wasn’t even familiar with some of the rest, though I recognize their stars. LORD JIM (“*1925 Percy Marmont film,” 98 Down) and TORTILLA FLAT (“*1942 Spencer Tracy/Hedy Lamarr film,” 89 Across) are based on classic books, and I know the story of JOAN OF ARC (“*1948 Ingrid Bergman film,” 103 Across). But I’ve never heard of RED DUST (“*1932 Clark Gable/Jean Harlow film,” 5 Down), BOMBSHELL (“*1933 Jean Harlow film,” 37 Across) or A GUY NAMED JOE (“*1943 Spencer Tracy/Irene Dunne film,” 54 Across).
Anyway, the director of these films is VICTOR FLEMING (119 Across), who was born 125 years ago today. The creator of the crossword, also named Victor Fleming, is significantly younger and not related, from what I can tell. The latter notes that his namesake directed many more well known films that didn’t fit in the puzzle, including “Treasure Island” and “Captains Courageous.”
Best In Show Dept.: I had forgotten that the movie pig Babe wanted to be a SHEEPDOG (10 Down), an entry that made me smile. And SCOTTIES are “Wiry-coated terriers” (57 Down). Earlier this month, a wiry fox terrier won top honors at the Westminster Kennel Club’s competition.
Island Dreaming Dept.: I feel like someone is taunting us with warm-weather entries. Hawaiian crooner DON HO is the “Singer with the album ‘Live at the Polynesian Palace” (22 Across); he was born on OAHU (“Birthplace of 22-Across,” 33 Down). Also, a LEI is an “Award for Miss Hawaii, in addition to a tiara” (99 Across). And not far away is PAGO Pago (“When repeated, a Polynesian capital,” 94 Across).
Last Call Dept.: This grid has the makings of a local dive bar – ALES (“Tavern stock,” 117 Down), MUGS (“Pub containers,” 113 Across) and a JIGGER (“Pub measure,” 103 Down).
For Fun Dept.: Unusual entries included F-TROOP (“1960s western sitcom,” 104 Down), STUDENT ID (“Means of access to a cafeteria, maybe,” 83 Down), LOOSE ENDS (“Things that should be tied up by the curtain?” 16 Down), DEEP INTO (“Obsessed with,” 42 Down) and ALARMIST (“Overreacting sort,” 91 Down).
New To Me Dept.: Never heard of a PETREL (“Migratory seabird,” 8 Down) or ERTE (“One-named designer,” 27 Across).
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