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TWO OUTS

New York Times, Sunday, December 8, 2013

Author: Patrick Berry
Editor: Will Shortz
Patrick Berry
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2207/11/19993/3/20172
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1.54980
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 76 Missing: {Q} This is puzzle # 182 for Mr. Berry. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes: I've been hesitant to give Patrick Berry POWs! even though most of his puzzles deserve them, in order to give others a chance. But this week I couldn't help it, as I found this Sunday puzzle so very entertaining. ... more
Jeff Chen notes: I've been hesitant to give Patrick Berry POWs! even though most of his puzzles deserve them, in order to give others a chance. But this week I couldn't help it, as I found this Sunday puzzle so very entertaining. Extremely well done.

It took me a while to figure out exactly what was going on, but it finally dawned on me that Patrick selected phrases/long words, which form different phrases/long words when you delete two letters. For example, "Red wine drinker's paradise?" is SHANGRI-LA SANGRIA. I'll admit that at first I thought it seemed arbitrary to just pick any two letters to remove, but as I went along, it felt more and more like a puzzle within a puzzle; like I was in The Matrix. Darn glad I took the blue pill, because each of the 12 (!) theme entries was a fun challenge within itself.

Normally when there's such high theme content, the fill breaks down all over and Agent Smith is signaled to clean up the glitches in The Matrix. I mean, Patrick stacks theme answers atop each other, and then overlaps more themers atop those! But instead of glitching out, he went all Neo on us today, smoothing the experience with a WEST BERLIN, KLUTZ, CSI: MIAMI, AT REST, OSPREYS, etc., showing us that he knows crossword-fu.

It wasn't perfect, but as we all know from The Machines' experience, total perfection makes humans skeptical, and we think that there's a conspiracy going on. So the TEENA MARIE / ELAM / MARNIE crosses in the southeast corner placate us, leaving us with the impression that our slightly flawed world is still real.

A final note of technical commentary: look at all the cheater squares (black squares which don't affect the word count) Patrick uses. Some have said that cheaters make a puzzle less elegant; that they're a crutch. In some cases, like in some themeless puzzles, I find them to be visually inelegant. But Patrick has said a few times that he'll always choose to add cheaters if it makes the fill smoother. I did notice the preponderance of cheaters (five pairs) at first, but I completely forgot about it as I went. 21x puzzles are so much harder to fill cleanly than 15x's, so I think for this puzzle, Patrick's decision to use so many cheaters is sound.

Fantastic work . Often times I get tired in the middle of doing a Sunday puzzle because it feels like the same old thing over and over again. But even though today's puzzle took me well over my usual time (about 30 minutes vs my usual 15-20), I relished the experience and looked forward to writing all about it. More smooth, fun, uber-professional Sunday puzzles like this, please!

P.S. If you haven't seen The Matrix a few hundred times yet, I forgive you. Maybe. And don't take the red pill.

