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STRIKE ONE

New York Times, Sunday, June 8, 2014

Author: Patrick Berry
Editor: Will Shortz
Patrick Berry
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2197/11/19992/4/20172
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
711241672512
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1.54980
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 142, Blocks: 75 Missing: {Q} This is puzzle # 186 for Mr. Berry. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes: Such a pleasure to open up a puzzle and see Patrick Berry's byline. I know I'll get at the very least a smooth, fun solving experience, and it can easily go all the way up to five-star incredulity. I especially ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Such a pleasure to open up a puzzle and see Patrick Berry's byline. I know I'll get at the very least a smooth, fun solving experience, and it can easily go all the way up to five-star incredulity. I especially like seeing his byline on a Sunday puzzle, as I personally tend to need a little something extra in order to keep my attention through the entire solve (one of his Sundays from 2008 is among my very favorite crosswords of all time). I got that today, a clever theme involving the crossing out of letters which doubles as the letter X.

The "replace-a-letter" and "add-a-letter" and "subtract-a-letter" type themes are still fine as long as they produce humorous resulting themers, but I so very much appreciate Patrick's desire to push the envelope. This could have easily been "change a C to an X" type theme for example, but he goes above and beyond to find themers which have a nice base (SMILEY FACES) as well as a funny outcome (SMILEY FAXES). And the X doubling as a "strikeout" in the clue is a pretty cool idea.

I would have liked the crossing answers to display an equal propensity to change (with funny results) when X'ed, though. I found it slightly unsatisfying that TIC didn't become TIX, for example. That would have been much harder to accomplish, perhaps having themers cross? Anyway, could just be a personal desire. Even without that extra layer I still quite enjoyed the solve, because...

Patrick always does such a fine job of filling his grids. Sundays are notoriously difficult to smoothly fill, but he both incorporates strong long fill and minimizes his glue-type entries. You might think the latter is achieved through brute force, auto-fill, whatever, but it's often determined very early on, when the constructors fixes their initial skeleton of black squares. With certain arrangements, you're almost never going to get "good fill," so figuring out that initial skeleton is 75% of the work. Patrick always does a great job of maximizing his spacing, and in this case (10 themers!) it's even more impressive that he has very few highly constrained spots in his grid.

That other 25%... check out the NE and SW corners. To have triple-stacked 8's with TWO themers running through each is no small feat. It is helpful that he can swap LESSER APES with BODY DOUBLE (same with THE ART OF WAR and SKIP TO MY LOU) and I'll bet he tried the permutations to figure out which would give smoother fills. He doesn't incorporate many Scrabbly letters, but I'd much rather see clean fill instead of hiccups caused by a J/Q/X/Z. The resulting corners are clean as a whistle, with just a MLLE and an OCT in total.

Finally, the clues. A puzzle can be ultra-smooth but still suffer if the clues are drab (or too dictionary-ish). This is especially important in a Sunday, where a half-dozen great clues can greatly enhance a puzzle. [Sucker?] for VAMPIRE. The clue for I'M FINE evoking images of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" ("tis only a flesh wound!"). [Raised on books?] for EMBOSSED. And the beautiful [Give a piece to] for arm ("piece" being slang for gun). The clues made my solving experience even better.

All in all, a wonderful solve.

ADDED NOTE: I can't believe I missed this. The crossed out letters spell CROSSED OUT. So, so, SO cool! And forget what I said about being able to swap out LESSER APES and BODY DOUBLE — making those NE and SW corners even more impressive!

