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New York Times, Monday, June 9, 2014

Author: Tom McCoy
Editor: Will Shortz
Tom McCoy
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Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {QZ} This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. McCoy. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Tom McCoy notes: This puzzle is special to me because it was my first acceptance ever. Actually, it was not accepted immediately; the original ... more
Tom McCoy notes: This puzzle is special to me because it was my first acceptance ever. Actually, it was not accepted immediately; the original version was 76 words, with the long downs of FREEZER BAG and SALINE DROP in place of the current 4-Down/38-Down and 31-Down/51-Down slots. However, Will said that SALINE DROP was not really crossword-worthy, so I added another pair of black squares to create the current version. I'm glad he asked for the revision because, in addition to removing the undesirable SALINE DROP, it made the overall fill much cleaner.
Jeff Chen notes: This puzzle delighted me. It's pretty rare that we see shenanigans on a Monday, because Will tries to keep early-week puzzles fairly ... more
Jeff Chen notes: This puzzle delighted me. It's pretty rare that we see shenanigans on a Monday, because Will tries to keep early-week puzzles fairly accessible for the NYT solving population. So it's a real treat to get a fun theme like this, easy enough for most solvers to pick up on but clever enough to be memorable. Very well done.

A few months ago, I started to realize that I was letting my constructor's brain take over my daily analysis, going robotically through to figure out what could have been done better. Things changed when there was a puzzle I thought had too many compromises, but which Jim didn't mind because it "delighted him." That made me revisit my criteria on what makes a puzzle "good." Puzzles are a fun thing for me, and elevating that "delight factor" (DF) as my number one criteria has also elevated my puzzling joy. So to see a theme like this, where WIDE RECEIVER is interpreted as [T e l e p h o n e h a n d s e t] = great pleasure for me. All four of these themers really did it for me, and to have STRETCHED OUT as both a themer AND a revealer = brilliant.

That's not to say my constructor's mentality ever turns off (darn you, stupid brain!). I couldn't help but notice that there wasn't as much in terms of long fill as there could have been. It was interesting to read Tom's note to that regard. OLD STYLE and SPLENDID are indeed very good entries, as are MAJESTY and RICHTER, but it would have been splendid indeed if Tom had managed to work in another pair of 8's.

And there's really not much that's glue-y in this grid. Pretty well polished. But as I recently told a co-constructor, I have a hard time with "good enough" fill, always (OCD-like) trying for the absolute best possible. So seeing A TRIP, which could have been ATRIA (and possibly allowed for MY EYE! where HYENA is) made me pause. In general, I expect 78-word puzzles to have almost perfect fill, unless the theme density or other constraints necessitate otherwise.

So a well executed puzzle, with a pinch of unfulfilled potential. Knowing that Tom's a CS guy, I have a feeling he'll be upping his game as his constructor career rises.

Overall, I return to what's really important: DF = high.

ADDED NOTE: I corresponded with Tom about that east section, and it turns out he missed that possible improvement because he did this grid by hand. Wow! My first grid by hand was a complete disaster, including the wild entry SUN SON (it sounded like "a thing" at the time). One big advantage of computer-aided design is finding and improving these little sections is much quicker than doing so by hand.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0609 ( 23,589 )
Across Down
1. Covered Greek walkway : STOA
5. Go the way of snowmen : MELT
9. Rapidness : SPEED
14. "Phooey!" : CRUD
15. Operatic solo : ARIA
16. ___ vortex (winter weather phenomenon) : POLAR
17. Curse : OATH
18. Curse : JINX
19. High, as expectations : LOFTY
20. T e l e p h o n e h a n d s e t : WIDERECEIVER
23. Sounds from a sound sleeper? : SNORES
24. Morn's counterpart : EEN
25. Cigarette dropping : ASH
28. C o r s e t p a r t : EXTENDEDSTAY
32. Perform in a play : ACT
35. Vote in favor : YEA
36. South Dakota's capital : PIERRE
37. Teaser : PROMO
40. High's opposite : LOW
42. Condescend (to) : DEIGN
43. Former secretary of state Colin : POWELL
45. Deface : MAR
47. Split ___ soup : PEA
48. A r m y u n i t : LONGDIVISION
52. Nav. rank : ENS
53. ___ Francisco : SAN
54. Trail for Hansel and Gretel : CRUMBS
58. T h r e e s t r i k e s ... or a description of the theme clues : STRETCHEDOUT
61. Rome's home : ITALY
64. Codger : COOT
65. "The Naked Maja" artist : GOYA
66. End of an Aesop fable : MORAL
67. Cabbagelike vegetable : KALE
68. Revise, as copy : EDIT
69. Tick off : PEEVE
70. Hollywood Walk of Fame feature : STAR
71. Unit of force : DYNE
1. Garbage boats : SCOWS
2. Amtrak service : TRAIN
3. One-up : OUTDO
4. Cling (to) : ADHERE
5. Your ___ (way to address a queen) : MAJESTY
6. Singer Clapton : ERIC
7. Queue : LINE
8. Went along the tarmac : TAXIED
9. "Delightful!" : SPLENDID
10. "You ___ thing!" : POOR
11. Keebler figure : ELF
12. "Please, have some!" : EAT
13. Like deserts : DRY
21. "Oedipus ___" : REX
22. #2 exec : VEEP
25. Take ___ down memory lane : ATRIP
26. Beetle's boss, in the comics : SARGE
27. "Laughing" animal : HYENA
29. Fish that can give you a shock : EEL
30. Actress Watts : NAOMI
31. "What did I tell you?" : SEE
32. Golden Delicious, e.g. : APPLE
33. Sing like Bing Crosby : CROON
34. Villages : TOWNS
38. Ryan of "When Harry Met Sally ..." : MEG
39. Antiquated : OLDSTYLE
41. Used to be : WAS
44. Perjurer : LIAR
46. ___ scale (earthquake measurer) : RICHTER
49. Features of some daring sweaters : VNECKS
50. Mined metal : ORE
51. Gently elbowed : NUDGED
55. Subject to emotional swings : MOODY
56. Poker entry fee : BUYIN
57. Misery or Missouri : STATE
58. Serb or Pole : SLAV
59. Perfectly : TOAT
60. Pepsi-___ : COLA
61. Mischievous kid : IMP
62. It may be tapped when you listen to music : TOE
63. "Come as you ___" : ARE

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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