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New York Times, Thursday, November 27, 2014

Author:
Stanley Newman
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
235/5/19849/13/20160
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1832513
ScrabRebusCirclePangramPre‑WS
1.640012
Stanley Newman

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 42 Missing: {QVW} This is puzzle # 22 for Mr. Newman. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Stanley Newman notes:
Thanks to this site, I see that this my fourth Times puzzle this year, the most for me since the five I had in Will's first full year ... read more

Thanks to this site, I see that this my fourth Times puzzle this year, the most for me since the five I had in Will's first full year as editor (1994). Having reread my previous author's notes of this year, I'm going to attempt to cover new elucidative ground with the following.

The "thank you very much" in different languages was in my Theme Idea Book for a while. What I thought might make it suitable for the Times was the lucky three-way theme answer intersection. For you Times Crossword History buffs, this "H-on-its side" is a theme configuration much favored by an eminent Times constructor of the past, Jack Luzzatto, who created many wide-open patterns of this sort.

So, totally unlike my last Times puzzle, where I closed off the grid to the max for easiness sake, I wanted to open up the grid as much as possible here to allow for many longer words, and managed to get the answer count down to 72, without having to resort to any obscurity/crosswordese compromises.

As for the cluing, not unlike acting, it really is more fun "playing the villain" and being mean-but-fair/accurate wherever it works. The three "Thanksgiving phrase" theme clues were obviously supposed to be of no help without quite a few crossing words. My two other favorite mean clues: The "music masquerading as cardiology" for PRESTO (15 Across), and "multi-keyword diversion" of "Counter with a sharp edge" for RETORT (42 Down). The seed for the RETORT clue was the word "counters" in its Random House Unabridged definition.

The nuanced approach I aim for with my tough factual clues is: a fact you probably don't specifically know, but with enough context to put you on the right track toward the answer. Which, when you get it, will make complete sense based on "general knowledge" only, which most people can be reasonably expected to know. Such as: the POTOMAC River (34 Down) meeting the Shenandoah at Harper's Ferry, Jean AUEL (49 Down) writing about Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals, and the admittedly not well-known Grand Duchess OLGA (23 Across), eldest daughter of Czar Nicholas II, though eminently inferable as a female Russian name from "Anastasia" in the clue. A factual morsel that couldn't fit into the puzzle: JUDGE JUDY (31 Across) is 2014's highest paid TV star by far ($40+ million) because her show is syndicated and she gets paid for each station that runs it. And of course, because of the high ratings her show receives.

Finally, to paraphrase Will himself in a post he made to xwordinfo earlier this year, there are many editorial approaches to crossword constructing that are suitable for the Times. I'm glad Will finds mine appropriate enough to have put it before you four times in 2014.

Jeff Chen notes:
Nice little trick today, using the holiday to create misdirection. 'Thanksgiving phrase' has nothing to do with the Thanksgiving ... read more

Nice little trick today, using the holiday to create misdirection. "Thanksgiving phrase" has nothing to do with the Thanksgiving holiday, but instead refers to "giving thanks." Appropriate for the day, and a fun twist of wordplay. Judge Judy

I had no idea JUDGE JUDY was the highest-paid person on TV in 2014 — not sure whether to applaud her for the empire she's built, or groan for what this says about America. That's a really cool piece of trivia, one I enjoyed learning and which will stick with me.

Stan's Saturday Stumpers in Newsday are regarded by some to be the most difficult puzzle of the week, and I'd have to agree, rarely (if ever) finishing one (even the one I wrote!). Often he uses oblique clues, single-word clues chosen for their ability to accurately describe roughly half the words in the English dictionary, shenanigans relating to dictionary definition #86, and SAT words to up the difficulty level to 11 and beyond. As a solver, it's usually not my favorite type of puzzle, in that it sometimes feels to me more like a homework assignment than a diversion.

But I can understand people loving that type of uber-challenge. And I definitely got a strong sense of satisfaction when I finished today's puzzle; that I was able to actually complete what felt like an incredibly difficult Thursday puzzle felt like a big win. Finally piecing together things like PARE from [Take a coat off] gave me a huge sigh of relief.

