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New York Times, Thursday, June 12, 2014

Author:
Mark Feldman
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
117/31/20056/12/20140
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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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