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AT TIMES

New York Times, Sunday, April 6, 2014

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

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 76 Missing: {QX} This is puzzle # 185 for Mr. Berry. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes:
Another fun one from the master. This theme plays on the awkward -ER answers often seen in crosswords like TENTER or HAILER (person who tents, person who hails). Patrick takes snappy ... read more

Another fun one from the master. This theme plays on the awkward -ER answers often seen in crosswords like TENTER or HAILER (person who tents, person who hails). Patrick takes snappy phrases and interprets them as a "person who Xes," with wacky results. My favorite was ALL BETTER, which is a fun phrase and took me a while to figure out as a "person who bets it all."

As usual, Patrick's signature is high fill quality. Nine theme entries makes it difficult to incorporate snappy fill, especially given that Sunday grids are intrinsically complicated to construct, but Patrick goes ahead and throws in SNEAK UP ON, MIDSTREAM, ASKS OUT and ARTWORK. Not bad at all. And the real mark of excellence is the lack of ugly crossword glue-type entries. Every part of the grid is polished, producing an extremely smooth solve. I feel pretty silly even trying to point one example out. Uh... OCT? It's incredible how superior the execution is, really.

One thing I've noticed is that Patrick often overlaps his theme entries, as with CHICKEN TENDER right atop BACKBURNER. At first this might seem like a hard task, upping the level of difficulty, but I've personally found that if the overlap is not more than three or four squares, it actually makes grid creation easier. The reason gets a bit technical so I won't go into detail, but overall, overlapping themers right on top of each other often helps with overall grid spacing.

I'll repeat my philosophy on "cheater squares," those black squares that don't affect overall word count. As long as there aren't too many of them, I love them if they can improve fill quality. I'll personally take that trade-off any day (many constructors disagree with me, and that's fine). For example, look at the black square after MANIACS (44A). Many constructors would be tempted to take that cheater out and try their hand at filling, likely ending with a five-letter partial somewhere in that region. I'd take Patrick's way any day. I know this is subjective, but it feels so much better to me to end with a highly-polished grid with nary a bad entry.

Finally, Patrick does such an amazing job with his cluing. My favorite was [Current location?] for MIDSTREAM. That was the last area I finished solving, because I kept on thinking about YOU ARE HERE type answers. Even [It's got problems] for TEST — so clever!

There's a reason why Will says that there's only one high-volume contributor who has a 90% acceptance rate (everyone else is maybe 33% at best, I think). Over time, I hope to learn enough to be the second person in that category. It's a long road ahead, but a fun one as well.

