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New York Times, Saturday, February 7, 2015

Author: Byron Walden
Editor: Will Shortz
Byron Walden
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801192577
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1.58321
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 64, Blocks: 23 Missing: {FQX} Average word length: 6.31 This is puzzle # 73 for Mr. Walden. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Byron Walden notes: Constructors have a risque term for the torture one does to the quality of the entries in a puzzle in order to put a lot of ... more
Byron Walden notes:

Constructors have a risque term for the torture one does to the quality of the entries in a puzzle in order to put a lot of high-point Scrabble letters like X, J, Q and Z into some portion of the grid. With this puzzle, I'm tempted to repurpose the term for what starting with those letters in a nice airy corner can do to the constructor when s/he has to make the rest of the puzzle come together.

This one, of course, started in the southeast with DESIARNAZJR — and the clue, one of my favorite ever — and trying to build enough space around the ZJ to hide it for a while, to maximize the punch of getting the answer. (I half-wanted it to run without the ? for the same reason, but it's hard to quibble with it as he just turned 62.)

Queen Wilhelmina

Once I got the stack in the southwest to come together, I had just enough hope that I could actually get it to work. I even had a different completed grid, with PASTA POT/PAVANES in place of WEAKSPOT/WAVERED, but I liked what I managed to get out of this one better. The LONDON AREA/ENGINEMEN combo, neither great, afforded lots of possibilities for the NW and NE but unfortunately getting the corners to work at the same time was the tricky part. After many, many different tries I stumbled onto PHINDICATOR as an option. I liked it so much as an entry, I pretty much vowed to make it work.

Lots of near misses until RUCHED came to mind — finally all those episodes of "Say Yes to the Dress" paid off! Then I got the NE to fall and tied everything back up at HOBBS. I had hoped to make that HOBBY since there were a lot of names in the area already, but I could live with it.

I never really knew much about Queen WILHELMINA before reading a bit for cluing her. She's a heroine who's been a bit undersung, at least in the U.S., so I'm happy to give her a cruciverbal shoutout.

Jeff Chen notes: A 64-word themeless is so difficult to pull together that the constructor must often rely on neutral or boringish entries. Not today. ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

A 64-word themeless is so difficult to pull together that the constructor must often rely on neutral or boringish entries. Not today. Impressive grid and even more impressive cluing.

Elder Ball and progeny

I figured Byron would have to rely heavily on the common letters (RSTLN E), so figuring out DESI ARNAZ JR took me forever. Seeing a NAZ?? ending made me go back and erase several times. And testing out a J and an R at the end – NAZJR, what a bizarre string! – just couldn't be right. I was mixed as to whether DESI ARNAZ JR is crossworthy in his own right, but that curious run of ending letters plus the brilliant clue, [Ball boy?] (Lucille Ball's boy), makes me give him a thumbs-up.

Speaking of cluing, Byron's clues hit the Saturday sweet spot for me. Personally, I have a tough time with "deep dictionary" clues, where the constructor/editor pulls out definition number 45 in an attempt to stump the solver. I don't find that very satisfying, working like a dog and then ultimately having to go to the dictionary to understand what I just solved. Byron tends to use seemingly innocent clues with a devilish bent, giving me a fist-pumping elation when I get them. Here are my favorites:

  • [Good for rushes, say] could have been TRASHY, given the rushes I – er, you – get from reading a romance novel. But it's good for the growth of rush plants too.
  • [Preserves, in the end] made me think of KEEPS IN, as with an edit one is waffling about. What a great a-ha when I realized that this referred more to the Egyptian way of preserving things.
  • [Banquet offering] cleverly hides the capital B in the Banquet line of TV dinners. So much for my first guess, SALAD BAR.

Notice how each one of these avoids the giveaway question mark. Brilliant.

And even the part I liked the least, the NW with its RUCHED and GRIPPE, felt at least fair to me. Plus, it reminded me of a good discussion Jim and I had about whether AGUE was a "good" or a "bad" entry. Jim's point was that even though it's not in the language today (my doctor wife corroborates this), it has literary value. Granted, Jim is a big Dickens fan, but still, I enjoyed being reminded that some entries I dislike are ones that others will love.

