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New York Times, Monday, January 15, 2018

Author: Agnes Davidson and Zhouqin Burnikel
Editor: Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
24/3/20171/15/20182
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0200000
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1.61000
Agnes Davidson
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
5511/13/20126/26/201819
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
519165442
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.56281
Zhouqin Burnikel

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 40 Missing: {JQZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 2 for Ms. Davidson. This is puzzle # 52 for Ms. Burnikel. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes: Apt MLK Day theme, reinterpreting the famous FREE AT LAST to mean 'phrases whose last words are synonyms for free.' Especially apt ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Apt MLK Day theme, reinterpreting the famous FREE AT LAST to mean "phrases whose last words are synonyms for free." Especially apt that Agnes and C.C. chose the "release" meaning of free (instead of "not busy" or "take a burden from"), given MLK's goals in life.

NEW RELEASE and THE COAST IS CLEAR worked beautifully for me. Colorful phrases, and perfect synonyms.

BEG PARDON … perhaps it's a generational thing, but I don't ever hear exactly this. I BEG YOUR PARDON, yes. BEG YOUR PARDON, too. (And OH NO YOU DIDN'T all too much.)

TAX EXEMPT is my favorite type of tax! But here, the "free" meaning of exempt didn't get at the "release" sense of "free" that I associate with MLK's work.

As always, C.C. gives such nice bonuses — POWDER KEG, OLIVE OIL, CRAVAT are great. COSPLAYS is a bit odd in the verb form, but it's legit. REAL DEAL is similarly odd in the plural, but it's okay too.

I did find the short fill novice unfriendly. CITGO, ELYSEE, DARIN, ORECK are all valid words that educated solvers (mostly probably) ought to know, but so many in one puzzle felt like a heavy concentration.

Usually, these sorts of compromises arise when constructors try too hard to add in bonuses, but curiously, it had nothing to do with those added bonuses today. I would have asked for some rework in the north and south sections, which should be doable without changing black squares.

I wonder if someone might be a SOX fan, striving a bit too hard to work in the odd GO SOX …

Happy MLK Day! Hope you're volunteering somewhere, or at least remembering the spirit of the day.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0115 ( 24,905 )
Across Down
1. Big advertiser at auto races : STP
4. Sunoco competitor : CITGO
9. Distinctive smell : ODOR
13. Breakfast restaurant chain : IHOP
15. Quarter Pounder topper : ONION
16. Jay who preceded Jimmy Fallon : LENO
17. Singer's latest : NEWRELEASE
19. "What's gotten ___ you?" : INTO
20. Poems whose titles often start "To a ..." : ODES
21. Con's opposite : PRO
22. Alternatives to Nikes : AVIAS
23. Lodge member : ELK
24. Like religious institutions vis-à-vis the I.R.S. : TAXEXEMPT
26. King Arthur's magician : MERLIN
29. The lion in summer? : LEO
30. "Disgusting!" : ICK
31. What gigabytes might measure : MEMORY
35. Vexes : IRKS
39. "We can go safely now" : THECOASTISCLEAR
42. Like food from a West African drive-through? : TOGO
43. Tire material : RUBBER
44. In the style of : ALA
45. Envision : SEE
47. Scores two under par : EAGLES
49. "Excuse me?" : BEGPARDON
55. YouTube posting, casually : VID
56. Praise highly : EXALT
57. The Diamondbacks, on scoreboards : ARI
58. Vicinity : AREA
60. ___ monster (desert denizen) : GILA
61. Final words of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech ... or a hint to the endings of 17-, 24-, 39- and 49-Across : FREEATLAST
64. Wartime friend : ALLY
65. Actress Christina : RICCI
66. Chunk of concrete : SLAB
67. Loch ___ monster : NESS
68. Approved, as a contract : INKED
69. Resting place? : SPA
1. Covet one's neighbor's wife, e.g. : SIN
2. "The Cosby Show" son : THEO
3. Volatile situation : POWDERKEG
4. Mustard in the game Clue, e.g.: Abbr. : COL
5. Bumbling : INEPT
6. Queen's crown : TIARA
7. Shout at Fenway Park : GOSOX
8. Final word shouted before "Happy New Year!" : ONE
9. Cruet filler at an Italian restaurant : OLIVEOIL
10. Jeans material : DENIM
11. Not bottled, at a bar : ONTAP
12. Perch in a chicken house : ROOST
14. Green shampoo : PRELL
18. ___ Pie (frozen treat) : ESKIMO
22. Tree toppler : AXE
25. French president's palace : ELYSEE
26. Catcher's glove : MITT
27. Canyon effect : ECHO
28. More proximate : NEARER
32. East Lansing sch. : MSU
33. Gambling parlor, for short : OTB
34. Umbrella part : RIB
36. Super bargains : REALDEALS
37. Vitamin-rich green vegetable : KALE
38. Mmes. of Madrid : SRAS
40. Dresses up for a comic con, say : COSPLAYS
41. Fancy tie : CRAVAT
46. Grab a bite : EAT
48. TV's "2 Broke ___" : GIRLS
49. Started : BEGAN
50. Napoleon, on St. Helena : EXILE
51. Vexes : GALLS
52. Bobby who sang "Mack the Knife" : DARIN
53. Big name in vacuum cleaners : ORECK
54. Sister's daughter, e.g. : NIECE
59. "Right now!" : ASAP
61. Payday, often: Abbr. : FRI
62. Help : AID
63. Letters on an unfinished sched. : TBA

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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