XW Info

Sunday, April 6, 2014
AT TIMES
by Patrick Berry
Sun 4/6/2014AT TIMES
JAMMAROONETALMAORI
ARIAMANDAMILOORLON
MEDICINEDROPPERNAIVE
BASSESCOLTREVOLVER
TADISMZOOTASSERT
CARYBALIEYELIKE
ATEALMONDSMANIACS
FOAMRUBBERSTONEOCT
EMMETTOYSTERCRACKER
TWOSPASSESEINE
MACROALLBETTERKNEES
USAIRDEIONSASS
CHICKENTENDERLOOSED
KENREADYBACKBURNER
NETCOSTABSOLUTELI
ROTSCALPLUMGASP
MEDICIDONTYAMWOK
SNACKCOUNTERGROUND
DANKEBATHROOMSLIPPER
OCCURINREODIOUSORE
STEPSTEAMTEASETNOW
© 2014, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes: Another fun one from the master. This theme plays on the awkward -ER answers often seen in crosswords like TENTER or HAILER (person who tents, person who hails). Patrick takes snappy phrases and interprets them as a "person who Xes," with wacky results. My favorite was ALL BETTER, which is a fun phrase and took me a while to figure out as a "person who bets it all."

As usual, Patrick's signature is high fill quality. Nine theme entries makes it difficult to incorporate snappy fill, especially given that Sunday grids are intrinsically complicated to construct, but Patrick goes ahead and throws in SNEAK UP ON, MIDSTREAM, ASKS OUT and ARTWORK. Not bad at all. And the real mark of excellence is the lack of ugly crossword glue-type entries. Every part of the grid is polished, producing an extremely smooth solve. I feel pretty silly even trying to point one example out. Uh... OCT? It's incredible how superior the execution is, really.

One thing I've noticed is that Patrick often overlaps his theme entries, as with CHICKEN TENDER right atop BACKBURNER. At first this might seem like a hard task, upping the level of difficulty, but I've personally found that if the overlap is not more than three or four squares, it actually makes grid creation easier. The reason gets a bit technical so I won't go into detail, but overall, overlapping themers right on top of each other often helps with overall grid spacing.

I'll repeat my philosophy on "cheater squares," those black squares that don't affect overall word count. As long as there aren't too many of them, I love them if they can improve fill quality. I'll personally take that trade-off any day (many constructors disagree with me, and that's fine). For example, look at the black square after MANIACS (44A). Many constructors would be tempted to take that cheater out and try their hand at filling, likely ending with a five-letter partial somewhere in that region. I'd take Patrick's way any day. I know this is subjective, but it feels so much better to me to end with a highly-polished grid with nary a bad entry.

Finally, Patrick does such an amazing job with his cluing. My favorite was [Current location?] for MIDSTREAM. That was the last area I finished solving, because I kept on thinking about YOU ARE HERE type answers. Even [It's got problems] for TEST — so clever!

There's a reason why Will says that there's only one high-volume contributor who has a 90% acceptance rate (everyone else is maybe 33% at best, I think). Over time, I hope to learn enough to be the second person in that category. It's a long road ahead, but a fun one as well.

