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New York Times, Monday, November 30, 2015

Author: Ian Livengood
Editor: Will Shortz
Ian Livengood
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
554/12/20109/15/20164
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
617667112
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64371

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQZ} This is puzzle # 51 for Mr. Livengood. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Ian Livengood notes: I almost submitted this puzzle with stacked themed 10s in the 2/3 and 13/14 rows. I actually got pretty good fill with 'em, but ... more
Ian Livengood notes:

I almost submitted this puzzle with stacked themed 10s in the 2/3 and 13/14 rows. I actually got pretty good fill with 'em, but thought it'd be too intimidating for Monday solvers. I tried to avoid entries that had a ?AA? pattern like SAAB, PAAR, or MAAM (not that difficult) and keep things bouncy.

I don't care for ARAL and maybe CCCP, but I'm pleased with the rest of the fill. Hope solvers like it!

Jeff Chen notes: MIDAS TOUCH interpreted as 'mid As touch.' Seeing all the *AA* phrases made it pretty obvious that those letters were integral to the ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

MIDAS TOUCH interpreted as "mid As touch." Seeing all the *AA* phrases made it pretty obvious that those letters were integral to the theme, but the revealer gave me a very nice and unexpected a-ha moment.

King Midas

It's awfully surprising to see an OLIO in an Livengood puzzle (although there is a case to be made for "aglio y olio"), given how impressively free of gluey words his puzzles usually are. So what's going on? It's not that Ian was careless regarding his fill — it's the trade-off of having six themers vs. the usual four or five. Stuffing six themers into a 15x grid is something only a handful of people can pull off well, because so much theme density gives you fits in having to fill around all of them. Stacking themers does help space things out, but the ??IO pattern at 7-Down does take away flexibility.

As much as I like looking at the construction feat, I'm not sure the sixth themer was worth it. Having just four *AA* phrases would have set up the revealer just as well for me. I might have even preferred it, as it got a little repetitive to see that *AA* pattern over and over.

That said, this is a tiny nit to pick. It's much better constructed than an average Monday puzzle, what with just that OLIO and an ARG, and CLIPBOARD and LAKE GENEVA are nice bonus fill. BOB DOLE was especially pleasing to me, since my (13-month old) daughter has taken to carrying around a pen like Dole. It's ridiculously endearing.

Very nice idea, accessible to Monday solvers but still interesting what with that hard-to-predict revealer. I wouldn't have made the same trade-off to work in a sixth themer, but that's just personal preference.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 1130 ( 24,128 )
Across Down
1. Add alcohol to, as punch : SPIKE
6. Caesar dressing? : TOGA
10. Letters on a Soviet rocket : CCCP
14. One traveling with a backpack : HIKER
15. Stately hardwoods : ELMS
16. ___ vera : ALOE
17. Songs for divas : OPERAARIAS
19. Read the ___ act : RIOT
20. Withdraw gradually from a mother's milk : WEAN
21. 1997 Grammy-winning artist whose last name is a fruit : FIONAAPPLE
23. Dine : EAT
25. Dull-colored : DRAB
26. Pods of cotton : BOLLS
29. Nurse, as a drink : SIP
32. Union man? : GROOM
35. Tibetan watchdogs : LHASAAPSOS
38. Orson Welles's "Citizen ___" : KANE
39. Acorn producer : OAK
40. Elvis who was "all shook up" : PRESLEY
42. 40-Across's record label : RCA
43. Bauxite and magnetite : ORES
45. Former "American Idol" judge : PAULAABDUL
47. Pulling a rabbit out of a hat, e.g. : MAGIC
49. C minor, for Beethoven's Fifth : KEY
50. Gets the booby prize : LOSES
51. Lit sign in a theater : EXIT
53. Writer ___ Du Bois : WEB
54. Noted California horse-racing venue : SANTAANITA
59. "Fiddlesticks!" : DRAT
63. 39-Across, e.g. : TREE
64. Moneymaking skill ... or, when read as three words, what happens in 17-, 21-, 35-, 45- and 54-Across : MIDASTOUCH
66. Icicle's place : EAVE
67. ___ out a living (gets by) : EKES
68. Song from way back : OLDIE
69. Strategize : PLAN
70. Library carrel, basically : DESK
71. Impoverished : NEEDY
1. "24" or "48 Hours" : SHOW
2. Accessory for a snowman : PIPE
3. Furniture giant with a blue and yellow logo : IKEA
4. Corn seeds : KERNELS
5. Period in history : ERA
6. Actress Hatcher : TERI
7. Mishmash : OLIO
8. Gangster catcher, informally : GMAN
9. Longtime Syrian strongman : ASSAD
10. Place to leave an auto, in Britain : CARPARK
11. Ones providing backing for writers? : CLIPBOARDS
12. Air-condition : COOL
13. Tennis's Sampras : PETE
18. Toward a ship's rear : AFT
22. Buenos Aires's land: Abbr. : ARG
24. "Now!" : ASAP
26. Begin to flower : BLOOM
27. Scarlett of Tara : OHARA
28. Body of water between France and Switzerland : LAKEGENEVA
29. Order to a dog to bark : SPEAK
30. Immigration or the economy, in a presidential election : ISSUE
31. Stereotypical parrot's name : POLLY
33. With perfect timing : ONCUE
34. Breakfast and lunch : MEALS
36. Dadaist Jean : ARP
37. See 55-Down : SEA
41. Harvard rival : YALE
44. "Sweet" age : SIXTEEN
46. War-hero candidate of 1996 : BOBDOLE
48. Hush-hush org. : CIA
52. Domesticated : TAMED
53. "Now where ___ I?" : WAS
54. Stairs unit : STEP
55. With 37-Down, shrunken body of water in Asia : ARAL
56. Company with a swoosh logo : NIKE
57. ___ of March : IDES
58. Something on a to-do list : TASK
60. Like cutting in line : RUDE
61. Low-pH substance : ACID
62. Rock's ___ Might Be Giants : THEY
65. 2,000 pounds : TON

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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