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New York Times, Thursday, June 12, 2014

Author:
Mark Feldman
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
117/31/20056/12/20140
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
3420200
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.59200
Mark Feldman

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JKQ} This is puzzle # 11 for Mr. Feldman. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Mark Feldman notes:
I've often used the phrase 'the whole nine yards' in conversation, although I don't remember how or why it came into my lexicon. An ... read more

I've often used the phrase "the whole nine yards" in conversation, although I don't remember how or why it came into my lexicon. An internet search revealed that its origins are unclear, although it was probably derived from "the whole six yards", whatever that means. "The whole nine yards" first appeared in 1907 in a small-town Indiana newspaper, disappeared from usage for a while, and then reemerged during the 1960s. Other words have been substituted for "nine yards", most of which have no related meaning other than to fortify the concept that "the whole" is all inclusive. The oldest of these is probably "ball of wax", the origins of which are also obscure. Why some of these phrases have survived the test of time and others haven't is a complete mystery to me, and sparked my interest in the puzzle theme. Interestingly, I didn't use "nine yards" in the puzzle, because it would be a bear to clue.

Jeff Chen notes:
Neat idea today, words/phrases which can follow THE WHOLE but can also stand on their own. Ultimately it falls into the 'words that ... read more

Neat idea today, words/phrases which can follow THE WHOLE but can also stand on their own. Ultimately it falls into the "words that can follow" type theme, but it goes a little bit further to distinguish itself. I had no idea there were so many. BALL OF WAX wasn't familiar to me as a term on its own, but it sort of seems to Google okay (mostly it comes up with WHOLE preceding it). MEGILLAH was a neat one, a term I wasn't aware of. I'm going to start using it (randomly). It sounds so awesomely illicit.

A 72-word themed construction is a difficult task. A 72-word themed construction with five themers and a central 13 is just plan nuts! But Mark pulls it off pretty well. He quasi-separates the grid into four quadrants which makes constructing easier, as that allows him to work on one part at a time, without affecting the other three areas. It does hurt the puzzle flow a bit though, as I found myself working on one quadrant at a time. It's much nicer to flow through a puzzle without feeling dammed up, IMO.

One way to eyeball how hard a subsection will be to solve is to gauge how big the biggest white space chunks are. What would you guess, just by looking at the NW vs. the NE? To me, the NE would be much tougher, as the big 5x5 swath looks daunting. And indeed, the NW corner is pretty darn good, just a short ENOL and EDO as a price to pay. The NE is a little shakier, the awkward ALL IS holding the section together, right next to PLATER. Perhaps the latter would have been a little better as [Part of an Iron Chef's team] or something? Having been around a lot of metal workers in my first career, PLATER sounds a bit off. "The #$@$! moop who plates %#$%#!," more accurately.

Similarly in the symmetrical corner, A TOWN and RESHIP hold things together in the 5x5 chunk. A very tough spot to fill cleanly.

Each of those subsections would be a bear to fill. I'm pretty impressed with Mark has achieved in the SE, a smooth ride for me except for SERACS, which seems to be a real thing. I didn't know it, but after looking it up, it appears to be more a deficiency in my knowledge base than anything. There isn't any single outstanding entry in the SE (except for I got HUMIDITY instantly, thanks years of engineering classes!) but sometimes it's what's NOT in a puzzle (gluey stuff) that's most notable.

A couple of beautiful clues today. [Email attachment attachment?] is clever, alluding to the Trojan Horses that come with much spam. And [In groups] made me think about SORTED, ALIGNED, ORDERED, etc. so I loved seeing ELITES pop up. Now that's some good stuff. Non-question-marked-clever-clues, how I love thee!

Finally, it's a mystery why we see ERGS and DYNES all the time, but SNELL is hardly ever clued with respect to Snell's Law of Refraction. We get the uncommon ERG but a basic optics law doesn't get its due? How about a little love for the physics junkies out there? I'm not asking for double integrals or flux density calculations or anything, just slip one in under the radar for poor Willebrarod Snellius. Tee hee. What a tremendous megillah that would be.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0612 ( 23,592 )
Across
1
Like some libelers : SUED
5
Spencer of "Good Morning America" : LARA
9
Emergency message, for short : APB
12
Common flavorer in Italian sausage : FENNEL
14
In working condition : OPERABLE
16
Line 22 on Form 1040 : INCOME
17
Long, involved story, in slang : MEGILLAH
18
Business, informally : BALLOFWAX
20
Home of "The Gist" and "Political Gabfest" : SLATE
21
Western tribe : UTE
22
Word with Man or can : TIN
23
Suddenly stops working, with "up" : SEIZES
24
Guinness superlative : LONGEST
27
Final order : DESSERT
28
Parabolic, say : ARCED
29
John ___ : DOE
30
Competition in marksmanship : SHOOTINGMATCH
37
About 8-15 mg. of iron, say : RDA
38
Email attachment attachment? : VIRUS
40
Modern term for "Roman fever" : MALARIA
45
Daresay : PRESUME
47
In groups : ELITES
48
Holy ___ : SEE
49
One who's been tapped on the shoulder? : SIR
50
Plagiarism and such : NONOS
51
Queso-topped dish : ENCHILADA
54
100% ... or words that can precede 17-, 18-, 30- and 51-Across : THEWHOLE
56
Sour : ACIDIC
57
Mark Twain's boyhood home : HANNIBAL
58
Attacks : BESETS
59
Alternative to -enne : ESS
60
Tiresome sort : PILL
61
Like Santa Claus : SPRY
Down
1
"Damn Yankees" team : SENATORS
2
Relax : UNCLENCH
3
Hydroxyl compound : ENOL
4
Show, informally : DEMO
5
Miller character : LOMAN
6
Height : APEX
7
Coffee order: Abbr. : REG
8
Comes about : ARISES
9
Lit up : ABLAZE
10
Certain metalworker : PLATER
11
Bidding : BEHEST
12
Bone whose name is Latin for "pin" : FIBULA
13
Some jabs : LEFTS
15
"___ well" : ALLIS
19
"Well-bred insolence," per Aristotle : WIT
23
Look : SEEM
25
Prefix with political : GEO
26
River bordering Tokyo : EDO
27
Track : DOG
29
It has four bases : DNA
31
Speaker of baseball : TRIS
32
2013 Pawel Pawlikowski film set in post-W.W. II Poland : IDA
33
Fifth, e.g.: Abbr. : AVE
34
"Deck the Halls" contraction : TIS
35
One on a mission : CRUSADER
36
What a hygrometer measures : HUMIDITY
39
Glacial formations : SERACS
40
French ice cream flavor : MENTHE
41
Hawaiian exchange : ALOHAS
42
Bedding : LINENS
43
Nevil Shute's "___ Like Alice" : ATOWN
44
Forward, say : RESHIP
45
Chest part, for short : PEC
46
Kind of center : REHAB
48
Fishing line : SNELL
51
Company whose name is derived from a passage in Hosea : ELAL
52
Locks up : ICES
53
Not be able to say "say," say : LISP
55
Item tied in a drum bow : OBI

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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