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New York Times, Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Author: Jules P. Markey
Editor: Will Shortz
Jules P. Markey
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145/10/20123/29/20170
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0143600
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1.57341

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JQVXZ} Spans: 4 This is puzzle # 14 for Mr. Markey. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jules P. Markey notes: I submitted this puzzle a few years ago (STONE AGE?) and I'm happy to see it published today. There were a limited number of ... more
Jules P. Markey notes:

I submitted this puzzle a few years ago (STONE AGE?) and I'm happy to see it published today. There were a limited number of workable AGE choices, BRONZE was a non-starter, although I could have gone the "wacky" entry route with something like: "LEBRON_ZEBRA_SKIN", clued as: [Nike's new King James exotic sneaker brand] … maybe not. DARK seemed to be off because it's referred to as the DARK AGES. I thought SPACE was cool but aside from SISSY SPACEK nothing seemed to work, so I settled on the theme entries you see today.

Placing the 9-letter reveal in the center necessitated long downs in the corners, my favorite of which is ODORANT, which is rarely seen without its DE- prefix but which is a real lifesaver in the form of Mercaptan when added to odorless natural gas. There was one change to the grid, 45-Down was changed to OPTI from OCTI, and as usual Will and Joel really livened up the clues.

I would like to add somewhat preemptively, that one of the meanings of the word MIDDLE is: being at neither extreme, intermediate. I hope you all enjoyed the solving experience.

Jeff Chen notes: MIDDLE AGE interpreted as 'phrases with a specific age within them.' I've seen several like this before — even published one ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

MIDDLE AGE interpreted as "phrases with a specific age within them." I've seen several like this before — even published one myself for CrosSynergy — but I like today's progression. Starting with the ICE age, moving to the STONE age, IRON age, and NEW age = fun chronology.

I did wonder about NEW age — SPACE age seemed a more logical progression to me — but there's something to be said about being pleasantly surprised with a changeup. Jules also has a good point, that it's hard to hide SPACE in the middle of a phrase.

Very tough set of themers to construct a grid around. Having four grid-spanning (15-letters long) entries is difficult enough. Then throw in a middle 9, and you're asking for pain. There are so many places in the grid that have to work with at least two themers. Results in such little flexibility, causing trade-offs in so many places. Quite a few rough patches.

Take the bottom left. The biggish corners are going to be particularly hard in a layout like this, so to get a POS, NTSB, OBE, SHEB isn't unexpected, but also isn't great. BISECTS and APEMAN are pretty fun. And Jules did use a smart "cheater square" (to the left of OBE), which I'm sure made filling the corner much easier. But still ...

I won't tick off all the gluey bits, but there was so much that it bogged down my solve. Perhaps something less audacious — three phrases with hidden AGEs, plus MIDDLE AGE — would have been better.

(I would have loved MIDDLE AGE running vertically down the middle of the puzzle, with the various themers intersecting it horizontally. That would have been easier to construct than the layout you see … if you could get the intersections to work. That's always a big if!)

I feel sorry for all you poor saps out there who don't play the world's greatest game, BRIDGE. You probably didn't understand a great clue, [Game for dummies?] — in BRIDGE, one person ends up being the "dummy," the person who plays his/her cards at the direction of partner.

It's a game for dummies, ha!

Perhaps you had to be there.

Some nice bonuses in CINERAMA, MACABRE, even LAERTES for the Shakespeare lovers out there. Those were much appreciated.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 24,613
Across Down
1. Needing scratching : ITCHY
6. OPEC, e.g. : BLOC
10. Lay off : IDLE
14. J. E. B. Stuart's superior in the Civil War : RELEE
15. Indian royal : RANI
16. "Honey wine" : MEAD
17. Things that power Teslas : ELECTRICENGINES
20. Criticism, informally : FLAK
21. Laudatory piece : ODE
22. In one piece : ENTIRE
23. SEAL's org. : USN
24. Recess game : TAG
25. Rudy's coach in "Rudy" : ARA
26. N.L. East city : ATL
27. Went bonkers : LOSTONESMARBLES
31. Teutonic turndown : NEIN
32. Sharpshooter's asset : AIM
33. Snaky character : ESS
34. Crisis time, for some ... or a hint to each of the circled words : MIDDLEAGE
38. It's an honour: Abbr. : OBE
40. Camera named for a goddess : EOS
41. Year the Korean War began : MCML
44. Lakeside furniture item : ADIRONDACKCHAIR
49. +: Abbr. : POS
50. Cock-a-___ (dog breed) : POO
51. Dorm V.I.P.s : RAS
52. Board hiree, for short : CEO
53. 1974 hit with Spanish lyrics : ERESTU
55. Joe Biden, for 36 yrs. : SEN
56. [OMG!] : GASP
57. Label rarely seen on silk garments : MACHINEWASHABLE
60. Prelude to a deal : ANTE
61. Simoleon : CLAM
62. Typo, e.g. : ERROR
63. Crash-probing agcy. : NTSB
64. Glimpse : ESPY
65. Gushes : SPEWS
1. Really angry : IREFUL
2. Gets in trouble, in a way : TELLSON
3. Detox, say : CLEANSE
4. "Darn it!" : HECK
5. Thus far : YET
6. Game for dummies? : BRIDGE
7. Spike, as punch : LACE
8. Admit ___ : ONE
9. Wide-screen movie format : CINERAMA
10. Words heard in 24-Across, maybe : IMIT
11. "'Twasn't me" and others : DENIALS
12. Hamlet's killer : LAERTES
13. 1950s autos with "horse collar" grilles : EDSELS
18. Leather often treated to look like morocco : ROAN
19. Make a snarling sound : GNAR
24. Literature Nobelist Morrison : TONI
25. Female pen pal, maybe : AMIE
28. Oven feature : TIMER
29. A dance, or a dip : SALSA
30. Tree with triangular nuts : BEECH
35. Censure publicly : DENOUNCE
36. Dim bulb : DODO
37. Sierra and Acadia vehicles : GMCS
38. Aromatic additive to natural gas : ODORANT
39. Splits in half : BISECTS
42. Like many Poe tales : MACABRE
43. Stays under the radar : LIESLOW
44. So-called missing link : APEMAN
45. ___-Free (contact lens solution) : OPTI
46. Peanut butter choice : CREAMY
47. Jayhawks' home: Abbr. : KANS
48. Dogie catchers : ROPERS
54. Wooley who sang "The Purple People Eater" : SHEB
55. Exchange : SWAP
56. John Irving title hero : GARP
58. C.T.A. transports : ELS
59. Fathers and sons : HES

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

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