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New York Times, Monday, March 17, 2014

Author:
John Lieb
Editor:
Will Shortz
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155/14/20132/16/20195
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0432204
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1.60110
John Lieb

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {KQZ} This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. Lieb. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
John Lieb notes:
'Vowel run' themes seem to come along three or four times a year and when they do I wonder where the inspiration for them comes. This ... read more

"Vowel run" themes seem to come along three or four times a year and when they do I wonder where the inspiration for them comes. This one came about in a roundabout way...

In themeless puzzles, I enjoy the occasional random, oddball trivia clue that either surprises me or makes me think of something I have not thought of for a while. I tried collecting a few of these and making a themeless puzzle with them as seed entries, but that attempt fizzled out. One of those entries, GYMNASTICS, and the trivia clue that went with it held my attention and I wanted to see if I could get it into a themed puzzle somehow. This was back in June 2012 and I had recently done a Monday puzzle by Andrea Carla Michaels and Michael Blake, so the vowel run idea was fresh in my mind.

A G*M progression seemed to have potential and the theme entries came quickly. I also thought that with the GYM- entry last, it could be clued with the trivia clue, since if you notice the vowel run there are not a lot of words starting with GYM, and that it might make a fun Tuesday puzzle because of that random bit of trivia whose answer could be inferred. Once Will accepted the puzzle and said he was using it as a Monday, I figured the trivia clue would get changed to something more traditional, and it did. Overall, I'm happy with how the puzzle came out and that about 60% of my clues made it through (the one for JIM PALMER being my favorite).

And that trivia clue for GYMNASTICS, which only children of the '80s might appreciate: "Sport coached by Mr. T in the '80s animated series 'Mister T'."

Jeff Chen notes:
Such a fun time meeting John at the ACPT a week ago! We toiled away at judging (read: goofed off in the back room) and attended two ... read more

Such a fun time meeting John at the ACPT a week ago! We toiled away at judging (read: goofed off in the back room) and attended two imbibement meetings hosted by Will (what happens in Brooklyn stays in Brooklyn). A math teacher by profession, John is a really nice guy.

To the puzzle! A vowel progression of the pattern G?M* (in search strings, the ? can stand for any letter while the * can stand for any number of letters), John goes one step further than most, including the Y for a sixth entry. Five entries are hard enough to integrate smoothly, and six is even harder.

A typical trade-off is that with six themers, it's difficult to incorporate much long fill. Often, you need to deploy your black squares to separate the themers, and working in even one set of long downs becomes difficult. But John blasts that notion apart, giving us the sparkle of SEDUCTIVE FANTASIES (math teacher or Walter Mitty, hmm?), DRESS CODE, and JIM PALMER. More good long fill than we usually see on a Monday — very impressive!

Regarding the short fill, Will and I have a difference of philosophy when it comes to Mondays. I totally get that he wants to make even the easiest puzzle something that the erudite NYT audience will appreciate. I would prefer to make the Monday puzzle something a beginner could tackle, thus encouraging audience growth. I think seeing IRAE, NILS, ADANO, A TEST in a grid would turn off a true beginner, thus losing a potential customer, as I tend to think of things more from the business side than anything. I appreciate that Will wants to keep his current audience happy, though. It's his prerogative, of course.

As for the theme, I like vowel progressions — I think they're fun. As my good friend Andrea Carla Michaels (ACME as we call her) says, they're almost lyrical, poetic. I would prefer for a little more tightness than what we have today, as GUM sticks out to me as the only full word chunk and GYMNASTICS is the only themer without two words. But what can you do — this particular G?M* sequence isn't particularly amenable to that.

Raising another glass to Walter — er, John!

P.S. I pity the fool.

