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New York Times, Saturday, April 26, 2014

Author: Evan Birnholz
Editor: Will Shortz
Evan Birnholz
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Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 30 Missing: {JQZ} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. Birnholz. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Evan Birnholz notes: I built this puzzle in June 2013. I'm glad with how relatively clean it turned out, though I've found that as I've built more ... more
Evan Birnholz notes: I built this puzzle in June 2013. I'm glad with how relatively clean it turned out, though I've found that as I've built more puzzles in the last year, I've developed a pretty nasty aversion to partial phrases. A WAR is hardly the worst answer one can have in a puzzle, but I look at it now and I wish I could swap that out with something else. Constructors, take note: I asked Will if he would accept SNES (the initialism for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System), which would take the place of SNIT and thus make A WAR unnecessary (as shown in this fill), but he said that SNES would be a "near puzzle-killer." Me, I like the Super Nintendo, though I can see why it might not fly well for the Times. Diff'rent strokes, and all that.

I'm thrilled to get another Saturday slot, but due to a little bad luck, this puzzle's appearance in the Times is actually slightly bittersweet for me. I enjoyed solving Ian Livengood's excellent puzzle from December 27 of last year, but look at 8-Down from that grid. My wife can confirm that I blurted out "Oh, son of a b****!" when I cracked that answer — he beat me to debuting CALVIN AND HOBBES in the Times (it's only the best comic strip of all time, and I won't hear any other suggestions otherwise). That little hissy fit wasn't directed at Ian — he didn't do anything wrong, of course. Nor, should I add, did Will or Barry C. Silk, who scooped me on ANYONE ELSE on August 2, 2013. But the long wait time between acceptance and publication means that sometimes other constructors can beat you to the punch on marquee answers or themes while you wait. It's just part of the business, and it's partly what motivated me to go independent with my own crossword website, where I can publish my work right away.

Still, I don't think solvers will mind having seen CALVIN AND HOBBES recently in the Times, and besides, other publications have used it as a marquee answer as well. For all I know, there's some constructor out there who got a puzzle accepted with HOW DARE YOU in it, and now they're gnashing their teeth about that!

Finally, for various reasons, I usually hate it when people say "Gosh, why did so-and-so have to play the RACE CARD" in normal conversation. It's always struck me as a term that allows those who use it to ignore the very real impact of racism in the present day. But as a crossword entry, I love it — it's a contemporary and somewhat edgy phrase.

Jeff Chen notes: An absolute beauty from Evan, exactly on my personal wavelength, giving me everything I want out of a Saturday puzzle. This gives me ... more
Jeff Chen notes: An absolute beauty from Evan, exactly on my personal wavelength, giving me everything I want out of a Saturday puzzle. This gives me the perfect opportunity to lay out what I personally look for in a Saturday puzzle.

1.) Sparkling entries. CALVIN AND HOBBES, RETROVIRUS, WIFESWAP, SKYBOX SEATS, PROTEST VOTE, BELT SANDER, MELON BALLS, RACE CARD, HOW DARE YOU! Need I say more? No, but I will. It's awfully difficult to get your shorter entries to shine, but OK BUT is fantastic. It's like when Brendan Emmitt Quigley debuted WHAT THE. Genius stuff.

2.) Brilliant clues. Misdirectional clues are my personal favorite, especially ones which don't have the giveaway question mark. [Fashion clothes] led me to think about YSL, IZOD, etc., but it's the simple SEW. [Mann's "Man!"] plays on the "man's man" phrase with amusing results. And I absolutely loved [Elasticity studier's subj.], as it made me feel smart to know a piece of esoteric trivia. Finally, thinking about Dana Carvey doing his impressions of PEROT on SNL made me laugh out loud. This puzzle manages to hit all the sweet spots in cluing.

