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New York Times, Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Author: Ed Sessa
Editor: Will Shortz
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1.64251
Edward Sessa

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQVZ} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 21 for Mr. Sessa. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Edward Sessa notes: The seed for this puzzle was 36-Across, clued as 'Mime's mantra?' I recall that there may have been a fourth theme entry but it ... more
Edward Sessa notes: The seed for this puzzle was 36-Across, clued as "Mime's mantra?" I recall that there may have been a fourth theme entry but it was weaker than what I thought were three solid entries. While I have often tried to fit in 4 or 5 good theme entries into a puzzle (sometimes successfully, sometimes not), in this case I felt that "less was more" and left things at three. I was very happy that it was accepted for publication, and didn't require any rewrites.
Will Shortz notes: Ed Sessa lives on Sanibel island, Florida. We had the pleasure of meeting a year ago when I spoke at the local library. Today's ... more
Will Shortz notes: Ed Sessa lives on Sanibel island, Florida. We had the pleasure of meeting a year ago when I spoke at the local library. Today's puzzle by Ed is simple — just three theme entries — but they're all nice ones, and they make me smile.
Jeff Chen notes: Fun change-up today. Only three theme entries, but they're all good to great when re-imagined with one fewer space. AWAY WITH WORDS! ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Fun change-up today. Only three theme entries, but they're all good to great when re-imagined with one fewer space. AWAY WITH WORDS! was my favorite of the bunch.

A grid with just three theme entries has a great deal of potential for nice long fill, and Ed does s good job with that. Incorporating ESCAPE PLAN and I SMELL A RAT in the across direction adds to the level of difficulty, and a series of snazzy long downs enhanced my solving experience, EYELASH, SHOEBOX, and STALAG in particular. BOATEL was new to me, but a fun term.

I can't help but think that there were many other theme options, but I couldn't come up with any solid ones after a few minutes of thought. Since there were only three themers, it would have been really nice to have all three start with AW, but I couldn't come up with any common phrases that start with A WASH or A WRY. In this day and age where most puzzles have at least four theme answers, it's kind of nice to get a grid with three solid themers and a grid packed with additional good fill.

Sometimes people talk about the first impression a puzzle makes, at 1-across. For a while I didn't buy that (especially because I often couldn't figure out 1-across right away unless it was a Monday puzzle), but I'm starting to see the logic. Just like in public speaking or essays, the first and last impression is often a critical factor in the impression left with the audience. In this case, BUBBA is a great opener and affected my opinion to the positive. The REEDY / DRESSAGE finish was nice too.

Not to say it's all perfect — I'd love for SERE to go the way of ADIT, IRAE isn't great (although passable since DIES IRAE is famous in classical circles), and ATTU might be borderline to some — but overall, cleanly executed. Well done.

1
B
2
U
3
B
4
B
5
A
6
W
7
A
8
N
9
D
10
E
11
B
12
O
13
N
14
A
A
R
O
N
15
A
T
T
U
16
T
O
R
E
17
A
W
A
R
D
18
O
F
T
H
E
19
S
T
A
T
E
20
D
E
E
P
E
N
21
H
A
T
E
S
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P
23
B
S
24
S
I
R
25
D
26
S
O
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E
G
O
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A
A
H
29
S
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E
S
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C
A
P
E
32
P
L
A
N
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S
H
A
P
34
E
35
U
S
E
B
Y
36
A
W
A
Y
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W
38
I
T
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W
O
R
39
D
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S
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D
E
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X
E
R
O
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X
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I
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S
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M
E
L
L
A
R
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A
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T
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S
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M
T
A
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A
L
S
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B
U
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S
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P
A
R
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E
S
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G
A
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H
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A
L
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A
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K
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R
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A
G
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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1218 ( 23,416 )
Across Down
1. Good ol' boy : BUBBA
6. Airport security worker's device : WAND
10. Black, to a bard : EBON
14. Composer Copland : AARON
15. Outermost Aleutian island : ATTU
16. Went like heck : TORE
17. Plaque from a governor? : AWARDOFTHESTATE
20. Dredge, say : DEEPEN
21. Can't deal with : HATES
22. "Downton Abbey" airer : PBS
24. Title for U2's Bono : SIR
25. Brit. military honor : DSO
27. Psych 101 topic : EGO
28. Sounds from saunas : AAHS
30. It's tested in a fire drill : ESCAPEPLAN
33. Blob, e.g. : SHAPE
35. Phrase before a future date : USEBY
36. Mime's motto? : AWAYWITHWORDS
41. Machine that "nothing runs like" : DEERE
42. Certain dupe : XEROX
44. "Something is rotten in Denmark" : ISMELLARAT
49. Drought-ridden : SERE
50. What Charlie rides, in a 1959 hit : MTA
51. Capp and Capone : ALS
52. Double-decker, e.g. : BUS
54. Municipal grid: Abbr. : STS
55. Trims : PARES
57. Targets of sutures : GASHES
59. Arrive via a red-eye? : ALIGHTINTHEDARK
64. Clark's Smallville crush : LANA
65. "Of wrath," in a hymn title : IRAE
66. Longhorn's grid rival : AGGIE
67. Like centenarians : AGED
68. Adopt-a-thon adoptees : PETS
69. Like the sound of bagpipes : REEDY
1. Lea call : BAA
2. Detroit labor org. : UAW
3. Carrie on "Sex and the City" : BRADSHAW
4. Tiresome sort : BORE
5. Condor's habitat : ANDES
6. Symbols of thinness : WAFERS
7. Envelope abbr. : ATTN
8. Vowelless word : NTH
9. Scheduled to deliver (on) : DUE
10. ___ James (Beyoncé role) : ETTA
11. Floating accommodations : BOATEL
12. Brand of taco sauce and shells : ORTEGA
13. Liam of "Michael Collins" : NEESON
18. Satellite radio's "The ___ & Anthony Show" : OPIE
19. Baseball card collection holder, maybe : SHOEBOX
22. Sources of announcements, for short : PAS
23. ___ Men ("Who Let the Dogs Out" group) : BAHA
25. Track event : DASH
26. Throw off : SPEW
29. Trench maker's tool : SPADE
31. More cuddly, say : CUTER
32. Funeral flames : PYRES
34. Narrowest of margins : EYELASH
37. Wishing site : WELL
38. Portfolio parts, briefly : IRAS
39. Equestrian training : DRESSAGE
40. Ilk : SORT
43. Marks of illiteracy : XES
44. Serengeti speedster : IMPALA
45. "Hogan's Heroes" setting : STALAG
46. One of "the Few, the Proud" : MARINE
47. Dies down : ABATES
48. Keister : TUSH
53. Do a shepherd's task : SHEAR
56. "OMG!," old-style : EGAD
57. Wee pest : GNAT
58. Leg up : EDGE
60. Informer's info : TIP
61. Tee off : IRE
62. Empty (of) : RID
63. A cipher needs one : KEY

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle.

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