XW Info

Saturday, May 23, 2015
by Peter Wentz
Sat 5/23/2015
© 2015, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes:

As I've come to expect from Peter, a beautiful grid chock full of zesty entries, with just a couple of glue dots to hold it together. Very impressive start to the puzzle, HATCHET JOB / YEAH IM SURE / ESKIMO KISS in a super clean corner. And TAKEI of Star Trek and "Oh Myyy…" internet fame! As if I didn't already love TAKEI for being one of the only Asians I saw on TV growing up, his transformation into Internet megastar elevates him to one of my favorite people on the planet.

ONE HR is an interesting entry. On one hand, it could be inelegant since it involves an abbreviation. But what a crazy string of letters! It stalled me out in that corner, as I was sure that it had to be something like ONE PM, which I've seen many times (and personally disliked) before. I certainly like it better than ONE AM, but is it a liability or neutral? Not sure.

Free climbers do often use ropes for safety — very different from "free soloing"

I typically would give a fantastic grid like this the POW!, but something felt off to me. Upon reflection, I think it's the cluing — such missed opportunity; so much potential to clue TAKEI in a spicier manner. Same with OFFICE BOY, HATCHET JOB, ESKIMO KISS and FREE CLIMB, which all got definitional clues. Granted, FREE CLIMB is niche enough that maybe it needed something out of Webster's, but even that is fairly well inferable, yeah?

And as much as I like efforts to get STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields higher priority in education, cluing it with a fill-in-the-blank feels like it gives STEM short-shift.

Granted, there are some very nice clues. [Something to keep a watch on] is clever for WRIST. But for such a well-executed grid, I would have loved to see more clues of an equal level of excellence. It's a tough balance — clues that are too clever can cause confusion, if the answer isn't widely known. But I'd rather err on the side of throwing caution to the wind, perhaps producing some head-scratching but also some real oohs and aahs.

Interesting dilemma in themeless creation — if an entry is as fantastic as HATCHET JOB or FREE CLIMB, but it requires a dictionary definition because it's not well-known enough ... is it a fantastic entry after all?

1.Reputation ruiner : HATCHETJOB
11.Some docents' degs. : MFAS
15."A likely story ..." : YEAHIMSURE
16.2012 political thriller : ARGO
17.Touching of noses : ESKIMOKISS
18.Like some Crayola crayons : NEON
19."O Sanctissima," e.g. : NOEL
20.Deep-fried pub dish : SCOTCHEGG
22.Not together : APIECE
25.All together : ENBLOC
26.Certain breakthroughs : AHAS
28."False, false, false!" : YOULIE
31.Place to build theater sets : SCENESHOP
36.Something to keep a watch on : WRIST
37.___ screen (drug test) : TOX
38.Used as a base : STOODON
40.Map abbr. : MTS
41.Maude's cousin on 1970s TV : EDITH
43.Certain gofer : OFFICEBOY
45."It's Not for Me to Say" crooner : MATHIS
47.Stumbling block : SNAG
48."My Fair Lady" lyricist : LERNER
51.Swedish coins : KRONOR
55.Wager : PLACEABET
58.Sushi bar supply : TUNA
59.Solution for poor eyesight? : RENU
60.Form of xeriscaping : ROCKGARDEN
63.Certain wager : OVER
64.Night game requirement : FLOODLIGHT
65.Learned : WISE
66.Takes the edge off? : SANDPAPERS
1.Member of a den : HYENA
2."Slow and steady wins the race" source : AESOP
3."To the Stars" autobiographer : TAKEI
4.Peso spender : CHILEAN
5."Get ___!" : HIM
6.Overly sensitive, informally : EMO
7.Clucks : TSKS
8.Power, so to speak : JUICE
9.Mork's supervisor on "Mork & Mindy" : ORSON
10.Words before a date : BESTBY
11.Ergonomics unit : MANHOUR
12.Ascent without assistance : FREECLIMB
13.Keen : AGOG
14.Part of a countdown : SONG
21.Hollowed-out comedic prop : CLOWNCAR
23.County of Lewis Carroll's birth : CHESHIRE
24.One side in the annual Shrine Game : EAST
27.Wave off : SHOO
29.Colon, on a test : ISTO
30.Modern collection of vendors : ETSY
31.___ fields : STEM
32.Led Zeppelin's final studio album, appropriately : CODA
33.You might move over for them on the highway : EXITLANES
34."That's gotta hurt" : OOF
35.Some email attachments : PDFS
39.Word repeated before "here," in song : OINK
42."Friday I'm in Love" band, 1992 : THECURE
44.Retweeting of rave reviews, possibly : EGOTRIP
46.Gobbles : SNARFS
49.What fruit bats can carry : EBOLA
50.Drone's work, maybe : RECON
52.Gentle reminder : NUDGE
53.Common show time: Abbr. : ONEHR
54.Philippics : RANTS
55.Figurehead locale : PROW
56.Founder of one of the 12 tribes of Israel : LEVI
57.Having thrown in the towel, maybe : TKOD
61.Natl. figure : GDP
62.Lead-in to a chef's name : ALA

© 2015, Jim Horne