XW Info

Friday, October 18, 2013
by David Steinberg
Fri 10/18/2013
© 2013, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes: Fun solve from the puzzle prodigy. A 62-word themeless puzzle poses a significant construction challenge, and David has given us a nice solve today. The areas which I thought would be the roughest, the NW and SE corners, turned out to be relatively smooth, especially given their wide-open nature. I would guess not many people like to see EDE in their crossword, but then again, there's a pretty big Dutch presence in America, right? Aside from this outlier, the NW corner came out great...with one interesting entry to debate: STILL DRE.

I had a nice exchange with David over e-mail regarding STILL DRE, as it left me scratching my head after I finished. For him, it was a nice enough entry to help seed his puzzle. At first that entry gave me a feeling of incompletion, like I had uncovered the answer, but wasn't really sure if it was the answer or not. But after hearing his rationale and looking up / listening to the song, I understood better that part of it is a generational divide issue (I'm 29 in hexadecimal, or 32 in base 13, whichever you prefer). Different strokes for different folks.

The SW to NE diagonal really illustrates the searching, questing nature of themeless construction. There's some great stuff in the middle of it, the SNOW TIRES / JET PLANE / TWIN BILL area especially. Note though, how constrained that area is once you lock in just a few entries. The result in the NE is pretty good, notwithstanding ORIENTE, but the SW has so many propers that will be unfamiliar to some. The DEODATO / PASA / STEARNES crossings were awfully difficult for me, and I doubt I'll be the only one. I did enjoy looking up DEODATO and reading more about his work around "2001" as well as STEARNES's amazing career in the Negro league, but I would have preferred to not have to look those up on the very same day.

Finally, kudos to David for doing something that most of America would take for granted but we constructors too often brush aside: spelling AMOEBAE with the "O". The brilliant Matt Gaffney started a crossword blog recently, mentioning that his most dreaded piece of fill was AMEBA. I'm guilty of this, having used it before, having seen it used so many times in so many crosswords that it felt like no big deal. But his post reminded me that before I started doing crosswords, I had never spelled it AMEBA and would have found it very odd to see it that way. Good reminder for us as constructors to be vigilant and keep our word usage standards high.

Fun Friday challenge, quite a workout.

Will Shortz notes: David Steinberg, who turns 17 next month, has turned out an eye-popping construction here — and I accepted the puzzle over a year ago, when he was still 15! My favorite entries in it are STILL DRE, CONEHEADS, TWIN BILL, JET PLANE, YES DEAR, LABOR PARTY, ZEN GARDEN, SCARFACE, SNOW TIRES, GET REAL, JASON MRAZ, BISCAYNE, and JAM TART. That's a lot of great stuff. I could have done without EDE (where I've been, BTW) and TESSAS...but overall, this is pretty fancy constructing.
1.1999 rap hit featuring Snoop Dogg : STILLDRE
9."Sin City" actress : ALBA
13.Classic TV family : CONEHEADS
15.Represent : MEAN
16.45 degrees, for 1 : ARCTANGENT
18.Wild things? : OATS
19.Puts on eBay again : RELISTS
20.Cuban province where Castro was born : ORIENTE
22.Zoological groups : FAUNAS
23.Diamond deal : TWINBILL
24.Software plug-in : ADDON
25.Mode of transportation in a 1969 #1 hit : JETPLANE
26.Filmdom family name : COEN
27.Israel's Sea of ___ : GALILEE
28.Silence fillers : ERS
29.Informal name of the 45th state : DESERET
30.Softball question : LOB
33.Clean, now : DETOXED
34.Songbird Mitchell : JONI
35.Turkey ___, baseball Hall-of-Famer from the Negro leagues : STEARNES
37.Breaks : TAMES
38.They get tested : THEOREMS
39.___ system, part of the brain that regulates emotion, behavior and long-term memory : LIMBIC
40.2000s CBS sitcom : YESDEAR
41.Sextet at Woodstock : SANTANA
42."El Condor ___" (1970 Simon & Garfunkel hit) : PASA
43.Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin led it : LABORPARTY
45.Division d'une carte : ETAT
46.Place of outdoor meditation : ZENGARDEN
47.Mock words of understanding : AHSO
48.Price of an opera? : LEONTYNE
1.Gangster nickname : SCARFACE
2."Carmen" figure : TOREADOR
3.Covers : INCLUDES
4.Share a secret with : LETINON
5.From the Forbidden City : LHASAN
6.Bad impressions? : DENTS
7.Poverty, metaphorically : RAGS
8.Dutch city ESE of Amsterdam : EDE
9.Shape shifters? : AMOEBAE
10.Try to hear better, maybe : LEANIN
11.Knock-down-drag-out : BATTLE
12.First name in shooting : ANSEL
14.Winter set : SNOWTIRES
17.Didn't make it home, say : TRIPLED
21.Arm : INLET
23.E-mail ancestors : TELEXES
25."Wordplay" vocalist, 2005 : JASONMRAZ
27."In your dreams!" : GETREAL
29.Mary ___ (doomed ship) : DEARE
30.Italian region that's home to Milan : LOMBARDY
31.Chances that a year ends with any particular digit : ONEINTEN
32.Florida's Key ___ : BISCAYNE
33.Musician who arranged the theme for "2001" : DEODATO
34.Fruit-filled pastry : JAMTART
35.Where to bury the hatchet? : SHEATH
36.Olympic ice dancing gold medalist Virtue and others : TESSAS
37.___ Alley : TINPAN
38.Hypercompetitive : TYPEA
39.About 40-60 beats per minute : LARGO
41.Volume measure : SONE
44.Volume measure : BEL

© 2017, Jim Horne