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New York Times, Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Author: Michael Blake
Editor: Will Shortz
Michael Blake
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131/28/20082/13/20179
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0831100
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1.64003

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JVWXZ} This is puzzle # 11 for Mr. Blake. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Michael Blake notes: I'm not too good at either pop culture or sports, and this NICKELBACK theme owes much to serendipity. I was in a gym locker room, ... more
Michael Blake notes:

I'm not too good at either pop culture or sports, and this NICKELBACK theme owes much to serendipity. I was in a gym locker room, trying to tune out the football commentary on the TV, when I thought I heard someone say "nickelback" and I figured it was some defensive lineman or something. But then I got to thinking about the word, and quickly realized it had the same number of letters as MONTICELLO. Thanks to Google, I learned it's actually a Canadian rock group. And after looking at images of nickels, I happened on the coincidental symmetry of AMERICAN BISON and E PLURIBUS UNUM.

It's a pleasure to see the final version in the NYT and compare my clues as submitted to what Will published. As Manny Nosowsky (the first cruciverbalist I ever met!) told me years ago, despite the pride-of-ownership howls from constructors, Will almost always improves on the original clues. This was certainly true in this puzzle. I love "Run out of rhythm?" for AEIOU. I had "Plains buffalo, more correctly" for AMERICAN BISON, and I think it's much better to avoid the word "buffalo." Best of all was the clue for 25-Down, which brings together the Canadian and the coin concepts: "Image on the reverse of a Canadian quarter" for CARIBOU. Wow — and it runs right down through the center. Don't I wish I'd thought of that!

Jeff Chen notes: I only know who NICKELBACK is by the snarky comments people post about them on Facebook. (I laugh along, pretending to understand.) ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Monticello nickel coin I only know who NICKELBACK is by the snarky comments people post about them on Facebook. (I laugh along, pretending to understand.) But no doubt, they make a good revealer for today's puzzle, which contains both MONTICELLO and the AMERICAN BISON, the two images on the tails side of a nickel.

Really interesting clue for ABEL — I like the effort to come up with something new and bold. I'm a bit of a math nut, so I follow the Fields Medal announcements every year (outstanding discoveries in math, awarded to mathematicians under 40). I had assumed it was the most prestigious math award out there, so it was fun to read up on the Abel Prize. Gotta love the Norwegians, blowing the piddly Fields Medal money out of the water with a gigantic six million kroner payday. Take that, Fields Medal!

For a puzzle with only three or four theme answers, I expect very clean, snappy fill. SCRIMMAGE and SINGAPORE and GLEE CLUB are all pretty fun. CUE TIP too. But I could do without the A TIME, AS A, OSTEO, ERES, and especially AGIN entries. I don't mind some gluey bits here and there if the theme is dense, or if the puzzle has kooky constraints, but for a standard four-theme puzzle, it's a bit too much for me. I would have liked to see some rework to get rid of at least half of those gluey bits.

I also would have liked a little more theme density / tightness. Yes, E PLURIBUS UNUM is on the back of the nickel, but it's not specific to the nickel like MONTICELLO. Sort of a filler than takes care of crossword symmetry. (US Mint: take note that JEFF CHEN'S FACE is also 13 letters. Licensing rights readily available, at a reasonable price starting at six million kroner.)

But overall, a fun trip down memory lane for me, back to a time when I was obsessed with odd coins. Wheat pennies, anyone?

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0113 ( 23,807 )
Across Down
1. Soy-based soup : MISO
5. Huge amount : OCEAN
10. What milk will do if you add lemon juice : CLOT
14. Diva's number : ARIA
15. "Wake Up Little ___" (Everly Brothers hit) : SUSIE
16. Diced dish : HASH
17. Tourist attraction in Charlottesville, Va. : MONTICELLO
19. Word after bump or break : INTO
20. Lee who directed "Life of Pi" : ANG
21. One of "dose," in Brooklyn : DAT
22. Born earlier : OLDER
23. Largest wild animal in the United States : AMERICANBISON
28. Seville snacks : TAPAS
30. Picnic table place : PATIO
31. Roughly : ABOUT
32. Turned loose : RELEASED
37. Geek : NERD
38. "Once upon ___ ..." : ATIME
40. Neutral shade : ECRU
41. School singing group : GLEECLUB
43. Ran : AIRED
44. Eating non-halal, to Muslims : TABOO
46. All but the signal, in radio : NOISE
47. "Out of many, one" : EPLURIBUSUNUM
52. Inkwell item : QUILL
53. Simile's center : ASA
54. Berserk : MAD
57. Press : URGE
58. Billboard's top rock group of 2000-09 ... or where to find a 23-Across (before 1939) or 17-Across (today) : NICKELBACK
62. Arthur of tennis : ASHE
63. Title for Tuck : FRIAR
64. Not "fer" : AGIN
65. "Sure, why not?!" : LETS
66. Slants : LEANS
67. Actress Lamarr : HEDY
1. Doll's cry : MAMA
2. Press : IRON
3. Country in which English and Mandarin are official languages : SINGAPORE
4. Feedbag bit : OAT
5. 2012 award for 20-Across : OSCAR
6. It's chalked in a pool hall : CUETIP
7. Nonnative speaker's course, in brief : ESL
8. Hurt : AIL
9. "The Matrix" hero : NEO
10. Potluck supper serving, maybe : CHILI
11. Touches down : LANDS
12. Prefix with -plasty : OSTEO
13. Rose's protection : THORN
18. I.e., spelled out : IDEST
22. Cousin of a bassoon : OBOE
24. Bea Arthur sitcom : MAUDE
25. Image on the reverse of a Canadian quarter : CARIBOU
26. "Up and ___!" : ATEM
27. Setting for a classic Agatha Christie mystery : NILE
28. Zippy flavor : TANG
29. ___ Prize, annual international award for mathematics : ABEL
33. Run out of rhythm? : AEIOU
34. Practice game, in sports : SCRIMMAGE
35. "___ Tu" (1974 hit) : ERES
36. "Bro!" : DUDE
38. Jai ___ : ALAI
39. Ernest nicknamed "The Texas Troubadour" : TUBB
42. Computer key near Shift : CTRL
43. One year's record : ANNAL
45. Resident of the so-called "Chicago of Japan" : OSAKAN
47. Splenda rival : EQUAL
48. Prize in horse racing : PURSE
49. Ignite : LIGHT
50. "___ Gold" (1997 Peter Fonda film) : ULEES
51. Tech support callers : USERS
55. LSD : ACID
56. Big Apple-based designer label : DKNY
58. Gridiron grp. : NFL
59. Vexation : IRE
60. Org. in "The Bourne Ultimatum" : CIA
61. "Phooey!" : BAH

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle.

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