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New York Times, Saturday, January 12, 2019

Author:
Sam Trabucco
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1910/29/20153/9/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
3101356
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.

1
P
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E
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P
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B
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A
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N
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D
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S
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V
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I
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J
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B
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G
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B
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S
K
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H
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M
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P
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L
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H
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M
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S
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T
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I
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P
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S
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N
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D
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F
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G
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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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