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

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