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N
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0406 ( 23,525 )
Across
1
Improvisational music : JAM
4
Brick color : MAROON
10
Bibliographical abbr. : ETAL
14
Indigenous people known for their tattoos : MAORI
19
NPR journalist Shapiro : ARI
20
1986 girl's-name song by Boston : AMANDA
21
"Catch-22" profiteer Minderbinder : MILO
22
DuPont trademark of 1941 : ORLON
23
Clumsy pharmacist, at times? : MEDICINEDROPPER
26
Easily misled : NAIVE
27
String section members : BASSES
28
Dressage rider, at times? : COLTREVOLVER
30
Smidgen : TAD
31
Suffix with social : ISM
34
___ suit : ZOOT
35
Maintain : ASSERT
36
Grant for a filmmaker? : CARY
38
Indonesian tourist haven : BALI
39
London ___ (British Ferris wheel) : EYE
40
Reminiscent of : LIKE
41
Tucked away : ATE
42
Some supplies for Hershey's : ALMONDS
44
Overzealous sorts : MANIACS
47
Old-fashioned barber, at times? : FOAMRUBBER
49
Missile launched at Goliath : STONE
51
National Book Mo. : OCT
53
Circus performer Kelly : EMMETT
54
Inexperienced shucker, at times? : OYSTERCRACKER
58
Low pair : TWOS
60
Out of fashion : PASSE
61
Subject of a van Gogh series : SEINE
62
Software user's shortcut : MACRO
65
No-limit Texas hold'em player, at times? : ALLBETTER
69
People may be down on them : KNEES
70
TWA competitor : USAIR
71
Dual-sport athlete Sanders : DEION
72
Answers that may anger : SASS
74
Farmer, at times? : CHICKENTENDER
78
Unfettered : LOOSED
82
Knowledge : KEN
83
"Shall we proceed?" : READY
84
Sleeping sunbather, at times? : BACKBURNER
87
Buyer's final figure : NETCOST
90
Spirits in Scandinavia : ABSOLUT
91
New Haven alum : ELI
92
Breaks down : ROTS
93
Stanford rival, informally : CAL
95
Job everyone wants : PLUM
96
Sound at a horror film : GASP
97
Florentine dynasty name : MEDICI
100
"Cut that out!" : DONT
101
West African vegetable : YAM
102
Double-handed cooking vessel : WOK
103
Dieter, at times? : SNACKCOUNTER
106
Fall stopper : GROUND
109
French : merci :: German : ___ : DANKE
110
Person getting out of a tub, at times? : BATHROOMSLIPPER
114
Transpire : OCCUR
115
Memo opener : INRE
116
Detestable : ODIOUS
117
Something that may be amalgamated : ORE
118
Manual parts? : STEPS
119
Giants or Titans : TEAM
120
Porcelain purchase, perhaps : TEASET
121
As matters stand : NOW
Down
1
Entrance side : JAMB
2
Department : AREA
3
Current location? : MIDSTREAM
4
Brought to tears, possibly : MACED
5
"Time's Arrow" novelist Martin : AMIS
6
Took off : RAN
7
Wedded : ONE
8
Unconventional : ODD
9
Person moving against traffic? : NARC
10
Bring on : EMPLOY
11
Go quietly : TIPTOE
12
Fully attentive : ALERT
13
Some hand-me-downs? : LORE
14
Snowboard relative : MONOSKI
15
Polluted Asian lake : ARALSEA
16
Peridot color : OLIVE
17
Vehicle on Mars : ROVER
18
Lifeless : INERT
24
"Goodness me!" : ISAY
25
Exudes : OOZES
29
Less humble : VAINER
31
One of four in "As I Was Going to St. Ives" : IAMB
32
Problematic roomie : SLOB
33
Sal of "Rebel Without a Cause" : MINEO
36
Lunch spot : CAFE
37
Thing that might decay : ATOM
38
Bearded comic strip bully : BLUTO
40
Old cavalrymen : LANCERS
42
Illustrations, e.g. : ARTWORK
43
In need of spicing up, say : DRY
44
-- --- .-. ... . : MORSE
45
News analyst Roberts : COKIE
46
Word on a clapperboard : SCENE
48
Like some measuring units : METRIC
49
Right away : STAT
50
It's got problems : TEST
52
Valéry's "very" : TRES
55
Disburse : SPEND
56
Goes to court? : ASKSOUT
57
Offensive line striker : CENSOR
59
Melancholy : SADNESS
62
Flood residue : MUCK
63
Ghostly : ASHEN
64
"The Ipcress File" star, 1965 : CAINE
66
"___ c'est moi" : LETAT
67
Told stories : LIED
68
Way too thin : BONY
73
Not a single thing? : ALBUM
75
Blue : EROTIC
76
Diminish : EBB
77
Opposite of smooth : RASPY
79
Take by surprise : SNEAKUPON
80
Mud ___ (bottom-dwelling fish) : EELS
81
Total bore : DRIP
85
Slurpee flavor : COLA
86
Supermodel Heidi : KLUM
88
Dress in fancy duds : TRICKUP
89
Long-eared dogs, informally : COCKERS
90
Reshape : ALTER
93
Fuerza Democrática Nicaragüense member : CONTRA
94
It's played in ballparks : ANTHEM
96
Viscous substance : GOOP
97
PC platform of old : MSDOS
98
Ratify : ENACT
99
The Harlem Shake or the Dougie : DANCE
100
One of the Allman Brothers : DUANE
102
Flick site? : WRIST
104
Expiration notice : OBIT
105
Fundamental part : ROOT
106
Modelist's need : GLUE
107
Julio-Claudian dynasty ruler : NERO
108
Attracted : DREW
111
Horatian ___ : ODE
112
Hamm of soccer : MIA
113
Signal that replaced "CQD" : SOS

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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