XW Info

Saturday, November 9, 2013
by Michael Ashley
Sat 11/9/2013
© 2013, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes: Strong puzzle today, expertly created. Because of the extra crossings that must be accounted for, stacks of 10s are generally harder than stacks of 9s which are generally harder than stacks of 8s. Today's 10s are all so well done. Very nice long answers with clean crossings. At first I scratched my head about ENID BLYTON, but a quick Google later, I sheepishly admitted to my own ignorance. For me, a (hopeful) writer of children's books, to not know a children's book author who sold more than 600 million books is a travesty. I'll have to add some of her works to my gigantic to-be-read pile.

Not only does Michael use four sets of triple-stacked 10s, but he intersects two of them with BRIEF ENCOUNTERS across the middle. I find that when constructing triple-stacked 10s, I need to keep the constraints low in order to keep ugliness out of my grid. To start off with the heavy constraint of a grid-spanner intersecting two stacks is daunting. And the fact that he pulled it off is impressive.

Note that the two marquee answers, BUTT DIALED (awesome clue!) and SMART PILLS are in the two corners that don't have the grid-spanner running through. There's a reason for that: it's so much easier to tackle a stack of 10s when there are fewer constraints that limit your options.

There are a few weaker areas in the fill, notably in the SW corner. In a themed puzzle, having RETD/DYS/SSNS/OLY wouldn't make me more than shrug, but for a themeless, it's a bit of an eyesore in an otherwise super-clean puzzle. Not to say that a puzzle should be judged by its weakest entries, but as I was solving the very SW corner did feel like it wasn't up to par with the rest of the puzzle.

Nice mental workout today. And I love the "clue echo" of "They use blue books" for two of the 10s. Elegantly done.

Will Shortz notes: I've known Michael for almost 35 years, ever since my days at Games magazine, where he created the double-crostics. He still does, in fact. A few years ago we met up again in Arizona, where he now lives, when I had a speaking engagement there. This puzzle is a good, solid themeless, with a great 1-Across. That's Mike's clue for it, too.
1.Made a seat-of-the-pants error? : BUTTDIALED
11."Your mama wears army boots," e.g. : GIBE
15.Rioting : ONARAMPAGE
16.Popular pizza place, informally : UNOS
17.Washington, D.C., has a famous one : TIDALBASIN
18.Greets enthusiastically, in a way : MOBS
19.One working in a corner in an office? : STAPLER
20.Eastern Woodlands native : SAC
22.Noted eavesdropper, for short : NSA
23.Covenants : PACTS
25.Splendiferous : LOVELY
27.Bar supply : ICE
30.___ Valley : SIMI
31.Sulky : INAPET
32.Tandoori-baked fare : NANS
34."Yes" to an invitation : LETS
36.One way to stand : ASIDE
37.They may result when you run into people : BRIEFENCOUNTERS
40.Hognose snake : ADDER
41.Of two minds : TORN
42.___ work : SCUT
43.Lender, legally speaking : DEBTEE
45.Lo ___ : MEIN
47.50% nonunion? : ENS
48."Gunsmoke" setting : SALOON
49.Marina sight : SLOOP
51.Classic Northwest brewski : OLY
52.Charlie's land : NAM
54.Like a tennis match without a break? : ONSERVE
58.Like many a gen. : RETD
60.Mother of Andromeda : CASSIOPEIA
62."Iliad" locale : TROY
63.Settles in, say : TAKESASEAT
64.Job application info, for short : SSNS
65.Nootropics, more familiarly : SMARTPILLS
1.Internet prowlers : BOTS
2.Hand or foot : UNIT
3.Cry frequently made with jazz hands : TADA
4.Georg von ___ : TRAPP
5.Vice president after whom a U.S. city is thought to have been named : DALLAS
6.Ninny : IMBECILE
7.Best Picture of 1960, with "The" : APARTMENT
8.___ Palmas : LAS
9.Breastplate of Athena : EGIS
10."The High One" : DENALI
11.Where a canine sits? : GUM
13.Winter Olympics sight : BOBSLEDRUN
14.They use blue books : ESSAYTESTS
21.TV show headed by a former writer for "S.N.L." : CONAN
24."Mom" and "Mama's Family" : SITCOMS
26.Poetic expanses : VASTS
27.Grumpy : INBADSORTS
28.They use Blue Books : CARDEALERS
29."The Wishing-Chair" series creator : ENIDBLYTON
33.Manage : SEETO
35.Whiner, of a sort : SORELOSER
38.Kind of compressor : FREON
39.Yankee, once : UNIONIST
44.Passes : ENACTS
46."Uh-uh!" : NOSOAP
50.#2 pop : PEPSI
53.Title with an apostrophe : MAAM
55.Appear stunned : REEL
56.Apothecary item : VIAL
57.Din-din : EATS
59.Prefix with peptic : DYS
61.2 Tone influence : SKA

© 2017, Jim Horne