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New York Times, Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Author:
Stu Ockman
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
122/2/20121/24/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0003603
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.57210
Stu Ockman

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 34 Missing: {QX} Spans: 4 This is puzzle # 7 for Mr. Ockman. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Stu Ockman notes:
When I first submitted this grid to Will in March 2013 (see right), Paula let me know that most of the theme examples 'feel ... read more

When I first submitted this grid to Will in March 2013 (see right), Paula let me know that most of the theme examples "feel contrived." Before I went to work on a new grid, I shared my guess that, among the themers, NOT UNATTRACTIVE was okay, and Will replied, "That's a fine example of litotes," so we were off and running. Original grid

I was expecting this to run on a Thursday. Hence, each theme answer was originally clued by its one-word, figure-of-speech. When Will decided to run it on a Wednesday, he took on the task of simplifying a lot of my clues including adding a hint to each of the theme clues, and as always, did a bang up job. Other examples: [Part of a bargain] for PLEA became [Subject of a court bargain], [Abba hit] for SOS became [Maritime alert], [Beans] for ZILCH became [Nada].

One of my favorite clues that I was both delighted and a little surprised to see make the final cut was 'Squash units' for SETS. I'm guessing Will has a soft spot for anything that's related to racquet sports.

Hope you enjoyed it.

Jeff Chen notes:
It's rare for me to not figure out a puzzle's theme. Sure, I miss certain elements maybe once a month, but it's pretty rare that I ... read more

It's rare for me to not figure out a puzzle's theme. Sure, I miss certain elements maybe once a month, but it's pretty rare that I can't figure out the gist of one altogether. I scratched my head for several days about today's before admitting defeat and asking Jim — he wasn't sure either. We finally decided it was "examples of types of rhetoric," hyperbole, oxymoron, litotes, and simile being some of the major ones. (I couldn't explain the word rhetoric if I got beat over the head with a figure of speech, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.) Kikkoman's creed

Some fun theme answers, ITLL TAKE FOREVER and NOT UNATTRACTIVE not unattractive at all. I wasn't aware of MAKE HASTE SLOWLY, but it was fun to learn all about Kikkoman's story. Then there was THICK AS A BRICK, which rolls off the tongue. Er, AS THICK AS A BRICK, where the first AS feels thick as a brick. Or something to that effect. All in all, some pretty colorful phrases.

72 words in a weekday puzzle is almost always an audacious undertaking. It can be really cool when a weekday constructor tackles the challenge, because these low word-count puzzles have the potential to 1.) offer juicy fill as well as 2.) up the difficulty level by presenting the solver with wider-open areas than usual. Breaking into a themeless-type grid is often tough, and the added challenge today was welcome. Check out those big open spaces in the NW and SE, after all.

But the construction feat gets lost on me if there isn't that much snazzy fill — I personally will take a higher word-count grid any day if it means that I get more colorful entries. I like GALLEONS. I love OLD IRISH. FIVE WS was fun, too. But I didn't get quite the bang for the buck I would have liked in terms of spotlight entries. Sometimes low word-count grids require a lot of neutral entries or even liabilities to hold them together, and that to me usually is a more challenging but not as rewarding solving experience.

Speaking of liabilities, NENE with an extremely tough clue, LUKAS, and RITT felt like a tough combination of names. I probably should know the latter, and I'm glad to learn a thing or two, but when KASDAN gets thrown in from the same walk of life, it makes me hitch. A few more not super-well-known names in UTHER, RALPH, JACOB, KEW … toss in the odd duck of KUE along with DPI, the arbitrary AT NOON, ANIS, UNE, RAF, SNO ... and the effect was too much for me.

Some fun themers, which might have been made more fun if there had been some entry tying the phrases all together in a tighter fashion.

Jim Horne notes:
I think there are a couple of reasons for the theme confusion. First, assuming Jeff's analysis is correct, the theme is entirely ... read more

I think there are a couple of reasons for the theme confusion. First, assuming Jeff's analysis is correct, the theme is entirely contained in the clues. That is, you can uncover the theme without entering a single letter in the grid. This isn't unheard of, but it's rare in the NYT.

Second, the first two long answers seem to be related in a way that is thematic. Searching for similar connections in the other two clues yields nothing further.

