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New York Times, Friday, February 21, 2014

Author:
Patrick Berry
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2297/11/199911/4/20182
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
741241679512
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.54980
Patrick Berry

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
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 ... read more

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 )

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Across
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
Down
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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