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New York Times, Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Author:
Carl Larson
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
11/21/20200
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0010000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.66010
Carl Larson

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 38 Missing: {HJVZ} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Larson. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Carl Larson notes:
My name is Carl Larson, I'm 56, retired and living in Studio City, California. When working, I was an electrical engineer and ... read more

My name is Carl Larson, I'm 56, retired and living in Studio City, California. When working, I was an electrical engineer and marketing manager in the computer industry. I'm very excited to have one of my crossword puzzles published for the first time in the New York Times!

I've been doing puzzles for as long as I can remember. I was a Games Magazine early adopter, sneaking in puzzle solving during high school classes. I've been doing the New York Times crossword for nearly as long, and have fond memories of sitting in the back of math class with a friend trying to finish the Sunday puzzle each week to the annoyance of our teacher. Win-win.

Near the end of 2018, I decided that getting a crossword puzzle accepted for publication in the New York Times would be a 2019 goal and bucket list item. I had toyed with crossword construction a couple of times in the past but was daunted by the difficulty of hand constructing. Today's crossword constructing software and online databases ease the task.

Today's puzzle was my 5th submission, and it was accepted for publication in May 2019. I came up with the idea when I was browsing through XWord Info for inspiration. Specifically, I was looking through the list of past puzzles with circled or shaded squares thinking about constructing a puzzle with one of those elements. I noticed that 3x2 blocks of circles had not been used in many puzzles. It occurred to me that a 3x2 block of circles looked like a six-pack of cans viewed from above, and a theme idea was born. As it turns out, there were plenty of 6 letter beer brands to choose from. STROHS, MODELO, LABATT, PERONI, MOLSON, and BUDICE were left in the cooler.

I'm guessing that Jeff will enjoy my puzzle. I know from reading his notes that he gets a kick out of pointing out when different constructors come up with the same theme. Today he gets to do it with one of his puzzles. Back on June 24th, 2019, Jeff and his co-constructor Ari Richter, scooped me with a Universal puzzle with a very similar six-pack theme, including 3 of the 4 brands I used. Doh! I enjoyed Jeff and Ari's added level to their puzzle with the JOE SIX PACK revealer and JOE-related theme entries passing through the six-packs in their grid.

Jeff Chen notes:
Welcome to the latest installment of 'The SWIK Show!' (Shows What I Know) Ari's original idea was more similar to Carl's, and I ... read more

Welcome to the latest installment of "The SWIK Show!" (Shows What I Know) Ari's original idea was more similar to Carl's, and I suggested that more could be done with it. An extra layer would make the puzzle so much more distinctive than just a couple of SIX PACKs sitting in the puzzle.

SWIK! A cleanly-executed puzzle — focusing on those SIX PACKs, with nothing else to potentially distract — made for a punchy visual.

How should the letters be oriented, Ari wondered. Clockwise? Back and forth? Anagrammed? Like a book? Definitely, like a book, I said. It's too hard otherwise — wouldn't solvers be befuddled if we did anything else?

SWIK! Carl's approach is a bit confusing at first, but it's consistent. Better yet, it delays the a-ha moment, piquing and holding solvers' interest. I stared at STEALL for ages, anagramming, wondering if SALT was somehow involved. I didn't figure it out until hitting SIX PACK OF BEER, and that's after having done extensive work researching (read: drinking) various six-letter beers for the previous puzzle!

Ari asked, wouldn't it be better if we had four SIX PACKs? Three might be too thin? I thought about it; a valid point. Having the extra layer would ultimately more than make up for it, though, while four SIX PACKs alone felt like Al Bundy sitting around and drinking empty calories.

SWIK! The four SIX PACKs and a long revealer in SIX PACK OF BEER made for a chewy stout, hardly your average MILLER Lite. The lack of long theme answers running through the SIX PACKs also gave Carl huge freedom in filling around all those letter combinations, and I appreciate the smoothness / newb-friendliness of the overall product.

It's amazing that anyone ever listens to me. (No one tell that to my kids!)

A strong debut, aimed perfectly at early-week beer enthusiasts and more.

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© 2020, The New York TimesNo. 0121 ( 25,641 )

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Across
1
Ideologies : ISMS
5
Something to pitch or break : CAMP
9
"I give up!" : UNCLE
14
Ham or lamb : MEAT
15
___ bowl (health food offering) : ACAI
16
1988 Summer Olympics city : SEOUL
17
Subject of interest to a 23andMe user : GENE
18
Vivacious : PERT
19
"You are not!" retort : IAMSO
20
Cellphone button : ASTERISK
22
Tiny sound? : INLET
23
Xylophonist's need : MALLET
24
URL ending : ORG
25
Hit from the '60s? : LSD
27
"Baa baa" mama : EWE
28
Groups plotting coups : CABALS
31
"Casablanca" setting : CAFE
32
IV solution : SALINE
33
English school that's a rival of Harrow : ETON
34
Party purchase ... or a hint to each circled letter set : SIXPACKOFBEER
38
Brief moments : SECS
39
Bronze and brass : ALLOYS
40
Aviated : FLEW
41
Unburdened by : FREEOF
42
A.T.F. agent, e.g. : FED
45
___-told : OFT
46
Keyboard key pressed by a pinkie : TAB
47
"Nothing in life is fun for the whole ___": Jerry Seinfeld : FAMILY
49
Prepped, as apples for baking : CORED
51
Tiffs : QUARRELS
53
River rental : CANOE
54
"Aaron ___, Sir" (song from "Hamilton") : BURR
55
Panache : BRIO
56
Fluorescent bulb filler : ARGON
57
Major Baltic port : RIGA
58
Desktop image : ICON
59
Quick to anger : TESTY
60
Pour forth : SPEW
61
Grasps : GETS
Down
1
"Sign me up!" : IMGAME
2
Go back and forth : SEESAW
3
Layer below the earth's crust : MANTLE
4
Shade of blue : STEEL
5
Symbol on a Braves baseball cap : CAPITALA
6
"Bullets," in poker : ACES
7
Old German money : MARK
8
Orchestra locale : PIT
9
On drugs : USING
10
Beat writer ___ Cassady : NEAL
11
Not be punctual : COMELATE
12
Greatly desires : LUSTSFOR
13
"Mr. Blue Sky" band, for short : ELO
21
Sportscast summary : RECAP
22
E-file recipient, in brief : IRS
24
Soccer stadium chant : OLEOLE
26
Study : DEN
29
Upset stomach soother, informally : BICARB
30
Twistable joint : ANKLE
31
They'll earn you a 2.0 : CEES
32
Annual Austin festival, for short : SXSW
34
Healthy diet and regular exercise, say : SELFCARE
35
Barkeep's grabber : ICETONGS
36
Hullabaloo : FOOFARAW
37
Hands down : BYFAR
38
Airport across the bay from OAK : SFO
41
Pokémon Go, in the late 2010s, e.g. : FAD
42
Savage : FIERCE
43
Mama Cass : ELLIOT
44
Vacuum cleaners featuring "cyclone" technology : DYSONS
46
Minuscule : TEENY
48
"Live and Let Die" villain : MRBIG
50
Rummage (through) : ROOT
51
Witticism : QUIP
52
Advocate for : URGE
53
Cougar or cheetah : CAT
54
Abbr. in a real estate ad : BRS

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle.

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