Saturday, April 8, 2017

Saturday, April 8, 2017, Jeff Chen


What a weekend! Mssrs. Berry and Chen, back-to-back! I smiled when I saw the grid shape, because just yesterday, Mr. Chen wrote of Patrick Berry's grid:

"A constructor's secret: those "stairstep" chunks of black squares in the north, west, east, and south can make filling a low-word-count grid like this almost an order of magnitude easier. Not only do those blocks chip away at the number of letters you need to put in, but they tend to stagger entries, making for more favorable vowel/consonant patterns.
It's a tricky balance, though — use too many of these stairstep chunks, and your grid looks visually unappealing. (Also, overanalytical/anal constructors notice your overusage and annoyingly point them out.)" - (, April 7, 2017)

Interesting, really, that both puzzles are 62-words, and both use a very similar black square pattern, but I'm going to have to give Mr. Chen the edge here, as his puzzle is far more peppy. The grid is brimming with lively seven- and eight-letter fill. I loved the clueing for BITPART (23D: It's just a line or two), TIMELESS (29D: Suitable for all ages?), CASHBOX (45A: Tender spot?), ONEHORSE (28D: Jerkwater), and WOOLCAP (9D: Head scratcher?) ("wool hat" might have been slightly better, but that's pretty picky). Then there's stuff like NUFFSAID (31D: "I'll shut up now"), 1D: "Hello ... I'm right here" (AHEM), and CANTFAIL (27D: Guaranteed-to-fly), which I also like. I've never heard the term DEADHEAD for an "ineffective pill," and I've also never heard of XKCD (47D: Award-winning webcomic about "romance, sarcasm, math and language"), or ABRA (46D: "East of Eden" girlfriend), so that wasn't so easy.

1A: Subject of plays by Sophocles, Euripides and Cocteau (ANTIGONE) - A. I'm a sucker for the Classics.
Favorite: 3D: Wear (out) TUCKER
Least favorite: DONEE (14A: Philanthropy beneficiary) 

So overall, this was a fun Saturday for me. There's more to mention, but I'll leave it for you to discover. 

- Horace


  1. I have to give myself a DNF, because I put in cOOLCAt at 9D: Head scratcher? The answer I came up with certainly is a head scratcher. I can't possibly see how I thought that might be correct, except that a cat does scratch things. But that's about as far as it goes. tRAT was clearly incorrect (PRAT), but cATT was on the surface acceptable (WATT is much better, of course, as it is correct).

    In any case, the remainder of the puzzle is outstanding. I agree it's better than yesterday's, even with no answers longer than 8 letters. My favorite on several levels is 21A: Hires for a float? (ROOTBEER). Nice hidden capital, and the beverage itself is the best carbonated beverage available.

  2. 19:01
    I agree this was a fun puzzle. Typical Saturday; had nothing for quite a while but gradually progressed. DEADHEAD made no sense to me either but thankfully the fill around there was good enough.

  3. Was DEADHEAD meant as in a boring person? Thus, a "pill"?

    1. Boy, that would really have been a stretch, and one that I still don't quite see as real.

  4. 37:39 (FWTE)
    Maybe I should take a DNF: WATT/WOOLCAP/PRAT/TEASERAD crosses. I tried cOOLCAt there, too. Other than that, this went pretty quickly for me. I had a slight slowdown with THEODORE, where I entered fillmORE at first off of the ____ORE, even though it's a last name, but spent a good ten minutes up in the NE trying to suss out the crosses mentioned above. I should have spent a bit longer.