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New York Times, Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Author:
John Lampkin
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
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 )
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?