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New York Times, Monday, December 23, 2013

Author:
Michael Blake and Andrea Carla Michaels
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
141/28/20086/13/201910
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0831200
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64003
Michael Blake
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
666/12/20009/23/201937
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
74692200
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.63217
Andrea Carla Michaels

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: none – this is a pangram. Spans: 1 Scrabble average: 1.88 This is puzzle # 9 for Mr. Blake. This is puzzle # 41 for Ms. Michaels. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
Andrea: Michael and I met at a construction lunch and became good friends a half dozen years ago. Many of our puzzles are from ... read more

Andrea:

Michael and I met at a construction lunch and became good friends a half dozen years ago. Many of our puzzles are from something one or the other of us has spontaneously said at lunch and we expand it into a puzzle. Because the puzzle was based on an idea Michael originally had, he gets top billing on this one. This is our 6th published collaboration, but we've made at least a dozen more that have been published elsewhere, or for private clients, or have (gulp) been rejected.

We have very different styles and senses of humor, but share a respect for each other and usually have dozens of backs and forths about what we can and can not live with, usually managing to work it all out. We offer advice on each other's individual work as well. And it was Michael who brought me into this century by insisting I learn how to use a computer to aid my construction and to facilitate our collaborations. This puzzle went through eight or so iterations as we tried to make it as smooth as possible.

This is a traditional puzzle type (this word follows these words ...) but we were excited because we had a nice 15 reveal across the middle and four theme entries that had not been used before: SPERM WHALE, PIGGYBACKING, FOG MACHINE. Two 10s, two 12s and a 15 reveal seemed like a lot of material for a Monday, so I thought this would be a Tuesday, but I think I'm seared in Will's brain as Miss Monday. So be it!

What we liked is that there are so many kinds of banks, river banks, sperm banks, piggy banks, fog banks (a nod to SF where we both reside), so room to play! Plus we loved the cheekiness of SPERMWHALE as well as the X in RIVERPHOENIX. And yes, we went for the pangram. Originally we had JAH/JONG but it was for a Monday/Tuesday level and Michael couldn't live with JAH, but was able to change OBOE to OJOS and preserve the J!

KOKO is snuck into the lower corner as a tribute to the Siamese I had for 16 years who was my closest companion. The only other private shout out is to the COEN brothers, as they are fellow Jews from Minneapolis. When we made this puzzle a year and a half ago, "No Country for Old Men" was their big hit. I've asked Will to update the clue to their new smash "Inside Llewyn Davis", but it may be too soon, or that film title might not be Monday level.

Will Shortz notes:
Andrea Carla Michaels is the most 'promiscuous' of New York Times crossword constructors. This is her 20th collaboration in The Times ... read more

Andrea Carla Michaels is the most "promiscuous" of New York Times crossword constructors. This is her 20th collaboration in The Times with nine different contributors! The "word that goes with" sort of theme has become overdone, but this one is nicely handled, with a handsome construction to boot. The only entry here I don't like is O-NINE, which isn't too bad.

Jeff Chen notes:
Fun start to the holiday week from Michael and Andrea. With a bit of cheekiness in SPERM WHALE (and its SPERM bank theme answer), it's ... read more

Fun start to the holiday week from Michael and Andrea. With a bit of cheekiness in SPERM WHALE (and its SPERM bank theme answer), it's also the start to a week with a touch of the risque. Unusual for the Gray Lady, but I wholeheartedly approve. Stay tuned ...

The "word that can follow" theme is not something Will accepts much these days, but if there's a twist or an additional element, it can be workable. A really nice revealer like TAKE IT TO THE BANK is a bonus, giving the puzzle an extra layer of depth. Having four additional theme answers, each a snappy entry in its own right (FOG MACHINE is great!), is another plus.

Ah, the pangram discussion is sure to rear its head in the blogosphere today. There are many different philosophies on this, and I don't think any is objectively right or wrong. Andrea's thinking: the relatively rare letters (JQXZ) give a puzzle extra zing, a meatiness that fills the solver's belly. And I can understand the argument that OJO happens to be in the crossword relatively frequently, so why not toss the solver into the deep end right away, forcing them to learn something that will no doubt help them with harder xws?

But my personal philosophy is that I want Monday puzzles to be a gateway for novices, getting them hooked into the NYT daily puzzle without feeling like they have to learn a totally new lexicon. So OJOS (the Spanish word for eyes, which most people are unlikely to encounter outside of xws) is something I could do without on a Monday. And as much as I like COQ, it seems to come at the price of MASC, which to me doesn't seem worth it. Anyway, different strokes.

A final point, look at the nice mid-length fill, a feat difficult to achieve when there's such high theme density. TOMCAT, SCRIBE, EPOCHS, AXIOMS all enhanced my solve. And I would make a juvenile joke about BREASTS, but that might be too titillating.

