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New York Times, Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Author: Patrick Merrell
Editor: Will Shortz
Patrick Merrell
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857/10/200110/10/20160
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20105113252
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1.60553
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQVZ} Spans: 3 This is puzzle # 81 for Mr. Merrell. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Patrick Merrell notes: I'm thoughtless.
Jeff Chen notes: So many strong puzzles this week, but this one stood out for me. How do I decide these things? No doubt, it is subjective (Jim and I ... more
Jeff Chen notes: So many strong puzzles this week, but this one stood out for me. How do I decide these things? No doubt, it is subjective (Jim and I often differ on which puzzle we like the best for any given week). I really liked the previous two puzzles and also think there are a couple more humdingers coming up this week. So I relied on gut instinct, giving great weight to the feeling of immense pleasure I got as I solved this puzzle.

I had the pleasure of meeting Patrick two American Crossword Tournament Puzzles ago, where he had authored a devious construction that tripped up many solvers. Today's is much more straightforward, three grid-spanning entries containing "LESS" and re-interpreted with funny results. Sense of humor is hit and miss (just ask my poor wife) but these three all made me laugh. Each one of them is a strong base phrase, and I thought each of the re-interpretations was clever.

People might complain that there are only three theme answers. This was certainly the norm ten years ago, so it did seem like a throwback at first. But when it comes to "wacky" puzzles (themers designed to generate a laugh) I'd much rather have three strong line-drives than two homers, a base on balls, and a batter hit by pitch. I'm not sure what that last one really means in terms of crossword answers, but I can think of a few "wacky" themers I've winced at in the past.

And look what freedom the fewer than normal number of themers opens up. Patrick, the consummate professional constructor, takes full advantage of it, giving us three pairs of long downs, all great: GREEK MYTH / SLAPSTICK, LEGOLAND / BUS ROUTE, THE DUDE / OBSCENE. And if that wasn't enough, he grabs hold of two six-letter entries to give us MRS WHO and NO SALT. Along with CT SCAN and OH BOY worked into the grid, that's the way to jazz up a puzzle.

Like any puzzle, it's not perfect, at least in this ultra-picky constructor's eyes. Those west and east sections get highly constrained considering the SLAPSTICK / CT SCAN borders on the east, for example. I'm not a big fan of ENGS, as I've preferred to call myself an ENGR. So perhaps I would have preferred SKI instead of ABE and ASEA instead of ADDS, turning ENGS into INGA. But that's a matter of personal taste. In the west, seeing OST bugged me. I like some foreign words if they're relatively common, but OST and ANGE and ESEL (a Germanl donkey) strike me as quite inelegant. There are other options there, why not use them? Of course, this is also subjective — I'm sure there are German scholars who will be writing in.

Finally, as if I didn't already admire the puzzle enough, two clues that sparkled. [Round one] had to be some sort of boxing-related answer? Nope — FATSO! Hopefully that word itself won't offend people, but it's a perfect misdirectional clue for one exhibiting an ovoidal nature. And to start a puzzle with [Breather] which just had to be REST was devious. I loved figuring out that I was totally wrong, LUNG indeed being a type of "breather."

Wednesdays can be hard, straddling the line between being relatively accessible and relatively clever. This puzzle does it really well.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,605
Across Down
1. Breather : LUNG
5. Car radio button : AMFM
9. Back of a 45 record : BSIDE
14. Telephone keypad abbr. : OPER
15. Wild hog : BOAR
16. Reporting to : UNDER
17. Where there's smoke : FLUE
18. "I'm game" : LETS
19. It's rattled metaphorically : SABER
20. Goodyear employees when they're on strike? : TIRELESSWORKERS
23. Feed : STOKE
24. "Goody, goody!" : OHBOY
25. Porch light circler : MOTH
28. The Buckeyes' sch. : OSU
29. He's to the right of Teddy on Mount Rushmore : ABE
32. Site with a "Time left" display : EBAY
35. Scenery chewer : HAM
37. It might reveal more than a simple X-ray : CTSCAN
39. Result of Santa misplacing his papers? : LISTLESSFEELING
42. Like some potatoes : MASHED
43. Cotton seed remover : GIN
44. Puts in : ADDS
45. Düsseldorf-to-Dresden direction : OST
46. Prop in a western : GUN
48. Maryland athlete, for short : TERP
50. "Me, too" : SODOI
52. First name in cosmetics : ESTEE
56. What the Red Sox had to start using in 1920? : RUTHLESSTACTICS
61. Women's golf star Lorena : OCHOA
62. "Like that's gonna happen" : ASIF
63. Some investment opportunities, in brief : IPOS
64. One who's not from around here : ALIEN
65. Lime green 25-Across : LUNA
66. Field for Gérard Depardieu and Audrey Tautou : CINE
67. Experimental division, for short : RANDD
68. Drop when one is down? : TEAR
69. The "K" in James K. Polk : KNOX
1. Some sleeping areas : LOFTS
2. Like the Statue of Liberty at night : UPLIT
3. Prefix with science : NEURO
4. Story set on Mount Olympus : GREEKMYTH
5. Up to the job : ABLE
6. Homer Simpson's watering hole : MOES
7. Round one : FATSO
8. Woman in "A Wrinkle in Time" : MRSWHO
9. It may be diagrammed on a city map : BUSROUTE
10. Serpentine : SNAKY
11. "___ much obliged" : IDBE
12. Traditional meat in a humble pie : DEER
13. Fouls up : ERRS
21. Baseball's Durocher ... or his astrological sign : LEO
22. Censorship-worthy : OBSCENE
26. Nickname for filmdom's Lebowski : THEDUDE
27. Holds : HAS
29. Liquid that burns : ACID
30. Posse, e.g. : BAND
31. Some M.I.T. grads: Abbr. : ENGS
32. Admiral Zumwalt : ELMO
33. Skewed view : BIAS
34. Helper: Abbr. : ASST
36. Knicks' home: Abbr. : MSG
38. Buster Keaton genre : SLAPSTICK
40. Theme park based on a toy : LEGOLAND
41. Tailor's concern : FIT
47. Margarita option : NOSALT
49. ___ room : REC
50. Did a farrier's job on : SHOED
51. People output : ISSUE
53. Easy basketball two-pointer : TIPIN
54. Prefix with metric : ECONO
55. Earl of ___, favorite of Queen Elizabeth I : ESSEX
56. Waterfall sound : ROAR
57. Sch. near Beverly Hills : UCLA
58. Like dangerous ice : THIN
59. Fey of "30 Rock" : TINA
60. Miles and miles away : AFAR

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle.

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