1.Improvisational music : JAM
4.Brick color : MAROON
10.Bibliographical abbr. : ETAL
14.Indigenous people known for their tattoos : MAORI
19.NPR journalist Shapiro : ARI
20.1986 girl's-name song by Boston : AMANDA
21."Catch-22" profiteer Minderbinder : MILO
22.DuPont trademark of 1941 : ORLON
23.Clumsy pharmacist, at times? : MEDICINEDROPPER
26.Easily misled : NAIVE
27.String section members : BASSES
28.Dressage rider, at times? : COLTREVOLVER
30.Smidgen : TAD
31.Suffix with social : ISM
34.___ suit : ZOOT
35.Maintain : ASSERT
36.Grant for a filmmaker? : CARY
38.Indonesian tourist haven : BALI
39.London ___ (British Ferris wheel) : EYE
40.Reminiscent of : LIKE
41.Tucked away : ATE
42.Some supplies for Hershey's : ALMONDS
44.Overzealous sorts : MANIACS
47.Old-fashioned barber, at times? : FOAMRUBBER
49.Missile launched at Goliath : STONE
51.National Book Mo. : OCT
53.Circus performer Kelly : EMMETT
54.Inexperienced shucker, at times? : OYSTERCRACKER
58.Low pair : TWOS
60.Out of fashion : PASSE
61.Subject of a van Gogh series : SEINE
62.Software user's shortcut : MACRO
65.No-limit Texas hold'em player, at times? : ALLBETTER
69.People may be down on them : KNEES
70.TWA competitor : USAIR
71.Dual-sport athlete Sanders : DEION
72.Answers that may anger : SASS
74.Farmer, at times? : CHICKENTENDER
78.Unfettered : LOOSED
82.Knowledge : KEN
83."Shall we proceed?" : READY
84.Sleeping sunbather, at times? : BACKBURNER
87.Buyer's final figure : NETCOST
90.Spirits in Scandinavia : ABSOLUT
91.New Haven alum : ELI
92.Breaks down : ROTS
93.Stanford rival, informally : CAL
95.Job everyone wants : PLUM
96.Sound at a horror film : GASP
97.Florentine dynasty name : MEDICI
100."Cut that out!" : DONT
101.West African vegetable : YAM
102.Double-handed cooking vessel : WOK
103.Dieter, at times? : SNACKCOUNTER
106.Fall stopper : GROUND
109.French : merci :: German : ___ : DANKE
110.Person getting out of a tub, at times? : BATHROOMSLIPPER
114.Transpire : OCCUR
115.Memo opener : INRE
116.Detestable : ODIOUS
117.Something that may be amalgamated : ORE
118.Manual parts? : STEPS
119.Giants or Titans : TEAM
120.Porcelain purchase, perhaps : TEASET
121.As matters stand : NOW
1.Entrance side : JAMB
2.Department : AREA
3.Current location? : MIDSTREAM
4.Brought to tears, possibly : MACED
5."Time's Arrow" novelist Martin : AMIS
6.Took off : RAN
7.Wedded : ONE
8.Unconventional : ODD
9.Person moving against traffic? : NARC
10.Bring on : EMPLOY
11.Go quietly : TIPTOE
12.Fully attentive : ALERT
13.Some hand-me-downs? : LORE
14.Snowboard relative : MONOSKI
15.Polluted Asian lake : ARALSEA
16.Peridot color : OLIVE
17.Vehicle on Mars : ROVER
18.Lifeless : INERT
24."Goodness me!" : ISAY
25.Exudes : OOZES
29.Less humble : VAINER
31.One of four in "As I Was Going to St. Ives" : IAMB
32.Problematic roomie : SLOB
33.Sal of "Rebel Without a Cause" : MINEO
36.Lunch spot : CAFE
37.Thing that might decay : ATOM
38.Bearded comic strip bully : BLUTO
40.Old cavalrymen : LANCERS
42.Illustrations, e.g. : ARTWORK
43.In need of spicing up, say : DRY
44.-- --- .-. ... . : MORSE
45.News analyst Roberts : COKIE
46.Word on a clapperboard : SCENE
48.Like some measuring units : METRIC
49.Right away : STAT
50.It's got problems : TEST
52.Valéry's "very" : TRES
55.Disburse : SPEND
56.Goes to court? : ASKSOUT
57.Offensive line striker : CENSOR
59.Melancholy : SADNESS
62.Flood residue : MUCK
63.Ghostly : ASHEN
64."The Ipcress File" star, 1965 : CAINE
66."___ c'est moi" : LETAT
67.Told stories : LIED
68.Way too thin : BONY
73.Not a single thing? : ALBUM
75.Blue : EROTIC
76.Diminish : EBB
77.Opposite of smooth : RASPY
79.Take by surprise : SNEAKUPON
80.Mud ___ (bottom-dwelling fish) : EELS
81.Total bore : DRIP
85.Slurpee flavor : COLA
86.Supermodel Heidi : KLUM
88.Dress in fancy duds : TRICKUP
89.Long-eared dogs, informally : COCKERS
90.Reshape : ALTER
93.Fuerza Democrática Nicaragüense member : CONTRA
94.It's played in ballparks : ANTHEM
96.Viscous substance : GOOP
97.PC platform of old : MSDOS
98.Ratify : ENACT
99.The Harlem Shake or the Dougie : DANCE
100.One of the Allman Brothers : DUANE
102.Flick site? : WRIST
104.Expiration notice : OBIT
105.Fundamental part : ROOT
106.Modelist's need : GLUE
107.Julio-Claudian dynasty ruler : NERO
108.Attracted : DREW
111.Horatian ___ : ODE
112.Hamm of soccer : MIA
113.Signal that replaced "CQD" : SOS

© 2014, Jim Horne