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GOOD ONE!

New York Times, Sunday, December 22, 2013

Author: Elizabeth C. Gorski
Editor: Will Shortz
Elizabeth C. Gorski
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2197/31/19952/23/20160
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6716363439243
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.5430225
Angel

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 78 Missing: none – this is a pangram Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 209 for Ms. Gorski. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: When this puzzle is done, draw a line connecting the 21 circled letters from A to U in alphabetical order. The resulting shape will provide a clue to 6-, 8-, 14-, 53- and 70-Down.
Jeff Chen notes: A Liz Gorski puzzle! One thing I know for sure with a Gorski construction is that it will almost always contain some neat visual element. Always a treat to see her byline, especially on Sunday-size grids and their ... more
Jeff Chen notes: A Liz Gorski puzzle! One thing I know for sure with a Gorski construction is that it will almost always contain some neat visual element. Always a treat to see her byline, especially on Sunday-size grids and their big palettes.

A beautiful holiday puzzle, Liz uses her trademark "connect the letters in alphabetical order" theme to form an angel. She then defines ANGEL in several different ways, i.e. GOLFER CABRERA. It's a neat twist on a standard theme type of "switching" the clues and answers, i.e. "Angel" is the clue and GOLFER CABRERA is the answer instead of the other way around. The picture of the angel itself is really pretty, and surprisingly hid itself from me until the very end. Jim mentioned that he likes connect-the-letter puzzles when it's not obvious what the end result will be. Fully agreed!

For this theme type I tend to prefer in-the-language phrases, as it can be a bit disappointing to run across made-up sounding phrases in the puzzle. But in this case, it's pretty difficult to come up with even one in-the-language phrase to define ANGEL. So overall, I think the nice picture of the angel is still worth it.

From a construction standpoint, you might wonder why Liz didn't use L-R (mirror) symmetry on this one like she typically does for her holiday Sunday puzzle, like the gingerbread man one from 2011. Surely the (almost) L-R symmetric angel would best be shown with a L-R symmetric puzzle, yes? Typically it would, but the fact that Liz uses one 21-letter theme answer, MICHELANGELO SCULPTURE straight down the middle prevents L-R symmetry from being used.

Why, you ask? Because with a L-R symmetric grid, a grid-spanning central vertical answer forces the constructor to have a triple stack of grid-spanners right down the middle. Think about how you would break up columns 10 and 12 (on either side of the middle column 11): anywhere you put a black square in column 10, you must put a symmetrical one in column 12. That results in a one-letter word in between = no good! Typically L-R symmetry is no harder to use than normal (rotational) symmetry, but it has its own idiosyncrasies.

A final comment: any time you have letters fixed in certain parts of the grid, you're going to up your level of construction difficulty. And with 21 fixed letters, that's a lot of constraints! Look at the "angel's head" region, for example. With A E O L fixed in place AND a themer running down the center, it's very tough to fill that area cleanly. A NET crossing A LOOP isn't great, but it's not bad considering the severe constraints in that location. And generally Liz does well to escape with a TOA here and a ESE/ENE there, while managing to work in snappy stuff like EXIT ROW, OUTTAKES, and GENE POOL to spice up the solve. RENVOI was a toughie for me, but as Frank Sinatra often did, I enjoyed adding the term to my lexicon.

What would the holidays be like without a Liz Gorski visual puzzle?

P.S. Liz has a Connect-the-Dots Puzzazz ebook recently released. Check it out!

