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New York Times, Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Author:
Neil Padrick Wilson
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
21/31/20171/4/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0010010
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.77000
Neil Padrick Wilson

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {J} Spans: 1 This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Wilson. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Neil Padrick Wilson notes:
I submitted my first puzzle to the NYT over a decade ago in college. It was soundly rejected. Importantly, Will Shortz hand-wrote a ... read more

I submitted my first puzzle to the NYT over a decade ago in college. It was soundly rejected. Importantly, Will Shortz hand-wrote a response explaining why, and I thought that was just THE coolest thing — and I still have that letter today!

The first version of this one was rejected too. The revealer was simply BOTTLE in the bottom right corner, and it had too much crosswordese. I went through about six versions (including an attempt to have INABOTTLE vertically with all four themers crossing it, and another attempt at shaping a bottle out of the black squares) before hitting on this one.

Now that I am starting to develop some chops, I can better critique the puzzle. First, I never did like SIRBARTON as an entry, but I was so nervous about not having a wide enough "range of knowledge" that I opted to include it. I also regret that SIRBARTON crosses with BOZ, RCA, and ASTIN. This was avoidable. Ditto for EXETER crossing LEOX and ERNO.

I also regret disallowing a single plural "S." (LENS doesn't count!) One of my pet peeves as a solver is seeing lots of plural entries, especially two that meet at the "S." I should learn to break this rule on occasion, such as changing REPIN (13D) to SEPIA (and hence ACER to ACES).

That said! I like this theme — it is strict and tight. I had a blast writing the clues (my favorites being 22A, 38A, 58A, and 19D, the gist of which survived the edits). And I learned quite a bit from the process. Even though I just had a themeless puzzle rejected the other day (d'oh! — it's a tough market), I am confident my puzzles will improve with experience!

Jeff Chen notes:
Debut! Neil gives us words that can start IN A BOTTLE: SHIP in a bottle, TIME in a bottle ... I must admit I was puzzled for a while ... read more

Debut! Neil gives us words that can start IN A BOTTLE: SHIP in a bottle, TIME in a bottle ... I must admit I was puzzled for a while what CARGO in a bottle and QUALITY in a bottle were ... before realizing they weren't. LIGHTNING and MESSAGE in a bottle wrapped up the theme nicely.

I wasn't sure what TIME IN A BOTTLE was, but Google tells me it's a Jim Croce song? Huh. Didn't do much for me, but that's not surprising given my pop music deficiencies.

Like Neil alluded to, "words that can precede X" themes have largely gone by the wayside, so it's important to do something extra if you're going to do one. Here, I like that Neil found a set of extremely limited answers that fit so nicely together — no other "___ IN A BOTTLE" phrases out there that I could think of. Also, good selection of theme phrases, each one nice and snazzy. FORKED LIGHTNING, in particular, is great.

A lot of nice bonus entries too, SIR BARTON echoing GALLANTRY, and SWEET TEA tucked into the bottom left with a great clue. "House wine of the South" is such a fun description! As much as I love SEINFELD and the SOUP NAZI, though, seeing NAZI anywhere makes me uncomfortable. So I had mixed feelings about that one.

Given the high theme density and all those nice extras, it's not a surprise to get some rough patches. There are some of the usual minor suspects like ASSN, REPIN, ERNO, EXO, but even as a bball fan, ISSEL and FRYE are ones I had to work to pull out. (Channing FRYE isn't even an All-star, much less a Hall-of-Famer.) Then, a couple of words that are dictionary supported but squeak in my ear: COHAB, INCOG, AGAZE. The overall effect made the puzzle feel less smooth than I'd like.

Still, a nice debut. And this LOLcat fan got a big kick out of getting LOLZ in a crossword!

