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New York Times, Saturday, October 12, 2019

Author:
Andrew J. Ries
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
228/13/200712/6/20190
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31111753
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1.57020
Andrew Ries

This puzzle:

Rows: 16, Columns: 15 Words: 73, Blocks: 36 Missing: {KQXY} This is puzzle # 19 for Mr. Ries. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Andrew Ries notes:
This puzzle started with the center stack, and namely the entry at 38-Across. DEGREE MILL is a fresh answer all made up of ... read more

This puzzle started with the center stack, and namely the entry at 38-Across. DEGREE MILL is a fresh answer all made up of stack-friendly letters, and it played well in this grid. I remember being unsure if SERENA SLAM was going to get Will's approval; that slot could be SERENADING but I much prefer the former, so I was particularly pleased when the puzzle was accepted as is.

Kudos to Will and company on improving the cluing. A good example of this is the clue for SIERRA CLUB, which went from my submitted clue [Green group] to [Green giant], which is a nice upgrade in terms of surface reading and misdirection.

Jeff Chen notes:
Brilliant puzzle; my favorite of all of Andrew's stair stacks. A quad of greatness in NO PRESSURE / SECRET CODE / DEGREE MILL / SIERRA ... read more

Brilliant puzzle; my favorite of all of Andrew's stair stacks. A quad of greatness in NO PRESSURE / SECRET CODE / DEGREE MILL / SIERRA CLUB, every single one of them colorful in its own right, and better yet, every single one has the potential for clever cluing. [Green giant] is indeed delightful wordplay for SIERRA CLUB, no telltale question mark required to give away the game.

And almost zero wastage throughout the crossing down entries! It's all too common to need a bunch of neutral entries to hold together a stair-stack. SCARCEST doesn't do much, but SERENA SLAM, TV PRODUCER, LUGE TEAM = a cornucopia of color.

There's yet more? Andrew did such a smart job of quasi-sectioning the SW and NE corners, keeping good solving flow while making his filling job easier. When you can work on a corner independently, it's much easier to optimize for greatness like ADVIL PM, LENS FILTER, DATE NUT, ICE SAWS. Now that's the way to squeeze out every last drop of potential.

Best compliment I can give is that I wish I'd constructed this grid. Andrew's prodigious efforts and hard work in the stair-stack space have clearly paid off.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 1012 ( 25,540 )
Across
1
Crumbly salad ingredient : FETA
5
Halves of some measurements : WIDTHS
11
It might involve a DNA test : CSI
14
Love of mythology? : AMOR
15
Exam required before entering uni : ALEVEL
16
Something good in baseball, but bad in banking : RUN
17
Kind of ball for indoor play : NERF
18
Usually nonremunerative undertaking : PETPROJECT
20
It's named for a Norse goddess of wisdom: Abbr. : FRI
21
Will figure : SON
22
Supersede : REPLACE
23
Funk of Funk & Wagnalls : ISAAC
25
Punk cousin : EMO
27
"Right on" : AMEN
28
Characters in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" : COMMAS
30
Batman portrayer of TV and film : ADAMWEST
33
Request softener : NOPRESSURE
35
Online feed letters : RSS
36
A spy might send a message in one : SECRETCODE
38
Unaccredited university, say : DEGREEMILL
40
Do some basic math : ADD
43
Green giant : SIERRACLUB
45
Sound around a cradle : DIALTONE
47
"Miss ___" : SAIGON
49
Capitol Hill activity : VOTE
50
1969 novel subtitled "Ardor: A Family Chronicle" : ADA
52
Brandon ___, lead role in 1999's "Boys Don't Cry" : TEENA
53
Northern fishers' implements : ICESAWS
56
Arctic explorer John : RAE
58
Skin pic : TAT
59
Screen for a shooter : LENSFILTER
61
Corrupt, in British slang : BENT
62
Big Ten East sch. : PSU
63
Genesis peak : ARARAT
64
Bring down : RAZE
65
Crossed : MET
66
Lax in duty : REMISS
67
___ Bongo, president of Gabon for 42 years : OMAR
Down
1
Amateur work based on existing characters, informally : FANFIC
2
Boston college : EMERSON
3
Singer with the 1992 double-platinum album "Little Earthquakes" : TORIAMOS
4
Sound from a toy : ARF
5
Newspaper with the slogan "Democracy Dies in Darkness," in brief : WAPO
6
"The L Word" creator Chaiken : ILENE
7
Case worker: Abbr. : DET
8
One who runs the show : TVPRODUCER
9
"___, boy!" : HERE
10
Not stay in the bucket : SLOP
11
Joe might need this : CREAMER
12
A "lousy teacher," per Bill Gates : SUCCESS
13
Partner of purposes : INTENTS
19
"The Hunger Games" actress, in tabloids : JLAW
21
Like promethium, among all the rare earth metals : SCARCEST
24
Cranked (up) : AMPED
26
Down pat : MASTERED
29
Italian film director Leone : SERGIO
31
Kitchen drawers? : AROMAS
32
Treat, in a way : MEDICATE
34
Tennis feat named for the athlete who achieved it in 2003 and 2015 : SERENASLAM
37
Woman's name that sounds like two letters of the alphabet : ELLIE
39
Winter Olympics pair : LUGETEAM
40
NyQuil alternative : ADVILPM
41
Bishop's territory : DIOCESE
42
Kind of bread with chopped fruit : DATENUT
44
Treasure trove : BONANZA
46
Minimalist's desire : LESS
48
Flap one's gums : NATTER
51
Quarters : AREAS
54
Way off : AFAR
55
Kind of transfer : WIRE
57
Language ___ : ARTS
60
TNT element? : TRI
61
Dude : BRO

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle.

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