XW Info

Saturday, March 29, 2014
by Barry C. Silk
Sat 3/29/2014
© 2014, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes: Strong showing by themeless specialist Barry Silk. Today he utilizes a tough set of triple-stacked 11's, much more difficult to execute cleanly than triple stacked 8's or 9's (the more common choice in themelesses). Barry also does something unusual in that he breaks up his SW and NE stacks with a black square, resulting in double-stacked 9's instead of triple-stacks. I love it when a themeless constructor plays with grid shapes, so it was really fun for me to study this one.

And upon closer inspection, I really like how Barry has incorporated SIDEARM into the SW corner, and crosses the whole shebang with my favorite entry, SPHINX-LIKE. Now that's some good stuff. I might have preferred a harder clue for SIDEARM — what else could [Like some pitches] be besides OVERARM and UNDERARM? On the other hand, I appreciate seeing a constructor's preferences and tendencies in a grid, so it was neat to get an echo of Barry's proclivity toward baseball.

Although KTS feels like an inelegant abbreviation (chess players might likely disagree), I really liked the clue echo of [They often land next to queens] for two entries right next to each other. Very nice stuff, especially considering "queen" meant two completely different things.

One hitch I had on this puzzle was the handful of short "glue" entries like AMAH, AREAR, CIRC, RTE, ATNO. It's not a huge quantity, but because it's difficult to come up with mind-blowing clues for these shorties, they're often the first things I enter into the grid, thus giving me an impression that there are more than there really are. I can see Stan Newman's viewpoint in his Saturday Stumpers, not allowing certain short answers he considers "not Stumperable." I might put AMAH in that list, in that it's almost a gimme once you do enough crosswords. There aren't that many ways to clue "Eastern nurse."

Finally, my favorite Saturday-hard wordplay clue has to be the one for ALTERNATE. In itself, ALTERNATE is a pretty average answer, but [Every second] is brilliant. For some people, it might be too cute for its own good, but I loved how it messed with my mind. It wasn't "every second" as in "every second counts," but as in "every other one." Really neat how it forced me to think about a common phrase in a completely different way.

1.It's made from an ear and put in the mouth : CORNCOBPIPE
12.Highlander's accessory : TAM
15.1967 hit by the Hollies : ONACAROUSEL
16.One may have a full body : ALE
17.Copied the page? : RANANERRAND
18.They often land next to queens: Abbr. : KTS
19.Prefix with flop : GIGA
20.They often land next to queens : DRONEBEES
22.Cross quality : IRE
23.Move a whole lot : AWE
25.Backward : AREAR
26.Fame : STARDOM
29.Spice stores? : TINS
31.Enigmatic : SPHINXLIKE
34.Nanny, in Nanjing : AMAH
35.Question after a surprising claim : YOUDO
36.Party bowlful : ICE
37.Supply one's moving address? : ORATE
38.Network point : NODE
39.Now whole : INTEGRATED
41.Orphaned lion of literature : ELSA
42.Knit at a social function? : TEACOZY
43.Brownie alternative : TORTE
45."Veep" airer : HBO
46.Pinch-hitter : SUB
49.Smallest member of the Council of Europe : SANMARINO
52.See 7-Down : CASE
53.Withdraw : EBB
54.It's between Buda and Pest : DANUBERIVER
57.After : ALA
58.Forum setting : ANCIENTROME
59.180 : UEY
60.Target of a spy : STATESECRET
1.Herder from Wales : CORGI
2.Live warning? : ONAIR
3.Voice lesson topic : RANGE
4.Bulldogs play in it: Abbr. : NCAA
5.86 : CAN
6.Rush target : ORE
7.With 52-Across, something in a gray area : BORDERLINE
8.Himalayan production : PURR
9.Golfer Aoki : ISAO
10.Ayn Rand, e.g. : PENNAME
11.Higher-up? : ELDER
12.Target : TAKEAIMAT
13.Every second : ALTERNATE
14.Jam : MESS
21.Product of some decay : BETARAY
23.O's is one more than N's : ATNO
24.Comb composition : WAX
26.Like some pitches : SIDEARM
27.Orders : DICTA
28.Locals call it the "Big O" : OKEECHOBEE
30.Where spades may be laid down : SHED
31.End of a song often sung by inebriated people : SYNE
32.Shark's place : POOLTABLE
33.Polar Bear Provincial Park borders it : HUDSONBAY
37.Minestrone ingredient : ORZO
39.Repetitive : ITERANT
40.Bunch : GOB
44.Self-congratulatory cries : TADAS
46.Not just wolf down : SAVOR
47."I'd love to help" : USEME
48.Part of Che Guevara's attire : BERET
49.Junior in 12 Pro Bowls : SEAU
50.Highlander of old : INCA
51.Period sans soleil : NUIT
52.Magazine fig. : CIRC
55.Half of nine? : ENS
56.U.S.P.S. assignment : RTE

© 2017, Jim Horne