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New York Times, Thursday, January 25, 2018

Author: Alex Eaton-Salners
Editor: Will Shortz
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Alex Eaton-Salners
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 7 for Mr. Eaton-Salners. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Alex Eaton-Salners notes: Unsurprisingly, there aren't too many words or phrases that (1) contain the name of an island; and (2) spell something else ... more
Alex Eaton-Salners notes:

Unsurprisingly, there aren't too many words or phrases that (1) contain the name of an island; and (2) spell something else after removing those letters. Luckily there were enough to make a workable theme set.

Along the way, I also considered using words that can precede ISLAND such as LONG (e.g., BELONGING, ALONGSIDE, or PROLONGS) and/or islands that aren't commonly known as single words (such as the Isle of MAN). In the end, I decided to limit myself to single-word islands, which I find the most satisfying.

One somewhat unusual feature of this puzzle is that the islands are hidden within single words rather than spanning the ending/beginning of multiple words, which is the more common (and elegant) approach to hidden word themes. Hopefully the added bonus of creating new words with the remaining letters makes up for this shortcoming.

As more of my puzzles run in the NYT, it's been interesting to see the fluidity of Will's publication queue. For example, my first seven accepted Thursday puzzles have been published in a different order than the one they were accepted in. So far the progression has been 1, 4, 3, 5, 7 with the second and sixth puzzles still unpublished (today's grid was my seventh accepted Thursday). I'm only considering Thursday puzzles here because each day of the week has a different queue whose length varies depending on inventory levels.

From what I've read elsewhere Will likes to space out certain kinds of puzzles (e.g., rebuses) while also accelerating debuts and grids that particularly catch his fancy. I suspect puzzles are also more likely to get bumped around in the queue when a constructor has multiple pending grids of the same difficulty level versus a situation where a constructor only has one.

Jeff Chen notes: Love this theme! Alex interprets ISLAND HOPPING as 'skip the island embedded in the phrase/word, resulting in a new word.' S(CUBA) ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Love this theme! Alex interprets ISLAND HOPPING as "skip the island embedded in the phrase/word, resulting in a new word." S(CUBA) TANK to STANK was particularly nice, as was BAL(TIMOR)E to BALE. Beautiful finds.

CON(CRETE)S to CONS wasn't as awesome, as it was odd to get CONCRETES in the plural. VER(BALI)SE to VERSE too — if only we were in Britain! Or VERZE had been a real word. It really should be.

Great execution on the grid. Working with five themers, the middle one sort of cutting the grid in half, is rarely easy. Beautiful results in the big NE corner, EVIL TWIN particularly nice (I'm an identical twin, and clearly the evil one).

The SW corner did contain the awkward pluralised (not -ized, to keep with the Britishising today) KEVINS, but how great are IN DENIAL and SOUR NOTE? Well worth the price of KEVINS.

And two standout clues were the cherries on top:

  • The common phrase, [Back to school], repurposed to describe the typical school email ending, EDU.
  • [Things with entrances and exits] aren't buildings, but (play) SCRIPTS.

Speaking of that, SCRIPTS, TS ELIOT, OH SNAP, MONOCLE, TEFLON — fantastic use of the mid-length slots.

Fun, tricksy theme, excellent execution. I paused slightly before giving this the POW! due to the two themers that made me hitch, but overall, this is very close to my Thursday puzzle ideal.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0125 ( 24,915 )
Across Down
1. Some metal bands? : ORE
4. Not get involved : SITBY
9. P.I. : TEC
12. Sellout : HIT
13. 1950s service site : KOREA
14. Hamilton, to Burr : RIVAL
16. *Smelled : SCUBATANK
18. Group of football blockers, in brief : OLINE
19. Point on a flowchart : NODE
20. Picnic crasher : ANT
21. Pitiful group : SADLOT
22. On the lookout : ALERT
24. *They're not pros : CONCRETES
26. Solving crosswords, e.g. : PASTIME
28. Gurneys' destinations, in brief : ORS
29. Part of a disguise : WIG
30. Who wrote and sang "We're All Water" in 1972 : ONO
31. #21 of 24 : PHI
32. Lush : WINO
33. Yachter's itinerary, maybe ... or a hint to understanding the answers to the starred clues : ISLANDHOPPING
37. Clove hitch, e.g. : KNOT
38. "Reading the ___: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages" (2008 book) : OED
39. Hotel room feature: Abbr. : TEL
40. Back to school? : EDU
41. Ones doing intros : MCS
42. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" poet : TSELIOT
46. *Poetry : VERBALISE
49. Middleton of English tabloids : PIPPA
50. Hard-wired : INNATE
51. Something encountered in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" : UFO
53. "Um, don't look now, but ..." : AHEM
54. Boastful mother of Greek myth : NIOBE
55. *Hayloft item : BALTIMORE
57. Now full : SATED
58. Skirt : AVOID
59. "Illmatic" rapper : NAS
60. ___ Échos (French daily) : LES
61. Top-2% group : MENSA
62. Is from Issy? : EST
1. "Did you just see that?!" : OHSNAP
2. Cough drop brand : RICOLA
3. Some works of Robert Schumann : ETUDES
4. Music boomlet of the mid-'90s : SKA
5. Smidgen : IOTA
6. A witch doctor might be in one : TRANCE
7. Japanese meal in a box : BENTO
8. Beat one's gums : YAK
9. Part of España : TILDE
10. Person with inverted morality : EVILTWIN
11. Olympics event since 1936 : CANOEING
14. Stadium sounds : ROARS
15. "Come on!" : LETSGO
17. Playwright Brecht : BERTOLT
21. Things with entrances and exits : SCRIPTS
23. Turner on a turntable : TINA
25. Neighborhood in New York or L.A. : NOHO
27. Accessory on a chain : MONOCLE
31. Goal of many a candidate : PHD
32. Member of the British royal family : WILLIAM
33. Not wanting to believe the truth : INDENIAL
34. Unpleasant ending : SOURNOTE
35. Ball boy? : DESI
36. Tiniest complaint : PEEP
37. Durant and Love of the N.B.A. : KEVINS
41. Got together : MATED
42. Polytetrafluoroethylene, familiarly : TEFLON
43. Notable tech launch of 2007 : IPHONE
44. Composition of "Der Ring des Nibelungen" : OPERAS
45. Most docile : TAMEST
47. Swaddled ones : BABES
48. Debonair : SUAVE
52. Los Angeles's ___ College of Art and Design : OTIS
55. "Kapow!" : BAM
56. Neighbor of Wyo. : IDA

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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