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New York Times, Friday, February 21, 2014

Author: Patrick Berry
Editor: Will Shortz
Patrick Berry
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2237/11/19997/14/20172
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
711241676512
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.54980
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 34 Missing: {FQVXZ} Featured in Will Shortz's favorite puzzlemakers This is puzzle # 184 for Mr. Berry. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Jeff Chen notes: Another beauty from the master. 66-word themelesses are not supposed to be this smooth. It's a fundamental law of crosswords that the ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Another beauty from the master. 66-word themelesses are not supposed to be this smooth. It's a fundamental law of crosswords that the lower your word count, the crunchier your compromises get. Seriously, it's like he's breaking the laws of nature. J'accuse!

The aspect I like best about this puzzle is not the amazing grid, which is saying a lot. The cluing is so fun, so tricky, and gives me an incredible a-ha moment at every turn. As with most of his recent puzzles, I had to wrestle this one to the ground, taking over 30 minutes to finish, but what a feeling of accomplishment after figuring out "Provider of early projections" had nothing to do with business or political races, but the old-style CAMERA OBSCURA. And "They run out of clothing" had me thinking about colorfast issues (even though I still don't understand why laundry colors and whites need to be separated), and coming up with STREAKERS was a thrill. Add in half a dozen more top-notch clues and it's a work of art.

And then there's the grid. True, there aren't many Scrabbly letters, just a J, but I didn't care. When you incorporate GO BIG OR GO HOME, CYCLOTRONS, PROP COMIC, SHOEMAKER, and CAMERA OBSCURA all in a giant central area... it leaves me slack-jawed, gaping at the miraculous construction.

And it doesn't stop there. Look at the incredible SW corner, a wide swath of white, containing COED DORMS, GREEN TEA, CHRISTO, RED CAP, STREAKERS. I'd be pretty happy to construct to accomplish any one of these subsections in one of my themelesses (this is one area I'm trying to better develop in my own construction skill set), much less an entire puzzle like it.

When I originally started providing construction commentary, Will asked me to give both positive feedback as well as constructive criticism. The latter is almost always doable since most every puzzle requires trade-offs and judgement calls. But what am I supposed to point out today? "Panhandler, of a sort?" might not be to everyone's tastes? INIGO wasn't clued to my favorite "Princess Bride" line? I'm at a bit of a loss today.

Okay, I've run out of superlatives. There have been some good puzzles this week (and will be some more to come), but as one constructor put it, it's tough to have a puzzle run anywhere close (in date) to a Patrick Berry. It's like climbing next to the lead route-setter at my gym, who climbs routes four levels higher than I do... in his &$#!*# sneakers.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0221 ( 23,481 )
Across Down
1. Freight hopper : TRAMP
6. Much-hailed group : CABS
10. Pretreater target : SPOT
14. Slab strengthener : REBAR
15. Days long gone : YORE
16. End of an Asian capital's name : PENH
17. Queen's Chapel designer ___ Jones : INIGO
18. Stamp act? : CLOGDANCE
20. Like some unhealthy relationships : OEDIPAL
22. Not so normal : WEIRDER
23. Be cognizant of : SEE
24. Lamebrain : CLOD
26. Certain letter attachment : RESUME
27. Unpleasantly surprised : JOLTED
29. ___ Altos, Calif. : LOS
30. Provider of early projections : CAMERAOBSCURA
34. Catchphrase that encourages extravagance : GOBIGORGOHOME
35. Sky hooks? : CRESCENTMOONS
36. "___ fly through the air with the greatest of ease" : HED
37. DQ offerings : SHAKES
38. Worker who handles your case? : REDCAP
42. Originate : STEM
43. With this, you'll probably manage : MBA
46. Squared away : INORDER
48. Panhandler, of a sort? : IDAHOAN
50. They run out of clothing : STREAKERS
52. Stand : KIOSK
53. Fill-in : TEMP
54. Make cuts, say : EDIT
55. It would "make other cars seem ordinary," per ads : EDSEL
56. Brewery apparatus : OAST
57. Breaks down : SOBS
58. Teammate of Robinson : REESE
1. Many folk bands : TRIOS
2. Girl's name that means "born again" : RENEE
3. Stand : ABIDE
4. Holiday travelers? : MAGI
5. One with a thing for laughter? : PROPCOMIC
6. Spiral-shaped particle accelerators : CYCLOTRONS
7. 1998 purchaser of Netscape : AOL
8. Head piece? : BROW
9. Bob in the Songwriters Hall of Fame : SEGER
10. Bandies words : SPARS
11. Swingers : PENDULUMS
12. Another time : ONCEMORE
13. 18th-century Hapsburg monarch Maria ___ : THERESA
19. Las Vegas block? : DIE
21. Put forward : ALLEGE
25. Needs : DEARTHS
27. Snarky comments : JABS
28. Overbearing types : DOGMATISTS
30. Buildings often segregated by floor : COEDDORMS
31. Reserved : BOOKED
32. Worker also known as a cordwainer : SHOEMAKER
33. Scams : CONS
34. Leaves from the Orient : GREENTEA
35. Big name in outdoor art : CHRISTO
39. Made slow progress : CREPT
40. Nabokov's longest novel : ADA
41. Furry toys : PEKES
43. Canadian ranger : MOOSE
44. Rounded items? : BASES
45. Tarsus location : ANKLE
47. Change : REDO
49. Get behind something? : HIDE
51. Lightly tease : RIB

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 5 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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