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New York Times, Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Author:
Jules Markey
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
195/10/20123/12/20190
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0165700
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.59461
Jules P. Markey

This puzzle:

Rows: 16, Columns: 15 Words: 81, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 16 for Mr. Markey. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jules P. Markey notes:
The inspiration for this puzzle was bird poop, (I was going to end my blurb there, but I'll go on), which morphed into the more ... read more

The inspiration for this puzzle was bird poop, (I was going to end my blurb there, but I'll go on), which morphed into the more refined bird droppings, which became the original revealer for this puzzle, in which 4 five letter bird names are embedded in long down entries. I mailed in the completed BIRD DROPPINGS grid, and then at the 2017 ACPT I broached the subject with both Will and Joel. There seemed to be a positive vibe from both (well maybe more from Joel than Will), but alas when the email arrived it was along the lines of: We like the idea, but having a puzzle revolve around bird droppings might not sit well with some solvers.

So, I came up with a few alternatives including a fifth themer: CAJUN COOKING while trying to fit BIRD(S) somewhere in the grid, without success. Eventually, I suggested DOWNFEATHERS as the revealer, which was the one accepted. A quick reworking of the grid and voila, today's puzzle. Thanks to Will and crew for really polishing it up, as usual.

When I got word last week of the impending publish date, I took a look at the puzzle again, and for some reason, the phrase FLYING SOUTH popped into my head which I liked, but alas it was much too late, for at 11 letters it would have required a complete reworking of the grid.

Well, that's the inside POOP on this one, I am disappointed that BIRD DROPPINGS didn't make the cut, but one can never POOH-POOH the fact of having their puzzle published in the N.Y. Times. Hope you liked it.

Jeff Chen notes:
DOWN FEATHERS … equals 'birds hidden within themers in the down direction'? I stared at that revealer for a long time, trying ... read more

DOWN FEATHERS … equals "birds hidden within themers in the down direction"? I stared at that revealer for a long time, trying to figure out if I was missing something. Where were the feathers? Perhaps they were drawn onto the print version? Now that would have been cool! We see so many shaded and circled squares — how about some feathered squares!

Some great finds, FINCH inside A GAME OF INCHES, RAVEN inside BRAVE NEW WORLD, etc. Love that Jules went with longish birds. It would have been all too easy to use TIT or OWL or EMU.

The puzzle does need a revealer — something to explain the concept — but DOWN FEATHERS didn't work for me. As much as I love a clever revealer, if you can't find one that feels sharp and/or witty, best to stick with something straightforward like BIRD as your last entry. It won't win any awards, but at least it'll do the trick and not confuse people. (BIRD DROPPINGS is hilariously on point, but it's also pretty gross!)

Good gridwork, especially considering the five long themers. STOA and IDEO up top worried me, but thankfully, just a bit of ESE and RAH otherwise. I would have expected some glop around the EHOW / RIP ON section due to themer overlap, so the smoothness there was much appreciated.

Down-oriented themers … a typical drawback is that the revealer comes too early in the puzzle. Gives away the game! But that can't be helped; just part of a vertical themer layout.

Another problem is that it can be tough to incorporate good long fill, since stuff like DNA SAMPLES (great fill!) tends to get mistaken for theme. Rich Norris over at the LAT frowns upon long across fill like this, and I agree. Best to cap this kind of fill to seven or eight letters, max.

The print edition has so much potential, able to do things that the electronic version can't. I'd love to see more elements like a feather printed lightly atop squares that can help keep the print newspaper alive. Even distinguish it.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0117 ( 24,907 )
Across
1
___ Express (Boston-to-Washington connection) : ACELA
6
Site of Zeno's teaching : STOA
10
Prefix with -logical : IDEO
14
Close-fitting head covering : DORAG
15
Congers, e.g. : EELS
16
Salmon at a deli : NOVA
17
Some evidence collected for trials : DNASAMPLES
19
Birdbrain : TWIT
20
Texting alternative : EMAIL
21
Boatloads : ABUNCH
23
Police, informally : LAW
26
Part of a doctor's visit : EXAM
27
Blizzard results : DRIFTS
28
Lyrist of myth : ERATO
30
Lead-in to dog or horse : SEA
32
Made a fast stop? : ATE
33
Towel : DRYOFF
35
Tel ___ : AVIV
37
The works : ALL
40
___ Mae (bond) : GINNIE
41
Scruff : NAPE
42
Madre's hermana : TIA
43
Wall-E's love in "Wall-E" : EVE
44
Submarine commander of fiction : NEMO
46
It's often played before playing : ANTHEM
48
Rule, informally : REG
49
Solidify : CLOT
50
Tranquil : SERENE
51
"Hurray!" : RAH
53
Question before a name is repeated : WHO
55
Circuitry connectors : WIRES
56
Standard equipment on most cars : STEREO
59
Website with step-by-step tutorials : EHOW
61
Solidify : SET
62
A little behind : LATISH
63
Bad-mouth : RIPON
65
Pasta used in soups and salads : ORZO
66
Maker's mark? : APOSTROPHE
71
Asian vessels : WOKS
72
Tolkien character : RUNE
73
Turkish money : LIRAS
74
Reason to see an ophthalmologist : STYE
75
Need for a modern pentathlon : EPEE
76
High-tech package delivery method : DRONE
Down
1
Do some arithmetic : ADD
2
One side of a debate : CON
3
Word after many a president's name : ERA
4
Zap, in a way : LASE
5
*Baseball, according to some : AGAMEOFINCHES
6
Old photo tones : SEPIAS
7
*"A likely story!" : TELLMEANOTHERONE
8
"Hurray!" : OLE
9
Longtime Syrian strongman : ASSAD
10
Sense : INTUIT
11
Warm winter coat contents ... or what is present in the answer to each starred clue? : DOWNFEATHERS
12
Give the boot : EVICT
13
Vows : OATHS
18
Upper limit, for short : MAX
22
*Dystopian novel set in the year 2540 : BRAVENEWWORLD
23
Book that a bookkeeper keeps : LEDGER
24
Achieve great success : ARRIVE
25
*Sports legend who was an M.V.P. for eight consecutive seasons : WAYNEGRETZKY
29
Boatload : TON
31
Director DuVernay : AVA
34
Sense : FEEL
36
Hoppy brews : IPAS
38
Mortgagor, e.g. : LIENEE
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Unlikeliest to be bought : LAMEST
45
Do some lawn work : MOW
47
Grueling Olympic race, for short : TRI
52
Melodic : ARIOSE
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"Now that makes sense!" : OHISEE
56
Retards : SLOWS
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Deck with 78 cards : TAROT
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Its symbol is ORD : OHARE
60
Elect (to) : OPT
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Genre for "Chinatown" or "The Big Sleep" : NOIR
67
Whelp : PUP
68
One side of a debate : PRO
69
Solo on the silver screen : HAN
70
Cornell-to-Yale dir. : ESE

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle.

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