XW Info

Thursday, April 10, 2014
by David Steinberg
Thu 4/10/2014
© 2014, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes: 72 word grid from David today, a nice construction made even more so given that there are seven entries, one of which effectively splits the grid in half. The theme revealer is SIX FLAGS, hinting at the starts of six answers: BLACK flag, AMERICAN flag, RED flag, etc.

Not the most mind-blowing of themes, especially for a Thursday, but once you take into account 1.) the extremely high theme density (remember that time five years ago when three themers was fine?) and 2.) the 72-word grid, a construction on par with the weekend puzzles, it's impressive. Making a 72-word grid is in itself not easy, but when you add in so many constraints — it's not like the SEVEN themers are short, either! — it's quite the feat.

Amazing how little crossword glue David uses consider the theme density. When you have so much overlap like RED SKELTON over CHECKERED PAST, it's wild that there's really no ugliness where POLIO sits (a five-letter overlap like this usually produces some cringing). And in the symmetrical section, SMEAR produces a perfectly clean set of intersections. Really nice stuff — I can only imagine how many options David tried before finding POLIO and SMEAR for those spots.

Note the "L" block of black squares on the left and right sides of the grid. Not the prettiest of arrangements, so I delved in to figure out why David did this. It's not unusual to see smaller "L" blocks (ones that look like a knight's move in chess) but these stand out a bit today. The reason is twofold: first, the 13-letter answer in the middle makes things hard — as I already mentioned, it effectively splits the grid in half. Second, look at those NE and SW corners, which wrap around. It's hard enough to work with a quadruple-stack (AUSTIN over SBARRO over HOWARD over AMERICAN PIE) but when it wraps around to TRAPPERS and IRRITANTS, you've got yourself one heck of a challenge. So it's not hard to see why David needed to deploy those extra black squares.

Although there are a couple of EMETIC and ASTA answers, it's impressive how clean David filled those big corners. I found it interesting to compare the NE and SW: look at how snazzy the SW is. CSI: MIAMI and MOPPET and PAISAN, that's great stuff! It comes at the price of the aforementioned EMETIC and ASTA though. Now look at the NE. So smooth, nary an ugly answer (hey, I like SBARRO's pizza just fine). But it exactly demonstrates the usual trade-off constructors work with: great, snappy stuff at the price of a few less-than-par answers, or ultra-smooth with no ugliness? Always a judgment call.

Fun puzzle, maybe not as ground-breaking a theme as I would like on a Thursday, but what a nice grid filled with goodness. And I absolutely loved the TAGGED clue: [Made it?]. Not as in "he made it big," but "he was made it." Awesome repurposing of a common phrase for a stellar clue.

1.Ute relative : ATV
4.Hardly 100% : ILL
7.Where Whole Foods is headquartered : AUSTIN
13.*Kind of affair : BLACKTIE
15.Fast-food chain founded by Italian immigrants : SBARRO
16.Distress : AGGRIEVE
17.Alma mater for Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston : HOWARD
18.Swamp : BOG
19.*1971 song with the lyric "Helter skelter in a summer swelter" : AMERICANPIE
21.Gray ___ : AREA
23.One way to stand : PAT
24.___ meeting : PTA
25.*Creator of Sheriff Deadeye and Cauliflower McPugg : REDSKELTON
30.Bench warmer? : REAR
31.Sabin's study : POLIO
32.Not the most sophisticated humor : CORN
33.*Sketchy history : CHECKEREDPAST
37.No-luck connector : SUCH
38.Cosmetic problem : SMEAR
39.It might come with a bill : MINT
40.*January events : WHITESALES
45.Exclamation often followed by multiple exclamation points : OMG
46.First song on "More of the Monkees" : SHE
47.Table poker? : TINE
48.*Some illegal transmissions : PIRATERADIO
54.Training ___ : BRA
55.Buddy : PAISAN
56.Feature of some stationery : MONOGRAM
58.Emergency room agent : EMETIC
59.Popular day trip destination ... or a hint to the starts of the answers to the starred clues : SIXFLAGS
60.Vehement venting : TIRADE
61.Switch halves : ONS
62.Sweet ending? : OSE
1.Nobelist who won an Emmy : ALGORE
2.Made it? : TAGGED
3.Zapper target : VCR
4.Couple of stars, say : ITEM
5.___-blog : LIVE
6.Not just a side glance : LEER
7.8-Down sinker : ASHCAN
8.See 7-Down : UBOAT
9.Like logs, quaintly : SAWN
10.Hide seekers : TRAPPERS
11.Pebble in one's shoe, e.g. : IRRITANT
12.Honey-do list rejection : NODEAR
13."Le petit éléphant" : BABAR
14.Rio maker : KIA
20.2004 Google event, briefly : IPO
22.Facet : ASPECT
26.___ Industries (oil giant) : KOCH
27.Alberta's ___ Island National Park : ELK
28.Fictionalize? : LIE
29.Sculpture subjects : TORSI
30.Find hilarious : ROARAT
32.They face liabilities in their work, in brief : CPAS
33.CBS spinoff that was filmed mostly in California : CSIMIAMI
34.More ambitious : HUNGRIER
35.Defib administrator : EMT
36.Mark in the 60s : DEE
39.Tot, affectionately : MOPPET
40.Word often redundantly preceded by "from" : WHENCE
41.2013 Best Picture nominee : HER
42.Some September babies : LIBRAS
43.Cause to boil : ENRAGE
44.Fashion lines? : SEAMS
46.Restrained : STAID
49.Film dog : ASTA
50.Playground rejoinder : AMSO
51.Whack : DOIN
52."Suicide Blonde" band : INXS
53.Cartoon sound effect : OOF
57.Day-___ : GLO

© 2017, Jim Horne