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New York Times, Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Author: Jim Hilger
Editor: Will Shortz
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1212/11/20081/23/20180
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1.60320
Jim Hilger

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FJQX} This is puzzle # 12 for Mr. Hilger. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jim Hilger notes: Hi to everyone. It's great to have a crossword in the Times again. I built this puzzle back in the fall of 2016. The published ... more
Jim Hilger notes:

Hi to everyone. It's great to have a crossword in the Times again. I built this puzzle back in the fall of 2016. The published version looks very similar to what I originally submitted, but with some clues simplified for a Tuesday-level solve. (Clue that survived: "Rear admiral's rear" for STERN. Clue that did not survive: "TX separatists, loosely speaking?" for UVW.)

I remember reworking the bottom of this grid just barely pre-submission, once it occurred to me that I could not only have the SPREAD revealer but could reuse its "E" to unfold a BEDSPREAD in the bottom row. Somehow, that "aha" moment made the puzzle an extra-fun one for me to have constructed.

Hopefully, the slowly appearing circled answers will result in spreading some fun "aha" moments among the solvers, somewhere around mid-solve.

Jeff Chen notes: Everyone, SPREAD out! At first, I was turned off by the visually jarring shotgun spray of circles strewn across the grid, but I ended ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Everyone, SPREAD out! At first, I was turned off by the visually jarring shotgun spray of circles strewn across the grid, but I ended up liking the general effect after figuring out what was going on. The longer ones — MAGAZINE and MIDDLE AGE spreads — were particularly nice.

I've seen this concept with various letters SPREAD through a single entry many times, most recently a few months ago, but never spread across a full row. Nice way to get the longer SPREADs worked in.

Being able to spread letters across an entire row gives a ton of flexibility. Look at how many spots the letters W I N G can go. Shift them all around to heaven and back!

Using six theme rows — plus the SPREAD revealer! — takes most of that flexibility away, and then some. It's particularly difficult in the middle of the puzzle, where you have so many MAGAZINE and MIDDLE AGE letters that get crammed into those two close rows. Not a surprise to get some A MEMO SEM OBOLI there.

And UVW, oof! These types of crutch entries are so inelegant that I would have restarted the entire puzzle if it ever came to something like this. Will has his own "puzzle-killers" that DQ a grid just by themselves, and this would have been one of mine.

There's way too much crossword glue needed to pull this audacious grid off. Given how much more impressed I was with MIDDLE AGE (compared to WING), I think sticking to just the four long SPREADs would have resulted in a better puzzle. Might have also allowed for a snazzier long entry than WHERESOEVER — something like CHECK PLEASE or HEATED SEATS or HORSE SENSE.

I like the twist on the SPREAD idea though, using entire rows to accomplish the goal. Great way to pull off the longer SPREADs that other constructors using this concept haven't been able to use.

1
T
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W
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E
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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0123 ( 24,913 )
Across Down
1. Value of snake eyes in craps : TWO
4. Rules as a monarch : REIGNS
10. Difficult endeavor : SLOG
14. Put on TV : AIR
15. 87, 89 or 93, on a gas pump : OCTANE
16. With 25-Down, office request : TAKE
17. Pro at tax time : CPA
18. In any place : WHERESOEVER
20. Counterparts of compressions, in physics : TENSIONS
22. Wear away : ABRADE
23. ___-X : GEN
24. "Get serious!" : CMON
25. Member of a Marvel Comics group : AVENGER
29. Divinity school subj. : REL
30. T-X connection : UVW
33. Neighbor of the asteroid belt : MARS
34. Strip discussed in the Oslo Accords : GAZA
36. Word with circle or ear : INNER
38. Nobel laureate Wiesel : ELIE
39. Opinion pieces : OPEDS
41. Nashville venue, informally : OPRY
42. Mork's TV pal : MINDY
44. Wait for a green light, say : IDLE
45. Fire and fury : RAGE
46. Peculiar : ODD
47. It doesn't get returned : ACE
49. Less sincere, as a promise : EMPTIER
51. Make black, in a way : CHAR
52. El Al hub city : LOD
53. "Already?" : SOSOON
56. City straddling Europe and Asia : ISTANBUL
61. Foreboding : PREMONITION
63. Judge Lance of the O.J. trial : ITO
64. Book after Chronicles : EZRA
65. Surface : EMERGE
66. Grazing area : LEA
67. Drakes : ducks :: ___ : swans : COBS
68. Apt word to follow each row of circled letters : SPREAD
69. Subtext of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" : LSD
1. Diplomat's skill : TACT
2. Film editor's gradual transition : WIPE
3. Leftover in a juicer : ORANGERIND
4. Olympic sport with strokes : ROWING
5. Repeat : ECHO
6. Calif.-to-Fla. route : ITEN
7. Elongated, heavily armored fish : GARS
8. U-turn from SSW : NNE
9. Opening word? : SESAME
10. Rear admiral's rear : STERN
11. ___ flow : LAVA
12. Green-lit : OKED
13. Richard of "Unfaithful" : GERE
19. Coins of ancient Athens : OBOLI
21. Picked up on : SENSED
24. Place to sing "Rock-a-Bye Baby" : CRADLE
25. See 16-Across : AMEMO
26. Bona fide : VALID
27. A narcissist has a big one : EGO
28. Relative of an épée : RAPIER
30. Concern for a debt collector : UNPAIDBILL
31. Brink : VERGE
32. More sardonic : WRYER
35. End of a line on the Underground? : ZED
37. Antivirus software brand : NORTON
40. Divinity sch. : SEM
43. Logo with an exclamation mark : YAHOO
48. Annual French film festival site : CANNES
50. Smoothed out : PLANED
51. Deep sleeps : COMAS
53. Particular in a design : SPEC
54. Ricelike pasta : ORZO
55. Belgrade denizen : SERB
56. Anatomical canal : ITER
57. Royal title : SIRE
58. Outfit in Caesar's senate : TOGA
59. Pac-12 team : UTES
60. Mutual fund consideration : LOAD
62. Little rascal : IMP

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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