New York Times, Friday, July 11, 2014

Author: Sam Ezersky and Victor Fleming
Editor: Will Shortz
Sam Ezersky
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
117/28/20128/14/20164
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
00121241
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.76100
Victor Fleming
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
453/29/20059/12/201623
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
75106656
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.55023

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 28 Missing: {QX} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 5 for Mr. Ezersky. This is puzzle # 40 for Mr. Fleming. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Constructor notes: Sam: So, Vic, do you recall how we came up with this ANAKIN SKYWALKER puzzle? Vic: Uh ... Anakin was a classmate of yours. He ... more
Constructor notes: Sam: So, Vic, do you recall how we came up with this ANAKIN SKYWALKER puzzle?

Vic: Uh ... Anakin was a classmate of yours. He friended you on Facebook. And I said, "We should totally put him in a puzzle! I loved him in that Ewok movie."

Sam: Precisely! BTW, Anakin did well in Econ last semester. So, yeah, we designed this grid with as much lively fill as possible, garnished it with some Scrabbly flair. I even learned a word; when you suggested DEMIJOHN, I Googled for a tabloid name between stars Moore and Cusack ... since when are they an item?

Vic: When you told me that story about finding an ENERGY BAR in a SEWER LINE and thinking, "I bet that TASTES BAD!", who'd a-thunk you could jam those phrases into a crossword?! You use lots of multi-unit answers. In a themeless you did in May, there were, like, 50! Where'd you learn that?

Sam: I'll never tell. [wink] But it's not like I was working alone.

Vic: How cool is it that Will kept several of our clues! Like yours for PEEN, "Part for a whackjob?"

Sam: "What Kramer often called Seinfeld" was yours for JER.

Vic: "They might like your comments" — your clue for FACEBOOK FRIENDS.

Sam: My clue for BUTTS — "Moon units?" — was changed only slightly, to "Moon views?"

Vic: Close enough! I'll give it to you.

Sam: Loved your clue for TE AMO, "Phrase cooed en español."

Vic: And I loved yours for AREA CODES, "409 and 410, but not 411."

Sam: All in all, a good effort. I hope everyone likes what they see. It's been a pleasure working with you.

Vic! Here's to many more collaborations!

Vic: As they say in the clue for IT'D BE ... my pleasure!

Sam: That wasn't in our puzzle.

Vic: No, but it coulda been.

Sam: BARCA was the better choice.

Vic: Especially with your clue, "Spanish soccer club, to fans."

Jeff Chen notes: Fun to see another one from a strong pair, wizened Judge Vic and the young Skywalker padawan. Er, Ezersky. If history tells us ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Fun to see another one from a strong pair, wizened Judge Vic and the young Skywalker padawan. Er, Ezersky. If history tells us anything Vic, you might want to check Sam's dark-side pockets for light sabers. Seriously though, I enjoy seeing collaborations, and an established one that has this much fun working together gives me a great big smile.

A lot of strong material today, anchored by the nice central grid-spanners, ANAKIN SKYWALKER and FACEBOOK FRIENDS. They go big with the grid design, not just satisfied with four additional sets of triple-stacked corners. It would have been easy for them to section off the SW and NE corners to make them easier to fill (similar to how the NW and SE corners dead-end), but they chose to go for 1.) more puzzle flow and 2.) two additional long answers in JOE CAMEL and KING SIZE. I like how open those two corners are, giving the solver multiple ways in.

That decision did cost them a little, in various entries such as ARNE (not the most famous of cabinet members) and ONE AM (an arbitrary time) and JER (as much as I love Seinfeld, this answer looks so odd to me). Still, the overall effect is well worth the trade-off.

Speaking of the dark side, finding an ENERGY BAR in a SEWER LINE (and eating it George Constanza style) TASTES BAD all right. Not an image I can get out of my head unfortunately now. (Someone pass me a light saber for an emergency lobotomy.) It won't bother everyone, but if it grossed me out, I bet others will feel similarly. TASTES BAD also seems a bit arbitrary to me, opening up the door to TASTES GOOD, TASTES SALTY, TASTES FISHY, TASTES LIKE AN ENERGY BAR I FOUND IN THE SEWER LINE. All in all, it's a reasonable answer, just not one I would consider stellar at the big-impression 1-Across location.

