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New York Times, Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Author: David Phillips
Editor: Will Shortz
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207/24/20148/5/20171
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1021277
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1.57000
David Phillips

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 38 Missing: {QW} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 9 for Mr. Phillips. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Phillips notes: Not surprisingly, I got the inspiration for this theme after noticing a few sandbags on the side of the road. My first snarky ... more
David Phillips notes:

Not surprisingly, I got the inspiration for this theme after noticing a few sandbags on the side of the road. My first snarky thought was something to the effect of "How much use do these things even get? This place [the Twentynine Palms USMC base] is on the edge of the Mojave ... how often is flooding a problem?" (It happens occasionally as I later learned.) After this, I switched to mocking the sandbags themselves. "And what good of a bag are you anyway?" I thought. "If you lose your sand, you just become a regular, old bag."

Snark soon gave way to curiosity. Were there other bags whose identity was solely dependent on what they held? From the outset, I prioritized including ICE and SAND, since the ice bag and sandbag best illustrated the theme concept I was going for, i.e. a bag specifically designed to hold only one item.

After ICE and SAND, theme answers were a bit harder to find. I initially thought AIR would be a good choice, but airbags typically get filled with pure nitrogen or argon gas and not the 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, etc. "air" to which we Terrans are accustomed. Also, technically speaking, even ice bags and sandbags contain air. There were also a good number of "___bag" entries that didn't work with my theme definition, e.g. shopping bag, windbag, handbag, and a few others too lewd for me to list.

I ended up choosing TEA and BOOK but also liked MAIL and MONEY. (I didn't like BODY or GARBAGE due to the unpleasant imagery.)

As for the fill, it would seem that I tried to squeeze in some long downs and/or a tinge of scrabbliness. This resulted in a bit more glue than I'd allow in my current submissions; nonetheless, I hope the longer answers and lower word count add a little variety to your Tuesday solve.

Enjoy the rest of this week's puzzles. I know I certainly will!

Jeff Chen notes: Will has been spacing out these 'words that can follow X' themes; a good thing. Even with a catchy revealer like IT'S IN THE BAG, ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Will has been spacing out these "words that can follow X" themes; a good thing. Even with a catchy revealer like IT'S IN THE BAG, they run the risk of feeling tired if seen more than a few times a year. I did like David's choices of themers — BOOK EM DANNO and SAND CASTLE are pretty nice. I didn't know ICE ROAD TRUCKERS, but what a cool name!

Hey! Potentially a new way to clue IRT?

Does Sarah Palin call herself a TEA PARTIER? More importantly, when Putin looks over from Russia, what does he call her? (Don't answer that.)

Ah, the adjacent long downs. It's so tempting to leave two long slots open and try to stick the landing. I really like ACAI BERRY and DECOUPAGE. Those are the types of entries I'd shoot for. The price of ORA and ARG … yeah, I'd pay that. But when you throw in the random OOX, that feels like too much. It's a slight step up from [Three random letters], but just a slight one.

And as much of a Star Trek fan I am, Kirk just doesn't sound right without the T in JAMES T KIRK. Total nerd snobbery, I know. Also, the price to pay of OJO + SAO + SESS + NRC + LIS feels quite heavy to me.

Part of the issue is that David chose to go down to 72 words, a very tough task when you're working with five themers. That means his upper right and lower left corners are pretty big ... right where those parallel downs sit. Makes the task even more challenging.

I do like what David did with the upper left. Having two themers separated by a six-letter space (BOOK EM DANNO and TEA PARTIER separated by ONSITE) is something I avoid, because it's usually hard to find a six letter word that gives clean crossings. Some people might complain about SPOSA, but I kind of like that.

The symmetrical spot, the lower right, demonstrates the difficulty of this layout. I like ICKIER a lot, but ERGOT, SKED and RET aren't great.

I appreciate David's effort to push the boundaries given the straightforward theme. A bit rocky around the edges, though.

1
A
2
B
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S
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B
5
U
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R
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M
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A
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O
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J
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15
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K
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Z
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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0721 ( 23,996 )
Across Down
1. Muscles that may be sculpted, informally : ABS
4. Japanese W.W. II conquest : BURMA
9. Eye of the tigre? : OJO
12. Noggin knocks : BOPS
14. "Dido and ___" (Purcell opera) : AENEAS
15. ___ Paulo, Brazil : SAO
16. *"Hawaii Five-O" catchphrase : BOOKEMDANNO
18. Popular gossip website : TMZ
19. Kind of inspection : ONSITE
20. Rush experienced during a movie? : GEOFFREY
22. *Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck, e.g. : TEAPARTIER
24. Fleur-de-___ : LIS
25. Title for Winston Churchill : SIR
26. Shaving mishaps : NICKS
28. Cheryl of "Charlie's Angels" : LADD
32. Rom-___ : COM
34. Classic comics character since 1941 : ARCHIE
35. *History channel show frequently set in Canada or Alaska : ICEROADTRUCKERS
38. Wrinkle-resistant fabric : DACRON
39. "Tosh.0" segment, briefly : VID
40. Inquires : ASKS
41. Little Bighorn victors : SIOUX
42. Apt rhyme of "grab" : NAB
44. "... 'twas ___ a dream of thee": Donne : BUT
45. *Structure built from the ground up? : SANDCASTLE
52. Put another way : REPHRASE
54. Like cooties vis-à-vis almost anything else : ICKIER
55. Italian time unit : ORA
56. "We have this won" ... or what could be said about each of the first words of the answers to the starred clues : ITSINTHEBAG
58. Bol. neighbor : ARG
59. Albert with four Best Actor nominations : FINNEY
60. New wave band with the hit "Whip It" : DEVO
61. Toast choice : RYE
62. Nickname for Theresa : TESSA
63. Part of AARP: Abbr. : RET
1. Prior's superior : ABBOT
2. Frontiersman who lent his name to six U.S. counties : BOONE
3. Bride, in Bologna : SPOSA
4. Sleep on it : BED
5. Eel at a sushi bar : UNAGI
6. Forename meaning "born again" : RENEE
7. Wayne ___ (abode above the Batcave) : MANOR
8. Since : ASOF
9. Big egg producers : OSTRICHES
10. TV/movie lead character whose middle name is Tiberius : JAMESKIRK
11. Like tar pits : OOZY
13. Bypass : SKIP
14. Swiss sub? : AMERICAN
17. Calculations made while high, for short? : ETAS
21. Horse that's "My Friend" in literature and 1950s TV : FLICKA
23. Took steps : TROD
26. Reactor-overseeing org. : NRC
27. Cong. meeting : SESS
28. Tops : LIDS
29. Brazilian fruit export : ACAIBERRY
30. Paper cutouts as a decorative art : DECOUPAGE
31. Sexologist with a hit 1980s radio show : DRRUTH
33. Network that aired "Jersey Shore" : MTV
34. Gall : AUDACITY
36. Losing tic-tac-toe row : OOX
37. Thick skin : RIND
43. Name that follows J. S. or P. D. Q. : BACH
45. French composer Erik : SATIE
46. Grps. : ASSNS
47. Opposing votes in the Bundestag : NEINS
48. TV listings, informally : SKED
49. Rome's river : TIBER
50. Get out of Dodge : LEAVE
51. Crop hazard : ERGOT
52. Surf sound : ROAR
53. Schism : RIFT
57. Org. that opposes school vouchers : NEA

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle.

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