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New York Times, Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Author:
Tracy Gray
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
289/8/201010/10/20196
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7445710
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61451
Tracy Gray

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {Q} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 5 for Ms. Gray. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Tracy Gray notes:
I am excited to have my fifth puzzle published in the NYT today! The inspiration for this puzzle came from a beer I was drinking at ... read more

I am excited to have my fifth puzzle published in the NYT today! The inspiration for this puzzle came from a beer I was drinking at the time. Not any old beer, mind you, but a nice, smooth LAGER — and a wonderful word that I found could be anagrammed an additional four ways. Of the nine total puzzles I have had accepted by the NYT to date, this one was the easiest for me to construct, and when I look back at my construction notes, I only had these five theme entries from the get-go. At the time, I was running most of my theme ideas by my mentor, Nancy Salomon, and her response to this idea was "works for me" and I was thrilled when I heard it had "worked" for Will Shortz as well!

Hope you enjoy the puzzle — have a safe celebration this New Year's Eve and a wonderful 2014!

Will Shortz notes:
Everyone understood the theme here, right? There's no answer that explains that each of the five long Across entries ends in some ... read more

Everyone understood the theme here, right? There's no answer that explains that each of the five long Across entries ends in some arrangement of the same five letters. An "explainer" is needed only when the theme is more subtle than this.

Jeff Chen notes:
I often say how hard it is to construct a smooth but interesting early-week puzzle, and Tracy has succeeded today. I really liked the ... read more

I often say how hard it is to construct a smooth but interesting early-week puzzle, and Tracy has succeeded today. I really liked the theme (phrases whose final words are anagrams of each other), and the solve was silky smooth. Beautiful work!

Note how snappy the theme phrases are. It's rare to see a puzzle with such strong themers, because most of the time a theme is heavily constrained by demands of consistency and/or specificity. But here Tracy picks out five winners, each one a phrase I'd be happy to use as long fill in one of my own puzzles. Some might deem ROCKETS RED GLARE as a partial, but I think it works on its own quite well. As an aside, notice how Tracy chose a 15-letter middle entry, which makes the grid construction MUCH easier than if she chose a 9, 11, or 13-letter entry.

And really nice use of Scrabbly (JQXZ) letters in the fill today. Sometimes a constructor will shoehorn one in where it doesn't really fit, causing a jarring solve. But J in DEEJAY, Z in ORZO, and X in XANADU are really nice. JUNCO was unfamiliar to me, but since it was the only thing I had to look up (and it's a common bird), it was welcome. Sure, nobody likes to see ULE in their puzzle, but since there's not much else on the offenders list, it gets a pass.

Interesting that the toughest part for me was the SW. I took six years of French in high school, but could barely pull out PLAGE. Then again, I can barely keep "Chen" and "chien" straight. (Makes for awkward family reunions.) I have a feeling there will be complaints today about PLAGE (and how the corner could have been "better" filled), but sometimes a constructor uses certain words for a reason. Perhaps they have a special fondness for the entry, or they like the similarity to the Spanish word PLAYA and its Burning Man associations, who knows*? If this were a Monday puzzle I might object, but I found it to be a useful exercise in recall.

Very well done!

*ADDED NOTE: Tracy and I exchanged emails, and she said: "I absolutely did choose the word french word PLAGE for the lower SW corner having just been to the French side of the island St. Maarten when I constructed this puzzle. Since it translates to 'beach', I thought it tied in nicely with my mini-theme of islands/beach towns such as Ibiza, Malta, and Avalon." Cool!

1
A
2
F
3
L
4
A
5
C
6
M
7
Y
8
B
9
A
10
D
11
B
12
H
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T
14
L
L
A
M
A
15
A
E
R
I
E
16
L
E
E
17
L
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V
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N
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G
L
A
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G
E
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I
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N
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S
P
A
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O
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J
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U
N
C
O
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H
O
R
A
T
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I
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O
A
L
G
E
R
27
X
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A
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N
A
D
U
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S
K
Y
E
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T
W
I
R
L
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P
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O
L
E
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F
35
O
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B
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R
O
C
K
E
38
T
S
R
E
D
39
G
40
L
A
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A
L
E
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H
A
G
S
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I
B
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Z
A
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I
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D
O
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A
V
A
L
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N
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P
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R
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M
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A
G
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L
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P
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F
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C
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H
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I
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E
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U
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B
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P
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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1231 ( 23,429 )
Across
1
Insurance giant with a duck in its ads : AFLAC
6
"I messed up!" : MYBAD
11
Food preservative, for short : BHT
14
Pack animal : LLAMA
15
Eagle's nest : AERIE
16
Big name in jeans : LEE
17
Being extravagant and self-indulgent : LIVINGLARGE
19
Comfort ___ : INN
20
Place to relax : SPA
21
Baseball count : OUTS
22
North American finch : JUNCO
24
"Ragged Dick" author : HORATIOALGER
27
Site of Kubla Khan's "pleasure dome" : XANADU
30
___ terrier : SKYE
31
Pirouette : TWIRL
32
Barbershop symbol : POLE
34
Pocket watch accessory : FOB
37
Illumination in "The Star-Spangled Banner" : ROCKETSREDGLARE
41
Adam's ___ (water) : ALE
42
Gorgons : HAGS
43
One of Spain's Balearics : IBIZA
44
"Survivor" immunity token : IDOL
46
King Arthur's resting place : AVALON
47
All-malt beer : PREMIUMLAGER
52
Jeweler's eyepiece : LOUPE
53
Feminine name suffix : ETTA
54
Terrier's bark : ARF
57
Cause of inflation? : AIR
58
Scotch whisky brand : CHIVASREGAL
62
Mop & ___ (floor cleaner) : GLO
63
"Raw" or "burnt" color : UMBER
64
It's moving at the movies : IMAGE
65
Lombard Street feature : ESS
66
"The Wrestler" actress Marisa : TOMEI
67
Blender setting : PUREE
Down
1
"___ right with the world" : ALLS
2
1960s hairstyle : FLIP
3
Volcanic emission : LAVA
4
Bordeaux buddy : AMI
5
Be lovey-dovey : CANOODLE
6
Valletta is its capital : MALTA
7
It's not used to make matzo : YEAST
8
"It's c-c-cold!" : BRR
9
2008 U.S. govt. bailout recipient : AIG
10
Record spinner : DEEJAY
11
Fancy gold jewelry, e.g. : BLING
12
Ergo : HENCE
13
Opera's Mario Lanza, for one : TENOR
18
Expert : GURU
23
Suffix with glob : ULE
24
"Listen up!," old-style : HARK
25
Archipelago parts : ISLES
26
Green-lighted : OKED
27
Bonus, in ads : XTRA
28
Barracks no-show : AWOL
29
"Good job!" : NICE
32
"The Lord is my shepherd ...," e.g. : PSALM
33
Assn. or grp. : ORG
34
Not make the grade? : FAIL
35
Rice-shaped pasta : ORZO
36
Noggin : BEAN
38
G : THOU
39
Be concerned, slangily : GIVEARIP
40
Letter-shaped shelf support : LBAR
44
Jackanapes : IMP
45
Like most jigsaw puzzles : DIECUT
46
I.R.S. employees: Abbr. : AGTS
47
French beach : PLAGE
48
Stirs up : ROILS
49
Continental cash : EUROS
50
Flood barrier : LEVEE
51
Creator of the game Missile Command : ATARI
54
Petri dish gel : AGAR
55
Storm : RAGE
56
Hightail it away : FLEE
59
Managed care plan, for short : HMO
60
Co. with the motto "Think" : IBM
61
Australia's national bird : EMU

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?