New York Times, Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Author: Mark Bickham
Editor: Will Shortz
Mark Bickham
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
26/5/20131/7/20140
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0011000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.52000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 38 Missing: {QX} This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Bickham. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Shortz notes: In the 'old days' three or four theme answers were sufficient to carry a daily puzzle. Nowadays the bar has been raised. Here Mark ... more
Will Shortz notes: In the "old days" three or four theme answers were sufficient to carry a daily puzzle. Nowadays the bar has been raised. Here Mark manages six theme answers, which is pretty impressive. The only fill I don't like is IT RIP. Otherwise, a pretty solid construction.
Jeff Chen notes: Ah! It took me a while to figure out what the theme really meant, and it was a nice moment when I realized each phrase started with a ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Ah! It took me a while to figure out what the theme really meant, and it was a nice moment when I realized each phrase started with a slang synonym for "good". I like the overall concept and the huge theme density, although the clue for the revealer was so long I didn't bother reading it. I wonder if the impact would have been stronger if that had been concatenated. Or if the revealer had simply been GOOD?

Puzzles, especially early-week ones, often don't need a revealer to explain the theme. But ones like this, where the theme isn't overtly clear, definitely benefit. IS THIS GOOD feels a touch arbitrary to me however, not really a lexical chunk to my ear. I sometimes pull sniff-test duty in my household, and I think OH GOD THIS IS BURNING MY NOSE is more accurate. Seriously though, IS THIS STILL ALL RIGHT or IS THIS BAD feels more correct to me.

I'm fully agreed with Will that IT RIP is likely the worst piece of fill today. I'm also not a fan of several other entries though, especially A SCAR, OOOLA, and OLIO. A SCAR bugs me because I have a personal preference against five-letter partials (see IT RIP). OLIO is on my personal Do Not Call list, just like ELOI yesterday, because it's 1.) seen heavily in xws but not in real life and 2.) composed of common letters. None of these entries are BAD per se, but they're not BAD. Er, GOOD.

I do appreciate the effort to incorporate more long fill (DRESS SIZE and INCUBATES are both nice) but can't help wondering if it would have been worth it to break up ENDWISE and VIRTUAL to achieve a smoother solve. Any time you leave a five-letter word space (NTEST and WAHOO) right in between two themers, fill is going to be rough around the edges, because of all the parallel constraints you impose on the grid. VIRTUAL is a pretty good answer, but sacrificing it to get rid of some of the shorter ugly stuff would have been sick.

1
S
2
A
3
C
4
S
5
J
6
I
7
M
8
I
9
V
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O
11
D
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K
13
A
14
H
U
L
U
15
F
R
O
S
16
I
T
R
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P
17
O
D
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N
18
K
I
L
L
19
E
R
B
E
E
S
20
G
E
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D
21
E
22
N
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T
23
S
L
O
24
I
N
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N
25
E
A
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Y
L
U
26
M
S
27
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T
C
28
A
U
S
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T
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R
31
B
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I
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R
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34
D
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C
37
A
L
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G
38
N
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A
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O
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D
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S
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E
Z
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O
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W
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K
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D
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H
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T
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48
A
A
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A
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B
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M
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O
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O
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N
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N
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G
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B
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O
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W
A
H
O
O
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R
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D
E
R
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I
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T
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H
I
S
G
O
O
64
D
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A
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R
E
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F
L
E
A
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67
O
L
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O
68
N
O
V
A
69
F
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S
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E
70
D
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,436
Across Down
1. Anatomical pouches : SACS
5. Rocker Hendrix : JIMI
9. Ingredient in a screwdriver : VODKA
14. Online source for TV shows : HULU
15. 'Dos you don't want to sit behind at movies : FROS
16. "Let ___!" ("Full speed ahead!") : ITRIP
17. Norse war god : ODIN
18. Aggressive swarms : KILLERBEES
20. Glittery stone : GEODE
22. Headline event in India in 1974 and '98 : NTEST
23. ___-pitch softball : SLO
24. Facilities with padded walls : INSANEASYLUMS
27. And more, in brief : ETC
28. Neighbor of Hung. : AUST
30. Hitter's stat : RBI
33. Square root symbol : RADICALSIGN
39. Florence's river : ARNO
41. Complete makeovers : REDOS
42. Pinza of "South Pacific" : EZIO
43. One of two figures in "The Wizard of Oz" : WICKEDWITCH
46. Eastern newt : EFT
47. Spoil : TURN
48. Like some baseball teams and batteries : AAA
50. 1969 platinum record for Creedence Clearwater Revival : BADMOONRISING
58. Feathered stole : BOA
60. Joyful cry : WAHOO
61. Equestrian, e.g. : RIDER
62. Question posed while pulling leftovers from the fridge ... or a query about the initial words of 18-, 24-, 33-, 43- or 50-Across? : ISTHISGOOD
65. Suffix with concession : AIRE
66. Boxer's bane : FLEAS
67. Mixed bag : OLIO
68. Stellar phenomenon : NOVA
69. "Chicago" director/choreographer : FOSSE
70. Surrealist played by Adrien Brody in "Midnight in Paris" : DALI
71. Editor's retraction : STET
1. Japanese chess : SHOGI
2. "In Memory of W. B. Yeats" poet : AUDEN
3. Ad awards : CLIOS
4. It may have a cherry on top : SUNDAE
5. Alternative to Newark or La Guardia : JFK
6. One of Chekhov's "Three Sisters" : IRINA
7. Sloughs off : MOLTS
8. R&B's ___ Brothers : ISLEY
9. Almost real : VIRTUAL
10. Place to put down stakes?: Abbr. : OTB
11. Number at a bridal boutique : DRESSSIZE
12. German city on a canal of the same name : KIEL
13. Lhasa ___ (dog) : APSO
19. Adult ed course, often : ESL
21. ___'acte : ENTR
25. Greeting that saves postage : ECARD
26. Calliope or Euterpe : MUSE
29. End-of-week cry : TGIF
30. Damp and chilly : RAW
31. One loyal to the Union Jack, informally : BRIT
32. Sits on to keep warm, say : INCUBATES
34. Mountain ___ : DEW
35. Despot Amin : IDI
36. Infirmary sight : COT
37. Leave ___ (do permanent damage) : ASCAR
38. Excluding : NOT
40. Some pods : OKRA
44. How sausage links are connected : ENDWISE
45. Locks : HAIR
49. About 60% of the world's inhabitants : ASIANS
51. More, in Madrid : MAS
52. "My heavens, no!" : OHGOD
53. "Alley Oop" woman : OOOLA
54. Dieter's salad request : NOOIL
55. Bonehead : IDIOT
56. "You have some ___!" : NERVE
57. Distinguished : GREAT
58. Son of Willy Loman : BIFF
59. Capital near the 60th parallel : OSLO
63. Suffers from : HAS
64. "___ Hear a Waltz?" : DOI

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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