Jeremy Newton’s Sunday, 3/16/14 NYT crossword puzzle (ed. Will Shortz)

3

March 16, 2014 by manvspuzzle

newton

Title: IT’S BETTER THIS WAY

Theme: Long theme answers feature the consecutive letters R-X.  Then there’s a revealer.  It’s a prescription-related medical gag.  Oh, there are also some circled letters — SICK in the upper-left, and WELL in the lower right.

Theme Answers:

  • 23A — *He bested Leonidas at Thermopylae : XERXES I OF PERSIA
  • 31A — *Off-roader, often : FOUR X FOUR
  • 49A — *Annual draw for snocross fans : THE WINTER X GAMES
  • 65A — *Iconic feature of comedy : GROUCHO MARX MUSTACHE
  • 79A — *Founder of Marvel’s School for Gifted Youngsters : PROFESSOR XAVIER
  • 97A — *Frequent problem faced by algebra students : SOLVE FOR X
  • 108A — *Horror flick starring Humphrey Bogart as a mad scientist, with “The” : RETURN OF DR X
  • 16D — With 58-Down, a patient process? … or a hint to two consecutive letters in the answer to each of the seven starred clues : FOLLOWING THE
  • 58D — See 16-Down : PRESCRIPTION

***

Something Good: I’m gonna go with the 7- and 8-letter answers.  They’re the longest after the theme answers, and there are 15 of them.  They don’t *really* stand out in this puzzle, at least not for me.  But it’s still the long fill.  And they’re good.  Some are great (MGM LION, ADAMS ALE, ROM COMS, THING IS).  I feel like I can see that Jeremy focused on his long stuff and made it good, perhaps at the expense of some of the shorter stuff (68 3- and 4-letter answers).  Unless you’re Patrick Berry, you’re going to have compromises somewhere on a Sunday.  But there aren’t any *long* compromises here.

***

3 16 14

Hmm.

I had a fine time with this, though I really struggled in the South.  ADAMS ALE is not something I know.  Nor is RETURN OF DR X.  But I had a hunch with OLE and NAP, muscled through EX FED, and when HOARSE finally came to me everything else fell into place.  I’d say I spent 20% of my solve just in that section.  Hard stuff (for me).

Lots of theme weirdness.  I couldn’t help notice that XERXES I OF PERSIA is *freaking* *crazy*.  As a theme answer.  Or any answer.  It’s a real thing, of course.  But crazy.  You know what I mean?  And then RETURN OF DR X is missing the ‘The,’, but THE WINTER X GAMES gets to keep its ‘The.’  GROUCHO MARX MUSTACHE?  Ok, I guess so.  And then the X in FOUR X FOUR, as we all know, is really more of a multiplication sign in real life.

And then the revealer, FOLLOWING THE / PRESCRIPTION, seems a little arbitrary, as we’re not really “following” anything in the puzzle.  I mean, I guess we can sort of track R-X around the grid if we want.  And then, with no fanfare, the circled WELL and SICK.  Plus the title, which I don’t really get (someone enlighten me?).

All of it just felt a little nuts.  Like jogging through a funhouse.  But like a John Barth funhouse.  Full of self-conscious postmodern wordplay and just generally confusing.  Ok, I don’t know what I’m saying anymore.

Anyway, I got through it.  This was the rare puzzle that my wife sat down and solved with me, and she really helped me out today (she’s more of a Sudoku person).  She’s a good partner for me in any mental contest, always seeing the crap that I don’t get.  First of all, she’s totally B.S. ( meaning she was a science/health major in college and took Anatomy classes), so she’s not fooled by BONE puns (104D — Radius, e.g.) (I wrote in LINE, like the bullshit English major I am).  And her brain just works differently than mine.  V SIX (83D — Motor with some muscle) *would not* fall for me, and she got it with just the V in 1.7 seconds.  So she’s alright.

Some not-so-great-looking shorter stuff, but really nothing below- or above-average for a Sunday in my opinion.  Good enough.  Which basically means good.

****HEY!**** I get it now.  You “follow the prescription” to get from SICK to WELL in the puzzle!  The R-X actually kind of makes a breadcrumb trail from the upper-left to the lower-right.  Ok, that’s pretty cool.  Also pretty cool that if I wasn’t writing about this puzzle, I never would have noticed that.  Blogging can be good.

Also, this happened today:

photo(1)

That’s me and my kid.  We have lots of snow here.  More falling right now.  Looking forward to spring starting sometime in June.

Have a great Sunday.

3 thoughts on “Jeremy Newton’s Sunday, 3/16/14 NYT crossword puzzle (ed. Will Shortz)

  1. Z says:

    “John Barth funhouse”… sounds like a perfect description of this winter. We’re three inches short of breaking the 1880 record for snowfall here.

  2. Dan F says:

    Kudos for being the only one of five daily puzzle bloggers to understand the visual twist on the theme…

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