XW Info

Thursday, March 23, 2017
by Sandy Ganzell
In the print version of this puzzle, the columns consisting of 14-/42-Down, 16-/49-Down and 22-Down are not as wide as all the other columns.
Thu 3/23/2017
© 2017, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes:

Sandy uses slimmed-down columns for theme answers that have an implied "thin" qualifier. (See grid below). 14-Down isn't MINTS, for example, but (THIN) MINTS. Same with (SLIM) CHANCE, (LEAN) CUISINE, (NARROW) ESCAPE, and (SKINNY) JEANS.

I particularly liked the ones where the answer in the grid made no sense until grokking the theme idea — CUISINE isn't a brand, but (LEAN CUISINE) is.

CHANCE and JEANS didn't work as well, as both could fit with their respective clues without the implied qualifier — a long shot does have a CHANCE, and some JEANS are form-fitting.

Some nice gridwork for a debut. It's tough to work with short theme answers, because that means you'll need a bunch of long fill elsewhere (due to the maximum word count limit of 78). That bottom left corner shines, with OMNISCIENT running through a RAINOUT, and some PINE TAR giving a baseball mini-theme. EXECUTE even gives us a bonus — a rare X. All that for the price of an OST = great craftsmanship, especially considering how hard it is to work with all that white space.

The upper left corner didn't come out as well in my eyes. TOOK HEART is good, as is ALA MODE and THINKER, but IDLER has a made-up feel, and PEER INTO is more neutral than positive (I have a hard time getting excited about phrases with a tacked-on preposition). And CARIOLE … it's a real word, but it wasn't satisfying for me to uncover, after working so hard to piece together every letter.

There were also a few HRS, PEU, COSM blips (that last one seems more major to me than the others), but some nice fill to help balance out those liabilities — PUT TO A VOTE, SHINDIG, TOURISTS stood out in my eyes.

I liked the creativity of using these thin columns, but the trick might have played better on a Tues or Wed since it came pretty easily and could even be (mostly) overlooked while still finishing. Still, always fun to see something kooky going on, deviating from neat little square boxes.

1.Cable channel owned by Time Warner : TBS
4.Lead-in to toe or top : TIP
7.Countdown abbr. : HRS
10."Un ___" (answer to "Parlez-vous français?") : PEU
13.Fashionable : ALAMODE
15.Distinctive filmmakers : AUTEURS
17.One-horse carriage : CARIOLE
18.Alley seen on TV : KIRSTIE
19.One may be deep : THINKER
20.Passed : ENACTED
21.Again ... and again : THRICE
23.___ Ming, 2016 Hall of Fame inductee : YAO
24.Thereabouts : CLOSE
27.Unfeeling : NUMB
29.Line at a barbershop : PART
32.Pickup line? : RAM
33.Broadway opening : ACTI
35.Perhaps not at all : IFEVER
37.Keats ode subject : URN
38.2017 symbol in the Chinese zodiac : ROOSTER
40.Accented approval : OLE
41.Boots : EVICTS
43.Actress Skye : IONE
44.Can : TIN
45.Eye protector : LASH
46.Writing on many a chalkboard : MENU
48.Tape recorder button : EJECT
50.Certain varietal, for short : CAB
52.Provide with oxygen : AERATE
54.Game day disappointment : RAINOUT
57.Singer of the anthem "Hatikvah" ("The Hope") : ISRAELI
61.Carry out : EXECUTE
62.Big to-do : SHINDIG
63.Sticky stuff : PINETAR
64.Some playfulness : TEASING
65.German direction : OST
66.Short : SHY
67.Show filmed at Rockefeller Center, for short : SNL
68.Play (with) : TOY
1."It is ___ that is golden, not silence": Samuel Butler : TACT
2.When tripled, et cetera : BLAH
3.Article of apparel that often leaves one arm bare : SARI
4.Was encouraged : TOOKHEART
5.Layabout : IDLER
6.Look at searchingly : PEERINTO
7.Olajuwon of the N.B.A. : HAKEEM
8.Wreckage : RUIN
9.Good candidate for adoption : STRAY
10.Settle by calling the question : PUTTOAVOTE
11.Lake connected with lake-effect snow : ERIE
12.Exhausted : USED
14.Girl Scout cookie offering : THINMINTS
16.Barely successful avoidance of calamity : NARROWESCAPE
22.Brand for weight-watchers : LEANCUISINE
24.Barbarous : CRUEL
25.Caterpillar stage : LARVA
26.Godlike, in a way : OMNISCIENT
28.French well : BIEN
30.Museum piece : RELIC
31.River through Nottingham, England : TRENT
34.Ending with micro- : COSM
36.Incentive for buying a new product, maybe : FREETRIAL
39.Buyers of guidebooks : TOURISTS
42.What a long shot has : SLIMCHANCE
47.Lunch spot : EATERY
49.Form-fitting casual wear : SKINNYJEANS
51.Matches : BOUTS
53.Wan : ASHEN
54.Auctioned car, perhaps : REPO
55.x or y : AXIS
56.Pac-12 team : UTAH
58.Make some changes to : EDIT
59.Old typesetting machine, informally : LINO
60.Pop of rock : IGGY

© 2017, Jim Horne