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New York Times, Saturday, December 20, 2014

Author:
Kevin G. Der and Ian Livengood
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
403/12/200710/13/20182
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
122124118
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.65865
Kevin G. Der
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
554/12/20109/15/20164
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
617667112
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64371
Ian Livengood

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 29 Missing: {JQVXZ} This is puzzle # 31 for Mr. Der. This is puzzle # 44 for Mr. Livengood. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
KEVIN: Working with collaborators lately has been great fun. Ian's puzzle sense and high standards with skill to match are helpful ... read more

KEVIN:

Working with collaborators lately has been great fun. Ian's puzzle sense and high standards with skill to match are helpful assets when it comes to co-writing a themeless. We had originally guessed this grid would be run on a Friday.

Will's notes about the clue editing are fascinating. Receiving feedback this detailed is a somewhat uncommon opportunity, so for at least constructors it's just gold. When it comes to writing difficult clues, I've found it can be hard to grasp the difference between misdirection and vagueness, and a number of the comments indeed relate to clues deemed overly vague.

IAN:

Kevin is a rare triple threat in the game: fill, clues, themes. He's equally skilled with all of them. That's his awesome 1A answer/clue combo. So naturally it was a blast to collaborate.

Several marquee entries got scooped before this was published, so apologies if you've already seen entries like PALEO DIET and IPAD MINI in grids. Also, glad to see my clues for 30D (GEL) and 56A (HATE MAIL) made the cut!

Hope solvers like it!

Will Shortz notes:

(Mr. Shortz's detailed notes are on a separate page.)

Jeff Chen notes:
As a solver, I've come to fear the 64 and 66-word themeless. At 68 or 70 words, there's huge potential to cram a huge quantity of ... read more

As a solver, I've come to fear the 64 and 66-word themeless. At 68 or 70 words, there's huge potential to cram a huge quantity of assets into a puzzle with not many liabilities. And grids with 62 words or fewer may not have as much in terms of spotlight entries, but they can look jaw-dropping, giving a tremendous visual impact with their wide-open tracts of white space. Too often, the middle ground means not enough assets, a slew of mostly neutral entries, and/or too many liabilities. So a puzzle like today's 66-worder packed full of assets and low on liabilities, is very welcome. Great feat of construction and a very enjoyable solve.

When I opened it up, I wondered how those NW and SE corners would turn out. Not many people attempt quad-stacked 8s, because they too often require pots of glue to hold them together. Kevin has done at least one before, and the experience shows, as both of those corners come out clean as a whistle. Better yet, the long answers are generally fresh and snappy, not at all the neutral types of entries I expected. POT FARMS, AFROBEAT, STARBASE, TENTACLE makes for quite a quartet.

The other corner is anchored by NET SALES, a bit dull since with its common letters, we see it quite often in themelesses. But otherwise, to get PRENATAL with its great clue, HATE MAIL, IPAD MINI with clean crossings is really impressive work.

Normally I'm not one who notices how Scrabbly a puzzle is. Patrick Berry quite often stays away from the Big Four (JQXZ), and his work is almost always standout. But he does usually pepper a grid with a few Vs or Ks to keep things interesting. With just one K, this puzzle did feel a bit "Wheel of Fortune" to me, leaning heavily on the RSTLN E.

Ulster coat

And there were a few entries that I didn't care for. UNO DUE TRE felt like a wasted slot, not nearly as in the language as UNO DOS TRES or UN DEUX TROIS, but of course I'm sure Italian speakers enjoyed seeing it. ULSTER was interesting to learn about — a type of coat worn by Holmes — but the clever clue was lost on me, as even after filling in the letters, it didn't make sense until I went to go look it up, and at that point I had forgotten what the clue was.

That's all nit-picking though, as my enjoyment level was really high. To get such a high quantity of assets and few liabilities in a 66-worder is an impressive feat. Along with Will's in-depth commentary of how he analyzed and edited the clues, it was a real joy from start to finish to post-game analysis.