1
M
2
O
3
P
4
I
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D
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I
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O
8
T
9
I
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C
11
M
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A
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A
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M
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A
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B
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C
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S
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A
H
A
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V
A
M
P
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R
E
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O
S
L
O
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S
L
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T
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S
M
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L
E
Y
F
A
CX
E
S
25
T
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L
T
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I
O
T
A
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K
Y
R
A
28
B
I
L
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T
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H
E
A
R
T
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O
F
W
A
RX
32
B
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E
E
N
34
M
35
P
A
A
36
I
O
U
37
O
D
E
38
A
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R
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T
O
O
D
E
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T
O
OX
42
L
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E
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S
S
E
R
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A
P
E
SX
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R
E
R
U
N
S
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E
R
I
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K
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L
E
E
S
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B
E
L
A
51
A
G
A
R
S
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M
A
G
N
E
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S
I
A
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C
A
N
S
T
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R
U
M
S
56
B
E
A
U
T
Y
C
O
N
57
T
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E
SX
T
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A
L
P
60
L
A
C
E
61
S
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A
L
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E
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N
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S
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T
A
L
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C
67
A
N
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M
R
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69
D
O
N
70
S
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R
E
H
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I
R
E
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D
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R
75
J
76
F
O
R
T
77
L
O
O
78
E
V
E
R
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G
R
E
E
80
N
T
R
E
EX
81
R
I
C
O
82
E
83
B
84
O
N
Y
85
L
O
P
E
A
R
E
D
86
D
E
M
O
N
87
M
L
L
E
88
S
89
H
O
O
90
Z
I
O
N
91
M
O
D
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N
E
92
B
O
DX
Y
93
D
O
U
B
L
94
E
95
F
O
OX
96
F
I
G
H
T
E
R
97
O
C
T
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A
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M
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G
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A
S
P
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I
N
G
E
102
S
K
I
103
P
T
O
M
104
Y
105
L
O
UX
106
A
L
A
107
A
108
C
109
M
110
E
111
S
A
M
E
112
R
E
M
O
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D
114
E
115
S
S
E
R
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T
TX
R
A
Y
117
E
D
E
N
118
A
R
C
S
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E
M
I
T
T
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D
120
U
K
E
121
D
E
R
N
122
L
S
A
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123
N
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D
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124
X
E
D
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,588
Across Down
1. Swabby's need : MOP
4. Brainless : IDIOTIC
11. Cowboy-to-lady address : MAAM
15. Early teachings : ABCS
19. Triumphant shout : AHA
