# XW Info

Saturday, November 9, 2013
by Michael Ashley
 B U T T D I A L E D G I B E O N A R A M P A G E U N O S T I D A L B A S I N M O B S S T A P L E R S A C N S A P A C T S L O V E L Y I C E S I M I I N A P E T N A N S L E T S A S I D E B R I E F E N C O U N T E R S A D D E R T O R N S C U T D E B T E E M E I N E N S S A L O O N S L O O P O L Y N A M O N S E R V E R E T D C A S S I O P E I A T R O Y T A K E S A S E A T S S N S S M A R T P I L L S
© 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 12 Whole : INONEPIECE 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