XW Info

Thursday, December 25, 2014
by Xan Vongsathorn
Thu 12/25/2014
© 2014, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes: I really enjoyed this solve. I don't think rebuses as a genre are completely trite or tired yet — there is a reason that Will spaces out his rebus puzzles these days though. So I do think that it's important to push the boundaries a bit. I like what Xan has done here, using MIXED (NUT)S as a rationale for six rebus squares, each one containing a unique permutation of the letters N, U, and T. Sputnik

Some of those sequences are easy to work in. There's a ton of phrases incorporating *TUN*, for example. But UTN? TNU? NTU? Those are much more difficult. I really liked the assortment of strong phrases Xan picked out, from DOW(NTU)RN to SP(UTN)IK to OU(TNUM)BER to WE(TNU)RSE.

I felt slightly uncomfortable at the [Milk maid?] clue for WETNURSE, BTW. I'm not sure why that is. At first glance perhaps it seems like it could be a fun bit of wordplay around a common phrase? But it didn't sit quite right with me, perhaps feeling a bit too off-color for the NYT.

I'm impressed with Xan's gridwork. Aside from the start, where I never know if I should love or hate YEGG, and the awkward ETCHA, I appreciated that I kept on going and going without hitching over gluey bits. All the cleanliness, with even GO VIRAL, ARCHWAY, TAP WATER, DEVIL RAY, etc. worked in = admirable job.

I might have even given it the POW if it hadn't been for the aforementioned items, plus one aspect I usually care nothing about: the number of black squares. That in itself is meaningless to me, but there are two issues in the way Xan lays out his grid: 1.) the choked off feeling from subsection to subsection, and 2.) the visual impact of all those chunks of black. Those two central crosses do a number on the feng shui of the grid.

But overall, I appreciate the fact that Xan pushes the rebus genre a little here with a well-executed grid which gave me a very pleasurable solve. And that [Break down in tears?] clue was gold. I didn't understand it even after filling in RIP UP, but I loved that headslap moment of realizing that "tears" meant "rips," not "salty discharge."

1.Cassava lookalike : YAM
4.Point : DOT
7.Bit of texting shorthand : BTW
10.Charlie Parker genre : BOP
13.Like a style with eyeliner and long bangs : EMO
14.Org. concerned with 34-Across : EPA
15.Sprinkle at a pizzeria : OREGANO
17.Settled a score : GOTEVEN
19.Be bigger than, in a way : OUTNUMBER
20.Packing : GUNTOTING
21.Most to the point : TERSEST
22.Backdrop for Chamonix : ALP
23.Brewskis : SUDS
24.Sounds of indifference : EHS
27.Break down in tears? : RIPUP
29.Soil : EARTH
34.Drink that's a freebie : TAPWATER
36."Keep it coming!" : MORE
37.Samosa topping : CHUTNEY
38.20-Across grp. : NRA
40.Flowery girl's name : PETUNIA
41.Tiny victory margin : HAIR
42.Give rise to : ENGENDER
44.Sought consent from : ASKED
46.Joe Quimby on "The Simpsons," e.g. : MAYOR
47.Kick in : ADD
48.Track figure : OVAL
50.Stereo knob: Abbr. : VOL
52.Keystone site : ARCHWAY
56.Party snack ... or a hint to six squares in this puzzle : MIXEDNUTS
60.Hairy menace : TARANTULA
61.Artwork from a folder : ORIGAMI
62.Pest-ridden, say : OVERRUN
63.Raging : MAD
64.___ state : ZEN
65.What an English organization lacks? : ZED
66.Duck Hunt console, for short : NES
67.It may be blonde : ALE
68.Poacher's need : EGG
1.One doing safe work? : YEGG
2.Come (to) : AMOUNT
3.Sporting lead-in to cross : MOTO
4.Aquarium giant : DEVILRAY
5.Like some mining and barbecues : OPENPIT
6.Zest : TANG
7.Start, as a computer : BOOTUP
8.Leveled : TRUED
9.Milk maid? : WETNURSE
10.Dish : BABE
11.___ column : ONES
12.After-dinner serving : PORT
16.Baseball execs : GMS
18.Info for an airport greeter : ETA
23.Like an out-of-body experience : SURREAL
24.___ Sketch : ETCHA
25.Rib-ticklers : HAHAS
26.Startling newsmaker of 10/4/1957 : SPUTNIK
28.Calf's place, maybe : PEN
30."Agreed!" : AMEN
31.Feature of Rome's Pantheon : ROTUNDA
32.Presided over, as a case : TRIED
33.Presided over, as a case : HEARD
35."As you ___" : WERE
39.At all : ANY
40.Blonde's secret : PEROXIDE
43.Really take off, in a way : GOVIRAL
45.Economic slump : DOWNTURN
46.Ancient pyramid builders : MAYANS
49.Merit : VALUE
51.Calf's place : LEG
52.The whole spectrum : ATOZ
53.Four-star : RAVE
54.Props on the street : CRED
55.Laugh sound : HAR
56.Home to "The Persistence of Memory," informally : MOMA
57.Leave stumbling : DAZE
58.Apple pie seasoning : NUTMEG
59.Be a prima donna, e.g. : SING

© 2014, Jim Horne