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Puzzle Solution #20: Sainted


A scene from the 100-acre Wood. If you haven’t yet given my Saints we’d like to see crossword a chance, it’s not too late to do so. It has garnered rave reviews from the usual gang of really fun and successful people who just seem to naturally gravitate towards these little gems.

By “seem to naturally gravitate” I really mean “seem to be unable to withstand desperate and incessant badgering and, exhausted, find themselves slowly and inexorably drawn.” And “gems” may be too precious a description for what may serve merely as a fitting companion to a breakfast of cold cereal, burnt toast, and reheated coffee. No matter, though, I have received appreciative and enthusiastic feedback from more than a dozen solvers already. I like to imagine dozens more who are naturally disinclined to send fawning emails.

Seriously now, I am gratified by the number of kind and complimentary replies I have received. It’s not too late for you to have a go at it. Do the right thing: visit Saints we’d like to see to get your copy of this puzzle now. Hurry while supplies last. Spoiler space, in the form of a classic from Cat Stevens follows. Below it, the solution and more.

A musical interlude (spoiler space)

The solution

Puzzle solution. Image from www.xwordinfo.com

Well, either you enjoyed the joke or you didn’t. Solvers I heard from did, but of course they did. Those I didn’t hear from, who knows? What tickles one funny bone may not do much for another. I am easily amused, so it tickled mine. The Helen of TROY OUNCES answer was the weakest themer, I thought. I couldn’t work in what would’ve been a favorite of mine:

    William of ___, patron saint of mall food & drink vendors?

The answer: ORANGE JULIUS.

Ah well. I know the fill-in-the-blank clues for the theme answers are unusual, but I toyed with several ways to write these and this seemed best to me. It was suggested these might possibly be better employed in a Sunday-sized grid where the complete names of the saints would fit. That is probably true, but I’ve given up on the idea of trying to get one of my puzzles published, and I think a 15×15 is about all I am prepared to ask my audience to endure.

Not so good

DEU.Some of my fill was less than optimal. The worst of it was clearly DEU. It is the only dodgy answer on my grid having never appeared in a Will Shortz-edited NYT puzzle. It is a thing–the ISO (International Standards Organization) three-character country code for Germany–and I do think it is solvable with one or two crosses. Still, ugly and obscure. I was surprised to learn CDN (a commonly-used designation for the Canadian dollar) has only appeared once in the Shortz era. I should have tried harder to avoid it. KUE is another weak three-letter answer.

CDN.Three of my longer answers are potentially problematic. ENDOWER is an example of an ugly noun back-formed from a verb. As a (one-time) tournament Scrabble player, I’ve regularly seen uglier examples used over the board (and, therefore, found in our most basic dictionaries). I’ve seen uglier ones in crosswords as well, but I’d rather not have used it.

EYRIE is one that surprised me. I knew it was also spelled “aerie,” but I’d have guessed “eyrie” is currently the more common spelling. I would have been wrong, apparently. All four occurrences of the word in recent NYC puzzles have specified “variant” in the clue. My instincts as a birder who reads a lot about ornithology make me want to question this, but I should have used the qualifier in any case.

The third, A STAGE, I can’t really see as problematic. Will Shortz has passed it eleven times. It’s part of a very well known phrase and I’ve split it in the only way that makes sense. I know the rules about partials, but this is an exception that proves the rule.

Not so bad

I was pleased to use some longer, less frequently seen (in crosswords) words and phrases. A few of my more voluble solvers commented favorably on one or more of HOT ITEM, DEWDROPS, ETERNITY, WINGNUT, BLURAY, and NEED CASH.

I liked using KATMANDU, but a routine validity check revealed that the Nepalese capital city is properly spelled “Kathmandu” these days. But both Cat Stevens and Bob Seger used the old-style name of the city as song titles in the 1970s. I’m more of a fan of Stevens than Seger, but Seger’s was the bigger hit so I used it to skirt the issue.

The image below lists answers in my puzzle appearing fewer than 20 times in (here it is again) Will Shortz-era NYT crosswords. The image is just a small sample of what the “analyze my puzzle” feature provides to supporters of the Xwordinfo.com site. I believe yearly access to its advanced features is available for as little as $10/year. For constructors and wannabes such as myself, it is essential. There is a ton of free content available to non-constructors as well (including daily solutions and commentary on crosswords of The New York Times). I recommend it enthusiastically!

An image from Xwordinfo.com.

Recent Crosswords:
DATE TITLE
10/10/2017 #20: Saints We’d Like to See
02/13/2017 #19: Themeless, but Dark
10/03/2016 #18: Shady Business
07/11/2016 #17: Ars Poetica
05/01/2016 #16: So It Goes
03/07/2016 #15: You Might Be Geeky If …

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