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New York Times, Saturday, November 22, 2014

Author: David Steinberg
Editor: Will Shortz
David Steinberg
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
606/16/20112/17/20179
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4556717151
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.652113

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 31 Missing: {JQ} Scrabble average: 1.91 This is puzzle # 33 for Mr. Steinberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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David Steinberg notes: I built this puzzle at the end of 2012; when it was accepted in June 2013, I was stoked that I'd be the first constructor to ... more
David Steinberg notes: I built this puzzle at the end of 2012; when it was accepted in June 2013, I was stoked that I'd be the first constructor to use FO SHIZZLE in a New York Times crossword . . . until James Mulhern swooped in with his awesome FO SHIZZLE themeless from April! FO SHIZZLE engendered strong reactions from many solvers, though the one that stood out to me the most was Jeff Chen's: "One across is going to be divisive, methinks. On one hand, it's fun slang, with the crazy IZZLE ending. On the other, it feels to me about 10 years old, sort of like me showing off my Motorola Razr." I find it fascinating that Jeff immediately associated FO SHIZZLE with "Motorola Razr," which is strikingly similar to DROID RAZR! I suppose Jeff is right that both of these entries are rather dated — does this mean I'm getting old and behind the times ;) ?

Anyway, my favorite entries in this puzzle (aside from FO SHIZZLE and DROID RAZR) are EXCUSE YOU, WARMONGER, WIIMOTES, REDDI-WIP, and the insanely Scrabbly ZEPPO MARX. The grid has more compromises (ELIE, EERO, RRR, SERO, CRAN, etc.) than I'd be inclined to use nowadays, but I still feel that these compromises are sufficiently offset by the zip. I hope everyone enjoys this puzzle and has a happy Thanksgiving! I know I'll be busy enjoying my last few days of being 17 years young. . . .

Will Shortz notes: By my count David's grid has 19 proper names out of 72 answers — a higher percentage than I like, honestly — and it's ... more
Will Shortz notes: By my count David's grid has 19 proper names out of 72 answers — a higher percentage than I like, honestly — and it's tricky to know exactly how hard to write their clues. Most proper names involve either-you-know-it-or-you-don't trivia. If the clues for SUSIE, ELIE, CECE, EDWIN, RENEE, and VALERIE, for example, reference obscure people, then you probably have to piece them together letter by letter from the crossings. That isn't much fun, especially when you have to do this repeatedly. On the other hand, if their clues all involve well-known people, then the puzzle becomes too easy. I hope I struck a happy balance here. But hitting just the right difficulty level for solvers on a name-heavy puzzle is an almost impossible task.

With that said, David's puzzle is still excellent work. Besides 1A, I like EXCUSE YOU, PATS DRY, BREZHNEV, DROID RAZR, ZEPPO MARX, REDDI-WIP, OSSO BUCO, WIIMOTES, and PFIZER, and other things. And there's very little in the grid that's bad. That's expert puzzle-making.

Jeff Chen notes: What a nice seed in ZEPPO MARX. Its Z and X already give it an interesting flair, and Zeppo is not only one of the awesome Marx ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Zeppo Marx What a nice seed in ZEPPO MARX. Its Z and X already give it an interesting flair, and Zeppo is not only one of the awesome Marx Brothers, but he went on after his film career to make a fortune … as a mechanical engineer. I realize some people might not like this entry all too much because he might be considered one of the lesser Marx Brothers, but I'm calling him a Jeff Chen special.

Ah, FOSHIZZLE. When it first appeared in the NYT, it caused a bit of a stir in the blogosphere. (Rich Norris mentioned to me with a wink that he debuted FOSHIZZLE in the LAT crossword in 2008 and hasn't touched it since). Glad that Will went with a cheeky clue today, referencing how outdated and passé the term is. It's hard to "save" it when it sits at 1-A, but this almost does the job.

Will makes a good point about proper names. I personally don't mind a handful of names and their either-you-know-them-or-you-don't quality, but a mass of them being fairly esoteric detracts from my solve. SUSIE Q is welcome in my grids any day, especially considering how many different ways to clue SUSIE. I like the classical nature of DEIMOS as well as its Greek God etymology. Sketches by BOZ are also something I'm usually happy to see. Even EDWIN Moses is okay by me, given his two gold medals. But when you toss in ELIE, CECE, EERO, along with everything else, it all feels like too much to me.