1
C
2
A
3
R
4
D
5
A
6
T
7
T
8
I
9
C
10
T
11
S
12
A
13
R
14
L
E
E
R
15
F
R
E
D
O
16
H
E
X
A
17
I
R
A
E
18
G
A
M
E
W
19
A
R
D
E
N
20
N
I
L
S
21
H
I
P
22
L
I
E
U
23
G
E
M
S
24
T
A
T
E
25
M
E
C
26
C
27
A
28
C
A
N
29
S
30
E
E
31
T
O
T
32
M
33
A
34
J
O
R
35
G
36
I
M
M
E
37
F
I
V
E
38
A
V
I
D
39
R
U
L
E
S
40
A
V
E
S
41
G
O
M
E
42
R
P
Y
L
E
43
I
N
E
R
T
44
N
I
P
45
H
I
S
46
A
N
T
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A
D
A
48
N
O
49
G
50
U
M
B
A
51
L
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L
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S
54
L
A
D
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E
56
U
N
U
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S
O
U
P
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G
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Y
M
N
A
S
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T
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C
S
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I
F
S
O
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P
E
E
N
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A
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S
L
E
64
E
A
T
S
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A
W
R
Y
66
U
L
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67
S
T
Y
E
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0317 ( 23,505 )
Across
1
Ace of spades, e.g. : CARD
5
Room under the roof : ATTIC
10
Old Russian autocrat : TSAR
14
Lothario's look : LEER
15
The middle Corleone brother : FREDO
16
Six: Prefix : HEXA
17
"Dies ___" (Latin hymn) : IRAE
18
Poacher's nemesis : GAMEWARDEN
20
Guitarist Lofgren of the E Street Band : NILS
21
With it : HIP
22
In ___ of : LIEU
23
Idaho's nickname : GEMSTATE
25
Muslim pilgrim's destination : MECCA
28
Pringles container : CAN
29
Witness : SEE
31
Young 'un : TOT
32
College concentration : MAJOR
35
Request for some skin : GIMMEFIVE
38
Gung-ho : AVID
39
Regulations : RULES
40
Streets: Abbr. : AVES
41
Mayberry resident who became a Marine : GOMERPYLE
43
Lifeless : INERT
44
Beat by a hair : NIP
45
Old what's-___-name : HIS
46
Picnic pest : ANT
47
Hersey's "A Bell for ___" : ADANO
49
Round candy in a vending machine : GUMBALLS
54
Stow, as cargo : LADE
56
Burma's first prime minister : UNU
57
Campbell's product : SOUP
58
Sport that includes the pommel horse and parallel bars : GYMNASTICS
61
"Assuming that's true ..." : IFSO
62
Round hammer part : PEEN
63
Most accessible seating choice : AISLE
64
Grub : EATS
65
Out of kilter : AWRY
66
"___ Gold" (Peter Fonda film) : ULEES
67
Eye woe : STYE
Down
1
Hold on (to) : CLING
2
Eagle's nest : AERIE
3
Domain : REALM
4
Casual Friday relaxes it : DRESSCODE
5
Kabul native : AFGHAN
6
Characteristic : TRAIT
7
City near Phoenix : TEMPE
8
Suffix with sulf- : IDE
9
Monk's hood : COWL
10
Number of Scrabble points for a B, C, M or P : THREE
11
Alluring : SEDUCTIVE
12
Lumberjack's tool : AXE
13
Moved fast : RAN
19
"Save Me" singer Mann : AIMEE
24
Cigarette substance : TAR
26
Report on, as a news story : COVER
27
1945 Alamogordo event, informally : ATEST
29
Captain Hook henchman : SMEE
30
Ambulance letters : EMS
32
___ Carta : MAGNA
33
Steer clear of : AVOID
34
Orioles Hall-of-Fame pitcher who modeled Jockey underwear : JIMPALMER
35
Fellas : GUYS
36
Not well : ILL
37
Excursions to la-la land : FANTASIES
39
School in Troy, N.Y. : RPI
42
"The Mary Tyler Moore Show" spinoff : RHODA
43
Bach's "Mass ___ Minor" : INB
46
Makes laugh : AMUSES
48
One minding the baby : NANNY
49
False front : GUISE
50
"I give up!" : UNCLE
51
Lite : LOFAT
52
Robust : LUSTY
53
"Assuming it's true ...," informally : SPOSE
55
Jacob's twin : ESAU
58
Transcript stat : GPA
59
Archery wood : YEW
60
Up to, briefly : TIL

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle.

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