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New York Times, Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Author:
Bill Thompson
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
911/25/20108/18/20150
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0141300
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.59011
Bill Thompson

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQXZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 8 for Mr. Thompson. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Bill Thompson notes:
The germ for this theme was MUCKETY-MUCK, which I thought was an interesting entry to build a theme around. In sorting through the ... read more

The germ for this theme was MUCKETY-MUCK, which I thought was an interesting entry to build a theme around. In sorting through the possibilities, I landed with an M&M vowel progression theme. As far as I could determine, it hadn't been done before. I found a couple of other M&M themes over the past few years, but no vowel progression. After that, the remainder of the theme answers came together fairly readily. I considered MONEY MONGER for the MO-MO entry, but ultimately decided in favor of MODEST MOUSE.

Will Shortz notes:
This puzzle has an unusually specific theme — familiar phrases in the form MA- MA-, ME- ME-, MI- MI-, etc. I hope solvers don't ... read more

This puzzle has an unusually specific theme — familiar phrases in the form MA- MA-, ME- ME-, MI- MI-, etc. I hope solvers don't notice just the M and Ms, especially with the M AND M entry at 55A, which is a little distracting!

Jeff Chen notes:
I'll admit, I was underwhelmed by this puzzle theme at first, thinking it was composed of straightforward M and M phrases. Not that I ... read more

I'll admit, I was underwhelmed by this puzzle theme at first, thinking it was composed of straightforward M and M phrases. Not that I dislike those, but they usually leave me wanting more if the X and Y are common letters — the fact that so many phrases start with M and M made it feel too easy to pull off; not tight enough. But then it dawned on me that there's an additional layer to the puzzle: each of the five themers incorporates a vowel progression! That is cool.

And what snazzy theme answers, most of them I'd be happy to use in a themeless. A little MODEST MOUSE for the younger crowd, MUCKETY MUCK for us who like to say humorous swear-word sounds without actually swearing (tee hee!), and the weird looking MISS MISSISSIPPI. The entry MISS MISSISSIPPI, I mean, not the actual Miss Mississippi. I'm sure her mother thinks she's very pretty.

Bold decision to incorporate long across fill today. These 10-letter answers are shorter than all the theme answers, and they are both really nice. The bottom section is awfully hard to construct though, with MODEST MOUSE overlapping SERPENTINE which hovers above MUCKETY MUCK and below MISS MISSISSIPPI. See how that severely constrains the fill? It gives few options where AIMS FOR sits, which results in the unfortunate CAN OF partial. Now if CAN OF had been clued "___ whoop-ass" that might have been a different story for me.

But Bill otherwise does really well to navigate through that section, tossing in UP HERE and ENVY to complete the south in clean fashion. That's strong work. In the SE I'm not so sure about KYL. Yes, he was the Senate Minority Whip and one of Time's 100 Most Influential People in 2010, but is he crossworthy? Maybe, maybe not. And more importantly, is he worth the URI tradeoff? I say no, but that's a matter of opinion (Jon Kyl and the URI alums I just offended might disagree).

A bit distracting to have the M AND M entry in the grid (which led me to think it was a not-so-subtle revealer for a straightforward M AND M type puzzle) but I can overlook that. Overall, a neat idea to combine two theme types to form something new. That's hard to accomplish in this day and age of so many ideas having already been used.

And go URI Rams!

1
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2
L
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A
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V
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D
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W
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O
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N
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B
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M
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M
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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1210 ( 23,408 )
Across
1
Czech or Pole : SLAV
5
Make use of : DRAWON
11
Ring org. : WBA
14
Commercial prefix with postale : AERO
15
Pal of Pooh : EEYORE
16
Pipe joint with a 90-degree turn : ELL
17
Pen with a fat felt tip : MAGICMARKER
19
Not firm ground to stand on : BOG
20
Weaver's apparatus : LOOM
21
Come to pass : OCCUR
23
All-star lineups : DREAMTEAMS
29
Zap with light : LASE
30
Pal of Pooh : ROO
31
Aboriginal healers : MEDICINEMEN
33
Writer Quindlen : ANNA
35
One barred from bars : MINOR
36
Annual Vicksburg pageant : MISSMISSISSIPPI
43
___ worms : CANOF
44
Board of directors hirees, for short : CEOS
45
Band with the 2007 #1 album "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank" : MODESTMOUSE
51
Rap's Dr. ___ : DRE
52
Country subject to 2006 U.N. sanctions : IRAN
53
Like Lombard Street in San Francisco : SERPENTINE
55
Plain or peanut candy : MANDM
57
Suffer from : HAVE
58
Company name ending : INC
59
Pooh-bah : MUCKETYMUCK
66
Certain special FX : CGI
67
What Darth Vader serves, with "the" : EMPIRE
68
"Let us ___" : PRAY
69
See 65-Down: Abbr. : SEN
70
Showed mercy to : SPARED
71
Cashier's tray : TILL
Down
1
Cooke of soul : SAM
2
Meadow : LEA
3
Evita's land: Abbr. : ARG
4
"Behold!" : VOILA
5
Bump down : DEMOTE
6
Really chewed out : REAMED
7
Firth of Clyde port : AYR
8
Moo goo gai pan pan : WOK
9
Prospector's quest : ORE
10
Peter on a piano : NERO
11
Video chat necessity : WEBCAM
12
Garment traditionally buttoned on the left side : BLOUSE
13
Nelson who wrote "The Man With the Golden Arm" : ALGREN
18
Ways and Means, e.g.: Abbr. : COMM
22
White-collar job? : CLERIC
23
Apothecary unit : DRAM
24
Rice-A-___ : RONI
25
Many ages : EONS
26
Sets one's sights on : AIMSFOR
27
Early 12th-century year : MCII
28
50-Down and others : SINS
32
Prohibitions : NOS
34
Go up : ASCEND
37
More, in Madrid : MAS
38
Certain gridiron stats: Abbr. : INTS
39
Certain : SOME
40
Mani-___ : PEDI
41
NSFW material : PORN
42
Words often said with a nod : ISEE
45
Apes : MIMICS
46
Actual color of an airplane's black box : ORANGE
47
1978 Bob Fosse musical : DANCIN
48
Higher calling? : UPHERE
49
Like fortunate subway riders : SEATED
50
Green-eyed monster : ENVY
54
Entice : TEMPT
56
Sras., across the Pyrenees : MMES
60
One behind home plate, informally : UMP
61
Balancing expert, in brief? : CPA
62
Aperitif with white wine : KIR
63
State sch. in the smallest state : URI
64
Berkeley school, informally : CAL
65
Jon ____, former 69-Across from Arizona : KYL

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?