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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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B
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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: 4 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?