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New York Times, Friday, May 5, 2017

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

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 64, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JKQWXZ} This is puzzle # 222 for Mr. Berry. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes:
PB is the master at making ultra-clean puzzles, filling this tough 64-worder as if it were a 72-worder. Check out how wide-open that ... read more

PB is the master at making ultra-clean puzzles, filling this tough 64-worder as if it were a 72-worder. Check out how wide-open that middle is, requiring eight (!) crossing long answers. Doing that all with nary a dab of crossword glue is amazing craftsmanship. There are some great entries right through that tough middle: I GOT THIS, YOURE FREE TO GO, and POUND STERLING are all top-notch.

I've recently found myself looking back at previous PB themelesses to compare and contrast. I tend to like his higher word-count puzzles better than his lower ones, since the latter tend to use more entries that I'm not familiar with, or that don't sing to my ear.

Now, the lack of sizzly answers will almost be a given for a PB low-word-count themeless, considering his incredibly high standard when it comes to avoiding crossword glue. In a 64-word puzzle, it's nearly impossible to get both an uber-jazzy and perfectly silky-smooth puzzle. In today's puzzle for example, SHIP OF THE LINE (?), REST AREA (a bit dull), and HOUSE TRAINING ("house trained" or "potty training" sound more natural to me) wouldn't go in my listing of the puzzle's assets.

Same goes with MEASURING, BANG BANG (feels a bit arbitrary), TRUMBO (although to be fair, having two little kids hampers my ability to watch much of anything these days). And the HOULIHAN / GNEISS crossing … I think it's ultimately fair, but it felt borderline for those who haven't seen much M*A*S*H and don't know fairly deep geology.

Where PB continually distinguishes himself is in his clever cluing. Some of that could be from Will and Joel, but PB's puzzles always seem to have at least a half dozen great wordplay clues. My favorite was [Ruler's role], which had to be related to government — except that it was referring to a MEASURING stick. Beautiful way to elevate an otherwise drab entry.

Ultimately, a smooth and enjoyable solving experience, just like most all of PB's offerings, if not that sparkly.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0505 ( 24,650 )
Across
1. Radisson rival : RAMADA
7. Title role for Bryan Cranston in a 2015 biopic : TRUMBO
13. Neologism coined by Cole Porter : DELOVELY
15. Sea that Homer called "wine-dark" : AEGEAN
16. Song whose opening lyric translates to "What a beautiful thing is a sunny day" : OSOLEMIO
17. Missionaries' targets : PAGANS
18. Scratch : DINERO
19. River bisecting Orsk : URAL
21. Squad cmdr. : SGT
22. White notes in Monopoly : ONES
23. Golf cart foursome : TIRES
25. 1962 Organization of American States expellee : CUBA
26. Necromancers : MAGES
27. Crown cover : DORAG
28. Part of an armada : SHIPOFTHELINE
31. Instructions on where to go? : HOUSETRAINING
32. World's oldest currency still in use : POUNDSTERLING
33. Total : RUNTO
34. Grate catches? : HEELS
35. Early automotive pioneer : OLDS
36. Scoopers for taramasalata : PITAS
37. Musical group with "energy domes" : DEVO
41. End of a cause? : LIB
42. ___ soup : MISO
43. Pole topper : ICECAP
45. LeBron James, by birth : OHIOAN
47. Restless sort : GADABOUT
49. "She understands her business better than we do," per Montaigne : NATURE
50. Agricultural outfit : OVERALLS
51. Banded metamorphic rock : GNEISS
52. Lively wit : ESPRIT
Down
1. Substance used in Egyptian mummification : RESIN
2. Unaided : ALONE
3. Earthworm trappers : MOLES
4. Contend : AVER
5. Things mailed without a label? : DEMOTAPES
6. Who said "I'm so mean I make medicine sick" : ALI
7. Cantina offerings : TAPAS
8. De facto : REAL
9. ___ boots : UGG
10. Ruler's role : MEASURING
11. Reports of gunfire? : BANGBANG
12. Performing for an audience : ONSTAGE
13. Dummkopf : DODO
14. Emancipation proclamation : YOUREFREETOGO
20. Lay-by : England :: ___ : America : RESTAREA
24. "No need to trouble yourself" : IGOTTHIS
25. Firth of "The King's Speech" : COLIN
26. Make a hash of : MISDO
27. France's patron saint : DENIS
28. Conversation piece? : SOUNDBITE
29. Follows the game? : HUNTS
30. They meet at a summit : HILLSIDES
31. Surname of TV's "Hot Lips" : HOULIHAN
32. Extend : PROLONG
36. Seven ___ (Civil War battle site) : PINES
37. Shut out : DEBAR
38. Things that take guts? : ECOLI
39. Cathedral feature : VAULT
40. Withdraws, with "out" : OPTS
42. Opportunity's on it : MARS
44. Gefilte fish option : CARP
46. Word of agreement that sounds like a pronoun : OUI
48. Road map abbr. : AVE

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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