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New York Times, Saturday, June 7, 2014

Author:
John Lieb
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
155/14/20132/16/20195
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0432204
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.60110
John Lieb

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 27 Missing: {JYZ} This is puzzle # 7 for Mr. Lieb. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
John Lieb notes:
The seeds for this puzzle were the SPAMBOT stack, WALKOFF, and FOOSBALL. With those in the grid, I worked clockwise, trying to get ... read more

The seeds for this puzzle were the SPAMBOT stack, WALKOFF, and FOOSBALL. With those in the grid, I worked clockwise, trying to get clean and interesting fill along the way. I was originally thinking of WALKOFF as a stand-alone entry (e.g. "Big Papi hit a walkoff last night.") but HOMER serendipitously popped up in the course of filling the puzzle. The southeast corner was pretty bland in my initial draft. I threw an X in the corner to see if that would lead to anything fun, and that ended up being my favorite corner of the puzzle.

Though this grid has no entries longer than 8 letters, I liked the look of it and how the grid flowed with no isolated sections. Brad Wilber had a similar grid in a puzzle a few years back which gave me the confidence that a grid of this design (no long entries) could be accepted as a NYT themeless.

This was my first puzzle accepted by Will, and I spent a LOT of time on the clues. But clearly cluing themeless puzzles, at least for me, also requires experience, and Will improved the puzzle immensely by changing a lot of clues to get them into Saturday-shape. My favorite clues that made the final version were: 15A, 25A, 55A, 67A, and 49D. I also liked seeing the "#1" clue make the final version, echoing Anna Shechtman's puzzle of last week. I hope folks find the puzzle a fun and worthy Saturday challenge!

Jeff Chen notes:
A fun solve today, plus a nice change of pace. A majority of themelesses feature four sets of stacked answers of 8+ letters, but John ... read more

A fun solve today, plus a nice change of pace. A majority of themelesses feature four sets of stacked answers of 8+ letters, but John shortens things up today. It's often quite difficult to find jazzy answers in the seven-letter length, because the jazziest of answers are usually two-word entries. Not to say that single-word entries can't be snappy — SPAMBOT and FOOSBALL are cases in point — but it's much easier to create flash in a grid with those beautiful MAN-CAVE and FEAR NOT! type entries. John does well to take advantage of all his seven and eight-letter slots.

Integrating Scrabbly letters (JQXZ) can be a tricky endeavor in a themeless, as they often produce compromises. I like what John's done today. MCQ is a slight blight in my eyes, given that the movie hasn't reached the notoriety of The Duke's other movies, but it does enable such a snazzy stack in the starting corner. That's the way to launch a themeless.

And I appreciated the slew of X's in the SE corner too. It was especially fun to see X-AXIS from a math teacher, and the "plotting" misdirection made it even better. I really enjoyed meeting John a few months ago. It's a privilege to know a little something about particular constructors, which often makes my enjoyment of their puzzles even greater.

That's not to say the SE corner was perfect, of course. Given all those X's in there, we were bound to see a MAXENE, who according to the NYT was "the one on the left." Not the most ringing endorsement of one's crossword worthiness. Crossing the TABOR made it tricky, although I did appreciate pulling out memories of Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam on the drum and fife.

There was one crossing that baffled me. LARD for [Enrich] and DUCAT for [Admission ticket]? Apparently LARD as a verb means "to enrich or lace heavily with extra material; embellish" or "to fill throughout; inject." Who knew? (Don't answer that, smarty-pants.) And DUCAT I know mainly as a slang term for money, but apparently it's also slang for "an admission ticket." I do like learning new pieces of information from crosswords, but those two together... well, I guess it is a Saturday. Saturday puzzles are supposed to be hard! (Grumble grumble.)

