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New York Times, Friday, December 6, 2019

Author:
Andrew J. Ries
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
238/13/20071/11/20200
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
31111763
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.57020
Andrew Ries

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 20 for Mr. Ries. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes:
Andrew usually runs his middle stair stack horizontally, but chose to display it vertically today — you can always 'flip' a grid ... read more

Andrew usually runs his middle stair stack horizontally, but chose to display it vertically today — you can always "flip" a grid along the NW to SE diagonal with no changes in entries. (There are technical reasons for this, but they're incredibly boring, so just trust me. An example of two grids that are equivalent except for flipping: the first pair in the Misenko duplicates.) So, why place MARTIN SHEEN / LECTURE TOUR / LETTUCE WRAP vertically instead of horizontally?

One reason is that it lets Andrew feature all the goodies running across that stair stack: ANSWER ME THIS, SPORT UTILITY, SWIM UPSTREAM, MAKEUP ARTIST, NO BOTHER. He usually gets a lot of long answers running through his stair sticks, but today's felt even stronger.

Another is that if you flipped the grid as described above, your 1-Across would be APPAL. Not an appalling answer, but not a good one, either. 1-Across is the first answer most solvers will look at; it's so important to start things off on the right foot.

It seems ridiculous that something as easy as grid-flipping would make a difference, but having a poor 1-Across entry can be such a turn-off. These little tricks can be important.

One con to today's presentation is that it places VIREO across the middle, glaring and sticking out more than if it were vertically oriented. This one tough entry is fair, but when you combine it with PAREVE, the RIVER PO, MISSAL, and PLAIT (usually called a "braid" in the US), it makes for a lot of entries that could be called "weird." That's an unfair assessment, but if you make a solver feel dumb, that affects their perception of a puzzle's quality.

Overall, it's not my favorite of Andrew's (stellar) body of stair-stack work, especially considering he also needed a bit of RDA TET ITA TBA to make it work. Certainly enough juice from the long entries to make it still enjoyable, though.

1
A
2
D
3
W
4
A
5
R
6
S
7
G
8
Y
9
M
10
R
11
A
12
T
13
P
R
O
F
I
T
14
L
I
E
I
D
L
E
15
P
A
R
E
V
E
16
L
E
S
S
S
A
L
T
17
A
N
S
W
E
R
18
M
E
T
H
I
S
19
L
O
T
20
R
E
A
C
T
21
T
A
22
M
23
E
24
S
25
S
P
O
R
T
U
26
T
I
L
I
T
Y
27
H
28
I
29
P
P
O
30
T
U
C
K
S
31
N
U
N
32
O
N
L
Y
33
V
I
R
E
O
34
R
E
D
O
35
I
T
A
36
S
I
N
E
W
37
P
A
R
E
D
38
S
W
I
39
M
U
P
S
T
R
40
E
A
M
41
T
O
T
E
M
42
H
O
A
R
Y
43
T
44
B
45
A
46
M
A
47
K
E
U
P
A
R
48
T
I
S
T
49
N
50
O
51
B
O
T
H
E
R
52
S
A
U
D
I
S
53
O
V
E
R
R
A
N
54
E
T
R
A
D
E
55
B
A
N
Y
A
N
56
D
E
F
L
E
A
© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 1206 ( 25,595 )
Across
1
Samsung-versus-Apple and others : ADWARS
7
Regular at a fitness center : GYMRAT
13
Returns : PROFIT
14
Gather dust : LIEIDLE
15
Containing neither meat nor dairy : PAREVE
16
Dietary claim on some potato chip bags : LESSSALT
17
"Here's one for you, smarty-pants" : ANSWERMETHIS
19
Something cast in cleromancy : LOT
20
Not just sit there : REACT
21
Breaks, in a way : TAMES
25
Rugged class : SPORTUTILITY
27
Source of illegal ivory, informally : HIPPO
30
Puts to bed, with "in" : TUCKS
31
One with a habit : NUN
32
Cash ___ (restaurant caveat) : ONLY
33
New World songbird : VIREO
34
Overhaul : REDO
35
Feminine suffix in Spanish names : ITA
36
Power cord? : SINEW
37
Cut (down) : PARED
38
Take the more difficult path, metaphorically : SWIMUPSTREAM
41
Something made for one's idols? : TOTEM
42
Ancient : HOARY
43
Abbr. for an open slot : TBA
46
Dressing room attendant : MAKEUPARTIST
49
"Don't mention it" : NOBOTHER
52
Some kaffiyeh wearers : SAUDIS
53
Went past : OVERRAN
54
Company with a purple-and-green asterisk in its logo : ETRADE
55
National tree of India : BANYAN
56
Clean, as a lab coat? : DEFLEA
Down
1
Horrify, in Hampshire : APPAL
2
Pipe cleaner brand : DRANO
3
Drub : WORST
4
Some : AFEW
5
It flows from the Cottian Alps to the Adriatic : RIVERPO
6
Lead-in to -scope : STEREO
7
Lillian of silent films : GISH
8
Firm affirmation : YESITIS
9
Prayer book : MISSAL
10
Nutritional fig. : RDA
11
___ set : ALL
12
Celebration in Ho Chi Minh City : TET
14
Low-carb sandwich : LETTUCEWRAP
16
Series of visits to colleges, maybe : LECTURETOUR
18
Actor whose roles have included both a fictional and a real-life U.S. president : MARTINSHEEN
22
Person in a rush : MINER
23
Exercise done on a bench : ETUDE
24
Bishops' gathering : SYNOD
25
One who bugs another person? : SPY
26
Ring result, for short : TKO
27
Raise : HOIST
28
Halved, perhaps : INTWO
29
Interweave, as hair : PLAIT
33
Kind of pass : VIP
34
Super Bowl LIII loser : RAM
36
Island near Krakatoa : SUMATRA
37
Wage : PAYRATE
39
Answer to the riddle "I form in an instant and last a lifetime. What am I?" : MEMORY
40
Rubbed out : ERASED
43
Ebbing and flowing, say : TIDAL
44
Queen's "We Will Rock You" vis-à-vis "We Are the Champions" : BSIDE
45
Totally lost : ATSEA
47
Sadiq ___, London mayor beginning in 2016 : KHAN
48
Neighborhood : TURF
49
___ Hill (San Francisco neighborhood) : NOB
50
Eggs Florentine, once? : OVA
51
Son of, in Hebrew names : BEN

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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