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New York Times, Tuesday, December 8, 2015

 Author: Neville Fogarty Editor: Will Shortz
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85/3/20125/13/20183
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1131110
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1.64020

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. Fogarty. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Neville Fogarty notes: The grid I submitted to Will had a few differences. At 38- and 39-Down, I had ASICS and STEIN, respectively, and at 53-Down, I ... more
Neville Fogarty notes:

The grid I submitted to Will had a few differences. At 38- and 39-Down, I had ASICS and STEIN, respectively, and at 53-Down, I had ARRAY. I appreciate the change to OSAKA and STRAY, as I think that's cleaner than what I have. And while I feel bad for sticking Tuesday solvers with the crossing of RAO and ROBB, I'm a bit relieved to know that Will and his crack team couldn't get rid of that blemish either!

Will Shortz notes: [Continuing from yesterday] My assistant, Joel, taped us editing yesterday's and today's puzzle, and he transcribed a bit of our ... more
Will Shortz notes:

[Continuing from yesterday] My assistant, Joel, taped us editing yesterday's and today's puzzle, and he transcribed a bit of our discussion each day. It illustrates our process as well as our back-and-forth, which sometimes goes off on tangents. Below, we're working on the clue for 61-Across, BREAKFAST. The constructor's clue was "Morning meal ... or what this puzzle's theme entries do?"

Will: Hmm, well, that's awfully easy. Shouldn't we hide the revealer a little bit?

Joel: Right.

Joel: "IHOP speciality."

Will: "24-hour McDonald's offering, now."

Joel: That's kinda fun.

Will: Yeah. That's like an ad for McDonald's, though.

Joel: Well, I think they're doing okay.

Will: [laughs] You don't think they need us? Their stock price won't go up because of us?

[long pause]

Will: Morning ritual?

Joel: Ritual … hmm.

Will: Comb your hair, shower, breakfast.

Joel: I was looking up quotes about breakfast. Steven Wright: "I went to a restaurant that served 'Breakfast At Any Time.' So I ordered French toast during the Renaissance." [laughs]. All right, I thought there might be some quotes about breakfast, but, wasn't meant to be.

Joel: Breakfast, breakfast, breakfast. Well … waffles, cereal, oatmeal, pancakes ...

Will: "Oatmeal or waffles, e.g." You think those equal breakfast?

Joel: Let's keep thinking. Breakfast … [pause] It's sometimes skipped in the morning?

Will: Rope.

Joel: Yeah, I don't know what the hell else that could be.

Will: I really don't mind "IHOP specialty," except it feels so commercial, especially because it's a theme answer. The whole puzzle hinges on this.

Joel: Hmm. This bothers you more than it bothers me. Because in my minis all the time, there's just brands left and right. I never feel like I'm selling out to them or doing them a favor or anything. It's just something me and the solver share in common. We both know what this thing is, so it's like a touchstone.

Will: There's a lot of brand names in the main crossword, too. I just try not to put too much attention on them. They should be incidental. And here, since it involves the key answer in the puzzle, it's sort of like throwing IHOP in your face.

Joel: That's why you don't like the McDonald's thing either?

Will: Yeah, even more so, 'cause that's new, so it's even more of an advertisement. "Hey guys, McDonald's has this new thing ..."

Joel: "After this commercial break, you can continue solving …"

Will: At least with IHOP, breakfast there is part of our long-standing culture.

Joel: Could say … "Coffee go-with"?

Will: "It follows a shower"?

Joel: It might not. I usually eat something before I shower.

Will: How's this for an ad … "Free Hampton Inn offering"! [laughs]

Joel: That's not a terrible idea, actually. We could do something like "Motel freebie."

Will: Uh-huh. "Motel freebie, nowadays." "Freebie" is weird, though. Freebie's like a mint on your pillow.

Joel: … "amenity"?

Will: That's better. O.K. … "Modern motel amenity." [scribbles it down]

Will: You know, when I started at the Times in '93, and I introduced commercial names into the puzzle, a lot of people really hated that. There were complaints for a couple of years, especially from older solvers. But I knew people would eventually come around. Either that ... or they'd die! Now maybe I'm on the conservative end of things.

Joel: Maybe it's just that brands are part of my … they're just everywhere, and they connect with people on Twitter and stuff. So I don't really think twice when I see one in the puzzle.

Will: Yeah, times have changed.

Jeff Chen notes: After a two year hiatus from the NYT puzzle, Neville's back! Standard theme type today, BREAKFAST interpreted as BREAK FAST, i.e. ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

After a two year hiatus from the NYT puzzle, Neville's back! Standard theme type today, BREAKFAST interpreted as BREAK FAST, i.e. phrases starting with FA and ending with ST. I liked the consistency of always doing it FA/ST, as well as the strong choice of themers — FAIRY DUST, FAMILY CREST, and FALSE ARREST are colorful answers. I'm not familiar with FATHER KNOWS BEST, but the clue made me want to go look it up. Kids named Princess, Bud, and Kitten = weirdly hilarious.

Great job of working in those Xs so smoothly. SEX TAPES is a nice answer as is IDEE FIXE, and the short stuff is all solid: XOXO, EXTRA, XENON, UNIX. I like seeing rare letters (JQXZ), but only if they're worked in fluidly, without resorting to ugly gluey answers. Neville does a great job of this.

Very nice long fill, too. Fun to get BLUE STATES and REDSHIRTS in symmetrical spots — Neville uses all four of his long slots so well. Even I CONCUR and LAB FEE are nice additions.

Pretty good short fill. NET WT is on many cereal boxes exactly like that, so that's not bad. DARER … okay, that's to be avoided. I also liked the clue echo with ABE and RAO prime ministers.

Ah, but that brings us to what I saw as the weak spot in the puzzle, the crossing of RAO and ROBB which Neville acknowledged to be troublesome. I think RAO is fair game — NYT solvers really ought to be able to piece together world leaders given fair crossings — but intersecting it with Charles ROBB is awfully rough. Just like Neville, Will, and Joel, I unfortunately can't see an easy fix. I'm really particular about this sort of thing in early-week puzzles, so I might have rebooted with a different grid skeleton if I had been forced into that RAO/ROBB crossing.

Love the ELF clue, referencing the "Sparklejollytwinklejingley" song. I loved the movie, and it's neat to see a musical made of it.

This standard theme type is getting a bit past its prime, but it's nice to see an example executed generally well.

 1R 2A 3B 4B 5I 6E 7D 8A 9M 10P 11E 12N 13N 14P A L E D 15L I R A 16A L O E 17M A U V E 18F A I R 19Y D U S T 20E Y E 21D 22A T M 23D E W 24G 25P S 26F A 27M 28I L Y C 29R E S T 30R O T 31I R O C 32R A O 33A L A 34X E N O 35N 36B 37R 38O 39S 40F A T 41H E R K N O 42W 43S B E S T 44T R E E 45S C O R E 46D A R 47S 48T 49L 50U N I X 51S K A 52F 53A 54L S E A 55R R E S T 56H A Y 57A R I 58A B E 59T A 60X I 61B R E 62A K F A 63S 64T 65P O R 66E 67D 68L O G S 69E M I R 70E X T R A 71E W E S 72E S P Y 73S O S A D
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