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New York Times, Friday, September 1, 2017

Author: Patrick Berry
Editor: Will Shortz
Patrick Berry
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2267/11/199910/6/20172
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
721241678512
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.54980

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 36 Missing: {FQVZ} This is puzzle # 225 for Mr. Berry. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Jeff Chen notes: SMORGASBORD of great answers jam-packed into that wide-open middle, MONKEY BARS, GEORGE WILL, the CASPIAN SEA, and a LAYWAY PLAN ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

SMORGASBORD of great answers jam-packed into that wide-open middle, MONKEY BARS, GEORGE WILL, the CASPIAN SEA, and a LAYWAY PLAN doing the MESS AROUND. That is one beautiful swath of goodness!

My first impression of the puzzle was that PB had used a ton of cheater squares — three in the very NW, the one below NAT, the one before GEORGE WILL — 10 in all. Usually I barely even notice them, but today, there were so many strewn about that the overall visual effect stood out to me as inelegant.

I can understand why PB did it, those cheaters making it so much easier to fill the NW and SE smoothly. But aesthetically, the grid didn't appeal to me. Personal preference of course, but feels like kind of a cheat to use so many.

PB has been working with low word-count puzzles these days — usually 66, which is tough to pull off — and sometimes I wonder if he'd be better off sticking to 68s, which I think is his sweet spot. He produces such stellar work at 68 words.

For example, I'd love to see what he could have done by placing a black square at the Y of DEADEYES. That might have allowed him to remove the four cheaters in the SE, and still get two great entries where OPERA BOXES and RETOTALED sit. To me, RETOTALED doesn't do much but take up space.

Odd to see both CEBU and SHOAT in a PB puzzle. He's usually so careful to avoid entries that could seem esoteric. They're both perfectly fine words, just not PB-ish.

I did love PAX ROMANA, GAS BILL, OPERA BOXES, and that fantastic middle section. I'd bet that if PB had stuck to his 68-word sweet spot, he would have made his NW / SE as impressive as his middle.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0901 ( 24,769 )
Across Down
1. What the earliest cars used as antifreeze : METHANOL
9. Name of England's Nine Days Queen : JANE
13. Period ushered in by Augustus : PAXROMANA
14. Format too big for conventional reels : IMAX
15. Without wasting a word : SUCCINCTLY
16. Joey's portrayer on "Friends" : MATT
17. Clytemnestra's half sister : HELEN
18. Shaggy mammal : YAK
20. Join : TIE
21. Object at the center of St. Peter's Square : OBELISK
24. Passed slowly : WOREON
26. Word of resignation : ALAS
27. Work without accomplishing much : MESSAROUND
30. Great deal : TON
31. Another name for a horizontal ladder : MONKEYBARS
32. Soft-headed writer? : MARKERPEN
33. Newspaper columnist who wrote the book "Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball" : GEORGEWILL
35. Very cool : RAD
38. What the ancient Greeks called the Hyrcanian Ocean : CASPIANSEA
39. Pacific island Magellan visited in 1521 : CEBU
40. Ones trembling not out of fear : ASPENS
41. Become tangled : SNARLUP
43. Court org. : NBA
44. Presidential nickname : ABE
46. Pick on : TEASE
47. Nonstandard negative : AINT
49. What a theater's grand tier is divided into : OPERABOXES
53. John Deere creation : PLOW
54. Verified the count of : RETOTALED
55. "___ Enchanted," 1998 Newbery Honor book : ELLA
56. Hit makers? : DEADEYES
1. Alistair ___, "The Guns of Navarone" novelist : MACLEAN
2. Distinguishes oneself : EXCELS
3. Certain Caribbean islander, informally : TRINI
4. Snookums : HON
5. Cable channel for cinephiles : AMC
6. Player in Washington, familiarly : NAT
7. Nothing but : ONLY
8. The seller takes no interest in it : LAYAWAYPLAN
9. Huck's pal : JIM
10. Unlikely winner at the Masters : AMATEUR
11. Lands : NATIONS
12. Hold out : EXTEND
13. Native of the Southwest : PUEBLO
15. Little swine : SHOAT
19. Big name in sparkling wine : KORBEL
22. Choice meal? : SMORGASBORD
23. Math puzzle : KENKEN
25. Dappled horse : ROAN
28. Depicts misleadingly : SKEWS
29. Show that goes on : SERIES
31. Place to dock : MARINA
32. Feel sorry for oneself : MOPE
33. It may go up in winter : GASBILL
34. Lengua with the word "lengua" : ESPANOL
35. Hangs loose : RELAXES
36. Took unfair advantage of : ABUSED
37. Easy marks : DUPES
38. Party platter tidbit : CANAPE
39. Like étouffée : CREOLE
42. Cornered : ATBAY
45. Weapon with a bell guard : EPEE
48. Howard Hughes acquisition of 1939 : TWA
50. GPS guess : ETA
51. Clothes closet fixture : ROD
52. Put away : ATE

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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