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New York Times, Monday, December 26, 2016

Author:
Jules P. Markey
Editor:
Will Shortz
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185/10/201210/30/20180
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0155700
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1.58461
Jules P. Markey

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQVZ} This is puzzle # 13 for Mr. Markey. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jules P. Markey notes:
I originally started work on this puzzle in early 2014. Version One had a 4-5-4 configuration across the top and bottom with the ... read more

I originally started work on this puzzle in early 2014. Version One had a 4-5-4 configuration across the top and bottom with the larger shaded squares one row closer to the center of the grid. That grid was rejected by Will due to a lot of questionable fill, and an 80-word count. It then languished in my "reject file" for almost 8 months.

With a fresh set of eyes I took up the puzzle again and switched to what is ostensibly a 3-7-3 configuration, shifting the central shaded squares to their current location. I tried several different "Days" in the shaded squares until settling on what you see today.

After a few back-and-forths with Will and Joel, Will accepted it in May of 2015, however Boxing Day, 2015 fell on a Saturday, so it was held until today. Hope you enjoyed it. Happy Boxing Day!

Jeff Chen notes:
I wish we got cool holidays like BOXING DAY in the US. But maybe that's just my ongoing post-Harry Potter Anglophilia speaking because ... read more

I wish we got cool holidays like BOXING DAY in the US. But maybe that's just my ongoing post-Harry Potter Anglophilia speaking because BOXING DAY turns out to be just the day after Christmas when "Christmas-boxes" are given to service personnel. Grumble grumble. I was hoping to see Hagrid enter the ring against a boggart.

Jules literally boxes up days: LEAP day, ELECTION day, SNOW day, GAME day, PATRIOTS day, HUMP day. I liked how consistent he was, always starting in the lower left corner and then continuing clockwise. It's little touches like that can help make a puzzle sing.

It's always tough to fill around big chunks of letters fixed into place, so Jules did pretty well in the upper left. Note that he deployed a lot of his black squares in the middle — separating BOXING DAY from the six literal boxes makes for easier filling overall — which means he was forced to work with relatively long answers in the corners (to keep to the maximum allowable 78 words in total). Love EDAMAME, BELARUS, BAPTIST around that LEAP day. MUSERS is a made-up-sounding, pluralized -ER entry, but ESTA is the only other gluey bit. Pretty good there.

The bigger boxes are naturally tougher to fill around, having eight instead of four letters to work with, so it's not a surprise to get an old TELEX and a rough -ATION up top. SILOING sounded a bit odd at first, but it does seem to have real usage.

The bottom also shows some strain in a partial-ish THE NOW and the esoteric French ETAPE. But I did like GET RICH and POP STAR.

Overall, I liked the homage to BOXING DAY, but it would have been nice to get a little more tightness than simply "any word that can precede DAY." Maybe all holidays, or all slang terms for days of the week, or all Wizard-based holidays, etc.

There really should be Wizard-based holidays. Grumble grumble.

P.S. As Jules pointed out to me, there really ought to be a NIB 'O EGGO day (check out the center of the puzzle).

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 1226 ( 24,520 )
Across
1. Go out, as the tide : EBB
4. Permit : LET
7. Reply to a captain : AYE
10. Brewpub offering, for short : IPA
13. Org. that targets traffickers : DEA
14. Raised, as a building : ERECTED
16. Partner of neither : NOR
17. Mountain on which you might yodel : ALP
18. Stockpiling, in a way, as feed : SILOING
19. Letters in a personals ad : SWM
20. Gymnastics floor cover : MAT
21. Directive for additional information : SEENOTE
22. Cartoon pic : CEL
23. Get out of bed : ARISE
25. TV warrior princess : XENA
26. Race loser in an Aesop fable : HARE
27. Reflective sorts : MUSERS
29. Fur wraps : STOLES
31. This: Sp. : ESTA
32. It's usually behind a viola in an orchestra : OBOE
36. Flexible Flyers, e.g. : SLEDS
37. Present time in England? ... or a hint to each set of shaded squares : BOXINGDAY
40. Lispers' banes : ESSES
43. Scrubbed, as a NASA mission : NOGO
44. Be ___ equal footing : ONAN
48. Bear witness (to) : ATTEST
50. Soviet premier Khrushchev : NIKITA
52. Caviars : ROES
53. Try, as a case : HEAR
57. Track events : MEETS
58. Lobster ___ diavolo (Italian dish) : FRA
59. Hit pay dirt : GETRICH
61. "You ___!" ("Absolutely!") : BET
62. On the ___ (fleeing) : LAM
63. Literary critic Broyard : ANATOLE
64. Actress Thurman : UMA
65. Get older : AGE
66. Bruno Mars or Freddie Mercury : POPSTAR
67. Some PCs : HPS
68. The "p" in m.p.g. : PER
69. Ram's mate : EWE
70. Stockholm's home: Abbr. : SWE
71. U.S.P.S. assignment: Abbr. : RTE
Down
1. Sushi bar finger food : EDAMAME
2. Country whose currency, RUBLES, is almost an anagram of its name : BELARUS
3. St. John the ___ : BAPTIST
4. ___ Antilles : LESSER
5. Pennsylvania city or the lake it's on : ERIE
6. Bygone point-to-point communication : TELEX
7. Suffix with valid : ATION
8. Gossipy sorts : YENTAS
9. Border : EDGE
10. Proportional to the surroundings : INSCALE
11. Motorized : POWERED
12. Like the Venus de Milo : ARMLESS
15. Summer treat that melts in the sun : CONE
24. Naval engineers : SEABEES
26. Massachusetts' Mount ___ College : HOLYOKE
28. Chi-town squad : SOX
30. Airport screening grp. : TSA
33. Container for dirty clothes : BIN
34. Yoko who loved Lennon : ONO
35. Common ingredient in pasta : EGG
38. C.I.A. precursor : OSS
39. Mafia big : DON
40. Batting helmet part : EARFLAP
41. Use for an attic or the cloud : STORAGE
42. Ship with smokestacks : STEAMER
45. Theologian Reinhold who wrote the Serenity Prayer : NIEBUHR
46. Try : ATTEMPT
47. Ilie who won both the U.S. and French Opens : NASTASE
49. What meditators try to live in : THENOW
51. Cry upon arriving : IMHERE
54. Tour de France stage : ETAPE
55. Martial ___ (judo and others) : ARTS
56. Violent protests : RIOTS
59. Stare slack-jawed : GAPE
60. Part of a wolf or a lobster : CLAW

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

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