(groan)

1
C
2
O
3
L
4
A
5
C
6
R
7
E
8
S
9
T
10
B
11
O
12
N
13
G
14
R
A
I
D
15
C
I
N
C
O
16
A
M
O
R
17
O
R
Z
O
18
S
P
E
R
M
19
W
H
A
L
E
20
P
S
A
L
21
M
22
M
I
C
A
23
N
A
G
24
P
I
25
G
26
G
Y
B
A
C
27
K
I
N
G
28
M
29
E
30
T
H
A
N
E
31
E
T
O
N
32
A
B
O
33
M
A
S
34
C
35
O
36
J
37
O
38
S
39
T
A
K
40
E
I
T
T
O
41
T
42
H
43
E
B
A
N
K
44
E
Y
E
S
45
Q
U
O
I
46
W
I
I
47
M
48
O
49
E
50
T
51
B
R
E
52
A
S
T
S
53
R
54
I
55
V
E
R
P
H
56
O
E
N
I
X
57
A
V
E
58
C
O
E
N
59
O
I
60
N
61
K
62
S
63
F
O
G
64
M
A
C
H
I
65
N
66
E
67
O
O
O
H
68
T
R
A
M
69
H
A
N
O
I
70
M
A
K
E
71
S
Y
N
E
72
S
T
E
R
N
73
S
H
O
D
© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1223 ( 23,421 )
Across
1
Coca-___ : COLA
5
It represents a family on a coat of arms : CREST
10
Sound from Big Ben : BONG
14
Police action : RAID
15
___ de Mayo (Mexican holiday) : CINCO
16
Love: Lat. : AMOR
17
Italian soup pasta : ORZO
18
Mammal with the largest brain of any animal : SPERMWHALE
20
Holy hymn : PSALM
22
Thin-layered mineral : MICA
23
Complain, complain, complain : NAG
24
Riding on someone else's shoulders : PIGGYBACKING
28
Marsh gas : METHANE
31
School for an English prince : ETON
32
Blood classification system : ABO
33
Opposite of fem. : MASC
35
44-Across, en español : OJOS
39
"Believe you me!" ... or what you can do with the start of 18-, 24-, 53- or 63-Across? : TAKEITTOTHEBANK
44
Peepers : EYES
45
Je ne sais ___ : QUOI
46
Xbox alternative : WII
47
___ & Chandon (Champagne) : MOET
51
Chicken pieces that aren't legs, thighs or wings : BREASTS
53
Young Indiana Jones portrayer : RIVERPHOENIX
57
Street: Abbr. : AVE
58
Director Joel or Ethan : COEN
59
Hog sounds : OINKS
63
Dry-ice contraption for theatrical effect : FOGMACHINE
67
Squeal of delight : OOOH
68
Trolley : TRAM
69
Vietnam's capital : HANOI
70
Produce : MAKE
71
"Auld Lang ___" : SYNE
72
Back of a boat : STERN
73
Like show horses' feet : SHOD
Down
1
Corn, wheat or soybeans : CROP
2
Relatives of paddles : OARS
3
Multitalented Minnelli : LIZA
4
Newspaperman Ochs : ADOLPH
5
Hypodermic amts. : CCS
6
___ Van Winkle : RIP
7
A Hatfield, to a McCoy : ENEMY
8
Professional writer : SCRIBE
9
Philanderer, in slang : TOMCAT
10
Cry before "humbug" : BAH
11
Muscat citizen : OMANI
12
Fastballer Ryan : NOLAN
13
Allman brother who married Cher : GREGG
19
Texas city on the Brazos : WACO
21
Home for the Dolphins : MIAMI
25
Flying pest : GNAT
26
Heroic exploit : GEST
27
Old radio or TV part : KNOB
28
Aussie's buddy : MATE
29
Online auction site : EBAY
30
Puff from a joint : TOKE
34
___ au vin : COQ
36
1975 shark thriller : JAWS
37
"You can count ___" : ONIT
38
Equipment for schussing : SKIS
40
Salinger's "For ___ - With Love and Squalor" : ESME
41
London subway, with "the" : TUBE
42
What Little Boy Blue blew : HORN
43
"Old MacDonald" refrain : EIEIO
48
Shamu, for one : ORCA
49
Pleistocene and Eocene, for two : EPOCHS
50
Something to pass at a fund-raiser : THEHAT
52
Self-evident truths : AXIOMS
53
Whitewater transports : RAFTS
54
Piano key material, once : IVORY
55
Eschewing both meat and dairy : VEGAN
56
Cat-___-tails (whip) : ONINE
60
Ark builder : NOAH
61
Executioner in "The Mikado" : KOKO
62
What many furry animals do in the spring : SHED
64
Butterfly or Bovary: Abbr. : MME
65
Neither's partner : NOR
66
German "a" : EIN

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?