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New York Times, Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Author:
Phil Ruzbarsky
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
28/23/200912/3/20130
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1010000
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1.60000
Phil Ruzbarsky

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 34 Missing: {QVXZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Ruzbarsky. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Phil Ruzbarsky notes:
This is my second NYT puzzle, but it's been since 2009 since the first. This really simple little puzzle really took a lot of practice ... read more

This is my second NYT puzzle, but it's been since 2009 since the first. This really simple little puzzle really took a lot of practice to achieve, mostly in favorable grid design, but I've been building word lists and applying theory like maximizing the freshness of my long non-theme entries. TALLINTHESADDLE was actually the seed of this puzzle that didn't persist because, unlike the present set of five, the theme word in the idiom is at the end and it doesn't change meaning from riding gear.

I really wanted to use ALLHOPE instead of AIRHOSE in the triple-crosser central entry. Fancying myself as a bit of classicist, I felt freshness in this entry that has been around for thousands of years. I thought my clue of ("It should be abandoned by "ye who enter here") made it stronger. In retrospect, I agree it's not recognizable or strong enough to warrant a seven-letter partial phrase. My initial grid also had IATRO and PDR in it. As a physician, these seemed to me to be "in the language." My wife tells me "not so much." This has always been a stumbling point for me — recognizing that just because I love it doesn't mean anyone else will.

It was great to be allowed input in the editing process by Will. In a couple of volleys, he expertly nixed the above as well as the foul fill PTL and BCS. BCS allowed HOTCHICKS instead of TOOTHACHE, but so goes the reality of crossword construction.

Will Shortz notes:

Besides the theme of equestrian equipment, I liked some of the longer fill in this grid — ODD MAN OUT, LESSER GOD, TOOTHACHE, AIR HOSE, and especially WELL I'LL BE.

Jeff Chen notes:
It's not often that a Tuesday puzzle surprises me, but here's one that did! Because it must be relatively easy, often times a Tuesday ... read more

It's not often that a Tuesday puzzle surprises me, but here's one that did! Because it must be relatively easy, often times a Tuesday theme must be so out in the open or have a straightforward revealer, but not today. I really appreciated having to sit back and figure out what tied the theme together; perfect example of a puzzle that's better off for not having a revealer. Puzzle mogul Henry Hook sometimes calls to oust the tyranny of the revealer, saying that solvers are too smart for such blatant overtness, and thus in some circles, a revealer is also known as a ... (ahem) "Hooker". Today is Henry's day! Henry, I'm buying drinks if I ever have the pleasure of meeting up with you, you delightful curmudgeon*.

What I liked best about this puzzle was that Phil hid the horse-related terms in plain sight. CROP CIRCLES is a great entry in itself, for example, and has nothing to do with a riding crop. Beautiful. The others followed suit well, although I can't speak to SADDLESHOES as my knowledge of fashion couldn't fill a buckminsterfullerene molecule.

I have a feeling we'll get the usual listing of crosswordese in the blogosphere today, and some entries are decidedly inelegant. As much as I love BEBOP**, BSA over OER over PTS is not pretty, for example. But while some will denounce DOBRO, I find it to be an interesting entry. No, I didn't know it even though I was and continue to be an unabashedly proud band geek, but the crosses were fair and I enjoyed looking it up; learning about something I might try playing one day.

I'll point out one more thing I thought Phil did well: he gave us some interesting 6-letter fill in the north and south sections. Often a stack of 6's like this suffers because it's that much harder to cleanly fill stacks of 6's than 5's. IN OIL feels slightly partialish in the north, and the N or Norris makes an unfortunate CTN, but overall, I imagine Phil spent a bit of time smoothing these sections out, polishing them up to where they stand.

Overall, nice hidden theme and some really good long fill; a few compromises along the way.

*If you haven't read Matt Gaffney's book on crosswords, "Gridlock", it needs to go on your To Be Read (TBR) pile. Great overview on crosswords including a nice story about Henry.

**If you haven't read Miles Davis's autobiography, it also has to go on your TBR pile, just as long as you don't mind every other word being the F-bomb and the remaining words being variants of %$#^! and %#$^*%

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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1203 ( 23,401 )
Across
1. Latch (onto) : GLOM
5. Shin-related : TIBIAL
11. "Mad Men" output : ADS
14. Premium brand of the Volkswagen Group : AUDI
15. National color of the Netherlands : ORANGE
16. Blow away : WOW
17. Bobbysoxer's footwear : SADDLESHOES
19. Presidential nickname : ABE
20. Made a perfect engine sound : HUMMED
21. Draw a breath : INSPIRE
23. Toledo Mud Hens' class : AAA
24. Sleeveless garment : HALTERTOP
26. "I had not thought death had undone so ___": "The Waste Land" : MANY
28. Mater ___ (the Virgin Mary) : DEI
29. Hindu honorific : SRI
30. The S.E.C. regulates it : IPO
31. Goes fast : TEARS
33. Gapes : GAWKS
37. Impromptu : SPUROFTHEMOMENT
40. Bone: Prefix : OSTEO
41. Wished : HOPED
42. Cliff ___, 2008 Cy Young Award winner : LEE
43. U.P.S. unit: Abbr. : CTN
45. One likely to go [hic!] : SOT
46. ___ Kadiddlehopper (Red Skelton character) : CLEM
47. Nestlé bar : BITOHONEY
51. ___ alai : JAI
52. Trap : ENSNARE
53. Bad serves : FAULTS
56. Cubs' and Eagles' org. : BSA
57. The signs in the movie "Signs" : CROPCIRCLES
60. Contraction in "The Star-Spangled Banner" : OER
61. Allude to : HINTAT
62. Modern prefix meaning "super" : UBER
63. Score tally: Abbr. : PTS
64. Much H. L. Mencken output : ESSAYS
65. Professional filibusterers: Abbr. : SENS
Down
1. Laceration : GASH
2. Pig-out party? : LUAU
3. One that doesn't belong : ODDMANOUT
4. When Armed Forces Day falls : MIDMAY
5. Steel-___ boots : TOED
6. Bureau of the Dept. of the Treasury : IRS
7. "___, humbug!" : BAH
8. How French fries are fried : INOIL
9. Some are secret, and some are special : AGENTS
10. One low in a pantheon : LESSERGOD
11. Anticipate : AWAIT
12. Certain guitar : DOBRO
13. Win four out of four, say : SWEEP
18. Meadow : LEA
22. King killed in the sack of Troy : PRIAM
24. Candy bar brand : HEATH
25. Line to fill a tire : AIRHOSE
26. Sushi bar soup : MISO
27. Computer downloads, informally : APPS
28. Rapper Mos ___ : DEF
31. Odontalgia : TOOTHACHE
32. India's ___ Rebellion, 1857-59 : SEPOY
34. "Who'da thought?!" : WELLILLBE
35. Lower end of the strike zone : KNEE
36. Mushroom piece : STEM
38. Scout's job, informally : RECON
39. ___Life : MET
44. N.H.L.'s James ___ Memorial Trophy : NORRIS
46. Political assembly : CAUCUS
47. Some jazz : BEBOP
48. Many a map of Hawaii : INSET
49. Ivan IV and V : TSARS
50. Old Dodge compacts : NEONS
51. Shake : JAR
53. Conniptions : FITS
54. High schooler, typically : TEEN
55. Ukr., Est. and Lith., once : SSRS
58. Elhi support grp. : PTA
59. Small, low island : CAY

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

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