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New York Times, Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Author:
Jim Peredo
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
81/7/20131/14/20200
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1213100
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1.60120
Jim Peredo

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {FJKQXZ} This is puzzle # 8 for Mr. Peredo. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jim Peredo notes:
This puzzle began life as my first serious attempt at a themeless. I had the idea of pairing GRUMPY CAT and ANGRY BIRD, but they were ... read more

This puzzle began life as my first serious attempt at a themeless. I had the idea of pairing GRUMPY CAT and ANGRY BIRD, but they were nowhere near enough for a theme, so I planned for them to be the basis of a mini-theme in a themeless grid. I added MAD DOGS to the mix, but It still wasn't enough for a full-blown theme, so I worked up a few (18 to be exact) iterations of grids with just those three.

Some months later (I tend to let grids ferment a while), I came upon GROUCHY LADYBUG, and that threw everything up in the air. I've read the story many a time to my kids, so I had to add it. And when I found RAGING BULL, everything fell into place, and I abandoned my themeless goal.

But of course, the entry lengths wouldn't cooperate, so I had to get creative. Breaking up GROUCHY LADYBUG and nixing the "The" makes it awkward as heck, but I wanted it in there, so I gritted my teeth and found a way. At least it split cleanly into a 7-7. In my view, having it there, even in such a disjointed fashion, is better than not having it. (Others may disagree.)

But I had to jettison MAD DOGS. You would think a shorter entry like that could be worked in somewhere, but it was not to be. I even tried putting MAD and DOG in opposite corners, but it resulted in too much dodgy fill and having two split-up theme entries was definitely over the top.

Aside from MAD DOG(S), I think I have all instances of well-known crabby critters. If you think of any others, please let me know. As for my themeless dreams, I guess it's back to the drawing board.

Jeff Chen notes:
Memorial puzzle! It made me grumpy when GRUMPY CAT passed away recently. Or wait, is today Garfield's birthday? I hate Mondays! What, ... read more

Memorial puzzle! It made me grumpy when GRUMPY CAT passed away recently. Or wait, is today Garfield's birthday? I hate Mondays! What, it's Tuesday, you say? The only thing I hate more than Mondays are Tuesdays!

Why is catty crankiness so amusing? Sometimes the only thing that puts a smile on Catwad's face is making other people miserable, so I bet he smiled – a little – at today's theme. I know I did. Ah, schadenfreude.

At first, the loose-seeming collection of animal book / movie titles made me grouchy. Ah! (Animal) + (synonym for irritable) = a tight theme, indeed. ANGRY BIRDS was a huge hit, and if you haven't heard of it, it's two words that you can infer from the clue. Same with GRUMPY CAT, although who wouldn't love a mug like his?

The GROUCHY / LADYBUG gave me a long pause, though. I've checked out about 2,000 kids' books from our library, and this one didn't ring a bell. "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," yes. "Brown Bear," absolutely. Maybe "The Grouchy Ladybug" is to Eric Carle as "The Twits" is to Roald Dahl. Not every book by a superstar writer is going to stand the test of time. That said, it does work in the interest of a solid theme, so I'm okay with it.

One aspect of the puzzle that made me the opposite of grumpy was Jim Peredo's gridwork. Four excellent big corners, chock full of CABARET / OVULATE / DEMIGOD and AT ANY RATE / SIBERIA / TOUCANS? With just a bit of ERG and TEDS to hold it all together? Favorable trade-off, to say the least!

Although, the CARR / MANRAY borders on unfair for newbs. Especially given the unfamiliarity of GROUCHY / LADYBUG, I'd have asked for a revision there, looking for something less flashy but more oriented toward allowing a victorious solve.

Jim lives about an hour away from me, and with some crossword people coming into town this past weekend, it would have been perfect to get together. Two sick kids + a sick wife + a sick and exhausted Jeff = having to pass, which made me cantankerous. Nice to have a puzzle like today's to take away a little of the cat scratch fever.

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© 2020, The New York TimesNo. 0114 ( 25,634 )

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Across
1
Actress Hathaway : ANNE
5
Forest components : TREES
10
Scored 100 on : ACED
14
Hacienda drudge : PEON
15
Like much of the Dakotas : RURAL
16
Alternative to a walker : CANE
17
When doubled, miniature golf : PUTT
18
Video game franchise in which the enemies are pigs : ANGRYBIRDS
20
"The ___ of Pooh" (Benjamin Hoff book) : TAO
21
Rotten little twerp : SNOT
22
"Time is money," e.g. : ADAGE
23
With 51-Across, Eric Carle kid-lit book, after "The" : GROUCHY
25
Pal of Chewbacca : HAN
27
Put a ding in, say : MAR
28
Dadaism pioneer : MANRAY
29
Just sitting around : IDLE
30
911 responder, in brief : EMT
31
Perfectly understood : CLEAR
32
___ Jemison, first black woman in space : MAE
33
Pub pints : ALES
34
Feline in an internet meme : GRUMPYCAT
38
A wartime communication might be sent in it : CODE
41
Rogue computer in "2001" : HAL
42
Outcome of haste, it's said : WASTE
46
"Hail!," to Caesar : AVE
47
Promising, as a future : ROSY
48
Soon-to-be graduate, usually : SENIOR
49
Backside, in Britain : BUM
50
"That's the spot!" : AHH
51
See 23-Across : LADYBUG
52
Story that one generally sticks to, whether it's true or not : ALIBI
54
Pursuer of an "accursed white whale" : AHAB
56
Button on a cam : REC
57
1980 boxing biopic : RAGINGBULL
59
Many a Meccan : ARAB
61
Princely school : ETON
62
Aquarium buildup : ALGAE
63
Fey of "30 Rock" : TINA
64
"Bill & ___ Excellent Adventure" : TEDS
65
Requests for Friskies, perhaps : MEOWS
66
"No problemo!" : EASY
Down
1
18-Across, e.g. : APP
2
Like hosiery hues, typically : NEUTRAL
3
Zero, zip, nada : NOTAONE
4
Rapper's posse : ENTOURAGE
5
In poor taste : TRASHY
6
Like undercooked eggs : RUNNY
7
Logician's "therefore" : ERGO
8
April event that's "green" : EARTHDAY
9
Sneakily clever : SLY
10
Gastric juice, e.g. : ACID
11
Apple coating at a fair : CARAMEL
12
When checkmate is most likely to occur : ENDGAME
13
"Just" punishment : DESERTS
19
Cause of ruination : BANE
23
Yukon S.U.V. maker : GMC
24
Vikki who sang "It Must Be Him" : CARR
26
Smart ___ : ALEC
29
Subtly suggest : IMPLY
33
"Be that as it may ..." : ATANYRATE
35
"Here's trouble!" : UHOH
36
BuzzFeed competitor : MASHABLE
37
Totally blown away : AWED
38
Musical for which Liza Minnelli won an Oscar : CABARET
39
Release a fertilizable egg : OVULATE
40
Part man, part deity : DEMIGOD
43
Stereotypical place of exile : SIBERIA
44
Sam the Froot Loops mascot and others : TOUCANS
45
Tiny bit of energy : ERG
47
Drops from the sky : RAIN
48
Relatives of weasels with dark fur : SABLES
51
Legal drama with Susan Dey : LALAW
53
Coal containers : BINS
55
___ Boss (German fashion house) : HUGO
58
Leg, in old slang : GAM
60
San Francisco area, with "the" : BAY

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle.

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