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New York Times, Saturday, December 13, 2014

Author:
James Mulhern and Ashton Anderson
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2411/16/20096/23/20176
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
012001011
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.60000
James Mulhern
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1111/16/20096/23/20176
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0100073
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.62000
Ashton Anderson

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 31 Missing: {VXZ} This is puzzle # 11 for Mr. Mulhern. This is puzzle # 9 for Mr. Anderson. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
Ashton: This was the first themeless James and I collaborated on, around two years ago now. Our ideas about what makes a themeless ... read more

Ashton:

This was the first themeless James and I collaborated on, around two years ago now. Our ideas about what makes a themeless great were starting to evolve towards a more "holistic" view, for lack of a better word. In the era of computer-assisted construction, a scattershot collection of great entries isn't enough — it becomes harder and harder to tell what's human and what's machine.

Instead of making themelesses that are simply lists of words (and judging them by simply enumerating their "good" and "bad" words), we focused on trying to craft puzzles with interrelations and echoes and interesting juxtapositions in them, so they could only be fully appreciated by considering them whole. Hopefully this puzzle's NW corner has this effect (relating the two long downs and joining a triplet of entries with identical clues were two other attempts at achieving something similar). The end result isn't perfect, but we hope the solver can feel the human effort that went into it.

James:

What he said. Ashton did the top and I did the bottom. Hope you like it!

Jeff Chen notes:
A lot of nice entries today packed into a 72 word grid. I especially liked what was going on in the NW quadrant, given the LIQUOR UP / ... read more

A lot of nice entries today packed into a 72 word grid. I especially liked what was going on in the NW quadrant, given the LIQUOR UP / TEQUILA crossing as well as ONE ON ONE and BUTTOCKS squeezed into a UNITARD. Love the intentional connections; a nice touch of which we don't see enough. Such nice packing density of colorful entries, especially given how large that L-shaped quadrant is. It's daunting to work with a triple-stack of any kind, and when one turns the corner into other long entries, things can get rough.

Often I'm not a fan of grids leaning on 7-letter entries, but I liked a lot of what I saw today. That SW corner especially exemplifies what I personally like out of 7s: SWEE PEA with a neat trivia clue (all these years I thought he was a she), the colloquial HIT ME UP and OF A SORT. Excellent triplet, even featuring AP TEST running through them.

72-word grids sometimes have a danger of feeling restricted, and I noted that today. Usually I'm fine with a set of cheater squares, and even prefer them since they often make smoother fill possible. Today, the squares after HAIL and before ALTS felt restrictive to me, nearly dividing the puzzle into halves. I can see how difficult it would have been to get those giant NW and SE corners filled though — 8x3 chunk intersecting a 7x4 is something I stay away from because of the difficulty involved in getting colorful and clean fill. Always the trade-offs.

Curious, the decision to connect MORE / OR LESS and BAD / EMS. I personally don't like seeing cross-referenced partials, seeming like a desperate save to make something like OR LESS acceptable. As much as I liked the NW quadrant, I didn't care for OR LESS, maybe even liking it less for the cross-reference. Ants on a log And BAD / EMS … whoo. Nearly made the puzzle impossible for me. Saturday puzzles should be hard, so maybe this is fine. It was a very unsatisfying moment for me though, when I finally did enter those BAD / EMS squares after struggling over them for so long. Not an a-ha moment at all.

Fun anchor phrases, ANTS ON A LOG such a snappy entry. It's too bad it's not more well-known that it required such a definitional entry. And I think I liked STREET MEAT a lot. I think. I would put a picture of it up, but all the images Bing showed me were of a different (NSFW) ilk. Ahem.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1213 ( 23,776 )
Across
1. Cheeky couple? : BUTTOCKS
9. Opposite : ACROSS
15. Many a pickup game : ONEONONE
16. Zero chance : NOHOPE
17. Become ripped : LIQUORUP
18. Needing to sit for a minute, maybe : TOOHOT
19. Lakers commentator Lantz and others : STUS
20. Met someone? : ARTIST
22. Minute, briefly : LIL
23. Caesar's predecessor? : HAIL
24. Deliverer of thousands of monologues : LENO
25. City known for its traffic violations : CALI
26. See 36-Across : ORLESS
29. Larrup : TAN
30. Fat Tire and Full Sail : ALES
31. Ballerina Rubinstein who commissioned Ravel's "Boléro" : IDA
32. Business end?: Abbr. : LTD
34. Target target? : WALMART
36. With 26-Across, somewhat : MORE
37. Exotic juice ingredient : ALOE
38. Big marble : SHOOTER
41. Thataway : YON
42. With 54-Across, spa town on the Lahn River : BAD
45. Bachelor's least favorite radio station? : WIFE
46. Glace, essentially : EAU
48. Action figure released in 1997 : GIJANE
50. Basse-Californie, e.g. : ETAT
51. Fashion designer Knowles, mother of Beyoncé : TINA
53. Climbing figs. : ALTS
54. See 42-Across : EMS
55. Hurrier's words : IMLATE
57. Progressives, e.g. : BLOC
58. ___ person : PEOPLE
60. Kangaroo Point is a suburb of it : BRISBANE
62. Illumination indication : EUREKA
63. Online aid for job-hunters : LINKEDIN
64. H.S. challenge with 1-to-5 scoring : APTEST
65. Beach book, typically : EASYREAD
Down
1. Where Prokofiev's "Cinderella" premiered : BOLSHOI
2. 1-Down wear : UNITARD
3. 1958 #1 hit whose only lyric is its title word : TEQUILA
4. Ruffle : TOUSLE
5. Mackerel variety on Hawaiian menus : ONO
6. Langston Hughes's "___ Unashamed" : CORA
7. Small projecting ridge : KNURL
8. Menorah's branches, e.g. : SEPTET
9. Celery topped with peanut butter and raisins : ANTSONALOG
10. Codger : COOT
11. Mass-over-volume symbol : RHO
12. "Mm-mmm!" : OOHLALA
13. Surprise giveaway? : SPOILER
14. What keeps order at a concert? : SETLIST
21. Somewhat : INAWAY
25. Derived (from) : CAME
27. A.T.M. feature : SLOT
28. Kebabs sold curbside, say : STREETMEAT
33. Throw a monkey wrench into : DERAIL
35. Anderson of sitcomdom : LONI
36. Big name in bubbly : MOET
38. Comics boy with the given name Scooner : SWEEPEA
39. Modern request for contact : HITMEUP
40. Somewhat : OFASORT
42. Chopin dedicated one to Schumann : BALLADE
43. Title girl in literature's "Prairie Trilogy" : ANTONIA
44. Derive (from) : DESCEND
47. Powerless : UNABLE
49. Yap : JABBER
52. Some lobbies : ATRIA
55. Classes : ILKS
56. Beethoven's first? : EINS
59. 11-Down's shape : PEE
61. Hit high in the air : SKY

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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