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New York Times, Friday, January 30, 2015

Author: David Phillips
Editor: Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
207/24/20148/5/20171
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1021277
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.57000
David Phillips

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 37 Missing: {JQVZ} This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. Phillips. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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David Phillips notes: In my themeless solving experience, I've noticed that many constructors start with a seed entry. However, I'm not entirely ... more
David Phillips notes:

In my themeless solving experience, I've noticed that many constructors start with a seed entry. However, I'm not entirely satisfied mimicking what my predecessors have done before me. So, my goal for this themeless puzzle was to find two stack-able, seed-quality entries that wouldn't overly butcher the crosses.

I remember picking WII SPORTS early to fill one of those two spots, because (a) it would be an NYT debut, (b) it would probably be familiar to anyone who owned a Wii (the game was bundled with the console, after all, and even entered the pop culture sphere via a few episodes of The Big Bang Theory and the hilarious Tropic Thunder), and (c) I thought I might be able to form some nice bi-/trigrams from the crosses. After looking through a few candidates for the second entry, I latched onto DR SCHOLLS, because (a) that long string of consonants at the beginning seemed like it might just mesh with WII SPORTS and (b) the brand, though somewhat old, is still alive and (dare I say...?) kicking.

At this point, I modeled the black square pattern around these two entries and (what I thought would be) good potential bi-/trigrams. I immediately knew that the bigram "WD" would really only work at the end of a word or in between words (e.g. CROWD, LEWD, RAWDATA, SHREWD); however, once this crossing was dealt with, I had a few more versatile combos ("IR," "IS," and "SC") nearby. Anyway, long story short, if you had a slight inkling that the black squares in the NW area seemed conveniently placed, you have a strong intuition. = )

My original grid had some problem entries in the NE, and, though he didn't initially accept the puzzle, Will suggested that I fix the area and resubmit the puzzle. In addition to patching the NE, I also took some extra time to search for a more interesting south section. Fill quality can become subjective to a point, but I was happier with the trade-offs in the printed version.

As for the clues, Will and Joel changed quite a few — for the better. I'm happy to see my clues for 13A, 19A, 21A, 46A, and 42D survive with little editing, but Will's/Joel's clues for 26A, 48A, 2D, 32D, 35D, 38D, and 50D are undoubtedly awesome. I'd also like to highlight the clue for 14D. The clue [Hawke of "Boyhood"] looks innocent enough but actually serves a very important role: it solidly places this puzzle in the now. Not a year ago — which would be too early for a "Boyhood" reference, not a year from today — at which point "Boyhood" will have run the awards circuit and, unless successful, become slightly less relevant, but now — when the film and a few of its actors are currently up for Best Picture and (likely) all over the news. I believe this little bit of currency really adds to a themeless, and I'm glad Will/Joel agree, at least for this puzzle! =]

I hope your solve was enjoyable; if not, I'll try to get you next time.

Jeff Chen notes: Unusual layout today, built around pairs of feature entries intersecting. What a beautiful set in PHARAOHS / WII SPORTS / SCHOOLS OUT ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Unusual layout today, built around pairs of feature entries intersecting. What a beautiful set in PHARAOHS / WII SPORTS / SCHOOLS OUT / DR SCHOLLS. Something old, something new, something hard rock, something you can put in a moc. I like the diversity of answers from a wide range of subjects; something for everyone.

The good folks at Panera Bread. Er, Pantera.

Jim and I have recently had some thought-provoking discussions about "what is good fill" as we prepare to make word lists available. SANA is an interesting example, as Rich Norris mentioned to me a few years ago that he couldn't justify having it in crosswords anymore, as SANA'A is the generally accepted spelling. But it's perfectly fine for Will, as he's used it several times in recent memory. So much of "good fill" and "bad fill" is subjective.

I had trouble with both the PANTERA / FARIS crossing, as well as the BEDELIA / SEGOS crossing (SAGO and SEGO are so hard to keep straight). I liked learning all the three names I hadn't known, but learning each one separately would have been preferable for me.

Overall, I liked David's vibe, saying YEAH MAN! to the beautiful DRUM SOLO with its hard-hitting [Hard-hitting musical performance?] clue.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0130 ( 23,824 )
Across Down
1. Sharp : SHREWD
7. Foreign fortress : CASBAH
13. Take for the road? : HOTWIRE
15. "Parenthood" actress Bonnie : BEDELIA
16. Person making pointed attacks? : EPEEIST
17. Chemical synthesis component : REAGENT
18. From overseas? : DES
19. 1972 Alice Cooper hit with the lyric "we got no class" : SCHOOLSOUT
21. Line in the sand? : PHARAOHS
22. Worked for Mad, maybe : CARTOONED
26. Take blades to blades : MOW
29. Spinning : AWHIRL
30. Cell alternative : LANDLINE
34. How signals from outer space may be heard : FAINTLY
36. Not original, in a way : XEROXED
37. Handles deftly : FINESSES
39. Irate : FUMING
40. Chaud time : ETE
41. Baroque dance form : ALLEMANDE
43. Between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m., maybe : OFFHOURS
46. Setting for TV's "The Mentalist" : SACRAMENTO
48. Eldest sister in a classic 1868 novel : MEG
51. Heavy-metal band with the #1 album "Far Beyond Driven" : PANTERA
52. "___ Girls" : GILMORE
54. Type, as a PIN : ENTERIN
55. Basement's use, often : STORAGE
56. Wallops : PASTES
57. "Any problem with that?" : ISITOK
1. Drop off : SHED
2. "___ is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness": Desmond Tutu : HOPE
3. GPS options: Abbr. : RTES
4. Milk source : EWE
5. Popular video game for wannabe athletes : WIISPORTS
6. Sole supporter? : DRSCHOLLS
7. Singer Green : CEELO
8. Not much, as of salt : ADASH
9. Mariposa relatives : SEGOS
10. Like the sky, in France : BLEU
11. "It ___ happenin'" : AINT
12. One getting a tip? : HAT
14. Hawke of "Boyhood" : ETHAN
15. Weapon in a fantasy role-playing game : BROADAX
20. Ivan Turgenev's birthplace : OREL
22. Barista's serving : CAFFE
23. Expect : AWAIT
24. ___-Main-Danube Canal : RHINE
25. What's the point of an eating utensil? : TINE
26. Recipe instruction : MIXIN
27. Upright : ONEND
28. Sand ___ : WEDGE
31. Queen of the Nile : NEFERTITI
32. Hard-hitting musical performances? : DRUMSOLOS
33. ___ Linda, Calif. : LOMA
35. "Sure thing, dude!" : YEAHMAN
38. Liqueur flavor : SLOE
42. Air space? : LUNGS
43. The electrons of oxygen, e.g. : OCTET
44. ___ Jacques : FRERE
45. Anna of the "Scary Movie" films : FARIS
46. Capital near Aden : SANA
47. Myrmecologists' study : ANTS
48. Water under the bridge? : MOAT
49. And so : ERGO
50. Fanboy or fangirl : GEEK
51. Bounce : PEP
53. Provider of inside info? : MRI

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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