Going back in time one day, I have to kvetch about the Dec. 29 puzzle. Sometimes puzzles are too hard but you look at the answers later and think, oh well, I could have figured some of those out in time. They must have that sense of fairness or it's not a game. Remember, this is supposed to be fun!
I don't even want to talk about the clues -- I'm still too mad. Making matters worse, NYT still has a locked Across Lite file and the answer key they provide is wrong so I still don't know the solution for certain. I've taken the unusual step of publishing what I think the answer is here but who knows? Way too many completely obscure words and way too many not just tricky but ambiguous clues for the words that happened to be standard English. Bah, humbug!
Here's an interesting tidbit, though. The May 29, 2004 puzzle by Patrick Berry had the exact same NW corner: BUBBLE BATH, OPERA SERIA, ADVANCE MEN, TOY STORY. The rest of the puzzle is different though.
As kind of an Arcana Index, here is the list of words in Bob's disaster that have never appeared in a NYT puzzle before: FOUR IRON, XERES, GOLCONDA, PERIPETEIA, EIGHTEENTH, STOLEN CARS, HAS A GO AT IT (5 words!), OCHLOCRACY, BOOTLEGGER, XANTIPPE. Let me add one more: WTF? One or two of them in a puzzle might be fine, but when you have to cross golconda with ochlocracy you've gone too far. Yuck.