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New York Times, Saturday, December 7, 2019

Author:
Kevin G. Der and Erik Agard
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
413/12/200712/7/20193
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
122124119
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.65865
Kevin G. Der
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
5211/6/20121/16/202025
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
1056783121
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.62280
Erik Agard

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 29 Missing: {QVZ} This is puzzle # 41 for Mr. Der. This is puzzle # 50 for Mr. Agard. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
KEVIN: I hope my co-constructor Erik Agard won't mind when I say that he is a genius. I witnessed clever clues pour forth from him the ... read more

KEVIN: I hope my co-constructor Erik Agard won't mind when I say that he is a genius. I witnessed clever clues pour forth from him the way that melodies sprang effortlessly from Mozart's fingertips at the piano as he improvised for his audiences.

Jeff Chen notes:
The producers of 'American Ninja Warrior' have a tough job. Ideally, you want fewer and fewer competitors to make it through each ... read more

The producers of "American Ninja Warrior" have a tough job. Ideally, you want fewer and fewer competitors to make it through each stage, a gradual winnowing until you're left with the final one or two people standing.

Early on, you should knock out some people who don't have great balance. In the middle rounds, you have to ratchet things up, maybe tossing in a salmon ladder.

And you ought to end with an incredibly difficult series of challenges that only the best-trained uber-athletes can complete – a wicked wingnuts to a crazy cliffhanger to a flying bar. If all goes well, a small handful of competitors will make it almost all the way through, and maybe one will even hit the buzzer.

Now that, my friends, makes for dramatic TV.

One thing you want to avoid at all costs: an obstacle that knocks everyone out. No fun to have something impossible! Today's puzzle wasn't quite that, but it was wicked wingnuts that you had to do while on a flying bar, landing on crazy cliffhanger-sized ledges.

I did like several of the feature entries – great stack in IT CHECKS OUT / BETA RELEASE / ALARM SYSTEM. Along with I MET SOMEONE, WRAP PARTY, COMMISH, TRES CHIC is an appropriate description!

So much of it nearly went over my head(bands), though. If you don't know what a "do loop" is (a programming construct designed to iterate until a certain condition is met), the cleverness of a "(hair)do loop" is lost. Similarly with BETA RELEASE and concept of "patches" applied to buggy code.

"Barrier to entry" is common MBA lingo (element that hinders competitors from entering your marketplace). Even if it is something that solvers should at least be familiar with, it's too literal a description for ALARM SYSTEM. Something like [It might ring a bell] would be a better wordplay angle.

Along with SEATO (?), the never-spelled-out-except-in-crosswords GSIX, and the baffling opposite of alt = NEU? (old and new in German), my solving muscles won't be the same for days.

That said, this is the exact type of training that one needs to become a stage 4 solver. A few years ago, I would routinely fail on Thursday salmon ladders, and now I'm finishing punishing Saturday crazy cliffhangers. Mount Midoriyama, I'm coming for you!

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 1207 ( 25,596 )
Across
1
Shaken thumb, in American Sign Language : TEN
4
The "dark" in a Dark and Stormy, perhaps : JAMAICANRUM
15
Schwarzbrot or Vollkornbrot loaf : RYE
16
Post-match report : IMETSOMEONE
17
Onomatopoeic cry : EEK
18
How a security guard might say goodbye? : GOTTABOUNCE
19
Puts away : STOWS
21
Subjects of some relative clauses? : HEIRS
22
___ Geo : NAT
23
Reduplicative girl's name : CECE
24
Mascot of the W.N.B.A.'s Mystics, e.g. : PANDA
25
Most actors don't hold real ones, informally : CIGS
26
Do loops? : HEADBANDS
28
Language from which "Saskatchewan" comes : CREE
29
Part of an announcer's home run call : ITSGONE
30
Exhibit a male gaze, perhaps : OGLE
32
Word with big or goat : CHEESE
33
Light on packaging : LOWFAT
37
Biblical verb with "thou" : DOST
39
League leader, informally : COMMISH
40
E.U. alliance : GSIX
42
Setting for a plastered cast? : WRAPPARTY
44
Start of some juice portmanteaus : CRAN
45
Makeup experts? : LIARS
46
Bender : TEAR
47
Tom's partner : HEN
48
Opposite of calm : PANIC
49
Manila Pact grp. : SEATO
50
"I can confirm" : ITCHECKSOUT
53
Device sold with a remote : WII
54
Patchwork? : BETARELEASE
55
What's more : AND
56
Barrier to entry : ALARMSYSTEM
57
"May I help you?" : YES
Down
1
À la mode : TRESCHIC
2
Sticking points for vampires : EYETEETH
3
2000s rock singer with the hit albums "Hell-On" and "Middle Cyclone" : NEKOCASE
4
The tunes "The Blarney Pilgrim" and "The Lark in the Morning," e.g. : JIGS
5
"Te ___" : AMO
6
Dairy farm product : METHANE
7
Not miss : ATTEND
8
Unhelpful follower of "because" : ISAIDSO
9
Yoga pose similar to Upward-Facing Dog : COBRA
10
Nigerian novelist Tutuola : AMOS
11
Alt's opposite : NEU
12
Name that's the title of a 1964 4 Seasons hit : RONNIE
13
Disbar? : UNCAGE
14
Some sporting events : MEETS
20
Placed tightly : WEDGEDIN
24
Philatelist's collection : PANES
25
Other hand : CREWMATE
27
Yanks' rivals : BOSOX
28
Really hit one's stride? : CLOMP
31
Messy food servings : GLOPS
34
"Go ahead, ask" : FIREAWAY
35
Rarest naturally occurring element in the earth's crust : ASTATINE
36
Energy regulators in the body : THYROIDS
38
Like stars in one's eyes : TWINKLY
39
Old-fashioned attire for a motorist : CARCOAT
40
Opera heroine who slays a witch : GRETEL
41
Holy places : SANCTA
43
Good news for the office staff : RAISES
44
Japanese city on Tokyo Bay : CHIBA
45
What loafers lack : LACES
48
Salon job : PERM
49
Topic in education policy : STEM
51
Sarcastic syllable : HAR
52
Mixed-___ : USE

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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