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New York Times, Saturday, January 12, 2019

Author:
Sam Trabucco
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1710/29/20151/12/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
3101255
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.68150
Sam Trabucco

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 62, Blocks: 36 Missing: {QWX} Grid has both 90- and 180-degree symmetry. This is puzzle # 17 for Mr. Trabucco. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Sam Trabucco notes:
It took me forever to get the middle of this grid to work, to the point where I'm thrilled with how it turned out (ARIE and EERO ... read more

It took me forever to get the middle of this grid to work, to the point where I'm thrilled with how it turned out (ARIE and EERO notwithstanding). Often with this sort of design, though, you get the middle to work and then find that one of the corners won't cooperate — I was happy to skate by here, though I'm not exactly in love with the SW (it's certainly less colorful than I'd hope for, and LICTORS is a bit of a deep cut).

I'm not one to include a ton of sports stuff in a crossword, so consider this grid with its skiing, hockey, football, and ESPN references to be an anomaly. Sports are more my dad's speed, so it's a fun coincidence that it's his birthday today! Happy birthday! I hope this crossword puzzle makes up for all the sports I quit during elementary school.

Jeff Chen notes:
One reason I like to experiment with every known grid type is that it helps me understand niche challenges in crossword construction. ... read more

One reason I like to experiment with every known grid type is that it helps me understand niche challenges in crossword construction. Having worked with today's themeless grid style once or twice or three times, I have a pretty good feel about where difficulties can pop up.

It's incredibly tough to work with any 62-word themeless grid, but this particular one isn't quite as bad as others. The huge number of cheater squares – the two above BREECHES and the one above JER, for example – nibbles away a ton. It's maybe a factor of 10 (!) times harder to fill if you took out all those cheaters.

Still, a 62-word grid is a 62-word grid, bound to require some trade-offs. Like Sam, I found that the middle of this particular style is incredibly challenging. Even if you can find something that works, it often doesn't flow into one of the four corners very flexibly, requiring dozens of painful reboots.

Sam made his job even more challenging today by having four long entries all intersect in the center. And great ones they are! DRAMA COACHES, the MIRACLE ON ICE? Sam PUT ON A CLINIC! I'M SPEECHLESS at how strong those are. I don't mind EERO and ARIE at all to hold that juicy center together.

Flowing out to the corners gets so difficult at this point, what with those four long answers fixed into place (and the other entrance to a corner fixed as well). Take the NE, for example – you have MR starting 18-A, which doesn't have a lot of possibilities. Combine that with CLINIC set in stone, and you're bound to end up with some JER BENETS oddity.

And the opposite corner, HIND LEGS MS PACMAN are fantastic! I'm not sure they're worth LICTORS (and ELMIRA), though. It's a tough call. Any time you use an entry unused since the Maleskan era, it's a risky decision.

Overall though, I really enjoyed the solving experience. It's not often that constructors take on a 62-word challenge, and even rarer that the final product comes out with so many snazzy answers.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0112 ( 25,267 )
Across
1. Game players? : PEPBANDS
9. Bob of "Home Again" : VILA
13. Domineered : OVERBORE
14. Genesis patriarch : JACOB
15. Grammy-winning group whose name is an homage to the Monkees : GORILLAZ
16. ___ Reader's Encyclopedia (classic literary reference) : BENETS
17. Squad on a slope : SKITEAM
18. Best man for a wedding? : MRRIGHT
19. Sixth of five? : ESP
20. Nickname for Adrianus : ARIE
22. Courtroom outburst : LIAR
23. In-house service? : HOMECARE
26. ___ Croft, comic book heroine : LARA
27. Perform extremely well, in sports lingo : PUTONACLINIC
29. Hawaiian pizza topping : HAM
32. Greta of "The Player" : SCACCHI
33. Rattle holder : TOT
34. Ironic exclamation of amazement : IMSPEECHLESS
37. A scarf might cover it : NAPE
38. Annual awards show since 1993 : THEESPYS
40. "Shoot!" : DRAT
41. First name in design : EERO
42. Lotion abbr. : SPF
44. Roman magistrate's attendants : LICTORS
46. Cowboys or Vikings : NFCTEAM
50. New York city west of Binghamton : ELMIRA
51. Cubic ___ (synthetic gemstone) : ZIRCONIA
52. Something that's secretive : GLAND
53. "This is too much!" : ICOULDNT
54. Single, say : SONG
55. Tumults : TEMPESTS
Down
1. Collectible caps : POGS
2. Call up : EVOKE
3. Pass on : PERISH
4. Genre for Oasis and Blur : BRITPOP
5. Practiced : ABLE
6. French Quarter city, familiarly : NOLA
7. Ones who help people get their acts together? : DRAMACOACHES
8. States, informally : SEZ
9. Music's Milli ___ : VANILLI
10. Uranus or Neptune : ICEGIANT
11. Don Juan : LOTHARIO
12. Part of a science journal : ABSTRACT
14. "Seinfeld" nickname : JER
16. Part of an equestrian's outfit : BREECHES
18. Sports Illustrated named it #1 in its "100 Greatest Moments in Sports History" : MIRACLEONICE
21. Stock owner : RANCHER
24. Deliberate : MUSE
25. "The list goes on" : ETCETERA
28. Oratory obstacle : LISP
29. Horses kick with them : HINDLEGS
30. Texas city on Route 66 : AMARILLO
31. 1980s arcade game : MSPACMAN
35. Kind of zoo : PETTING
36. Cardiac contraction : SYSTOLE
39. Whiles away : SPENDS
43. Barely registering : FAINT
45. Onetime California fort : ORD
47. Judging by : FROM
48. Medium bra spec : CCUP
49. Some gym gear : MATS
51. Face difficulty? : ZIT

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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