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New York Times, Monday, September 22, 2014

Author:
Ian Livengood
Editor:
Will Shortz
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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: 34 Missing: {JQZ} This is puzzle # 43 for Mr. Livengood. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ian Livengood notes:
The synonym of 'X' theme has thousands of possibilities, so the execution better be close to perfect. I tried to: Pick ... read more

The synonym of "X" theme has thousands of possibilities, so the execution better be close to perfect. I tried to:

  1. Pick interesting theme entries.
  2. Put all the synonyms in the beginning or end of the theme answers.
  3. Fill grid with Monday-level fill since, you know, it's a Monday theme. (ACH and STE are the only two meh entries.)
  4. Make the synonyms one level removed from their base phrase. (This is probably what separates a puzzle like this getting accepted vs. rejected.)

Trickiest area to fill was the P??F? section. You've got PROFS, PUFFS, PUFFY, POUFS ... and that's about it. But pretty happy how this one turned out.

Will Shortz notes:
Should a theme come with or without a revealer? To me it depends on the puzzle. Sometimes a revealer entry — one that explains ... read more

Should a theme come with or without a revealer? To me it depends on the puzzle. Sometimes a revealer entry — one that explains what or where the puzzle's theme is — is needed for clarity. In this puzzle, though, you're on your own. You just have to notice that the starting words in the five longest Across answers are related. If you do, you get a nice aha.

Jeff Chen notes:
Ian puts on a clinic today, executing on a synonyms theme with near perfection. I like when a Monday theme isn't blatantly obvious, ... read more

Ian puts on a clinic today, executing on a synonyms theme with near perfection. I like when a Monday theme isn't blatantly obvious, apparent as soon as you enter a few answers. I wasn't sure what was going on when I finished, and seeing the tie between STICK, CANE, POLE, STAFF, and ROD gave me a neat realization of how everything tied together.

I agree with Ian that synonym puzzles work best when the words are one step removed from their common meanings. ROD, for example, completely camouflages the "stick" meaning. STAFF works nicely as well, STICK and POLE too. CANE is not quite to the same level since sugarcane does have some connection to the cane shape. But still, CANE SUGAR does its job, hiding what's going on to some degree.

It's really impressive how little glue Ian uses in this puzzle. For Monday puzzles, that's so important, as a lone OLIO or even an ERNE can potentially turn off newer solvers. And with five themers, cleanliness is a tall order. Ian does well to choose a seven-letter middle answer, which makes everything much easier than if it were a nine, 11, or a 13. Veteran move.

I did find that the STICKUP in STICKUP MEN stuck out, though. I find consistency elegant, and having a lone instance of "this one does not look like the others" feels a bit off. I'm not sure what an alternate themer would have been though, considering how few "STICK *" answers there are that don't give away the game. STICK IN would work, but it's not nearly as jazzy as STICKUP MEN. So I think Ian's compromise is okay.

Patrick Berry's Crossword Construction book is unfortunately a bit hard to come by. Someone ought to think about writing the follow-on cough cough Livengood.

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B
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0922 ( 23,694 )
Across
1. Noggin : BEAN
5. Handout to a party guest : FAVOR
10. Almost any "Get rich quick!" offer : SCAM
14. House overhang : EAVE
15. Jong who wrote "Fear of Flying" : ERICA
16. Frat house party wear : TOGA
17. Bank heist group : STICKUPMEN
19. Visa or MasterCard rival, informally : AMEX
20. Conversed : TALKED
21. Tiny type size : AGATE
23. The "S" in 36-Across : STATE
24. Sweet rum component : CANESUGAR
28. Relatives by marriage : INLAWS
30. Rome's ___ Fountain : TREVI
31. Appurtenance for Santa or Sherlock Holmes : PIPE
34. Cheer for a torero : OLE
35. Morgue identification : TOETAG
36. Sch. in Baton Rouge : LSU
37. Indy 500 leader : POLECAR
39. Russian jet : MIG
40. Changes : ALTERS
42. Hamburger holder : BUN
43. Hair goops : GELS
44. Kind of question with only two answers : YESNO
45. South-of-the-border nap : SIESTA
47. Company downsizings : STAFFCUTS
49. Signed, as a contract : INKED
53. "A pity!" : SOSAD
54. Coastal land south of Congo : ANGOLA
55. Couple : PAIR
57. British rocker with the 1979 #1 hit "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" : RODSTEWART
60. Electrical adapter letters : ACDC
61. Japanese dog breed : AKITA
62. ___ vera (skin soother) : ALOE
63. Cry on a roller coaster : WHEE
64. Adjusted the pitch of, as an instrument : TUNED
65. Sunbeams : RAYS
Down
1. Opposite (or synonym) of worsts : BESTS
2. Really bother : EATAT
3. St. Teresa of ___ : AVILA
4. Item not worn on casual Fridays : NECKTIE
5. Fight between late-night hosts, e.g. : FEUD
6. Dadaist artist Jean : ARP
7. Pep : VIM
8. Atlantic and Pacific : OCEANS
9. Stove : RANGE
10. Height : STATURE
11. "I'm stranded and need a ride" : COMEGETME
12. Grow older : AGE
13. Reach the limit, with "out" : MAX
18. Astute : KEEN
22. Fur trader John Jacob ___ : ASTOR
24. Telephone : CALL
25. Not very much : AWEEBIT
26. To no ___ (in vain) : AVAIL
27. Bobby who lost 1973's Battle of the Sexes tennis match : RIGGS
29. Eton johns : LOOS
31. "Hamlet" and "Macbeth" : PLAYS
32. Speck of land in the sea : ISLET
33. Takes off the front burner : PUTSASIDE
35. Gets color at the beach : TANS
37. Univ. lecturers : PROFS
38. Stage prompts : CUES
41. Carry out, as a law : ENFORCE
43. Fight over turf : GANGWAR
45. Numerical puzzle with a 9x9 grid : SUDOKU
46. Fork prong : TINE
48. Gem weight : CARAT
50. Down Under "bear" : KOALA
51. Jetson boy of 1960s TV : ELROY
52. Results of using eHarmony : DATES
54. Not very much : ATAD
55. Animal foot : PAW
56. German's "Oh my!" : ACH
58. Loud noise : DIN
59. Sault ___ Marie, Ont. : STE

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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