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New York Times, Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Author: Victor Fleming
Editor: Will Shortz
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Victor Fleming

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 37 Missing: {JQVWXZ} This is puzzle # 41 for Mr. Fleming. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Victor Fleming notes: At some point in time, I decided that an okay puzzle theme would be two-word phrases, where the first respective letters of the ... more
Victor Fleming notes: At some point in time, I decided that an okay puzzle theme would be two-word phrases, where the first respective letters of the theme answers' components were the same and would allow for a three-letter pluralized reveal. M.P. would have trumped MC in my book, since military police is a phrase that meets the theme's criteria; emcee, not so much vis-à-vis M.C. phrases.

My list of potential theme entries, created March 8, 2011, contains moot point, Miss Piggy, make peace, Marco Polo, Menlo Park, match play, mud puddle, milk punch, mail pouch, match point, melting pot, mobile phone, market price, massage parlor, master plan, mashed potatoes, May Pole, melting point, morality play, motion picture, mountain pass, mud pie, and mouse pad.

As a matter of style, I wanted theme entries that were "true" M.P.'s, no M.Ph.'s, M.Pr.'s, etc. I also wanted to be able to cross two pairs of answers. Being able have four 4/5 letter-count patterns crossing on P, plus two 5/4's was a tad serendipitous, but I'll take the added elegance brought about by this. The layout also facilitated placement of the reveal in a corner.

The original grid, submitted in March 2011, had only 33 blocks. Will asked for a revision to eliminate some clunkers from the fill. Adding four blocks, including the cheaters (which I don't like), did the trick.

Will Shortz notes: A few weeks ago Vic Fleming visited me at my home in Pleasantville, N.Y., on his drive from the South to New England. We played ... more
Will Shortz notes: Two for tennis A few weeks ago Vic Fleming visited me at my home in Pleasantville, N.Y., on his drive from the South to New England. We played table tennis at my club, had dinner together, and talked shop. Good fun. He's not a bad table tennis player either! Dinner would have included Vic's friend Bill Clinton, who's a big New York Times crossword solver, and who lives in next-door Chappaqua — but, unfortunately, Clinton was away that evening.
Jeff Chen notes: Nice way to incorporate six themers into a puzzle. Typically that feat can be a rough go, but Vic wisely takes advantage of the ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Nice way to incorporate six themers into a puzzle. Typically that feat can be a rough go, but Vic wisely takes advantage of the simple theme by crossing two pairs of MP phrases at the P. Not sure that MISS PIGGY is going to appreciate being crossed by MOOT POINT (and SINNER) though. Vic's a braver man than me.

With a basic theme type, it's so important to choose strong themers. M___ P___ phrases are plentiful, so Vic had a big range to choose from. At first I thought MILK PUNCH fell flat, but after reading about the New Orleans treat, I reconsidered. I got a little tipsy just reading that recipe.

Vic and I exchanged emails on the use of cheaters. Notice the pair today at the end of EELERS and the beginning of SHEETS? I would personally use those ten out of ten times if they improved the fill even marginally. Sometimes cheater squares can look inelegant (especially if there are a lot of them), but in this case I think they almost add to the visual appeal. I thought the fill was well done today aside from a bit of AFRESH and ATNO, so I'm glad Vic went the extra step.

Vic does well to fill through those difficult NW and SE corners, both of which are constrained, big sections. Those short two-word entries like GO DRY are so important, as they help smooth out these tough to fill areas, and do it in a way that adds a little pizzazz. Sometimes people ask me why GO DRY (or IN ALL) isn't a partial, but A DARK is. There is the "lexical chunk" rule: can the phrase stand by itself? Generally, if it can't be clued without a fill-in-the-blank, it's a partial.

I like A DARK and stormy night though. Not only is it part of Madeleine L'Engle's famous "A Wrinkle in Time," but it spawned a contest for bad first lines. If you're going to use a five-letter partial, that's the way to do it.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0826 ( 23,667 )
Across Down
1. Light bender : PRISM
6. Hole to be dug out of? : DEBT
10. Robbers' take : HAUL
14. In verse, "His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!" : SANTA
15. Vicinity : AREA
16. Mean sort : OGRE
17. "It was ___ and stormy night ..." : ADARK
18. *Traveler on the Silk Road : MARCOPOLO
20. Flora seen around Lent : LILIES
22. "Watch your ___, young man!" : TONE
23. *Eggnog relative : MILKPUNCH
26. Wing it : ADLIB
30. Anglers after morays : EELERS
31. "O.K., have it your way" : FINE
32. Vietnamese holiday : TET
35. ___ extra cost : ATNO
36. Thing seen on a lab slide : AMOEBA
38. 70 yards square, approximately : ONEACRE
40. "Hmm, can't remember" : IFORGET
41. Department store founder James Cash ___ : PENNEY
42. Height: Prefix : ACRO
43. Correctional workers, for short? : EDS
44. Comment immediately following a stage cue : IMON
45. What rain and paper towels may come in : SHEETS
47. Billy Ray or Miley : CYRUS
49. *Lover of Kermit : MISSPIGGY
53. Cut with a ray : LASE
55. Novelist ___ de Balzac : HONORE
56. *Edison lab site : MENLOPARK
61. International powerhouse in cricket : INDIA
62. Window part : PANE
63. Canadian Plains tribe : CREE
64. Eggheaded sorts : NERDS
65. Like patent infringers, often : SUED
66. Part of P.G.A.: Abbr. : ASSN
67. Secret rendezvous : TRYST
1. Sacred hymn of praise : PSALM
2. Many lines on pie charts : RADII
3. Taken together : INALL
4. X, in bowling : STRIKE
5. *Sign a treaty, say : MAKEPEACE
6. Hoover ___ : DAM
7. Disco '70s, e.g. : ERA
8. Playoff spots : BERTHS
9. ___ Bell : TACO
10. Desired : HOPEDFOR
11. In times past : AGO
12. Clickable address, briefly : URL
13. Guitarist Kottke : LEO
19. Bon Jovi's "Livin' ___ Prayer" : ONA
21. Torrid : SULTRY
24. 50th state's state bird : NENE
25. ___-Magnon : CRO
27. For whom a vassal worked : LIEGE
28. Sleeping, say : INBED
29. Local politics and high school sports, for news reporters : BEATS
32. Item under discussion : TOPIC
33. Foe : ENEMY
34. Kind of sax : TENOR
36. Over again : AFRESH
37. *It's not worth arguing : MOOTPOINT
39. Legally voided : ANNULLED
40. Treats for swelling, as a joint : ICES
42. Tuna type, on menus : AHI
45. Slings mud at : SMEARS
46. One making a confession : SINNER
48. ___ Paulo : SAO
50. Stop producing water, as a well : GODRY
51. Crossword needs : GRIDS
52. Baker's supply : YEAST
54. Pet care specialists, for short : SPCA
56. AWOL chasers ... or a hint to the answers to the six starred clues : MPS
57. Perrier, par exemple : EAU
58. Little Rock-to-Chicago dir. : NNE
59. Hi-___ monitor : RES
60. Kesey or Follett : KEN

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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