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New York Times, Friday, May 30, 2014

Author: James Mulhern
Editor: Will Shortz
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James Mulhern

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 33 Missing: {QWXZ} This is puzzle # 7 for Mr. Mulhern. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
James Mulhern notes: It's not the prettiest-looking grid in terms of the arrangement of black squares, but hopefully the fill looks a bit better. I ... more
James Mulhern notes: It's not the prettiest-looking grid in terms of the arrangement of black squares, but hopefully the fill looks a bit better. I started this puzzle in the NW, seeded by OVERSHARE. The other main seed entries were TAKE A STAB / HERSTORY in the SE.

One thing I'm excited about here is the clue for ALES. Old Brown Dog is a great brown ale from Smuttynose, a brewery in my hometown, Portsmouth, NH. Pick one up to enjoy on your Friday evening!

Jeff Chen notes: A lot of strong entries in the grid today. I like it when I can't quite tell what the seed entry or entries would have been. ... more
Jeff Chen notes: A lot of strong entries in the grid today. I like it when I can't quite tell what the seed entry or entries would have been. Sometimes there's a feature entry at 1-across which is much stronger than any other piece of the grid, but James has quite a few goodies in for us today. That top corner of BEAT POET / LADIES MAN / OVERSHARE, now that's the way to open your puzzle strong.

Although the grid looks a little unusual in its pinwheel-ish shape, it retains a usual structure of having four sets of stacked entries in each of the corners. The one hangup I had on the grid design is that is does choke down at two points, at SAPPHIRE and MUST READ, making it feel a little like I was solving two mini-puzzles. Minor issue, though, as it didn't greatly affect the quality of my solve.

With triple-stacked 8's, 9's, 10's, or 11's, there's often a tradeoff of awesome entries vs. shaky crossing fill. Up the awesome factor and you'll often up the shakiness of the crossers. The NW stack is so good, so snazzy, but it does pay the PES price. Oof, a clunker, that one. Still worth the price of admission up top, but it sure would have been pretty if that first stack could have been clean as a whistle.

Contrast the SW corner with its JAMES DEAN / UNUSALLY / DISPERSAL stack. Extremely clean, just a beautiful set of crossers, none of which are remotely ugly. MUST READ runs through them, too! However, while JAMES DEAN is someone I'd almost always love seeing in his full name format, the other two long entries in this corner are a bit dull in comparison. One-word entries, and not terribly snappy at that. Often times a plebian word can be saved by an amazing clue (Patrick Berry is the master at this). Not really in this case though.

I liked the little mini-theme of GRENADA / FIJI / GHANA today. I often find it entertaining to get a "clue echo," two entries clued in similar ways, so to see this triad with clues along the same sentiment was really nice. Themeless puzzles can often run together for me, one appearing awfully similar to the next, so I appreciate these small touches.

A side note, KIPS to me is a fine entry if it's related to pull-ups at the gym. We climbers give each other a hard time when we see someone kip (flail their body in order to propel themselves up, instead of doing it in a controlled way). No kipping for you!

James has had quite a few themeless puzzles in the NYT recently, and I think this is his best yet. A lot of strong entries, some good clues ([Old pitcher of milk?] = ELSIE the spokescow = my favorite), and best of all, only a very small amount of PES-like entries. Tough to get quantity and quality of long answers while keeping your glue-type entries to a minimum. I have a feeling we'll see a continued progression in James work to X-out the TELE, ACU, SSE type fill in the future.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0530 ( 23,579 )
Across Down
1. Any of the three authors of "Pull My Daisy" : BEATPOET
9. They produce minimal distortion : HIFIS
14. He may have many lines memorized : LADIESMAN
16. Monomer of proteins, informally : AMINO
17. Elicit a "T.M.I." : OVERSHARE
18. Like about 30% of 51-Across, belief-wise : HINDU
19. Head of communications? : TELE
20. 1,000-pound weight units : KIPS
21. Suffered a face-plant : ATEIT
22. Rugby-to-Reading dir. : SSE
23. Novel title character called "My sin, my soul" : LOLITA
25. Cry of contempt : PAH
26. Trip : MISSTEP
27. Appeal to : GRAB
28. Light on TV or Broadway : JUDITH
31. Star of Bombay, e.g. : SAPPHIRE
33. Cousin of cumin and coriander : ANISE
34. Arrested : RANIN
35. Riveting piece, perhaps : MUSTREAD
39. Nickeled-and-dimed? : MINTED
40. Award with a Best Upset category : ESPY
41. Its flag includes an image of a nutmeg clove : GRENADA
43. Appeal formally : SUE
44. À gogo : GALORE
45. Prefix with pressure or point : ACU
48. "Our Gang" girl : DARLA
51. Its flag includes an image of a cocoa pod : FIJI
52. Old Brown Dog and others : ALES
53. Old pitcher of milk? : ELSIE
54. Next to : ALONGSIDE
56. Budget alternative : ALAMO
57. Try : TAKEASTAB
58. DuPont development of 1935 : NYLON
59. Subject that includes women's suffrage and the Equal Rights Amendment : HERSTORY
1. Stains : BLOTS
2. Homebuilders' projections : EAVES
3. Best New Artist Grammy winner of 2008 : ADELE
4. One needing pressure to perform well : TIRE
5. Ovid's foot : PES
6. Midwest city named for a Menominee chief : OSHKOSH
7. Potential virus sources : EMAILS
8. Bone preservation locations : TARPITS
9. Reaction to a card : HAHA
10. Tag statement : IMIT
11. Often-overlooked details : FINEPRINT
12. "Imagine" Grammy winner of 2010 : INDIAARIE
13. County seat on the St. Joseph River : SOUTHBEND
15. Beverage brand portmanteau : NESTEA
23. Engine measure : LITER
24. Twitter, Facebook or Instagram : APP
26. Like areas around waterfalls : MISTY
27. Major cocoa exporter : GHANA
28. Oscar nominee for playing Cal Trask : JAMESDEAN
29. Very, very : UNUSUALLY
30. Opposite of aggregation : DISPERSAL
32. What "ruined the angels," per Ralph Waldo Emerson : PRIDE
36. Prod : EGG
37. One of Time magazine's cover "Peacemakers" : ARAFAT
38. Wily temptress : DELILAH
39. Jason, for one : MARINER
42. "For real" : NOJOKE
45. Co-worker of Kennedy starting in 2006 : ALITO
46. Cigar box material : CEDAR
47. Words before a date : USEBY
49. Wheels of fortune? : LIMO
50. Unit in a geology book : AEON
52. ___ supt. : ASST
55. Juice : GAS

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

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