1
G
2
R
3
A
4
B
5
L
6
E
7
E
8
A
9
S
10
Y
11
A
12
C
13
E
14
S
15
R
U
L
E
O
N
16
M
O
N
O
T
O
N
E
17
I
C
H
I
N
G
18
B
R
O
U
H
A
H
A
19
P
H
I
N
D
I
20
C
A
T
O
R
21
L
A
G
22
P
E
R
S
O
N
A
L
A
D
23
G
E
N
L
24
E
D
T
25
N
E
W
M
E
26
T
O
S
C
A
27
L
A
M
E
S
28
B
R
A
C
E
S
29
W
30
A
31
V
E
R
E
D
32
B
O
I
L
E
R
S
33
E
L
E
V
E
N
34
H
O
B
B
S
35
A
T
R
I
A
36
D
I
T
K
A
37
P
38
I
39
M
40
K
A
Y
S
41
W
I
L
H
E
L
42
M
I
N
A
43
S
I
M
44
D
E
S
I
A
R
N
A
Z
J
R
45
P
R
I
46
C
E
C
U
T
47
R
A
Z
Z
E
S
48
O
I
L
L
E
A
S
E
49
E
M
D
A
S
H
50
T
V
D
I
N
N
E
R
51
Y
E
A
S
T
Y
© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0207 ( 23,832 )
Across Down
1. Ameche's "Moon Over Miami" co-star, 1941 : GRABLE
7. Hit radio comedy about a bridge-playing couple : EASYACES
15. Decide, as a motion : RULEON
16. Lacking inflection : MONOTONE
17. Source of the quote "Change is certain" : ICHING
18. Hurly-burly : BROUHAHA
19. Red cabbage juice, in chemistry class : PHINDICATOR
21. Trail : LAG
22. Where "Desperately Seeking Susan" appears in the film of that name : PERSONALAD
23. Lee label, for short : GENL
24. The U.S. Open is played on it: Abbr. : EDT
25. Moniker after a lifestyle change : NEWME
26. Cavaradossi's lover : TOSCA
27. Disco fabrics : LAMES
28. Steels : BRACES
29. Wasn't consistent : WAVERED
32. Providers of housewarmings? : BOILERS
33. Ace high? : ELEVEN
34. Roy ___, title character in "The Natural" : HOBBS
35. Well-lit spaces : ATRIA
36. Super Bowl XX-winning coach : DITKA
37. Title "Mr." in a Milne play : PIM
40. Some jewelry stores, informally : KAYS
41. Queen who rallied the Dutch resistance in W.W. II : WILHELMINA
43. ___ card : SIM
44. Ball boy? : DESIARNAZJR
45. Attempt to spur demand : PRICECUT
47. Rides : RAZZES
48. License to drill : OILLEASE
49. Part of a suspended sentence? : EMDASH
50. Banquet offering : TVDINNER
51. Like some rolls : YEASTY
1. Producer of a cough and shivers : GRIPPE
2. Decoratively pleated and gathered, as some bridal gowns : RUCHED
3. Soloist on the "Green Hornet" theme : ALHIRT
4. Gatherings for hippies : BEINS
5. Wimbledon is played in it : LONDONAREA
6. Some Navy specialists : ENGINEMEN
7. Preserves, in the end : EMBALMS
8. Arterial tree components : AORTAE
9. Hair holder : SNOOD
10. ___ Grace : YOUR
11. N.C.A.A. division?: Abbr. : ATH
12. Come together : COALESCE
13. Beautifier : ENHANCER
14. Reclaimed material used in jewelry : SEAGLASS
20. Cried harshly : CAWED
23. Resolutions, e.g. : GOALS
26. Madiba, for Nelson Mandela : TRIBALNAME
27. ___ Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers : LEVIS
28. Former senator and presidential candidate who once dated Debra Winger : BOBKERREY
29. Foible : WEAKSPOT
30. The planet in the sci-fi classic "Forbidden Planet" : ALTAIRIV
31. Like American cheese : VERYMILD
32. 1980s P.M. nicknamed "The Old Crocodile" : BOTHA
34. Avery product for note-takers : HILITER
36. What old things fall into : DISUSE
37. Holders of pieces of eight? : PIZZAS
38. Humorously : INJEST
39. Good for rushes, say : MARSHY
41. "___ Do It!" (Rosie the Riveter motto) : WECAN
42. MX-5 maker : MAZDA
44. "It Ain't All About the Cookin'" memoirist : DEEN
46. First noncanonical psalm in the Bible : CLI

Answer summary: 10 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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