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New York Times, Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Author: Joel Fagliano
Editor: Will Shortz
Joel Fagliano
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
5710/22/20092/20/20184
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
13811710224
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.65351

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 33 for Mr. Fagliano. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Shortz notes: Is this puzzle a little hard for a Tuesday? The test-solvers thought so. But once you catch onto the clever theme, it goes faster. ... more
Will Shortz notes: Is this puzzle a little hard for a Tuesday? The test-solvers thought so. But once you catch onto the clever theme, it goes faster. The clues are almost all Joel's. He's become a first-class clue-writer — precise, colorful, imaginative, sly on occasion, and modern without overdoing it. A real pleasure.
Jeff Chen notes: Another solid offering from Joel, this one reinterpreting common phrases as words from a critic. Exceedingly smooth given the five ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Another solid offering from Joel, this one reinterpreting common phrases as words from a critic. Exceedingly smooth given the five themers and all the long fill he treats us to.

Really nice use of the pinwheel arrangement, which is often easier to fill cleanly than normal horizontal theme layouts, since it separates four themers into quadrants that can be filled one at a time. I personally like to use it, but only when the theme is readily apparent, so I can toss in a lot of long fill without worrying about confusing a solver with regard to what's theme and what's fill. Given that the themers are so distinct from the rest of the puzzle, Joel does well to take full advantage of the pinwheel today, tossing in bonus long entries all over the place — while doing it with sparkling cleanliness. These days I expect to get at least one pair of long fill entries, and two pairs is a nice bonus, helping a puzzle to stand out. To get three pairs (including THE WAVE and ALL DONE!), with virtually no crossword glue, is a real treat.

I often think about consistency when assessing a puzzle. I thought Joel had struck gold when I first uncovered LOVE BITES and MOON ROCKS, as both start with a rocker and end with a word of commentary. So it confused me when I got to BIG STINKS, making me wonder if BIG was some rocker I didn't know. In general, I'd prefer to have everything from the same category, or everything different, but not a mixture. Even switching MOON to reference Warren MOON would have made things copacetic for me.

And perhaps today is a case of "less is more." As much as I admire the difficulty level of working in the fifth themer, HOUSE / RULES, I found it almost a bit dilutive, detracting from the simplicity of having themers around the perimeter. I think I would have preferred just four themers, with half of them bad reviews and half of them rave, or all one or the other.

But overall, another admirable, audacious construction from Joel; a fun solve with great bonus material.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1104 ( 23,737 )
Across Down
1. Stops : HALTS
6. Stoned : HIGH
10. Genre for N.W.A. or T.I. : RAP
13. Honolulu hello : ALOHA
14. Everglades bird : EGRET
16. "Yes, there ___ God!" : ISA
17. Gave in : CAVED
18. Critic's positive review of drummer Keith of the Who? : MOONROCKS
20. Had down pat : KNEW
21. Its national animal is the vicuña : PERU
22. Small matter? : ATOMS
23. Powerful industrialist : BARON
25. Please, quaintly : PRITHEE
27. Whine tearfully : SNIVEL
29. Thick-skinned one : RHINO
30. Tribal symbol : TOTEM
31. With 40-Across, critic's positive review of a Fox medical drama? : HOUSE
32. Male turkey : TOM
35. Nonhuman sign language learner : APE
36. Posted an opinion, maybe : BLOGGED
38. "___ had it up to here!" : IVE
39. "Agreed" : YES
40. See 31-Across : RULES
41. Chair designer Charles : EAMES
43. Mythical man-goat : SATYR
44. First family of the 1840s : TYLERS
45. Galaxy competitors : IPHONES
48. They're hard to run in : HEELS
49. Incessantly : NOEND
50. "___ be surprised" : YOUD
52. Homer Simpson's favorite beer : DUFF
55. Critic's negative review of a 1988 Hanks film? : BIGSTINKS
57. Word before range or cord : VOCAL
58. "___ with caution" : USE
59. Everglades bird : STORK
60. Place for a court-ordered monitor : ANKLE
61. ___ Taco (fast-food chain) : DEL
62. Decisive time : DDAY
63. Car introduced by Elon Musk : TESLA
1. Unrespected writer : HACK
2. Mathematician Turing : ALAN
3. Critic's negative review of singer Courtney? : LOVEBITES
4. Stand-up routine? : THEWAVE
5. Down : SAD
6. Macho dudes : HEMEN
7. Dr. Frankenstein's helper : IGOR
8. Many "Family Feud" celebrations : GROUPHUGS
9. Mama bird : HEN
10. Digital camera brand : RICOH
11. Help desk sign : ASKME
12. Old-hat : PASSE
15. Asset for an umpire or editor : TRAINEDEYE
19. ___ the Orange (Syracuse mascot) : OTTO
21. Typical "Meet the Press" guest, for short : POL
24. Band that sang the "Friends" theme song "I'll Be There for You," with "the" : REMBRANDTS
26. React to yeast : RISE
27. Certain court order : STAY
28. "Uh-uh" : NOPE
29. "___ that" ("Understood") : ROGER
31. Eastern Catholic ruling body : HOLYSYNOD
32. Critic's negative review of a newsmagazine? : TIMESUCKS
33. More than : OVER
34. Predicament : MESS
37. Minstrel's instrument : LUTE
42. "Finished!" : ALLDONE
43. Mamas' boys : SONS
44. Sen. Cruz : TED
45. About to bloom : INBUD
46. Asset in a beauty pageant : POISE
47. "Science of Logic" philosopher : HEGEL
48. Iditarod dog : HUSKY
51. Plant also known as ladies' fingers : OKRA
53. When many network shows debut : FALL
54. Pet pest : FLEA
56. "___ be my pleasure!" : ITD
57. Winery fixture : VAT

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle.

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