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New York Times, Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Author:
Victor Fleming
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
463/29/20055/12/201724
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75106666
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1.55023
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 theme ... read more

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 table ... read more

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 simple ... read more

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 )

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

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