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New York Times, Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Author: David Woolf
Editor: Will Shortz
David Woolf
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1511/15/201310/1/20160
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2212332
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1.54310

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 42 Missing: {JQZ} This is puzzle # 5 for Mr. Woolf. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Woolf notes: This is a pretty theme dense puzzle, and as such, it came with a unique set of constraints. There are three consecutive 13-letter ... more
David Woolf notes: This is a pretty theme dense puzzle, and as such, it came with a unique set of constraints. There are three consecutive 13-letter theme answers in the middle of the grid, which required some big blocks of black squares and also led to two R_R strings. Additionally, the 1A/68A bonus themer/revealer forced some relatively closed off corners, which I generally try to avoid.

Luckily, I was able to find a clean way to fit five long downs that each cross three theme answers and gave the grid some non-thematic liveliness. Will changed a few letters here and there, and as always, smartened up many of the clues. After this puzzle was accepted, I noticed the theme had been done before, though without the revealer and with only one repeated theme answer, so hopefully those of you with a long memory won't mind too much.

Jeff Chen notes: I like not seeing a theme coming. Neat to reach the end of this one and smack my forehead, knowing that I could have figured out the ... more
Jeff Chen notes: I like not seeing a theme coming. Neat to reach the end of this one and smack my forehead, knowing that I could have figured out the themers, related to STICK positions: PARK, REVERSE, NEUTRAL, DRIVE, LOW — or PRNDL as it's commonly seen.

David does a great job of masking the themers. I really liked how they all have different-ish meanings from the car-related ones. THEME PARK is a solid entry in its own right and has nothing to do with a vehicle being in PARK. DOUBLE REVERSE and GENDER NEUTRAL don't achieve the disguise as well, but they both 1.) do the trick and 2.) serve as very colorful entries.

Impulse drive - make it so!

INTERNAL DRIVE certainly disguises DRIVE. I'm mixed on how much I like it as an entry, though. Yes, it's a real thing, but I doubt I'd pick it as a marquee entry. OPTICAL DRIVE feels a little more colorful. And the sci-fi nerd in me jumps up and down to use IMPULSE DRIVE. If I had been constructing this one I'd have had to force that dorkasaurus to realize that 1.) it's too similar a meaning to a car's DRIVE, and 2.) most humans won't know what this is.

Ambitious grid. Those three central entries cause all sorts of problems, 13 being the most inconvenient length. I do like getting such goodness as MALLCOP, LIMA PERU, and RACE DAY, but I'm not sure the parallel downs of LIMA PERU / ONE CARAT and DETECTOR / EYES ON ME were worth it. That sort of arrangement is almost always hard to fill cleanly (PLAT / OMARA and ARRAN / ORO), and the long entries are often not stellar. I'd prefer to have LIMA PERU and EYES ON ME broken up with black squares, and a focus on getting A+ entries where ONE CARAT and DETECTOR sit, along with cleaner fill.

Fun theme concept giving me a "hey, that's cool!" moment at the end.

JimH notes: In 2009, Jeremy Newton had a standard version of this automatic puzzle.
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1231 ( 23,794 )
Across Down
1. Manual : STICK
6. What "you had me at," in a classic movie line : HELLO
11. See 30-Down : RAT
14. Sauce commonly served with seafood : AIOLI
15. Had a home-cooked meal : ATEIN
16. Treasure lost on the Spanish Main : ORO
17. Material that may be acid-washed : DENIM
18. *Legoland, for one : THEMEPARK
20. Cut : OMIT
22. Busy time at Speedway or Churchill Downs : RACEDAY
23. 1992 or 2006 Winter Olympics locale : ALP
26. Next-to-last word in a fairy tale : EVER
28. Actor with the movie line "Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie" : PACINO
29. *Tricky football play : DOUBLEREVERSE
32. First word in a fairy tale : ONCE
33. Actress Sorvino : MIRA
34. *Like you or me? : GENDERNEUTRAL
41. South American wildcat : EYRA
42. Does something with : USES
44. *Essential feature of a PC : INTERNALDRIVE
49. Art house showings : INDIES
51. Level : TIER
52. Rig : FIX
53. Aid for store security : MALLCOP
55. Sign on again : REUP
57. *Equal rival : SWEETNLOW
59. Some help they are! : MAIDS
63. Place for a stud : EAR
64. TV actor Jason : OMARA
65. One of eight popes : URBAN
66. Home of Team Coco : TBS
67. Hear again, as a case : RETRY
68. Quintet representing the ends of the answers to the five starred clues : PRNDL
1. Pathetic : SAD
2. Very rare baseball result : TIE
3. Lithium-___ battery : ION
4. Award coveted on "Mad Men" : CLIO
5. Late-night host on ABC : KIMMEL
6. Mad ___ : HATTER
7. Old verb ending : ETH
8. Be creepy, in a way : LEER
9. Home of the oldest continuously functioning university in the Americas : LIMAPERU
10. Common diamond measure : ONECARAT
11. One who lines up speakers? : ROADIE
12. Firth of Clyde island : ARRAN
13. Locale of a Godzilla rampage : TOKYO
19. Weightlifter's pride : PECS
21. "___ been thinking ..." : IVE
23. Hubbub : ADO
24. Tennis court determination : LONG
25. Brownish purple : PUCE
27. Leftover : REMNANT
30. #1 Michael Jackson song about an 11-Across : BEN
31. Strive : VIE
35. Smoke ___ : DETECTOR
36. "Look this way" : EYESONME
37. School basics, in a manner of speaking : RRR
38. Pioneering sci-fi play : RUR
39. "In your dreams!" : ASIF
40. Big name in jeans : LEVI
43. Prurient interest : SEX
44. Do-nothings : IDLERS
45. West ___ virus : NILE
46. What the Heimlich maneuver clears : AIRWAY
47. Big name in jeans : LEE
48. Generate, as support : DRUMUP
49. "No more for me, please" : IMSET
50. Muslim princely title : NAWAB
54. Map showing property divisions : PLAT
56. Catherine who married Henry VIII : PARR
58. Bobby who won two Stanley Cups : ORR
60. Son of, in foreign names : IBN
61. Jay on "Modern Family," e.g. : DAD
62. Show for which Conan O'Brien once wrote, in brief : SNL

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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