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New York Times, Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Author: Peter A. Collins
Editor: Will Shortz
Peter A. Collins
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Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 69, Blocks: 38 Missing: {BFJQW} Spans: 3 Grid has mirror symmetry This is puzzle # 76 for Mr. Collins. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Peter A. Collins notes: This puzzle's history stretches back over two years, and it started with the grid design. I hope everybody noticed the three ... more
Peter A. Collins notes: This puzzle's history stretches back over two years, and it started with the grid design. I hope everybody noticed the three block T's in the grid. My original version had four themed entries consisting of three-word phrases, all of the form T* TO T* (TURNED TO TROUBLE, TRUE TO TYPE, TOOK TO TASK, and TOE TO TOE. As it turned out, I was taken to task for the last one — Will didn't like the repeated TOE. So TOE TO TOE gave way to TEN TO TWO. That also was, apparently, tough to take. After a major reworking, we settled on the current three phrases of the form T* THE T*.

One other thing to mention about this puzzle: my final submitted version had two options at 11-Down. Either LAIMBEER or LAID OVER. Will went with LAID OVER. For those of you too young to remember the "Bad Boys" days of Pistons basketball in the late '80's and early '90's, Bill Laimbeer was probably the most disliked Detroit athlete ever — until Ndamukong Suh came along. Either LAIMBEER is too obscure, or he doesn't pass the "breakfast test".

I hope this thrills the throng.

Jeff Chen notes: I'm a sucker for a visual element in a puzzle. Throwing in mirror (left-right) symmetry makes it even more enticing. And ... more
Jeff Chen notes: I'm a sucker for a visual element in a puzzle. Throwing in mirror (left-right) symmetry makes it even more enticing. And incorporating enough snappy entries to make it play like a themeless? MAN CRUSH ON PETE COLLINS DECLARED! Whoops, excuse me.

I enjoyed so many elements of today's puzzle. I really dug the three T's in the puzzle's black squares, and liked even more the fact that there weren't any other "free-floating" black squares in the grid. Very cool-looking. Aesthetics are subjective of course, but I really appreciated the prettiness of those three T's hanging out in the middle of the grid.

True to the three T's, Pete give us three grid-spanners, all following the same pattern: T* THE T*. I actually prefer some of Peter's original themers, TRUE TO TYPE being especially nice. I did like TRIMMING THE TREE and TELLING THE TRUTH, but TURNING THE TRICK sounded a little off to me. TURNING A TRICK (ahem, not NYT material) or DID THE TRICK sounds so much better, yeah? But Google/Bing clearly disagrees with me, "TURNED THE TRICK" getting a huge number of hits.

Minor idiosyncrasy, but I tend to prefer past tense phrases in my xws. TOLD THE TRUTH has more elegance than TELLING THE TRUTH, in my eyes at least. Often, I don't add the "-ING" variation of a phrase into my word list, unless it sounds perfectly normal to my ear (usually it doesn't though). Awfully hard to find three past tense phrases that 1.) fit the T* THE T* pattern and 2.) are long enough, though.

Best of all today: the snazzy entries! SHAR PEI, HIGH NOON, NIHILIST, STRIKE ZONE, LETHAL AGENT, AGED OUT (xwordinfo donates to Treehouse for Kids, a non-profit I volunteer for) = so much goodness. Well worth the cheap price of admission (the ERN, EPI, ENE kind of stuff). I would have liked the puzzle even more if there had been more wordplay clues. But then again, filling everything quickly in off the straightforward clues made me feel smart. (in Homer Simpson voice) I am so smart! S M R T!

Well done, I like it when a lively puzzle lets me smugly sit back and call myself the world's biggest genus.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,472
Across Down
1. Word of exasperation : SHEESH
7. Katmandu tongue : NEPALI
13. Wrinkly-skinned dog : SHARPEI
14. One of the red Monopoly spaces : INDIANA
16. Triumphing : TURNINGTHETRICK
18. Open-house org. : PTA
19. ___ polloi : HOI
20. Lunes or martes : DIA
21. Ring decision, briefly : TKO
23. Matt who scored the only Jets touchdown in Super Bowl history : SNELL
25. 2B, SS or CF : POS
26. ___ Stic (retractable Bic pen) : CLIC
27. Comic Fields who was an Ed Sullivan regular : TOTIE
28. "Amores" poet : OVID
30. Designed to minimize wind resistance : AERO
31. Prepare, as some peanuts : ROAST
32. Campbell of "Party of Five" : NEVE
33. Traditional pre-Christmas activity : TRIMMINGTHETREE
36. Cartoon shriek : EEK
37. Roll-call call : AYE
38. Bub : MAC
41. The First State: Abbr. : DEL
43. Cry at the World Cup : OLE
44. Fleet member retired in '03 : SST
47. Place on a pedestal : IDOLIZE
49. Last book of the Old Testament : MALACHI
51. Element in chips : SILICON
52. Became too old for foster care, say : AGEDOUT
53. Testifying accurately : TELLINGTHETRUTH
55. Rare sight on casual Friday : SUIT
56. Hawke of Hollywood : ETHAN
57. Buffalo's county : ERIE
58. Marks of good bowlers : XES
59. Surgical bypass : SHUNT
60. AOL alternative : MSN
1. One operating a loom : SHUTTLER
2. End of Kurosawa's "Rashomon"? : HARAKIRI
3. Directional ending : ERN
4. Prefix with center : EPI
5. Nixon, e.g., for two yrs. : SEN
6. 1952 Gary Cooper classic : HIGHNOON
7. Believer that life is meaningless : NIHILIST
8. Suffix with acetyl : ENE
9. S.F. summer setting : PDT
10. It's about 1% argon : AIR
11. Had a break between flights : LAIDOVER
12. Clear and direct, as reporting : INCISIVE
13. Common Nascar letters : STP
15. Letters on a perp's record : AKA
17. Morgue ID : TOETAG
22. Christmas carol starter : OCOME
23. They vary according to batters' heights : STRIKEZONES
24. Poison gas, e.g. : LETHALAGENT
25. Florence's ___ Vecchio : PONTE
26. Bopper : CAT
29. "___-lish!" ("Yum!") : DEE
34. Longtime Florentine ruling family : MEDICI
35. There might be one on the corner of a sail : EYELET
38. Atomizer outputs : MISTS
39. They're said at the end of a soirée : ADIEUX
40. Dog that might be named Shep : COLLIE
42. Derby victory margin, maybe : LENGTH
43. Many an urban Cornhusker : OMAHAN
44. Searches high and low : SCOURS
45. Quarantine, say : SHUTIN
46. Dime-on-the-dollar donation : TITHE
48. Happy tunes : LILTS
50. To the point, in law : ADREM
54. Day after hump day: Abbr. : THU

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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