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New York Times, Saturday, February 11, 2017

Author: Frederick J. Healy
Editor: Will Shortz
Frederick J. Healy
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145/24/20042/11/20170
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01000310
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1.59000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 29 Missing: {FJX} This is puzzle # 14 for Mr. Healy. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes: The constructors' eternal trade-off is snazziness vs. smoothness. Almost all of us want to work fantastic entries into our themeless, ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

The constructors' eternal trade-off is snazziness vs. smoothness. Almost all of us want to work fantastic entries into our themeless, of the LASER TAG, BAD KARMA, HAVE A COW, GEEK CHIC type. Lovely phrases. Most of us would also get satisfaction out of weaving in GEE WHIZ, SQUIBS, TOY CAR, YOWZAH, too — great use of slots that too often contain neutral filler.

But almost all of us would also like to avoid the gluey bits that are so helpful in holding a grid together. ITEA, A BEAT, SSR, EAN, ON ME, VTEN, DREWS, etc. are so handy, but so inelegant. (Not to mention, the oddballs like SEINED.) As a solver, more than roughly five of these uglies and my enjoyment level falls off exponentially.

It's tough to balance these two opposing forces, and every constructor has a different balance point. For me, that falloff in enjoyment is so steep that I work hard to keep it to maybe three or four dabs of glue at most.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm mired too deep into construction to enjoy puzzles as much as I used to. Like I mentioned to Jim a week ago, I LURVED Harry Potter the first three (okay, five) times I read the series. But after reading critical analyses, I started noticing every unnecessary adverb Rowling employed — they were everywhere! Although my fourth (six) reading of the books was still enjoyable, it diminished because I kept on picking those up.

Two fantastic clues elevated my overall experience today:

  • Having a business background, I'm used to dealing with contractual problems … not the type of contract-ual SPASMS type of problems, though!
  • A TOLL as something needed to "raise the bar" — the toll gate bar — put a smile on my face.
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 24,567
Across Down
1. War game : LASERTAG
9. Short write-ups : SQUIBS
15. "Time was ..." : USEDTOBE
16. Treat eaten with a spoon : SUNDAE
17. 2007 N.A.A.C.P. Image Award winner for "Inside Man" : SPIKELEE
18. Top-notch : RATEDA
19. Baseball's Martinez : TINO
20. They're on the books : LAWS
22. Deducts from : DOCKS
23. Like a zebra's mane : ERECT
25. Détentes : THAWS
27. Language traditionally written without spaces between words : LAO
28. Cardinal topper : REDHAT
30. Wharf workers' grp. : ILA
31. "Nuts!" : DARN
32. "Holy cow!" : YOWZAH
34. "Her ___" ("Miss Saigon" song) : ORME
35. Resident of the Corn State : HAWKEYE
39. Challenge for a barber : MOPHEAD
41. Lovesickness, e.g. : ACHE
42. 1973 Tony nominee for "A Little Night Music" : CARIOU
44. Power-packed engine : VTEN
45. ___ comparison : ASA
46. Contractual problems? : SPASMS
51. The end of Caesar? : EAN
52. Barrymore and more : DREWS
54. Not easily moved : STOIC
55. E'en if : ALTHO
57. City on Utah Lake : LEHI
59. Fuss : TODO
60. One of two party leaders : COHOST
62. Browns, in a way : GETSATAN
64. Full circuit : ONELAP
65. High-rise pants and horn-rimmed glasses, say : GEEKCHIC
66. "Deliciously Different" sloganeer : WENDYS
67. "Sit tight" : STAYHERE
1. Satiny quality : LUSTER
2. Be a wannabe : ASPIRE
3. Netted, in a way : SEINED
4. Key figure in saving New York City from bankruptcy : EDKOCH
5. GPS generation: Abbr. : RTE
6. Something needed to raise the bar? : TOLL
7. Not miss ___ : ABEAT
8. "You don't say!" : GEEWHIZ
9. Old map abbr. : SSR
10. Squats strengthen them : QUADS
11. "___ a broken heart": Dickinson : UNTO
12. "You don't say!" : IDECLARE
13. Just deserts for misconduct : BADKARMA
14. Salted away? : SEASONED
21. Part of many a submarine : SALAMI
24. "Rent" actor Diggs : TAYE
26. Shouts heard at a rodeo : WAHOOS
29. Hot Wheels product : TOYCAR
31. "How stupid am I!" : DOH
33. Sneak : WEASEL
35. Flip : HAVEACOW
36. Have no accomplice : ACTALONE
37. Response to "Not now," often : WHENTHEN
38. Perception : KEN
40. Things weighed in pounds? : PUPS
43. Distinctive features of tamago gohan servings, in Japanese cuisine : RAWEGGS
47. Clip, say : ATTACH
48. Palliate : SOOTHE
49. Like some catches and crashes : MIDAIR
50. Keeper of the flame? : SCONCE
52. "Tell me more" : DOSAY
53. Unit of rain or ice : SHEET
56. Ship or plane part : HOLD
58. Virginia willow's genus : ITEA
61. Covers with some rolls : TPS
63. It's way over your head : SKY

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle.

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