Finally, what a beautiful bevy of clever clues today. [Sweet Jazz sound?] had nothing to do with music, but the Utah basketball team and John Stockton's nothing-but-net SWISH. [Moral duty?] was a great repurposing of a common phrase, this time with "duty" meaning "levy." SIN TAX! And my favorite in recent memory was [Complex data]. Took me ages to figure out that "complex" wasn't talking about difficulty level, but an apartment complex! Bravo for spicing up the otherwise neutral entry, RENTS. Please sir, may I have some more! I so much appreciate that type of wordplay clue in my Saturday puzzle.

Jim Horne notes:
A WALK-OFF HOMER is a home run hit by the home team in the bottom of the ninth or later inning that gives them the lead. The home team ... read more

A WALK-OFF HOMER is a home run hit by the home team in the bottom of the ninth or later inning that gives them the lead. The home team gets to walk off the field without finishing the inning. The visiting team walks off in shame and disappointment. Everyone gets to walk off except the batter who still has to run around the bases, probably doffing his hat to the adoring home-town fans who now get to walk off to their homes.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0607 ( 23,587 )

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Across
1
Web nuisance : SPAMBOT
8
With 26-Down, dramatic end to a game : WALKOFF
15
Modern-day sanctuary : MANCAVE
16
Mostly : ASARULE
17
"The Hurt Locker" setting : IRAQWAR
18
Jumps all over : BERATES
19
Place for un bateau : LAC
20
Donkey : mule :: ___ : huarizo : LLAMA
22
Admission ticket : DUCAT
23
Cut down to size, maybe : EDIT
25
Sweet Jazz sound? : SWISH
27
Meant ___ : TOBE
28
Serape wearer : SENOR
30
Have ___ at : ASHOT
32
Nick, say : MAR
33
Complex data : RENTS
35
The middle Andrews sister : MAXENE
37
Heartening words : FEARNOT
40
Corrupted : DEBASED
41
Show up at dinner? : OUTEAT
42
WorkCentre maker : XEROX
43
Elect : OPT
44
Construction material for several theme parks : LEGOS
46
Ruptures : RIFTS
50
Where 24-Down began his managerial career : SHEA
52
Proverbial battlers : SEXES
54
Eastern wear : SARI
55
Flavorer once labeled a "milk amplifier" : BOSCO
57
Burn to the ground : TORCH
59
Bunkmates, often : KIN
60
Orion's hunting companion : ARTEMIS
62
#1 : THEBEST
64
Jumped all over : LITINTO
65
Professor ___ : EMERITA
66
Like some Hmong : LAOTIAN
67
Solution for storing contacts? : ROLODEX
Down
1
All ___ : SMILES
2
Flaunt : PARADE
3
Relief provider since 1916 : ANACIN
4
1974 John Wayne title role : MCQ
5
Not just tear : BAWL
6
What many racers race on : OVALS
7
Lightning strike measure : TERAWATT
8
River between two Midwestern states : WABASH
9
Malt finisher? : ASE
10
Enrich : LARD
11
Reuben ingredient : KRAUT
12
Denouements : OUTCOMES
13
Plant said to repel bugs : FLEABANE
14
Decayed : FESTERED
21
Yearn for : MISS
24
See 50-Across : TORRE
26
See 8-Across : HOMER
29
Kind of artery : RENAL
31
Pipe accompanier : TABOR
34
Las, e.g. : NOTES
36
People plot things around it : XAXIS
37
Recreation hall staple : FOOSBALL
38
High : EUPHORIA
39
Confirm : ATTESTTO
40
Yellow type? : DESERTER
42
Valentine letters : XOXO
45
Boards : GETSON
47
One might get past a bouncer : FAKEID
48
Blue, in Burgundy : TRISTE
49
Moral duty? : SINTAX
51
Get 180 on the LSAT, say : ACEIT
53
Boob : SCHMO
56
Wyndham alternative : OMNI
58
Elevator at the bottom? : HEEL
61
Suffix with 28-Across : ITA
63
Mate : BRO

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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