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New York Times, Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Author: Jim Hilger
Editor: Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1212/11/20081/23/20180
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0015600
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1.60320
Jim Hilger

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FQXZ} This is puzzle # 9 for Mr. Hilger. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Jim Hilger notes: This crossword was assembled during the fall of 2012. Although several of the edited clues now look unfamiliar, I'm still almost ... more
Jim Hilger notes: This crossword was assembled during the fall of 2012. Although several of the edited clues now look unfamiliar, I'm still almost positive that I was the guilty party. I was going for a gradual reveal of an unknown answer, somewhat similar to the feel of playing Hangman. Having WORD GAME as the circled unknown answer — with the added feature that it be the sole, communal clue for all the puzzle's theme answers — seemed like a nice, mischievous twist.

I have always loved playing word games with family and friends. I've had three particular game favorites over the years, one being "PROBE", from Parker Brothers. It's a card-based diversion similar to Hangman, and appears in this puzzle as a theme answer. The other two? Well, put it this way: if you are willing to play a little of my second favorite word game (6 letters), the third's name (11 letters) can be unearthed within this puzzle grid.

There are seven theme answers bouncing around in here, plus the WORD GAME reveal, which was intentionally positioned to not share any letters with the themers. This means that the theme material tends to ooze into about every nook and cranny of the grid. All that oozing can sometimes have an effect on a puzzle's word fill quality. Hopefully this, my ninth NY Times outing, has a minimal number of fill "HAEC-cups".

Come to think of it, a crossword puzzle is quite a bit like a word game, too. So, thanks to everyone who chose to play this game with me. As always, it's been a lot of fun.

My other two favorite word games? Boggle and Bananagrams.

Jeff Chen notes: I like variety in my daily puzzles, and I like seeing things I've never seen before. It was fun to experience this one, slowly ... more
Jeff Chen notes: I like variety in my daily puzzles, and I like seeing things I've never seen before. It was fun to experience this one, slowly uncovering the circled letters to find that it was a WORD GAME revealer. A nice touch.

I wasn't familiar with JOTTO or PROBE or... where are the other themers? I highlighted them below because I kept losing track what was a themer and what wasn't. Although SHAME ON ME, now there's a game I'd like to play! KEEP HOUSE, not so much. Seriously though, it would have been great to find some way to distinguish the themers from the fill, given the short name lengths. Perhaps perimeter answers? All across in rows? Not sure how, but the placements as is felt a bit inelegant to me.

Ah, HAEC. Although there's not a ton of theme density, any time you fix words in strewn-about places, you're sure to run into challenges. In this case, not only does Jim run into issues because of all the constraints he's given himself, but the fact that there must be some long fill in order to keep under the word count limit of 78. Usually the themers are the long answers, so everything else is easier to fit in because they're shorter. This sort of reversal of the status quo makes it very tough to find long fill that is both snappy and allows for smooth fill. Having to knit so many disparate sections together often results in a CORM or a BEG TO. Not easy at all.

One example: once you've fixed the circled "W" and placed SCRABBLE, look at that giant slot you have to fill at 17-across. Jim does well to fit in KEEP HOUSE, a solid entry. But then you have a ??PA??? to fill, and once that becomes ESPARTO, oof, that little corner is jammed up. HAEC is an entry I tend to reboot one of my own puzzles for if it's ever required, but I'm sure there are Latin majors out there who are celebrating from the stoas and agoras. Similar action happens in the opposite corner, the heavy constraints forcing MMVI and NEVA. Each of those are fine in themselves, but both in one little subsection is a bit much for me.

Not being much of a word-game fan, this was a puzzle I enjoyed more after reading Jim's note. That doesn't often happen, but hearing about his thought process and his interests leading up to this theme made me appreciate it. I'm personally not a SCRABBLE or a BANANAGRAMS fan, so hearing about the intent for the solver to slowly uncover W O R D / G A M E from an avid player was pretty neat.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0604 ( 23,584 )
Across Down
1. Pronoun repeated in "America" : THEE
5. Weapon with a warhead, in brief : ICBM
9. "Thriller" singer, in tabloids : JACKO
14. "Let sleeping dogs lie" and others : SAWS
15. Board's partner : ROOM
16. Subject of a donor card : ORGAN
17. Dust, vacuum, do windows, etc. : KEEPHOUSE
19. Done to death : TRITE
20. See circled letters : SCRABBLE
21. Come ___ price : ATA
22. Crucifixion symbol : ROOD
23. One from column A, one from column B, etc. : CHOICES
27. Go to the dogs : ROT
29. See circled letters : TABOO
31. Big do : GALA
32. Tend to another spill : REMOP
34. How knights roam : ERRANTLY
36. Take habitually : USE
37. See circled letters : HANGMAN
40. "... in excelsis ___" : DEO
41. What to do when dealt a flush : STANDPAT
43. Fast-food utensil : SPORK
45. Prefix with zone and skeptic : EURO
46. See circled letters : PROBE
49. Adams of "Junebug" : AMY
50. Decked out in sequins : SPANGLY
52. Vet school subj. : ANAT
54. Still owing : SHY
55. See circled letters : ANAGRAMS
59. Speed skater ___ Anton Ohno : APOLO
62. "I did bad!" : SHAMEONME
63. "Quo ___?" : VADIS
64. Place to place your bets : RENO
65. St. Petersburg's river : NEVA
66. Showing mastery : ADEPT
67. Stickup man on "The Wire" : OMAR
68. Triathlon start : SWIM
1. Relatives of tuts : TSKS
2. Hic, ___, hoc : HAEC
3. Still-life pitcher : EWER
4. Grass for cordage : ESPARTO
5. Asimov classic : IROBOT
6. Part of an "if only ..." lament : COULDA
7. Big name in audio equipment : BOSE
8. Marie Curie, e.g.: Abbr. : MME
9. See circled letters : JOTTO
10. Bring up on charges : ARRAIGN
11. Special FX technology : CGI
12. Kit ___ Club ("Cabaret" setting) : KAT
13. ___-hit wonder : ONE
18. "Veep" channel : HBO
21. Now, in Nogales : AHORA
23. Bulblike plant part : CORM
24. Realm of Garfield : CATDOM
25. Queen of fiction : ELLERY
26. Voice one's approval : SAYOK
27. Recharge one's batteries : RESTUP
28. Mark who won the 1998 Masters : OMEARA
30. ___ differ (object) : BEGTO
32. Artful dodges : RUSES
33. Deg. held by Woodrow Wilson : PHD
35. Quiz response: Abbr. : ANS
38. Fill out the necessary forms, say : APPLY
39. ___ a soul : NARY
42. Like a shower mat, ideally : NONSLIP
44. Clientele : PATRONS
47. Daiquiri flavor : BANANA
48. Win the heart of : ENAMOR
51. See circled letters : GHOST
53. What liver spots may be a sign of : AGE
55. "Um, excuse me" : AHEM
56. From the start : ANEW
57. Year of Super Bowl XL : MMVI
58. Line of jeans? : SEAM
59. "___: My Story" (Tinseltown autobiography) : AVA
60. Inflate, as a bill : PAD
61. "___ to Joy" : ODE
62. Full house indicator : SRO

Answer summary: 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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