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New York Times, Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Author:
John R. O'Brien
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
36/4/20123/12/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0210000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.65010
John R. O'Brien

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FKQVX} This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. O'Brien. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes:
Many different constructors have written to me about a HIDDEN GEM idea, but it's usually with hiding the word as in SAGO PALM. ... read more

Many different constructors have written to me about a HIDDEN GEM idea, but it's usually with hiding the word as in SAGO PALM. Interesting to see the different interpretation today, gems spread out through a word or phrase. I really liked PAPER AIRPLANE, as it reminded me of the days I was shuttled off to Chinese school on Friday nights. Not sure what my parents were expecting, but I did learn to make some great PAPER AIRPLANES, spitwads, and other prankish devices. Mischief managed!

Will doesn't often take themes dependent on single words, as they tend not to be as interesting as multi-word phrases. Multi-word phrases also help distinguish "good" crosswords from "crapwords" (that's a technical term) in little local newspapers, as those tend to feel dictionary-generated. I did like JEOPARDIZE and PRESUMABLY, but not nearly as much as PAPER AIRPLANE.

I liked John's NE corner, that beautiful stack of AMYGDALA / POSEIDON (love me some mythology!) / AUTOZONE. I typically would use more black squares in a region like this, because it's so hard to execute on it cleanly and with sparkle. John does need a CYSTS (a bit icky) and LTS, ENE, but I thought it was well worth it.

I thought the opposite corner didn't come out as well. See all those answers that have to work through / next to PAPER AIRPLANE and PRESUMABLY? It's a pretty good triple of PARROTED / ANNE RICE / PEASANTS, but all those constraints force an ORA right in the stack. Then a RECTO and ID EST down below. And there's EMS (admittedly more minor) and the outdated ERES TU. All in all, not bad, but not nearly as strong as the NE corner.

Overall, HIDDEN GEM didn't quite resonate with me as a theme rationale here. The circled letters aren't really hiding anything at all, TOPAZ et al. popping right out. That'll play well with some solvers wanting a more straightforward puzzle, but I like having to work harder to get an a-ha moment at the end of a puzzle. I did appreciate that the large quantity of interesting mid-to-long fill helped keep my attention, though.

1
H
2
O
3
G
4
A
5
C
6
T
7
A
8
S
9
P
10
A
11
P
12
A
13
L
14
O
T
O
15
P
A
I
N
T
16
I
M
O
U
T
17
T
O
L
18
L
P
L
A
Z
A
19
C
Y
S
T
S
20
D
O
D
O
S
21
I
M
22
P
23
G
E
O
24
O
L
E
O
25
J
26
E
O
P
A
27
R
D
I
Z
28
E
29
G
E
N
T
30
E
E
L
31
D
E
A
D
O
N
32
R
E
I
33
D
34
A
L
O
N
E
35
P
36
A
37
P
E
R
A
I
38
R
39
P
L
A
N
E
40
L
A
N
E
S
41
P
O
L
L
42
O
R
N
A
T
43
E
44
L
A
Y
45
A
46
W
47
A
48
Y
49
P
R
E
S
U
M
50
A
51
B
L
Y
52
L
A
C
E
53
O
R
A
54
S
T
L
55
M
A
R
C
O
56
S
T
I
N
57
G
58
H
I
59
D
60
D
E
N
G
E
M
61
R
E
C
T
O
62
O
G
R
E
S
63
O
D
E
64
I
D
E
S
T
65
S
E
E
Y
A
66
D
E
N
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0124 ( 24,549 )
Across
1
Harley-Davidson bike, in slang : HOG
4
Assume the role of : ACTAS
9
Like Vatican affairs : PAPAL
14
Plains tribe name : OTO
15
Emulate Picasso or Pollock : PAINT
16
"Too rich for my blood" : IMOUT
17
Place to pay the going rate? : TOLLPLAZA
19
Skin abnormalities : CYSTS
20
Dummies : DODOS
21
Dennis the Menace, for one : IMP
23
Former G.M. compact : GEO
24
Margarine : OLEO
25
Put at risk : JEOPARDIZE
29
Affectedly polite : GENTEEL
31
Exactly right : DEADON
32
Former Nevada senator Harry : REID
34
How Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic : ALONE
35
Something that might be thrown behind a teacher's back : PAPERAIRPLANE
40
Bowling venue : LANES
41
Input for fivethirtyeight.com : POLL
42
Like Baroque architecture : ORNATE
44
Purchase payment plan : LAYAWAY
49
In all probability : PRESUMABLY
52
Add punch to, as the punch : LACE
53
___ pro nobis : ORA
54
Cardinal's insignia : STL
55
Florida senator Rubio : MARCO
56
"O death, where is thy ___?": I Corinthians : STING
58
Masterpiece waiting to be found ... or a hint to the words in the circled letters : HIDDENGEM
61
Right-hand page of an open book : RECTO
62
People eaters, maybe : OGRES
63
Work of Horace : ODE
64
Namely, in Latin : IDEST
65
"Toodles" : SEEYA
66
Room with an easy chair : DEN
Down
1
"Oh, goody!" : HOTDOG
2
Peter with eight Academy Award nominations (and, sadly, zero wins) : OTOOLE
3
___ Globes : GOLDEN
4
iPad downloads : APPS
5
"Silent" prez : CAL
6
___ Maria : TIA
7
W.W. II Allied landing site in Italy : ANZIO
8
Philatelist's buy : STAMP
9
Polaroid, e.g. : PIC
10
Part of the brain believed to control emotion : AMYGDALA
11
Neptune's Greek counterpart : POSEIDON
12
Big name in car parts : AUTOZONE
13
Capts.' inferiors : LTS
18
Booty : LOOT
22
Rocket launch site : PAD
25
Taunt : JEER
26
"On the Waterfront" director Kazan : ELIA
27
"I'm not kidding!" : REALLY
28
Cincinnati-to-Philadelphia dir. : ENE
30
1974 top 10 foreign-language hit : ERESTU
33
Double-___ recession : DIP
35
Repeated word for word : PARROTED
36
"The Vampire Chronicles" author : ANNERICE
37
The "them" in "Let them eat cake" : PEASANTS
38
Restaurant freebie : ROLL
39
The "thing," to Hamlet : PLAY
40
Cut (off) : LOP
43
Letters on many ambulances : EMS
45
King of comedy : ALAN
46
Mars, for example : WARGOD
47
Give in (to) : ACCEDE
48
Guards at Buckingham Palace : YEOMEN
50
One of the Three Musketeers : ATHOS
51
Singer Mary J. ___ : BLIGE
55
___ Verde National Park : MESA
56
Guru's title : SRI
57
Tricked but good : GOT
59
"Dr." who co-founded Beats Electronics : DRE
60
Actress Susan : DEY

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

Found bugs or have suggestions?