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New York Times, Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Author: Jeremy Newton
Editor: Will Shortz
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176/15/20083/9/20172
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1.81663
Jeremy Newton

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JQX} This is puzzle # 15 for Mr. Newton. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeremy Newton notes: CLERICALHEIR was the seed of the theme. And then HORROR, ERROR, MIRROR, and TERROR came together as a nice quartet. There's ... more
Jeremy Newton notes:

CLERICALHEIR was the seed of the theme. And then HORROR, ERROR, MIRROR, and TERROR came together as a nice quartet. There's something reassuring as a crossword constructor when only a handful of words fit a restrictive word pattern: here, *RROR. I rest easier when not leaving out other possibilities.

I considered a reversal of the puns, where HOAR FROST becomes HORROR FROST, MERE MORTALS becomes MIRROR MORTALS, etc. But ultimately couldn't nail down a strong, consistent theme set I liked.

I found a reduction of "THREE R's" more satisfying — instead of revealing the common word pattern in every theme answer. Chopping off the last syllables of *RROR words seems closer to how most people pronounce them anyways. HOAR, HEIR, MERE, and TEAR pack more of a familiar punch when read out loud.

Being from Texas, I can assure you: these are spot-on pronunciations when spoken with a drawl. "Hold on. Gotta adjust this here rear-view mere."

Hope this was a fun solve!

Jeff Chen notes: Sound change theme, two-syllable words ending in -RROR getting their last syllable dropped, and the first syllable replaced with a ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Sound change theme, two-syllable words ending in -RROR getting their last syllable dropped, and the first syllable replaced with a real-word homonym. Complicated! I liked that all of the final words had a replacement that made me work to figure out the base phrase (ROCKY HORROR, CLERICAL ERROR, REARVIEW MIRROR, SHEER TERROR).

Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" from "Orange is the New Black"

REARVIEW MERE felt like the weakest of the bunch, as I kept on staring at the word MERE, wondering what I was missing. (The dictionary lists "a small lake or pond" as a secondary definition of MERE. Curious.) I wonder how many solvers actually looked it up vs. shrugging and moving on.

I like that Jeremy used a complete set — can you think of any other words ending in -RROR? — and all four sound changes worked in exactly the same way. Such completeness is so elegant. It would have been perfect if MERE had been a more common noun, but what can you do.

I'm mixed on THREE RS as a revealer. What about the poor O in -RROR? The THREE RS just doesn't seem to describe what's happening very well. I think I would have preferred to do without it.

Speaking of doing without, ADOLF next to SHEER (terror). Yikes.

Jeremy always does such a nice job with his long fill, and he goes big today, working in an astounding eight (!) pieces of long fill as well as some mid-length stuff. Very few constructors would tackle such a task, and cramming in CHINA SHOP, PEN NAMES and SAYS A LOT into a corner which already has a theme answer is a bold move. I don't like the long partial A HOME, but APRS and AMI are minor.

The CRAZY EYED corner is easier, with just one long piece of fill, but working in the bonus of GO AWOL makes it tricky as well. Again, Jeremy executes well on it.

And some beautiful pieces of languages in BUM A SMOKE and I SURE WILL. Jeremy is such a star at working great long fill into his puzzles.

Although some aspects of the theme execution didn't quite work for me, I still really enjoyed this one.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0113 ( 24,172 )
Across Down
1. Wraps around the subcontinent : SARIS
6. The Rocksteady 7 genre : SKA
9. Hermès rival : GUCCI
14. Market not to be bullish in? : CHINASHOP
16. Courtier who invites Hamlet to a duel : OSRIC
17. Frost mixed with pebbles? : ROCKYHOAR
18. Ebb away : ABATE
19. Bud in Burgundy : AMI
20. Dated : SAW
21. Scatter : SOW
23. Bad spot for taking prom pictures : ZIT
24. Authors of fiction? : PENNAMES
27. Having a propensity to dig : NOSY
29. Priest getting what's coming to him? : CLERICALHEIR
33. Don't do it : TABOO
36. High on hwys. : DUI
37. Title Mr. of literature : HYDE
38. Post-operation site, for short : ICU
39. Elementary education ... or feature of the last words punned upon in 17-, 29-, 49- and 66-Across : THREERS
43. "Y" wearer : ELI
44. Poet Lazarus : EMMA
46. Equine nibble : OAT
47. City by the Wasatch Mountains : OGDEN
49. Pond admired from the back porch? : REARVIEWMERE
53. Pair for some Winter Olympians : SKIS
54. Eclipse : OUTCLASS
58. Juice drink brand : POM
60. Expected hr. at the airport : ETA
62. That ship : SHE
63. The Horned Frogs of the N.C.A.A. : TCU
64. First name in infamy : ADOLF
66. Chiffon mishap? : SHEERTEAR
69. Home of the Imperial Palace : TOKYO
70. Volunteer's affirmation : ISUREWILL
71. Villain's look : SNEER
72. Currency unit, briefly : ATM
73. Feeling sexually aroused : RANDY
1. Jettison : SCRAP
2. "Oh, give me ___ ..." : AHOME
3. Poison used on TV's "Breaking Bad" : RICIN
4. Tats : INK
5. Speaks volumes : SAYSALOT
6. April weather event : SHOWER
7. Org. for R.V. lovers : KOA
8. Lenders' figs. : APRS
9. Vanish, in a way : GOAWOL
10. Type of laptop-to-printer connection : USB
11. Loony-looking : CRAZYEYED
12. New York's ___ Field : CITI
13. "Home Invasion" rapper : ICET
15. "For ___!" : SHAME
22. Studio alert : ONAIR
25. PX patron : NCO
26. "Hello Goodbye" to "All You Need Is Love" on the Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour" album : SIDETWO
28. "Put a cork in it!" : SHH
30. Maestro's signal : CUE
31. Do nothing : IDLE
32. Jockey strap : REIN
33. Grand ___ (opera house section) : TIER
34. Tiptop : ACME
35. Pick from another's pack : BUMASMOKE
40. Give a lift : HOIST
41. Funny Charlotte : RAE
42. Enchanting sort : SORCERER
45. Couples' getaway? : ARK
48. Come together : GEL
50. Try to win : VIEFOR
51. Oil spot? : MUSEUM
52. Old anesthetic : ETHER
55. Dined at home : ATEIN
56. Burn, as milk : SCALD
57. Irritably sullen : SURLY
58. New England football team, informally : PATS
59. Use in great excess : ODON
61. It's west of the Pacific : ASIA
65. Corrosive stuff : LYE
67. D.D.E.'s predecessor : HST
68. Old "You're going to like us" sloganeer : TWA

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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