1
M
2
A
3
G
4
I
5
C
6
A
7
R
8
A
9
L
10
A
11
C
12
E
13
R
14
A
B
A
S
H
15
R
O
D
E
16
S
O
L
E
17
P
U
L
S
E
18
C
A
R
G
19
O
S
H
I
P
20
L
E
N
21
S
22
S
O
U
P
N
A
Z
I
23
Q
24
U
A
L
I
T
25
Y
T
I
M
E
26
B
A
N
27
U
P
N
28
L
O
A
29
T
E
N
30
T
31
A
F
T
32
L
O
L
33
Z
34
A
35
S
36
I
37
A
38
F
O
R
39
K
E
D
L
I
40
G
41
H
42
T
N
I
N
G
43
F
R
Y
E
44
P
E
A
R
45
R
C
A
46
Y
47
O
48
K
49
E
50
R
Y
E
51
B
O
Z
52
B
53
O
54
W
55
T
E
X
56
T
M
E
S
57
S
A
G
E
58
S
W
E
59
E
T
T
E
A
60
S
P
U
R
61
I
N
A
B
O
T
T
L
62
E
63
A
S
T
64
I
65
N
66
D
E
V
O
67
L
E
O
X
68
S
H
O
V
E
69
E
D
E
N
70
E
R
N
O
71
S
I
N
E
W
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0131 ( 24,556 )

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Across
1
Pulling a rabbit out of a hat, e.g. : MAGIC
6
Kazakhstan's ___ Sea : ARAL
10
Computer company with the slogan "Explore beyond limits" : ACER
14
Embarrass : ABASH
15
Was a passenger : RODE
16
It's always getting stepped on : SOLE
17
Sign of life : PULSE
18
*Vessel with a large hold : CARGOSHIP
20
Camera part : LENS
22
"Seinfeld" stock character? : SOUPNAZI
23
*What a family spends together at the dinner table : QUALITYTIME
26
Competitor of Secret : BAN
27
Predecessor of the CW : UPN
28
Mauna ___ : LOA
29
Scout's shelter : TENT
31
Back on a boat : AFT
32
Hilarity, in Internet-speak : LOLZ
34
One side of the Pacific : ASIA
38
*Branches in a storm? : FORKEDLIGHTNING
43
6'11" Channing of the N.B.A. : FRYE
44
Partridge's tree, in a Christmas song : PEAR
45
Color TV pioneer : RCA
46
Put together, as a team : YOKE
50
Ham on ___ : RYE
51
Singer Scaggs with the 1976 hit "Lowdown" : BOZ
52
Front of a boat : BOW
55
*Its arrival may be signaled by a ding : TEXTMESSAGE
58
So-called "house wine of the South" : SWEETTEA
60
What you might use when you say "Giddyup!" : SPUR
61
Words that can follow the ends of the answers to the starred clues : INABOTTLE
63
Sean who played Mikey in "The Goonies" : ASTIN
66
Band with the hit "Whip It" : DEVO
67
Pope who excommunicated Martin Luther : LEOX
68
Elbow, maybe : SHOVE
69
Garden of ___ : EDEN
70
Puzzlemaker Rubik : ERNO
71
Strength : SINEW
Down
1
Help at the entrance to a mall : MAP
2
Aladdin's monkey : ABU
3
Courage in battle : GALLANTRY
4
Basketball Hall-of-Famer Dan : ISSEL
5
Plush fabric : CHENILLE
6
Eyebrow's shape, roughly : ARC
7
Criticize severely : ROAST
8
Skillful : ADROIT
9
Peanut, for one : LEGUME
10
One of the A's in N.A.A.C.P.: Abbr. : ASSN
11
Roomie : COHAB
12
Woman who sings "Burn" in "Hamilton" : ELIZA
13
Affix again, as a badge : REPIN
19
Word before air, fire or water : OPEN
21
Tolerated : STOOD
23
Hearty drink : QUAFF
24
Willing to do : UPFOR
25
Everyone, in Dixie : YALL
30
Give a lickin' : TAN
33
"___ your lip!" : ZIP
35
First winner of horse racing's Triple Crown, 1919 : SIRBARTON
36
Disguised, briefly : INCOG
37
Staring : AGAZE
39
Item that might be fervently wanted by a prisoner : KEY
40
Start of an idea : GERM
41
President after Grant : HAYES
42
Encroach on someone's land : TRESPASS
47
"The Simpsons" bus driver : OTTO
48
"That's a fine ___ of fish!" : KETTLE
49
Devon cathedral city : EXETER
52
Rod Stewart's "Maggie May," e.g. : BSIDE
53
Had title to : OWNED
54
Work on a loom : WEAVE
56
Hawk's hook : TALON
57
Maki, temaki or uramaki : SUSHI
59
Black, in poetry : EBON
62
Prefix with planet : EXO
64
"Now ___ seen it all!" : IVE
65
Just-minted : NEW

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

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