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SEASON'S GREETINGS

New York Times, Sunday, December 21, 2014

Author: Joel Fagliano
Editor: Will Shortz
Joel Fagliano
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
5910/22/20096/3/20184
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
13811710325
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.65351

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 68 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 34 for Mr. Fagliano. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes: Timely theme, HOs added to create wacky phrases. (So illicit sounding!) Some nice entries, including a favorite movie of mine, DESPICABLE ME, turned into DESPICABLE HOMIE, and the amusing NO MONEY HOEDOWN calling ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Timely theme, HOs added to create wacky phrases. (So illicit sounding!) Some nice entries, including a favorite movie of mine, DESPICABLE ME, turned into DESPICABLE HOMIE, and the amusing NO MONEY HOEDOWN calling up a funny image that's one part QVC and one part the Beverly Hillbillies. Minions from "Despicable Me"

This puzzle wouldn't have nearly as much impact any other Sunday in 2014 but this one. However, to have two straightforward "add-a-sound" themes in a row was disappointing. If one of them had had an extra element, like this one added HO HO HO to phrases or something more audacious, that would have alleviated the problem. It won't be a problem for infrequent solvers, but for so many people it seems like the Sunday NYT is a weekly tradition not to be missed.

That put aside, I like Joel's efforts to give us a lot of long fill to make up for the straightforwardness of the theme. Seeing so much long stuff packed in — 12 fill entries of 8 letters or longer — is unheard of. It blows most other Sunday puzzles out of the water, as some don't even have a single pair of long fill entries. And he does it without resorting to an overly large number of three-letter words. Impressive.

Additionally, so much of the long stuff makes a great impact. KID GLOVES. WINE LABEL. BAR SCENE. My Starbucks favorite, the SOY LATTE (decaf, extra hot, no foam). EBOLA VIRUS personally took me out of my "puzzles as an escape" zone and INFOTECH is not something I've heard commonly used, but ten out of twelve is a great hit rate. (And I'm sure others will find these two just fine, or even standout.)

That goodness didn't come without a price, though. I can see so many places where it would have been really rough to incorporate both colorful long fill as well as keep everything clean. Take the NANCY PELOSI region. That entry and TORONTO work with HOHUMDINGER to fence off a little area, and the result is the awkward EFGH. Usually one little glue spot doesn't bother me, but EFGH feels like the big glop variety. Others are more minor, but the ACU, SLYE kind of stuff does tend to pop up around the longer answers.

All in all, still a fun solve. Happy HO-lidays!

