Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015, Bruce Haight


If it's Wednesday, it must be "odd bird" theme day at the NYT Xword. It's fairly impressive to come up with four 10-letter answers whose letters all reside on the TOP ROW of a keyboard, but maybe not that impressive, considering four of the five vowels plus Y all live up there. In fact, of the 12 most common letters in the English language (ETAOIN SHRDLU), fully 6 are on the top row. 5 are on the middle row, and only lonely N lives on the bottom row. Clearly, the theme could not possibly work at all only using letters on the bottom row, as there are no vowels there, and the middle row would be next to impossible, utilizing A as the only vowel.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed all four of these words. In Scrabble, they are worth 12, 14, 17, and 18 points respectively, so the interest increases as you move through the puzzle. In addition, the big payoff happens with TYPEWRITER, an unexpected extra theme element. So, a well executed theme.

But there's more ARTISTRY displayed, with some excellent long down answers. EYESORES and TELLSTALES are good. I put in EATcrow first, but STADT put paid to that, so I came up with the correct EATDIRT.

You also have to admire the pair of clues at 20A: One working with an anchor (SAILOR - I tried Seaman and Seadog first before getting to the more obvious answer), and 27D: Ones working with an anchor (CAMERACREW). I love that twist, which was missing from last week's puzzle's pair of "Bikini" clues.

The puzzle started out nicely with 1A: Content of hate mail (VENOM). I actually broke into the grid with 4D: Occasion for amateurs to do stand-up (OPENMIC). We've been watching Louie on the Netflix, and it's hilarious. He's no amateur, though.

I will give props to ET59 for his excellent analysis of 3-letter answers. I don't know that I'll do this every day, but it's worth it to take a look today, since overall I felt very positive about the puzzle. Hang on, I'll be right back...

Ok, I'm back. There are sixteen 3-letter words, of which two are theme related, and thus exempt. Of the remaining fourteen, five are straightforward nouns (LEA, WAD, CAR, ROC, and PIG). Four are names or titles (ALI, DOM, YAO, and UTE). Two are foreign (MER and TIA), and three are abbreviations or suffixes (APO, EMT, and OSE). The clues are interesting (in my opinion) for three of the nouns, one of the names (ALI has a bit of trivia I didn't know), possibly one of the foreign words (and only because there's a circonflexe in the NYT), and none of the abbreviations/suffixes. That gives a success rate in my book of 35.7%. Not great.

Still, I liked the puzzle very much, so thumbs up.

- Colum


  1. We are pretty much in agreement again, sir. First, on the oddbirdness of this thing. I wrote 'weird" under the last of the downs and I underlined it twice. The theme, as you note, is so very weak on its own. The word possibilities from that row are many. Furthermore, is that really even the TOP ROW? As I look down at my keyboard it sure looks like one of the two middle rows. But REPERTOIRE, PROPRIETOR, and PERPETUITY are all terrific Wednesday words, and, yes, TYPEWRITER kind of pulls the endeavor into at least a somewhat coherent whole. I too loved the VENOM start. Also liked the cluing for that old crossword staple ELOPE. You mention the anchor tandem but not the unit duo of PACE and CAR, which I thought was cool. How do we fell about kidvid? And have I been in the dark all these years about "Fuhgeddaboudit"? That doesn't mean "Don't mention it" or "It's no big deal"?? I think you were correct with "EATcrow" That's something you voluntarily do, in humility, when you are proved wrong. EATing DIRT is something you make someone else do to humiliate or abase him. Am I right? And, hey, didn't I just mention old ERTE?? As for the 3-letter entries, I liked the cluing for ROC, PIG, and CAR. Agree with you on ALI; the rest were mostly meh. I'm not sure there is any way to salvage EMT, APO, and OSE. Some terrible 4s, as well: DECI, ATTA, ERST, ASST, and ELEV. I may be in the minority, but I don't mind XOXO, EXES, or EDER. I give it a thumbs up, but certainly not two thumbs, and certainly not 'way up." For me it's redeemed by the theme answers (but not the theme).

  2. 13:17
    Hey, I'm watching "Louie" too! I agree with ET59 on "Fuhgeddaboudit" and EATDIRT; I mean, no one says that when he/she means NOPE. I thought that the PIG thing was gross, but liked it's placement next to DELI. Good Wednesday puzzle with some nice words in there, although I thought that ULEE (18A Beekeeper in a 1997 movie) was a bit obscure.