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New York Times, Thursday, December 31, 2015

Author:
Ben Tausig
Editor:
Will Shortz
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99/8/20059/1/20162
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Ben Tausig

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQZ} This is puzzle # 8 for Mr. Tausig. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ben Tausig notes:
Sharing is the real struggle, which I know from having young kids. One merry minute they're handing their sibling the last bite of ... read more

Sharing is the real struggle, which I know from having young kids. One merry minute they're handing their sibling the last bite of cupcake, the next they're wresting it back, apoplectic, sobbing.

We all face that conflict. Altruism feels good, but so does having stuff. I run a business myself, the American Values Club xwords. If someone asks me nicely, I'll give them as many free puzzles as they want, anytime. But on other occasions, I obsess over money, ownership, control, in ways that are hard to check even when they feel toxic.

Today's theme is part of a larger project, unveiled today, to think through this conflict. I saw the opportunity about two years ago when I first noted the anniversary. I imagined a monopoly on Monopoly puzzles--as a canvas, a chance to consider competing impulses.

A historical detail adds a wrinkle: Monopoly is a tedious game on purpose. That tedium was the point of its model and predecessor, The Landlord's Game, which was designed to show how property ownership and inequality are oppressive. You know how when you play Monopoly, frequently, one player grabs up the reds and the yellows and the greens within five minutes, and for the next two hours, the rest of the party gets to be the disdainful proletariat renter class? That's kind of what the designers were after.

Lesson learned, perhaps, but the game remains seductive. We keep living its contradictions, we keep buying it, as if it might be different next time although the rules haven't changed. Our carpets will be streaked with cupcake crumbs and tears; the game guarantees it. Let the stains remind us not only that whoever loves money will never have enough money, but that the spoils of generosity may include our own grace.

Jeff Chen notes:
Fun idea, PASS GO meaning that you need to skip over G O in the themers in order to make sense of their eccentric clues. I like it ... read more

Fun idea, PASS GO meaning that you need to skip over G O in the themers in order to make sense of their eccentric clues. I like it when a grid looks perfectly normal, but there's something kooky going on underneath. For instance, GOOGLE DOCS (fantastic fresh entry!) reads as OGLE DOCS when you "PASS GO."

Man oh man I wanted the robot to replace the iron. How could a robot lose to a cat?

Speaking of fresh, Ben is really strong when it comes to delivering a modern feel. I've been lucky enough to have two guest puzzles in his American Values Club Crossword — I'm always impressed at how he balances the puzzles so they appeal to solvers in their teens and 20s, but also remain accessible to solvers of all ages.

I liked how Ben used his upper right corner to give us a lot of bonus material. MIXED DRINK is nice enough on its own, but crossing it with an AD EXEC and OPUS DEI makes great use of that real estate.

While I was impressed with the high theme density — four themers plus PASS GO and MONOPOLY — I did find it inelegant that PASS GO and MONOPOLY didn't have symmetrically placed theme answers. PASS GO is more forgivable since short revealers are often placed at the very end of the puzzle, but not having a match for MONOPOLY felt odd. I do like the feat of stacking EGOMANIACS atop MONOPOLY, and it's nice execution to get that SE area smooth, but I might have liked the overall layout better without MONOPOLY.

I wasn't sure what a WAGONMASTER was, but apparently, it's a ... master of a wagon. Huh.

Amusing clues:

  • Who knew that the equivalent to a NUN in Buddhism was a Bhikkhuni? Neat trivia.
  • [Low note?] refers to a cow "lowing," or making a MOO.
  • A [Swiftly built home?] is a NEST … built by a swift. Awesome!

Great to see LGBT finally show up in the NYT crossword! I'm curious when LGBTQ will debut.

Jim Horne notes:
This crossword was part of a unique four-puzzle Monopoly by Ben Tausig. The brilliant podcast '99% Invisible' did a fascinating ... read more

This crossword was part of a unique four-puzzle Monopoly by Ben Tausig.

The brilliant podcast "99% Invisible" did a fascinating episode on The Landlord's Game just last month. You can listen to it or read about it here.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 1231 ( 24,159 )
Across
1
Onetime gig for Wiig, in brief : SNL
4
Keep the sauce from congealing, say : STIR
8
___ Simpson : GRAMPA
14
Low note? : MOO
15
Stash : HIDE
16
Banks : RELIES
17
Spider-Man's surrogate father : UNCLEBEN
19
Commercial leader? : ADEXEC
20
Enjoy the swimsuit edition of The New England Journal of Medicine? : GOOGLEDOCS
22
Giant Manning : ELI
23
Club alternative : BLT
24
Organization in "The Da Vinci Code" : OPUSDEI
27
Actress Gerwig of "Mistress America" : GRETA
30
"Yeah, that's the spot" : AAH
32
Put down roots? : SOD
33
Oral vote : NAY
34
Brief entries in an auto film festival? : CARGOSHORTS
39
Like Scotch whisky : AGED
41
Rib : TEASE
42
Flag : TIRE
43
Sickly-looking overlord? : WAGONMASTER
46
Bhikkhuni : Buddhism :: ___ : Catholicism : NUN
47
Tall one : LIE
48
Rotational speed meas. : RPS
49
Grilled : ASKED
51
Neither improve nor decline : PLATEAU
54
Bank figure, for short : PIN
55
Half of us? : ESS
56
People obsessed with being online? : EGOMANIACS
62
Round a corner in 65-Across ... or what you must do to answer the clues for 20-, 34-, 43- and 56-Across : PASSGO
65
Game patented December 31, 1935 : MONOPOLY
66
Psychologist Pinker who wrote "How the Mind Works" : STEVEN
67
Words of rebuke : ETTU
68
Understanding : KEN
69
What you may have with mom, dad or an overbearing boss : ISSUES
70
Swiftly built home? : NEST
71
Cable channel that airs "Portlandia" : IFC
Down
1
Like an "I told you so" look : SMUG
2
Proscription : NONO
3
Spanish nuts : LOCO
4
Wallop : SHELLAC
5
Terminus of the Qingzang railway : TIBET
6
Known to authorities : IDED
7
City near Sparks : RENO
8
Clutch : GRASP
9
With 10-Down, Irish draught : RED
10
See 9-Down : ALE
11
Cosmopolitan, e.g. : MIXEDDRINK
12
Key's longtime partner in sketch comedy : PEELE
13
Computer acronym since the 1960s : ASCII
18
Modern civil rights initialism : LGBT
21
They share the air : COHOSTS
25
Escort, slangily : USH
26
Some air pollution : SOOT
27
Plague, with "at" : GNAW
28
1971 documentary about Ravi Shankar : RAGA
29
Bridge sitter? : EYEGLASSES
30
Relative of a throw : AREARUG
31
Audibly floored : AGASP
35
Convenience partly obviated by banking apps : ATM
36
"Got me now?" : SEE
37
Align : TRUE
38
Texting button : SEND
40
Darer's cry : DOIT
44
Born on the bayou? : NEE
45
Cause for a rescheduling : RAINOUT
50
Insignificant person : SNIP
51
"The choice of a new generation" sloganeer, once : PEPSI
52
Challenges for future counsel, in brief : LSATS
53
Bajillions of years : AEONS
54
Fly holder : PANTS
57
Harbinger : OMEN
58
Speck : MOTE
59
Isao in the Golf Hall of Fame : AOKI
60
Head of staff? : CLEF
61
Align : SYNC
63
"Law & Order" spinoff, familiarly : SVU
64
"Huh, never would've figured" : GEE

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?