XW Info

Thursday, November 7, 2013
by Alan Derkazarian
Thu 11/7/2013
© 2013, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes: Every time I think I've seen all the twists and variations on rebus puzzles, another one pops ups to delight me. I really enjoy the moment when extreme frustration flips to the (pleasing) smack to the forehead, and this puzzle did that right. I was stuck trying to figure out ???? STOP, thinking I must have entered something wrong, but when I finally understood what was going on, I smiled. Well done.

Rebus puzzles are a unique construction challenge, auto-fill not being as readily available (to see if a particular grid arrangement is possible or not). It's not too tricky if there are single rebus squares dotted about the grid. The NE corner is a good example, where ??ARMED could be such entries as SWARMED, ALARMED, CHARMED, or UNARMED, and it's possible to use the brute force method of trying each option to see if good fill is achievable or not.

Not nearly as easy with stacked rebus squares. Consider the SW corner, where Alan already makes things as easy as possible (nicely done) by creating a 3x3 block to work with. Even then, since the only reasonable WAY?? entries are WAY IN, WAYNE, WAY TO, and WAY UP, there are only a limited number of combinations to try, each one creating some difficulty. As it is, Alan did pretty well, with only NIE sticking out as unappetizing. The double sets of cheater squares makes for a somewhat unappealing visual image, but it's certainly acceptable.

I was curious about his choice to include the word FAIN. At first glance, it would be easy to dismiss it as a sloppy job of construction since there are so many other options available up there, so I e-mailed Alan to ask him about his rationale. He gave me a thoughtful response, saying that 1.) he wanted the puzzle to be more challenging, and 2.) he found the word fascinating, in that it was utterly commonplace in Shakespearean days but is now largely archaic. It's neat how much tastes vary from constructor to constructor, and I was glad Alan had a reason for incorporating it.

Considering the many constraints, Alan did a nice job executing this strong concept. An enjoyable Thursday.

Will Shortz notes: I'm guessing this puzzle is a little hard to break into, but once you catch on to the theme, it goes much quicker. It's a lovely theme idea. Also, I like the entries AUDIOBOOK, STEAMPIPE, and RETURN FIRE.
1.They're thrown from horses : RIATAS
7.Fake : SHAM
11."The Silence of the Lambs" org. : FBI
14.Join the game, in a way : ANTEUP
15.Spun : WOVE
16.TV ET : ALF
17.The "you" in "you caught my eye" in a 1965 #1 hit : RHONDA
18.Casino sights : ONEARMEDBANDITS
20.It flows in the Loire : EAU
21.Pasta name suffix : INI
23.Boss of TV's Mork : ORSON
24.Small-time thieves : TWOBITCROOKS
27.Johannes : German :: ___ : Scottish : IAN
28.O'Hare or Newark Liberty : HUB
29.Totally awesome : EPIC
31.One usually buys a round one : TRIP
35.Olympian Ohno : APOLO
37.Some archaeological finds : BONES
39.Author of "The Prague Cemetery" : ECO
40."Hawaii ___" : FIVEO
41.Suffix with drunk : ARD
42.Schleppers' aids : TOTES
44.Relative of a tank top : TEE
45."Roots" surname : KINTE
47.Slip past : ELUDE
48.Touchdowns: Abbr. : ARRS
50.Antibloating brand : GASX
51.It can cause bloating : AIR
52.German word that's 67-Across spelled backward : EIN
58.Glove material : SATIN
60.Fool : SAP
61.It may be topped with an angel : FIR
62.What an intersection may have : FOURWAYSTOP
65.Excavation : MINING
67.German word that's 52-Across spelled backward : NIE
68.Parthian predecessor : MEDE
69.City north of Lisbon : OPORTO
70.Butt : END
71.Setting for a fall : EDEN
72.Minimum : MEREST
1.Dish with melted cheese : RAREBIT
2.Occupy : INHABIT
3.Just above : ATOUCHOVER
4.+ 6 : TEN
5.Some commuter "reading" : AUDIOBOOK
6.Joe of "NCIS" : SPANO
7.Overran : SWARMED
8.Tramp : HOBO
9.Shylock trait : AVARICE
10.Sharp circle? : MENSA
11.Willingly, old-style : FAIN
12.Nonkosher sandwich : BLT
13.Uncertainties : IFS
19.Discouraging advice : DONT
22.Japanese flower-arranging art : IKEBANA
25.Line at a stationery store? : RULE
26.Topps collectible : SPORTSCARD
30.Cataloging things : INDEXCARDS
32.Fight back : RETURNFIRE
33.Whacked : ICED
34.Vogue on a dance floor : POSE
35.Shaving brand : AFTA
36.Place to get a bite? : PIER
38.Certain heat conduit : STEAMPIPE
43.Mishmash : OLIO
46.Lit : IGNITED
49.Ship's route : SEAWAY
53.Familiar phone conversation starter : ITSME
55.Common spice in Indian food : CARDAMOM
56.Shades : TINTS
57.Cereal killer : ERGOT
58.Went to and fro : SWAYED
59.Convergent point : NODE
62.Oscar-winning John : WAYNE
63.Entry : WAYIN
64.Fence (in) : PEN
66.Word before rain, heat and gloom : NOR

© 2014, Jim Horne