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New York Times, Saturday, December 9, 2017

Author:
Stu Ockman
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
112/2/20122/7/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0003503
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.57110
Stu Ockman

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 26 Missing: {JQVZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 10 for Mr. Ockman. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Stu Ockman notes:
When I received the acceptance email in January, I did a double-take. After submitting over a hundred puzzles, several multiple times, ... read more

When I received the acceptance email in January, I did a double-take. After submitting over a hundred puzzles, several multiple times, I'd never seen an email from Will unconditionally accepting one without requesting final cluing and/or the removal of one or more offending words or phrases until now. I couldn't help but think, ‘Wow, this is freaking awesome!'

My excitement was tempered a bit by Joel, writing for Will, "Some stinkers here and there (ESAS, AS FIT, ANAG, ARMAS, AGENAS), but also a ton of fun vocabulary in a wide-open 66-word grid. Nice work." Of course, I focused on the first part of the sentence; not the last.

The five stinkers were no surprise; I never liked them, but there are always tradeoffs between ‘fun vocabulary' and drek. Nevertheless, I redid the NE corner, eliminating two of the offenders and creating the final grid.

To the left is the original corner which would have otherwise appeared in the New York Times today (with the actual corner on the right for easy comparison).

I'm hoping Jeff agrees that ESAS/AS FIT/ARMAS is a small price to pay for holding the fun fill together, and I'm hoping you enjoyed filling in the grid as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Jeff Chen notes:
I'm mostly in agreement with Stu. 66-word grids are no joke — so tough to get both smooth and sparkly. There's a reason so few ... read more

I'm mostly in agreement with Stu. 66-word grids are no joke — so tough to get both smooth and sparkly. There's a reason so few constructors regularly dip their toes in these waters. I wouldn't call this one FREAKING AWESOME, but I certainly wouldn't call it IN DIRE NEED either.

It's a tough call — to me, AS FIT, SONE, and LIEF are pretty bad. The last one is especially egregious — if you need to clue something as "old-style," probably best to go back and rework that little section.

Normally I don't look carefully at the "before" grids, but this one was interesting. The corner as published is so, so, so much better than the original. I have a feeling I would have leaned closer toward the IN DIRE NEED side if the original had been kept. AGENAS and ANAG … oof and double oof!

Overall, this 66-worder exhibits a lot of characteristics shared by other 66-worders:

  • Some great stuff (ICE DANCERS, PIED A TERRE, LIBEL LAWS, excellent!)
  • A good number of short fill compromises
  • A bit of wasted space (DROWNED OUT)
  • A couple of entries with questionable crossworthiness (ON A PLATE? PAY EXTRA?)

I'd be interested to see if the puzzle could have been made POW!-worthy by breaking up IN DIRE NEED and DROWNED OUT. Those two entries didn't do much for me anyway, and if this change could have eliminated AS FIT, ARMAS, MEESE ... man, that would have been a big improvement.

Big, wide-open spaces like the NW and SE can make for a tough Saturday challenge. I don't find them as satisfying as slightly smaller regions more densely packed with great material, but it's worthy of a change of pace.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1209 ( 24,868 )
Across
1. Spanish pronoun : ESAS
5. In equally good shape : ASFIT
10. Whence many paintings of Pueblo Indians : TAOS
14. Longtime first name in gossip : RONA
15. Poet who was a friend of Dalí : LORCA
16. ___ more : ONCE
17. Desperate : INDIRENEED
19. Speed : RATE
20. Side dish at a Southern barbecue : CORNBREAD
21. Nut whose name has multiple pronunciations : PECAN
22. Catch phrase? : IGOTIT
23. Figure skater Witt : KATARINA
25. Spends time on-line? : DRIES
26. Some Christmas decorations : PINECONES
27. "Shane" star : LADD
28. Canaries, e.g. : FINCHES
29. Four characters in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" : EMS
30. "How Deep Is Your Love" group, 1977 : BEEGEES
31. Site ___ (web page listing) : MAP
34. Doctor of 1960s TV : KILDARE
35. "___ bing!" : BADA
36. Certain media constraints : LIBELLAWS
39. "A rich man is nothing but a poor man with ___": W. C. Fields : MONEY
40. Without putting in any effort : ONAPLATE
41. Waters in Washington : MAXINE
42. Links things? : CARTS
43. Passing concern : ESTATETAX
45. Cher, for one : ALTO
46. Talked over, say : DROWNEDOUT
47. Gladly, old-style : LIEF
48. Former Red Sox slugger Tony : ARMAS
49. ___ Technologies, massively popular 2009 start-up : UBER
50. Old-time worker : SERF
51. 1980s attorney general : MEESE
52. Professional aide, for short : PARA
Down
1. Who wrote and sang "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" : ERICIDLE
2. Baby shower : SONOGRAM
3. Some "Star Wars" figures : ANDROIDS
4. Like Joan of Arc : SAINTED
5. "Incoming!," e.g. : ALERT
6. Volume measure : SONE
7. Fantabulous : FREAKINGAWESOME
8. Some Winter Olympians : ICEDANCERS
9. Minute amount : TAD
10. Ones whose work may have sticking points? : TOREROS
11. Product with the old catchphrase "Mother, please, I'd rather do it myself!" : ANACIN
12. Measure of ping resistance : OCTANE
13. Considered : SEENAS
18. Slugger's stat : RBIS
21. Duel measure : PACES
24. Giggle : TEHEE
26. Home away from home : PIEDATERRE
28. Buster : FELLA
30. Ones in the U.S., but not in Canada : BILLS
31. One side of the border-straddling International Peace Garden : MANITOBA
32. First chancellor of West Germany, 1949-63 : ADENAUER
33. Suffer price gouging, e.g. : PAYEXTRA
34. Avoided : KEPTOFF
35. Ready to ship, say : BOXEDUP
36. Townies : LOCALS
37. One way to be caught : INALIE
38. Simple kind of economy : BARTER
39. Dating service success : MATE
41. Stately home : MANSE
44. First word of "Jabberwocky" : TWAS
46. Channel changer? : DAM

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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