New York Times, Monday, March 31, 2014

Author: Robert Cirillo
Editor: Will Shortz
Robert Cirillo
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This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 38 Missing: {WZ} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. Cirillo. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Robert Cirillo notes: I first thought about this theme when I overheard someone on a TV show say 'Ma and Pa.' I don't even know what show it was ... more
Robert Cirillo notes: I first thought about this theme when I overheard someone on a TV show say "Ma and Pa." I don't even know what show it was because I was just passing through the room. (Anyone who has constructed a crossword will probably tell you that the curse that comes along with it is that anytime you hear a phrase, you immediately begin to think of theme possibilities.) Anyway, I thought of MASQUERADE PARTY and MASSAGE PARLOR immediately. I decided to research whether it had ever been done before. There was a NY Times puzzle in 2001 that used MA AND PA as the revealer, but it used MA__ MA__ and PA__ PA__ phrases. So, the MA__ PA__ pattern hadn't been done. A little more thinking and research led to MARDI GRAS PARADE (which I thought was cheating a bit because it's three words, but it was such a good phrase I decided to go with it) and MACARTHUR PARK (I have to admit I don't like the song).

When I submitted the original, Will returned it and asked me to get rid of some junk (EDO, GAR, E MAG, LBOs, and the partials A PLEA and I AM A). I had to rearrange the grid shape slightly to make this work to my satisfaction. In doing so, I learned first-hand that the crossword gods giveth and they taketh away. Reworking the grid allowed me to find EX HUSBAND and URSA MAJOR, better than the original PROUD MARY and CINEMATIC. However, my one regret about this puzzle was that in reworking it, I lost the words GYRATE and REAR which had been right next to each other (yes, deep down I'm still 13 years old). But overall the fill turned out much better I thought.

I wasn't very happy with UNAPT crossing A NAP. But I was willing to make that sacrifice for URSA MAJOR.

Hope you enjoy it!

Jeff Chen notes: Nice start to the week, MA AND PA cluing in four theme phrases starting with MA and PA, respectively. The 15/13/7/13/15 is a tough ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Nice start to the week, MA AND PA cluing in four theme phrases starting with MA and PA, respectively. The 15/13/7/13/15 is a tough construction, but Robert executes on it fairly well. Typically I'd expect to see only a pair of long fill entries, but Robert gives us BARBARELLA and STORM SURGE in the vertical directions, and EX-HUSBAND and URSA MAJOR in the horizontal. The extra effort is much appreciated, adding a lot of snazz to the puzzle.

Typically I might balk at long fill in the horizontal direction, especially since both EX-HUSBAND and URSA MAJOR are longer than the center revealer, but today I think it's perfectly acceptable because of the theme. Given that the MA*PA* patterns are so clear, it's much less likely that EX-HUSBAND or URSA MAJOR are going to be confused for theme material.

One hitch I had: as Rob noted, MARDI GRAS PARADE stuck out for me as the only three-word phrase. At first I thought I might be wrong, MARDIGRAS being written or interpreted as a single word? But no, it's definitely Mardi Gras. If another one of the themers had been three words, perhaps I wouldn't have felt an inconsistency? I really like MARDI GRAS PARADE as an entry, but it might have been nicer to get something else as snappy but with two words.

Out of curiosity, I checked onelook.com to see what other 15-letter options there are. I was surprised that I couldn't find any other options, at least with a cursory 15 minute search. So perhaps I would have paired MA AND PA with MADE PAR, making it a 7/13/15/13/7 arrangement? As always, tough trade-offs for any crossword.

Speaking of trade-offs, today's puzzle is another great example of getting a whole bunch of extra goodness for the price of a handful of lesser entries. I did notice the MPAA, RAES, UNAPT, EDUC, ETE kind of stuff during my solve, and I personally prefer a silky-smooth solve for Monday puzzles (so beginning solvers can feel that the NYT xw is within their grasp). But for the more experienced solver, it's a real treat to get the aforementioned long entries, plus DECANT, INQUEST, MODEL T and its neat clue.

JimH notes: For some reason I'm reminded of this Grant Wood painting I see every time I visit the Art Institute of Chicago.
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,519
Across Down
1. Dress that falls between the knee and ankle : MIDI
5. Nature walks, e.g. : HIKES
10. Droid : BOT
13. Comment to a card dealer : IMIN
14. Triangular chip : DORITO
15. I.R.S. filing time: Abbr. : APR
16. *Where Romeo and Juliet meet : MASQUERADEPARTY
19. Dick, to Liz, twice : EXHUSBAND
20. Hank Aaron finished his career with 2,297 of them, in brief : RBIS
21. Schooling: Abbr. : EDUC
22. Pour, as wine from a bottle : DECANT
24. *Often-seedy establishment : MASSAGEPARLOR
29. Brad of "Moneyball" : PITT
30. Wedding vows : IDOS
31. Antlered animal : ELK
34. Kerfuffle : ADO
35. Rural couple ... or what the respective halves of the answers to the four starred clues start with : MAANDPA
38. Gift that may be presented with an "Aloha!" : LEI
39. ___ Lingus : AER
40. Bushy hairdo : AFRO
41. Actor Arkin : ALAN
42. *1978 #1 Donna Summer hit that covered a 1968 #2 hit by Richard Harris : MACARTHURPARK
47. Pop artist Johns : JASPER
49. Take ___ (catch some Z's) : ANAP
50. Together, musically : ADUE
51. The handle of the Big Dipper is its tail : URSAMAJOR
56. *New Orleans event with floats : MARDIGRASPARADE
59. Yolk's place : EGG
60. Car famously available in any color, as long as it was black : MODELT
61. Like 2, 4, 6, 8 ... : EVEN
62. Visualize : SEE
63. Drunkard : SOUSE
64. Like this clue among all the Acrosses : LAST
1. Silent performer : MIME
2. Big-screen format : IMAX
3. Food serving : DISH
4. Official investigation : INQUEST
5. "Ars Poetica" poet : HORACE
6. Tehran's land : IRAN
7. N.B.A. player-turned-coach Jason : KIDD
8. Summer in France : ETE
9. Soak (up) : SOP
10. 1968 Jane Fonda sci-fi film : BARBARELLA
11. Choose to participate : OPTIN
12. Meeting at a no-tell motel : TRYST
14. Fix, as a computer program : DEBUG
17. Org. that rates meat "Choice" or "Prime" : USDA
18. West Coast gas chain : ARCO
22. Plunge : DROP
23. "Born Free" lioness : ELSA
24. FIlm-rating grp. : MPAA
25. Adviser, for one : AIDE
26. Rise of seawater that might accompany a hurricane : STORMSURGE
27. ___ noir (red wine) : PINOT
28. Tack (on) : ADD
32. Shakespearean king : LEAR
33. Twist, as in a chain : KINK
35. Attacker repellent : MACE
36. Many miles off : AFAR
37. Opposite of "Dep." on a flight board : ARR
41. Clothing : APPAREL
43. Parroted : APED
44. Big inconvenience : HASSLE
45. Not fitting : UNAPT
46. "___ Lama Ding Dong" (1961 hit) : RAMA
47. King ___ Bible : JAMES
48. Proverb : ADAGE
51. Language in Lahore : URDU
52. Actress Charlotte and explorer John : RAES
53. Jakarta's island : JAVA
54. Poems by 5-Down : ODES
55. Landlord's income : RENT
57. Chats online, for short : IMS
58. When repeated, early baby sounds : GOO

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle.

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