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New York Times, Monday, January 23, 2017

Author:
Bruce Haight
Editor:
Will Shortz
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511/3/20137/29/20195
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315149460
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1.59043
Bruce Haight

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQVX} This is puzzle # 21 for Mr. Haight. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Bruce Haight notes:
My first version of this puzzle had RUMP ROAST RECIPE at the top and RUMPELSTILTSKIN at the bottom. I considered myself quite lucky ... read more

My first version of this puzzle had RUMP ROAST RECIPE at the top and RUMPELSTILTSKIN at the bottom. I considered myself quite lucky that the revealer was exactly 15 letters, but I was disappointed there were not any decent 15 letter entries starting with RUMP. There is something called a "rump legislature"- some might say humorously close to a Trump legislature - but in the end I couldn't get behind that.

Will and Joel wrote back that they did not think my top entry was crossworthy and it would have been better to have something like FAIRY TALE as a revealer to make it a bit less obvious. I felt sorry for myself for a few days and then it occurred to me that RUMP ROAST and FAIRY TALE were both nine letters!

When I sent this puzzle to my 87-year-old Mom - my main puzzle tester- she wrote back that she could not figure out the theme even after filling the whole puzzle in, so I will be anxious to see if this proves to be a little tricky for early week solvers.

One of my favorite things to do in cluing is to clue an outside entry on theme, but subtly so solvers wouldn't notice until they were done with the puzzle. Unfortunately, for obvious reasons, I've often found it hard to get editors to go along with this! Here, Will and Joel went along with cluing AHA (at 10-Down) as "So THAT'S the story here!", as a small bit of Easter egg humor for observant solvers.

Jeff Chen notes:
Really enjoyed this one. Very nice that Bruce perfectly divided up RUMP EL STILT SKIN into its syllables, sticking them at the starts ... read more

Really enjoyed this one. Very nice that Bruce perfectly divided up RUMP EL STILT SKIN into its syllables, sticking them at the starts of snappy phrases. I particularly liked RUMP ROAST and the legend of EL DORADO. I'm more familiar with golf's SKINS GAME than a SKIN GAME, but the latter does appear to be legit. And STILT WALKER … don't they just call them "person on stilts"? But again, the term does appear to be in use, and it's a fun word to say.

I always enjoy a good a-ha moment, and it's tough to get one on a Monday. If the theme is too hard, solvers won't understand (see: Bruce's mom). I thought this one was just about right, hiding in plain sight until I got to the very end and finally put those syllables together. Good choice to have an oblique revealer in FAIRY TALE — I think it would have been too hit-solvers-over-the-head-with-a-hammer obvious with RUMPELSTILTSKIN as a revealer.

And what nice fill! Not a surprise to me that Bruce's puzzles have taken a quantum leap since (warning: shameless plug ahead) he went all in on the XWord Info Word List. I loved getting the bonuses of PASTA BAR / E READER / DAD BODS (I'm trying very hard to avoid the first in order to avoid the third), SOFA BED. That's one great corner.

Bruce's puzzles used to be fairly well sprinkled with crossword glue, but this one is so nice and clean, generally.

I did have some qualms about the SW, though. SAULT crossing ELO is rough, almost making me disqualify the puzzle from POW! contention (given that this is a Monday puzzle). And STRING UP … I know there are a lot of nooses in Wild West movies, but … ick.

But overall, such a fun hidden theme, giving me a solid a-ha, and a well-executed grid. It's so difficult to make a Monday puzzle that's interesting to more experienced solvers, while also keeping the fill easily accessible to noobs. Great job!

1
P
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O
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W
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A
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0123 ( 24,548 )

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Across
1
"Winnie-the-___" : POOH
5
"Kisses, dahling!" : MWAH
9
Recorded on a cassette : TAPED
14
Something cleared up by Clearasil : ACNE
15
Akron's home : OHIO
16
To whom Butler said "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" : OHARA
17
Slow-cooked beef entree : RUMPROAST
19
Used a light beam on in surgery : LASED
20
Samuel of the Supreme Court : ALITO
21
"How do you ___?" (court query) : PLEAD
23
Indenting key : TAB
24
Indian tribe that lent its name to two states : DAKOTA
26
Fabled city of wealth sought by conquistadors : ELDORADO
28
Before, to Byron : ERE
29
401(k) relative : IRA
31
Versatile piece of furniture : SOFABED
32
Put into law : ENACT
34
Detroit factory output : CARS
35
One with a leg up in the circus business? : STILTWALKER
39
Trig or calc : MATH
41
October birthstones : OPALS
42
Tel Aviv native : ISRAELI
46
Sch. run by the Latter-day Saints : BYU
47
Have bills : OWE
50
Gambling scam : SKINGAME
52
High on pot : STONED
54
Bottle alternative : CAN
55
Laughs loudly : ROARS
57
Big name in retail jewelry : ZALES
58
"Shucks, you shouldn't have!" : AWGEE
60
What the starts of 17-, 26-, 35- and 50-Across are : FAIRYTALE
62
___ Ste. Marie, Mich. : SAULT
63
Regarding : ASTO
64
List-ending abbr. : ETAL
65
Writers' wrongs? : TYPOS
66
Container for eggs : NEST
67
Cincinnati team : REDS
Down
1
Macy's Thanksgiving event : PARADE
2
Eye-related : OCULAR
3
Like a live radio announcer : ONMIKE
4
Aware of, in cool-cat slang : HEPTO
5
Cow sound : MOO
6
Fly swatter sound : WHAP
7
Passage in a plane : AISLE
8
Red Monopoly purchases : HOTELS
9
Described, as something in the past : TOLDOF
10
"So THAT's the story here!" : AHA
11
Carb-heavy buffet area : PASTABAR
12
Kindle or Nook : EREADER
13
Some pudgy, middle-aged physiques, informally : DADBODS
18
Corkscrew-shaped noodles : ROTINI
22
Commotion : ADO
25
Asia's ___ Sea : ARAL
27
Off to the ___ (starting strong) : RACES
30
Coll. entrance exam : ACT
32
Actor Hawke of "Boyhood" : ETHAN
33
What it takes to tango : TWO
35
Hang, Wild West-style : STRINGUP
36
Alert to squad cars, for short : APB
37
Big name in potato chips : LAYS
38
All thumbs : KLUTZY
39
Wrong for the role : MISCAST
40
"Go ahead, shoot!" : ASKAWAY
43
Long-necked waders : EGRETS
44
Language in Vientiane : LAO
45
"Your work is wonderful" : IMAFAN
47
Airing after midnight, say : ONLATE
48
Little shaver, to a Scot : WEELAD
49
'50s Ford flops : EDSELS
51
Clear the blackboard : ERASE
53
Many a John Wayne film, informally : OATER
56
Takes a chair : SITS
59
"Evil Woman" rock grp. : ELO
61
"Balderdash!" : ROT

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 3 debuted here and reused later.

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