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New York Times, Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Author:
John Lampkin
Editor:
Will Shortz
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912/15/20108/22/20180
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2203011
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1.58001
John Lampkin

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {FJKQXZ} This is puzzle # 6 for Mr. Lampkin. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
John Lampkin notes:
The seed for this one was 'It's on the house' which popped into mind upon seeing a WEATHER VANE on a house here in my Florida ... read more

The seed for this one was "It's on the house" which popped into mind upon seeing a WEATHER VANE on a house here in my Florida community. There are more than a few which strike me as an odd home decor choice for Florida since one can act as a lightning rod. Next to hurricanes, lightning is our greatest export.

I was happy to see that Will kept my clue for SILO which I find to be terribly amusing, but then I'm easily amused.

Jeff Chen notes:
Sometimes it's fun to finish a puzzle and wonder what the heck the theme is. I thoroughly enjoyed this solve, as there were so many ... read more

Sometimes it's fun to finish a puzzle and wonder what the heck the theme is.

I thoroughly enjoyed this solve, as there were so many great clues employing wordplay. [It's on the house] for WEATHERVANE, [Emerson or Dickinson] misdirecting toward writers instead of COLLEGEs, [Tooth that turns] befuddling me until I realized it was a COG, not an incisor or molar. But what was the theme?

Took me a while to realize that WEATHERVANE, RAVE REVIEW, DEAD BATTERY, and EMPTY CHAIR are connected by the fact that they all have clever wordplay clues somehow relating to the meaning of "free." WEATHERVANE "on the house," RAVE REVIEW "complimentary," DEAD BATTERY having "no charge," and EMPTY CHAIR simply "free." Neat idea!

It's too bad EMPTY CHAIR felt like the odd man out; kind of an arbitrary-sounding phrase. EMPTY SEAT felt better to my ear, but that's unfortunately one letter too few. The other three themers are so strongly in the language that I didn't even realize they might be themers!

John uses the "windmill" pattern for his four themers. This often makes it easier to construct a clean grid, and John does really well in that regard. The only hitch I had was at GELEE, which I usually think of as a food product. But it's totally fair game, since the crossings are all reasonable.

I might have liked all the themers laid out in the across direction, though — that would have made the theme stand out more for me. As it was, all the great fill — BOWL OVER, SPY RING, BUTT DIAL, even OH BOY — muddied up what was fill and what was theme. That's a usual potential drawback to the windmill pattern, and that factor came into play even more than usual today.

Perhaps using a revealer would have made for a crisper bow on the puzzle? I'm not sure what that would be though, especially since the word "free" is employed in the clue for EMPTY CHAIR.

Excellent wordplay and a colorful, smooth grid, but perhaps some potential for a more impactful a-ha moment left on the table.

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B
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0629 ( 24,340 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1. Opposite of exciting : BLAH
5. Jerk : ASS
8. 100 points, to a jeweler : CARAT
13. Who sings "A Little Brains, A Little Talent" in "Damn Yankees" : LOLA
14. Fuel economy org. : EPA
15. Unhung paintings : MURALS
16. Not required : OPTIONAL
18. ___ night (bar attraction) : TRIVIA
19. It's on the house : WEATHERVANE
21. Mr. Potato Head piece : EAR
22. Objects of religious veneration in ancient Egypt : IBISES
23. Outer space's lack : AIR
25. "That's all ___ wrote" : SHE
28. Thomas Gray's "___ on the Spring" : ODE
29. Emerson or Dickinson : COLLEGE
33. Brand once billed as "the soap of beautiful women" : CAMAY
35. Flabbergast : BOWLOVER
36. Some sound equipment : AMPS
37. Overplay : EMOTE
39. Fodder's place, but not a mudder's : SILO
40. Call inadvertently, in a way : BUTTDIAL
42. Part of many a general's statue : STEED
43. Clandestine network : SPYRING
44. Blanc who voiced Daffy Duck : MEL
46. Itsy-bitsy : WEE
47. Tooth that turns : COG
48. Some New Zealanders : MAORIS
51. Fire residue : ASH
53. It carries no charge : DEADBATTERY
58. Like feet after a long trek : LEADEN
60. Drop the ball onstage : MISSACUE
61. Evincing discomfort : PAINED
62. Pub offering : ALE
63. Pub offering : BREW
64. Book bag part : STRAP
65. Actor Beatty : NED
66. Pub offering : SUDS
Down
1. Serious punch : BLOW
2. Easy gait : LOPE
3. Opposite of baja : ALTA
4. Half of Hispaniola : HAITI
5. Work in which Dido died : AENEID
6. Thinly distributed : SPARSE
7. Balm : SALVE
8. Panacea : CUREALL
9. Cardinals, in stats : ARI
10. It's complimentary : RAVEREVIEW
11. Et ___ (and others) : ALIA
12. Despised figure in "Fiddler on the Roof" : TSAR
15. Abbr. in cartography : MTN
17. "What fun!" : OHBOY
20. Natty neckwear : ASCOT
24. "You beat me" : ILOST
25. Signs of healing : SCABS
26. Overplay : HAMUP
27. It's free : EMPTYCHAIR
30. Have bills : OWE
31. Hair goop : GELEE
32. Weaken, as confidence : ERODE
34. "___ Boy" (1960s cartoon series) : ASTRO
35. Neighbor of Peru: Abbr. : BOL
37. ___ bisschen (not much: Ger.) : EIN
38. Soft rock? : MAGMA
41. Try one's utmost : DIGDEEP
42. Some vents : SLITS
44. Cellphone, to a Brit : MOBILE
45. Deleted : ERASED
49. Worker at Omnicom Group : ADMAN
50. Wild guesses : STABS
51. Range of the von Trapp singers : ALPS
52. Usher's destination : SEAT
54. Goal : END
55. Eggshell shade : ECRU
56. Regretted : RUED
57. Trees with red berrylike fruit : YEWS
59. Modern aid in anthropology : DNA

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?