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New York Times, Saturday, November 15, 2014

Author: Peter Wentz
Editor: Will Shortz
Peter Wentz
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289/27/200710/20/20170
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1.83005
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 29 Missing: {JQ} This is puzzle # 17 for Mr. Wentz. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Peter Wentz notes: This crossword's first entry was reverse engineered in a sense, as 'So that's it!' often serves as the clue for AHA. I'm hoping ... more
Peter Wentz notes: This crossword's first entry was reverse engineered in a sense, as "So that's it!" often serves as the clue for AHA. I'm hoping dedicated solvers appreciate that little inside joke!

Looking at this puzzle again, it reminds me that I'm a fan of constructing themeless puzzles with mid-sized entries of about seven to ten letters. That length is about the minimum for having a wide range of interesting, compound phrases to choose from, and simple math says more of those can fit into a grid compared to one loaded with fifteen-letter entries.

Jeff Chen notes: Loved this puzzle. Perhaps I'm simply on Peter's wavelength (although he's younger, a much better Ultimate player than this recently ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Loved this puzzle. Perhaps I'm simply on Peter's wavelength (although he's younger, a much better Ultimate player than this recently retired handler, and makes much more colorful themelesses — harrumph), but this grid sang to me.

Let's start with the raw quantity of assets. I count (roughly) 18, an amazingly high number. Typically I enjoy a themeless if it has ten assets as the very least, and the NYT averages 12(ish). I'm in awe of how smoothly Peter worked AFFLUENZA through that pair of MOONWALKS / PIZZA PIES. Beautiful but very difficult way to up one's asset count. Same goes for HONEY BEAR running through TAX CHEAT / WORKHORSE / HOLE IN ONE.

With such a high asset count, I'd expect some liabilities on the ledger making this possible. Sure, there's XKES, and … ETD? LTR? Let's put the liability count at two, since those last two are so minor. An (assets – liabilities) count of 16? Takes sky-high expertise to make this happen. I'm satisfied when that (assets - liabilities) number is over ten, so 16 is just silly.

And Scrabbly letters: the JQXZ count is four, pretty high. Dare I say, Peter has already broken my CROSSWORD UNHOLY TRINITY (CUT) principle? Damn you, Wentz!

I don't like to give unbalanced reviews — there's almost always some good and some not so good in any puzzle — but I feel like I'd have to stretch to ridiculous nits to say more about the puzzle's drawbacks. Maybe say something about how THE FED (great answer) isn't really a market leader (or shouldn't be, more accurately) so should have a question mark? I could have used a few more clever clues, perhaps something about PIZZA PIES being a "toss-up," or an interesting bit of trivia for a HOLE IN ONE?

Eh, forget it. With the sizzling grid and clues like ASNER referencing Lou Grant, KNEE PATCH extending the life of pants, not the length, and TAPS echoing Eine kleine Nachtmusik, I near 100% loved this puzzle.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1115 ( 23,748 )
Across Down
1. "Eureka!" : SOTHATSIT
10. Home tech product discontinued in 1987 : IBMPC
15. Pants extender? : KNEEPATCH
16. Request for a hero : NOOIL
17. Source of inspiration for Sir Isaac Newton, famously : APPLETREE
18. Locked up : FROZE
19. Drudges : TOILS
20. "Illness" affecting the wealthy : AFFLUENZA
22. What a gate change might affect: Abbr. : ETD
23. Join in the attack : PILEON
24. Washed out : WAN
25. Nereus, Proteus, Glaucus and Phorcys, to the ancient Greeks : SEAGODS
27. A little night music : TAPS
28. "Can this be?!" : WHATTHE
30. "Y" athlete : YALIE
31. Speeding : TOOFAST
32. Hit : CLOCKED
34. "The Painter of Sunflowers" setting : ARLES
35. "That's terrible!" : BOOHISS
36. Classic Jaguars : XKES
37. Who said "Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood" : TSELIOT
39. Life force, in meditation : CHI
40. Chops meat : MUTTON
41. Terrain maker : GMC
44. Animal with a sweet tooth : HONEYBEAR
46. First video game character to be honored with a figure in the Hollywood Wax Museum : MARIO
48. Make a bank withdrawal? : ERODE
49. Author who was the title subject of the Best Picture of 1937 : EMILEZOLA
51. Grant presenter? : ASNER
52. Endgame : LASTMOVES
53. Freezing temps : TEENS
54. Social butterfly, e.g. : EXTROVERT
1. Emulate a King or Senator : SKATE
2. High, in a way : ONPOT
3. Muted : TEPID
4. "A half-filled auditorium," to Frost : HELL
5. Some early astronauts : APES
6. Gang symbol, for short : TAT
7. Plain-spoken : STRAIGHT
8. Something fallen off a shelf? : ICEFLOE
9. Market leader : THEFED
10. Not seriously : INFUN
11. Hollow out : BORE
12. Excursions for some rock collectors? : MOONWALKS
13. Certain party deliveries : PIZZAPIES
14. Did a week-long juice diet, say : CLEANSED
21. ___ Pollos Hermanos ("Breaking Bad" restaurant) : LOS
23. Some dog rewards : PATS
25. Good ones are never cracked : SAFES
26. HHH : ETAS
27. Silent : TACIT
28. Tireless sort : WORKHORSE
29. Ace : HOLEINONE
30. High-seas cry : YOHO
31. Al Capone, famously : TAXCHEAT
32. One doing the highlights? : COLORIST
33. Cut off the back : LOIN
35. Loser in a 1970s-'80s "war" : BETAMAX
37. Sight in an ice cream shop : TUB
38. Literary contemporary of Addison : STEELE
40. Bristol's partner in pharmaceuticals : MYERS
41. Place for a 17-Across : GROVE
42. Meet someone? : MILER
43. Put in minimal effort : COAST
45. Locale painted in the Sistine Chapel : EDEN
46. Note : MEMO
47. Eastern Europe's Sea of ___ : AZOV
50. Printer setting: Abbr. : LTR

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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