XW Info

Friday, December 9, 2016
by David Phillips
Fri 12/9/2016
© 2016, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes:

Tough to get down to 64 words in a themeless without requiring some compromises. I enjoyed this puzzle, although there weren't as many multi-word, snazzy answers as I like. MELISSA MCCARTHY is fun (hilarious in "Bridesmaids") and CHICAGO SUN TIMES always makes me think of one of my idols, Roger Ebert. ALOHA OE (so weird to see that -AOE ending!) was nice too.

One-word entries can also sing, but I personally find them harder to gush over. PYREX, VACUUMS, ANTHRAX, SHIMMY, NOONERS pique my interest, but not so much for more workmanlike entries like SCIENCE, DICTATE, PERCENT, ASCEND, ITERATE, etc. that I hear every day. Personal taste, but those one-worders tend to feel more like neutral filler.

Great clues can elevate these more boring one-worders, though. I loved the SCIENCE clue, for example: "The great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition" is something I wish all people would remember in this day and age — it's so hard to argue with someone who discounts SCIENCE.

And ITERATE is better with its clue: [Say, say, say?]. It's not perfect, since "say, say, say" isn't as strong a phrase as I would like (how about employing the song "Sing Sing Sing" for the clue!), but it gets to the concept of ITERATE obliquely and playfully.

Smooth results in terms of short fill. I'm impressed that I had to work to pick out any gluey entries. ASEA is sometimes derided, but I think it's perfectly fine, if a bit old-timey. ALPES might be the only culprit, as the semi-esoteric foreign word. That's great work for a 64-word themer.

Ultra-low word count puzzles often rely on odd words formed by RE- prefixes or -ER suffixes, often have a ton of neutral filler that doesn't excite me much, and/or rely on a ton of crossword glue to hold everything together. It's a mark of success that I didn't actually realize that this was an ultra-low word count effort until I looked at it more carefully. Nice craftsmanship, if not super exciting.

1.Little rascals : SCAMPS
7.Man ___ : FRIDAY
13.Joined the fray : HADATIT
15.Like some roars : LEONINE
16.Say, say, say? : ITERATE
17.Web feed? : INSECTS
18.Player of Molly on "Mike & Molly" : MELISSAMCCARTHY
20.Some hosp. tests : MRIS
21.Excessively tan : BAKE
22.Like tritium and triplets : RARE
23.Thirsts : YENS
24.Suddenly changes direction : ZAGS
25.Received high marks : GOTAS
26.Change affiliations : REALIGN
28.Flask material : PYREX
29.Gist of a Dear John letter : ITSOVER
31.Mont Cervin and others : ALPES
34.Tennis star nicknamed Le Crocodile : LACOSTE
38.Unearthly : ALIEN
39.See 53-Across : PICK
40.Annoyance : PEST
42.Take off : SOAR
43.Sender of a billet-doux : BEAU
44."Ish" : ORSO
45.Where Roger Ebert's reviews appeared for 47 years : CHICAGOSUNTIMES
49.Gets one's feet wet : EASESIN
50.Team "spawned" in 1993 : MARLINS
51.Certain trysts : NOONERS
52."The great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition," per Adam Smith : SCIENCE
53.With 39-Across, teeth-cleaning aid : DENTAL
54.Registered, as a complaint : LODGED
1.Shake on the dance floor : SHIMMY
2.One serving a function : CATERER
3.Virginia Woolf's given name at birth : ADELINE
4.___ Mayer, Yahoo C.E.O. beginning in 2012 : MARISSA
5.Ed promoters : PTAS
6.Goes unused : SITS
7.Cross swords : FENCE
8.Gift on el 14 de febrero : ROSA
9.Mistakenly : INERROR
10.State for the record : DICTATE
11.One of the "Big Four" thrash metal bands : ANTHRAX
12."All right already!" : YESYES
14.Things steeped in tradition? : TEABAGS
15.Affection from a pooch : LICKS
19.Pair on Mississippi's state quarter : MAGNOLIAS
24.Dreaded dermal development : ZITS
25.Street cart offering : GYRO
27.Home security measure : LIEN
28.Hit with the bill? : PECK
30.Suckers : VACUUMS
31.Song sung to Lilo in "Lilo & Stitch" : ALOHAOE
32.Intermediary : LIAISON
33.Kind of yield : PERCENT
35.Like a rained-on parade : SPOILED
36.Giving a name : TERMING
37.Pith : ESSENCE
38.Move up the ranks : ASCEND
39.Drones : PEONS
41.Got rid of : TOSSED
43.Female hip-hop fan : BGIRL
46.Between ports : ASEA
47.It reacts with H2SO4 : NACL
48.The Magi, e.g. : TRIO

© 2016, Jim Horne