Normally, I don't care for cross-referenced clues, which make you jump all over the grid. I ignore them most of the time, unless the two entries are close in proximity. But today I appreciated the SITS / BANC cross-ref, since it helped me finish the tough NW corner (in which I was stuck). It helped improve the quality of my solve, and that's really the most important factor to any puzzle.

I loved seeing PO-PO in the grid! I only heard the term a few years ago, but it stuck in my head. I like getting a bit of slang worked in. Too much goes away from what makes this the NYT puzzle, but every once in a while a piece of good (and up-to-date) slang does wonders. To my delight, WHAT'S UP G? has been used (although I've only heard the "more correct" WHAT UP G?). The first time one of the kids I work with said YO WHAT UP G? to me I was baffled. Gave him the silent head nod, and that seemed to be acceptable.

Finally, some beautiful clues. Some of my favorites were actually DERIDE and ONUS, with two seemingly innocent clues. [Knock sharply] threw me off track, thinking about RAP AT THE DOOR, and [Large charge] felt like it should be AMEX BILL or MEGACOULOMBS. But my top choice today was [Outerwear for moguls?], which misdirected to ITALIAN SUITS or something. Great a-ha when I figured out that the moguls were referring to ski slope moguls.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,621
Across Down
1. Displeases one's buds? : TASTESBAD
10. Dart maker ... or dart : DODGE
15. R.V. park hookup option : SEWERLINE
16. When New York's Central Park closes : ONEAM
17. Snack in a gym bag : ENERGYBAR
18. Clog : GUMUP
19. Phrase cooed en español : TEAMO
20. Opposite of miniature : KINGSIZE
22. Uses a 49-Down : SITS
23. People thank God when it comes : FRIDAY
25. What Kramer often called Seinfeld : JER
26. Joseph of ice cream : EDY
27. Art ___, Steelers owner for 55 years : ROONEY
28. Cops, in slang : POPO
29. Moon views? : BUTTS
30. "Wiener Frauen" composer : LEHAR
31. They might like your comments : FACEBOOKFRIENDS
36. N.F.L. team that went 0-16 in 2008 : LIONS
37. Have an itch : YEARN
38. Duncan of Obama's cabinet : ARNE
39. Impound lot charge : TOWAGE
41. Jump start? : JAY
44. Gomer Pyle, e.g.: Abbr. : PFC
45. Trees used to make shoe trees : CEDARS
46. Enfant bearer : MERE
47. Ad mascot in sunglasses : JOECAMEL
49. Spanish soccer club, for short : BARCA
50. Spirit : ARDOR
51. Outerwear for moguls? : SKIPARKAS
54. Battery for many a toy : CCELL
55. Like a 1938 Andrew Jackson stamp : SEVENCENT
56. Writer featured in "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" : KESEY
57. 409 and 410, but not 411 : AREACODES
1. Scary little sucker : TSETSE
2. 12-book classic : AENEID
3. Like many exercisers : SWEATY
4. The "2x" and "5" in 2x + 5, e.g. : TERMS
5. Accordingly : ERGO
6. Designing : SLY
7. Restaurant accessory : BIB
8. Knight who fell to the dark side : ANAKINSKYWALKER
9. Knock sharply : DERIDE
10. Spot, to a tot : DOGGY
11. Large charge : ONUS
12. Cousin of a carafe : DEMIJOHN
13. It may cover a tear : GAUZEPAD
14. Power line? : EMPERORS
21. Unfavorable reply : NAY
23. Shot, informally : FOTO
24. Tiller attachment? : ROTO
27. Coats put on at barbecues : RUBS
28. Part for a whack job? : PEEN
29. Well, in Rome : BENE
30. Old change in the Vatican : LIRE
31. Hotcake : FLAPJACK
32. Jet pack? : AIRFORCE
33. Cries uncle : CONCEDES
34. What chickens have : FEAR
35. Clothing, colloquially : RAGS
39. Pro ___ : TEM
40. Seat of Ector County, Tex. : ODESSA
41. Moved like a whiptail : JERKED
42. Apprehended by a small group : ARCANE
43. Brewers' supplies : YEASTS
45. Pop singer ___ Rae Jepsen : CARLY
46. Cry in a swimming pool game : MARCO
48. He had a 1948 #1 hit with "Nature Boy" : COLE
49. Judge's perch : BANC
52. "___ no idea" : IVE
53. Kind of gravel : PEA

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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