XW Info

Saturday, September 21, 2013
by Tim Croce
Sat 9/21/2013
© 2013, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes: In addition to the usual criteria for judging a themeless crossword (lively entries, lack of crosswordese/partials/abbrs., fun cluing), Will hits upon an topic we don't often have a chance to discuss: grid aesthetics. By itself, I found the grid stunning, not just because I shivered at how difficult it would be to fill cleanly, but for its sheer visual artistry. Jim put together a gallery of Grid Art that caught his eye, and this one's also a beauty.

Tim not just flirts with the lowest word count record but does so with a relatively clean grid. And compare it to the other 11 58-word puzzles, noting how much less segmentation it has. Low word-count puzzles often depend upon splitting the grid into four quadrants so each can be worked on individually, but this one has a massive middle white space with high connectivity to four swaths in the corners. Daunting.

Usually the knock on low-word count puzzles is that they're inelegant and/or no fun because they depend on too many "roll-your-own" words (carrying an artificial RE- prefix or -ER/-ERS suffix). There are some of these here (I see you, RESEES) but surprisingly few. I'm mixed on TOOLER — in my first career as a mechanical engineer, I worked closely with moldmakers who we occasionally called "toolers", but that seems pretty esoteric.

Finally, check out the good stuff Tim throws in: SOLO HOMER, LETTERMEN, SMART ALEC, KNEE PATCH, all intersecting in the center. To those who might argue that this doesn't have any super-snazzy answers (or call it a "stunt puzzle"), at the very least this puzzle is a great change of pace to the usual 68 to 72-word themeless puzzles. A close second for the POW!

Will Shortz notes: With just 58 words, this grid design is an eye-opener. My favorite entries in it are 6A, 38A, 14D, 20D, 23D, 29D, and 34D. I didn't care so much for ADSORBS, BCS (especially that), SONDE, and one or two other things. But overall this is pretty handsome.
1.They aren't straight : LIARS
6."Aarrghh!" : BLASTIT
13.Shove off : UNDOCK
15.Lures : COMEONS
16."Oo la la!" jeans, informally : SASSONS
18.Preceder of John Sebastian at Woodstock : SANTANA
19.Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" and others : TWOSTEPS
21.Chain : FETTER
22.Heralds : FORETELLS
24.Produces lush sounds? : SLURS
25.Heavily populated areas, informally : URBS
26.They adhere to brains : PIAMATERS
28.Temple inits. : LDS
29.Lieutenant colonel's charge : BATTALION
30.Students with outstanding character? : LETTERMEN
31.See 48-Across : CONCERTOS
32.Its arms are not solid : SEA
35.Difficult journey : TOUGHROAD
36.Gifted trio? : MAGI
37.Follow the party line? : CONGA
38.Round trip for one? : SOLOHOMER
40.Direction givers, often : LOCALS
42.Superexcited : FEVERISH
43.Delicate needlepoint lace : ALENCON
45.Is so inclined : CARESTO
46.Do some work between parties : MEDIATE
47.Brings in for more tests, say : RESEES
48.Fast parts of 31-Across : PRESTOS
49.Meteorological probe : SONDE
1.Like wolves vis-à-vis foxes : LUSTFUL
2.Not at length : INAWORD
3.Takes up onto the surface : ADSORBS
4.Susan's family on "Seinfeld" : ROSSES
5.The Father of the Historical Novel : SCOTT
6.Group of football games played at the beginning of Jan. : BCS
7.Dog it : LOAF
8.Pardons : AMNESTIES
9.Choose in the end : SETTLEON
10.Flawlessly : TOATURN
11.Areas next to bull's-eyes : INNERS
12.Strongmen of old : TSARS
14.Remedy for a bad leg : KNEEPATCH
17.Fastballs that drop sharply near the plate : SPLITTERS
20.Durable cover : SLATEROOF
23.Wise sort : SMARTALEC
27.2002 Best Original Screenplay Oscar winner for "Talk to Her" : ALMODOVAR
29.Spotted hybrid house pet : BENGALCAT
30.1980s Olympic star with the autobiography "Breaking the Surface" : LOUGANIS
31.Grant : CONCEDE
32.Geisha's instrument : SAMISEN
33.Expelled : EGESTED
34.Pressure gauge connection : AIRHOSE
35.Mechanic, say : TOOLER
36.Beyond that : MORESO
37.Shop keeper? : CLAMP
39."___ Lucy" (old sitcom) : HERES
41.Florida's De ___ National Monument : SOTO
44.Wii ancestor, briefly : NES

© 2014, Jim Horne