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New York Times, Thursday, July 17, 2014

Author: Alan Arbesfeld
Editor: Will Shortz
Alan Arbesfeld
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1138/27/198110/20/20160
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
22523332415
ScrabRebusCirclePangrampre-WS
1.605089

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 31 Missing: {BJXZ} This is puzzle # 106 for Mr. Arbesfeld. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes: It wouldn't be Thursday without a twist in our crossword! Alan brings us 'literal' interpretations of X BACK Y phrases, with X being ... more
Jeff Chen notes: It wouldn't be Thursday without a twist in our crossword! Alan brings us "literal" interpretations of X BACK Y phrases, with X being reversed. He also goes down to 74 words, which makes the puzzle more later-week-ish, giving it wider-open feel.

These types of puzzles cause me all sorts of internal debate, as to whether I "fix up" the answers for the database or not. Jim and I have all sorts of fun discussions about this. On one hand, manually changing PMUHWHALE to HUMPBACK WHALE makes it much easier for the solver to figure out the trick. It also means that there's less gobbledygook in our database. However, doing so takes away the link between the clue and the answer. After all, HUMPBACK WHALE is NOT a literal interpretation of [Singer in the sea]. As a solver, I applaud the kooky thinking. As a database administrator, I shake my fist at you all. Er, us all.

Interesting layout today, Alan choosing to leave giant swaths of white space in the NE and SW corners. Tough to fill these spaces, especially after you've fixed one long answer crossing through them. I think the SW came out quite nice, smooth except for STN and NIE, two common enough pieces of glue fill. SPARE TIRE next to TRUE LOVE, that's beautiful work. The NE felt crunchier to me, with ATT quasi-duplicating ATTY, a couple of ILA / SAS / ENORM type answers, and the crazy CDEF. Oof. I realize that some solvers will appreciate this entry since it's highly gettable, but it strikes me as most inelegant. Hard to fix once you place an F at the end of NERF. Look where CDEF falls: tightly constrained right between two themers.

I appreciated seeing a few throwbacks, QUAYLE getting a great clue in [Bush successor] (he succeeded Bush in the vice-presidency). And Lisa KUDROW... funny how poorly "Friends" has stood the test of time. Totally fine to me if LEBLANC and KUDROW become verboten to crosswords. But if George and even ESTELLE Costanza ever disappear... Jeff is getting angry!

Finally, beautiful clue for ALLCAPS. Not FLOP SWEAT or NERVOUS TIC sort of stress, but "emphasis" KIND OF STRESS. Good stuff. And the best today, [Something slipped under the counter?], a great repurposing of the "under the counter" slang for something literally slipped under the counter. So appropriate for today's literal theme.

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S
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C
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A
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O
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F
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,627
Across Down
1. Stars : SUNS
5. Blood group? : CLAN
9. Oscar nominee for "Affliction" : NOLTE
14. Draft status for someone in the Public Health Service : ONEC
15. Inspect the figures? : OGLE
16. Huge, in verse : ENORM
17. Singer in the sea, literally : HUMPBACKWHALE
19. Wrap up : RECAP
20. "Smack" : HEROIN
21. B's tail? : CDEF
23. Long-distance inits. : ATT
24. Something slipped under the counter? : STOOL
25. Feel one's ___ (be frisky) : OATS
26. Fiction's Atticus Finch, e.g.: Abbr. : ATTY
27. Plan B, literally : FALLBACKPOSITION
30. Place with a waiting room: Abbr. : STN
33. Some intellectual property, for short : TMS
34. Literary Leonard : ELMORE
35. One side of a hot-button social issue : PROLIFE
38. Ticked off : INASNIT
39. Skylights? : AURORA
40. A.C.C. school : UNC
41. Multinational carrier : SAS
42. Gridiron maneuver, literally : QUARTERBACKSNEAK
46. Comprehensive, in edspeak : ELHI
47. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Aparicio : LUIS
48. Dime novels and such : PULPS
52. Stocking stuffer : TOE
53. Ollie's partner in comedy : STAN
54. Negotiator's refusal : NODEAL
55. One of Donald's exes : IVANA
57. Little kid's lift, literally : PIGGYBACKRIDE
59. Frankincense or myrrh : RESIN
60. Read but not comment, in Internet lingo : LURK
61. Unlikely mate for a princess : OGRE
62. Big name in cosmetics : ESTEE
63. Summer Olympics event : EPEE
64. Stimulate : WHET
1. 10 students, for short? : SOPHS
2. Like overly optimistic goals, typically : UNMET
3. Intro to biology? : NEURO
4. Teach : SCHOOL
5. Singer Marc with the 1991 hit "Walking in Memphis" : COHN
6. JFK alternative : LGA
7. Indicator of stress : ALLCAPS
8. Must : NEEDTO
9. Hasbro brand : NERF
10. In dire need of gas, say : ONE
11. Spots : LOCATIONS
12. Vino spot : TRATTORIA
13. Fisherman's bane and hockey player's boon : EMPTYNETS
18. Plans to : WILL
22. Core : ESSENCE
25. "All ___" (Steve Martin/Lily Tomlin comedy) : OFME
26. Bread producers : ATMS
28. Guilty : ATFAULT
29. Pier grp. : ILA
30. Gut : SPARETIRE
31. Soul mates : TRUELOVES
32. 45 degrees : NORTHEAST
36. Petty around Hollywood : LORI
37. Grp. in a 1919-21 war of independence : IRA
38. Tolkien's Prancing Pony and others : INNS
40. Exhausting : USINGUP
43. Bush successor : QUAYLE
44. How individual firecrackers are priced? : APOP
45. "Friends" co-star : KUDROW
49. O'Hara portrayer : LEIGH
50. Tony Gwynn, notably : PADRE
51. Hard fall : SLEET
53. Ready to stand trial, in a way : SANE
54. Sponsor of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods : NIKE
56. Never: Ger. : NIE
58. M.A. hopeful's hurdle : GRE

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

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