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New York Times, Thursday, November 14, 2019

Author:
Alex Eaton-Salners
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
272/2/201711/14/20191
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
125411013
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.54240
Alex Eaton-Salners

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JVXZ} This is puzzle # 27 for Mr. Eaton-Salners. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Alex Eaton-Salners notes:
My originally submitted grid used the revealer FRENCH OPENS and had ETE VACATION, AMI REQUEST, OUI VOTE, and EAU BALLOON as the theme ... read more

My originally submitted grid used the revealer FRENCH OPENS and had ETE VACATION, AMI REQUEST, OUI VOTE, and EAU BALLOON as the theme entries. To tighten the theme (and make the puzzle more approachable for non-French speakers like myself), I limited it to three-letter French words that are common in crosswords. Pop quiz: Which one of these four French words (ETE, AMI, OUI, and EAU) has appeared the most frequently in NYT non-variety crosswords edited by Will Shortz? Hint: It's the one that I didn't know when I started constructing crosswords. Answer at the end of this note.

When I heard a couple of weeks ago that I'd have a Thursday NYT puzzle published today, I didn't expect it to be this one. I pitched this puzzle to tie in with the timing of the French Open, and so when Roland-Garros came and went earlier this year I figured it wouldn't see the light of day until 2020. Likewise, when this grid was accepted it was slated for a Wednesday. So I was quite surprised when it popped up on my constructor preview at XWord Info.

Perhaps the French word substitution gimmick played more difficult than excepted for Will's test solvers – thereby bumping the puzzle into Thursday territory. Or maybe running it so far from the French Open made the theme more difficult to grok. Either way, it means that (once again) I've restored balance to the universe by having as many published Thursday grids as I have non-Thursday weekday grids. ;-)

Answer to the pop quiz: As of yesterday, ETE has been used 282 times (vs. AMI at 241, EAU at 155, and OUI at 89). However, none of them can top the most-popular word of the Shortz era, which at 582 uses is ERA (ha!).

Jeff Chen notes:
Alex has such innovative ideas. I'd have never thought of interpreting FRENCH OPEN as 'translate first words of phrases into French.' ... read more

Alex has such innovative ideas. I'd have never thought of interpreting FRENCH OPEN as "translate first words of phrases into French." I struggled mightily with the first themer, figuring there was some crazy transmogrification of FRIEND – maybe END, with FRI cut off as the Thursday trick? Days of the week ... end!

Um, no.

I enjoyed the a-ha; a concept I'd never before seen. I also appreciated the consistency, Alex using only three-letter French words often seen in crosswords; a bit of an insider's nod.

The notion got repetitive quickly, though. By the time I reached OUI INDEED, the puzzle felt like it was Marmotte Day.

Speaking of rodent-like creatures, an AYE AYE is … cute? Creepy? The etymology is reported to be from a French cry of astonishment. Appropriate for this puzzle!

During my solve, I had the vague notion that the grid wasn't nearly as strong as Alex's usual products. Upon second glance, though, most of that was due to the annoyances of seeing some usual crossword gloop featured, AMI and ETE in particular. Now, I wasn't a fan of LOUDEN, but aside from some ECCE AMAT, my first impression was too strongly negative. I hope other solvers will allow Alex similar leeway.

Experiencing this novel theme triggered some other notions in my own brainstorming, and that's rare indeed.

