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New York Times, Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Author: Jacob Stulberg
Editor: Will Shortz
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1.59790
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

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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 ... more
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 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 ... more
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 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 ...

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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1225 ( 23,423 )
Across Down
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
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.

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