New York Times, Monday, August 26, 2013

Author: Ian Livengood
Editor: Will Shortz
Ian Livengood
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554/12/20109/15/20164
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617667112
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1.64371

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQXZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 30 for Mr. Livengood. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ian Livengood notes: I was researching potential words to justify vertical theme answers. Why? Why not, I say. 'Hanging' was vertically appropriate ... more
Ian Livengood notes: I was researching potential words to justify vertical theme answers. Why? Why not, I say. "Hanging" was vertically appropriate and that led to LOW HANGING FRUIT. I scrapped BLIND MELON at 38-Down since the band wasn't quite Monday-appropriate as a theme answer and, most important, the fruit grew in the ground instead of dangling from a tree. Hope solvers like this one, it's hard to make 'em any easier. Come for the SWEET TALK, stay for the CENTER CUT. Enjoy!
Will Shortz notes: Ian worked as my assistant back in the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011. It was the first puzzle job he'd ever had, beneficial for ... more
Will Shortz notes: Ian worked as my assistant back in the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011. It was the first puzzle job he'd ever had, beneficial for both of us. He's now at Penny Press puzzle magazines in Connecticut. Ian's constructions are always super clean (like this one), and he's very flexible. Easy, medium or hard — he can construct an elegant puzzle at any skill level.
Jeff Chen notes: Almost all crosswords place theme answers horizontally, because they're generally easier for solvers to pick out that way. It's a ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Almost all crosswords place theme answers horizontally, because they're generally easier for solvers to pick out that way. It's a rare puzzle that can successfully pull off vertical themers, and Ian does it well. A simple theme for a Monday, one with good rationale why the themers should run down instead of across.

Note that Ian didn't just choose any four fruits, but ones that are disguised within their phrases. Sure, SODA LIME or PRICKLY PEAR would exhibit literal LOW HANGING FRUIT, but the first isn't a fun phrase and the second isn't disguised. DIDNT GIVE A FIG could work, but it doesn't fit the two-word pattern. So bravo to Ian for being both consistent and specific in his choice of themers.

18A and 63A are fun longer fill, but do they distract from the theme (making solvers wonder what SWEET TALK and CENTER CUT have to do with LOW HANGING FRUIT)? In this case I think it's totally fine because the theme is so obvious, but it would be a different story if the theme were more difficult to ascertain.

Finally, a JWDW (Jeff would do WHAT?!) moment. Will made an excellent point last week about a great majority of his audience already being NYT xw solvers, so that's what he edits to. But I would love to see at least a few super-easy Monday puzzles throughout the year, since it's difficult to get most of my friends to even try a NYT puzzle. Today's is certainly fair (all answers are ones that an educated person ought to know), but I can see how it would be tough for newbies (EL AL, ULEE, OCHS, OLEO, ESTES). Here's an idea for audience-building, which I think is important for the long-term health of crosswords: what if puzzles in the first week of the month were relatively easier than the rest of the month? Anyway, something to consider.

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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 23,302
Across Down
1. For real, in slang : LEGIT
6. Day-___ paint : GLO
9. 2008 candidate with the slogan "Change we can believe in" : OBAMA
14. Supreme Court justice Samuel : ALITO
15. Tech giant with the catchphrase "You've got mail" : AOL
16. English royal house before Stuart : TUDOR
17. "Come on, stop being such a wimp!" : MANUP
18. Wheedle : SWEETTALK
20. Backup strategy : PLANB
21. Push roughly : SHOVE
22. "Au revoir, ___ amis" : MES
23. Course that's a cinch : EASYA
25. Investments for old age, for short : IRAS
27. Largest inland city in California : FRESNO
30. Org. for the Redskins, but not the Reds : NFL
32. 5K or 10K : RACE
35. Grazing area : LEA
36. "A penny saved is a penny earned," e.g. : ADAGE
38. Two-legged creature : BIPED
39. Illegal torching : ARSON
41. Old Russian space station : MIR
42. Minor failing : LAPSE
43. "Kama ___" (ancient love guide) : SUTRA
44. Case of the blahs : ENNUI
46. PC hookup : LAN
47. Door turner : KNOB
48. "Life of Pi" director Lee : ANG
49. Nasty looks : SNEERS
51. Letters of invitation? : RSVP
53. Serves meals to : FEEDS
55. Eggs in fertility clinics : OVA
57. Gets closer to : NEARS
59. Pretty poor grade : DPLUS
63. Like some premium roasts : CENTERCUT
65. Garlicky sauce : AIOLI
66. Note an alto is unlikely to hit : HIGHC
67. Even score : TIE
68. Basic belief : TENET
69. Stylishly streamlined : SLEEK
70. Urban grid: Abbr. : STS
71. A cube has 12 of them : EDGES
1. Reading light : LAMP
2. Carrier to Israel : ELAL
3. Actress Gershon of "Bound" : GINA
4. ___ Store (source of many 99¢ downloads) : ITUNES
5. Kingpin : TOPBANANA
6. Bloated : GASSY
7. Simple things to pick ... or what 5-, 11-, 29- and 38-Down have? : LOWHANGINGFRUIT
8. Ersatz butter : OLEO
9. Riverbank frolicker : OTTER
10. "Nothing ___ net" : BUT
11. Lump that moves when you swallow : ADAMSAPPLE
12. Distinctive Cindy Crawford feature : MOLE
13. Clumsy boats : ARKS
19. Satan's doing : EVIL
24. Turf : SOD
26. Diva's delivery : ARIA
27. Hooch container : FLASK
28. Any "Seinfeld" showing, now : RERUN
29. "Colorful" city bordering Newark, N.J. : EASTORANGE
31. Office plant : FERN
33. Onetime Joker portrayer ___ Romero : CESAR
34. Perfect settings : EDENS
37. "You said it, brother!" : AMEN
38. Dinner and a movie, say, with someone you don't know : BLINDDATE
40. Spheres : ORBS
45. "___ it or lose it" : USE
48. Mimicry pro : APER
50. Glimpsed : ESPIED
52. Style of T-shirt that does not have a round collar : VNECK
54. ___ Park, Colo. : ESTES
55. Former New York Times publisher Adolph : OCHS
56. Bit of headgear raised at the wedding altar : VEIL
58. Stage presentations : ACTS
60. ___ John Silver : LONG
61. Title beekeeper in a 1997 film : ULEE
62. Takes the bench : SITS
64. Word usually ignored in alphabetization : THE

Answer summary: 1 debuted here and reused later.

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