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New York Times, Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Author: Jules Markey
Editor: Will Shortz
Jules P. Markey
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
175/10/20124/12/20180
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0145700
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1.58451

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

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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 ... more
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 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 ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

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 Down
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
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
39. Unlikeliest to be bought : LAMEST
45. Do some lawn work : MOW
47. Grueling Olympic race, for short : TRI
52. Melodic : ARIOSE
54. "Now that makes sense!" : OHISEE
56. Retards : SLOWS
57. Deck with 78 cards : TAROT
58. Its symbol is ORD : OHARE
60. Elect (to) : OPT
64. 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, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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