XW Info

Friday, February 12, 2016
by Brandon Hensley
Fri 2/12/2016
© 2016, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes:

It can be quite a challenge to feature 14-letter entries in a themeless — the black square at one end chokes down your grid flexibility — so it was really cool to see GOLDILOCKS ZONE. What a neat term! Even though it'll probably be new to many people (I hadn't heard of it even after taking some recreational astronomy), it's such a colorful description that makes sense. What else would you call a region where you're neither too close nor too far away from your home star, thus making it "just right" for life?


CRY YOUR EYES OUT … I like that one too, but the crossword convention of using the formal ONES instead of YOUR has been beaten into me over the years. I actually prefer YOUR as it sounds more colloquial and friendly to me, but it was a bit odd to see it in a feature entry today.

Interesting grid layout, sort of spiral nebular in appearance — perfect to go along with GOLDILOCKS ZONE. (It's neat to see Brandon's astrophysics voice shine through!) It does make the grid feel somewhat choked, with each corner operating a little too independently for my taste. A good rule of thumb is that if adding in a black square completely segments a grid, that's not good. Here, changing the L of GOLDILOCKS into a black square separates the NW from the rest of the grid. That choked-off flow can be bad for solvers — I got stuck in the SE — but it makes construction easier, as you can (more or less) fill each corner in isolation.

Those big SW and NE corners are daunting. I almost love what Brandon did in the upper right, what with PETE ROSE, ODYSSEYS, AENEID, GODDESS, IN A DAZE — man, that's impressive! But it's tough to execute on 4x8 regions, and PILSENER … that seems like it should be PILSNER to me, and the extra E helps a little too much with the favorable vowel-consonant alternation. Perhaps I've seen too many Pilsner Urquell commercials.

Some fresh entries overcoming the small smattering of gluey bits in [Play the HOB] (?) and LOI, for an entertaining solve.

1.One inclined to patronize a farmer's market : LOCAVORE
9.Cetacean's closest relative : HIPPO
14.Ready for a road trip, say : LOADEDUP
15.Old epic recounting wanderings : AENEID
16.Ones who don't take a seat? : ALSORANS
17.With precision : NEATLY
18.Reply of feigned surprise : MOI
19.It leads to early advancement : BYE
20.Bombshell : GODDESS
21.Longtime Princess Royal : ANNE
23.Bega with the hit "Mambo No. 5" : LOU
24."Wrath of the Titans" antagonist : ARES
25.Region around a star "just right" for habitable planets : GOLDILOCKSZONE
30.Like some jet refuelings : MIDAIR
31."Sometimes a Great Notion" novelist, 1964 : KESEY
32.Puerto Rico is on it year-round, for short : AST
35.Little bit : DAB
36.Subject of a museum in Louisville, Ky. : ALI
38.24/7/365 facilities : ERS
39.Alternative to chinos : CORDS
41.Moving like 43-Down : OOZING
44.Have a bawl : CRYYOUREYESOUT
48.Words of confidence : ICAN
49."I knew a man Bojangles and ___ dance for you ..." (1968 song lyric) : HED
50.They're not refined : ORES
52.Naval hero with five U.S. counties named for him : DECATUR
54.Asset in climbing the corp. ladder : MBA
57.Big ___ : BEN
58.Means of getting the word out? : ERASER
59.When many fans come out : HEATWAVE
61.Beverage brand with three leaves in its logo : NESTEA
62.Used car selling point : ONEOWNER
63.Long hoops shots : TREYS
64.Presenter of many listicles : BUZZFEED
1.A baby one is called a cria : LLAMA
2.Major Taiwanese export : OOLONG
3.House of cards? : CASINO
4.Bother : ADO
5.Hop, skip or jump : VERB
6.Jazz singer whose surname came from pig Latin : ODAY
7.Tolkien character : RUNE
8.They're longer than singles, briefly : EPS
9.Give attention : HEED
10.Flabbergasted : INADAZE
11.Appropriately named Reds legend : PETEROSE
12.Brew named for a Czech city : PILSENER
13.Long, trying trips : ODYSSEYS
15.Aimée of film : ANOUK
20."Knock yourself out" : GOCRAZY
22.Cabinetry material : ELM
23.Rule, in Rennes : LOI
26.Possible response to "Huh-uh!" : DIDSO
27.Mount with the Cave of Zeus : IDA
28.September honoree : LABORER
29.Potato ___ : SKINS
32.The discovery of penicillin, e.g. : ACCIDENT
33.Casting director? : SORCERER
34.Act the judge : TRYACASE
37.Cover for someone, say : LIE
40.Bourbons, e.g. : DYNASTY
42.Time magazine's "scholarly Everest," for short : OED
43.Oil or honey : GOO
45.2009 and '13 sci-fi role for Zoë Saldana : UHURA
46.Refined : URBANE
47.Boob tube : TEEVEE
51.Bergen dummy : SNERD
53.Butt end? : TEES
54.Where to look for starters : MENU
55."Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word" singer : BAEZ
56.Complete : ATOZ
59.Play ___ (be disruptive) : HOB
60.Conservation org. with a panda logo : WWF

© 2016, Jim Horne