Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Title: Themeless Thursday
Author: Patrick Berry
Theme: None

Let me tell you, a 62-word puzzle is not easy to fill. But Patrick Berry is one of the most well-respected constructors around and he often produces relatively-low-word-count themeless puzzles. This one's marquee area is the center, where staggered stacks of 10-, 11-, 11-, 11-, and 10-letter words interweave. That's 106 letters for 10 words, for a local average of 10.6 letters per word. Impressive. Even more so if they all sparkle... let's take a look.

    I think three of the fills are excellent:

  • 31a: Swale's sire (SEATTLE SLEW). One of the race horses that people tend to know the name of, even if they're not into horse racing.

  • 33a: Create a brat, according to a saying (SPARE THE ROD). Wonderful, evocative phrase.

  • 27d: Cod pieces? (FISH STICKS). Hands down my favorite clue/answer pair in the entire puzzle.

  • Five are good:

  • 26a: Alcohol needed for driving? (ANTIFREEZE). Very nice clue here.

  • 29a: Element #99 (EINSTEINIUM). I got this just from the E_N... at the beginning.

  • 35a: Some Urdu speakers (PAKISTANIS).

  • 14d: Artie Shaw, for one (CLARINETIST). Gimme for me.

  • 19d: Sharp (PENETRATING).

  • And two feel like they're only there because nothing else fit:

  • 6d: Automatic sound (RAT-A-TAT-TAT). I've previously expressed my general dislike for RAT-A-TAT, which shows up a little too often. Interestingly, I actually prefer this longer version by a smidgen.

  • 16d: Ability to deliver? (FERTILENESS). I know it's in the dictionary, but don't most people say FERTILITY? Is there a difference? It just feels awkward to me.

That's really the meat of the puzzle.

Sunny Spots:

  • 7a: Save, as one's sole (COBBLE). What a great clue. This one really made me smile.

  • 37d: Greyhound boarding spot (KENNEL). Tricky. Excellent.

  • 51d: Body with many arms: Abbr. (NRA). Ditto.


  • 1a: Stick of gum? (ERASER). I know I've seen this clue before, and I still needed some crossings to get the answer. I think it's because I rarely refer to a gum eraser.

  • 13a: Peter who spent years in Chicago (CETERA). Not just the city, but the band of the same name.

  • 14a: Island chain between Madagascar and Mozambique (COMOROS). Toughie if you're not up on your geography. It was vaguely familiar to me, once I hit a few crossings.

  • 15a: One way to serve cafĂ© (AU LAIT). Gimme.

  • 16a: Plantain named for its seeds, which resemble small insects (FLEAWORT). Never heard of it, but easy enough to figure out after a few letters.

  • 17a: Virusoid's makeup (RNA).

  • 18a: Peninsula overlooking Massachusetts Bay (CAPE ANN).

  • 21a: Sunroof feature (TINT). For some reason, my first thought was TILT.

  • 23a: Nunavut, e.g.: Abbr. (TERR). A Canadian territory comprising a vast part of what once was northern Quebec.

  • 24a: By ___ of (via) (DINT). Tough one for me. I've heard of dint as a verb meaning to dent, but I don't recall seeing it in this context.

  • 43a: Author of "D.H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study" (Anaïs NIN).

  • 44a: Like Illuminati members (DEISTIC). The Illuminati were central to Dan Brown's novel "Angels and Demons", which I actually liked better than the more-popular "The Da Vinci Code". It's a good summer read.

  • 50a: New Hampshire town whose Daily Sun was the first newspaper to publish sudoku in English (CONWAY). I'm from New Hampshire, and I needed crossings to figure this one out. And I've never heard of Conway's Daily Sun. It's not a major publication, even in-state.

  • 1d: Game similar to whist (ÉCARTÉ).

  • 3d: Site of the first Tomb Raider game's climactic finale (ATLANTIS). Never played the game, but it's a reasonable answer.

  • 4d: It's very fishy (SEA). Cute, I guess.

  • 7d: Last name of the "No Country for Old Men" directors (COEN). I still need to see this film. It's on my list.

  • 11d: Broadway lyricist Hart (LORENZ).

  • 12d: Dead giveaway? (ESTATE). Good clue.

  • 24d: Brand of pain reliever (DEMEROL).

  • 32d: Eroded (WORE AWAY). Went with WORE DOWN to start.

  • 35d: Copyists (PENMEN). This is the mascot of Southern New Hampshire University (formerly New Hampshire College).

  • 44d: "Lovers Who Wander" singer (DION). I had the DI-- and guessed DIDO, but it didn't fit for long.

  • 49d: Pavement warning (SLO). Hunh? I don't recall ever seeing a "SLO" sign. It's always SLOW. Is sign paint really expensive in NYC, or what? Or is there something else going on here that I'm not seeing. The only SLO I know is SLO-MO.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 5d: 1992 N.L. Rookie of the Year Karros (ERIC). There's no N.L. in Red Sox Nation. :)

  • 10d: Former 49ers quarterback John (BRODIE). Before my time.

The beauty of this puzzle, for me, is that even though there were some difficult clues, there were no guesses. Everything made sense when I was done, and I had a good time getting there. That's what I want in a puzzle.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.


Joon said...

i have a new favorite themeless for 2007, and it's from my (not new) favorite constructor. what a beauty.

john BRODIE quarterbacked the 49ers before montana (i.e. before anybody cared about the 49ers).

not sure about SLO either. luckily i never saw that clue while solving.

i loved [Save, as one's sole]. i thought it was another fish reference until i had the COBB__.

Joon said...

uh, whoops, is it 2008 already? i keep forgetting to flip my calendar pages.

Dan said...

In CrossWorld, the "caution" or "warning" sign reads SLO - XWordInfo has a bunch of examples. Don't think I've seen it in the real world, though...

Anonymous said...

Got everything but the NE, which was amazing, b/c normally I suck at the themeless puzzles.

Had COBBLE at first, but erased it when I thought 8D was ADEN. Doh.

Also had GESTILENESS instead of FERTILENESS. Like gestation, you see. haha, oh well.

Great puzzle over all. :)

Anonymous said...

Pete, I'm with you on the SLO and FERTILENESS, but especially considering the density of the thing, this was a really nice puzzle that just flowed from my electronic fingertips once I got going.

On another point, why do you suppose CAPE ANN shows up as often as it does? It's really just a little bump in the coastline, not nearly the tourist destination that Cape Cod ("the" Cape) is, and it's not as heavily laden with vowels as popular crossword fills are. But I'm from Massachusetts, so maybe I don't have an accurate grasp on the degree to which Cape Ann holds a place in the national consciousness.

Joon said...

good question. maybe it's that there just aren't that many capes in america, so if you need a clue for CAPE or CAPES, ann jumps out at you. (cod, may, fear, canaveral, good hope... and two of those are pretty huge giveaways.)

we went up to cape ann for memorial day. strolled around rockport, and then went to halibut point state park. it was gorgeous. also, my son's first time seeing (or wading in) the ocean.