New York Times, Saturday, August 24, 2013

Author: Frederick J. Healy
Editor: Will Shortz
Frederick J. Healy
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0100039
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1.58000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 32 Missing: {BJQV} Spans: 4, (2 double stacks) This is puzzle # 9 for Mr. Healy. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes: An excellent puzzle, one that would have earned the vaunted POW! (Puzzle of the Week) if Ian's themeless hadn't run yesterday. Note ... more
Jeff Chen notes: An excellent puzzle, one that would have earned the vaunted POW! (Puzzle of the Week) if Ian's themeless hadn't run yesterday. Note the fine execution of the near triple-stacks (17A/20A/22A and 42A/51A/53A). Often triple-stacks contain an ugly or a blah 15-letter entry, but Frederick gives us six long entries that would each qualify (in my book) as a marquee answer. Impressive feat.

Solvers will also typically complain that triple-stacks force ugly crossing answers. That definitely can be true, since a triple-stack requires 15 sets of parallel constraints, but Frederick does it admirably here. The top one is especially nice, with not a clunker in there. OF TEA and A RUDE in the bottom half are perfectly acceptable, but they're not ideal. I didn't know GELEE, but was interested to learn what it was.

Will gets more themeless submissions than any other type, so we as constructors have to up our game to get serious consideration for a themeless acceptance. A small number of subpar entries (esoteric, partials, abbreviations, etc.) can be cause for rejection, and even a single poor entry can nix a puzzle. Given this fact, getting enough "sparkly" answers is a tough feat to accomplish. By my estimate, a themeless puzzle needs at least 10 of them to even be in the running these days.

If you have time, you might consider browsing older "Pre-Shortzian" themeless puzzles (thanks to David Steinberg for leading the "litzing" efforts) available on xwordinfo. Amazing to see how much cleaner and more interesting themeless puzzles are these days.

JimH notes: Jeff is right that modern fill is often much cleaner but, for me, the value of the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project is that it demonstrates ... more
JimH notes: Jeff is right that modern fill is often much cleaner but, for me, the value of the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project is that it demonstrates how much creativity and downright cleverness existed from the earliest NYT crosswords. Many of the gimmicks we consider to be modern actually have a long history. Every era builds on the pioneers who came before but constructor ingeniousness, humor and imagination have always been there.
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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 23,300
Across Down
1. Start of a phobia? : XENO
5. All the best? : ALIST
10. Five-time U.S. Open winner : GRAF
14. Immensely : ATON
15. Leisurely : LENTO
16. Sign of virtue : HALO
17. Malted alternatives : CHOCOLATESHAKES
20. Be ruthless : TAKENOPRISONERS
21. Run-___ : ONS
22. Pair of word processors? : CUTANDPASTE
23. Instinctive reaction : GUT
24. Verbal gem : MOT
25. Bygone country name or its currency : ZAIRE
28. Safe to push off : SEAWORTHY
34. It springs from Monte Falterona : ARNO
35. Brush off : SPURN
36. Place for tiger woods? : ASIA
37. Get going : KICKSTART
39. Not at all sharp, maybe : ONKEY
40. A shot : PER
41. Plant production: Abbr. : MFG
42. "Go figure!" : IMAGINETHAT
48. One of the muskrats in the 1976 hit "Muskrat Love" : SAM
51. Play savior : COMETOTHERESCUE
53. Dual diner dish : APPLEPIEALAMODE
54. Stickler's citation : RULE
55. "Or else ___ despiser of good manners": Shak. : ARUDE
56. Newton, e.g. : UNIT
57. Event with body cords : EPEE
58. Not at all sharp : DENSE
59. Lands : GETS
1. Brand of blades : XACTO
2. Brand of literature : ETHAN
3. Where seekers may find hiders : NOOKS
4. Almost never : ONCE
5. Go-for-broke : ALLOUT
6. Proceeded precipitately : LEAPT
7. IV component : INTRA
8. Chain of off-price department stores : STEINMART
9. Guzzle : TOSSDOWN
10. Home of the world's largest artificial lake : GHANA
11. Ground crew gear? : RAKES
12. Like prairie dogs, notably : ALERT
13. "Pippin" Tony winner : FOSSE
18. As if scripted : ONCUE
19. "Get the lead out!" : HOPTO
23. Get inside and out : GROK
25. Director/screenwriter Penn : ZAK
26. "Exodus" character : ARI
27. Magazine with an annual "500|5000" conference : INC
28. Likely result of excess 17- and 53-Across : SPARETIRE
29. Prefix with 36-Across : EUR
30. Seemed to be : RANG
31. Bit of chiding : TSK
32. Not dally : HIE
33. "That's fantastic news!" : YAY
35. One bound to hold notes? : STENOPAD
38. Venom : SPITE
39. Spot ___ : OFTEA
41. Actress Matlin : MARLEE
42. Words of support : ICARE
43. Do the final details on : MOPUP
44. Not coming up short : AMPLE
45. Frost, to François : GELEE
46. Human Development Report publisher, in brief : THEUN
47. About 50% of calls : HEADS
48. Turnover alternative : SCONE
49. Tax burden? : AUDIT
50. Measures up to : MEETS
52. Like many a goody-goody : SMUG

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

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