JimH notes: The title is brilliant. I named Ms. Gorski my Constructor of the Year for 2013.
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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1222 ( 23,420 )
Across Down
1. Help to harm : ABET
5. Part of a pharaoh's headdress : ASP
8. Worker with a trowel : MASON
13. Much : FAR
16. Mideast capital : SANA
17. Symbol of mass density : RHO
18. Mercurial : FICKLE
19. "The Caine Mutiny" captain : QUEEG
21. Many an early French settler in America : HUGUENOT
23. More off-putting : ICKIER
24. European capital : BERNE
25. Special seating area in an airplane : EXITROW
26. Cry from Scrooge : BAH
27. With 63-Down, 1997 P.G.A. champ who captained the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup team : DAVISLOVE
29. Good scores in diving : NINES
30. Like many coats and tunes : BELTED
33. Make calls : REF
34. General ___ chicken : TSOS
35. Special mall event : TENTSALE
37. Bride of 1981 : LADYDI
39. Jules or Jim in "Jules et Jim" : AMI
40. Amarillo-to-Dallas dir. : ESE
41. L.G.B.T. rights advocate : ACLU
42. Iowa city : AMES
43. Done: Fr. : FINI
45. Lands : DOCKS
47. Without ___ (dangerously) : ANET
48. It may be full of icons : DESKTOP
51. Tease, with "on" : RAG
54. 2-Down, for one : ORE
55. Some H.S. math : ALG
56. Slanting : ATILT
58. "Say what?" : HUH
59. One more : ANOTHER
61. Words that precede "Born is the King ..." : NOELNOEL
63. House committee chairman Darrell : ISSA
64. Mexican sauces : MOLES
65. Ear-related study : OTOLOGY
66. Hilarious types : RIOTS
67. Strain : SIFT
68. Reproductive stock : GENEPOOL
70. New hire, typically : TRAINEE
72. Hydrocarbon suffix : ENE
73. Target number : QUOTA
74. Fr. holy woman : STE
75. British rule in India : RAJ
76. [I'm mad!] : GRR
77. "Don Quixote" composer : STRAUSS
79. Idiosyncrasies : TICS
81. Overseas assembly : SENAT
83. Number-crunching grp. : CPAS
84. Bach's "___, Joy of Man's Desiring" : JESU
85. Greek earth goddess : GAEA
86. Robe closer : OBI
89. Nuke : ZAP
90. Chef Lagasse : EMERIL
92. Unseen scenes : OUTTAKES
94. Taunt : GIBE
95. One ___ customer : TOA
96. Name on a swim cap : SPEEDO
98. Funny Anne : MEARA
100. Giving a boost : UPRAISING
103. How-___ : TOS
104. Moneymaker for Money : PRINTAD
106. Compact Olds : ALERO
107. Futuristic weapon : RAYGUN
109. Like a rendition of "Deck the Halls" : SPIRITED
110. He's no Einstein : MORON
111. Boo-boos : ERRORS
112. Thriller writer Follett : KEN
113. Rural storage : SILO
114. Preserve, in a way : CAN
115. China producer : SPODE
116. Nettle : IRK
117. Half of a noodle dish? : MEIN
1. Gray : ASHEN
2. Good source of aluminum : BAUXITE
3. What cowlings cover : ENGINES
4. Took up the slack in : TAUTENED
5. River of Pisa : ARNO
6. [See blurb] : SHOWBACKER
7. Something it's not good to go to : POT
8. [See blurb] : MICHELANGELOSCULPTURE
9. Cousin of "aargh!" : ACK
10. Lose traction : SKID
11. Mrs. ___ cow : OLEARYS
12. Braced (oneself) : NERVED
13. Give it the gas : FUELTANK
14. [See blurb] : AEROSMITHSONG
15. Expulsion, as of a foreign diplomat : RENVOI
18. Majority owner of Chrysler : FIAT
19. Play callers, for short : QBS
20. Big money units, in slang : GEES
22. Lead-in to while : ERST
26. ___ cheese : BLEU
28. Beatles tune from "A Hard Day's Night" : IFIFELL
31. Some wings : ELLS
32. Broad : DAME
36. ___-Coeur (Paris basilica) : SACRE
38. Unknot : DETANGLE
44. Suffix with sentimental : IST
46. Cries of joy : OOHS
47. Throw for ___ : ALOOP
48. Common game piece : DIE
49. Expulsion : OUSTER
50. Futuristic weapon : PHASER
51. One of 11 pharaohs : RAMSES
52. Bedub : ANOINT
53. [See blurb] : GOLFERCABRERA
55. Termite's nemesis : ANTEATER
57. Item in Santa's sack : TOY
60. Eastern holiday : TET
62. Ransacks : LOOTS
63. See 27-Across : III
65. Home of Thunder Bay: Abbr. : ONT
66. ___ Rao, "The Serpent and the Rope" novelist : RAJA
68. Tailors' inserts : GUSSETS
69. Sister of Helios : EOS
70. [See blurb] : TREETOPPER
71. Charged : RANAT
73. In the role of : QUA
78. Guest-star in, say : APPEARON
80. Nile deity : ISIS
81. Mideast ruler : SAUD
82. Symbolic effort in support of equal rights : TOKENISM
84. "Cloud Shepherd" artist : JEANARP
85. Departs : GOES
87. Writer Ann : BEATTIE
88. Mideast national : ISRAELI
89. Self-sealing bag : ZIPLOC
91. Vintage wedding gown fabrics : MOIRES
93. Mideast ruler : AMIR
94. Spanish cession in the Spanish-American War : GUAM
97. Millennia on end : EONS
99. Extension : ADDON
101. Charge carrier : ION
102. Greek diner order : GYRO
105. Winter sports locale : RINK
108. Son of ___ : GOD
109. Bit of winter sports equipment : SKI

Answer summary: 10 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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