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New York Times, Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Author: Bruce Haight
Editor: Will Shortz
Bruce Haight
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301/3/201311/9/20171
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2995320
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1.56022

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FQXZ} This is puzzle # 5 for Mr. Haight. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Bruce Haight notes: Most of my few puzzle successes have involved lots of hard work and rewrites, but this little star-trek came together in a couple ... more
Bruce Haight notes: Most of my few puzzle successes have involved lots of hard work and rewrites, but this little star-trek came together in a couple hours and (startlingly) was accepted by Will without changes a couple weeks after submission. While it sat in the queue I sent Will a couple ideas to smooth out some glitches, but he thought the ideas caused new problems and went with the original version. This was one of my early puzzles — back in the day when I thought five letter partials were sort of trendy and "cute" — now I would keep one only after a long hard battle. I would still keep AS WAS, but I would find a way to get rid of USE IN (and GIE). I only intended to have four theme entries but when ASTARTE came up out of the blue I looked for a star in the east. STARE is a pretty weak co-star that also just popped up during the fill. I like the way MOM and DAD are joined by MAD and run thru OBAMA — talk about your star-crossed lovers! Hope you enjoyed the stargazing!
Jeff Chen notes: A STAR-STUDDED puzzle indeed! It confused me a bit that this puzzle would run today rather than… well, whenever the Oscars are. But I ... more
Jeff Chen notes: A STAR-STUDDED puzzle indeed! It confused me a bit that this puzzle would run today rather than… well, whenever the Oscars are. But I liked the revealer a lot, pointing to the fact that the word STAR is hidden in entries throughout the puzzle. The "word hidden within themers" can be a bit hit or miss, and the big factor that makes this work for me is the quality of the revealer; such a red-carpet answer. Would have been very different if the last word had been STAR with a [Word that can follow X, Y, Z…] type answer.

Interesting layout today, Bruce working in a lot of long fill. I was confused where the themers were during my solve, so I highlighted them below. Now that I look at their clear placement, it makes me feel silly. Erp. Anyhoo, turns out there are seven of them — quite a feat. Many of the themers were strong, TOURIST AREA and COSTA RICA echoing each other nicely. JUST ARRIVED was my favorite, not only a great entry in itself but an uplifting one, which will likely evoke many strong memories for parents. Good stuff.

ASTARTE… such an interesting entry. A few years ago there was a STAR rebus puzzle which featured ASTARTE, and it completely baffled me. Even when I saw the answer, I was sure it had to be wrong, or perhaps it was an insider's joke, two pieces of crosswordese (ASTA and RTE) jammed together. Turns out I learned something, as today ASTARTE fell like a domino. As my wife always tells people, crossword solving is all about practice.

I wasn't wild about the fact that ASTARTE is the only themer where STAR isn't broken across two entries. (Someone correct me if it really ASTA RTE.) I often like seeing high theme density, but adding those two extra themers confused the picture for me because it felt like I kept on running into starred clues (how meta!); plus, the price of BAL / ETE / TOR felt high. I liked the SW corner better, only having RLS and EST as a relatively low cost, but uncovering ASTARTE was only fun for me in that it made me feel like maybe I do learn something from all these crosswords.

I like long fill. It typically adds a lot for my solving experience, affecting it positively if there's great bonus material. I love both MADAGASCAR and WISECRACKS. Great entries, both of them. But already having a little confusion on what was a themer and what was not, having two entries that were actually longer than several of the themers felt a bit inelegant. I totally see where Bruce is coming from though — as a constructor, there's a strong drive to get extra material in the fill. It's a huge bonus. And with his layout of themers, it would have been difficult to work in long downs more than the THAT'S A GO and CREATURE spots.

So perhaps I personally might have executed a little differently, but that's what's great about having such a wide range of constructors. I'm sure many people will read this and much prefer the way Bruce executed it. A great revealer and so much excellent material packed inside.

Finally some great clues for KEG, DOODLES, and BEER GUT. I especially liked how [Marginal things?] made me remember the story of Fermat doodling in his margin that he had an elegant solution to his theorem, but the margins weren't big enough to write it out. And he left the math world hanging.

I have one final note of unparalleled, elegant, clever, genius-inducing brilliance, which is

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0709 ( 23,619 )
Across Down
1. Where buses are parked : DEPOT
6. Where buffalo roam : RANGE
11. ___ Harbour, Fla. : BAL
14. Big Indian : RAJAH
15. "___ case of emergency" : USEIN
16. When août occurs : ETE
17. *Words on a birth announcement : JUSTARRIVED
19. Aurora's Greek counterpart : EOS
20. Ending with farm : STEAD
21. Has coming : EARNS
23. Magazine with a back-cover fold-in : MAD
26. *Quota for a rep to achieve : SALESTARGET
29. 2009 Peace Nobelist : OBAMA
31. Island setting for "Pirates of the Caribbean" : TORTUGA
32. Title island of a 2005 DreamWorks animated film : MADAGASCAR
36. Only non-U.S. M.L.B. team, on scoreboards : TOR
37. *Oldest continuous democracy in Central America : COSTARICA
40. Say further : ADD
43. Words from class clowns : WISECRACKS
47. Sisterly : SORORAL
50. Landscapist's prop : EASEL
51. *Where to find money exchange shops : TOURISTAREA
55. Before now : AGO
56. Pitchers? : ADMEN
57. Title for a French nobleman : COMTE
59. "Kidnapped" monogram : RLS
60. Like the Oscars ... or the answers to this puzzle's seven asterisked clues? : STARSTUDDED
66. Driving need : TEE
67. First name in cosmetics : ESTEE
68. Question before takeoff : READY
69. Suffix for braggarts : EST
70. Tournament favorites : SEEDS
71. Follow : ENSUE
1. N.B.A.'s Erving, to fans : DRJ
2. Agua, across the Pyrenees : EAU
3. Slumber party attire, informally : PJS
4. Bran muffin topping : OATS
5. "Let's roll!" : THATSAGO
6. Like most of Wyoming : RURAL
7. Out of the way : ASIDE
8. Harry Reid's state: Abbr. : NEV
9. Bestow on, to Burns : GIE
10. Win over : ENDEAR
11. Opposite of six-pack abs, ironically : BEERGUT
12. In a single try : ATONEGO
13. *Cigarette ad claim : LESSTAR
18. Stephen of "The Crying Game" : REA
22. Mobiles, stabiles, etc. : ART
23. Alice, to Dennis the Menace : MOM
24. Litigators' org. : ABA
25. Henry, to Dennis the Menace : DAD
27. *Prefight psych job : STARE
28. Cheerio-shaped : TORIC
30. ___ 'n' cheese : MAC
33. ___ expected (predictably) : ASWAS
34. Circus prop : STILT
35. ___ in cat : CAS
38. Kind of comfort : CREATURE
39. Top-rated : AAA
40. *Ancient fertility goddess : ASTARTE
41. Marginal things? : DOODLES
42. It often shows a band's name : DRUMSET
44. Rebs' org. : CSA
45. Bud holder, of sorts : KEG
46. ___-mo : SLO
48. Some Scandinavian coins : ORE
49. Salon supplies : RINSES
52. Like a land baron : ACRED
53. Derby bouquet : ROSES
54. CPR pro : EMT
58. Original sin locale : EDEN
61. "Cats" inspirer's monogram : TSE
62. Scarfed down : ATE
63. Hip-hop's ___ Racist : DAS
64. Dot follower, on campus : EDU
65. Food factory supply : DYE

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

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