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New York Times, Friday, January 31, 2014

Author: Chris A. McGlothlin
Editor: Will Shortz
Chris A. McGlothlin
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
61/23/20111/31/20140
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1010022
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1.55101

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 21 Missing: {JQZ} Spans: 6, (2 triple stacks) This is puzzle # 6 for Mr. McGlothlin. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Chris A. McGlothlin notes: Obviously, LETS DO THIS THING was the seed for this themeless puzzle. For the best impact I felt it had to reside in the ... more
Chris A. McGlothlin notes: Obviously, LETS DO THIS THING was the seed for this themeless puzzle. For the best impact I felt it had to reside in the 1-Across position and, of course, if 1-Across is fifteen letters in length, a triple stack is required at the top and bottom (in a symmetrical grid).

Finding the appropriate block formation to allow those stacks and an interesting fill was the trick. I prefer grids that have eye-appeal, and this block arrangement provided that for me. It also allowed quite a bit of flexibility in the filling process.

I'm always intrigued by Will's changes to my clues and I continue to try to up my game in the cluing department. This is one of my better efforts with about 2/3 of my clues remaining unchanged. My favorite clue from Will is "Practice test?" for BAR EXAM, and of my own I particularly like "Marker's mark maker" for FELT TIP.

I hope all found the filling-in to be fun-filled and fulfilling.

Will Shortz notes: I accepted this puzzle by Chris only recently, but liked it so much that I moved it to the top of the pile. A gorgeous construction.
Jeff Chen notes: Beautiful set of triple-stacks today. Typically I groan a little when I see 'em because of the tortured crossings that usually occur, ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Beautiful set of triple-stacks today. Typically I groan a little when I see 'em because of the tortured crossings that usually occur, but I really enjoyed today's. If it hadn't been for a small handful of questionable entries, I would have given it the POW. Extremely difficult to execute a perfect set of triple stacks, but this comes close.

Making it even more difficult, Chris's grid only uses 64 words. Typically puzzles with triple-stacks have more like 68 or 70 words, which makes the crossings easier to produce (typically, shorter words = more options available). But look at what Chris uses for crosses: long stuff like HOG TIED, IN WANT OF, TIDIES UP. Wow! The top stack is particularly nice, with the glaring exception of LA HABANA, which felt a bit like a "glue" entry to hold the stack together. Perhaps not to native Cubans?

Entries like LA HABANA which alternate consonant-vowel-repeat are very helpful in long constructions (because so many words and phrases exhibit this pattern). The use of all those As felt a little unsightly though, given that so many glue-y entries used them: LA HABANA, ANANAS, NATAL, A RAIL. A couple of lesser entries are fine to hold a nice construction together, but having them all be of the same pattern felt conspicuous. Sort of like if a single puzzle was stellar except for it had SSW, SST, SSS, and SSA — you'd notice that and think it a bit unsightly, yeah?

Beautiful cluing today. I was convinced "Marker's mark maker" had a typo until I realized that FELT TIP fit in perfectly (and that I might be drinking too much bourbon). "Bottom line?" was a fantastic wordplay-type clue for X-AXIS, and "Practice test?" for BAR EXAM also tickled me. But my favorite was the unassuming-looking "Square things", which misdirected "square" as an adjective, not a verb. Brilliant! It's this type of cluing that often makes a puzzle stand out for me, sometimes even more than the entries themselves.

While the top stack totally impressed me, the bottom gave me a slight hitch. I CANNOT TELL A LIE is fantastic, no doubt, especially with its fantastic clue. And CAST A SPELL ON is a great entry, but CAST ONES SPELL ON feels... rickety. Having the extra common letters of ONES (in alternating vowel-consonant pattern!) definitely helps in stacked constructions, but many times those phrases involving ONES feel a bit made-for-crosswords. And I would like BANDED ANTEATER if it were less a definitional entry (one that's difficult to clue without using the dictionary), but that plus its generally alternating v-c-v-c- pattern made it conspicuous to my eye. Ah well, you can't have it all.

Overall, an extremely impressive construction, the top half in particular, and a ton of great cluing.

1
L
2
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O
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H
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N
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X
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0131 ( 23,460 )
Across Down
1. "No more wasting time!" : LETSDOTHISTHING
16. Pixar, e.g. : ANIMATIONSTUDIO
17. Was just getting started : HADALONGWAYTOGO
18. Some foreign friends : AMICI
19. Union ___: Abbr. : STA
20. Breathers : LUNGS
21. "Dawson's Creek" star James Van Der ___ : BEEK
22. It's a state : BEING
24. Unduplicated : SOLE
25. ___ Toy Barn ("Toy Story 2" setting) : ALS
26. Parked cars : VALETED
28. A Kennedy : TED
29. Fix : NEUTER
31. Makes a fuss over, with "on" : DOTES
33. What Sports Illustrated's annual Swimsuit Issue has a lot of : ADPAGES
35. Marker's mark maker : FELTTIP
39. Bottom line? : XAXIS
41. Cruise : VOYAGE
42. Professional org. with a "healthy" balance sheet : AMA
45. Musical instrument for a geisha : SAMISEN
47. MASH unit : COT
48. Pioneering map publisher William : RAND
50. 1998 film in which Donny Osmond has a singing role : MULAN
51. One on the staff? : NOTE
52. Thin as ___ : ARAIL
54. Romanian capital : LEU
55. Albert's sitcom co-star : GABOR
56. Numbats : BANDEDANTEATERS
59. Washington report starter : ICANNOTTELLALIE
60. Charm : CASTONESSPELLON
1. Caribbean capital, to locals : LAHABANA
2. Cloisonné, e.g. : ENAMELED
3. Sets things straight : TIDIESUP
4. Trash talk : SMACK
5. "Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening" artist : DALI
6. Tribe of Chief Shaumonekusse : OTO
7. It hangs around trees : TINSEL
8. Immobilized : HOGTIED
9. Needing : INWANTOF
10. Grp. that's got your number? : SSA
11. Texting ta-ta : TTYL
12. Many Rwandans : HUTUS
13. Defensive reply : IDONOT
14. Nitpick : NIGGLE
15. Gave a boost : GOOSED
22. Practice test? : BAREXAM
23. Square things : GETEVEN
26. Setting for "Ocean's 11" : VEGAS
27. Actor Alain : DELON
30. Strain : TAX
32. Home for E. B. White's Wilbur : STY
34. Pose as : SIMULATE
36. "Live más" sloganeer : TACOBELL
37. Classic song that begins "When my baby / When my baby smiles at me" : IGOTORIO
38. "CSI" star William : PETERSEN
40. Few of them were made after 1929 : SILENTS
42. Source of the word "admiral" : ARABIC
43. One of two in a rumba : MARACA
44. Pineapples: Sp. : ANANAS
46. Prepares, as some mushrooms : SAUTES
49. "If I ___ Have You" (2001 Best Original Song Oscar winner) : DIDNT
51. Kind of star : NATAL
53. "Leading With My Chin" memoirist : LENO
55. Air force? : GALE
57. Slip into : DON
58. Grp. with the 1971 gold album "Pictures at an Exhibition" : ELP

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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