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STRIKE ONE

New York Times, Sunday, June 8, 2014

Author:
Patrick Berry
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2297/11/199911/4/20182
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
741241679512
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.54980
Patrick Berry

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 142, Blocks: 75 Missing: {Q} This is puzzle # 186 for Mr. Berry. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes:
Such a pleasure to open up a puzzle and see Patrick Berry's byline. I know I'll get at the very least a smooth, fun solving experience, and it can easily go all the way up to five-star ... read more

Such a pleasure to open up a puzzle and see Patrick Berry's byline. I know I'll get at the very least a smooth, fun solving experience, and it can easily go all the way up to five-star incredulity. I especially like seeing his byline on a Sunday puzzle, as I personally tend to need a little something extra in order to keep my attention through the entire solve (one of his Sundays from 2008 is among my very favorite crosswords of all time). I got that today, a clever theme involving the crossing out of letters which doubles as the letter X.

The "replace-a-letter" and "add-a-letter" and "subtract-a-letter" type themes are still fine as long as they produce humorous resulting themers, but I so very much appreciate Patrick's desire to push the envelope. This could have easily been "change a C to an X" type theme for example, but he goes above and beyond to find themers which have a nice base (SMILEY FACES) as well as a funny outcome (SMILEY FAXES). And the X doubling as a "strikeout" in the clue is a pretty cool idea.

I would have liked the crossing answers to display an equal propensity to change (with funny results) when X'ed, though. I found it slightly unsatisfying that TIC didn't become TIX, for example. That would have been much harder to accomplish, perhaps having themers cross? Anyway, could just be a personal desire. Even without that extra layer I still quite enjoyed the solve, because...

Patrick always does such a fine job of filling his grids. Sundays are notoriously difficult to smoothly fill, but he both incorporates strong long fill and minimizes his glue-type entries. You might think the latter is achieved through brute force, auto-fill, whatever, but it's often determined very early on, when the constructors fixes their initial skeleton of black squares. With certain arrangements, you're almost never going to get "good fill," so figuring out that initial skeleton is 75% of the work. Patrick always does a great job of maximizing his spacing, and in this case (10 themers!) it's even more impressive that he has very few highly constrained spots in his grid.

That other 25%... check out the NE and SW corners. To have triple-stacked 8's with TWO themers running through each is no small feat. It is helpful that he can swap LESSER APES with BODY DOUBLE (same with THE ART OF WAR and SKIP TO MY LOU) and I'll bet he tried the permutations to figure out which would give smoother fills. He doesn't incorporate many Scrabbly letters, but I'd much rather see clean fill instead of hiccups caused by a J/Q/X/Z. The resulting corners are clean as a whistle, with just a MLLE and an OCT in total.

Finally, the clues. A puzzle can be ultra-smooth but still suffer if the clues are drab (or too dictionary-ish). This is especially important in a Sunday, where a half-dozen great clues can greatly enhance a puzzle. [Sucker?] for VAMPIRE. The clue for I'M FINE evoking images of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" ("tis only a flesh wound!"). [Raised on books?] for EMBOSSED. And the beautiful [Give a piece to] for arm ("piece" being slang for gun). The clues made my solving experience even better.

All in all, a wonderful solve.

ADDED NOTE: I can't believe I missed this. The crossed out letters spell CROSSED OUT. So, so, SO cool! And forget what I said about being able to swap out LESSER APES and BODY DOUBLE — making those NE and SW corners even more impressive!

