Tom Pepper’s Monday, 3/24/14 NYT crossword puzzle (ed. Will Shortz)


March 24, 2014 by manvspuzzle


Theme: DIRTY WORDS.  3 theme answers are common 2-word terms whose 1st words are synonyms for ‘DIRTY.’  Then there’s the revealer.

Theme Answers:

  • 17A — Not just well-off : FILTHY RICH
  • 27A — Low-class diners : GREASY SPOONS
  • 44A — Window material in many cathedrals : STAINED GLASS
  • 60A — Curses … or the starts of 17-, 27- and 44-Across? : DIRTY WORDS


Something Good: The Theme Answers.  They’re all brand-new to the NYT puzzle.  Well, except for FILTHY RICH, which was used once in 1982 by a guy named Warren “Filthy” Reich.  And they’re all colorful and fun.  *And* there’s balance in the plural/singular department (the S on the end of GREASY SPOONS is kinda sad to look at, but at least it’s balanced out by the S in DIRTY WORDS).  This is a simple, common theme type, presented very nicely here with interesting answers.


3 24 14

What a cute little fluffy fuzzball of a puzzle.  Very quaint, lightly-themed, sprinkled with good long fill.  Maximal letters.  No forced scrabbliness.  Simple and pretty.

SPLIT PEA and THE CLOUD are totally cool.  Same with SHEEP DOG.  And then mostly average after that.  The long stuff is really what shines in this puzzle, although I will also point out that the 3-letter answers are also basically good.

Not that there isn’t some weird stuff here.  That northeast corner is kinda blecch.  Putting OLEO next to ESAU and then crossing them with ILSA is practically like begging crossword bloggers to get catty.  Don’t get me wrong — I knew all of them.  No problem for me personally.  But on a Monday (thinking of the poor noobs) this sort of crossing is frowned-upon *unless it’s totally necessary.*  So is it necessary here?  I’d say probably not.  In fact, I just spent less than 1 minute refilling that area keeping WILL DO and THE CLOUD, and I’d argue (pretty convincingly, I think) that my version is better.  So I’m having a little trouble understanding why that corner looks the way it does.

Other than that, just some weird answers here and there, but nothing unfairly crossed.  ACNED is crazy, but at least inferable and real.  GESTE ain’t great.  All the other little independent areas are actually quite nice.  Which makes the northeast that much more noticeable and weird, which is really too bad.

But whatever.  This was a fine puzzle for the most part.  And for me it was breezy and I blazed through it like some sort of crossword cheetah.  Well maybe not that fast.  Maybe like a crossword wildebeest.

Ok, see you tomorrow.  Thanks, Tom.

7 thoughts on “Tom Pepper’s Monday, 3/24/14 NYT crossword puzzle (ed. Will Shortz)

  1. tom pepper says:

    OK, gimme a hint on your new NE. Would love to have gotten rid of ILSA and OLEO.

    Btw, been enjoying your blog daily since I learned of it when your last puzzle came out–thanks! Keep up the good work!

    • manvspuzzle says:

      Jeez, Tom! You can’t let a guy make a brazen fill-superiority claim without making him back it up? What kind of blog do you think I’m running here?!

      Just kidding. A brief personal tweak on my end changed your




      ON *my* personal word list (which is really only relevant to me, of course), the new fill rates about 36% better, and it took me hardly any time at all. IDIO is still weird, but workable, and everything else has a decent score. Even if I give IDIO the lowest possible score, the increase in fill quality is still around 27% (again, for me).

      What do you think?

      Thanks for the kind words, by the way.

      • Z says:

        You had me right up to IDIO – especially on a Monday.

      • tom pepper says:

        Yes, I agree with you–one really bad word is at least 27% better than two and a half pretty bad words. I have CEDED the corner to you! But the more important question is what words get a lower score than IDIO? The list can’t be very long. 🙂

      • manvspuzzle says:

        And I’ll concede that a high overall word score doesn’t necessarily make a group of words ok. IDIO vs. what you have is up for debate. There’s also the possibility of changing WILL DO to something else. But what do I know? Nothing, really.

      • tom pepper says:

        You’re way too humble, Sean. So since you brought it up (“it” being other possibilities), when I submitted to Will, it was THE COUNT (Sesame Street) and KOKOMO. He accepted but rewrote that corner, replacing KOKOMO with [I forget what, but it was clearly an improvement]. I just can’t stop tinkering, so I suggested the THE CLOUD/WILL DO rewrite and he agreed that was better yet. Can’t explain why I stopped tinkering at that point, but I did! So you’re right, there are other things that could work in that corner.

  2. Z says:

    I thought this was perfectly tuned for a Monday NYTX. Three themers are fine for a Monday, ILSA never bothers me (OLEO and OLIO do) and there really is very little to complain about in the short fill. I would have gone for Corgi over Border Collie as my SHEEPDOG, but I had fun.

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