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New York Times, Friday, January 20, 2017

Author: Angela Olson Halsted
Editor: Will Shortz
Angela Olson Halsted
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46/14/20111/20/20172
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0210010
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1.66000
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 30 Missing: {JQ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 4 for Ms. Halsted. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Angela Olson Halsted notes: A couple of years ago I decided to try my hand at themeless puzzles because I have such a hard time thinking up themes. ... more
Angela Olson Halsted notes:

A couple of years ago I decided to try my hand at themeless puzzles because I have such a hard time thinking up themes. Unfortunately, I have my issues with themelesses too. Namely, cluing. So I asked Erik Agard if he would write some clues for me and he told me to do it myself. (His response was actually more like, "You are totally capable and would feel so proud if you did it yourself, but of course I'm happy to help.") So I try Kevin Der. He might be willing, right? He tells me basically the same thing. So there's my answer. It's time for me to start learning how to write difficult clues.

The grid sat around for four months. I wondered if a solo themeless was just too ambitious for someone at my level. I kept putting it off. But I finally sat down and did it. It was excruciating. So, so hard. I got some great feedback from a few friends, tweaked some clues, sent it off to Will, and crossed my fingers.

When I got the acceptance notice, I couldn't believe it. I felt like I had taken a major step in my constructing career. A solo themeless! The puzzle with all those hard clues I wrote was accepted! The funny part, of course, is that Will changed just about every clue. I'm not complaining! I know from experience that Will knows what he's doing and every change he's ever made to a puzzle of mine has been for the better. To be honest, I'm not sure what the lesson is for me. Should I not stress over the clues? Am I really bad at cluing? Was I just "off" on the difficulty level? These are questions I'll ponder while working on my next themeless grid.

Jeff Chen notes: PuzzleGirl! So great to see her name back in the NYT lineup. That combo of TONY SOPRANO and his TOY SOLDIERS in a HOTEL ROOM being ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

PuzzleGirl! So great to see her name back in the NYT lineup. That combo of TONY SOPRANO and his TOY SOLDIERS in a HOTEL ROOM being THE DEVIL YOU KNOW makes for such a neat middle of the puzzle. A few other long answers spice up the corners, in particular, the AMEN CORNER. This engineer highly approves of EXHAUST FAN, too.

Angela's layout is heavily dependent on seven-letter entries, and those can be tough to make sing. There are a few so-so answers like SINCERE, NETTLES, MARIANO (sorry, this Yankee-hater can't abide by that), but Angela does well to work in the colloquial MR RIGHT (aka "Jeff Chen"), DREAM ON!, and AFROPOP.

Not only that, but she spruces up some of the entries that don't sing by themselves with great clues. EPITHET as ["The Great" or "The Terrible"] is fun, giving such a huge range. ASTAIRE gets a nice piece of trivia, his book known as "The Man, the Dancer." And TARTANS gives us cool names in "Royal Stewart" and Clan Donald" (the patterns associated with those clans). It's stuff like this that makes me wish my name were MacChen.

Even [Activate, as a wah-wah pedal] for STEP ON and [Chat, across the Pyrénées] for GATO ("chat" is the French word for "cat") help spice things up.

Now, I didn't care for some entries. SAINTE feels a bit of a cheat, tagging on that uber-friendly ending E. The HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) is outdated, although one could argue it's historically important. STD isn't a great abbreviation, nor is PSS. With SEL and the arbitrary TEN AM, it was on the verge of being too much for me.

(KEB and PITTI are tough proper nouns, but I think both of those are both crossworthy and done with fair crossings.)

And this puzzle might not do much for those who haven't seen "The Sopranos." TONY SOPRANO is a toughie — he'll elate some, and cause others to shrug.

But overall, I was personally so entertained by this one, that middle in particular.