1
A
2
D
3
R
4
A
5
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E
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N
8
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9
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B
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S
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H
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B
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B
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120
K
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122
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1221 ( 23,784 )
Across Down
1. Something put on the spot? : ADRATE
7. Without a mixer : NEAT
11. Likely feature of a college town : BARSCENE
19. One may be removed : COUSIN
20. ___-American : AFRO
21. Red or white sticker? : WINELABEL
22. Homer that leaves people yawning? : HOHUMDINGER
24. "Shucks!" or "Pshaw!"? : HOKEYWORD
25. Go astray : ERR
26. Father-son activity : CATCH
27. They can be fertilized : OVA
29. Pale ___ : ALE
30. Majors in acting : LEE
31. Domineering : BOSSY
32. Give rise to : INSPIRE
34. "The less you wear, the more you need ___" (slogan) : NAIR
35. "Pick me, pick me!" : OOHOOH
38. Sauce with a name derived from the Italian for "pounded" : PESTO
40. Risky chess move, informally : SAC
41. Some briefs : BVDS
42. Southwest tribe after a fistfight? : BLACKEYEDHOPIS
45. Pad ___ (noodle dish) : THAI
47. Part of E.T.S.: Abbr. : EDUC
48. Piano sonatas, e.g. : SOLI
49. ___ generis : SUI
51. World of Warcraft creatures : OGRES
54. Navratilova rival : SELES
56. Starts recycling, say : GOESGREEN
60. First lady from Texas : LAURA
61. Nav. rank : ENS
62. War stat : MIAS
64. Bleacher feature : TIER
65. Where a director directs : FILMSET
67. Backstabbing pal? : DESPICABLEHOMIE
70. Soon gonna : ABOUTTO
73. "Dedicated to the ___ Love" : ONEI
74. Siouan speaker : OTOE
75. Filch : COP
78. Around : CIRCA
79. Zion National Park material : SANDSTONE
82. Coast along, with "by" : SKATE
84. Reader of the Deseret News : UTAHN
85. Break off : END
86. They're above abs : PECS
88. "It Came ___ a Midnight Clear" : UPON
89. ___ tide : NEAP
91. Barn dance that's free to attend? : NOMONEYHOEDOWN
96. Seeks change? : BEGS
98. Hematite, e.g. : ORE
100. Together : INALL
101. Actress Strahovski of 2000s TV : YVONNE
102. What vinegar has a lot of : USES
103. Proctor's charge : TESTEES
105. Gawks at : OGLES
107. Computer addresses: Abbr. : IPS
108. Believe it! : ISM
109. R.S.V.P., e.g.: Abbr. : ANS
110. Where the big buoys are? : OCEAN
111. Makeshift wig, maybe : MOP
114. Vagrant after getting kicked off a train, say? : CROSSHOBO
117. Stuff your dad finds ridiculous? : HOKUMTOPAPA
120. Gentle treatment, metaphorically : KIDGLOVES
121. Temple University's team : OWLS
122. Saharan nomad : TUAREG
123. "The Shawshank Redemption" setting : STATEPEN
124. Nursing need : TEAT
125. Charles Schwab competitor : ETRADE
1. Feel deep compassion : ACHE
2. Way out : DOOR
3. Germany's ___ Basin : RUHR
4. Pac-12 team, for short : ASU
5. Steve Jobs's successor at Apple : TIMCOOK
6. Minuses, basically : ENDASHES
7. House speaker after Dennis Hastert : NANCYPELOSI
8. I will follow it : EFGH
9. "___ we done?" : ARE
10. Hockey Hall of Fame locale : TORONTO
11. Playbill info : BIO
12. World capital once conquered by Augustus : ANKARA
13. Return to one's seat? : REELECT
14. Roy Rogers's real last name : SLYE
15. Raven's cry : CAW
16. Cause for a quarantine : EBOLAVIRUS
17. Moon of Neptune : NEREID
18. Church leaders : ELDERS
21. Sound of a fly swatter : WHAP
23. "___ no biggie" : ITS
28. Cognac bottle letters : VSOP
31. Lawn game : BOCCE
32. "Or so" : ISH
33. Bone to pick : ISSUE
34. Celtic battle, say : NBAGAME
35. Like President Taft : OBESE
36. Bygone : OLDEN
37. Trucks, maybe : HAULS
39. Sedgwick in Warhol films : EDIE
43. Warrior or downward dog : YOGAPOSE
44. Rhone tributary : ISERE
46. Some Christmas decorations : HOLLIES
50. Computerdom, informally : INFOTECH
52. 'Fore : ERE
53. Got the chair? : SAT
55. Composer whose name is an anagram of SANTA + ME : SMETANA
57. Bear : STAND
58. Put-downs : GIBES
59. Like used cigars, maybe : RELIT
63. Suffix with social : IST
66. "Personally, I think ...," in texts : IMO
67. Kate Middleton, e.g. : DUCHESS
68. Complex thing? : CONDO
69. Tree whose pods have sweet pulp : HONEYLOCUST
70. Lead-in to pressure : ACU
71. Was gullible : BIT
72. Crush, e.g. : ORANGESODA
75. Fattened fowl : CAPON
76. Nickname for Orlando : OTOWN
77. Pasta with a name derived from the Italian for "quills" : PENNE
80. Auntie ___ (pretzel chain) : ANNES
81. German auto : OPEL
83. "Good job by you!" : KUDOS
87. Trendy coffee order : SOYLATTE
90. Joint business venture? : POTSHOP
92. Look : MIEN
93. Special newsstand offering : ONESHOT
94. "Illmatic" rapper : NAS
95. Balance : EVENOUT
96. Regal and Encore : BUICKS
97. Lively intelligence : ESPRIT
99. Take off : REMOVE
104. Ski resort near Santa Fe : TAOS
106. Beauty : GEM
108. ___ of Man : ISLE
110. Stillwater's home: Abbr. : OKLA
111. ___ Liasson, NPR political correspondent : MARA
112. With 113-Down, it's full of opinions : OPED
113. See 112-Down : PAGE
115. Mil. rank : SGT
116. Son of, in Hebrew names : BEN
118. Get behind : OWE
119. It's hard to shoot : PAR

Answer summary: 16 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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