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New York Times, Thursday, January 10, 2019

Author:
Jeff Slutzky and Derek Bowman
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
11/10/20191
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0000100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.66000
Jeff Slutzky
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
98/27/20091/10/20193
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1000620
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58121
Derek Bowman

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 16 Words: 79, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQZ} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Slutzky. This is puzzle # 9 for Mr. Bowman. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
JEFF SLUTZKY: I'm excited to be making my New York Times crossword debut; it's my first crossword anywhere! I first came up with this theme ... read more

JEFF SLUTZKY: I'm excited to be making my New York Times crossword debut; it's my first crossword anywhere! I first came up with this theme several years ago. I knew nothing about crossword constructing software or word-lookup programs at the time, so I tried to create the whole puzzle using graph paper, my pencil, and my brain. I didn't get far.

Then last March I met Derek Bowman at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. He's a veteran constructor, and when I told him I had a theme idea, he expressed interest in collaborating with me. He came up with a couple of new theme entries, as well as the great TORAH kicker at the end. One of our original entries — MENTOR AT WORK (clued as "Yoda or Mr. Miyagi, from 9 to 5?") — was nixed by the editors because it didn't significantly change the meaning of the base phrase, so we replaced it with CAPTOR IN HAND.

Derek was great to work with, and I learned a lot from him. I'm glad we were able to put this puzzle together!

DEREK BOWMAN: Jeff Slutzky had several ideas for theme entries that involved adding TOR to common phrases, and I found them to be very funny. (IT'S RAINING, MENTOR sadly ended up on the cutting room floor.) Together, we eventually narrowed it down to the theme entries listed in the grid, with some guidance from Will Shortz and Sam Ezersky.

Jeff has a great sense of humor, and I'm still amazed that he immediately identified the tune from Dear Evan Hansen that was lovingly redone at the ACPT talent show last year after hearing just a few notes. Jeff is a whiz at musicals, has a keen eye for detail, and was a lot of fun to work with on this puzzle.

Jeff Chen notes:
I read the revealing clue [Sacred text …] and filled in KORAN at first. The theme had to be KO RAN, as in 'phrases with KO removed.' A ... read more

I read the revealing clue [Sacred text …] and filled in KORAN at first. The theme had to be KO RAN, as in "phrases with KO removed." A KO punch!

Ah, no.

TORAH?

TOR … ah!

That's a fun concept to build a puzzle around. It's no piece of cake to add three letters onto a word to form a new, valid word, so I enjoyed the CAP -> CAPTOR, RAP -> RAPTOR, REAL -> REALTOR, CAN -> CANTOR finds.

Derek and Jeff did a nice job picking out a solid set of base phrases that transformed into amusingly kooky +TOR ones. I imagined the CANTOR OF CORN starting off services with "A priest and a rabbi walk into a bar …"

Super solid gridwork, just an OSAY partial as the only crossword glue. Along with AW COME ON, TIME BOMBS, ON BUTTONS, LARYNX, etc. as bonuses, it felt meaty.

Expanding to a 16x15 can often cause trouble in gridwork, especially in the top and bottom edge of a puzzle, so kudos for the time and care they put in.

Why go to 16x15, you might ask? Since the themers are all inconvenient lengths – 13s and 12s – a 16x15 grid opens up many more possibilities in grid layout. It'd be possible to execute this theme set with a 15x15 grid, but the themers would have been crunched together in the middle of the puzzle, undoubtedly resulting in more crossword glue. I like the decision here.

I had to work hard to finish my solve, and the payoff didn't feel quite worth all that effort – it's ultimately a standard "add-letters" theme – but the execution is strong.

1
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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0110 ( 25,265 )
Across
1. Italian scooter : VESPA
6. Endurance : LEGS
10. Glimpses : SPOTS
15. Like a necktie near the end of a long workday, maybe : ASKEW
16. Big name in cosmetics : AVON
17. Another nickname for the Governator : ARNIE
18. Bass group? : NSYNC
19. Give stars to : RATE
20. Prize that comes with 9 million kronor : NOBEL
21. Kidnapper who gets arrested? : CAPTORINHAND
24. Page listing : URL
25. Once-over : EYE
26. Soccer player Hamm : MIA
27. Measure of purity : KARAT
29. Win a one-on-one game against a Toronto hoops player? : BEATTHERAPTOR
34. Army allowance : RATION
37. Gun-shy : WARY
38. Spiffy top : POLO
39. Even up : ALIGN
40. Partner of pieces : BITS
41. Elates : SENDS
42. Long time out? : COMA
43. Not altogether : EACH
44. Playwright Sean who wrote "The Plough and the Stars" : OCASEY
45. "I don't want this house after all"? : KEEPITREALTOR
48. Japanese box meal : BENTO
49. Group of traffic cops, for short? : ATF
50. ___ economy : GIG
53. E'en if : THO
55. Synagogue singer with hokey humor? : CANTOROFCORN
59. Pizazz : OOMPH
61. "No problem at all!" : EASY
62. Eastern European capital : SOFIA
63. Hoffman who wrote "Steal This Book" : ABBIE
64. What photocopiers do : SCAN
65. Church chorus : AMENS
66. Gave a pill, say : DOSED
67. River whose name comes entirely from the last eight letters of the alphabet : STYX
68. Sacred text ... or your reaction upon figuring out this puzzle's theme? : TORAH
Down
1. Oklahoma's ___ Air Force Base : VANCE
2. Attempt : ESSAY
3. FaceTime alternative : SKYPE
4. Confined, with "up" : PENT
5. "You've got to be kidding me!" : AWCOMEON
6. Mustang catcher : LARIAT
7. "Dear ___ Hansen" (2017 Tony winner) : EVAN
8. Dark kind of look : GOTH
9. Some court wear : SNEAKERS
10. Oh, what an actress! : SANDRA
11. Tennis ___ : PRO
12. Things in the backs of Macs : ONBUTTONS
13. Theater seating info : TIER
14. What bears do in the market : SELL
22. "The Last Jedi" director Johnson : RIAN
23. Not a single : NARY
28. Show up : APPEAR
29. Galoot : BIGAPE
30. Prudent way to think : TWICE
31. ___ yoga : HATHA
32. Like some shoppes : OLDE
33. Optimistic : ROSY
34. Billiards need : RACK
35. It's a relief : ALOE
36. Ticking dangers : TIMEBOMBS
40. Margaret Thatcher, e.g., in her later years : BARONESS
41. Derides : SCOFFSAT
43. James who sang at the opening of the 1984 Summer Olympics : ETTA
44. "Beetle Bailey" dog : OTTO
46. Crept (along) : INCHED
47. Need to speak : LARYNX
50. Many an intern : GOFER
51. Skater Slutskaya : IRINA
52. Grind, in a way : GNASH
53. Mr. with a "Wild Ride" at Disneyland : TOAD
54. Drifter : HOBO
56. Savoir-faire : TACT
57. Anthem starter : OSAY
58. Italy's Lake ___ : COMO
60. Pizza delivery : PIE

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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