Jeff Stillman’s Tuesday, 1/28/14 *Debut* NYT crossword puzzle (ed. Will Shortz)


January 28, 2014 by manvspuzzle


Theme: +BO.  4 Theme answers are common 2-word terms/phrases, each of which phonetically replicated and affixed with the letters B-O, with hilarious consequences.

Theme Answers:

  • 20A — Celebration dance after a goal? : SOCCER MAMBO
  • 57A — Punched out a Disney elephant? : STRUCK DUMBO
  • 11D — Aerobics done to Chubby Checker music? : TWIST TAE BO
  • 29D — Give a hobbit a ring? : PHONE BILBO

What’s Good: 1) Fun Theme, 2) Decent 4+-Letter Fill

© The New York Times

© The New York Times


I really liked this.  Like, really.  Very good Tuesday construction with very good fill.  Nice job.

I will point out the 3-letter stuff: BAP, BET, IOU, COL, NTH, OBI, PSI, SAT, TNT.  Meh.  Not great.  All gettable, but very much out-of-sync with the rest of the fill.

I will also point out the theme inconsistency.  Why don’t you tell me which of these is not like the other?

  • TAE BO

(Hint: it’s the one with 2 words)

This inconsistency didn’t bother me in the least while I was solving; it was only after I started to pick the puzzle apart that I noticed it.  It bugs me now, but I think that’s just because I’ve been conditioned to feel like I’m *supposed* to be bugged by it.  Again, not a bother when I was solving.  It just makes me raise an eyebrow now.  Mostly I just want to know why the inconsistency exists.  Could the constructor not come up with another 1-word -BO thing?  Could he, but just didn’t care?  I dunno.  How do you feel about it?

But enough about the negatives.  I was really impressed by the fill here, especially since this is Jeff’s debut.  Have I seen better?  Sure.  But I’ve also seen much worse.

I really enjoyed the long downs INFRARED and PARAKEET.  Oh, and also the clue for SHOE (30D — It’s about a foot).  Ha!

That’s it.  See you tomorrow.

6 thoughts on “Jeff Stillman’s Tuesday, 1/28/14 *Debut* NYT crossword puzzle (ed. Will Shortz)

  1. manvspuzzle says:

    Also I forgot to complain about the TACO = sandwich thing.

  2. Jeff Chen says:

    Curious! Why do IOU, BET, PSI, SAT, TNT bother you? I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about why I consider some entries better than others. All of those feel perfectly fine to me, even desirable. COL and BAP I agree with you; abbreviations in general feel inelegant, especially lesser used ones.

    • manvspuzzle says:

      I dunno. They don’t bother me that much, really. I think when it comes to 3-letter answers I have a personal bias toward well-known English nouns that aren’t abbreviations. This puzzle, almost surprisingly, doesn’t even have *one* answer that fits that description.

      Not that I didn’t know them all or think they were basically fine. This noun fixation is my own problem. Just caused me to pooh-pooh a bit.

  3. Jeffrey K (@XwordJeffrey) says:

    A few days ago you said: “I believe wholeheartedly that 3 or 4 great constructors could swoop in and start turning out crystal-clear puzzles on a daily basis. But I’ll quit solving at that point. I like a little more flava than that. I want things to be a little dirty. No joke.”

    Well said.

    The excellent constructor who subbed for Rex today noted to Brendan Quigley could have done it much better. Other bloggers frequently say the same thing. So what? Why not encourage a debut? No one starts out perfect. It was, after all, BEQ who brought us NATICK.

    • manvspuzzle says:

      I totally agree and had the same thought when I read that post. I’m troubled when influential people in the crossword world have such a narrow view of what makes puzzles good. I get it — fill trumps everything! But that’s often a very subjective concept (see above, for example).

      I want variety. I’m afraid that some people want to see the kinds of puzzles that only a handful of constructors make — period. I’m reminded of a Kurt Vonnegut quote that I like to toss around every now and again: “Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak.”

      The same goes for crosswords, imo.

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