1
G
2
N
3
A
4
T
5
B
6
L
7
A
8
I
9
R
10
S
11
P
12
A
13
S
14
P
O
L
O
15
B
O
W
T
O
16
I
A
G
O
17
A
M
I
R
18
E
Q
U
E
S
T
19
G
R
A
F
20
P
T
S
D
21
I
22
S
N
T
I
T
23
S
24
I
25
D
E
A
26
E
27
A
28
U
S
K
I
I
N
G
29
C
O
E
D
30
U
N
P
C
31
I
N
N
32
U
N
B
O
33
R
N
34
S
L
35
A
M
36
G
37
A
38
P
39
F
I
T
40
E
T
41
E
C
A
M
P
42
W
H
O
43
F
C
C
44
C
O
C
O
45
A
Y
46
E
A
Y
E
47
E
48
P
A
49
C
R
50
I
T
51
L
Y
E
S
52
O
53
U
I
I
N
54
D
E
E
D
55
M
I
S
S
Y
56
I
M
L
A
T
E
57
U
58
S
E
R
59
L
A
I
N
60
F
61
R
62
E
N
C
H
O
63
P
64
E
65
N
66
U
M
N
O
67
A
E
T
N
A
68
T
I
R
E
69
P
I
G
S
70
T
Y
S
O
N
71
H
E
A
T
© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 1114 ( 25,573 )
Across
1
Tiny nuisance : GNAT
5
"The ___ Witch Project" : BLAIR
10
Complimentary robe providers : SPAS
14
Olympic sport discontinued after 1936 : POLO
15
Greet respectfully : BOWTO
16
"Aladdin" character named after a literary villain : IAGO
17
Invitation to connect on social media : AMIREQUEST
19
Steffi on the court : GRAF
20
War vet's affliction, for short : PTSD
21
"So true, huh?" : ISNTIT
23
Musician's better half? : SIDEA
26
Sport requiring a tow : EAUSKIING
29
Unlike Bryn Mawr College : COED
30
Potentially offensive : UNPC
31
Roadside establishment : INN
32
Not yet delivered : UNBORN
34
Bad-mouth : SLAM
36
___ year : GAP
39
Conniption : FIT
40
Short-term employer of counselors : ETECAMP
42
The person in question? : WHO
43
Network monitoring agcy. : FCC
44
First name in fragrances : COCO
45
Nocturnal lemur native to Madagascar : AYEAYE
47
Fuel economy org. : EPA
49
Reviews, collectively: Abbr. : CRIT
51
Caustic compounds : LYES
52
"By all means!" : OUIINDEED
55
Grammy winner Elliott : MISSY
56
Words said in a rush : IMLATE
57
Manipulative sort : USER
59
Reclined : LAIN
60
Big clay court event ... or a hint to the answers to 17-, 26-, 40- and 52-Across : FRENCHOPEN
66
"Let me think ... hmm, I don't think so" : UMNO
67
Anthem alternative : AETNA
68
Flag : TIRE
69
Muppet trio the Oinker Sisters, e.g. : PIGS
70
Host of Fox's "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" : TYSON
71
Range output : HEAT
Down
1
0.0 - 4.0 : GPA
2
Recognition for an actor, informally : NOM
3
"Aladdin" alter ego : ALI
4
Destroyer destroyer : TORPEDO
5
Backyard gatherings, for short : BBQS
6
Turn up, as the volume : LOUDEN
7
Astonishment : AWE
8
"___ a date!" : ITS
9
Indian flatbreads : ROTIS
10
Register : SIGNIN
11
Splitting up : PARTINGWAYS
12
Delighted toddler's demand : AGAIN
13
Introduction to geometry? : SOFTG
18
LAX listing : ETA
22
Revealing, in a way : SKIMPY
23
Shoe blemish : SCUFF
24
Column style : IONIC
25
Certain legislative limit : DEBTCEILING
27
Fig. that might earn you some credits : APSCORE
28
11-time N.C.A.A. basketball champs : UCLA
30
"Woe ___ them ..." : UNTO
33
Take back : RECANT
35
Latin 101 word : AMAT
37
"I remember now" : AHYES
38
Frost bit? : POESY
41
Behold, to Brutus : ECCE
46
Film director with a co-starring role in "Inglourious Basterds" : ELIROTH
48
Key holders : PIANOS
50
Verbal shrug : IDUNNO
52
Prepare for a bodybuilding competition : OILUP
53
Taste that's not sweet, sour, bitter or salty : UMAMI
54
Trim, as a T-bone : DEFAT
55
Uninspired : MEH
58
Use a QR code for, say : SCAN
61
Marina del ___, Calif. : REY
62
Down-to-earth types, in brief? : ETS
63
Epitome of easiness : PIE
64
Long stretch : ERA
65
Take home : NET

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?