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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 23,406
Across Down
1. Palindromic band name : ABBA
5. Tosca's feeling for Cavaradossi : AMORE
10. Spring for a vacation : SPA
13. Hawaiian tourist purchases : UKES
17. "___ yourself" : BRACE
19. Cow catcher : ROPER
20. Red wine drinker's paradise? : SHANGRILA
22. Employee at the Ron Paul Archive? : LIBERTARIAN
24. Pitch that fixes everything? : CURVEBALL
25. "Strange Magic" band, briefly : ELO
26. Dollar bill featuring a portrait of Duran Duran's lead singer? : SIMONLEBON
28. IRS Form 5498 subject : IRA
29. Street caution : SLOW
31. Ball with a yellow stripe : NINE
32. Shiner? : SUN
33. Willowy : SLENDER
37. Like a robot's voice : TONELESS
39. Still : ATREST
41. Architect Saarinen : EERO
42. Blue expanse : SEA
43. Follow closely : DOG
44. Hair-raising shout : EEK
46. "___ te absolvo" (priest's phrase) : EGO
47. The one puppy that can read? : LITTERMATE
53. Creator of perfect whirlpools? : MAELSTROM
56. Baath Party member : ARAB
57. Uncommunicative : SILENT
59. Political title of the 1930s-'40s : ILDUCE
60. Counter formations : LINES
62. Mix in a tank : GASOHOL
64. Overextend oneself? : STRETCH
68. Classical guitarist Segovia : ANDRES
70. Adds to the batter, say : STIRSIN
72. In a kooky manner : ZANILY
73. Buttonholed : WAYLAID
75. Given a home : ADOPTED
77. Triumphant song : PAEAN
78. "This isn't making sense" : IMLOST
80. Whom John Bull symbolizes : BRITON
82. Have an objection : MIND
83. Minor-league championship flag? : PENNYANTE
86. Alienate a New Jersey city? : EASTORANGE
88. Biblical priest of Shiloh : ELI
89. Blue expanse : SKY
90. "Man of Steel" actress Adams : AMY
92. Sully : MAR
93. Go on strike : WALK
95. Film crowd : EXTRAS
97. CBS spinoff that ran for 10 seasons : CSIMIAMI
102. How sports cars are contoured : SLEEKLY
105. "Cover ___ Face" (P. D. James's first novel) : HER
106. Distress : PAIN
107. Actor Jack of oaters : ELAM
108. Cousin of a crumble : PIE
109. Begat a soft place to sleep? : FEATHERBED
112. Burlesque garment : BRA
113. "Charge!," to Duracells? : BATTLECRY
117. Satisfying finale coming to pass? : HAPPYENDING
119. Labeled idiotic? : BRAINDEAD
120. First name in photography : ANSEL
121. Nickname for Palmer : ARNIE
122. "Don't be a spoilsport!" : CMON
123. Savory condiment : SOY
124. Variety show fodder : SKITS
125. Trader ___ : JOES
1. Most qualified : ABLEST
2. Relative of S.O.S : BRILLO
3. Galoot : BABOON
4. One-hit wonder? : ACE
5. Friend of d'Artagnan : ARAMIS
6. Thick bunch? : MORONS
7. Venture a thought : OPINE
8. Unfeigned : REAL
9. Miranda of the Miranda warning : ERNESTO
10. Avoid : SHUN
11. Course listing : PAR
12. Percussion instrument in "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" : ANVIL
13. Sophisticated : URBANE
14. Automaker that started as a bicycle company : KIA
15. Bent pipe : ELL
16. "She's a good old worker and a good old pal," in song : SAL
18. Med. workplaces : ERS
20. Tea go-with : SCONE
21. "Days of Heaven" co-star : GERE
23. Would-be singers' liabilities : TINEARS
27. Little town : BURG
30. Site of a 1963 J.F.K. speech : WESTBERLIN
33. Chargers and coursers : STEEDS
34. Forest game : DEER
35. "By that logic ..." : ERGO
36. Boarder's domain : ROOM
38. Director Daniels of "The Butler" : LEE
39. Of the lymph glands : ADENOID
40. Signet ring feature : SEAL
45. Dropper? : KLUTZ
47. Steven Bochco series : LALAW
48. Youngest of Chekhov's "Three Sisters" : IRINA
49. Eldest Best Actress winner : TANDY
50. Acronymic aircraft name : MIG
51. Wistful remark : ALAS
52. With a will : TESTATE
53. It's "well regulated" in the Constitution : MILITIA
54. Quarrel : SCRAP
55. "Lovergirl" singer : TEENAMARIE
58. Pulsation : THROB
61. Morally degraded : SEAMY
63. Fish hawks : OSPREYS
65. Cross-promotion : TIEIN
66. Streetcar sound : CLANG
67. Chrissie in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame : HYNDE
69. Start of a George Eliot title : SILAS
71. N.B.A. team originally called the Americans : NETS
74. Elephant's opposite, symbolically : DONKEY
76. URL component : DOT
79. Zeus swore oaths upon it : STYX
81. Excited Oscars attendee : NOMINEE
83. Nave furniture : PEWS
84. Airline that doesn't fly on religious holidays : ELAL
85. Khartoum's river : NILE
87. Run headlong into : RAM
90. Datum in a house listing : AREA
91. ___ Vineyard : MARTHAS
94. Confined : KEPTIN
96. "I thought ____ never leave!" : THEYD
97. Pile on the floor : CARPET
98. Soothsayers of old : SIBYLS
99. Person prone to sunburn : ALBINO
100. Last Hitchcock film with Tippi Hedren : MARNIE
101. Some Google search results : IMAGES
103. Hot pot locale : KILN
104. English film festival city : LEEDS
106. It "hits the spot," per old radio ads : PEPSI
109. Begin to show wear : FRAY
110. Yarn quantity : HANK
111. Hair strands? : DNA
113. "EastEnders" network : BBC
114. Shot spot : ARM
115. Metaphysical concept : TAO
116. Fortune cover subj. : CEO
118. Longtime Sixers nickname : DRJ

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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