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The examples:

  1. Meet Val Kilmer, who's cold as ice.

  2. Meet Val Kilmer, who's as cold as ice.

Is the use of "as" in the first sentence grammatical? Why or why not? Does it retain the same function as in the second?

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Meet Val Kilmer, who's cool as ice.

Meet Val Kilmer, who's as cool as ice.

Both are fine. Cool as a cucumber is another idiom.

cool here undisturbed by anything. To keep one's cool.

Cold as ice=not a nice person. Cool as ice=the person does not react to situations.

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I agree with @Jason Bassford that (as) cold as ice is the more common expression than (as) cool as ice. See also: ice-cold. Though apparently there is a Vanilla Ice movie called Cool as Ice and I agree with @Lambie that "cold as ice" refers to someone who is not warm and is therefore rude to others, while "cool as ice" would probably refer to someone who stays calm - "cool as a cucumber" is a more common idiom with this meaning.

The first as is optional in this case, but the sentence is grammatical either way. I am not sure if the following rule always holds, but I think if the form is

X (To Be) as (Adjective) as (Noun)

then you can usually safely omit the first as and the sentence will sound fine.

If the form is

X (Verb) as (Adverb) as (Noun)

then it sounds a little weird (to me at least, as an American English speaker from the Northeastern US) to omit the first as, e.g.

She ran fast as a cheetah.

If the second part of the comparison is not a noun (but is another clause or a pronoun) then it would also not sound correct to omit the first as. For example,

She ran fast as I did.

or

She ran fast as him.

Some good examples of using as...as can be found here too.

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