1
E
2
P
3
I
4
T
5
H
6
E
7
T
8
O
9
U
10
T
11
R
12
A
13
N
14
K
15
M
A
R
I
A
N
O
16
D
R
E
A
M
O
N
17
I
N
A
N
I
T
Y
18
S
I
N
C
E
R
E
19
E
N
G
L
I
S
20
H
21
S
A
I
N
T
E
22
S
C
O
O
23
T
24
M
A
C
H
25
R
26
E
27
P
28
S
29
E
L
T
O
30
N
31
L
O
S
32
T
33
E
X
I
T
34
S
35
D
E
N
C
36
H
37
R
H
O
38
T
H
E
D
E
39
V
I
L
Y
O
U
40
K
N
O
W
41
C
A
D
42
L
E
E
R
S
43
D
E
E
R
E
44
H
U
A
45
C
46
T
R
O
O
47
P
48
B
R
E
D
49
S
T
A
50
T
51
S
O
P
U
52
P
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S
T
E
P
O
54
N
55
M
R
R
I
56
G
57
H
58
T
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A
F
R
O
P
O
60
P
61
A
S
T
A
I
R
62
E
63
T
A
R
T
A
N
S
64
N
E
T
T
L
E
S
65
S
N
E
E
Z
E
S
66
O
R
I
O
L
E
S
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 24,545
Across Down
1. "The Great" or "the Terrible" : EPITHET
8. Have more stripes than : OUTRANK
15. Yankees closer Rivera : MARIANO
16. "Not gonna happen!" : DREAMON
17. Senselessness : INANITY
18. Authentic : SINCERE
19. Like pork pie and clotted cream : ENGLISH
21. Femme with a halo : SAINTE
22. Hustle : SCOOT
24. Eponymous physicist Ernst : MACH
25. Training tally : REPS
29. John with an Oscar : ELTON
31. Bewildered : LOST
33. Turnpike ticket listings : EXITS
35. Best Actress nominee for "Philomena," 2013 : DENCH
37. Sorority character : RHO
38. Better adversary to deal with, in a saying : THEDEVILYOUKNOW
41. Unlikely husband material : CAD
42. Looks like a 41-Across : LEERS
43. Name on an excavator : DEERE
44. Old blacklisting org. : HUAC
46. Brownies with cookies, maybe : TROOP
48. Fostered : BRED
49. Turnovers, e.g. : STAT
51. Absorb : SOPUP
53. Activate, as a wah-wah pedal : STEPON
55. Husband material : MRRIGHT
59. Genre for Ladysmith Black Mambazo : AFROPOP
61. 1984 biography subtitled "The Man, the Dancer" : ASTAIRE
63. Royal Stewart and Clan Donald : TARTANS
64. Bugs : NETTLES
65. Needs blessing, maybe : SNEEZES
66. They play just north of the Ravens : ORIOLES
1. Queen's longtime record label : EMI
2. Postal sheet : PANE
3. Only remaining home of the Asiatic cheetah : IRAN
4. Sound repeatedly heard at a wedding reception : TING
5. Flags down : HAILS
6. Decoy : ENTICE
7. Little green men : TOYSOLDIERS
8. Has way more than enough, for short : ODS
9. See 50-Down : URIS
10. Approximate end of a rush hour : TENAM
11. Like some census data : RACIAL
12. Spot for spirited worshipers : AMENCORNER
13. Cape Ann's area : NORTHSHORE
14. It's capped and often slapped : KNEE
20. Something to enter with a card : HOTELROOM
23. TV character who fronted as a waste management consultant : TONYSOPRANO
25. [Gag!] : RETCH
26. Aid in clearing the air : EXHAUSTFAN
27. Apartment that's a second home : PIEDATERRE
28. No-frills: Abbr. : STD
30. "Junior" or "senior" mil. figure : NCO
32. Like some stalled vehicles : TOWED
34. French seasoning : SEL
36. Ginnie Mae's dept. : HUD
39. One who might drug a boxer : VET
40. ___ Mo', three-time Grammy-winning bluesman : KEB
45. Hoffman won Best Actor for playing him : CAPOTE
47. Chief flight attendant : PURSER
50. 1967 Cold War suspense novel by 9-Down : TOPAZ
52. Florence's ___ Palace : PITTI
53. Scores of these may plague high schoolers : SATS
54. Less than slim : NONE
56. Chat, across the Pyrénées : GATO
57. Setting of Sisyphus' perpetual rock-pushing : HILL
58. Almond or pecan : TREE
60. Additions after closings, in brief : PSS
62. One of three for Sisyphus? : ESS

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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