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New York Times, Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Author:
David Woolf
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1711/15/20137/31/20180
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ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.55310
David Woolf

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 ... read more

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 ... read more

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.

Jim Horne 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 )

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Across
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
Down
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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