1
P
2
O
3
T
4
F
5
A
6
R
7
M
8
S
9
W
10
A
11
M
12
P
13
U
14
M
15
A
F
R
O
B
E
A
T
16
I
G
U
A
N
A
17
S
T
A
R
B
A
S
E
18
C
A
L
L
O
N
19
T
E
N
T
A
C
L
E
20
C
R
E
E
D
S
21
A
N
K
H
22
H
I
L
23
D
A
24
S
O
U
L
25
M
I
N
E
O
26
D
E
A
27
P
28
O
29
P
30
G
U
N
31
D
O
32
C
33
I
34
L
I
T
Y
35
A
P
L
E
N
T
36
Y
37
M
O
L
I
E
R
E
38
R
E
A
L
G
O
O
39
D
40
U
L
S
T
E
R
41
T
R
Y
42
W
A
43
S
P
S
44
Y
A
M
45
S
46
C
L
U
E
D
47
M
48
E
49
M
50
E
51
T
R
A
C
52
E
R
53
P
R
E
54
N
A
T
A
L
55
R
O
T
A
T
E
56
H
A
T
E
M
A
I
L
57
A
L
E
R
T
S
58
I
P
A
D
M
I
N
I
59
Y
E
S
Y
E
S
60
N
E
T
S
A
L
E
S
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1220 ( 23,783 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1
Where much grass grows : POTFARMS
9
Moolah : WAMPUM
15
Jazz/funk fusion genre : AFROBEAT
16
Creature with a crest : IGUANA
17
Enterprise headquarters : STARBASE
18
Tap : CALLON
19
Place for a sucker : TENTACLE
20
Faiths : CREEDS
21
Rosetta Stone symbol : ANKH
22
Betty's sister on "Ugly Betty" : HILDA
24
One ferried by Charon : SOUL
25
Plato portrayer in "Rebel Without a Cause" : MINEO
26
Org. seeking to catch 11-Down : DEA
27
Cork's place, maybe : POPGUN
31
Tameness : DOCILITY
35
In abundance : APLENTY
37
"Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme" playwright : MOLIERE
38
Positive response to "How ya doin'?" : REALGOOD
40
Sherlock Holmes cover-up? : ULSTER
41
Rugby four-pointer : TRY
42
Flying female fighters in W.W. II : WASPS
44
Orange side dish : YAMS
46
Hip, with "in" : CLUED
47
Lolcats, e.g. : MEME
51
Kind of bullet : TRACER
53
Before making one's debut? : PRENATAL
55
Photoshop command : ROTATE
56
Cross words? : HATEMAIL
57
Tip-offs, maybe : ALERTS
58
Nexus 7 rival : IPADMINI
59
"No doubt!" : YESYES
60
Important figure in business : NETSALES
Down
1
Tagliatelle, e.g. : PASTA
2
A lot : OFTEN
3
One delivering a knockout, informally : TRANK
4
Into the open : FORTH
5
Ones repeating "I do" in 1976? : ABBA
6
Access, as a pocket : REACHINTO
7
Literary/film critic Janet : MASLIN
8
Girded : STEELED
9
Practice with the Book of Shadows : WICCA
10
Stabilizing kitchen supply : AGAR
11
See 26-Across : MULES
12
Faddish food regimen : PALEODIET
13
Italian count? : UNODUETRE
14
Murderer : MANSLAYER
23
Dr. ___ (archenemy of the Fantastic Four) : DOOM
25
___ bean : MUNG
27
Caterer's preparation : PARTYTRAY
28
Figaro, e.g. : OPERAROLE
29
Ones with recess appointments? : PLAYMATES
30
What keeps a part apart? : GEL
32
Power outage? : COUPDETAT
33
Shangri-la's lack : ILLS
34
Symbol of purity, in Lille : LIS
36
Caterwaul : YOWL
39
Heir apparent to a French king : DAUPHIN
43
Wear for Clint Eastwood in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" : SERAPE
45
Blood-curdling : SCARY
46
Garden ___ : CRESS
47
Her "little baby loves clambake," in a 1967 Elvis song : MAMMA
48
Cyber Monday activity : ETAIL
49
Home for Deer Isle and Moosehead Lake : MAINE
50
Dock ___, Pirate who claimed to have thrown a no-hitter on LSD : ELLIS
52
Novel's end? : ETTE
54
"___ Declassified" (old Nickelodeon show) : NEDS

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

Found bugs or have suggestions?