3.) Quality short fill. Often the hardest criteria to manage, it's near impossible to get away without a handful of ugly entries. Layout often dictates where the tough places will be (I personally spend about as much time working with a puzzle skeleton as I do with filling), and Evan does a great job with spacing. Note how there aren't any big sections of white space that stick out? Sometimes it's pretty easy to predict where the problem spots will be, but not today. Evan's deployed his black squares masterfully, spreading out the difficult spots. Sure, he's got a WTS here, a A WAR there, but those little bits are so dispersed, I hardly noticed them.

Extremely well done. Not just a pleasure to solve, but a pleasure to review.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,545
Across Down
1. "Friday the 13th" setting : CAMP
5. Cry accompanying a slap : HOWDAREYOU
15. Green leader? : EVER
16. Office addresses? : INAUGURALS
17. Tragically heartbroken figure of myth : DIDO
18. Some cocktail garnishes : MELONBALLS
19. Noted nominee of 2005 : ALITO
21. Stumped : ATSEA
22. Bit of audio equipment? : EAR
23. Controversial thing to play : RACECARD
25. Stats. for new arrivals : WTS
27. Base's opposite : SUMMIT
29. "That's true - however ..." : OKBUT
33. Locale for the Zoot Suit Riots of '43 : EASTLA
36. Fashion clothes : SEW
38. Team unifier : YOKE
39. They created the Get Rid of Slimy Girls club : CALVINANDHOBBES
42. Brand with a "Wonderfilled" ad campaign : OREO
43. Nail : ACE
44. Beginning of some tributes : ATOAST
45. Just beginning : NEWTO
47. Longtime rival of 42-Across : HYDROX
49. Midwest terminal? : ERN
51. Reality show documenting a two-week trade : WIFESWAP
55. "A veil, rather than a mirror," per Oscar Wilde : ART
58. Line outside a gala : LIMOS
60. Dreaded message on a returned 32-Down : SEEME
61. Reverse transcriptase is found in it : RETROVIRUS
64. "To End ___" (1998 Richard Holbrooke best seller) : AWAR
65. Q&A query : ANYONEELSE
66. Barker in a basket : TOTO
67. One endlessly smoothing things over? : BELTSANDER
68. Cross state : SNIT
1. Fencing material : CEDAR
2. Europe's City of Saints and Stones : AVILA
3. Battlefield cry : MEDIC
4. Abstention alternative : PROTESTVOTE
5. "Let ___ Run Wild" (B-side to "California Girls") : HIM
6. Physical feature of Herman on "The Simpsons" : ONEARM
7. Home to Main Street, U.S.A. : WALTDISNEYWORLD
8. The Hardy Boys and others : DUOS
9. He called his critics "pusillanimous pussyfooters" : AGNEW
10. With flexibility in tempo : RUBATO
11. Reagan-___ : ERA
12. Harkness Tower locale : YALE
13. Pueblo cooker : OLLA
14. Red giant that disintegrated? : USSR
20. Round windows : OCULI
24. Brand named after some Iowa villages : AMANA
26. High (and high-priced) options for spectators : SKYBOXSEATS
28. Rocker ___ Leo : TED
30. Sci-fi villain ___ Fett : BOBA
31. They may be made with koa wood, briefly : UKES
32. Course obstacle? : TEST
33. Elasticity studier's subj. : ECON
34. It's canalized at Interlaken : AARE
35. Boatload : SLEW
37. Boatload transfer point : WHARF
40. Mann's "Man!" : ACH
41. Eagle of Delight's tribe : OTOES
46. Group with the 1963 hit "South Street," with "the" : ORLONS
48. Obsolescence : DISUSE
50. Moisturizer brand : NIVEA
52. Cry accompanying a high-five : WEWON
53. Treasured strings : AMATI
54. Politico caricatured by Carvey : PEROT
55. Start of Egypt's official name : ARAB
56. ___ Belloq, villain in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" : RENE
57. Modern farewell letters : TTYL
59. Air : MIEN
62. Wood problem : ROT
63. Title for knights on "Game of Thrones" : SER

Answer summary: 10 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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