XW Info

Monday, November 18, 2013
by Edgar Fontaine
Mon 11/18/2013
© 2013, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes: Amusing start to the week, famous people with an S inserted between their first and last names to make wacky possessives. ARTHURS MILLER made me chuckle with the image of Bea Arthur knocking back an MGD. I'm hoping a clever constructor does something funny with BETTY WHITE, because her commercials and cameos as of late crack me up. Challenge issued!

Interesting construction difficulties today, given that each of the four theme answers are what Patrick Berry aptly calls "inconvenient lengths". Typically the first theme entry goes into row 3, but consider what happens if you tried to move GREGORYS PECK up one row: you create a stack of two-letter words in the top of the NE corner. No good! So in row 4 it must go.

Note how that compacts all the themers. HARRISONS FORD and ARTHURS MILLER are separated by just one row, and there are seven down answers that cross them both. I imagine Edgar started his filling process from the center since it's so constrained, and having OSAMA / OGEE / INST is okay (although I'm not a fan of putting OSAMA in crosswords), but starting already burdened with a little subpar stuff puts so much pressure on the constructor to be super clean the rest of the way. It can be harrowing to have that hanging over your head, but sometimes pressure is a good thing. In this case Edgar does all right, escaping with an ELIA and an OBERON crossing EBAN. That's going to be an awfully hard cross for some people.

For a theme like this, my personal preference is to make it more elegant by choosing themers that are tightly related. Gregory Peck, Harrison Ford, and Sharon Stone fit well together, but Arthur Miller sticks out a bit as the lone non-movie star. Minor issue though — it's good to remind myself that I (and much of the online community) am a very small portion of Will's total constituency, and most will never even care about things like this.

Finally, well done today to avoid the use of excessive cheater squares. 13s are extremely awkward, because they often necessitate a chunky pattern of five black squares (at the end of ARTHURS MILLER) but Edgar has done a nice job to avoid that, running long downs of PARENTHETIC and AMOUR PROPRE at the ends of the 13s. This is a tricky thing to do. I'm not a huge fan of AMOUR PROPRE on a Monday, but I did enjoy looking it up.

Will Shortz notes: While this theme is a variation on a familiar one, it has a fresh twist and is consistently done. The vocabulary is easy, too. So ... a good Monday. Among the nontheme entries I especially liked AMOUR PROPRE.
1.Conks on the head : BOPS
5.Old Russian ruler : TSAR
9.Drummer Ringo : STARR
14.Israel's Abba : EBAN
15.Charles Lamb's pen name : ELIA
16.Place to keep a hibachi : PATIO
17.Prefix with dynamics : AERO
18.Lambs' fathers : RAMS
19.Diplomatic representative : ENVOY
20.Part of a bushel belonging to Dick? : GREGORYSPECK
23.Chaney who played the hunchback of Notre Dame : LON
24.Greek letters before rhos : PIS
25.Facial expression : VISAGE
29.Serving between appetizer and dessert : ENTREE
31.S-shaped molding : OGEE
33.Prefix with Atlantic : MID
34.Car belonging to Rex? : HARRISONSFORD
37.Professional charges : FEES
39.Catch, as a criminal : NAB
40.New York's Giuliani : RUDY
41.Lite beer belonging to Bea? : ARTHURSMILLER
46.The last King Richard : III
47."Cheerio!" : TATA
48.Facial socket : EYEPIT
51.Put another layer on, as of paint : RECOAT
53.Exploit : USE
54.Column's counterpart : ROW
55.Rock belonging to Ariel? : SHARONSSTONE
59.Waikiki welcome : ALOHA
62."___ upon a time ..." : ONCE
63.Taylor boy of Mayberry : OPIE
64.Actress Sophia : LOREN
65.Gomer of Mayberry : PYLE
66."Darn it all!" : DRAT
67.Doghouse infestation : FLEAS
68.Former spouses : EXES
69.Lairs : DENS
1.Long-eared dog : BEAGLE
2.King of the fairies, in Shakespeare : OBERON
3.Like the end of this clue (in terms of punctuation) : PARENTHETIC
4.Kiss, to Brits : SNOG
5.Wirehaired dog : TERRIER
6.Leaves rolling in the aisles : SLAYS
7.Prepares to shoot a gun : AIMS
8.Filing tool : RASP
9.Homo sapiens, for humans : SPECIES
10.Goes suddenly from success to failure, in slang : TANKS
11.Off-road goer, for short : ATV
12.___ de Janeiro : RIO
13.Artist Lichtenstein : ROY
21.Abbr. above 0 on a phone : OPER
22.Tied, scorewise : EVEN
26.Self-esteem, as the French would have it : AMOURPROPRE
27.Encircle : GIRD
28.Small whirlpool : EDDY
30.Too hasty : RASH
31.___ bin Laden : OSAMA
32.Mongolian desert : GOBI
35.The "I" of M.I.T.: Abbr. : INST
36.Center square of a bingo card : FREE
37.Not foul : FAIR
38.Lake ___, source of the Niagara River : ERIE
42.Salt Lake City residents, e.g. : UTAHANS
43.Pro ___ (proportionally) : RATA
44.Tenants : LESSEES
45.Cleaning solutions : LYES
49.___ Sea, body of water south of Italy : IONIAN
50.Messages limited to 140 characters : TWEETS
52.Milo of "The Verdict" : OSHEA
53."I give up!" : UNCLE
56.1948 Hitchcock thriller : ROPE
57.Cameo gem : ONYX
58.Mrs. Lincoln's maiden name : TODD
59.TV ET : ALF
60.Response to an online joke : LOL
61.Bauxite, e.g. : ORE

© 2017, Jim Horne