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New York Times, Monday, March 30, 2020

Author:
Lee Taylor
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
38/30/20153/30/20200
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2100000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.71000
Lee Taylor

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {Q} This is puzzle # 3 for Ms. Taylor. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes:
Sometimes a theme sneaks up on you. In a good way! Not like when my kids hide under my bathroom cabinet at 6 am and jump out, moaning ... read more

Sometimes a theme sneaks up on you. In a good way! Not like when my kids hide under my bathroom cabinet at 6 am and jump out, moaning like a devolved Pokémon — no wonder I'm often Drowzee.

One of the first things I noted was that SLOPPY JOE was great fill. No doubt, an evocative term. (My kids make sloppy grilled cheese sandwiches, sloppy waffles, sloppy milk …) It wasn't until I reached LAZY SUSAN that I started to realize that it wasn't just great fill — it's thematic!

I'm not usually impressed with high theme density because it often feels like showing off without extra payoff. Today though, it gave the puzzle meatiness, making me feel full. SLOPPY JOEs do fill you up!

Tight theme, too. I spent five minutes trying to think of another (adjective) + (name) phrase and could only come up with EMPTY-HEADED JEFF. What, you say that's not a real phrase? Oh, how little you know me.

Speaking of SLOPPY JOE … kicking off a northwest corner with AWNS is a big NONO. That's just screaming at a solver to walk away. Even if they make it past that, sticking them with GARRET and HADJ — crossing each other — makes for such a newb-alienating experience.

(When I related this to Jim Horne, he tactfully mentioned that, for example, the artists in La Bohème live in a garret. I tactfully nodded as I scrambled to look up La Bohème. I totally knew that it's a ... ballet. No, an opera! I was just kidding!)

The theme grew on me, to the point where I gave it some POW! consideration. And the bonuses in the fill were so fun! RAY GUNS, ZURICH, GEYSER, KENYAN = great additions. I didn't even mind a bit of SUER sewerage as a price to pay since at least solvers can derive this oddball word from "sue."

With some grid revision — if you already have an extra black square before GEYSER, why not try one at the S of SKYPE too, to remove AWNS? — it coulda been a contender.

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© 2020, The New York TimesNo. 0330 ( 25,710 )
Across
1
Swiss peaks : ALPS
5
Cracked open, as a door : AJAR
9
DO something : REACT
14
Fabric for a winter coat : WOOL
15
Sport with mallets : POLO
16
God, to Muslims : ALLAH
17
It's against the rules : NONO
18
Cocktail often served with a celery stick : BLOODYMARY
20
Alternative to FaceTime or Google Hangouts : SKYPE
22
"Gil Blas" author Alain-René ___ : LESAGE
23
Says "Our Father, who art in heaven ...," e.g. : PRAYS
25
Largest city in Switzerland : ZURICH
29
Yellowstone attraction : GEYSER
31
One of 100 in D.C. : SEN
32
___ chi (martial art) : TAI
33
Pilgrimage to Mecca : HADJ
34
Horse with a reddish coat : ROAN
36
Incline : SLANT
38
Thus : ERGO
39
Eyes up and down : OGLES
41
Adele, voicewise : ALTO
42
Sign of the Ram : ARIES
44
A son of Isaac : ESAU
45
Utah national park : ZION
46
Film director Spike : LEE
47
Month with Earth Day: Abbr. : APR
49
Many a marathon winner : KENYAN
51
Layers of rock : STRATA
53
Greek sandwiches : GYROS
54
Minor accident : MISHAP
56
From Holland : DUTCH
60
All settled up : EVENSTEVEN
64
Event on Black Friday or Cyber Monday : SALE
65
Typographic flourish : SERIF
66
Actress Moreno or Hayworth : RITA
67
Enemy alliance in W.W. II : AXIS
68
"Bad, Bad ___ Brown" (1973 #1 hit) : LEROY
69
Ten C-notes : ONEG
70
Little bites : NIPS
Down
1
Grain bristles : AWNS
2
"Here's the thing ..." : LOOK
3
My Little ___ (Hasbro toy) : PONY
4
Sandwich that might spill onto your hands : SLOPPYJOE
5
Police dispatch, for short : APB
6
Pirate flag : JOLLYROGER
7
Plants that yield a soothing gel : ALOES
8
Aussie jumpers : ROOS
9
Weapons in classic sci-fi : RAYGUNS
10
Fudd who hunts "wabbits" : ELMER
11
Lead-in to carte or king : ALA
12
It goes back and forth on a street or up and down in an elevator shaft : CAR
13
"___ will be done ..." : THY
19
Groggy state : DAZE
21
Triage centers, for short : ERS
24
Prefix with -naut : AERO
26
Home of Milano and Firenze : ITALIA
27
Ohio city that's home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame : CANTON
28
Make a pass at : HITON
29
Setting for much of "La Bohème" : GARRET
30
More jittery : EDGIER
31
Very cheap wine, in slang : SNEAKYPETE
33
Gets better, as a wound : HEALS
35
Weatherman Roker and others : ALS
37
Revolving tray on a dinner table : LAZYSUSAN
40
Litigant : SUER
43
Hit the spot : SATISFY
48
Opposite of future : PAST
50
Silent sign of approval : NOD
52
Prenatal procedure, informally : AMNIO
53
California governor Newsom : GAVIN
55
Submarine sandwich : HERO
57
Conveyance preceding Uber and Lyft : TAXI
58
Video segment : CLIP
59
Gas company with toy trucks : HESS
60
Immigrants' class subj. : ESL
61
Geese's flying formation : VEE
62
Make a boo-boo : ERR
63
Keep pestering : NAG

Answer summary:

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