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New York Times, Friday, November 1, 2013

Author: Brad Wilber
Editor: Will Shortz
Brad Wilber
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492/19/20056/4/201623
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1.60001

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 31 Missing: {QXYZ} This is puzzle # 34 for Mr. Wilber. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Brad Wilber notes: This grid design owes a debt to a 2008 Barry Silk puzzle run in another venue. I rearranged the black squares in the center to form ... more
Brad Wilber notes: This grid design owes a debt to a 2008 Barry Silk puzzle run in another venue. I rearranged the black squares in the center to form two mini-staircases of the longest entries in the puzzle. I liked that they were all different lengths (9, 10, and 11 letters). I've used this pattern a few times in both a 68-word version and a 70-word version, but I think this was my first instance working with it.

Plugging in possibilities from my list of seed entries, hoping to stack them, TORT REFORM and CLAW CRANE slid in. VELVET ELVIS and FALLEN HEM also worked on the bottom. For some reason, E.L. DOCTOROW was not in my word list at the time, and I kept that in, only later discovering it's not a new entry in the least. Something else might have popped more. There are underwhelming spots in the shorter fill, but the 8s are not bad and both Will and I especially liked "I'M RUINED" at 58A. JILTEE from the unabridged Webster's kind of saved my bacon in the SE, but I used the first clue that came to mind and I see Will left it in.

Will Shortz notes: As with all of Brad's themeless puzzles, this one is jammed with lively vocabulary. My favorite entries here are BLUE CRAB, ... more
Will Shortz notes: As with all of Brad's themeless puzzles, this one is jammed with lively vocabulary. My favorite entries here are BLUE CRAB, LOW-FAT, OIL SHALE, TORT REFORM, PATRON SAINT, E L DOCTOROW, I'M RUINED, BEER CAN, LBJ RANCH and SMELT ROE. That's a lot of great stuff.
Jeff Chen notes: Good workout today from one of the themeless masters. Some fantastic answers packed in the grid today, VELVET ELVIS being one of my ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Good workout today from one of the themeless masters. Some fantastic answers packed in the grid today, VELVET ELVIS being one of my favorite entries in recent memory. I'm constantly impressed by how many new and fresh entries Brad consistently incorporates into his puzzles.

Novel layout today, with a minor ding for the grid being somewhat segmented (easily separable along the SW to NE diagonal). Generally speaking, a puzzle shouldn't be able to be split in half by the addition of a pair of black squares, because it leads to a less integrated feeling for the solver. In this case, I felt like I was solving two separate mini-puzzles. It's a minor issue, though.

The NE corner was almost impossible for me, finally getting LBJ RANCH with a hail Mary, a flurry of typing in random letter sequences at the eleventh hour. LBJ RANCH is one of my favorite answers in the entire grid, especially given that wacky LBJR sequence to start it, but that corner also contains JILTEE, my least favorite entry. JILTEE is most definitely a word, but not one I imagine many people would use in real life. The fact that LBJ RANCH starts with four consecutive consonants makes that corner's construction very difficult. Brad did well to save it, but as always, almost every audacious piece of fill comes with a trade-off.

Finally, some great clues. A beautiful one for BEER CAN; nice misdirection toward a bar tab when the clue actually refers to the BEER CAN's opener tab. I also really appreciated the clue for TORME, which brought me laughs as I pictured Mel Torme singing to a fat-lipped Kramer. I think good crosswords ought to both entertain and uplift, and that clue certainly did both for me.

Now if someone would just work FEATS OF STRENGTH and AIRING OF GRIEVANCES into a crossword. Sadly, they're probably not gridworthy. Nor is SPONGEWORTHY. Sigh.

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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 23,369
Across Down
1. Common catch off the coast of Maryland : BLUECRAB
9. Light, in a way : LOWFAT
15. Crude alternative : OILSHALE
16. Jewelry box item : BROOCH
17. Like a bout on an undercard : NONTITLE
18. Dickens's Miss Havisham, famously : JILTEE
19. ID clincher : DNA
20. Challenge to ambulance chasers : TORTREFORM
22. Arcade game prize grabber : CLAWCRANE
24. Fiacre, to taxi drivers : PATRONSAINT
27. "___ reminder ..." : ASA
30. Nook occupier : EBOOK
31. Toshiba competitor : NEC
32. Some camcorders : RCAS
33. Besmirch : TARNISH
36. Isaac Bashevis Singer settings : SHTETLS
38. Culmination : ACME
39. Only proper noun in the Beatles' "Revolution" : MAO
41. "Something to Talk About" singer, 1991 : RAITT
42. Golf commentator's subject : LIE
43. Classic kitschy wall hanging : VELVETELVIS
46. Slip for a skirt? : FALLENHEM
47. "Billy Bathgate" novelist : ELDOCTOROW
50. Ex-G.I.'s org. : VFW
53. Washington State mascot : COUGAR
54. Pre-W.W. I in automotive history : BRASSERA
57. "If music be the food of love ..." speaker in "Twelfth Night" : ORSINO
58. Cry of despair : IMRUINED
59. Nothing: It. : NIENTE
60. Periods of warming ... or cooling off : DETENTES
1. M asset : BOND
2. Royal Arms of England symbol : LION
3. Bone under a watchband : ULNA
4. The Orange Bowl is played on it: Abbr. : EST
5. Acupuncturist's concern : CHI
6. Croupier's stick material : RATTAN
7. Acknowledges : ALLOWS
8. Tab carrier in a bar? : BEERCAN
9. Tourist attraction on Texas' Pedernales River : LBJRANCH
10. Face in a particular direction : ORIENT
11. "Champagne for One" sleuth : WOLFE
12. Shot, informally : FOTO
13. Serena Williams, often : ACER
14. Novel in Joyce Carol Oates's Wonderland Quartet : THEM
21. Exasperates : TRIES
22. Cauldron stirrer : CRONE
23. "The Avengers" villain, 2012 : LOKI
24. Bit of sachet stuffing : PETAL
25. Classroom clickers of old : ABACI
26. Singer who once sang a song to Kramer on "Seinfeld" : TORME
27. When "Ave Maria" is sung in "Otello" : ACTIV
28. 1970s pact partly negotiated in Helsinki : SALTI
29. Right hands: Abbr. : ASSTS
32. Arena : REALM
34. Orange garnish for a sushi roll : SMELTROE
35. Fox hunt cry : HALLO
37. Bay, for one : TREE
40. Prompt a buzzer on "The Price Is Right" : OVERBID
43. Unoccupied : VACANT
44. Massive, in Metz : ENORME
45. Block : THWART
46. Keep from taking off, as a plane with low visibility : FOGIN
47. Nobel category: Abbr. : ECON
48. Loughlin or Petty of Hollywood : LORI
49. Italian actress Eleonora : DUSE
50. Let it all out : VENT
51. Unoccupied : FREE
52. Rolls of dough : WADS
55. One of the Ms. Pac-Man ghosts : SUE
56. "There is no ___ except stupidity": Wilde : SIN

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle.

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