XW Info

Friday, November 15, 2013
by David Woolf
Fri 11/15/2013
© 2013, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes: Debut! Some great entries today; I love to see snappy phrases like CASH BARS and SEA OTTERS, and it's nice that OSCAR WAO gets his due. I haven't read that book yet (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) but it's on my TBR (to be read) list. And seeing SODIUM PENTOTHAL down the center of the grid was really cool.

Themeless construction is a tough way to break into the crosswords game. The more typical path is to make a few themed crosswords working with 78-word grids, practicing filling tiny 4x4 or smaller sections cleanly. I had been constructing for nearly a year before attempting my first themeless, and it was a full notch harder than I expected. It's so rough to balance everything, trying to work in snazzy long entries (usually prioritizing multiple-word answers like NO IFS ANDS OR BUTS) while minimizing the rough stuff.

There's a lot of neat work here. SODIUM PENTOTHAL crossing THE TRUTH WILL OUT was pretty cool. I had to look up the latter, but was glad I did, since it's something I should have recognized. It's a fun change of pace to get a sort of mini-theme when you're not expecting it.

The NE corner is a bit rough. There are some answers I enjoy learning, like TATARY, which my ancestors apparently ruled (people* whisper in awe that I likely have some Genghis Khan blood running through my veins). Other things like KARSTS which will likely never come up in my lifetime, aren't as fun to uncover. It was right by NIIHAU (I'm mixed on that one but more positive than negative) and TATARY, so the confluence detracted from my solving enjoyment.

Good workout today. A final note, it's amazing how much one clue can color my personal solving experience. The clue for SNAPE ("He cast the Killing Curse on Dumbledore") made me choke up, remembering the first time I read Harry Potter book six. It gave me a mixture of melancholy tinged with the amazing experience of reading that entire series, leaving me with a positive memory of the puzzle. That's one way a clue can be great.

*me, mostly

Will Shortz notes: This is David Woolf's debut. All three 15-letter answers are particularly nice. OSCAR WAO was new to me, but I've read up a little on the book since accepting the puzzle, and the entry feels eminently crossword-worthy.
1.Their drinks are not on the house : CASHBARS
9.Rough limestone regions with sinkholes and caverns : KARSTS
15.Novel title character with a "brief, wondrous life" : OSCARWAO
16.Hawaii's Forbidden Isle : NIIHAU
17."... period!" : NOIFSANDSORBUTS
19.One buzzing off? : GNAT
20.Three Stooges display : IDIOCY
21.Some lab leaders, for short : TAS
22.Like most hall-of-fame inductees: Abbr. : RET
23.Gave belts or socks : STRUCK
24.Swamp : MIRE
25.Female friends, to Francisco : AMIGAS
27.Early-millennium year : MII
28.Jet black : ONYX
29.Some are soft-shell : TACOS
30.Spread out : OPENED
32.He cast the Killing Curse on Dumbledore : SNAPE
33.What the Flying Wallendas refuse to use : NET
34.Powerful Hindu deities : DEVAS
38.That same number of : ASMANY
40.Diner's words of thanks : GRACE
41.Unlucky accidents, old-style : HAPS
44.Co. led by Baryshnikov in the 1980s : ABT
45.It broke up in the age of dinosaurs : PANGEA
46.Not procrastinating : ONIT
47.Midday assignation, in slang : NOONER
49.Stink : ADO
50.Olive ___ : OYL
51.More pointed : ACUTER
52.Give an underhanded hand? : ABET
53.Assertion more likely to be correct if 8-Down is given : THETRUTHWILLOUT
56.Decision makers : COURTS
57.Axis, e.g. : ALLIANCE
58."Fingers crossed" : HOPESO
59.Whose eyes Puck squeezes magical juice on : LYSANDER
1."Well done!" : CONGRATS
2.With no dissenters : ASONEMAN
3.Common result of a slipped disk : SCIATICA
4.Foil feature : HAFT
5.Realty ad abbr. : BRS
6.Lies ahead : AWAITS
7.What a vacay provides : RANDR
8.What an interrogator might administer : SODIUMPENTOTHAL
9.Bring home, as a run : KNOCKIN
10.Light as a feather : AIRY
11.One in a cage : RIB
12.Confined : SHUTIN
13.Vast historical region controlled by the Mongols : TATARY
14.Kingdom next to Kent : SUSSEX
18.See 24-Down : SOCIETY
23.They aid responses, in brief : SASES
24.With 18-Down, life today : MODERN
26.Transcend : GOPAST
30.Speaking of repeatedly, to a Brit : ONABOUT
31.1984 award for Elmore Leonard : EDGAR
35.Drifting type : VAGABOND
36.Good hand holding in Omaha Hi-Lo : ACEDEUCE
37.It has the densest fur of any animal : SEAOTTER
39.Alpine skier Julia who won Olympic gold in 2006 : MANCUSO
41.Still-produced stuff : HOOTCH
42.Slangy segue : ANYHOO
43.Awful accident : PILEUP
45.Hazards : PERILS
48.Afresh : NEWLY
51.Film and theater : ARTS
52.Actor Rickman who played 32-Across : ALAN
54.Low numero : TRE
55.___ Fáil (Irish coronation stone) : LIA

© 2017, Jim Horne