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New York Times, Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Author: Gareth Bain
Editor: Will Shortz
Gareth Bain
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144/6/20119/18/20152
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0334112
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1.58210

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 39 Missing: {FGJQZ} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 12 for Mr. Bain. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Gareth Bain notes: All crossword constructors are in it for the records right? I'm hoping this goes down as 'earwormiest NYT crossword'. You do have ... more
Gareth Bain notes: All crossword constructors are in it for the records right? I'm hoping this goes down as "earwormiest NYT crossword". You do have that list, right Jeff & Jim? It was conceived while watching a local advert for I think Standard Bank that uses SHBOOM as its theme. Like every good (and not so good) constructor, I rushed to see if that answer had been used. As far as I could tell it hadn't. My next thought was that a whole puzzle of sound-effect songs could create a pleasing effect. It's a lot simpler and "listier" than most NYTs, but I think it works. I regret this puzzle's density, especially as, only the week before making it, I vowed never again to force too much theme into a puzzle! It was a bear to fill, especially all those accursed M's! The result, inevitably, is a puzzle that has little to offer if you don't enjoy the theme.

Lastly, I'm happy to have included a quasi-South African theme answer in DO WAH DIDDY DIDDY (the eponymous keyboardist of the British band is South African).

Will Shortz notes: How Gareth Bain, a South African, understands American crosswords — and culture — so well, I will never understand. This is his 12th puzzle published in the Times, with more in the pipeline.
Jeff Chen notes: I was glad to read Gareth's note, as my ineptitude with pop music did me in today. I was trying to figure out if the four songs were ... more
Jeff Chen notes: I was glad to read Gareth's note, as my ineptitude with pop music did me in today. I was trying to figure out if the four songs were all ones that had repeated words? Or maybe the artists all tied together somehow? Now it makes more sense, all of the themers being ones featuring sound effects. And I was a little embarrassed to find out that there are actually six themers, including IKO IKO and SHBOOM. Pop music, my arch enemy!

I really appreciate Gareth's comment about not trying to do too much. Shows a level of self-awareness and maturity that not a lot of constructors (or people in general — sigh) get to. I was all set to comment about the flow of crossword glue around the EMI / RMN / CSA region, but now that pile-up makes more sense given how many constraints Gareth put on himself. Just dealing with a huge string of M's is a tough enough task. Throw in IKO IKO and SHBOOM as further challenges, and I'm impressed that Gareth got the grid as clean as he did.

All those constraints in the middle of the puzzle did force him to deploy a lot of his black squares, which is a reason why we see big swaths of white in the NW and SE. Working with a maximum word count of 78, placing a lot of short words in one region usually means having to fill a few longer spaces elsewhere. So getting the unfortunate pile-up of ONT / OTT / DEO is a side-effect, in a way, of the huge theme density and high constraints.

It's tough for me to assess pop music puzzles given my fourth-grade level of knowledge there, but I think I would have appreciated this one more if there were a more overt way all the themers tied together. Even a music moron like myself can grok the repetition factor of IKO IKO, MMM MMM MMM MMM, and DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO. Not as easy for me to tell how the others fit in. I don't often like being hit over the head with a metaphorical hammer (or a real one, for that matter), but in this case a little noggin-tapping would have been a good thing.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1105 ( 23,738 )
Across Down
1. React to a haymaker : REEL
5. "Song of the South" appellation : BRER
9. Pair on a yawl : MASTS
14. Take the edge off : ALLEVIATE
16. Many a Greenlander : INUIT
17. 1964 hit for Manfred Mann : DOWAHDIDDYDIDDY
19. Is the first act : OPENS
20. Perpendicular to vert. : HOR
21. It sells, it's said : SEX
22. Home in the sticks? : NEST
23. Viagra rival : CIALIS
26. 1968 song from the Beatles' "White Album" : OBLADIOBLADA
32. ID thief's target : SSN
35. Flick with a duel, maybe : OATER
36. Small wonder? : ATOM
37. 1965 hit for the Dixie Cups : IKOIKO
39. 1954 hit for the Chords : SHBOOM
41. What snobs put on : AIRS
42. Place for high living? : AERIE
45. Golf club V.I.P. : PRO
46. 1994 hit for the Crash Test Dummies : MMMMMMMMMMMM
50. Introduce to the mix : STIRIN
51. Like a legal deposition : ORAL
55. "They're ___ Delicious!" (Alpha-Bits slogan) : ABC
58. Ex-president Tyler sided with it: Abbr. : CSA
59. Super : PRIMO
60. 1973 song by the Rolling Stones subtitled "Heartbreaker" : DOODOODOODOODOO
65. "Beats me" : DUNNO
66. Hollywood's Hollywood and Vine do it : INTERSECT
67. Dish sometimes served au poivre : STEAK
68. Swimmer Kristin ___, the first woman to win six gold medals at a single Olympics : OTTO
69. Amor's counterpart : EROS
1. Cause of some poisoning : RADON
2. Pursue "I do's" when the parents say "don't"? : ELOPE
3. Cary who played Robin Hood : ELWES
4. Makeshift shelter : LEANTO
5. eBay action : BID
6. Bollywood star Aishwarya ___ : RAI
7. Flight board abbr. : ETD
8. Feature of one nicknamed "Ginger" : REDHAIR
9. Leaf's central vein : MIDRIB
10. Singer DiFranco : ANI
11. Beer, slangily : SUDS
12. Sand castle's undoing : TIDE
13. River ferried by Charon : STYX
15. Pre-DVD format : VHS
18. Modern acronym meaning "carpe diem" : YOLO
23. "Cool" guy : CAT
24. Chemical suffix : IDE
25. Hearty slice : SLAB
27. ___ choy (Chinese cabbage) : BOK
28. Vientiane native : LAO
29. Surmounting : ATOP
30. Symbol of opportunity : DOOR
31. Armory supply, informally : AMMO
32. Pre-1939 atlas name : SIAM
33. Milk option : SKIM
34. Standard : NORM
38. Ideologies : ISMS
39. Alastair of "A Christmas Carol" : SIM
40. Tailor's edge : HEM
42. Medium for much political talk : AMRADIO
43. U.K. record label : EMI
44. Watergate inits. : RMN
47. Highest peak in N.Z. : MTCOOK
48. Soup served at a sushi bar : MISO
49. Down in the dumps : MOROSE
52. Equestrian, e.g. : RIDER
53. BP merger partner of 1998 : AMOCO
54. Pillages : LOOTS
55. Introduces to the mix : ADDS
56. Ring event : BOUT
57. Baskin-Robbins order : CONE
59. ___ favor (Spanish "please") : POR
61. "CSI" test subject : DNA
62. It borders four Great Lakes: Abbr. : ONT
63. Mel with 511 homers : OTT
64. To God, in hymns : DEO

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle.

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