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New York Times, Saturday, June 7, 2014

Author:
John Lieb
Editor:
Will Shortz
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145/14/20138/21/20184
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0432203
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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 )
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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