James Mulhern’s Saturday, 1/25/14 NYT crossword puzzle (ed. Will Shortz)

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January 25, 2014 by manvspuzzle

Mulva

Theme: None

Awesome Long (8+) Stuff: NUMBSKULL, WORD OF GOD, GLUTEN FREE, ONE TOO MANY, SURE ENOUGH, ZAGAT RATED

What’s Good: The 10-stacks in the NW and SE.  Pretty stuff. 1 25 14

***

The most hilarious thing about this puzzle was that I spent about 20 minutes believing in the existence of the LNRA — the Ladies National Rifle Association (see 36A — Org. for female shooters : LPGA).  That’s really what I wrote in there.  I feel like the term “shooters” for golfers is a bit of a stretch, but whatever.  Really successful misdirection on James’/Will’s part.

Overall, I was pretty happy with this puzzle.  Those big corners (mentioned above) are really nice.  Six 10-letter answers that are just great.  The smaller corners are good, too.  It really is the long stuff that shines in this puzzle, which is basically how it should be.

The short stuff, not so much.  Here is a list of all of the 3-letter answers: ANS, ATO, BMI, ENL, OFT, SSW, TAE, ULU.  The 4-letter stuff is much better, but still not great (ABES, ACT I, MSGS, ELIA, ELHI — everything else is ok).  With all due respect to James, this is probably pound-for-pound the ugliest collection of 3-letter answers I’ve encountered since I started blogging.  The *best* one in the puzzle is OFT.  That’s not normal.

I should probably talk more about this, because what I said in the previous paragraph may seem harsh and/or insulting.  Please know that I write (or at least try to) with a strong, fundamental stance that there is something good about every puzzle — even if I totally hate it.  And this puzzle has *many* good qualities.  The 3-letter stuff didn’t distract me from its overall goodness in the least when I was solving.

James mentions over at Xword Info that this was his first attempt at a themeless puzzle, and that’s exactly what it feels like.  I doubt that any well-seasoned constructor would allow that much ugly 3-letter stuff in any of their grids, with the possible exception of constructors who favor triple- or quad-stacks of 15-letter answers.

In a way, James’ relative naiveté is what allows this puzzle to shine.  I don’t think a more seasoned constructor could have made those big corners work, cause s/he would have been too distracted by the bad short stuff.  So James made it, sent it to Will who saw its goodness, Will edited it to make at least *this* guy not really notice or care about the 3-letter grossness (until I picked it apart after my solve, of course), and the world continued to spin.  I think it’s brilliant, actually.

Hopefully all of that made sense.  Great stuff.  Thanks, James.  You too, Will.

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