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New York Times, Saturday, November 29, 2014

Author:
Elizabeth C. Gorski
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2197/31/19952/23/20160
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
6716363439243
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.5430225
Elizabeth C. Gorski

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 WORD was a ... read more

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 ... read more

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.

1
A
2
D
3
M
4
I
5
R
6
E
7
S
8
H
9
O
10
G
11
W
12
A
13
S
14
H
15
D
E
I
C
E
R
S
16
A
G
R
E
E
T
O
17
M
A
L
A
Y
A
N
18
G
R
E
E
N
E
R
19
I
L
L
N
E
S
S
20
S
E
E
K
E
R
S
21
T
W
I
T
S
22
D
E
A
N
E
23
S
I
B
S
24
P
25
A
26
A
27
R
28
I
N
S
O
29
I
T
A
L
30
I
M
S
A
31
V
E
D
32
T
H
R
E
33
E
L
E
T
T
E
R
W
34
O
35
R
36
D
37
E
V
E
B
E
S
T
38
A
B
E
R
39
M
40
O
P
E
41
A
R
O
O
42
R
A
G
E
43
D
U
R
A
N
44
E
R
M
A
S
45
R
E
D
W
O
46
O
47
D
48
M
49
E
N
I
A
L
S
50
I
S
A
I
D
N
O
51
A
N
S
O
N
I
A
52
B
L
I
N
D
E
R
53
S
T
O
R
I
N
G
54
S
I
N
K
S
I
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55
C
O
R
S
A
G
E
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1129 ( 23,762 )
Across
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
Down
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: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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