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New York Times, Friday, January 4, 2019

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

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 30 Missing: {JQ} This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Wilson. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Neil Padrick Wilson notes:
In the hopes it helps new constructors like myself, I thought I would share my original grid for this puzzle and explain why it was ... read more

In the hopes it helps new constructors like myself, I thought I would share my original grid for this puzzle and explain why it was rejected.

First, 41D (TCH) was a puzzle-killer. Using XWord Info, I knew that TCH had never been used in an NYT crossword, whereas its cousin TSK had been used many times. Since I use "Tch!" fairly frequently (as a dismissive noise), I just figured it was waiting for the right time! Will explained that it looks like a string of letters without a clear meaning. So: if you're going to use original short fill, stop and consider whether there's a reason it hasn't been used.

Second, some of the short fill wasn't particularly good: AVAS, LYN, SSA, and SMS (a plural name, an old name, and two S-heavy acronyms). Individually none of these are particularly offensive, but the more you pile up, the worse. The finished product still has some fill I would rather avoid, but I tried to make it more interesting.

Third, the grid design has issues. My inexperience with themeless puzzles shows. Ideally, the lone black squares in the northwest and southeast corners (which split potential 9-letter entries into two 4-letter entries) would be removed. In both versions, I did try many times to remove them, but I was never satisfied with my fill. (Which itself is a lesson; sometimes fill is more important than an ideal grid). The grid also has an excess of 3-letter entries, though that's a trade-off when you seed in 11-letter entries.

Fourth, a personal lesson: ditch your quirks. In the accepted puzzle, I intentionally avoided any two entries meeting at a pluralized "S," as I consider that merge to be an unofficial "cheater" square. Had I let myself ignore that rule that nobody else has to follow, I surely could have improved on the result.

Jeff Chen notes:
I love getting WARM FUZZIES from a themeless puzzle. That's a fantastic entry, and those beautiful Zs — worked in so smoothly ... read more

I love getting WARM FUZZIES from a themeless puzzle. That's a fantastic entry, and those beautiful Zs — worked in so smoothly with ZEBRAS and CZAR – a feel-good sensation, indeed.

A couple of other standout features, too: I MEAN, REALLY! and MAY I CUT IN. The latter was especially strong, given such a clever clue. I thought [Line at a dance] had to be line-dance related, or maybe hinting at a conga line.

I also liked that Neil did something more audacious than sticking with a standard 72-word themeless layout. Generally, those tend to have four corners chock full of good stuff, but they can often feel separated from each other. Not today! From BIKINI WAX to MAITRE DS to ARE WE DONE to SEX COMEDY to MAY I CUT IN … note how many long answers run into other long answers, giving the puzzle a wide-open feeling.

My wife, Jill, once expressed an ick factor about BIKINI WAX. That surprised me, but after thinking about what a BIKINI WAX must be like to go through, perhaps it's questionable as to whether it passes the breakfast test.

SEX COMEDY intersecting it gave the puzzle a bit of a raunchy start. Not my thing these days, but I can see the appeal for a different demographic.

A couple of explanations:

  • ROTFL = rolling on the floor laughing.
  • TWIHARD = a "Twilight" diehard. The term makes me crack up. Hard to believe that people like this crap!

AMYL is a tough dab of crossword glue to swallow, and TPK looks so bizarre (we don't have turnpikes out here in the Pacific Northwest), but thankfully SFC was easier to take (sergeant first class). Prices to pay to have such good solving flow.

Not entirely on my wavelength, but I appreciated how Neil opened up his grid flow and tried to do something different.

