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New York Times, Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Author:
Patrick Merrell
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
907/10/200112/1/20191
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
22105123452
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61554
Patrick Merrell

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQVZ} Spans: 3 This is puzzle # 81 for Mr. Merrell. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Patrick Merrell notes:

I'm thoughtless.

Jeff Chen notes:
So many strong puzzles this week, but this one stood out for me. How do I decide these things? No doubt, it is subjective (Jim and I ... read more

So many strong puzzles this week, but this one stood out for me. How do I decide these things? No doubt, it is subjective (Jim and I often differ on which puzzle we like the best for any given week). I really liked the previous two puzzles and also think there are a couple more humdingers coming up this week. So I relied on gut instinct, giving great weight to the feeling of immense pleasure I got as I solved this puzzle.

I had the pleasure of meeting Patrick two American Crossword Tournament Puzzles ago, where he had authored a devious construction that tripped up many solvers. Today's is much more straightforward, three grid-spanning entries containing "LESS" and re-interpreted with funny results. Sense of humor is hit and miss (just ask my poor wife) but these three all made me laugh. Each one of them is a strong base phrase, and I thought each of the re-interpretations was clever.

People might complain that there are only three theme answers. This was certainly the norm ten years ago, so it did seem like a throwback at first. But when it comes to "wacky" puzzles (themers designed to generate a laugh) I'd much rather have three strong line-drives than two homers, a base on balls, and a batter hit by pitch. I'm not sure what that last one really means in terms of crossword answers, but I can think of a few "wacky" themers I've winced at in the past.

And look what freedom the fewer than normal number of themers opens up. Patrick, the consummate professional constructor, takes full advantage of it, giving us three pairs of long downs, all great: GREEK MYTH / SLAPSTICK, LEGOLAND / BUS ROUTE, THE DUDE / OBSCENE. And if that wasn't enough, he grabs hold of two six-letter entries to give us MRS WHO and NO SALT. Along with CT SCAN and OH BOY worked into the grid, that's the way to jazz up a puzzle.

Like any puzzle, it's not perfect, at least in this ultra-picky constructor's eyes. Those west and east sections get highly constrained considering the SLAPSTICK / CT SCAN borders on the east, for example. I'm not a big fan of ENGS, as I've preferred to call myself an ENGR. So perhaps I would have preferred SKI instead of ABE and ASEA instead of ADDS, turning ENGS into INGA. But that's a matter of personal taste. In the west, seeing OST bugged me. I like some foreign words if they're relatively common, but OST and ANGE and ESEL (a Germanl donkey) strike me as quite inelegant. There are other options there, why not use them? Of course, this is also subjective — I'm sure there are German scholars who will be writing in.

Finally, as if I didn't already admire the puzzle enough, two clues that sparkled. [Round one] had to be some sort of boxing-related answer? Nope — FATSO! Hopefully that word itself won't offend people, but it's a perfect misdirectional clue for one exhibiting an ovoidal nature. And to start a puzzle with [Breather] which just had to be REST was devious. I loved figuring out that I was totally wrong, LUNG indeed being a type of "breather."

Wednesdays can be hard, straddling the line between being relatively accessible and relatively clever. This puzzle does it really well.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0625 ( 23,605 )

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Across
1
Breather : LUNG
5
Car radio button : AMFM
9
Back of a 45 record : BSIDE
14
Telephone keypad abbr. : OPER
15
Wild hog : BOAR
16
Reporting to : UNDER
17
Where there's smoke : FLUE
18
"I'm game" : LETS
19
It's rattled metaphorically : SABER
20
Goodyear employees when they're on strike? : TIRELESSWORKERS
23
Feed : STOKE
24
"Goody, goody!" : OHBOY
25
Porch light circler : MOTH
28
The Buckeyes' sch. : OSU
29
He's to the right of Teddy on Mount Rushmore : ABE
32
Site with a "Time left" display : EBAY
35
Scenery chewer : HAM
37
It might reveal more than a simple X-ray : CTSCAN
39
Result of Santa misplacing his papers? : LISTLESSFEELING
42
Like some potatoes : MASHED
43
Cotton seed remover : GIN
44
Puts in : ADDS
45
Düsseldorf-to-Dresden direction : OST
46
Prop in a western : GUN
48
Maryland athlete, for short : TERP
50
"Me, too" : SODOI
52
First name in cosmetics : ESTEE
56
What the Red Sox had to start using in 1920? : RUTHLESSTACTICS
61
Women's golf star Lorena : OCHOA
62
"Like that's gonna happen" : ASIF
63
Some investment opportunities, in brief : IPOS
64
One who's not from around here : ALIEN
65
Lime green 25-Across : LUNA
66
Field for Gérard Depardieu and Audrey Tautou : CINE
67
Experimental division, for short : RANDD
68
Drop when one is down? : TEAR
69
The "K" in James K. Polk : KNOX
Down
1
Some sleeping areas : LOFTS
2
Like the Statue of Liberty at night : UPLIT
3
Prefix with science : NEURO
4
Story set on Mount Olympus : GREEKMYTH
5
Up to the job : ABLE
6
Homer Simpson's watering hole : MOES
7
Round one : FATSO
8
Woman in "A Wrinkle in Time" : MRSWHO
9
It may be diagrammed on a city map : BUSROUTE
10
Serpentine : SNAKY
11
"___ much obliged" : IDBE
12
Traditional meat in a humble pie : DEER
13
Fouls up : ERRS
21
Baseball's Durocher ... or his astrological sign : LEO
22
Censorship-worthy : OBSCENE
26
Nickname for filmdom's Lebowski : THEDUDE
27
Holds : HAS
29
Liquid that burns : ACID
30
Posse, e.g. : BAND
31
Some M.I.T. grads: Abbr. : ENGS
32
Admiral Zumwalt : ELMO
33
Skewed view : BIAS
34
Helper: Abbr. : ASST
36
Knicks' home: Abbr. : MSG
38
Buster Keaton genre : SLAPSTICK
40
Theme park based on a toy : LEGOLAND
41
Tailor's concern : FIT
47
Margarita option : NOSALT
49
___ room : REC
50
Did a farrier's job on : SHOED
51
People output : ISSUE
53
Easy basketball two-pointer : TIPIN
54
Prefix with metric : ECONO
55
Earl of ___, favorite of Queen Elizabeth I : ESSEX
56
Waterfall sound : ROAR
57
Sch. near Beverly Hills : UCLA
58
Like dangerous ice : THIN
59
Fey of "30 Rock" : TINA
60
Miles and miles away : AFAR

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle.

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