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GOOD ONE!

New York Times, Sunday, December 22, 2013

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

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!

Jim Horne 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
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
Down
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: 9 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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