1
M
2
O
3
P
4
I
5
D
6
I
7
O
8
T
9
I
10
C
11
M
12
A
13
A
14
M
15
A
16
B
17
C
18
S
19
A
H
A
20
V
A
M
P
I
R
E
21
O
S
L
O
22
S
L
I
T
23
S
M
I
24
L
E
Y
F
A
CX
E
S
25
T
I
L
T
26
I
O
T
A
27
K
Y
R
A
28
B
I
L
29
T
30
H
E
A
R
T
31
O
F
W
A
RX
32
B
33
E
E
N
34
M
35
P
A
A
36
I
O
U
37
O
D
E
38
A
39
R
40
T
O
O
D
E
41
T
O
OX
42
L
43
E
44
S
S
E
R
45
A
P
E
SX
46
R
E
R
U
N
S
47
E
R
I
48
K
49
L
E
E
S
50
B
E
L
A
51
A
G
A
R
S
52
M
A
G
N
E
53
S
I
A
54
C
A
N
S
T
55
R
U
M
S
56
B
E
A
U
T
Y
C
O
N
57
T
58
E
SX
T
59
A
L
P
60
L
A
C
E
61
S
I
T
62
A
L
I
E
63
N
64
S
65
T
A
L
66
C
67
A
N
T
68
M
R
I
69
D
O
N
70
S
71
R
E
H
72
I
R
E
73
D
74
R
75
J
76
F
O
R
T
77
L
O
O
78
E
V
E
R
79
G
R
E
E
80
N
T
R
E
EX
81
R
I
C
O
82
E
83
B
84
O
N
Y
85
L
O
P
E
A
R
E
D
86
D
E
M
O
N
87
M
L
L
E
88
S
89
H
O
O
90
Z
I
O
N
91
M
O
D
I
N
E
92
B
O
DX
Y
93
D
O
U
B
L
94
E
95
F
O
OX
96
F
I
G
H
T
E
R
97
O
C
T
98
A
R
M
99
G
100
A
S
P
101
I
N
G
E
102
S
K
I
103
P
T
O
M
104
Y
105
L
O
UX
106
A
L
A
107
A
108
C
109
M
110
E
111
S
A
M
E
112
R
E
M
O
113
D
114
E
115
S
S
E
R
116
T
TX
R
A
Y
117
E
D
E
N
118
A
R
C
S
119
E
M
I
T
T
E
D
120
U
K
E
121
D
E
R
N
122
L
S
A
T
123
N
U
D
I
S
T
S
124
X
E
D
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0608 ( 23,588 )
Across
1
Swabby's need : MOP
4
Brainless : IDIOTIC
11
Cowboy-to-lady address : MAAM
15
Early teachings : ABCS
19
Triumphant shout : AHA
20
Sucker? : VAMPIRE
21
Capital with more than 300 lakes within its limits : OSLO
22
Skirt feature : SLIT
23
Symbols of happiness Transmissions with colons, dashes and parentheses? : SMILEYFAXES
25
Bias : TILT
26
Tiny bit : IOTA
27
Sedgwick of "The Closer" : KYRA
28
Cartoonist Keane : BIL
29
Sun Tzu tome Madame Tussaud's specialty? : THEARTOFWAX
32
Has-___ : BEEN
34
NC-17 assigner: Abbr. : MPAA
36
Paper exchanged for coin : IOU
37
Poetic tribute : ODE
38
"Star Wars" character Where droids go to dry out? : ARTOODETOX
42
Gibbons and siamangs Mountaintop that's not the very top? : LESSERAPEX
46
Familiar episodes : RERUNS
47
The Phantom of the Opera : ERIK
49
Wine bottle residue : LEES
50
Composer Bartók : BELA
51
Gelling agents : AGARS
52
Antacid ingredient : MAGNESIA
54
Are able, archaically : CANST
55
Caribbean exports : RUMS
56
Pageant Circumstances that render someone attractive? : BEAUTYCONTEXT
59
Climber's challenge : ALP
60
Wedding gown material : LACE
61
Take a load off : SIT
62
Abductors in a tabloid story : ALIENS
65
Mohs scale mineral : TALC
67
Hill raiser : ANT
68
Hosp. procedure : MRI
69
Oxford teachers : DONS
71
Bring back on : REHIRE
73
Four-time pro hoops M.V.P. : DRJ
76
Setting for 76-Down : FORT
77
English privy : LOO
78
Pine, e.g. Dinosaur that never goes out of style? : EVERGREENTREX
81
Like un millonario : RICO
82
Black : EBONY
85
Like some bunnies and hounds : LOPEARED
86
"Paranormal Activity" creature : DEMON
87
Miss, in Meuse: Abbr. : MLLE
88
"You're not welcome!" : SHOO
90
Jewish homeland : ZION
91
"Vision Quest" co-star Matthew : MODINE
92
Studio substitute Squarish bed? : BOXYDOUBLE
95
