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New York Times, Saturday, January 16, 2016

Author:
Sean Dobbin
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
54/19/20126/8/20160
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0101201
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1.49000
Sean Dobbin

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 31 Missing: {JQWXZ} This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. Dobbin. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Sean Dobbin notes:
I knew that if I wanted to get a themeless published I'd have to make it sparkle, and the fill would have to be exceptionally clean. I ... read more

I knew that if I wanted to get a themeless published I'd have to make it sparkle, and the fill would have to be exceptionally clean. I think I basically succeeded here, and this is actually the first puzzle I've had published with no revisions or edits to the grid. I was hoping to debut PHOTOBOMB, but Barry Silk beat me to it while this one was in the queue.

Jeff Chen notes:
Sean Dobbin, formerly of the 'Man vs. Puzzle' blog! Great to see him back in the construction game. This grid skeleton does a ... read more

Sean Dobbin, formerly of the "Man vs. Puzzle" blog! Great to see him back in the construction game.

ROB REINER, who was the interviewer in "This is Spinal Tap"

This grid skeleton does a nice job of balancing solver flow and ease of construction. The triple-stacks of answers are separated, those sinuous sets of black squares acting like labyrinth walls. Yet there's plenty of ways into each of the corners, so that the puzzle doesn't feel choked off. It's a great layout in terms of allowing you to work (mostly) on one corner at a time.

I liked the NW and SE corners a lot, each featuring three very nice entries. I personally liked PHOTOBOMB / ROB REINER (of "Princess Bride" fame and more) / OOLONG TEA a little better than AD INITIUM / RENE RUSSO / ERGOMETER since the former set felt a little fresher, but I wasn't keen on MT APO (a bit esoteric) and OENO (prefix, and not a super common one at that). Tough to achieve that perfect balance of snazziness and cleanliness.

Note how the other two corners both have a long entry running through them — LIP SERVICE through the NE and CINDERELLA through the SW. Although these entries add a lot of color to the puzzle, they also add a level of construction difficulty to their respective corners. I liked IT CAN'T BE! and SINGSONG (although apparently that means "monotonous" — exactly the opposite of what I had thought!) but SHIVERED is more neutral for me.

And ATTAGIRL is okay, but IRONICAL … isn't that "ironic"? And DESK SETS is one of those entries constructors rely on for grid edges, given its preponderance of friendly E S T letters. (STRESS TEST and ESSAY TEST also fall into this bucket).

Thankfully, Sean gives us all fair / easy crossings for Julie TAYMOR, who earned two Emmys for "The Lion King." I like learning a new piece of information or two, but only when it's introduced in a way that allows the solver to conquer the puzzle. Sean does a nice job of accomplishing that.

Jim Horne notes:
Jeff apparently skips over the theatre section of his newspaper. Julie TAYMOR was in the news for months over the 'Spider-Man: Turn ... read more

Jeff apparently skips over the theatre section of his newspaper. Julie TAYMOR was in the news for months over the "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" debacle. She co-wrote the book and began as the director, only to end up suing her producers and eventually settling out of court.

1
P
2
H
3
O
4
T
5
O
6
B
7
O
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M
9
B
10
S
11
T
12
A
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I
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D
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R
O
B
R
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L
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O
O
L
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N
G
T
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A
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A
L
T
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S
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M
T
A
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A
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L
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P
L
A
N
K
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P
E
T
E
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C
R
U
E
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L
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G
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L
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P
S
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R
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V
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G
O
O
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S
N
E
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A
T
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I
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S
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S
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U
E
S
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S
P
E
L
L
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T
H
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D
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E
C
O
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C
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L
L
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S
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L
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O
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T
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A
V
G
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S
C
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T
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N
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T
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L
A
P
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F
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Y
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T
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A
D
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N
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B
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R
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E
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0116 ( 24,175 )
Across
1
Drop-in shot? : PHOTOBOMB
10
Button-down : STAID
15
Emmy-winning sitcom actor of 1974 and '78 : ROBREINER
16
Reading volume : LITRE
17
Twinings product : OOLONGTEA
18
Some voices : ALTOS
19
Highest peak in the Philippines: Abbr. : MTAPO
20
Locale of the Falkland Isls. : ATL
21
Exercise position that strengthens the abs : PLANK
22
Sessions of Congress : PETE
23
Like a Grand Inquisitor : CRUEL
25
Force in W.W. I and II : GIS
26
___ jolie : TRES
27
Something paid by a hypocrite : LIPSERVICE
30
Sickly sweet sentiment : GOO
31
Spurn : SNEERAT
32
Personal problems : ISSUES
36
Breaks one's word? : SPELLS
37
Got less dense : THINNED
39
Prefix with design : ECO
40
Kind of team : CINDERELLA
42
It may be quarter-sized : SLOT
46
Mean fig. : AVG
47
Cone filler : SCOOP
48
It has a solo near the end of "An American in Paris" : TUBA
49
Swallows things? : NESTS
52
What nobody can stand to make? : LAP
53
Like some unwanted deposits : FATTY
54
Bobby who wrote "Route 66" : TROUP
55
At the beginning : ADINITIUM
57
Soft and flexible : BENDY
58
She played Natasha in 2000's "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" : RENERUSSO
59
Skirts : EDGES
60
Stress test apparatus : ERGOMETER
Down
1
Cause : PROMPT
2
Schnoz : HOOTER
3
Shaped like Saturn : OBLATE
4
Recurrent themes : TROPES
5
Vintner's prefix : OENO
6
Really important : BIG
7
It's superior to Superior : ONTARIO
8
Rendezvous : MEETUP
9
Unsupported? : BRALESS
10
Come-on comeuppance : SLAP
11
One holding notes : TILL
12
"You go, sister!" : ATTAGIRL
13
Wryly amusing : IRONICAL
14
Stationery store stock : DESKSETS
23
Sales specialists : CLOSERS
24
You can't focus when this is on : LENSCAP
28
Lost wheels, maybe : REPO
29
Flight pattern : VEE
30
Something passed down the line : GENE
32
"No-o-o-o!" : ITCANTBE
33
Had a chilling effect? : SHIVERED
34
Monotonous : SINGSONG
35
Lufthansa connection? : UND
38
Herald : DECLARE
39
Activity for running mates? : ELOPING
41
FedEx employee, at times : LOADER
42
Center of a square, maybe : STATUE
43
Allan-a-Dale, e.g. : LUTIST
44
Dense : OBTUSE
45
Julie with two Tonys for "The Lion King" : TAYMOR
50
Swagger, slangily : TUDE
51
1974 film with three stars in its title : SPYS
53
Toothbrush or mattress specification : FIRM
56
Sci-fi character who takes the red pill rather than the blue one : NEO

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

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