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New York Times, Friday, April 7, 2017

Author: Patrick Berry
Editor: Will Shortz
Patrick Berry
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2277/11/199911/10/20172
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721241679512
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1.54980

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 62, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQVZ} This is puzzle # 221 for Mr. Berry. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes: There are few constructors who can put together a 66- or even 68-word themeless as smoothly as PB can. Today, he goes all the way ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

There are few constructors who can put together a 66- or even 68-word themeless as smoothly as PB can. Today, he goes all the way down to a 62-worder, one of the toughest tasks in all of construction. A puzzle with so few words is bound to have big white spaces to fill, and today it's that giant swath in the middle. So many long entries intersecting each other!

A constructor's secret: those "stairstep" chunks of black squares in the north, west, east, and south can make filling a low-word-count grid like this almost an order of magnitude easier. Not only do those blocks chip away at the number of letters you need to put in, but they tend to stagger entries, making for more favorable vowel/consonant patterns.

It's a tricky balance, though — use too many of these stairstep chunks, and your grid looks visually unappealing. (Also, overanalytical/anal constructors notice your overusage and annoyingly point them out.) I like PB's result today, pairs of stairstep chunks forming two implied diagonal lines from lower left to upper right. Pretty.

The result is amazingly smooth, not a surprise given PB's emphasis on avoiding crossword glue. However, the usual trade-off between snazziness and smoothness comes into play even more than usual, with the former suffering. I only got excited about a few of the answers in that big middle: PENNY ARCADE, HERE WE GO, and SPEAKEASY.

No doubt, it's subjective. But HOUSE CLEANS doesn't do much for me, for example. (CLEANS HOUSE is much more evocative; a term for making huge changes in an organization.) And I more or less know what a FIRESCREEN, CRADLE SONG, and STONE CIRCLE are ... but I wouldn't go out of my way to incorporate them into a themeless. The last one was a real letdown — I so badly wanted the awesome STONEHENGE.

Along with the oddball LARRUP and arbitrary SIX-YEAR-OLDS, I felt the grid didn't have nearly as much pizzazz as I generally want.

But a 62-word grid is a feat in its own right, and they're usually full of crossword glue splattered liberally around. Impressive, to have executed so smoothly on such a hard task.

1
B
2
L
3
U
4
F
5
F
6
S
7
B
8
U
9
Y
10
E
11
R
12
S
13
R
A
N
O
U
T
14
P
O
T
O
M
A
C
15
A
R
M
O
R
Y
16
H
E
R
E
W
E
G
O
17
C
R
A
D
L
E
18
S
O
N
G
S
19
R
O
T
20
H
U
D
21
T
U
N
E
22
T
A
U
T
23
S
P
E
24
A
25
K
26
E
A
S
Y
27
B
E
L
T
S
28
S
I
X
Y
E
A
29
R
O
L
D
S
30
F
I
R
E
S
C
R
E
E
N
S
31
M
E
D
I
C
A
L
C
A
R
E
32
B
A
D
E
N
33
T
E
A
M
S
T
34
E
35
R
36
S
37
E
R
A
S
38
S
H
A
D
39
N
O
W
40
A
M
Y
41
S
T
O
N
E
42
C
43
I
44
R
C
L
E
45
T
I
E
46
B
E
A
M
S
47
O
R
I
O
L
E
48
I
T
E
R
A
T
E
49
B
A
D
R
E
P
50
T
E
N
O
R
S
51
S
N
E
E
R
S
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0407 ( 24,622 )
Across Down
1. Hopes not to be called, say : BLUFFS
7. Market figures : BUYERS
13. Came to an end : RANOUT
14. Harpers Ferry river : POTOMAC
15. Storehouse : ARMORY
16. "Brace yourselves ..." : HEREWEGO
17. Rock music? : CRADLESONGS
19. Bunk : ROT
20. 1963 western based on Larry McMurtry's "Horseman, Pass By" : HUD
21. Prep before playing : TUNE
22. Like a well-written thriller : TAUT
23. Onetime Chicago Outfit establishment : SPEAKEASY
27. Wallops : BELTS
28. Many first graders : SIXYEAROLDS
30. Heat shields, of a sort : FIRESCREENS
31. Treatment : MEDICALCARE
32. Boy Scouts founder Robert ___-Powell : BADEN
33. Drivers in cabs : TEAMSTERS
37. History course topics : ERAS
38. Herring relative : SHAD
39. Up-to-the-minute : NOW
40. Singer Winehouse : AMY
41. Druidic monument : STONECIRCLE
45. Rafter connectors : TIEBEAMS
47. Bird whose name means "golden" : ORIOLE
48. Say repeatedly : ITERATE
49. Result of one too many misdeeds : BADREP
50. Wagner's Tristan and Parsifal, e.g. : TENORS
51. Cynical responses : SNEERS
1. American candy company since 1904 : BRACHS
2. Beat soundly : LARRUP
3. Like a bed you're in : UNMADE
4. It's picked up in a mess : FOOD
5. Roll up : FURL
6. Ophthalmological ailment : STYE
7. 20th-century comedian who was known as "The Clown Prince of Denmark" : BORGE
8. Runnin' ___ (N.C.A.A. team) : UTES
9. Shriek of pain : YOW
10. Green valuables : EMERALDS
11. Dishes that might be prepared in Crock-Pots : RAGOUTS
12. Sister brand of Ortho : SCOTTS
14. Retro amusement center : PENNYARCADE
16. Minds one's place? : HOUSECLEANS
18. Doesn't go out : STAYSATHOME
22. Obsolescent online connection provider : TELNET
24. Parts of a rambling oration : ASIDES
25. Popular Japanese beer : KIRIN
26. Fortune reader, maybe : EXEC
27. Orange Free State founders : BOERS
29. Enlarge, in a way : REAM
30. Gaza Strip guerrillas : FEDAYEEN
31. Bread spread whose tagline is "Love it or hate it" : MARMITE
32. 1983 Record of the Year : BEATIT
34. Added numbers? : ENCORE
35. Brush alternative : ROLLER
36. When people meters are used : SWEEPS
38. Trading card figures : STATS
41. Brown : SEAR
42. Ear parts : COBS
43. 1979 revolution site : IRAN
44. Tease relentlessly : RIDE
46. Mate : BRO

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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