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New York Times, Monday, December 30, 2013

Author: David Steinberg
Editor: Will Shortz
David Steinberg
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
706/16/201111/24/201713
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4656921181
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.652123

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 40 Missing: {JX} This is puzzle # 21 for Mr. Steinberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Steinberg notes: I constructed this puzzle, my 100th New York Times submission, in June 2012. I'd seen several vowel progressions from around ... more
David Steinberg notes: I constructed this puzzle, my 100th New York Times submission, in June 2012. I'd seen several vowel progressions from around that time period and decided I wanted to try my hand at constructing one. So I went into my construction software program and figured out how to generate every possible four-letter vowel progression with respect to the second letter. It was quite a challenge to find a vowel progression with only common words that had not already been published, but I finally hit upon PANT/PENT/PINT/PONT/PUNT. I wasn't thrilled that PUNT RETURN ended up forcing PANT SUITED, the only theme entry where the P?NT arrangement isn't completely separate, but I appreciated that all the theme entries felt lively and would be New York Times debuts. The grid was rather challenging, but I still was able to include many entries I really like, such as POWER NAP, SO WHAT, WEB APP and SQUISH. I was expecting the puzzle to run on a Tuesday, since some of the fill is a bit "chewy," though I'm pleased to have another Monday. Enjoy!
Will Shortz notes: While vowel progression themes have become fairly common (and warning: I have several more in inventory!), this is the first one I ... more
Will Shortz notes: While vowel progression themes have become fairly common (and warning: I have several more in inventory!), this is the first one I can remember in which the progression appears in a four-letter string. Whether it's a first or not, it's a nice change of pace.
Jeff Chen notes: Meaty start to the week, a vowel progression from David with an unusual grid pattern (not the first four-letter progression though!). ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Meaty start to the week, a vowel progression from David with an unusual grid pattern (not the first four-letter progression though!). It played much harder than a Monday for me, but sometimes the variety is nice. I like it when constructors try something new, and working high-density themes into low word-count grids seems like a new wave of experimentation in the NYT.

I was a little mixed on the theme answers, as PUNT RETURN is a great (and aptly-timed) answer (go Seahawks!), but PANT-SUITED felt a little off. Wearing a pant-suit yes, pant-suited … hmm. PINT MEASURE also feels out of the language to me, but my idea of cooking is eating a jar of spaghetti sauce straight out of the refrigerator. PONT LEVEQUE is a super-toughie. Yes, I like learning new things from crosswords, but I personally wouldn't give this puzzle to a novice. And the crossing with RUBATO is going to be really tough for some.

Where David shines is his long fill. Sticking POWER NAP, POP TUNE, and SO WHAT in the SW is really nice. I would have loved it if the latter had been clued to the "So What" track off Miles Davis's blockbuster "Kind of Blue", but perhaps that's best saved for a later-week puzzle. OUT THERE is also a great entry, not at all out there.

Was the low word-count grid worth it? I did appreciate the snazzy fill, but in the SW we see OPE, SOAPER (is that really a thing?), ATCO and RTS. Nothing is a terrible entry in itself, but all together squished into a small region the effect is less than ideal. I would have preferred breaking up the SW and NE with a set of black squares (you'd have to lose the cheater squares before POSE and after GARY). Snappy long fill a a great thing, but sometimes I feel like the price to pay is too high.

All in all though, an enjoyable solve. I think pushing the envelope is rarely a bad thing.

1
W
2
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3
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G
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A
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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1230 ( 23,428 )
Across Down
1. Bird's "arm" : WING
5. Pasta often baked with tomato sauce : ZITI
9. Place to live : ABODE
14. Birthright seller in the Bible : ESAU
15. Mimicked : APED
16. U.C.L.A. athlete : BRUIN
17. ___ of one's existence : BANE
18. In some common women's office attire : PANTSUITED
20. Embarrass : ABASH
22. Lexicographer Webster : NOAH
23. Good name for a garage mechanic? : OTTO
24. What may lead to an emotional explosion : PENTUPANGER
27. Command opposite to "gee" : HAW
28. Blood component : PLASMA
29. News, Post, Tribune, etc. : PAPERS
31. Basketball officials, informally : REFS
35. NW Indiana city : GARY
36. Half-quart container : PINTMEASURE
40. Sit for a painting, say : POSE
41. L. Frank Baum princess : OZMA
42. "Like I care!" : SOWHAT
44. Gentlemen: Abbr. : MESSRS
50. Unlock, in poetry : OPE
51. Creamy French cheese : PONTLEVEQUE
55. Trac II successor : ATRA
57. ___ Bora (former Taliban stronghold) : TORA
58. Dutch-speaking isle in the Caribbean : ARUBA
59. Gridiron runback : PUNTRETURN
62. Lab container : VIAL
63. Pass, as a law : ENACT
64. "Green-eyed monster" : ENVY
65. Villa d'___ : ESTE
66. Seized vehicles : REPOS
67. Card game played without twos through sixes : SKAT
68. Protected, as horses' hooves : SHOD
1. Google Calendar, e.g., informally : WEBAPP
2. Novelist Allende : ISABEL
3. Refrain syllables : NANANA
4. Whom hosts host : GUESTS
5. Electrocute : ZAP
6. Classic toothpaste brand : IPANA
7. Carpentry piece inserted into a mortise : TENON
8. Dog collar add-on : IDTAG
9. ___ Dhabi : ABU
10. Verve : BRIO
11. Highly unconventional : OUTTHERE
12. Related to food intake : DIETARY
13. Provides money for, as a scholarship : ENDOWS
19. Generic collie name : SHEP
21. Beehive sound : HUM
25. Role : PART
26. Pasta sauce brand : RAGU
30. Score between a birdie and a bogey : PAR
32. Comedian Philips : EMO
33. Hat with a tassel : FEZ
34. "Uncle ___ wants you" : SAM
36. Afternoon office pick-me-up : POWERNAP
37. Ending like -like : ISH
38. ___ tide : NEAP
39. Identical : SAME
40. Candidate for the Top 40 : POPTUNE
42. Daytime drama, informally : SOAPER
43. Schlep : TOTE
45. Actress Mendes : EVA
46. Starts of tennis rallies : SERVES
47. Step on, as a bug : SQUISH
48. Fluctuation of musical tempo : RUBATO
49. Like an envelope that's ready to be mailed : SEALED
52. Memoranda : NOTES
53. Front of an elephant or back of a car : TRUNK
54. Caterpillar stage, for example : LARVA
56. Classic record label : ATCO
60. N.F.L. linemen: Abbr. : RTS
61. W.S.J. rival : NYT

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

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