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New York Times, Friday, December 20, 2013

Author:
Ian Livengood
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
554/12/20109/15/20164
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
617667112
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64371
Ian Livengood

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 30 Missing: {FJX} This is puzzle # 33 for Mr. Livengood. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ian Livengood notes:
I tried something different on this one. Instead of seeding the puzzle with longer entries, I locked in quality 3- and 4-letter ... read more

I tried something different on this one. Instead of seeding the puzzle with longer entries, I locked in quality 3- and 4-letter entries (ATE, ASH, MUD, EAR, etc.). This method ensures smooth shorter fill, and, if you work at it long enough, quality longer fill, too. If you fill 3x7 or 4x7 sections the other way around, it's too easy to fall in love with one or two great answers propped up by junk. So ... yeah. FILL. It's all about the fill.

Will Shortz notes:
Ian was my assistant from fall 2010 through the spring of 2011. Over the years he's turned into a crackerjack constructor. Easy, ... read more

Ian was my assistant from fall 2010 through the spring of 2011. Over the years he's turned into a crackerjack constructor. Easy, medium, or hard — any difficulty level is fine for him. Superclean constructions, too. In this grid I like MAN CAVE, MUG SHOT, USO TOUR, CROPLAND, SAM ADAMS, HOT TUB, IT WORKS, YES MA'AM, GAS MASK, and ED HELMS. And that's just in the Acrosses!

Jeff Chen notes:
Another beautiful construction from Ian, the first constructor to earn his second POW! during my iron-fisted regime of terror. Er, ... read more

Another beautiful construction from Ian, the first constructor to earn his second POW! during my iron-fisted regime of terror. Er, happiness. Same difference. Almost all themeless puzzles require trade-offs, with snazzier entries or lower word counts coming at the price of ugly fill. Today's is a beauty, a huge amount of lively long fill and almost nothing by way of subpar answers. Almost Berryesque, I daresay. Sacrilege, I know!

When Ian sent his commentary, I thought at first he was joking. Start with the short stuff? And fill in the longer stuff from there? Ha, that's funny! And then I started to wonder ... is this madness, or genius? (Such a fine line.) And to my surprise, Ian said indeed, he was being serious, trying a new approach to minimize ugly short fill. Heck, if the long fill is so nice with such a minimal amount of dreck, maybe he's onto something.

The only hiccup I saw was in the SW corner, with VAYA/VARIG/AGITA. I had to look up the last two, and was glad I did, as they seem like pieces of information I ought to have in my knowledge base. I knew VAYA (con Dios) from spending way too much of my 20s steeped in King of the Hill episodes when I could have actually been doing something useful (like watching Simpsons episodes). If a solver hadn't been exposed to KotH though, Dios help them in the VAYA/VARIG crossing.

One issue I had was it was over too quickly. Perhaps I'm simply on Ian's wavelength, but my solving experience flew by. I would have liked more wordplay clues like "Touch-type?" for BRAILLE (brilliant!), and it felt like too many clues were leaning too far into the straightforward side (SEATBACKS and LEATHER seem ripe for clever wordplay clues, for example). Oh well, if nothing else the variety in difficulty level is good. Great work from Ian today!

1
M
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H
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G
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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1220 ( 23,418 )
Across
1
Locale that often includes a wet bar and large-screen TV : MANCAVE
8
Picture with a number : MUGSHOT
15
Where it never gets above zero degrees? : EQUATOR
16
One going around the bases? : USOTOUR
17
Ends of some films : SUNSETS
18
Warm-up? : DETENTE
19
Greasy spoon order : HASH
20
Where a bud hangs out : EAR
22
Successfully lure : ROPEIN
23
Kind of figure : CARTOON
26
Highlighted, say : DYED
27
Toss : SCRAP
30
Mexican revolutionary of 1910 : ZAPATA
32
Moon of Mars : PHOBOS
34
Draft pick? : SAMADAMS
38
Electric ___ : EEL
39
Jacket option : LEATHER
41
"___ bad!" : NOT
42
Much of the Plains States : CROPLAND
44
Palliate : SOOTHE
46
Staple of the house in "The Real World" : HOTTUB
48
Still : INERT
49
"___ con Dios" : VAYA
52
Transport for Miss Gulch, in "The Wizard of Oz" : BICYCLE
54
What a chair needs : AGENDA
56
Hawaiian for "white" : KEA
57
PC whiz : TECH
61
Controversial 1715 measure of Parliament : RIOTACT
63
Touch-type? : BRAILLE
65
Infomercial testimonial : ITWORKS
66
Reply to a schoolmistress : YESMAAM
67
It clears the air : GASMASK
68
"The Hangover" co-star : EDHELMS
Down
1
Go well (with) : MESH
2
Soft shade : AQUA
3
"The Sound of Music" chorus : NUNS
4
TV game show on the Discovery Channel, 2005-12 : CASHCAB
5
Loved, with "up" : ATE
6
Person behind a curtain, maybe : VOTER
7
Unreal : ERSATZ
8
Joe : MUD
9
Handles online : USERNAMES
10
Attend : GOTO
11
Edward Murdstone, to David Copperfield : STEPDAD
12
Sugar : HONEY
13
Certain belly button : OUTIE
14
What polling may reveal : TREND
21
Chinese restaurant staple : ROASTDUCK
24
___ Belvedere (classic sculpture in the Vatican) : APOLLO
25
Great white shark prey : OPAH
27
Particular, informally : SPEC
28
"Clueless" protagonist : CHER
29
Hershey candy : ROLO
31
Distilled pine product : TAROIL
33
Places to find in-flight magazines : SEATBACKS
35
Advance on a table : ANTE
36
Actor Jay of "Jerry Maguire" : MOHR
37
Leave in : STET
40
Lock opener? : ANTI
43
Unreal : PHANTOM
45
Former : ONETIME
47
"So long" : BYEBYE
49
South American carrier founded in 1927 : VARIG
50
Heartburn : AGITA
51
Cries of pain : YEOWS
53
Nursed, with "for" : CARED
55
___ Torres, four-time Olympic swimming gold medalist : DARA
58
Company that follows Shin Bet security procedures : ELAL
59
Tight-lipped sort : CLAM
60
Border lines? : HEMS
62
"Bad!" : TSK
64
Popular wood for wood chips : ASH

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 3 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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