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New York Times, Thursday, December 3, 2015

Author: Patrick Merrell
Editor: Will Shortz
Patrick Merrell
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857/10/200110/10/20160
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20105113252
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1.60553
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 40 Missing: {KQ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 83 for Mr. Merrell. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Patrick Merrell notes: It probably makes little difference, but my submitted clues for the five theme entries represented a multimedia ... more
Patrick Merrell notes: ZEP
  1. It probably makes little difference, but my submitted clues for the five theme entries represented a multimedia smorgasbord: a record album, movie, book, comic book and TV show.
  2. I like Will/Joel's clue for RADIO: Medium for Biggie Smalls.
  3. A Roman numeral bridges two words in each entry. It's a bit different for CATWOMAN, being just one word. But since it's a compound word with the Roman numeral bridging the two word parts, that felt the same to me.

And, for anyone who hasn't already heard me blab about it, here's a book I created for kids — with a super-tough puzzle hidden in it for adults!

Jeff Chen notes: Neat idea, requiring two steps to figure out what was going on. After uncovering the IV in the central themer, I had a feeling Roman ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Neat idea, requiring two steps to figure out what was going on. After uncovering the IV in the central themer, I had a feeling Roman numerals were somehow involved, but it was a neat a-ha to discover that IV was interpreted as FOUR, which is part of FLAGS O(F OUR) FATHERS. Sort of a multiple-square rebus in a way, but also sticking to the usual one-letter-per-square criterion. I can't remember seeing something quite like this since Francis Heaney's incredible FLAG DAY puzzle, so I really enjoyed the novelty.

AZIZ Ansari

I've fixed up the database entries below, so you can see exactly what the themers are, post-decoding.

Because the idea was so interesting, I liked getting five themers, each one a treat to figure out. It was nice that Patrick managed to work in a little bonus fill too, TRUE GRIT being an incredible movie (and book — highly recommended!) and PELICANS pretty colorful too.

I would have liked more order in the themers, though. While having a random set of numbers (not in sequence) does make the puzzle even more challenging, the idea of going from I to II to III to IV to V (in order) is so appealing. I suppose THREE is a pretty tough string to incorporate into a phrase, as is FIVE. Even having random numbers but going in ascending order would be nice.

I also would have liked the four corners to be less cut off from the rest of the puzzle. The NW and SE are better, since two answers flow into each, but the top right and the bottom left have only one entry in. Although I love AZIZ Ansari ("Master of None" was a surprisingly moving series), I can see how that corner, especially the crossing with ZZZ, might cause some solvers to get really stuck and frustrated. Interesting fact that [Last entry in the Random House Unabridged Dictionary] is ZZZ — "a representation of the sound made by somebody sleeping or snoring, often used in cartoons." Curious that it's actually recognized as a word!

Loved the concept here, and as with most all of Patrick's puzzle, strong execution. Very enjoyable trick to uncover.

ADDED NOTE: Patrick mentioned that he had a different "order" in mind — one "trick" square in the first themer, followed by one, two, two , and then three. Clever idea; lulling the solver into thinking that maybe there was just a normal rebus going on.

1
S
2
T
3
R
4
A
5
P
6
O
7
R
8
G
9
Y
10
L
11
U
12
T
13
Z
14
T
H
E
M
E
15
M
E
R
E
16
A
Z
I
Z
17
A
R
I
E
L
18
E
M
I
L
19
D
I
T
Z
20
R
U
N
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I
21
N
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P
22
T
Y
23
C
O
A
X
24
O
D
25
E
26
T
27
S
28
O
29
P
30
E
31
R
A
S
32
D
33
A
X
I
G
H
T
34
F
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T
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N
35
L
36
I
A
M
37
R
I
A
38
F
L
A
G
S
39
O
I
V
F
A
40
T
41
H
E
R
S
42
I
L
L
43
V
E
S
T
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R
O
S
S
I
45
C
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I
47
M
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N
48
G
U
E
S
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49
E
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O
50
P
51
L
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E
52
C
B
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V
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I
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G
55
N
56
E
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W
58
S
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J
60
O
61
S
H
62
I
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X
S
63
R
A
D
I
O
64
A
L
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65
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C
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W
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69
T
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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 1203 ( 24,131 )
Across Down
1. Tie that binds : STRAP
6. Occasion of overindulgence : ORGY
10. Skater's leap : LUTZ
14. Many a party has one : THEME
15. Plain and simple : MERE
16. ___ Ansari of "Parks and Recreation" : AZIZ
17. Disney character who sings "Part of Your World" : ARIEL
18. Jannings who won the first-ever Oscar : EMIL
19. Airhead : DITZ
20. Almost out of energy : RUNNINGONEMPTY
23. Inveigle : COAX
24. Group Theatre playwright of the 1930s : ODETS
28. Works of Carl Maria von Weber : OPERAS
32. Time to get a babysitter, maybe : DATENIGHT
34. Conform : FITIN
35. One of the acting Hemsworths : LIAM
37. Shoreline opening : RIA
38. Patriotic Clint Eastwood movie : FLAGSOFOURFATHERS
42. Volunteer's first word : ILL
43. Bit of SWAT garb : VEST
44. Carlo ___ (wine brand) : ROSSI
45. DC Comics character with a whip : CATWOMAN
48. Hotel fillers : GUESTS
49. Lyre player of mythology : ERATO
50. Move often preceding a pirouette : PLIE
52. Rather informative program, once? : CBSEVENINGNEWS
59. Kid : JOSH
62. "Suicide Blonde" band, 1990 : INXS
63. Medium for Biggie Smalls : RADIO
64. First-aid gel : ALOE
65. "Out! I said out!" : SCAT
66. "That's not for me" : IPASS
67. Travel : WEND
68. Antennae, so to speak : EARS
69. Band director's concern : TEMPO
1. One of 12 in the European Union logo : STAR
2. Kind of street, informally : THRU
3. It can pull a bit to one side : REIN
4. Emphatic agreement : AMEN
5. Expert divers : PELICANS
6. The end : OMEGA
7. D.J.'s play : REMIX
8. Not looking good : GRIM
9. Distress call : YELP
10. Part of the "wedding of the century" : LADYDI
11. Strong arm : UZI
12. Little bird : TIT
13. Last entry in the Random House Unabridged Dictionary : ZZZ
21. Rebuffs : NOS
22. Food safety subj. : TOX
25. Way out : EGRESS
26. Craving : THIRST
27. Equilibrium : STASIS
28. Microsoft product : OFFICE
29. Important member of a group : PILLAR
30. String substitute? : ETALIA
31. Fix : RIG
32. Loco : DAFT
33. Doc bloc : AMA
35. Financial claim : LIEN
36. They're often stuck in the I.C.U. : IVS
39. The origin of species? : OVA
40. Coen brothers Best Picture nominee : TRUEGRIT
41. Help with making the bed? : HOE
46. Hankered : ITCHED
47. Pitchfork wielders, perhaps : MOB
48. Certain spirit : GIN
50. "Cars" producer : PIXAR
51. Has a bias : LISTS
53. Clincher : VISE
54. Sun worshipers : INCA
55. It might get hot under the collar : NAPE
56. Town whose exports are waxed : EDAM
57. Bit of smoke : WISP
58. O.K. : SOSO
59. Part of a 53-Down : JAW
60. Charge call : OLE
61. ___ of God : SON

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

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