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New York Times, Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Author:
Jacob Stulberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
3012/25/20131/2/20190
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3449640
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1.597100
Jacob Stulberg

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQXZ} Spans: 1 This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Stulberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jacob Stulberg notes:
Today's theme occurred to me after I finished David Steinberg's 1/2/13 FROOT LOOPS puzzle and started brainstorming other 'circular ... read more

Today's theme occurred to me after I finished David Steinberg's 1/2/13 FROOT LOOPS puzzle and started brainstorming other "circular answer" ideas. Two epiphanies followed: that FIVE GOLDEN RINGS worked as a grid-spanning revealer, and that SLUMBERS wrapped neatly around its middle. Among the other four-letter "rings" I considered were two measurements (HOUR and MILE) and two animals (BEAR and CALF). Favorite answer: Monsieur HULOT, who's usually overshadowed by his alter ego Jacques TATI, at least in crosswords.

Will Shortz notes:

I've been saving this puzzle since May, to run on or near Christmas. I especially like that 41A crosses two letters of the center ring — very elegant.

Jeff Chen notes:
Debut! Neat to see another constructor enter the ranks of 'published in the NYT'. To me, it's much more an honor than the Fields ... read more

Debut! Neat to see another constructor enter the ranks of "published in the NYT". To me, it's much more an honor than the Fields Medal, a Newbery Award, and a Burger King crown all rolled into one. Although if the Newbery committee wants to make me an offer ...

A visual representation of FIVE GOLDEN RINGS; a nice Xmas day theme. I particularly liked the middle golden ring, "golden SLUMBERS", circling around the middle. Neat effect. The other four aren't quite as ring-like, looking more like golden squares than golden rings, but you can't always get what you want (plus, incorporating five rings like the middle one would likely have led to too many trade-offs in fill quality). "Golden MEAN" in the NE was especially cool; phi (the golden ratio) is one of my favorite irrational numbers (and the feature of a previous NYT puzzle!).

Anytime you have crossing constraints, as in each of the four corners, the difficulty level ratchets up. Jacob does well, impressively so in a debut, in these areas. I was about to make a comment about not caring to see HULOT, which seemed too esoteric, but I looked it up after reading Jacob's note and gained an appreciation of Jacques Tati. And thinking about it more, there's likely an entire generation for whom HULOT is not only a no-brainer, but a revered entry.

So putting that aside, getting out of those four tough corners with just an ALEE and a CYSTS (which carries negative connotations for some), while being consistent in the way the four-letter theme words (each of the four starts in the bottom-left corner and runs clockwise) is excellent work.

I typically like learning something new from xws, so any one of SYRIAC, OSSETIA, or HULOT would have been very much welcome. But to have all three in a single puzzle felt a bit like drinking eggnog from a fire hose to me*. They're certainly all fair game for a Wednesday though, especially since the crosses all seem reasonable to me.

There's a lot of good stuff in this puzzle, notably KABUKI, ICARUS, and LACROSSE, with the trade-offs of a couple of long partials (ILL DO and EAU DE). All in all, a nice debut. Merry Xmas!

*Mmm, eggnog out of a firehose ...

1
C
2
H
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A
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D
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S
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M
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K
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A
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D
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D
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H
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A
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F
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W
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M
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F
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G
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N
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D
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A
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B
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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1225 ( 23,423 )
Across
1
Punched-out parts of paper ballots : CHADS
6
It's difficult to see through : MURK
10
Writes as a postscript, say : ADDS
14
Monsieur ___ (Jacques Tati role) : HULOT
15
It's east of Europe : ASIA
16
Quite an achievement : FEAT
17
Cara of "Fame" : IRENE
18
Senseless : NUMB
19
Prefix with present : OMNI
20
Stronger and harder : STEELIER
22
Hullabaloo : UPROAR
24
Common desk shape : ELL
25
Tea type : PEKOE
27
Barn ___ : OWL
30
Locale for an ibex : ALP
32
Error : MISSTEP
36
"___ is not a lasting teacher of duty": Cicero : FEAR
38
Senseless : DUMB
40
___ vie : EAUDE
41
One set of gifts in "The 12 Days of Christmas" ... as suggested by the shaded squares? : FIVEGOLDENRINGS
44
Hint : TRACE
45
Ukraine and others, once: Abbr. : SSRS
46
Nuts and fruit, in part, for squirrels : DIET
47
Rebellious region of the Caucasus : OSSETIA
49
Method: Abbr. : SYS
51
Sellout sign : SRO
52
Via ___ (main street of ancient Rome) : SACRA
54
The Big Apple, for short : NYC
56
Second-highest peak in the Cascades : SHASTA
59
Sport not played officially in the Olympics since 1908 : LACROSSE
64
"Me neither" : NORI
65
Devastation : RUIN
67
Fuming : IRATE
68
"Yikes!" : OHNO
69
Not new : USED
70
Christmas tree decoration : ANGEL
71
Godsend : BOON
72
Memory Stick manufacturer : SONY
73
Anatomical sacs : CYSTS
Down
1
X X X : CHIS
2
Offended : HURT
3
Sheltered, at sea : ALEE
4
Gift recipient : DONEE
5
___ Artois (beer) : STELLA
6
Shock of hair : MANE
7
Seize : USURP
8
Backboard attachment : RIM
9
Japanese dance-drama : KABUKI
10
Raised above? : AFORESAID
11
Infomercial part : DEMO
12
___ Perino, George W. Bush's last press secretary : DANA
13
Kool-Aid instruction : STIR
21
"___ Anything" (1994 Nick Nolte/Albert Brooks film) : ILLDO
23
Baffling problem : POSER
26
Poker targets? : EMBERS
27
Leaving for : OFFTO
28
Small dams : WEIRS
29
Aa and pahoehoe : LAVAS
31
Distant radiation source : PULSAR
33
North African capital : TUNIS
34
Lawn tool : EDGER
35
Sauce made with pine nuts : PESTO
37
Downturn : RECESSION
39
E.R. figures : MDS
42
Suggest : GETAT
43
"This I Promise You" group, 2000 : NSYNC
48
Hubristic flier of myth : ICARUS
50
Ancient Mideast language : SYRIAC
53
Bizarre : ALIEN
55
Not subtle, as humor : CORNY
56
Hardly the hoi polloi type : SNOB
57
Syllables from Santa : HOHO
58
Florence's river : ARNO
60
Humorist Rooney : ANDY
61
Downturns : SAGS
62
Typesetting direction : STET
63
Sushi fish : EELS
66
Tour grp. : USO

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?