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New York Times, Monday, December 4, 2017

Author: Alan Arbesfeld
Editor: Will Shortz
Alan Arbesfeld
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1198/27/198112/4/20170
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
25623342515
ScrabRebusCirclePangrampre-WS
1.605099

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 119 for Mr. Arbesfeld. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Jeff Chen notes: Tidy start to the week, a consistent '*AY IT *' pattern featuring some snazzy theme phrases. SAY IT AINT SO is fantastic, as are PLAY ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Tidy start to the week, a consistent "*AY IT *" pattern featuring some snazzy theme phrases. SAY IT AINT SO is fantastic, as are PLAY IT BY EAR and LAY IT ON THICK. PAY IT FORWARD wasn't a great movie, but what a neat concept.

The only one I was plus/minus on was MAY IT BE. I did enjoy the LotR movies, but that song didn't ring a bell.

Get it? Ring a bell? In Lord of the RINGs?

*crickets chirping*

It's not a mind-blowing theme, but I appreciated that it was a step up from simple rhymes. I tried to think of other good phrases with that pattern, but I couldn't. That's one mark of what I call "tightness" — neat that these five seem to form a complete set.

I've been critical of some of Alan's low word-count Sunday puzzles, which have tended to require a deluge of crossword glue. But today's solving experience was a perfect example of the role I think short fill — words of five letters or less — ought to play. Your job is not to be noticed, short fill! Beautiful execution in that regard, with just some minor EMS, HST, ISA kind of stuff.

Alan could have opened up the grid a bit, possibly by removing a black square between YEN and BALI or even the one between NEIL and SASH. Bravo for not doing so! Made for an easy-breezy, smooth as silk solving experience. It is boring from a constructor's standpoint — going up to 78 words, the max allowable, presents little challenge — but the solving experience must take priority.

Great clues in ROOFER, someone who's work is on the house. And AYES being [Naval agreements?]? Love it!

Strong overall execution, with snappy theme phrases, good long fill, and minimal crossword glue. If the theme had been more exciting, this could have been POW! material.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1204 ( 24,863 )
Across Down
1. Falafel holders : PITAS
6. Piano technician : TUNER
11. Start of a countdown : TEN
14. Food-spoiling bacterium : ECOLI
15. "Remember the ___!" : ALAMO
16. Party card game : UNO
17. "Tell me the rumors are false!" : SAYITAINTSO
19. Kook : NUT
20. Revolutionary Guevara : CHE
21. Some HDTVs : RCAS
22. Glowing part of a fire : FLAME
24. Comprehensive, as a report : INDEPTH
27. Put an end to : CEASE
28. 2000 Kevin Spacey/Helen Hunt film : PAYITFORWARD
32. Sounding congested : NASAL
35. Smash into : RAM
36. Leave rolling in the aisles : SLAY
37. Approximation: Abbr. : EST
38. Oscar-nominated Enya song from 2001's "The Lord of the Rings" : MAYITBE
42. Was out to lunch? : ATE
43. Apple tablet : IPAD
45. Dog doc : VET
46. Helped out : AIDED
48. Offer effusive praise : LAYITONTHICK
52. Poe poem that starts "Once upon a midnight dreary," with "The" : RAVEN
53. Long to have : ACHEFOR
57. Capital of Oregon : SALEM
58. Sweetie pie : BABE
60. "That ___ lie!" : ISA
61. Get older : AGE
62. Improvise : PLAYITBYEAR
66. California's Big ___ : SUR
67. Sign on a boardinghouse window : TOLET
68. Cowboys' home : RANGE
69. D.D.E.'s predecessor : HST
70. Cheese with holes : SWISS
71. Actress Winona of "Stranger Things" : RYDER
1. Actor Joe of "My Cousin Vinny" : PESCI
2. Corporate raider Carl : ICAHN
3. Trifled (with) : TOYED
4. Three-time Frazier foe : ALI
5. Take a load off : SIT
6. Chinese martial art : TAICHI
7. Neighbor of the radius : ULNA
8. Yanks : New York :: ___ : Washington : NATS
9. Letters on an ambulance : EMS
10. One whose work is on the house? : ROOFER
11. Popular sandwich order : TUNASALAD
12. Make a list of : ENUMERATE
13. Do, re or mi : NOTE
18. Pretentiously showy : ARTY
23. Clean Air Act and others : LAWS
25. Clean Air Act org. : EPA
26. It may be read by a psychic : PALM
27. Grooming implement : COMB
29. Travis of country music : TRITT
30. Liposuction target : FAT
31. Not naturally red-haired, e.g. : DYED
32. Singer Diamond or Young : NEIL
33. Spears at the dinner table : ASPARAGUS
34. "Keep your eyes open!" : STAYALERT
39. Stratford-upon-___ : AVON
40. Hankering : YEN
41. Per person : EACH
44. Drop precipitously : DIVE
47. D.D.E., familiarly : IKE
49. Lures : TEMPTS
50. Bad ones are hard to break : HABITS
51. Rapper-turned-TV actor : ICET
54. Wicked one : FIEND
55. ___ orange : OSAGE
56. Harder to find : RARER
57. Pageant wrap : SASH
58. Indonesian tourist destination : BALI
59. Naval agreements? : AYES
63. Like a pitch between the ankles and knees : LOW
64. "It's f-f-freezing!" : BRR
65. "Yippee!" : YAY

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle.

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