XW Info

Thursday, January 9, 2014
by Caleb Emmons
Thu 1/9/2014
© 2014, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes: The day to day administration of xwordinfo has affected my solving experience in strange and unexpected ways. One of the aspects that's changed the most is regarding "trick" puzzles. Jim and I want to keep the database as clean and useful as possible (we fix up all the screwy answers), so every time we get something like today's, I either appreciate the trick even more as I perform the fix-ups, or grumble as I wade through C# coding syntax. Ah, the highs and lows.

I liked the concept today. I generally try not to link to old puzzles (because I don't need to remind people that most everything has been done in some way or another) but this one so heavily reminded me of Andrea Carla Michaels's very first NYT publication, taken to a new level of difficulty. I was a little frustrated as I was solving, but the trick seemed pretty neat once I cottoned to it (the entire right half of the puzzle "slipped" down one row). And who doesn't like seeing ATMSBROAD in the puzzle? Don't answer that. And don't worry, we fixed up that entry in the database.

I would have loved perhaps one or two more theme answers. It's pretty neat that the SAN ANDREAS FAULT is a "site of slippage" and BANANA PEEL / PATCH OF ICE fit the theme (and they intersect SAN ANDREAS FAULT!), but it felt slightly thin to me. It could have been really fun to open it up to other meanings of "slip", like giving someone the slip or a slip of the tongue. Even one more theme entry would have been enough for me.

There's some really nice stuff in the fill, especially PEACH FUZZ and MACH ONE. SUBDIVIDE isn't that snazzy in itself, but the clue did a great job in making it a strong entry. Overall though, with just three them entries, I would have liked more long, snappy fill. Yes, the theme entries intersecting makes it harder to work in good fill, but not that much harder. I would have liked to have seen more 7+ letter fill, even if that meant having more 3-letter fill in exchange. There's so much in the 4-, 5- and 6-letter range today, and any fill under seven letters is hard to make memorable. (You can press the "Analyze" button at the bottom of the page to get the exact distribution.)

Overall, nice concept with some unfulfilled potential.

Will Shortz notes: Of my three main test-solvers for the Times crosswords, one "loved" this puzzle and two "hated" it. No one was lukewarm about it! Mindful of possible negative reactions, I eased up a few of the Down clues in the ninth column, to make the gimmick easier to see. I hope these changes bring a few more solvers into the fold. Notice the one-letter answer (T) at 65A — a first, as far as I can remember.
JimH notes: Yes, this is the first puzzle in the database with a one-letter answer. A couple of puzzles have two-letter answers: this 2008 icing-around-the-outside grid by Joe Krozel has eight of them, Patrick Merrell's famous Mistakes puzzle from 2004 has two, and Henry Hook's puzzle from the same year has one.
1.Flies (along) : ZIPS
5.Clutter : MESS
8.What spies collect : INTEL
13.Voyaging : ASEA
14.Flaming Gorge locale : UTAH
16.Who has scored more than 850 points in an official Scrabble game : NOONE
17.Frolic : PLAY
18."Beloved" author Morrison : TONI
19.Bagpipe music, maybe : DIRGE
20.Delt neighbor : PEC
21.You might slip on it : BANANAPEEL
22.Fragrant compound : ESTER
23.Lucy ___, title character in Sir Walter Scott's "The Bride of Lammermoor" : ASHTON
25.Security Council veto : NYET
27.Sure-___ : FOOTED
29.Shellacs : DRUBS
31.First name in folk : ARLO
32.___ factor : RHESUS
37.Drippings, maybe : OOZE
38.City in southern California : BREA
40.Unloading point : QUAY
41.Food processor? : ENZYME
43.Overseas : ABROAD
44.Like some numbers and beef : CUBED
45.Bill producers, for short : ATMS
48.You might slip on it : PATCHOFICE
51.Extemporizes : ADLIBS
54.Theater's ___ Siddons Award : SARAH
55.Assign stars to : RATE
57.Distillery sight : VAT
58.Prefix with type : PROTO
59.Plaintiff : SUER
60.Agree : JIBE
61.Western German city : ESSEN
62.Shade providers : ELMS
63.Genesis locale : EDEN
64.Big name in tractors : DEERE
65.___-square : T
66.Wallop : BELT
1.Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee with only one Top 40 hit : ZAPPA
2.British ___ : ISLES
3.Sign of puberty, maybe : PEACHFUZZ
4.For example : SAY
5.Certain horror film villain : MUTANT
6.Alma mater for David Cameron : ETON
7.Site of slippage ... both geographically and in this puzzle : SANANDREASFAULT
8.Thorough : INDEPTH
9."Make some ___!" : NOISE
10.Calorie-heavy dessert : TORTE
11.Richard ___, "War Zone Diary" journalist : ENGEL
12.What womanizers do : LEER
15.Glistening, as Christmas ornaments : SHINY
21.Haunted house sounds : BOOS
24.Actor Maguire : TOBEY
26.Lead-in to plane : AERO
28.Site of a piercing : EAR
29.Forest female : DOE
30.___ Burgundy, the anchorman in "Anchorman" : RON
33.Splenda competitor : EQUAL
34.Make pieces of pieces? : SUBDIVIDE
35.OPEC member: Abbr. : UAE
36.Barrett of Pink Floyd : SYD
38.___ Israel Medical Center : BETH
39.Experiment site : LAB
42.The speed of sound : MACHONE
44.See 46-Down : CODE
46.With 44-Down, "key" invention of the 1830s : MORSE
47.500 people? : RACERS
48.Carefully examine : PARSE
49.Appeared : AROSE
50.Something to pare, informally : TATER
52.Genesis locale : BABEL
53.Blocked vessel opener : STENT
54.Tore : SPED
56.Agenda part : ITEM
60.One of the Bushes : JEB

© 2014, Jim Horne