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New York Times, Thursday, December 8, 2016

Author: Damon Gulczynski
Editor: Will Shortz
Damon J. Gulczynski
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1911/8/200412/8/20160
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1420525
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.63320

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JKQV} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 19 for Mr. Gulczynski. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Damon J. Gulczynski notes: My entire reason for making this puzzle was to use the entry MAGNUM PI — 'Champagne bottle that holds 3.14159… ... more
Damon J. Gulczynski notes:

My entire reason for making this puzzle was to use the entry MAGNUM PI — "Champagne bottle that holds 3.14159… liters?" But as I started thinking up other themers, I noticed that the livelier ones had the initials at the front of them, not at the back. So my next idea was to do a mix of front and back, but I couldn't get the symmetry right, and after struggling with it for *way* too long I gave in to the obvious solution: ditch my beloved MAGNUM PI. And once I did, everything came together quite nicely. So let that be a lesson when it comes to crossword puzzle constructing (and perhaps life in general): Be flexible. Don't cling so tightly to your "great" ideas. Things often work out better when you let them go, and, honestly, they probably aren't that great anyway.

Also, it took a failed submission to get this one accepted. My first version had the entry GI BILL – "Invoice for a karate uniform?" – but neither Will nor Joel had heard of a karate gi, so they nixed it. I had no problem with this (I had PO BOXES on the bench, ready to go, if need be), but I was a bit surprised, as I thought karate gis were common knowledge. Although being that I get a little red squiggly underlining "gi" and "gis" as I type this, it's quite possible that I'm wrong here.

My final comment about this puzzle is that I wish it had run on Wednesday instead of Thursday. In part this is because I need Wednesday to complete the "cycle" (i.e., a puzzle published on each day of the week), but also because solvers often expect something trickier on a Thursday. This one is pretty straightforward. Oh well, no biggie. I'm cool with it if you are.

Jeff Chen notes: Two-letter wordplay, with initials reinterpreted as whole words. The results amused me as a whole, LA DODGERS the best of the bunch. ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Two-letter wordplay, with initials reinterpreted as whole words. The results amused me as a whole, LA DODGERS the best of the bunch. Funny to think about a singer who goes straight from sol to ti, avoiding the dreaded LA. Great choice to kick off the puzzle theme. IT SUPPORT (information technology) is a great phrase in itself, and I liked the idea of Stephen King getting a little help with his famous book, "It." And ID CARDS was another good one, making me think about Louis CK joking around about Freudian concepts.

PA ANNOUNCEMENTS felt stilted as a phrase — "overhead announcements" hits my ear better — but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to make a grid work.

Speaking of making a grid work, seven-letter themers are often awkward, as it's tough to make them stand out naturally as part of the theme. Damon does a nice job — note that there are no other seven-letter (or longer) entries in the across direction. This helps, but I still lost ID CARDS and PO BOXES in the background, especially since they're entries you might see as fill in other crosswords.

I wonder if putting them across the middle, separated by a black square, would have helped? That means PA ANNOUNCEMENTS might have to become PA SYSTEMS or something, with another themer needed to match it. Never easy!

Damon did a great job of making his grid smooth. Just an INTRA and TRI (although I've done some triathlons, and TRI is commonly used for the event); that's beautiful execution on short fill.

I would have actually been fine with a bit more glue if it meant a little more long fill. I did like MOTLEY, DEAD ON, MESS UP, PHENOM, but IN THE ZONE and RADIOHEAD are such great entries. Maybe moving the black square between URLS and IPA over to the left, to create another set of eight-letter slots? That would also have opened up the upper left and lower right corners, both of which are slightly choked off from the rest of the puzzle.

Overall though, some fun results, if not as groundbreaking as I like Thursday puzzles to be.

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W
2
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F
B
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P
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 24,502
Across Down
1. Bend out of shape : WARP
5. "Downton Abbey" maid : EDNA
9. Rains lightly : MISTS
14. Like some accounts : ORAL
15. Part of a gauge : DIAL
16. Not knot? : UNTIE
17. Singers who go from "sol" straight to "ti"? : LADODGERS
19. So yesterday, say : STALE
20. Clarice's org. in "The Silence of the Lambs" : FBI
21. "Let's not get too excited now" : EASY
22. Not so stuffy : AIRIER
23. Midwest hub : OHARE
25. Comedians who do material on the Freudian psyche? : IDCARDS
26. Yearned : ACHED
28. Dharma teachers : LAMAS
30. Wunderkind : PHENOM
32. Old shirt, perhaps : RAG
33. Birthplace of Galileo : PISA
37. "Young 'uns, yer cuzzins are here" and others? : PAANNOUNCEMENTS
40. Shipshape : TIDY
41. Prefix with -sect : TRI
42. Octave's follower, in some poetry : SESTET
43. Groundbreaking 1990s ABC sitcom : ELLEN
45. Jerk : SCHMO
46. Shipping containers on Italy's longest river? : POBOXES
50. Pitcher of milk? : ELSIE
52. Dawn-to-dusk : ALLDAY
53. Jesus, for one : ALOU
54. One of a dozen? : ZEE
57. Carrier name until 1997 : USAIR
58. What Stephen King's editor provided for a 1986 novel? : ITSUPPORT
60. MASH supply : SERUM
61. Dope : POOP
62. Getting the job done : ONIT
63. "There is no greater evil than making light of the ___": Lao-tzu : ENEMY
64. Last monarch of the House of Stuart : ANNE
65. Course list : MENU
1. Villain in some fairy tales : WOLF
2. Spirited horse : ARAB
3. Band that used a pay-what-you-want model to sell their 2007 album : RADIOHEAD
4. Mahmoud Abbas's grp. : PLO
5. Annual mystery-writing award : EDGAR
6. Engine type : DIESEL
7. Old-timey "not" : NARY
8. Lou Gehrig's Disease, for short : ALS
9. "When the ___ Over" (1967 Doors song) : MUSICS
10. Prefix with squad : INTRA
11. Flight part : STAIR
12. Like many mosaics : TILED
13. Oracles : SEERS
18. Perfectly precise : DEADON
22. "Poor Richard's Almanack" collection : ADAGES
24. Funny Youngman : HENNY
25. Apple offering : IMAC
26. Datebook abbr. : APPT
27. ___ latte : CHAI
29. Schwarzenegger, informally : ARNIE
31. Assorted : MOTLEY
33. "Casino" actor Joe : PESCI
34. Hot, as a basketball shooter : INTHEZONE
35. Subj. group with a noted gender imbalance : STEM
36. Concerning : ASTO
38. They may be bookmarked : URLS
39. Goof : MESSUP
43. Out of service? : EXARMY
44. Admiral killed at the Battle of Trafalgar : NELSON
46. Button with two vertical lines : PAUSE
47. Either twin actress on "Full House" : OLSEN
48. Play loudly : BLARE
49. Intense dislike : ODIUM
51. Jeweler's eyepiece : LOUPE
53. Loads : ATON
55. "Dancing With the Stars" co-host Andrews : ERIN
56. Rebuke to a traitor : ETTU
58. Hoppy quaff, for short : IPA
59. Small dog, informally : POM

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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