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New York Times, Friday, January 22, 2016

Author:
Paula Gamache
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1085/21/20021/14/20184
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81318151217619
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58431
Paula Gamache

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 64, Blocks: 33 Missing: {JMQXZ} Spans: 4 This is puzzle # 101 for Ms. Gamache. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes:
My engineer's brain loves quantification, and that extends to my evaluation of themeless puzzles. Usually I count any long(ish), ... read more

My engineer's brain loves quantification, and that extends to my evaluation of themeless puzzles. Usually I count any long(ish), colorful entry as an asset, tally them up, and add a point or two (or even three) if there's some cool visual impact or level of construction difficulty. I've found that the if the result is less than 10, I feel like there's not enough great stuff packed in.

Ah, THAT kind of swiveling blade!

At first glance, this puzzle didn't have a huge visual impact — sure, a wide-open, innovative-looking grid, but nothing that wowed me. However, there is something pretty impressive about six long answers interlocking — I've highlighted them below to better illustrate the effect. It's tough to do this and still make all six answers sparkly, and Paula has excelled here. It's fun to see the fresh GLUTEN-FREE PASTA, and the rest of them are absolutely assets in my eyes. So I might add a point or two for the difficulty factor.

I tend to stay away from themelesses with crisscrossing skeletons, because they are so difficult to make sparkly and cleanly. Each intersection reduces your flexibility, and when you have a section like the south where POTATO PEELERS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY, and GLUTEN-FREE PASTA constrain it, you're bound to need some glue like E-DATES (does anyone really use this?) to hold it together.

The corners have fewer constraints, but they're still hard — when you have to run mid-length answers through the start of POTATO PEELERS and BACK IN THE SADDLE, you tend to need things like the old-timey ONE O CAT. I did like entries like PENTANE (I love me some chemistry), RATED PG, SKI BIB, SWEE PEA in the full, and STAN LEE though.

Overall, this type of construction is still not my favorite, as its level of difficulty can be tough for non-constructors to appreciate, and the gluey bits like DIA, TRA, KEL, E DATES, etc. can be harder to overcome, since there's not a ton of snazzy fill.

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P
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B
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0122 ( 24,181 )
Across
1
Viking girl in "How to Train Your Dragon" : ASTRID
7
Intimates : GETSAT
13
Comics tyke : SWEEPEA
15
Starling of book and film : CLARICE
16
Epic number : CASTOFTHOUSANDS
18
So-called "fifth qtrs." : OTS
19
Postwar German nickname : DERALTE
20
Kenan's sitcom partner : KEL
21
Next : THEN
23
Irrelevant info : NOISE
24
Trinidad o Tobago : ISLA
25
Shot putters' needs? : SERA
26
Squash : SITON
27
Unleashes (on) : SICS
28
Its main characters go to hell : DANTESINFERNO
31
___ Green, 2006 Bond girl : EVA
32
Chris who sang "The Road to Hell," 1989 : REA
33
Tools with swiveling blades : POTATOPEELERS
40
Directed : SENT
41
Fantasy sports option : TRADE
42
Like some additions and editions : LATE
44
With 36-Down, bit of clothes mending : KNEE
45
Like drafts : ONTAP
46
Emphatic type: Abbr. : ITAL
47
Lance on a bench : ITO
48
Snowflake or crystal shape : FRACTAL
50
Outer limit : END
51
Functioning again : BACKINTHESADDLE
54
Like Charlie Brown's kite, ultimately : INATREE
55
Large game bass : STRIPER
56
Great-aunt in "David Copperfield" : BETSEY
57
Saws : ADAGES
Down
1
Dandy wear : ASCOTS
2
Enveloped : SWATHED
3
Byzantine art bit : TESSERA
4
Pensioned: Abbr. : RET
5
Light music source? : IPOD
6
Appealing figure? : DEFENSEATTORNEY
7
Rice elbows, e.g. : GLUTENFREEPASTA
8
Facility : EASE
9
Lilt bit : TRA
10
Registers : SINKSIN
11
Big name in car parts : ACDELCO
12
Automotive models S and X : TESLAS
14
For three, to Frédéric : ATROIS
15
Chuck who advised Nixon : COLSON
17
French-speaking land where John James Audubon was born : HAITI
22
Fashion designer Lepore : NANETTE
24
Bar-Ilan University student, e.g. : ISRAELI
29
Power inits. beginning in 1933 : TVA
30
"An ___ held by the tail is not yet caught" (old proverb) : EEL
33
It's named for its five carbon atoms : PENTANE
34
Old sandlot game : ONEOCAT
35
Baroque : ORNATE
36
See 44-Across : PATCH
37
Internet hookups? : EDATES
38
Fairly clean, so to speak : RATEDPG
39
Comic book writer with a National Medal of Arts : STANLEE
40
Winter wear resembling overalls : SKIBIB
43
Graybeards : ELDERS
48
Boot : FIRE
49
Add superfluous stuff to : LARD
52
Some chess pieces: Abbr. : KTS
53
Period of veinticuatro horas : DIA

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

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