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New York Times, Friday, September 26, 2014

Author: Patrick Berry
Editor: Will Shortz
Patrick Berry
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711241672512
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1.54980
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 36 Missing: {FQVXYZ} This is puzzle # 189 for Mr. Berry. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Shortz notes: One of my rules for crosswords is that I want the solver to understand every clue after its answer is filled in. The clue can be ... more
Will Shortz notes: One of my rules for crosswords is that I want the solver to understand every clue after its answer is filled in. The clue can be misleading, infuriating, maybe impossible to get without all the crossings, but once it's filled in, the solver should understand what it means. I know I hate it when I don't "get" a clue. Hence, I have some qualms about the clue for NEWSMEN ("Post office workers?") at 18D. Some solvers might wonder, after finally filling in the answer — Why would newsmen work at post offices? (rather than get that Post here is a proper name). In this case, though, qualms be damned. The clue was too good not to use.
Jeff Chen notes: I'm really digging Patrick's recent experimentation with the 'stairstep' triple-13's (in the middle of the grid). This arrangement ... more
Jeff Chen notes: I'm really digging Patrick's recent experimentation with the "stairstep" triple-13's (in the middle of the grid). This arrangement has so much potential to fill a themeless grid with even more snazzy long entries than usual. Patrick gives us strong work in grid development — 66-word themelesses are so incredibly difficult to get clean — and as with most all of Patrick's puzzles, the clues really sing with clever word play.

Some beautiful long entries today. One of Patrick's strengths is choosing ones that are both 1.) in the language and 2.) amenable to a sneaky clue. Many constructors select "feature entries" that are the name of their favorite indie band or some piece of lingo/esoterica not very well known. Those can be great, but their clues usually have to be definitional (as if coming out of Webster's) for them to be fair. I so much prefer entries that adhere to both criteria. BINGO NIGHT, for example, is a fantastic answer in itself, and the clue about one's number being called makes it even better.

Given the high bar Patrick's set for himself, I was a little surprised to see the partial C'EST and the obscure card game SKAT, and in adjacent across answers. With just two liabilities, that's less than typically seen in themelesses. For any other constructor I'd shrug them off, barely noticing them. I like how C'EST enables the snappy triple of ROBOTIC / COAL MINE / BACK TALKS, and there doesn't seem to be any way to easily mend that little bit.

I took apart the south section to see how tough that would be to modify. Turns out it's awfully difficult. With DRAGGED OUT, LOUIE LOUIE, and GEOLOGIST (great clue, BTW!) in place, the only fix for SKAT I could find was to place a black square at the S to make KAT (and IDLE, singular). But that causes problems in the north section, turning it from a flawless fill to something not so hot. GET TO becomes something like ATTO; not great. Knowing how much care Patrick puts into his work, I can only imagine him gnashing his teeth, going to all sorts of lengths to figure out how to get rid of a single glue entry.

Sometimes Patrick's puzzles can feel a bit light on Scrabbly letters, since he tends to favor entries with more common letters in order to facilitate cleaner fill. Today's there's just a lone J, but it's integrated so well, not a piece of glue needed to get it in, smooth as silk. And a lovely clue for PJS, making me think about infomercials at first.

I wouldn't say it's quintessential Berry given the two small dings on the bottom row, but it still gave me Berryesque pleasure. Always a treat to see his name on the byline.

1
P
2
A
3
R
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I
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S
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S
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H
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A
9
G
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S
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A
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A
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B
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A
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15
P
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P
E
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T
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O
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B
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N
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H
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A
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S
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B
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W
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D
O
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M
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N
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D
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B
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U
S
T
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O
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H
A
R
E
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B
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M
M
I
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N
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G
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A
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D
34
C
A
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P
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S
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R
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C
K
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G
H
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R
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S
36
O
A
K
E
N
37
L
A
S
S
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B
L
T
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G
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I
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B
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P
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J
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M
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N
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D
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G
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E
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D
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U
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E
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L
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K
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E
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S
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S
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E
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C
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S
K
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E
N
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E
D
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,698
Across Down
1. "Ninotchka" setting : PARIS
6. Fad dance of the 1930s : SHAG
10. Swedish Air Force supplier : SAAB
14. Hollywood job : AGENT
15. Water bearer : PIPE
16. Lady Antebellum, e.g. : TRIO
17. Someone might call your number this evening : BINGONIGHT
19. Asian tourist magnet : AGRA
20. Delayed sensation? : SLEEPERHIT
21. 1920s-'30s debate opponent of Einstein : BOHR
22. 15-Across shape : TEE
23. "The road of excess leads to the palace of ___": William Blake : WISDOM
25. Succumb to drowsiness : NOD
26. Exceed 21 in twenty-one : BUST
28. Orchard Field, today : OHARE
30. Spending time unprofitably : BUMMINGAROUND
34. Little homewreckers? : CARPENTERANTS
35. Some carved Victorian toys : ROCKINGHORSES
36. Strong and durable, in a way : OAKEN
37. Maid : LASS
38. Deli offering : BLT
39. Gin cocktail : GIBSON
43. They're on during the wee hours, briefly : PJS
46. Arab League member : OMAN
48. Lengthened unnecessarily : DRAGGEDOUT
51. Roofing material : TILE
52. 1963 song investigated by the F.B.I. for supposedly obscene lyrics : LOUIELOUIE
53. Cartridge fillers : INKS
54. Forever, basically : EONS
55. In the intervening time : SINCE
56. Cole Porter's "___ Magnifique" : CEST
57. Three-player card game : SKAT
58. Wound up : ENDED
1. Brewer of Schlitz, nowadays : PABST
2. Catlike, in a way : AGILE
3. Soprano Fleming : RENEE
4. "Splendor in the Grass" screenwriter : INGE
5. Telegraphy word : STOP
6. Secretly carrying (off) : SPIRITING
7. Weathercast numbers : HIGHS
8. Fruit grower's bane : APHID
9. Reach : GETTO
10. Uninformed guess : STAB
11. Ancient mariners : ARGONAUTS
12. Banned items at Wimbledon : AIRHORNS
13. Left the gate, say : BOARDED
18. Post office workers? : NEWSMEN
24. Hard-to-escape situation : MORASS
26. Philosopher who wrote "Superstition is the religion of feeble minds" : BURKE
27. Working while others play? : UMPING
29. Improves : HONES
30. Answers wrongly? : BACKTALKS
31. Ultimate degree : NTH
32. Fault finder? : GEOLOGIST
33. Systematize : ARRANGE
34. Where firedamp can form : COALMINE
35. Like Tik-Tok in the Land of Oz : ROBOTIC
40. Runs without moving : IDLES
41. Small tributary : BROOK
42. Ritzy gym feature : SAUNA
43. Egyptian monetary unit : POUND
44. Power, slangily : JUICE
45. Jousting need : STEED
47. First flight locale : NEST
49. "Somethin' ___" (Eddie Cochran song) : ELSE
50. Dispatch : DOIN

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle.

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