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New York Times, Monday, September 30, 2013

Author:
Ian Livengood
Editor:
Will Shortz
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1.64371
Ian Livengood

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {FJQXZ} This is puzzle # 32 for Mr. Livengood. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ian Livengood notes:
I made this puzzle after watching a couple episodes of 'The Americans.' Really solid show, BTW. In the last episode, Peter Gabriel's ... read more

I made this puzzle after watching a couple episodes of "The Americans." Really solid show, BTW. In the last episode, Peter Gabriel's "Games Without Frontiers" is prominently featured on the soundtrack. That phrase is practically begging for some Thursday theme treatment.

I guess you could say this puzzle contains [puts on sunglasses] tOP Secret information. YYYYYEEEAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!! An inside job, perhaps.

Anyhoo, I had two goals for this puzzle: 1) avoid stray O-P-S letter strings and 2) split OP/S across two words in all theme answers. So ... mission accomplished?

Will Shortz notes:
Six theme entries plus an 'explainer,' at 58A, all wrapped in a simple, elegant construction, make for a handsome Monday puzzle. ... read more

Six theme entries plus an "explainer," at 58A, all wrapped in a simple, elegant construction, make for a handsome Monday puzzle. COHIBA at 43A was new to me, but the crossings are good, and everything else seems easy enough. BTW, the Monday through Thursday puzzles this week were used at the 17th annual Westchester Crossword Puzzle Tournament last Friday, held for charity in my hometown of Pleasantville, NY.

The fastest solver was Glen Ryan, Taftville, CT — perfect in 2 mins. 41 secs. Dan Feyer, a tournament judge (and reigning American Crossword Puzzle Tournament champ), finished this puzzle in 2:05. He beat constructor Ian Livengood, another judge, by about half a minute...on Ian's own puzzle!

Jeff Chen notes:
Nice Monday puzzle to ease us into the week. This one will be Ian's 11th Monday puzzle in the Shortz era, putting him in rare air. ... read more

Nice Monday puzzle to ease us into the week. This one will be Ian's 11th Monday puzzle in the Shortz era, putting him in rare air. Making a super-smooth but interesting Monday puzzle is one of the more difficult tasks in construction, and Ian yet again proves himself up to the task.

The consistency is much appreciated in his theme choices, all six (SIX! for goodness sake) themers split in the OP/S fashion, none with the O/PS break. Not that there are many phrases which exhibit the latter, but P.G. Wodehouse and his LEAVE IT TO PSMITH must feel left out today.

The layout is unusual, as it often must be with such staggering theme density. Given such stringent requirements, the rest of a puzzle's fill often suffers, but Ian laughs in the face of adversity, tossing in MEAT STEW, CAB STAND, TYPE SET, and MAD MEN. I paused a bit because the themers don't stand out quite as much as they could (I've highlighted them; notice how MEAT STEW and CAB STAND are longer than COP SHOW and look like they ought to be themers) but that's a reasonable trade-off given how much goodness is contained within the grid.

COHIBA...it's often nice to see a brand new word making its debut in the NYT, but this one gave me pause. Yes, it's well known (according to the Google at least), but it feels out of place to me for a Monday NYT. The crossings are all fair, so no problems there, but IMO it has the vibe of being awfully hard for a novice solver.

Will and I have slightly different philosophies on what a Monday puzzle should be. I might have kicked it back to Ian, asking him to lose COHIBA, AGUE, SANA (which I think is more commonly spelled SANA'A), and/or DSO so I could convince more non-crossword people that the NYT xw is doable and that they ought to give it a try (although I'm not sure it would be possible to get rid of those entries, given how theme-dense this puzzle is). But I'm sure there will be many solvers today who applaud Will's decision as one giving them a new word or two for their crossword vocabulary. It must be tough to make dozens of these decisions every day.

Time to kick back with a COHIBA. Ah, relaxing. Okay, I approve of COHIBA.

Final note: I race the great Dan Feyer on my own puzzles, and haven't beaten him yet (although now I can come within a factor of two). I've tried studying MY OWN ANSWER GRID just before solving...and he still beats me. It's like watching a magic trick.

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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 0930 ( 23,337 )
Across
1. Treaty : PACT
5. Muslim leader : IMAM
9. Office notes : MEMOS
14. Sore, as from overexercise : ACHY
15. One-named Nigerian singer of "The Sweetest Taboo" : SADE
16. Pass into law : ENACT
17. *Suddenly slam on the brakes : STOPSHORT
19. Expand, as a building : ADDTO
20. ___ moss (gardening purchase) : PEAT
21. Previously, in old usage : ERST
23. Dallas hoopster, informally : MAV
24. Corporate jet manufacturer : CESSNA
26. *Top 40 music world : POPSCENE
28. Fundamentally : ATHEART
30. Means of music storage : ITUNES
31. Tie the ___ (wed) : KNOT
32. Was gaga about : ADORED
35. Kennel bark : YAP
36. *"NYPD Blue" or "Miami Vice" : COPSHOW
38. Fraternity "T" : TAU
41. Strongman of the Bible : SAMSON
42. Porkers : HOGS
43. Deluxe Cuban cigar brand : COHIBA
46. Eight-armed sea creature : OCTOPUS
49. *Tricky tennis stroke : DROPSHOT
52. Paul of "Mad About You" : REISER
53. Like many workers, after age 65: Abbr. : RET
54. Gauge showing r.p.m.'s : TACH
55. Sunrise direction : EAST
56. Ancient Greek public square : AGORA
58. Spy activities ... or a hint to the answers to the six starred clues : COVERTOPS
62. O'Brien of late-night TV : CONAN
63. Preowned : USED
64. ___ Mountains (Eurasian range) : URAL
65. Struck with a bent leg : KNEED
66. Rules and ___ : REGS
67. Fire lover, briefly : PYRO
Down
1. Faux ___ (blunder) : PAS
2. Circus performance : ACT
3. *Stolen car destination, maybe : CHOPSHOP
4. Prepare for printing : TYPESET
5. Beatty/Hoffman bomb of 1987 : ISHTAR
6. Chairman whose figure overlooks Tiananmen Square : MAO
7. 11-Down extra : ADREP
8. D.C.'s subway system : METRO
9. Goulash, e.g. : MEATSTEW
10. "___ of discussion!" : END
11. Emmy-winning AMC series set in the 1960s : MADMEN
12. Gas rating : OCTANE
13. Kitchen centerpieces : STOVES
18. Yemen's capital : SANA
22. Vice president Agnew : SPIRO
24. Like some poorly applied makeup : CAKY
25. Source of many Sicilian explosions : ETNA
27. Cow's chew : CUD
29. Reveille's counterpart : TAPS
33. Brit. military award : DSO
34. "Yikes!" : OHNO
36. Where to get a taxi : CABSTAND
37. Mutual of ___ : OMAHA
38. *Opening segment in a newscast : TOPSTORY
39. Fit of fever : AGUE
40. Stalin's land, in brief : USSR
41. Nurse a beverage : SIP
42. Raise, as with a crane : HOISTUP
43. Means of music storage : CDRACK
44. Setting for TV's "Portlandia" : OREGON
45. Definitely a day to run the A.C. : HOTONE
47. Church beliefs : CREEDS
48. Glum drop : TEAR
50. Come to pass : OCCUR
51. "___ were the days ..." : THOSE
57. Arctic explorer John : RAE
59. Relax, with "out" : VEG
60. 3, 4 or 5 on a golf course : PAR
61. ___-mo replay : SLO

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?