Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: BEST PICTURE names (59A: What the starts of 18-, 24-, 38- and 49-Across each won) — theme answers are movie people with BEST PICTURE first names
Word of the Day: Rowdy YATES (50D: Rowdy ___, "Rawhide" cowboy) —
Rawhide is an American Western series that aired for eight seasons on the CBS network on Friday nights, from January 9, 1959 to September 3, 1965, before moving to Tuesday nights from September 14, 1965 until January 4, 1966, with a total of 217 black-and-white episodes. Starring Eric Fleming andClint Eastwood, the series was produced and sometimes directed by Charles Marquis Warren who also produced early episodes of Gunsmoke. [...] Usually the episode would be introduced by Gil Favor but sometimes by others. The typical Rawhidestory involved drovers, portrayed by Eric Fleming (trail boss Gil Favor) and Clint Eastwood (ramrod Rowdy Yates), coming upon people on the trail and getting drawn into solving whatever problem they presented or were confronting. Sometimes one of the members of the cattle drive or some of the others would venture into a nearby town and encounter some trouble from which they needed to be rescued. Rowdy Yates was young and at times impetuous in the earliest episodes and Favor had to keep a tight rein on him. (wikipedia)
• • •
Big thumbs up. Clever, toughish, unexpected. The theme is nicely tight—movie names all belong to movie people: director Stone (himself an Oscar-winner), and actors Oswalt, DeMornay, and Feldman. With the exception of Stone, theme answers aren't exactly first-tier celebrity names, which is why I think the puzzle might skew tough for a lot of people. I knew all the names and it still skewed tough for me. I think older solvers will have trouble with PATTON OSWALT (who is a hugely successful comedian / actor with a firing-on-all-cylinders Twitter feed) and younger solvers with MARTY FELDMAN (whom I know only from "Young Frankenstein" and from a parody of "Bette Davis Eyes" called "Marty Feldman Eyes"—he had some congenital issue that made his eyes appear to bug out). REBECCA DE MORNAY could end up stumping young and old. If you missed "Risky Business" (or, slightly less famously, "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle," or, much less famously, "And God Created Woman" (1988)), you missed her. I wonder if there are other movie people with BEST PICTURE first names ... didn't Casablanca Jones star in some blaxploitation films in the '70s? What about porn star Cimarron Sinclair? Or pro-wrestler-turned-action-star The Hurt Locker Davis?
- 18A: "Platoon" director (OLIVER STONE) — "Platoon," also a BEST PICTURE winner
- 24A: Comedian who voiced the lead role in "Ratatouille" (PATTON OSWALT)
- 38A: Tom Cruise's "Risky Business" co-star (REBECCA DE MORNAY)
- 49A: Igor player in "Young Frankenstein" (MARTY FELDMAN)
- 57A: Old nuclear regulatory org. (AEC) — Atomic Energy Commission. An impt. abbr. to know. The non-old nuclear regulatory org. is named, shockingly, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
- 5D: State capital whose main street is named Last Chance Gulch (HELENA) — wow, that is ... improbable. That's some Knotts-Berry-Farm-recreation-of-a -Wild-West-town naming right there.
- 46D: Brew named for a Dutch river (AMSTEL) — pretty well-known beer, reasonably common crossword answer. Don't think I knew it was a river. Also, did not know how to spell Bob SAGET's name. I spelled it as if he were the creator of a restaurant guide: Bob SAGAT.
- 33D: ___ Kross ('90s rap duo) (KRIS) — they had an impossibly infectious song out during my first year in grad school. Ridiculous. Silly. Ubiquitous. Hard to resist. Uh huh, uh huh.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
P.S. I'm quoted in this article (on last Thursday's cluing of ILLEGAL) and so are several commenters!