1
D
2
A
3
W
4
G
5
S
6
L
7
U
8
R
9
S
10
C
11
F
12
O
13
S
14
P
L
E
A
15
H
U
N
A
N
16
R
I
T
T
17
I
T
L
L
18
T
A
K
E
F
O
19
R
E
V
E
R
20
L
L
A
M
A
21
A
D
E
L
A
22
M
23
A
K
E
H
A
S
24
T
25
E
26
S
L
O
W
L
Y
27
A
T
N
O
O
N
28
R
E
A
P
29
S
O
S
30
S
E
I
N
E
31
Z
I
L
C
H
32
S
E
T
S
33
M
I
T
E
S
34
R
35
O
36
S
37
A
38
H
Y
P
E
R
39
J
E
L
L
O
40
I
41
S
42
M
43
A
N
I
S
44
K
A
S
D
A
N
45
N
O
T
46
U
N
A
T
T
47
R
A
C
T
I
V
E
48
L
I
E
T
O
49
A
R
O
A
R
50
A
S
T
H
I
51
C
52
K
53
A
S
A
B
R
I
54
C
55
K
56
N
E
N
E
57
T
E
M
P
T
58
E
S
A
U
59
D
E
A
R
60
S
W
I
S
S
61
A
H
M
E
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1217 ( 23,780 )
Across
1
Homey : DAWG
5
Talks like a tosspot : SLURS
10
Corp. money execs : CFOS
14
Subject of a court bargain : PLEA
15
Spicy Eastern cuisine : HUNAN
16
"Nuts" director Martin : RITT
17
Hyperbole for an arduous task : ITLLTAKEFOREVER
20
"Two-L" beast : LLAMA
21
Writer ___ Rogers St. Johns : ADELA
22
Oxymoron for cautious travel : MAKEHASTESLOWLY
27
Classic time to duel : ATNOON
28
Earn, as profit : REAP
29
Maritime alert : SOS
30
Rive Gauche's river : SEINE
31
Nada : ZILCH
32
Squash units : SETS
33
Pesky arachnids : MITES
34
Parks in 1955 news : ROSA
38
Wired : HYPER
39
Jiggly treat : JELLO
40
Ending for a 10-Down : ISM
43
Flavoring for a French cordial : ANIS
44
"Body Heat" director Lawrence : KASDAN
45
Litotes for beauty : NOTUNATTRACTIVE
48
Intentionally mislead : LIETO
49
Like MGM's lion : AROAR
50
Simile for denseness : ASTHICKASABRICK
56
Leakes of reality TV : NENE
57
Play the siren : TEMPT
58
Hairy son of Isaac : ESAU
59
Sweetie : DEAR
60
Cheese choice : SWISS
61
Exclamation that's a homophone of 53-Down : AHME
Down
1
Printer resolution fig. : DPI
2
Pilot's abbr. : ALT
3
Tightly interlocked : WELLKNIT
4
Many Spanish Armada ships : GALLEONS
5
Tribal healer : SHAMAN
6
"Last Days" actor Haas : LUKAS
7
Article in Le Monde : UNE
8
Prince William's mil. branch : RAF
9
___-Caps (movie theater candy) : SNO
10
Literally, "I believe" : CREDO
11
Reporter's questions, collectively : FIVEWS
12
Opera with "Ave Maria" : OTELLO
13
Many pound dogs : STRAYS
18
Lake near Reno : TAHOE
19
Alice's sitcom husband : RALPH
22
Part of W.M.D. : MASS
23
Precisely, after "to" : ATEE
24
Least fresh : TRITEST
25
Angler with pots : EELER
26
Some bunts, for short : SACS
31
"Hush!" : ZIPIT
33
Avian mimic : MYNA
34
Place to stop and text, perhaps : RESTAREA
35
Ancestor of Scottish Gaelic and Manx : OLDIRISH
36
Many a Balkan native : SLAV
37
Top-notch : AONE
38
Red River delta capital : HANOI
39
Ebenezer's ghostly ex-partner : JACOB
40
Far from shore : INLAND
41
"Got it" : SOISEE
42
Eur. erupter : MTETNA
44
Gold standards : KARATS
46
King Arthur's father ___ Pendragon : UTHER
47
Talks like Don Corleone : RASPS
51
Number after a decimal: Abbr. : CTS
52
London's ___ Gardens : KEW
53
French friend : AMI
54
Ending with nanny or spy : CAM
55
Scrabble 10-pointer, spelled out : KUE

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle.

Found bugs or have suggestions?