Member of a certain 1990s-2000s rock band Censor unhappy with "Family Guy" and "Glee," maybe? : FOXFIGHTER
97
Mo. for campaign surprises : OCT
98
Give a piece to : ARM
99
[I am SHOCKED!] : GASP
101
"Picnic" playwright : INGE
102
Children's song Ignore the rest of the lunch I brought and just eat the fish? : SKIPTOMYLOX
106
Like : ALA
107
Warner Bros. cartoon company : ACME
111
Aforementioned : SAME
112
Italy's San ___ : REMO
113
After-dinner display One way to see a pie's filling? : DESSERTXRAY
117
Trouble-free place : EDEN
118
Compass tracings : ARCS
119
Put out : EMITTED
120
Don Ho played it : UKE
121
Bruce of "Nebraska" : DERN
122
Exam administered qtly. : LSAT
123
You'll see a lot of them : NUDISTS
124
Struck out, as one letter in each of this puzzle's theme answers : XED
Down
1
Costume accessory : MASK
2
"I wasn't expecting that!" : OHMY
3
Modest poker holding : PAIR
4
Suffix with mass or dismiss : IVE
5
Futon alternatives : DAYBEDS
6
"It's only a scratch!" : IMFINE
7
Harlequin ___ (multicolored gem) : OPAL
8
Odd mannerism : TIC
9
High dudgeon : IRE
10
Jai alai basket : CESTA
11
Particle : MOTE
12
Big holding in Risk : ASIA
13
Order in the court? : ALLRISE
14
Some Latin inscriptions : MOTTOES
15
Like : ASIF
16
Use dynamite on, as a safe : BLOWOPEN
17
Strongholds : CITADELS
18
Studies intently : STARESAT
24
"Love's ___ Lost" : LABOURS
30
Villain of "2001" : HAL
31
Lord's Prayer starter : OUR
33
Years on end : EONS
34
Dead storage : MORGUE
35
North or west : POINT
38
Dormant Turkish volcano : ARARAT
39
Dependable patron : REGULAR
40
Walk all over : TRAMPLE
41
Unpopular 1773 legislation : TEAACT
43
"Middlemarch" author : ELIOT
44
With 103-Down, "Hurlyburly" star : SEAN
45
Tapered off : ABATED
48
Ringed set : KEYS
52
Less forgiving : MEANER
53
"Hard" or "soft" subj. : SCI
54
2000 CBS premiere : CSI
56
Loudspeaker sound : BLARE
57
Like some roads and roofs : TARRED
58
A-listers : ELITE
63
Like some poker games : NOLIMIT
64
Carnival cooler : SNOCONE
66
Political commentator Liz : CHENEY
68
Singer/actress Rita : MORENO
70
Tulsa resident : SOONER
72
Brown greenery? : IVY
73
Dribble : DROOL
74
Sales employee : REP
75
"Aw, come on!" : JEEZ
76
Sitcom set during the 1860s : FTROOP
79
Amorphous lump : GLOB
80
Babes in the woods : NAIFS
81
1988 Schwarzenegger action film : REDHEAT
82
Raised on books? : EMBOSSED
83
Sea wall? : BLOCKADE
84
Golden ager : OLDTIMER
86
Snoop ___ : DOGG
88
Like some twins : SORORAL
89
Non-fuel-efficient vehicles : HUMMERS
91
Mosque tower : MINARET
93
"Can't Help Lovin' ___ Man" ("Show Boat" song) : DAT
94
Psyche component : EGO
96
Fishmonger's cuts : FILETS
100
"Funeral Blues" poet : AUDEN
103
See 44-Down : PENN
104
Exercise venue, for short : YMCA
105
At sea : LOST
106
Barbera d'___ (red wine) : ASTI
108
Essence : CRUX
109
Cook up : MAKE
110
Kept in sight : EYED
114
Ostrich lookalike : EMU
115
Caesar on TV : SID
116
QB feats : TDS

Answer summary: 11 unique to this puzzle.

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