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New York Times, Monday, May 5, 2014

Author:
Lynn Lempel
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
8812/9/19798/13/20192
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
662142130
ScrabRebusCirclePangramPre‑WS
1.610912
Lynn Lempel

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {V} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 66 for Ms. Lempel. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Lynn Lempel notes:
I think this puzzle started out without anything particular in mind — just playing around with terms meaning 'zero' or ... read more

I think this puzzle started out without anything particular in mind — just playing around with terms meaning "zero" or "nothing." Discovering wurlitZER Organs gave me the slant to take. And linking the theme to Seinfeld — with the reveal a fortuitous 15 letters at that — was my definite aha moment. The crossword gods were smiling.

I thought this would be more fun without circles, requiring solvers to figure out, if they hadn't already, why the puzzle was "about nothing." So I submitted it with Wednesday-ish clues. Will had other ideas, though, and said he wanted it for a Monday with circles. Which meant reclueing. For a Monday level, I tried valiantly to get rid of ANKH in the grid, but it wasn't gonna happen.

This was one I especially enjoyed doing. I hope you all enjoy the final product.

Jeff Chen notes:
Not much that I like better than a Seinfeld reference. A puzzle about nothing! Great idea. Lynn, the master of Mondays, gives us ... read more

Not much that I like better than a Seinfeld reference. A puzzle about nothing! Great idea. Lynn, the master of Mondays, gives us themers with synonyms for "nothing" hidden within four phrases.

And what beautiful phrases! "Words hidden within phrases" type themes often depend on the quality of the theme answers, and Lynn has chosen some stellar ones. I know it more as "The Mighty Wurlitzer" but WURLITZER ORGANS Googles nicely. TRINI LOPEZ wasn't familiar to me right away, but he should have been (chalk one up to the giant hole in my pop music knowledge base). Add JOHN ADAMS with a nice piece of trivia about the White House, finish it off with a LAUGH TRACK, and you have some snappy entries.

Fill is quite nice too, as I would expect from Lynn. Even with five themers, Lynn does a great job of laying out her skeleton and taking full advantage of her 7's: SQUIRMY, BURRITO, TIN MINE, OLE MISS, LACONIC. What a fantastic array of mid-length fill. And to pull it off with just an ALG here, a TPK there, with the assorted MON / AMT / INIT stuff is aces in my book.

Ah, the punchline. As with any joke, the delivery is key. I recognize that ITS ABOUT NOTHING is a direct quote from the man himself, George Costanza, but it felt off to me. The puzzle themers "contain nothing" but aren't really "about nothing." I know it seems semantic, but I thought it could have packed more punch if the revealer had been something to the effect of NOTHING IN HERE (is there a snappier way to express that?) or if the themers had all been slang terms for nothing, like BUPKUS / GOOSE EGG / BAGEL etc.

Final comment, the clue for USB felt off to me (ADDED NOTE: Jim pointed out that it's actually precisely accurate. I say, what does he know? Given that he works at Microsoft. And programmed the original Freecell. And is high up in the Windows 8 chain. Ah. Right.), which is unfortunate as 1-Across often sets the tone (consciously or subconsciously) for the puzzle. First of all, I wasn't sure why it needed the (Abbr.) tag, since PC already indicated an acronym or shortening. And more to the point, a "USB PORT" feels more like a "connection means" to me than just "USB." Alternately, [PC connection standard] would have felt better to me. Again, it's the fault my linguistic anality (and the eensy weensy fact that I was approximately 0% correct), but I stared at the NW for way too long before moving on.

Very tough puzzle for a Monday, but in a good way. Nothing esoteric, lots of great fill, clean, and the snazziness was most welcome. Well done.

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A
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0505 ( 23,554 )

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Across
1
PC connection means: Abbr. : USB
4
Downloads for mobile devices : APPS
8
Floats through the air : WAFTS
13
Greenish blue : AQUA
15
Country located in what was once the Inca Empire : PERU
16
Stan's partner in comedy : OLLIE
17
Instruments played at theaters during silent films : WURLITZERORGANS
20
Tehran's land : IRAN
21
Shrek, e.g. : OGRE
22
Clock-setting standard: Abbr. : GMT
23
Singer with the 1963 hit "If I Had a Hammer" : TRINILOPEZ
26
Françoise, to François, maybe : AMIE
27
Quantity: Abbr. : AMT
28
Guy's rental for a gala : TUX
29
Inactive, as a volcano : DORMANT
31
Drinker's party instruction, for short : BYOB
33
Lay eyes on : SEE
35
Needle and cone producers : PINES
36
First president to live in the White House : JOHNADAMS
40
Welles of "Citizen Kane" : ORSON
43
Large coffee server : URN
44
Sword handle : HILT
48
Understand speech without hearing : LIPREAD
51
Letters on a wanted poster : AKA
53
Atlas page : MAP
54
"Micro" and "macro" subject, for short : ECON
55
Ha-ha producer in a sitcom : LAUGHTRACK
58
Sun. follower : MON
59
"___ She Lovely" : ISNT
60
Shakespeare character who says "I hate the Moor" : IAGO
61
Why this puzzle is like "Seinfeld"? : ITSABOUTNOTHING
66
Hurricane or blizzard : STORM
67
Hit on the noggin : BEAN
68
Peeved state : SNIT
69
Dresses in Delhi : SARIS
70
Therefore : ERGO
71
Earth-friendly prefix : ECO
Down
1
Detroit-based labor org. : UAW
2
Having ants in one's pants : SQUIRMY
3
Hand-held Mexican food : BURRITO
4
Likely (to) : APT
5
Dispenser candy : PEZ
6
Before surgery, informally : PREOP
7
Increased rapidly, as troop numbers : SURGED
8
Had on : WORE
9
"Solve for x" subj. : ALG
10
Traffic signaler near highway construction : FLAGMAN
11
Source of a metal once used for foil : TINMINE
12
Ensembles for six : SESTETS
14
Political commentator Colmes : ALAN
18
Monogram letter: Abbr. : INIT
19
Ricelike pasta : ORZO
23
File folder feature : TAB
24
Drunkard : LUSH
25
Yoked animals : OXEN
26
Pennsylvania Dutch speakers : AMISH
30
45 or 78: Abbr. : RPM
32
Tennis's Borg : BJORN
34
___ Claire, Wis. : EAU
37
Area code lead-in : ONE
38
Tow : DRAG
39
Egyptian symbol of life : ANKH
40
Dixie school, affectionately : OLEMISS
41
Cheese stuffed in stuffed shells : RICOTTA
42
"And now a word from our ___" : SPONSOR
45
Lennon song with the lyric "You may say I'm a dreamer ..." : IMAGINE
46
Terse : LACONIC
47
Toll road: Abbr. : TPK
49
The first "A" of 51-Across : ALSO
50
Vienna's river : DANUBE
52
Going ___ (bickering) : ATIT
56
Say : UTTER
57
Pep rally cries : RAHS
59
Many early PCs : IBMS
62
Onassis who married Jackie : ARI
63
Complain, complain, complain : NAG
64
Yoko who co-produced 45-Down : ONO
65
Old Pontiac muscle car : GTO

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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