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New York Times, Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Author: Jeff Stillman
Editor: Will Shortz
Jeff Stillman
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51/28/20145/22/20180
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0032000
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1.53010
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQVXZ} This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. Stillman. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Jeff Stillman notes: The genesis for this puzzle was when my wife and I went out to Longhorn Steakhouse. They had a coaster that said, 'We believe in ... more
Jeff Stillman notes:

The genesis for this puzzle was when my wife and I went out to Longhorn Steakhouse. They had a coaster that said, "We believe in a job WELL DONE." I took that bit of wordplay and ran with it. Some theme ideas that didn't make the puzzle included "BANG UP JOB!" (compliment for a crash test facility), "SENSATIONAL!" (a massage parlor), and "DYNAMITE!" (an explosives manufacturer). The hardest theme answer to clue was "NOT BAD AT ALL," which was first "compliment for a do-gooders club" (not sure how many of those there are) and then "compliment for the Justice League" (which seemed more of a general description and not specific to any particular world-saving activity).

The number of theme answers and their smallish size made for some fill that Will & Joel had issues with. Had we all known that this would come out a week after "The Force Awakens" opened, perhaps we could have kept DETOO and REYS. The latter was clued "Actor Fernando and others" but is now more apt as "Star Wars heroine namesakes." Incidentally, I wonder how many baby girls in 2016 will be named Rey. (Should I mention that my son's name is Luke?) I went through two edits of the fill before it was passable, making me feel in the end like I truly earned the accolades that were in this puzzle!

I think I'll treat myself to a steak.

Jeff Chen notes: I was so amused by this puzzle. Something so fun and chuckle-worthy about telling an airline to KEEP IT UP! Same goes for telling a ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

I was so amused by this puzzle. Something so fun and chuckle-worthy about telling an airline to KEEP IT UP! Same goes for telling a charcoal salesman YOU'RE ON FIRE! Sure, some might be a little tortured to fit its "compliment receiver," but I loved the kookiness. Plus, I felt really good after solving this crossword. There's something to be said about a puzzle's positive theme imparting an uplifting feeling.

That doesn't look dangerous at all ...

I admit I hitched upon the first themer, wondering what fruit had anything to do with NOT BAD AT ALL (nothing). Thankfully, each subsequent themer worked great for me, and by the end of the puzzle, I knew this was POW! material.

Some of the themers are short (just seven letters), but packing six themers in is tough. Jeff did a really nice job of alternating his themers side to side and spacing them out, so he could lay out a skeleton that used a good amount of snazzy fill. TRAMPOLINE and BARREL ROLL would be sufficient, but working in LAMBADA / SPLASHY / OCTOPI / LOW RES made for even more of a bonus.

I also liked how Jeff introduced KWAME and CAM'RON to the Shortz era. Both names were mysteries to me, but I was still able to solve the puzzle since Jeff made all the crossings easy, setting me up for a win. That left me happy to go look these two up. I like old-school rap, so it was neat to read up on CAM'RON, who got a leg up with a nod from the Notorious B.I.G. himself.

I imagine some daily solvers will grouse about having to learn yet another rapper, but with super-fair crossings and interesting stories to be learned, I have no sympathy for the kvetchers.

The themers were a bit loose — seems like you could do this type of theme with dozens of compliments and their "recipients" — but I loved the kookiness as well as the STELLAR execution. It's one of my great pleasures to compliment people when they excel, so it makes me smile to give Jeff this POW! Super job (he said to the building fix-it person).

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 1229 ( 24,157 )
Across Down
1. Airport with many connecting flights : HUB
4. Marquee names : STARS
9. Small jazz band : COMBO
14. Dr. J's first pro league : ABA
15. Screeching baby? : OWLET
16. Some frozen drinks : ICEES
17. Neither's partner : NOR
18. Compliment for a fruit-of-the-month club? : NOTBADATALL
20. Duds : GARB
22. Gettysburg opponent of Lee : MEADE
23. Bus driver on "The Simpsons" : OTTO
24. Compliment for a planetarium? : STELLAR
26. Recipe amt. : TSP
28. Money to tide one over : LOAN
29. Compliment for an airline? : KEEPITUP
34. Rebound, as a billiard shot : CAROM
36. Go round and round : SWIRL
37. Genetic messenger : RNA
38. Big bang maker, informally : HBOMB
39. 72, at Augusta National Golf Club : PAR
40. Stradivari's teacher : AMATI
42. Building add-on : ELL
43. "Dragon Ball Z" genre : ANIME
45. Original "American Idol" judge with Randy and Paula : SIMON
46. Compliment for a steakhouse? : WELLDONE
48. British buddy : CHAP
49. Breakfast grain : OAT
50. Compliment for a GPS manufacturer? : WAYTOGO
53. Where something unpleasant sticks : CRAW
56. Throng : SWARM
59. Rickman of the Harry Potter films : ALAN
60. Compliment for a charcoal seller? : YOUREONFIRE
63. Addams Family member : ITT
64. Toss about, as petals : STREW
65. Maestro's stick : BATON
66. Grant source, for short : NEA
67. Poke fun at : TEASE
68. "Why ___ you in bed?" : ARENT
69. Mind-reading skill, for short : ESP
1. Chillaxes : HANGS
2. Destroyer destroyer : UBOAT
3. Air show maneuver : BARRELROLL
4. Trinity member : SON
5. Like some beach volleyball teams : TWOMAN
6. ___ ego : ALTER
7. Country's McEntire : REBA
8. Dutch burg : STAD
9. Org. in "Homeland" : CIA
10. Cousins of squids : OCTOPI
11. Pepperoni or sausage : MEAT
12. Slug : BELT
13. Scandinavian capital : OSLO
19. Dissuade : DETER
21. Leopold ___, "Ulysses" protagonist : BLOOM
25. Brazilian dance popular in the 1980s : LAMBADA
27. Eye-catching : SPLASHY
29. ___ Kilpatrick, ex-mayor of Detroit : KWAME
30. Dublin's land : EIRE
31. Bouncer's place : TRAMPOLINE
32. "For ___ us a child is born" : UNTO
33. Suffering : PAIN
34. Ruminate (on) : CHEW
35. Up to the job : ABLE
36. ___ room (site of postdebate political commentary) : SPIN
41. Roadster from Japan : MIATA
44. "False!" : NOTSO
47. Less than 300 dots per inch, commonly : LOWRES
48. Grammy-nominated rapper with the 2002 hit "Oh Boy" : CAMRON
50. "Don't forget to ___" : WRITE
51. Slalom obstacles : GATES
52. Ready to be drawn : ONTAP
53. Skin abnormality : CYST
54. Mechanical learning : ROTE
55. Distinctive quality : AURA
57. Org. for the New York Liberty : WNBA
58. Light years away : AFAR
61. Ram's mate : EWE
62. Suffix with differ : ENT

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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