It's so tough to "be current." On one hand, every business must keep up with the times (pun intended) — evolve or be left behind by emerging competitors. And in that regard, I like the attempts to keep entries fresh; in the here and now. On the other hand, I think it's important for every business to focus on its core strengths; what it uniquely does well. And for the NYT, I believe that's executing clever concepts, incorporating clever wordplay along with timeless substance, pulling from a wide range of constructors and voices to strong, varied puzzles. I don't think being a hip publication is so important.

Droid Razr

Since we've already analyzed FOSHIZZLE to death, let's look at another "hip" entry, DROID RAZR. (I laughed at David's comment ... and it proves that I CAN TELL THE FUTURE. Wonder twins powers, activate!) On one side of the spectrum sits the iPhone, a game-changer affecting business and culture on a grand scale. On the other is the Apple Newton, a forgettable product in every way except for as a marketplace flop. The first RAZR has some historical value in that it revolutionized flip phones with its ridiculously thin profile, but the DRIOD RAZR feels to me like it will go the way of the Newton. Time will tell.

All that said, I do appreciate David's efforts to straddle the line, to both play to the NYT xw's strength as well as try to push it to grow past its boundaries.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,755
Across Down
1. Dated agreement? : FOSHIZZLE
10. Cognizes : KNOWS
15. Comment to an unapologetic burper, say : EXCUSEYOU
16. Cosmetics dye : EOSIN
17. Hawk : WARMONGER
18. Q preceder : SUSIE
19. Fashion designer Saab : ELIE
20. Mexican couple : DOS
21. Something locked in a cell? : GENOME
22. Neuralgia : nerve :: costalgia : ___ : RIB
23. Lightly towels off : PATSDRY
25. Dickens pseudonym : BOZ
26. Woman's name that sounds like a repeated letter : CECE
28. First name in design : EERO
29. Turn off, maybe : MUTE
30. School basics, facetiously : RRR
32. Succeeded : REPLACED
34. Donnybrook : FRACAS
37. Moon named after the Greek personification of terror : DEIMOS
38. SALT signer : BREZHNEV
40. Adèle, for one: Abbr. : STE
41. Page, e.g. : AIDE
42. Juice name starter : CRAN
44. Letters at the top of a page : HTTP
47. Brick, for example : RED
48. Fictional locale of a John Wayne western : RIOLOBO
50. Eagle's place: Abbr. : AFB
52. Attacked verbally : SNIPED
54. Something most Americans won't take, for short : ESL
55. Destiny's Child, e.g. : TRIO
56. Olympian Moses : EDWIN
57. iPhone competitor : DROIDRAZR
59. Uniform : ALIKE
60. Where El Nuevo Herald is read : MIAMIAREA
61. Classic sea adventure of 1846 : TYPEE
62. Straight man of old comedy : ZEPPOMARX
1. "The ___ the words, the better the prayer": Martin Luther : FEWER
2. ___ acid (bleach ingredient) : OXALIC
3. Old record keeper : SCRIBE
4. "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" philosopher : HUME
5. Film speed letters : ISO
6. Castle town in a 1937 film : ZENDA
7. Start of something big? : ZYGOTE
8. "Hoop-Dee-Doo" lyricist : LOESSER
9. USD alternative : EUR
10. Writer in "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" : KESEY
11. A follower? : NOUN
12. Slow-cooked Italian dish : OSSOBUCO
13. Handy things in the game world? : WIIMOTES
14. Exhibited sternutation : SNEEZED
21. Feels (for) : GROPES
23. Lake catch : PERCH
24. Stowe antislavery novel : DRED
27. It's temporarily hot : CRAZE
29. David who wrote the screenplay for "The Verdict" : MAMET
31. Bad, and then some : RANCID
33. Art purchase : LITHO
34. Warm : FRIENDLY
35. Grocery product with a multiply misspelled name : REDDIWIP
36. Hematology prefix : SERO
38. Stool, typically : BARSEAT
39. Jarrett of the Obama White House : VALERIE
43. "Ain't happening!" : NOSOAP
45. "Boom" preceder : TARARA
46. Lipitor maker : PFIZER
48. Taylor of "The Nanny" : RENEE
49. String bean's opposite : BLIMP
51. Product once pitched by Ronald Reagan : BORAX
53. Lake catch : PIKE
55. Disneyland sight : TRAM
57. Part of a certain cease-fire agreement, for short : DMZ
58. Roman divinity : DIO

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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