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New York Times, Monday, November 25, 2013

Author: Kevin G. Der
Editor: Will Shortz
Kevin G. Der
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Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {QZ} This is puzzle # 29 for Mr. Der. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Kevin G. Der notes: So many good constructors are creating puzzles today that it's hard to find an original idea. Whenever I think of a theme that ... more
Kevin G. Der notes: So many good constructors are creating puzzles today that it's hard to find an original idea. Whenever I think of a theme that might work, I add it to a list on my phone, which I'll check later when I feel like constructing. In this case, I think I saw a bumper sticker on the street that began with "HONK IF YOU LOVE...", which had clear Monday possibilities.

In the grid, the theme entry lengths (12's and 13's) forced a certain pattern because I prefer to avoid two cheater squares for 13's. The result is two long vertical entries that pass through three theme entries, which drastically reduces the possibilities. (I now see that I could've just flipped the top and bottom pairs instead. No idea why I didn't.) The two vertical entries I found are consequently ok but not amazing. I tried to compensate by increasing the number of 7- and 8-letter entries. Finally, I try to avoid using 3 letter words that cross the grid's center, because it feels suffocating.

Will Shortz notes: Kevin's puzzle has a completely fresh theme idea that makes me laugh. He knows I'm perennially short on Monday puzzles, too, which ... more
Will Shortz notes: Kevin's puzzle has a completely fresh theme idea that makes me laugh. He knows I'm perennially short on Monday puzzles, too, which is why he geared this one for this day of the week.

A special comment about PLEB (10D): I often read comments on the crossword blogs that a somewhat uncommon word like this is "not a Monday word." I don't happen to think that every answer in a Monday New York Times crossword has to be common. Times readers are intelligent and well-educated. They're perfectly capable of handling an occasional bit of new vocabulary. PLEB is a useful word. All the crossings here are easy. So in my opinion it's suitable even for Monday.

Whew! I finally got that off my chest.

Jeff Chen notes: Before we start, let's acknowledge the elephant in the room: all Asians actually do look alike. So as a public service, here's a ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Before we start, let's acknowledge the elephant in the room: all Asians actually do look alike. So as a public service, here's a quick primer. Kevin is the brilliant Asian, Joon is the Asian of Einsteinian brainpower, and I'm the smart one (and Asian). Seriously though, Kevin has worked in high-tech, helped President Obama get re-elected, and has a top-secret in-his-garage project in the works. Joon is the physicist who blew up Jeopardy! records. I'm the one who can morph the space-time fabric (as well as reality)*. Claro?

Excellent Monday puzzle from Kevin. It's not often that a Monday carries a novel theme, one I've never seen before. Bravo for breaking the mold! Neat to see this collection of well-known bumper sticker starters, each one immediately apparent to me. Even better, I couldn't think of any others right away that would fit in. Consistency and specificity, that's excellent theme work.

Far more impressive though, is the quality of his construction. It starts with the fact that the four themers are of inconvenient lengths (12 and 13), which makes grid layout challenging from the start. But Kevin sets it up so that he takes advantage of these lengths, using the black squares in rows 4 and 12 to end long downs (SIDE BENEFIT and DNA SAMPLING).

Then look at the sheer quantity of long downs: TEAHOUSE/EXPELLED, FUTURAMA/IN HEAVEN stacked together, along with RHESUS, MILADY, SANDPIT, BAD OMEN. With so much packed in, I'd expect a host of ugly entries (especially around the stacked long downs), but I didn't notice anything during my solve. Going through a second time I saw the unseemly ERGS, but that was it. Just amazing how clean and Monday-friendly this thing is.

Will brings up an interesting point about PLEB. To me, PLEB is perfectly fine — it's more esoteric entries like AMOUR PROPRE that I don't care to see in a Monday puzzle. So much about crosswords is subjective, isn't it?

Finally, I always enjoy getting a constructor's personality shining through the puzzle, and seeing FUTURAMA, CHANG (another dude who looks like Kevin, Joon and me), SATAY, all felt Kevin-ish. Man, that's some good stuff. Great way to start the week.

*I'm also the good-looking one.
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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1125 ( 23,393 )
Across Down
1. Remarks not made seriously : JESTS
6. Tiny arachnid ... or tiny amount : MITE
10. Greek letters resembling tridents : PSIS
14. Hawaiian greeting : ALOHA
15. Wild mountain goat : IBEX
16. ___ trap (part of a dryer) : LINT
17. Italian city with a semiannual fashion week : MILAN
18. Big jump : LEAP
19. ___ Krabappel of "The Simpsons" : EDNA
20. Start of a bumper sticker that may end with one's favorite vacation spot : IDRATHERBEIN
23. Spanish hero El ___ : CID
26. ___ Xing (street sign) : PED
27. Cheer for a torero : OLE
28. Mattress site : BED
29. Start of a bumper sticker that may end with one's favorite hobby : HONKIFYOULOVE
33. Expect : AWAIT
34. Employ : USE
35. Pens' contents : INKS
38. Condé ___ (magazine company) : NAST
39. Penalized for a driving violation, say : FINED
41. Slugger Carlos : PENA
42. Buzzing pest : GNAT
43. Chapel Hill sch. : UNC
44. Prove appropriate for : BEFIT
45. Start of a bumper sticker that may end with one's favorite (usually expensive) vehicle : MYOTHERCARISA
49. Piece of stage equipment : AMP
51. Wish undone : RUE
52. Possessed : HAD
53. "Love ___ neighbor ..." : THY
54. Start of a bumper sticker that may end with one's favorite attraction : WILLBRAKEFOR
58. Where Tibet is : ASIA
59. Madison and Fifth, e.g.: Abbr. : AVES
60. College student's concentration : MAJOR
64. Casino game with numbered balls : KENO
65. Restaurant window display : MENU
66. Circumvent : EVADE
67. Small fractions of joules : ERGS
68. Tiny colony dwellers : ANTS
69. Geeklike : NERDY
1. Alternative to jelly : JAM
2. Inventor Whitney : ELI
3. Note after fa : SOL
4. Spicy ethnic food : THAI
5. Hole dug on a beach : SANDPIT
6. Term of address for a noblewoman : MILADY
7. Sarcastic reply : IBET
8. Place to sip oolong : TEAHOUSE
9. Kicked out : EXPELLED
10. Commoner : PLEB
11. Secondary advantage : SIDEBENEFIT
12. Concave belly button : INNIE
13. Be upright : STAND
21. Hoops official : REF
22. Vintage car inits. : REO
23. Former tennis pro Michael : CHANG
24. Des Moines native : IOWAN
25. Gathering of biological evidence after an arrest : DNASAMPLING
30. Poker pot : KITTY
31. 1/16 of a pound : OUNCE
32. Venomous snake : VIPER
36. Jewish turnover : KNISH
37. 4-Down skewered meat dish : SATAY
39. Comedy Central cartoon set in the year 3000 : FUTURAMA
40. Beyond elated : INHEAVEN
44. Troubling sign of things to come : BADOMEN
46. Celestial body : ORB
47. ___ monkey : RHESUS
48. Half-___ (latte order) : CAF
49. No longer sleeping : AWAKE
50. Stingy sort : MISER
55. Vientiane's land : LAOS
56. Clark ___, alter ego of Superman : KENT
57. Four-star review : RAVE
61. Jelly container : JAR
62. Strange : ODD
63. King: Sp. : REY

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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