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New York Times, Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Author:
Mark Bickham
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
26/5/20131/7/20140
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0011000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.52000
Mark Bickham

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 38 Missing: {QX} This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Bickham. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Shortz notes:
In the 'old days' three or four theme answers were sufficient to carry a daily puzzle. Nowadays the bar has been raised. Here Mark ... read more

In the "old days" three or four theme answers were sufficient to carry a daily puzzle. Nowadays the bar has been raised. Here Mark manages six theme answers, which is pretty impressive. The only fill I don't like is IT RIP. Otherwise, a pretty solid construction.

Jeff Chen notes:
Ah! It took me a while to figure out what the theme really meant, and it was a nice moment when I realized each phrase started with a ... read more

Ah! It took me a while to figure out what the theme really meant, and it was a nice moment when I realized each phrase started with a slang synonym for "good". I like the overall concept and the huge theme density, although the clue for the revealer was so long I didn't bother reading it. I wonder if the impact would have been stronger if that had been concatenated. Or if the revealer had simply been GOOD?

Puzzles, especially early-week ones, often don't need a revealer to explain the theme. But ones like this, where the theme isn't overtly clear, definitely benefit. IS THIS GOOD feels a touch arbitrary to me however, not really a lexical chunk to my ear. I sometimes pull sniff-test duty in my household, and I think OH GOD THIS IS BURNING MY NOSE is more accurate. Seriously though, IS THIS STILL ALL RIGHT or IS THIS BAD feels more correct to me.

I'm fully agreed with Will that IT RIP is likely the worst piece of fill today. I'm also not a fan of several other entries though, especially A SCAR, OOOLA, and OLIO. A SCAR bugs me because I have a personal preference against five-letter partials (see IT RIP). OLIO is on my personal Do Not Call list, just like ELOI yesterday, because it's 1.) seen heavily in xws but not in real life and 2.) composed of common letters. None of these entries are BAD per se, but they're not BAD. Er, GOOD.

I do appreciate the effort to incorporate more long fill (DRESS SIZE and INCUBATES are both nice) but can't help wondering if it would have been worth it to break up ENDWISE and VIRTUAL to achieve a smoother solve. Any time you leave a five-letter word space (NTEST and WAHOO) right in between two themers, fill is going to be rough around the edges, because of all the parallel constraints you impose on the grid. VIRTUAL is a pretty good answer, but sacrificing it to get rid of some of the shorter ugly stuff would have been sick.

1
S
2
A
3
C
4
S
5
J
6
I
7
M
8
I
9
V
10
O
11
D
12
K
13
A
14
H
U
L
U
15
F
R
O
S
16
I
T
R
I
P
17
O
D
I
N
18
K
I
L
L
19
E
R
B
E
E
S
20
G
E
O
D
21
E
22
N
T
E
S
T
23
S
L
O
24
I
N
S
A
N
25
E
A
S
Y
L
U
26
M
S
27
E
T
C
28
A
U
S
29
T
30
R
31
B
32
I
33
R
A
34
D
35
I
36
C
37
A
L
S
I
G
38
N
39
A
R
N
40
O
41
R
E
D
O
S
42
E
Z
I
O
43
W
I
C
K
44
E
D
W
I
T
C
45
H
46
E
F
T
47
T
U
R
N
48
A
A
49
A
50
B
A
D
51
M
52
O
53
O
54
N
R
I
S
55
I
56
N
57
G
58
B
59
O
A
60
W
A
H
O
O
61
R
I
D
E
R
62
I
S
T
63
H
I
S
G
O
O
64
D
65
A
I
R
E
66
F
L
E
A
S
67
O
L
I
O
68
N
O
V
A
69
F
O
S
S
E
70
D
A
L
I
71
S
T
E
T
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0107 ( 23,436 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1
Anatomical pouches : SACS
5
Rocker Hendrix : JIMI
9
Ingredient in a screwdriver : VODKA
14
Online source for TV shows : HULU
15
'Dos you don't want to sit behind at movies : FROS
16
"Let ___!" ("Full speed ahead!") : ITRIP
17
Norse war god : ODIN
18
Aggressive swarms : KILLERBEES
20
Glittery stone : GEODE
22
Headline event in India in 1974 and '98 : NTEST
23
___-pitch softball : SLO
24
Facilities with padded walls : INSANEASYLUMS
27
And more, in brief : ETC
28
Neighbor of Hung. : AUST
30
Hitter's stat : RBI
33
Square root symbol : RADICALSIGN
39
Florence's river : ARNO
41
Complete makeovers : REDOS
42
Pinza of "South Pacific" : EZIO
43
One of two figures in "The Wizard of Oz" : WICKEDWITCH
46
Eastern newt : EFT
47
Spoil : TURN
48
Like some baseball teams and batteries : AAA
50
1969 platinum record for Creedence Clearwater Revival : BADMOONRISING
58
Feathered stole : BOA
60
Joyful cry : WAHOO
61
Equestrian, e.g. : RIDER
62
Question posed while pulling leftovers from the fridge ... or a query about the initial words of 18-, 24-, 33-, 43- or 50-Across? : ISTHISGOOD
65
Suffix with concession : AIRE
66
Boxer's bane : FLEAS
67
Mixed bag : OLIO
68
Stellar phenomenon : NOVA
69
"Chicago" director/choreographer : FOSSE
70
Surrealist played by Adrien Brody in "Midnight in Paris" : DALI
71
Editor's retraction : STET
Down
1
Japanese chess : SHOGI
2
"In Memory of W. B. Yeats" poet : AUDEN
3
Ad awards : CLIOS
4
It may have a cherry on top : SUNDAE
5
Alternative to Newark or La Guardia : JFK
6
One of Chekhov's "Three Sisters" : IRINA
7
Sloughs off : MOLTS
8
R&B's ___ Brothers : ISLEY
9
Almost real : VIRTUAL
10
Place to put down stakes?: Abbr. : OTB
11
Number at a bridal boutique : DRESSSIZE
12
German city on a canal of the same name : KIEL
13
Lhasa ___ (dog) : APSO
19
Adult ed course, often : ESL
21
___'acte : ENTR
25
Greeting that saves postage : ECARD
26
Calliope or Euterpe : MUSE
29
End-of-week cry : TGIF
30
Damp and chilly : RAW
31
One loyal to the Union Jack, informally : BRIT
32
Sits on to keep warm, say : INCUBATES
34
Mountain ___ : DEW
35
Despot Amin : IDI
36
Infirmary sight : COT
37
Leave ___ (do permanent damage) : ASCAR
38
Excluding : NOT
40
Some pods : OKRA
44
How sausage links are connected : ENDWISE
45
Locks : HAIR
49
About 60% of the world's inhabitants : ASIANS
51
More, in Madrid : MAS
52
"My heavens, no!" : OHGOD
53
"Alley Oop" woman : OOOLA
54
Dieter's salad request : NOOIL
55
Bonehead : IDIOT
56
"You have some ___!" : NERVE
57
Distinguished : GREAT
58
Son of Willy Loman : BIFF
59
Capital near the 60th parallel : OSLO
63
Suffers from : HAS
64
"___ Hear a Waltz?" : DOI

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

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