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New York Times, Saturday, November 29, 2014

Author: Elizabeth C. Gorski
Editor: Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2197/31/19952/23/20160
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6716363439243
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1.5430225
Elizabeth C. Gorski
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 62, Blocks: 32 Missing: {FJQXZ} Spans: 3 Minimum word length: 4 This is puzzle # 216 for Ms. Gorski. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Elizabeth C. Gorski notes: To avoid theme duplications, I always run long entries through xwordinfo.com and Matt Ginsberg's database. THREE-LETTER ... more
Elizabeth C. Gorski notes: To avoid theme duplications, I always run long entries through xwordinfo.com and Matt Ginsberg's database. THREE-LETTER WORD was a new, unused phrase — an apt centerpiece for a puzzle with no three-letter terms. As always, the construction is informed by everyday life. I'd just seen "The King's Speech" with EVE BEST as Wallis Simpson. I CANT SLEEP A WINK is autobiographical; I am an insomniac who makes puzzles in the wee hours. I hope this addition to the "crosswords with no 3-letter words" genre will provide a bit of entertainment for daily solvers and WEEKEND WARRIORS.
Jeff Chen notes: What a cool grid today! Normally I associate Liz with Sunday puzzles featuring cool visual effects, but today she shows off her ... more
Jeff Chen notes: What a cool grid today! Normally I associate Liz with Sunday puzzles featuring cool visual effects, but today she shows off her well-rounded constructing chops. Not only does she delve into themelesses, an area she hasn't focused as much of her time on, but she goes all the way into the Saturday deep end with an incredibly hard task: the ultra-low word count themeless grid.

I usually assess themelesses with a ridiculously dorky MBA-speak ASSETS and LIABILITIES scorecard, incrementing ASSETS for each colorful entry and upping the LIABILITIES count for each glue bit. (If there's a "puzzle-killer" — an absolutely heinous entry — the entire grid gets tossed right out of consideration.) One aspect I usually don't account for is a "wow factor." It's pretty rare for me to be impressed just by the look of an empty grid — for example, quad-stacks used to get this bonus from me when they first appeared, but now they don't. I would add perhaps three or four extra points to the ASSETS column today because of the wide-open grid with a pattern I don't remember seeing, and I would also raise my LIABILITIES limit to maybe eight. Sometimes it's worth slogging through more glue than usual in order to see something new and different.

Redwood trees

The danger in ultra-low word count grids is that they're so hard to fill that the constructor sometimes finds it good enough to just fill the darn thing, period. That used to be good enough — take a look at some of the record-setting grids and the swaths of glue they contain — but not anymore. Liz gives us some beauties, including three interlocking grid-spanners, plus a spate of really nice 7s and 8s: OBAMANIA, EVEN ODDS, ADMITS IT, HOGWASH are all great on their own right. Strong, amusing wordplay makes REDWOOD, CORSAGE, DEICERS, even ORDAIN and HORSE stand out as well.

It does have its flaws, as I would expect. There's the weirdly spelled AMEBA (which I've been guilty of using in the past), and a lot of the four-letter words are unsightly. Hit the "Analyze" button below and you'll see that the alphabetical list starts with ABER AROO DORN (although I like me some Worf) and ENTO — not a great sign. And although it's neat that there are no three-letter words in the grid, I would have much preferred a strong grid-spanner to replace THREE LETTER WORD, which feels a tad gimmicky to me, especially given that this sort of thing has been done before.

Overall, I loved the initial impact of the grid — a rare occurrence for a themeless for me — and the solving experience was really entertaining. I was able to overlook all the glue in order to savor the strong entries and playful cluing.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1129 ( 23,762 )
Across Down
1. Likes a lot : ADMIRES
8. It's not to be believed : HOGWASH
15. Ones clearing for takeoff? : DEICERS
16. O.K. : AGREETO
17. Like one of Brunei's two main languages : MALAYAN
18. Less experienced : GREENER
19. It might give you a headache : ILLNESS
20. Hunting party? : SEEKERS
21. Boobs : TWITS
22. Continental Congress delegate from Connecticut : DEANE
23. Quads, e.g. : SIBS
24. Onetime host of CBS's "The Morning Show" : PAAR
28. "___ doing ..." : INSO
29. Alternative to quotes: Abbr. : ITAL
30. Cry at a revival : IMSAVED
32. Something not found in this puzzle's answer : THREELETTERWORD
37. She played Wallis Simpson in "The King's Speech" : EVEBEST
38. But, in Bonn : ABER
39. Be a Debbie Downer : MOPE
41. "King ___" of old comics : AROO
42. Height of fashion : RAGE
43. Boxer who won 1980's Brawl in Montreal : DURAN
44. Grammy-nominated Franklin and others : ERMAS
45. Giant with a big trunk : REDWOOD
48. Flunkies : MENIALS
50. "Let me repeat: Forget it!" : ISAIDNO
51. Historic residential hotel in Manhattan : ANSONIA
52. Part of a 14-Down's harness : BLINDER
53. Putting away : STORING
54. Registers : SINKSIN
55. Spray on a dress : CORSAGE
1. Comes clean : ADMITSIT
2. Handle : DEALWITH
3. Small unit of atmospheric pressure : MILLIBAR
4. Insomniac's lament : ICANTSLEEPAWINK
5. Kings of León : REYES
6. Noteworthy times : ERAS
7. Payroll dept. info : SSNS
8. Fairy tale figures : HAGS
9. Fairy tale figure : OGRE
10. Less likely to give : GREEDIER
11. They play hard on Saturday and Sunday : WEEKENDWARRIORS
12. Principal lieutenant of Hector in the "Iliad" : AENEAS
13. Portable heater : STERNO
14. You can bet on it : HORSE
24. Mount, with "up" : PILE
25. Formless life form : AMEBA
26. Bloom in Robert Frost's "A Late Walk" : ASTER
27. Nickname in the Best Picture of 1969 : RATSO
31. Block from the White House : VETO
33. They're 50-50 : EVENODDS
34. Enthusiasm shown during a 2008 race : OBAMANIA
35. Wining and dining : REGALING
36. Olympic sport that includes passades and pirouettes : DRESSAGE
39. Food whose name means "little purée" : MUESLI
40. Transition to fatherhood : ORDAIN
43. Tiny amounts : DRIBS
44. "Masks Confronting Death" painter, 1888 : ENSOR
46. "No ___ think is in my tree" ("Strawberry Fields Forever" lyric) : ONEI
47. Michael who played Worf on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" : DORN
48. Like Italian "bread," e.g.: Abbr. : MASC
49. Inside opening? : ENTO

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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