XW Info

Wednesday, November 6, 2013
by Jacob McDermott
POW Wed 11/6/2013
© 2013, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes: What a fantastic theme today! Years ago, I had toyed with BETWEEN YOU AND ME as a revealer for a puzzle, but mostly around phrases starting with U and ending with ME (USERNAME, UNWHOLESOME, etc.). It had never occurred to me to develop a theme the way Jacob did, and I bow to him for the spark of genius. YOU TALKIN TO ME; I love it. Very well done.

And generally such a clean puzzle! Jacob is fairly new to the construction game, which made this puzzle even more impressive. It's really hard to make a smooth puzzle, especially when you're working with five themers. And I loved hearing about his desire to push the envelope, stepping outside his comfort zone to include two long downs. Hopefully he'll continue this trend, next aiming for two or three sets of long downs. Possibly even a 74-word puzzle with a quantity of quality long fill.

I was absolutely loving the puzzle, having quickly cottoned to the clever theme and the awesome revealer, really appreciating the cleanliness of the fill...and then I hit BLAU. "When a four-letter word hasn't been used in the NYT xw crossword since 1998, there's usually a good reason," I thought. Luckily, Jim asked me why my reaction was so negative. I thought about it for a long time and decided that BLAU really isn't so different from AZUL, or even ETE/ENERO/NIE. Should those entries be more acceptable, simply because they're used all the time in xws? If that's the only reason, then my reaction shouldn't be such a knee-jerk one. Seems to me that I overreacted.

Out of curiosity, let's take a look at that region and see why BLAU occurred. The challenge starts with needing a four-letter word ending in U; only about 30 decent options available. Then, the adjacent I????A pattern (19d) is also pretty limited, IBERIA, ICE TEA, IMPALA, ITALIA being some other choices. Finally, the open area of parallel 6s in the NE is hard to fill in itself. Everything taken together, all those constraints cascade into that BLAU region, giving limited options. I absolutely love the fill in that NE corner, with BLOTTO, BONNET, and three-card MONTE, but BLAU still feels like a high price to pay.

Anyway, enough picking of nits. When it comes down to it, the crossings of BLAU are all fair, so it is what it is. The rest of the puzzle is so finely tuned, so well-designed, so clean. I appreciate the obvious care and time Jacob put into it. Overall, a finely executed puzzle with a clever trick and well-chosen themers.

Will Shortz notes: This puzzle has a fresh, terrific theme, and I like some of the fill, too, especially GHOST TOWN and ANY MINUTE.
1.Bust targets : DRUGS
6.Rumple : MUSS
10.Group that inspired "Mamma Mia!" : ABBA
14.Time for vampires : NIGHT
15.[gasp!] : OHNO
16.Johnny Unitas, for most of his career : COLT
17.Can't take : ABHOR
18."Don't put words in my mouth!" : SAIDITNOT
20.Requests a dog treat, maybe : SITSUP
22.Hustler's card game : MONTE
23."I wasn't born yesterday!" : CANTFOOL
26.Special Forces wear : BERETS
27.Gives a stemwinder : ORATES
28.Part of "snafu" : ALL
29."Sesame Street" viewer : TOT
30.Soup with sushi : MISO
31.Fleet : ARMADA
34."Let this be our little secret" ... with a hint to 18-, 23-, 50- or 54-Across : BETWEENYOUANDME
40.Edict locale of 1598 : NANTES
41.Contract period, often : YEAR
42.Monopoly token : HAT
45.A.P.O. addressees : GIS
46.1966 answer to the Mustang : CAMARO
48.Warren Report name : OSWALD
50."Wanna start somethin'?" : TALKINTO
52.Swallower of Pinocchio : WHALE
53.Take up residence : MOVEIN
54."Ooh, I'm shaking in my boots!" : DONTSCARE
56.Lead-in to fan or jet : TURBO
60.Best Picture of 2012 : ARGO
61.Go a few rounds : SPAR
62.Gaming pioneer : ATARI
63.Big name in 59-Down exploration : HESS
64.Like a spent briquette : ASHY
65.George of "Just Shoot Me!" : SEGAL
1.Kind of fingerprinting : DNA
2.Slab unit, on a menu : RIB
3."Ewww, gross!" : UGH
4.Tumbleweed locale, stereotypically : GHOSTTOWN
5.Bitter conflict : STRIFE
6.Rapid, in music : MOSSO
7.Relo rental, perhaps : UHAUL
8.Salon sound : SNIP
9.Landscaper's purchase : SOD
10.John Wilkes Booth, e.g. : ACTOR
11.Easter wear : BONNET
12.Stewed to the gills : BLOTTO
13.Bear witness (to) : ATTEST
19.Former Philippine first lady ___ Marcos : IMELDA
21.How-___ : TOS
23.Tangle untangler : COMB
24.Indy racer Luyendyk : ARIE
25.Tammany tiger creator : NAST
26.Danube's color, to a Berliner : BLAU
28."Famous" cookie man : AMOS
31.Small soldiers : ANTS
32.Loaf with caraway seeds, maybe : RYE
33.Very soon : ANYMINUTE
35.Most holes in ones : EAGLES
36.Camelot lady : ENID
37.Admissions honcho : DEAN
38.Five-and-ten, e.g. : MART
39.Suffix with switch : EROO
42.Elephant rider's seat : HOWDAH
43.How driftwood may end up : ASHORE
44.Banjo sounds : TWANGS
46.The Cavs, on scoreboards : CLE
47.Japanese police dogs : AKITAS
49.Some saxes : ALTOS
50.Ark contents : TORAH
51.Animator Tex : AVERY
53.Treasure-hunters' aids : MAPS
55.Former pres. Tyler sided with it : CSA
57.Dirt-dishing newspaper : RAG
58.It can leave a tan line : BRA
59.Texas tea : OIL

© 2017, Jim Horne