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New York Times, Thursday, January 19, 2017

Author: Jacob Stulberg
Editor: Will Shortz
Jacob Stulberg
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1912/25/20133/17/20170
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1236430
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61460

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 39 Missing: {JQWZ} Grid has mirror symmetry There are unchecked squares This is puzzle # 17 for Mr. Stulberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jacob Stulberg notes: Of all the puzzles I've sent to the New York Times, today's may have had the shortest time to publication: submitted in July ... more
Jacob Stulberg notes:

Of all the puzzles I've sent to the New York Times, today's may have had the shortest time to publication: submitted in July 2016, returned for revision in October, and accepted later that month. A tip of the hat to Will for lending a current-events angle to MICHAEL and ROBBY, which were originally clued as "‘Peter Pan' character" and "Steinhardt of Kansas." (Had I constructed this puzzle slightly later, my clue for HBO might well have been "‘The Young 24-Across' airer.")

Jeff Chen notes: Politicians' CHECKERED PAST(s) riffed on today, four instances of P-A-S-T circling a checkerboard pattern. I always sit up a little ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Politicians' CHECKERED PAST(s) riffed on today, four instances of P-A-S-T circling a checkerboard pattern. I always sit up a little straighter when I see something new in a grid's black squares, so I enjoyed the fun first impression here.

Nice that Jacob put his P at the top in the NW corner, the right in the NE corner, the bottom in the SE corner, and at the left in the SW corner. Sort of looks … cyclical? Don't know what the right word is, but the constant progression is pleasing to this constructor's sensibilities.

I did feel like the puzzle was theme-thin. Once I uncovered CHECKERED PAST, I was able to fill in the P-A-S-Ts, and then that was it. It sure would have been nice to have maybe just one CHECKERED P-A-S-T and a few other literal interpretations of political-related phrases. SLINGING MUD comes to mind, as does ATTACK AD or SUPER PAC? Not sure, but some more variety would have been good.

Given the theme thinness, I appreciated Jacob's effort to give me more bonuses to keep my attention. Such nice entries in THE COMETS, TELEPORT, A LA MODE, and the really long STEEPLECHASES and TOP O THE MORNING. The latter two did make me wonder if they were themers, given the lack of other themers in the grid, but I shrugged that off quickly.

Great clue for TOUPEES: only some are "top secrets," some others quite obvious to everyone. (cough TRUMP cough.) As a founding member of the Triple Bs (the Bad Bald Boys, whatchagonnado?), Sam and Doug and I say the truth shall set you free!

Overall, I liked the trade-off of getting a lot of nice bonuses for minor prices of OFA, HET, AEROS, but it would have been nice to get more meat to the theme.

1
S
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H
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K
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 24,544
Across Down
1. Blows : SHOCKS
7. Like some R-rated movies : SMUTTY
13. Top secrets? : TOUPEES
15. Plant with fragrant leaves : TEATREE
16. Most pretentious : ARTIEST
17. Ingredients in a Jamaican stew : OXTAILS
18. School basics, informally : RRR
19. Ability of some of the heroes on NBC's "Heroes" : ESP
21. ___ Aviv : TEL
22. Trim the fat : DIET
23. Planes, old-style : AEROS
24. Word before or after Alexander : POPE
25. ___ piece : OFA
27. Mine, e.g. : PIT
29. Kidder's cry : NOT
30. George who sang "I Want Your 7-Down" : MICHAEL
33. Lottery ball containers : HOPPERS
36. Liability for a political candidate ... as depicted four times in this puzzle? : CHECKEREDPAST
38. Bill Haley's backup band : THECOMETS
39. Blu-ray forerunner : VCR
42. "True Detective" airer : HBO
43. Swab : MOP
46. Sister company of Applebee's : IHOP
47. Native-born Israeli : SABRA
48. Ring : TOLL
49. Kiss ___ : CAM
51. Looks for ganders, e.g.: Abbr. : SYN
53. Wash. neighbor : IDA
54. Modifier on a dessert menu : ALAMODE
57. You might empty it into a bucket : ICETRAY
60. Gives a new handle : RENAMES
61. Leader targeted in 1989's Operation Nifty Package : NORIEGA
62. Visit : STOPBY
63. Cloth insert : GUSSET
1. Celebrity : STARDOM
2. Awful : HORRIFIC
3. Public relations effort : OUTREACH
4. Economic benchmark, briefly : CPI
5. Retain : KEEP
6. French possessive : SES
7. See 30-Across : SEX
8. Groening who created "The Simpsons" : MATT
9. Actress Hagen : UTA
10. Musical intervals from F to B, e.g. : TRITONES
11. Travel sci-fi style : TELEPORT
12. "Count me in!" : YESLETS
14. They present hurdles : STEEPLECHASES
15. Cork opener? : TOPOTHEMORNIN
20. Title that anagrams to another title : SRI
26. Satirist ___ Baron Cohen : SACHA
28. Sched. listings : APPTS
31. Worked (up) : HET
32. Stretch (out) : EKE
34. "Coronation ___" (Elgar composition) : ODE
35. They bring speakers into classrooms, briefly : PAS
37. ___ Mook, Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign manager : ROBBY
39. Flock leaders : VICARS
40. Place to come in from the cold : CHALET
41. Asiago alternative : ROMANO
43. Patterned fabrics : MOIRES
44. "The most unexpected of all things that happen to a man," per Leon Trotsky : OLDAGE
45. Do unseriously : PLAYAT
50. Many a monument : TOMB
52. Source of the Amazon : PERU
55. Plot : MAP
56. Actress Susan : DEY
58. Part of the works : COG
59. "___ the Voice of the Lobster" ("Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" poem) : TIS

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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