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New York Times, Thursday, January 28, 2016

Author:
Elizabeth C. Gorski
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2197/31/19952/23/20160
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
6716363439243
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.5430225
Elizabeth C. Gorski

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 34 Missing: {GJQVYZ} This is puzzle # 218 for Ms. Gorski. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Elizabeth C. Gorski notes:
This theme came to mind after spending a few hours inflating Mylar Halloween pumpkin balloons with canisters of helium. Since helium ... read more

This theme came to mind after spending a few hours inflating Mylar Halloween pumpkin balloons with canisters of helium. Since helium is a light gas, I envisioned a perfectly-round crossword balloon in an open, airy grid. I would need plenty of white space to hide the eight rebus squares.

Short rebus fillers (like HE) are tricky to work with because you need to restrict these common letter combinations to specific rebus squares — the combo shouldn't appear elsewhere in the puzzle. An "accidental" HE in the fill would go over like a lead balloon with solvers – I didn't want that! After more than a few versions, I was satisfied with the fill … which continued in an odd chemical direction (ACIDHEADS, ALCHEMIST, ON POT). I'm not channeling Timothy Leary. Please tune in to the puzzle, but don't drop out!

All in all, I think the grid vocab is accessible to first-time rebus solvers who are ready to scale the Thursday wall, as well as veterans of the craft. Happy solving to all — up, up and away!

Jeff Chen notes:
I'm a sucker for innovation, and I love visuals within a puzzle, so I enjoyed the 'string' trailing off from the BALLOON formed by the ... read more

I'm a sucker for innovation, and I love visuals within a puzzle, so I enjoyed the "string" trailing off from the BALLOON formed by the He(lium) rebus squares. (If you didn't see the .pdf file, check it out — fun to see the string flowing through the clues.)

I also liked much of the longer fill Liz chose. In rebus puzzles, my favorite is when a rebus square trips you up, only to find that the special square has hidden the answer in a tricky way. ACID (HE)ADS and ALC(HE)MIST were awfully nice, and my favorite was TUNA SUB — or was that TUNA (HE)RO!

Not as much a fan of the shorter stuff like T(HE)A and R(HE)A, but some of that is often necessary when working around eight rebus squares.

Speaking of around, I was mixed on the circle the squares formed. The physics geek in me loved the perfect theoretical performance, air pressure equally applied in all radial directions! But the pragmatist in me said it didn't look like most real-life balloons. My pragmatic side usually wins these days, so I would have preferred some ovate shape. It also would have made it more fun to find the rebus squares — figuring out the circular pattern made it a little too easy to plunk them all in.

I was also mixed on having (HE)LIUM and OCTET tied into the theme. On one hand, I like that helium's atomic symbol, He, was captured right in a rebus square! On the other hand, it's not very elegant to have a theme entry without a symmetrical partner. I could have written off (HE)LIUM as a revealer, but then OCTET also didn't have a partner on the opposite side. Felt inelegant.

A couple of gluey bits like A NICE crossing A COLD, but some of that is natural in the construction of a rebus puzzle where you have to fix a lot of answers into place. There's not that much flexibility in finding good words with a ?HE? pattern for example — just THEY, THEE, AHEM, etc. so your options in filling around those regions are limited.

But overall, fun idea with a neat visual.

