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New York Times, Thursday, September 12, 2013

Author:
Ian Livengood
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
554/12/20109/15/20164
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617667112
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1.64371
Ian Livengood

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: none – this is a pangram. This is puzzle # 31 for Mr. Livengood. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ian Livengood notes:
This puzzle was really, really easy to construct. All I had to do was go to xwordthemegenerator.com, select a preset grid, click ... read more

This puzzle was really, really easy to construct. All I had to do was go to xwordthemegenerator.com, select a preset grid, click autofill, et voila! Quality puzzle achieved! Or not.

I originally submitted this puzzle as an early-week offering, but Will asked if I could re-clue it as a Thursday puzzle. Since it's a 76-worder, the puzzle could be easy or hard, depending on the clues. I suspect JEFF KENT is the main reason it's a Thursday, not a Tuesday. Maybe it's the lack of Thursdays in the queue, too.

Since I wanted to put the three revealing phrases at the bottom of the puzzle (or stagger the theme answers as they currently appear), the Kent answer had to be 8 letters. That made KENT STATE unusable, and also forced the revealing words to the end of the phrase. I also assumed there weren't any famous people with the surname Kal-El. So that's why Jeff Kent is in the grid.

I am, however, a little torn on Jeff Kent as an answer. On one hand he's a relatively famous baseball player with a M.V.P. award. On the other hand, I could probably name hundreds of athletes more famous than Jeff Kent that aren't grid-worthy because they haven't won any awards. But since Kent won an M.V.P., he instantly becomes grid-worthy? I guess so, but that doesn't seem completely right. Kent is essentially the Jim Broadbent of the sports world. Broadbent, of course, won the 2001 Oscar for best supporting actor.

Will Shortz notes:

As with all of Ian's puzzles, the fill in this grid is particularly clean and lively. Also, the theme has a twist I've never seen before.

Jeff Chen notes:
I laughed when I hit ITS SUPERMAN. Rare that I get a chuckle out of a Thursday crossword, so kudos to Ian for the clever idea. Not ... read more

I laughed when I hit ITS SUPERMAN. Rare that I get a chuckle out of a Thursday crossword, so kudos to Ian for the clever idea.

Not only does Ian squeeze in six theme entries, a feat that should carry a "Kids, do not try this at home!" warning, but look at the parallel 9's at 2D/3D and 33D/34D. Ian could have easily put black squares in the middle of 2D and 34D (to increase his word count to the max of 78) and had a much easier time filling the grid, but he chooses to treat us with additional long fill. It's typically difficult to incorporate two adjacent long fillers because there's already the fact that they cross a fixed theme entry (ABOUT THAT and JUMP SUITS crossing ITS A BIRD), but Ian executes it well. So many levels of difficulty in this construction and lots of payoff. I had a hard time with UDALL but for a Thursday it's fair.

Almost every crossword contains trade-offs requiring value judgments. I love that Ian recognizes (and agonizes over) the fact that JEFF KENT will be somewhat controversial. Self-awareness is a mark of a great constructor. I tried to think of what other entries might have worked better, but as Ian already pointed out, only KENT STATE came to mind (and CLARK KENT of course). Due to crossword symmetry requirements, KENT STATE (9 letters) would have to be paired with ITS A PLANE (9 letters), which is possible but would throw the order of themers out of whack. So I think using JEFF KENT is a reasonable trade-off to make this concept work.

Someone invent a new phone and call it the KALEL PDA, will you?

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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 0912 ( 23,319 )

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Across
1
Atlantic City hot spot, with "the" : TAJ
4
Line out of N.Y.C. : LIRR
8
Badge, maybe : AWARD
13
___ Nazir ("Homeland" character) : ABU
14
Lettuce : BREAD
16
Black Sea getaway : DACHA
17
Land on the Black Sea: Abbr. : ROM
18
Film lead character featured in a Disney World attraction : JACKSPARROW
20
Dines : SUPS
22
Put down : QUELL
23
Pizazz : ZING
24
Remark about the end of 18-Across : ITSABIRD
26
Hamlet's parts : ABODES
28
They're often seen with bows : TUXES
29
By and by : ANON
30
Recoiled (from) : SHIED
31
Kind of printer for home or office : BUBBLEJET
36
Kit ___ : KAT
37
School door sign : GIRLS
38
Mideast inits. : UAE
39
Remark about the end of 31-Across : ITSAPLANE
42
1%, say : ELITE
44
Bucolic settings : LEAS
45
Short-story writer Munro : ALICE
46
One that sucks at work? : VACUUM
49
2000 N.L M.V.P. who played for the Giants : JEFFKENT
52
Kind of jacket : ETON
53
Politico Mo : UDALL
55
Owner of Half.com : EBAY
56
Remark about the end of 49-Across : ITSSUPERMAN
59
Saddler's tool : AWL
60
Bar stock : LIMES
61
"F" accompanier, perhaps : SEEME
62
Arctic explorer John : RAE
63
XX : SCORE
64
Was attractive : DREW
65
Turk. neighbor : SYR
Down
1
Tibia connections : TARSI
2
"Er, yeah, regarding what happened ..." : ABOUTTHAT
3
Things that zip up to go down? : JUMPSUITS
4
Subj. of an Austin library and museum : LBJ
5
Mosul residents : IRAQIS
6
Appear over? : RECUR
7
Did some garden work : RAKED
8
Tube inits. : ADA
9
Where a photographer might take shots? : WARZONE
10
Unpleasantly pungent : ACRID
11
View from Valence : RHONE
12
Bros : DAWGS
15
Connecting inits. : DSL
19
Alternatives : PLANBS
21
___-Coburg and Gotha (former British ruling family) : SAXE
25
Soft spot : BED
27
Land on one side of Lake Titicaca: Abbr. : BOL
29
Hardly inept : ABLE
30
Item attached to a boot : SKI
31
Angle : BIAS
32
Base for some Chinese art : URN
33
Trendy features of some high-end gyms : JUICEBARS
34
Eroded : EATENAWAY
35
It may have a ring collar : TEE
37
Dress to wow : GLAMUP
40
Four-time Indy 500 winner : ALUNSER
41
Little, in Lille : PEU
42
Dobby, e.g., in the Harry Potter books : ELF
43
Modern verbal crutch : LIKE
45
Blazing : AFLAME
46
They may accompany trains : VEILS
47
Ghost story? : ATTIC
48
Certain cocktail, informally : COSMO
49
Leto of "My So-Called Life" : JARED
50
Hunter who says "Be vewy vewy quiet" : ELMER
51
Texas city named for a president : TYLER
54
Notre-Dame-___-Champs (Paris Métro stop) : DES
57
Ply : USE
58
Fresh : NEW

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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