Solving time: 18:58. For someone who is new to crosswords, this puzzle might have been difficult because the theme answers are variations on the spellings of songs and movies. If you had DERO for the first four letters in 31A: 2011 hit for Adele, literally, you might have been scrolling through the tracklist of 21 in your head and been thinking, “Wait … there isn’t a song in 21 that starts with DERO.” Then you might have started to doubt your answers for the surrounding downs, until you realize that they were correct as you had entered them. Anyway, my point is that you might have spent an infinite amount of time trying to get the theme, until it finally clicked (or not). So I’ll say this puzzle is easy/medium for solvers with crossword experience but potentially baffling for novices.
Each of the theme answers is a variation on a musical/cinematic hit whose title follows the format “x in the y,” such that the answer itself is spelled with the x literally embedded inside the y. Still scratching your head? Here are some examples:
- WI BLOWIN ND (17A: 1963 hit for Peter, Paul and Mary, literally). The actual title of the 1963 hit is Blowin’ in the Wind. Today’s puzzle constructor, Neville Fogarty, literally put the word “BLOWIN” in the word “WIND.”
- Rolling in the Deep -> DE ROLLING EP (31A: 2011 hit for Adele, literally).
- Dancing in the Dark -> DA DANCING RK (48A: 1984 hit for Bruce Springsteen, literally).
- Singin’ in the Rain -> RA SINGIN IN (66A: 1952 hit for Gene Kelly, literally).
I enjoyed today’s theme even though embedding one word within another is something that the NYTimes has already tried before. It did take me about 10 minutes before I said I GET IT! (21A: Yeah, that makes sense), and I probably would have solved the puzzle even faster if I didn’t get stuck in a little traffic jam on the LL (lower-left) of the grid.
Each of the theme answers looks ugly with their seemingly botched spellings, but there’s beauty inside them all because of their wittiness, I suppose. For today’s “puzzle quality” image, I wanted to upload a picture involving Beauty in the Beast, so I initially tried morphing the Prince’s real face into that of the Beast. That didn’t pan out, so I instead found a film poster of Beauty and the Beast where Belle is facing into the Beast’s body. Eh, it kinda makes sense.
About that traffic jam on the LL (really the ML and the LL):
I had no idea who AL OERTER is, though he seems like he could probably come in handy for a lot of crossword given his vowel-rich last name. His name is just a beast; no beauty inside that. I suspected that Kovacs’ first name was ERNIE (44A: Comedian Kovacs with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame), and I also suspected that I had heard his name somewhere before, though I couldn’t put my finger on it. The congestion (pun intended) of first and last names in that section cost me some time, as did my filling in DANG and then DAMN instead of RATS for 55D: “Consarn it!” Name me one person, by the way, who still says either of those phrases and I’ll give you all the FOUND MONEY (30D) in my old pairs of pants. While you’re at it, name me one person who still uses MSDOS, which is a nerdy compute science acronym for an operating system that hasn’t been updated since 2000.
OPIUM, OPIE, OBIES, OH BYE,
Kenneth, lowly serf of Crossworld
P.S. EVERT (34D: Turn inside out) is a word??
P.P.S. RHO is the Greek equivalent of P in the English alphabet, hence 55A.