Interesting layout today. I usually like interlock, and it is pretty neat that Stan found three themers that connect so neatly. It's so unfortunate that the 13s in rows 3 and 13 require those unsightly triplets of black squares in each corner. Twelve extra black squares introduced into a single puzzle ... I would personally have preferred a straightforward 13/11/13 layout, which might also have opened up the grid for more colorful 8+ letter fill. Subjective matter — there will probably be some out there who think the black squares border the grid nicely.

Finally, I absolutely loved the clue for RETORT, most solvers thinking about a kitchen counter first because "sharp edges" usually refer to physical objects. Use the "comeback" definition of "counter" and you have a brilliant clue. That's the type of dictionary shenanigans that personally does it for me.

1
P
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L
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H
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1127 ( 23,760 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1. Kindly : PLEASE
7. Absorbed, with "up" : SOPPED
13. State south of Veracruz : OAXACA
14. Upwards of 170 beats per minute : PRESTO
15. Thanksgiving phrase : MUCHASGRACIAS
17. Mario Vargas Llosa's home : PERU
18. Pluses : MERITS
19. Somerhalder of "The Vampire Diaries" : IAN
21. Newcastle and others : ALES
22. Absorbed : ATE
23. Sister of the grand duchess Anastasia : OLGA
24. Capacity : ROLE
25. [Wrong] : BUZZ
27. ___ shooting : SKEET
28. Dangerous curve ahead, say : ESS
29. Parts of a Nativity scene : MAGI
30. Having roared too much, say : HOARSE
31. Highest-paid TV star of 2014, by far : JUDGEJUDY
33. Half of some partnerships : SPOUSE
36. "When You're Good to ___" ("Chicago" tune) : MAMA
37. Bit of honey, perhaps: Abbr. : TSP
40. Classic diva performances? : POUTS
41. Minor inventions : FIBS
42. Second-largest moon of Saturn : RHEA
43. Relative of -kin : ETTE
44. Unkindly : ILL
45. Goes off : ERRS
46. Pigtails and ponytails : DOS
47. Monster in the "Odyssey" : SCYLLA
50. On the money : TOAT
51. Thanksgiving phrase : MERCIBEAUCOUP
54. Eastern terminus of the Erie Canal : ALBANY
55. Actual first name of Tom Seaver and Orson Welles : GEORGE
56. Holds on : CLINGS
57. Idlers : SLOTHS
Down
1. Big citrus fruits : POMELOS
2. Honors : LAURELS
3. Pretext : EXCUSE
4. "That hits the spot" : AAH
5. Put one over on : SCAM
6. Disburden : EASE
7. Bit of perfume : SPRITZ
8. Sermonize : ORATE
9. What bench presses enhance : PECS
10. Symbol for Freud's field : PSI
11. Merchandiser that's never closed : ETAILER
12. Doctors' orders : DOSAGES
16. Thanksgiving phrase : GRAZIEMILLE
17. Take a coat off : PARE
20. Statistician Silver : NATE
23. Word that can be a noun, verb, adjective, adverb or interjection : OKAY
25. Directed : BADE
26. Big name in boots : UGG
27. Word before bread or water : SODA
29. Tousle : MUSS
30. Operates perfectly : HUMS
31. Coffee sack material : JUTE
32. Skewer : JAB
33. Went like lightning : SPED
34. It meets the Shenandoah at Harper's Ferry : POTOMAC
35. Beat in the market : OUTSELL
37. Over and done with : THROUGH
38. Clothing items with fringes : SERAPES
39. Over and done with : PAST
41. Visits by Voyager 1, e.g. : FLYBYS
42. Counter with a sharp edge : RETORT
44. One use for marzipan : ICING
47. Certain JPEG : SCAN
48. Hangs back : LAGS
49. Writer about Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals : AUEL
52. Hitter's stat : RBI
53. Corp. manager : COO

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?