20. Sucker? : VAMPIRE
21. Capital with more than 300 lakes within its limits : OSLO
22. Skirt feature : SLIT
23. Symbols of happiness Transmissions with colons, dashes and parentheses? : SMILEYFAXES
25. Bias : TILT
26. Tiny bit : IOTA
27. Sedgwick of "The Closer" : KYRA
28. Cartoonist Keane : BIL
29. Sun Tzu tome Madame Tussaud's specialty? : THEARTOFWAX
32. Has-___ : BEEN
34. NC-17 assigner: Abbr. : MPAA
36. Paper exchanged for coin : IOU
37. Poetic tribute : ODE
38. "Star Wars" character Where droids go to dry out? : ARTOODETOX
42. Gibbons and siamangs Mountaintop that's not the very top? : LESSERAPEX
46. Familiar episodes : RERUNS
47. The Phantom of the Opera : ERIK
49. Wine bottle residue : LEES
50. Composer Bartók : BELA
51. Gelling agents : AGARS
52. Antacid ingredient : MAGNESIA
54. Are able, archaically : CANST
55. Caribbean exports : RUMS
56. Pageant Circumstances that render someone attractive? : BEAUTYCONTEXT
59. Climber's challenge : ALP
60. Wedding gown material : LACE
61. Take a load off : SIT
62. Abductors in a tabloid story : ALIENS
65. Mohs scale mineral : TALC
67. Hill raiser : ANT
68. Hosp. procedure : MRI
69. Oxford teachers : DONS
71. Bring back on : REHIRE
73. Four-time pro hoops M.V.P. : DRJ
76. Setting for 76-Down : FORT
77. English privy : LOO
78. Pine, e.g. Dinosaur that never goes out of style? : EVERGREENTREX
81. Like un millonario : RICO
82. Black : EBONY
85. Like some bunnies and hounds : LOPEARED
86. "Paranormal Activity" creature : DEMON
87. Miss, in Meuse: Abbr. : MLLE
88. "You're not welcome!" : SHOO
90. Jewish homeland : ZION
91. "Vision Quest" co-star Matthew : MODINE
92. Studio substitute Squarish bed? : BOXYDOUBLE
95. Member of a certain 1990s-2000s rock band Censor unhappy with "Family Guy" and "Glee," maybe? : FOXFIGHTER
97. Mo. for campaign surprises : OCT
98. Give a piece to : ARM
99. [I am SHOCKED!] : GASP
101. "Picnic" playwright : INGE
102. Children's song Ignore the rest of the lunch I brought and just eat the fish? : SKIPTOMYLOX
106. Like : ALA
107. Warner Bros. cartoon company : ACME
111. Aforementioned : SAME
112. Italy's San ___ : REMO
113. After-dinner display One way to see a pie's filling? : DESSERTXRAY
117. Trouble-free place : EDEN
118. Compass tracings : ARCS
119. Put out : EMITTED
120. Don Ho played it : UKE
121. Bruce of "Nebraska" : DERN
122. Exam administered qtly. : LSAT
123. You'll see a lot of them : NUDISTS
124. Struck out, as one letter in each of this puzzle's theme answers : XED
1. Costume accessory : MASK
2. "I wasn't expecting that!" : OHMY
3. Modest poker holding : PAIR
4. Suffix with mass or dismiss : IVE
5. Futon alternatives : DAYBEDS
6. "It's only a scratch!" : IMFINE
7. Harlequin ___ (multicolored gem) : OPAL
8. Odd mannerism : TIC
9. High dudgeon : IRE
10. Jai alai basket : CESTA
11. Particle : MOTE
12. Big holding in Risk : ASIA
13. Order in the court? : ALLRISE
14. Some Latin inscriptions : MOTTOES
15. Like : ASIF
16. Use dynamite on, as a safe : BLOWOPEN
17. Strongholds : CITADELS
18. Studies intently : STARESAT
24. "Love's ___ Lost" : LABOURS
30. Villain of "2001" : HAL
31. Lord's Prayer starter : OUR
33. Years on end : EONS
34. Dead storage : MORGUE
35. North or west : POINT
38. Dormant Turkish volcano : ARARAT
39. Dependable patron : REGULAR
40. Walk all over : TRAMPLE
41. Unpopular 1773 legislation : TEAACT
43. "Middlemarch" author : ELIOT
44. With 103-Down, "Hurlyburly" star : SEAN
45. Tapered off : ABATED
48. Ringed set : KEYS
52. Less forgiving : MEANER
53. "Hard" or "soft" subj. : SCI
54. 2000 CBS premiere : CSI
56. Loudspeaker sound : BLARE
57. Like some roads and roofs : TARRED
58. A-listers : ELITE
63. Like some poker games : NOLIMIT
64. Carnival cooler : SNOCONE
66. Political commentator Liz : CHENEY
68. Singer/actress Rita : MORENO
70. Tulsa resident : SOONER
72. Brown greenery? : IVY
73. Dribble : DROOL
74. Sales employee : REP
75. "Aw, come on!" : JEEZ
76. Sitcom set during the 1860s : FTROOP
79. Amorphous lump : GLOB
80. Babes in the woods : NAIFS
81. 1988 Schwarzenegger action film : REDHEAT
82. Raised on books? : EMBOSSED
83. Sea wall? : BLOCKADE
84. Golden ager : OLDTIMER
86. Snoop ___ : DOGG
88. Like some twins : SORORAL
89. Non-fuel-efficient vehicles : HUMMERS
91. Mosque tower : MINARET
93. "Can't Help Lovin' ___ Man" ("Show Boat" song) : DAT
94. Psyche component : EGO
96. Fishmonger's cuts : FILETS
100. "Funeral Blues" poet : AUDEN
103. See 44-Down : PENN
104. Exercise venue, for short : YMCA
105. At sea : LOST
106. Barbera d'___ (red wine) : ASTI
108. Essence : CRUX
109. Cook up : MAKE
110. Kept in sight : EYED
114. Ostrich lookalike : EMU
115. Caesar on TV : SID
116. QB feats : TDS

Answer summary: 11 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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