1
S
2
N
3
A
4
P
5
T
6
O
7
C
8
O
9
O
10
P
11
A
12
M
13
P
14
T
E
L
L
O
N
15
HE
N
C
E
16
L
O
X
17
R
O
L
E
O
S
18
R
E
T
R
19
A
C
T
S
20
I
C
HE
A
T
E
21
D
22
S
E
E
T
HE
23
P
O
R
T
24
T
R
25
A
I
T
26
A
M
27
B
28
I
29
S
N
E
E
30
R
31
I
T
E
32
T
R
I
A
L
33
D
U
34
P
L
E
35
H
O
I
S
T
S
36
R
37
HE
38
A
39
B
A
L
L
40
O
O
N
41
T
HE
A
42
O
N
C
43
A
L
L
44
I
N
N
E
45
S
46
A
N
I
C
E
47
R
E
P
48
S
H
49
A
50
M
51
S
52
R
A
D
O
53
P
E
R
O
54
T
55
I
C
O
N
56
HE
L
57
I
U
M
58
T
U
59
N
A
HE
R
O
60
D
61
E
A
D
S
P
O
62
T
63
N
O
T
F
A
R
64
O
K
D
65
T
I
T
HE
66
I
N
S
O
L
E
67
W
E
S
68
O
L
E
O
69
S
O
U
R
E
D
© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0128 ( 24,187 )
Across
1
Stop daydreaming : SNAPTO
7
Fowl territory? : COOP
11
Speaker's position? : AMP
14
Betray, in a way : TELLON
15
Starting now : HENCE
16
Bagel shop order : LOX
17
Lumberjack contests : ROLEOS
18
Takes back : RETRACTS
20
Response to "How'd you get the answer so fast?" : ICHEATED
22
Boil : SEETHE
23
Dessert wine : PORT
24
Hirsuteness, for one : TRAIT
26
Both, for openers : AMBI
29
Emulate Snidely Whiplash : SNEER
31
Mineral suffix : ITE
32
Kind of separation : TRIAL
33
Twofold : DUPLE
35
Raises : HOISTS
36
Ostrichlike bird : RHEA
39
Party staple suggested by connecting this puzzle's special squares : BALLOON
41
Mother of Eos and Selene : THEA
42
Available, as for work : ONCALL
44
Actress Laura of "ER" : INNES
46
"What ___ surprise!" : ANICE
47
Good name, informally : REP
48
Pillowcases : SHAMS
52
High-end Swiss watch : RADO
53
Candidate of 1992 and 1996 : PEROT
55
Toolbar image : ICON
56
39-Across filler : HELIUM
58
Fishy deli order : TUNAHERO
60
Where service is lacking : DEADSPOT
63
Within walking distance, say : NOTFAR
64
Approved : OKD
65
Church offering : TITHE
66
It's found under an arch : INSOLE
67
Wide receiver Welker : WES
68
Yellow stick : OLEO
69
Became bitter : SOURED
Down
1
Prepares to streak : STRIPS
2
Former liberal, informally : NEOCON
3
Present, groupwise : ALLHERE
4
Like some skirts and lampshades : PLEATED
5
Tugboat's greeting : TOOT
6
Word go : ONSET
7
"Burlesque" co-star, 2010 : CHER
8
Toddler's wear : ONESIE
9
This puzzle's special squares, e.g. : OCTET
10
Van Gogh's "Portrait of ___ Tanguy" : PERE
11
Seeker of the elixir of life : ALCHEMIST
12
Monsieur Marceau spoke the only one in all of Mel Brooks's "Silent Movie" : MOT
13
G.I. suppliers : PXS
19
Big name in games : ATARI
21
Fire safety measure : DRILL
25
Drawing room? : ATELIER
27
Take a dip : BATHE
28
Ingrid's "Casablanca" role : ILSA
30
Souvenir of a Russian trip : RUBLE
32
Mutes, with "down" : TONES
34
Homeboy : PAL
35
Babe : HON
36
Simba's warning : ROAR
37
Dyeing wish? : HENNA
38
Frequent trip takers : ACIDHEADS
40
Cannabis-using : ONPOT
43
"Feed ___, starve ..." : ACOLD
45
Spa offering : SHIATSU
47
Out-of-studio broadcast : REMOTE
49
Want in the worst way : ACHEFOR
50
Team leader's concern : MORALE
51
Was obviously asleep : SNORED
53
Homework assignee : PUPIL
54
Home of Carthage Palace : TUNIS
57
Words in an analogy : ISTO
59
"Tsk, tsk" elicitor : NONO
60
Financial average : DOW
61
Just get (by) : EKE
62
One of TV's Huxtables : THEO

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?