1
F
2
E
3
T
4
E
5
M
6
U
7
S
8
S
9
S
10
A
11
B
12
R
13
A
14
A
P
P
L
15
I
A
N
C
E
16
F
L
A
I
R
17
B
I
K
I
N
I
W
A
X
18
C
O
R
G
I
19
S
T
E
N
C
20
H
21
O
S
H
A
22
T
23
W
24
I
25
H
A
R
D
26
O
U
27
T
F
I
T
28
R
A
M
O
N
E
29
O
M
E
N
30
N
O
31
R
32
A
R
E
W
E
D
33
O
N
E
34
T
35
H
I
N
E
36
G
M
A
T
37
S
H
E
D
38
S
39
A
S
T
I
40
I
F
N
O
41
T
42
M
A
Y
I
43
C
U
T
I
N
44
C
U
R
45
A
46
M
Y
L
47
B
I
T
E
M
E
48
Z
E
49
B
R
A
S
50
R
E
V
E
R
E
D
51
C
Z
A
R
52
O
T
53
O
O
L
E
54
O
I
L
U
55
P
56
A
N
T
I
T
57
R
58
U
59
S
60
T
61
D
E
L
T
A
62
R
E
F
U
S
E
N
I
K
63
A
S
Y
E
T
64
S
A
L
S
65
X
O
X
O
© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0104 ( 25,259 )
Across
1. Big affair : FETE
5. Disarray : MUSS
9. Certain Mideast native : SABRA
14. Range, e.g. : APPLIANCE
16. Panache : FLAIR
17. Painful spa treatment : BIKINIWAX
18. Literally, "dwarf dog" : CORGI
19. Skunk's defense : STENCH
21. Workplace inspection org. : OSHA
22. Avid fan of a Stephenie Meyer young adult series : TWIHARD
26. Company : OUTFIT
28. Last name in punk rock : RAMONE
29. Halley's comet, to William the Conqueror : OMEN
30. Usually partnered conjunction : NOR
32. Closing question : AREWEDONE
34. Your, of yore : THINE
36. B-school applicant's hurdle : GMAT
37. Shakes off : SHEDS
39. Wine center near Turin : ASTI
40. "Otherwise ..." : IFNOT
42. Line at a dance : MAYICUTIN
44. No-goodnik : CUR
45. ___ nitrate (diesel fuel additive) : AMYL
47. Rude reply : BITEME
48. Serengeti stampeders : ZEBRAS
50. Held high : REVERED
51. Powerful person : CZAR
52. Peter of "The Lion in Winter" : OTOOLE
54. Get ready for a Mr. Universe competition, say : OILUP
56. Promoting fair competition, in a way : ANTITRUST
61. Letter in the Greek or NATO alphabet : DELTA
62. One who illegally ignores orders : REFUSENIK
63. Hitherto : ASYET
64. Pizza joint in "Do the Right Thing" : SALS
65. Short and sweet sign-off : XOXO
Down
1. Hunky-dory : FAB
2. Prefix with cycle : EPI
3. E-ZPass site: Abbr. : TPK
4. Noah Webster, collegiately : ELI
5. Busing supervisors : MAITREDS
6. Single : UNWED
7. Many a digitalization : SCAN
8. "American Pie," e.g. : SEXCOMEDY
9. U.S. Army E-7 : SFC
10. Hard to reach : ALOOF
11. Heraldic charge indicating supposed illegitimate birth : BARSINISTER
12. Promptly : RIGHTONTIME
13. It might have a cadenza : ARIA
15. Off the deep end : INSANE
20. Spectral quality : HUE
22. Like many Shakespeare plays : TRAGIC
23. "Feel good" sensations : WARMFUZZIES
24. "Are you kidding me?!" : IMEANREALLY
25. Manual : HOWTO
27. Shell filling : TNT
29. Onetime Los Angeles center : ONEAL
31. Pulled (in) : REINED
33. "Goodness gracious!" : OHMYSTARS
35. ___ couture : HAUTE
38. "Finlandia" composer : SIBELIUS
41. Gravel alternative : TAR
43. Small mammals that secrete a musk used in perfumes : CIVETS
46. Leader mentioned in the Beatles' "Revolution" : MAO
49. ___ force : BRUTE
50. Texter's "Too funny!" : ROTFL
51. Closing bars : CODA
53. Service designation : ONEA
55. Overly rehearsed : PAT
57. Andy's dinosaur in "Toy Story" : REX
58. Not quite nada : UNO
59. Evening hour : SIX
60. End of a match, for short : TKO

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle.

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