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New York Times, Friday, January 22, 2016

Author:
Paula Gamache
Editor:
Will Shortz
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1085/21/20021/14/20184
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81318151217619
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1.58431
Paula Gamache

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 64, Blocks: 33 Missing: {JMQXZ} Spans: 4 This is puzzle # 101 for Ms. Gamache. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes:
My engineer's brain loves quantification, and that extends to my evaluation of themeless puzzles. Usually I count any long(ish), ... read more

My engineer's brain loves quantification, and that extends to my evaluation of themeless puzzles. Usually I count any long(ish), colorful entry as an asset, tally them up, and add a point or two (or even three) if there's some cool visual impact or level of construction difficulty. I've found that the if the result is less than 10, I feel like there's not enough great stuff packed in.

Ah, THAT kind of swiveling blade!

At first glance, this puzzle didn't have a huge visual impact — sure, a wide-open, innovative-looking grid, but nothing that wowed me. However, there is something pretty impressive about six long answers interlocking — I've highlighted them below to better illustrate the effect. It's tough to do this and still make all six answers sparkly, and Paula has excelled here. It's fun to see the fresh GLUTEN-FREE PASTA, and the rest of them are absolutely assets in my eyes. So I might add a point or two for the difficulty factor.

I tend to stay away from themelesses with crisscrossing skeletons, because they are so difficult to make sparkly and cleanly. Each intersection reduces your flexibility, and when you have a section like the south where POTATO PEELERS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY, and GLUTEN-FREE PASTA constrain it, you're bound to need some glue like E-DATES (does anyone really use this?) to hold it together.

The corners have fewer constraints, but they're still hard — when you have to run mid-length answers through the start of POTATO PEELERS and BACK IN THE SADDLE, you tend to need things like the old-timey ONE O CAT. I did like entries like PENTANE (I love me some chemistry), RATED PG, SKI BIB, SWEE PEA in the full, and STAN LEE though.

Overall, this type of construction is still not my favorite, as its level of difficulty can be tough for non-constructors to appreciate, and the gluey bits like DIA, TRA, KEL, E DATES, etc. can be harder to overcome, since there's not a ton of snazzy fill.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0122 ( 24,181 )
Across
1. Viking girl in "How to Train Your Dragon" : ASTRID
7. Intimates : GETSAT
13. Comics tyke : SWEEPEA
15. Starling of book and film : CLARICE
16. Epic number : CASTOFTHOUSANDS
18. So-called "fifth qtrs." : OTS
19. Postwar German nickname : DERALTE
20. Kenan's sitcom partner : KEL
21. Next : THEN
23. Irrelevant info : NOISE
24. Trinidad o Tobago : ISLA
25. Shot putters' needs? : SERA
26. Squash : SITON
27. Unleashes (on) : SICS
28. Its main characters go to hell : DANTESINFERNO
31. ___ Green, 2006 Bond girl : EVA
32. Chris who sang "The Road to Hell," 1989 : REA
33. Tools with swiveling blades : POTATOPEELERS
40. Directed : SENT
41. Fantasy sports option : TRADE
42. Like some additions and editions : LATE
44. With 36-Down, bit of clothes mending : KNEE
45. Like drafts : ONTAP
46. Emphatic type: Abbr. : ITAL
47. Lance on a bench : ITO
48. Snowflake or crystal shape : FRACTAL
50. Outer limit : END
51. Functioning again : BACKINTHESADDLE
54. Like Charlie Brown's kite, ultimately : INATREE
55. Large game bass : STRIPER
56. Great-aunt in "David Copperfield" : BETSEY
57. Saws : ADAGES
Down
1. Dandy wear : ASCOTS
2. Enveloped : SWATHED
3. Byzantine art bit : TESSERA
4. Pensioned: Abbr. : RET
5. Light music source? : IPOD
6. Appealing figure? : DEFENSEATTORNEY
7. Rice elbows, e.g. : GLUTENFREEPASTA
8. Facility : EASE
9. Lilt bit : TRA
10. Registers : SINKSIN
11. Big name in car parts : ACDELCO
12. Automotive models S and X : TESLAS
14. For three, to Frédéric : ATROIS
15. Chuck who advised Nixon : COLSON
17. French-speaking land where John James Audubon was born : HAITI
22. Fashion designer Lepore : NANETTE
24. Bar-Ilan University student, e.g. : ISRAELI
29. Power inits. beginning in 1933 : TVA
30. "An ___ held by the tail is not yet caught" (old proverb) : EEL
33. It's named for its five carbon atoms : PENTANE
34. Old sandlot game : ONEOCAT
35. Baroque : ORNATE
36. See 44-Across : PATCH
37. Internet hookups? : EDATES
38. Fairly clean, so to speak : RATEDPG
39. Comic book writer with a National Medal of Arts : STANLEE
40. Winter wear resembling overalls : SKIBIB
43. Graybeards : ELDERS
48. Boot : FIRE
49. Add superfluous stuff to : LARD
52. Some chess pieces: Abbr. : KTS
53. Period of veinticuatro horas : DIA

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

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