XW Info

Wednesday, September 11, 2013
by Patrick Blindauer
Wed 9/11/2013
© 2013, The New York Times
Jeff Chen notes: I had to stop myself from squealing when I first met superstar constructor Patrick Blindauer at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament two years ago. We had a funny exchange of glances when his Puzzle 5 (usually the hardest of the tourney) was announced and people groaned, anticipating the combination of pleasure and pain. He's known for his devilishly hard masterpieces.

Patrick brings us a word ladder puzzle with a twist. Nice to see the progression go from a logical start to conclusion, WARM BLOODED to COLD HEARTED. Also nice that he found five snazzy phrases in which to incorporate the ladder. Slight deduction for CARD being a part of another word when WARM, WARD, CORD, and COLD are separate, because it's more elegant if all the theme entries work exactly the same. Consistency is one of the criteria many people use in judging a set of theme answers.

Look at the very high theme density: 11/13/15/13/11. It's hard enough to incorporate five shorter theme answers, and Patrick raises the difficulty level by choosing long entries. Note how he chose a 15-letter entry across the middle. Although it might seem like a central 9 or 11 would be easier, that would actually make the construction more difficult because the center row would need to have black squares at its ends. That arrangement breaks up the grid in a way which is hard to deal with in terms of overall black square placement. Try it if you're curious.

The high theme density requires there to be many vertical answers which cross two themers. The result is that virtually every subsection is constrained multiple times, making the filling process challenging. Most everywhere the fill is pretty good, although Robb NEN feels like an ORT (leftover bit). All in all a nice job considering the tough constraints.

Will Shortz notes: This puzzle has been in my files for a long time, because I have a lot of puzzles with word-ladder themes, and I try to space them out. The two long non-theme entries at 3D and 34D are especially nice.
1."Aladdin" villain : JAFAR
6.Newton, e.g. : UNIT
10.Ernie known as "The Big Easy" : ELS
13."That's ___" : AMORE
14.Make a point, perhaps : SCORE
15.Word before dog or dance : LAP
16.Endothermic : WARMBLOODED
18.Mike and ___ (candy) : IKE
19.Former Brit. Airways vehicle : SST
20.Humorist Frazier frequently found in The New Yorker : IAN
21.Number of drummers drumming, in song : DOZEN
23.Birth place : MATERNITYWARD
28."___ Place" : PEYTON
30.Free ticket : PASS
31.First-stringers : ATEAM
32.Rack-it game? : POOL
34.It may be attached to a windshield, in brief : GPS
37.Life-size likeness of Elvis, maybe : CARDBOARDCUTOUT
41.Start to sneeze? : ESS
42.Some are liberal : ARTS
43.Devoutness : PIETY
44.Resident of Riga : LETT
46.Carol kickoff : ADESTE
47.A fan might need one : EXTENSIONCORD
52.Fragrance : AROMA
53.Former Giant Robb ___ : NEN
54."Independence Day" vehicle : UFO
57.Utter : SAY
58.Unaffected by emotion : COLDHEARTED
63.Feature atop the pyramid on the back of a dollar bill : EYE
64.Fontana di ___ : TREVI
65.Blade brand : XACTO
66."The Joyous Cosmology" subj. : LSD
67.Pit : SEED
68.Dr. Larch's drug in "The Cider House Rules" : ETHER
1.___ of Life : JAWS
2.Part of a Latin exercise : AMAS
3.Popular retirement spot : FORTMYERS
4.Weaponize : ARM
5.One serving under Gen. 60-Down, informally : REB
6.The Huskies of the N.C.A.A. : UCONN
7.Affirmative action : NOD
8.Pique condition? : IRE
9.Roosevelt and Kennedy : TEDDYS
10.'Enry's fair lady : ELIZA
11.Magic, e.g., once : LAKER
12.Eschew frugality : SPEND
14.Increase dramatically : SOAR
17.Legal encumbrance : LIEN
22.Punch lines? : OWS
24.Just slightly : ATAD
25.Final "Romeo and Juliet" setting : TOMB
26.Nanos, e.g. : IPODS
27.Baby powder ingredient : TALC
28.Clip : PACE
29.Touchdown data, for short : ETAS
32.Series opener : PARTI
33.Leftover bit : ORT
34.Splits the tab : GOESDUTCH
35.When repeated, miniature golf : PUTT
36.Ocular malady : STYE
38.Part of a stable diet : OATS
39.High hairstyle : UPDO
40.Level : TIER
44.The Eagle that landed, e.g. : LEM
45.Puts into law : ENACTS
46.Trouble spots? : ACNE
47.Sitting stand : EASEL
48.They can see right through you : XRAYS
49.Played (with) : TOYED
50.How many bootlegs are sold : ONDVD
51.Fanta alternative : NEHI
55.Grandly celebrate : FETE
56.Fragrance : ODOR
59.Stibnite, for one : ORE
60.See 5-Down : LEE
61.Swinger in the woods? : AXE
62.Cellar dweller : RAT

© 2017, Jim Horne