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New York Times, Friday, January 5, 2018

Author:
Ned White
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
221/16/20106/27/20181
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1105258
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.59010
Ned White

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 29 Missing: {JQVXZ} This is puzzle # 21 for Mr. White. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ned White notes:
9-Down and the first half of 10-Down... sheer happenstance. Unforeseen. They just fell into place. Good — it's done, no need to ... read more

9-Down and the first half of 10-Down... sheer happenstance. Unforeseen. They just fell into place. Good — it's done, no need to squeeze WHITENED into a future puzzle.

I started with SMACKDOWN, cluing it as a verbal broadside that might elicit an "oh, snap." But the wrestling reference seems more mainstream. Glad to see Will (and Joel and Sam) cluing TOTES as it's now sometimes used. Like WHATEVS in a puzzle from last week. Is OBVS very far behind? I do check with some of my kids now and again for fresh words and phrases they view as legit. Oh, and 28-Across is a debut for me, either singular or plural, finally breaking my commitment-to-self never to use it.

I do attempt to mix spoken phrases and sentences (AM I TO BLAME, et al.) into the grid, minimize abbreviations (3 here, I think), and allow one partial max per grid (WALLA). I've been to both my place names: WALLA Walla twice — beautiful town, orchard country, with a colorful display of murals; OPORTO also (for ten days or so), where you can cruise through samples of vintage Quinta Do Noval, about the finest thing ever to emerge from a grape.

Fun note: SECRET WORD was originally MADE-UP WORD, which I loved (like nearly anything from "Jabberwocky"), but it was nixed in a previous draft as a, you guessed it, "made-up word." Minds may change about that down the road.

Jeff Chen notes:
SMACKDOWN above RHINEGOLD — talk about something for everyone! Love the variety. A 72-word puzzle has to be jazzy, with ... read more

SMACKDOWN above RHINEGOLD — talk about something for everyone! Love the variety.

A 72-word puzzle has to be jazzy, with every single long slot used to its max. I used to watch a ton of WWE as a kid (sad, I know), so SMACKDOWN made me smile. I'm not an opera fan, but I appreciate Wagner. And RHINEGOLD is an interesting word.

BEACH COMB, yes! CACAO TREE yes! (Have you ever seen cacao fruit? Disgusting, hard to imagine how it transforms into chocolate.)

CRAWDADDY … mostly yes? Seems like this is a term in use, although it didn't ring true to my ear at first.

STANDEE ... not so much. DONATE TO is fine, but it's not going to win any awards.

AM I TO BLAME … I'm not sure on this one. I like it just fine, but is it a standout? NOT SPAM is the same. I see this phrase all the time with Gmail, but there's something about it that makes it seem slightly iffy as a crossword entry.

And HEADCOUNTS … occasionally people ask me how many plurals is too many in one puzzle, and I scratch my head. Why does it matter, if they're all normal words / entries? HEADCOUNTS does feel more sparkly in the singular, though. Totally subjective, since the plural HEADCOUNTS is dictionary supported.

Short fill. A 72-word puzzle must be ultra-clean. A bit of NEOS, GRAS, ROTOS, ACRO wouldn't be terrible in a tougher construction. But a 72-word themeless is not much of a challenge (unless you're working in a lot of rare letters, grid-spanning entries, etc.). So it's way too much in this puzzle.

That SW corner was particularly problematic for me, with ACRO / ROTOS jammed in. (I think NGAIO Marsh is crossworthy.) Maybe a cheater square at the S of HEADCOUNTS would have solved the problem.

Some nice feature entries — love me some SMACKDOWN! — but not quite enough sparkle or cleanliness to make the puzzle stand out.

1
S
2
M
3
A
4
C
5
K
6
D
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O
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W
9
N
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W
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H
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A
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L
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E
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T
A
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P
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H
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M
E
Y
17
R
H
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D
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E
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A
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E
A
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L
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I
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Y
E
O
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W
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N
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B
A
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H
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O
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S
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P
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F
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B
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A
L
L
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T
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D
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O
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L
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K
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S
O
L
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C
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P
40
W
E
M
A
D
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I
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T
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T
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E
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E
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C
A
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M
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N
O
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P
A
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M
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A
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T
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B
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D
G
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Y
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G
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W
H
O
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N
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B
E
A
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H
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C
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B
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C
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64
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Y
© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0105 ( 24,895 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1. Professional wrestling program since 1999 : SMACKDOWN
10. Orion : Hunter :: Cetus : ___ : WHALE
15. Southwestern casserole with a cornbread crust : TAMALEPIE
16. Comfortable : HOMEY
17. Part of Wagner's "Ring" cycle, with "The" : RHINEGOLD
18. The "she" in the line "To Sherlock Holmes she is always THE woman" : IRENE
19. "All ___ is autobiographical": Fellini : ART
20. Rank below marquis : EARL
21. "What a shame" : ITSSAD
22. "That hurts!" : YEOW
24. One up? : STANDEE
26. "Tommyrot!" : BAH
28. Little sandwiches for dessert : OREOS
29. Coppertone no. : SPF
32. Activity next to a bar : BALLET
35. Fund : DONATETO
37. Just for the fun of it : ONALARK
39. Popular beer pong container : SOLOCUP
40. Cry at the end of a family trip : WEMADEIT
42. Game you never want to get your fill of? : TETRIS
43. Milk source : EWE
44. Ricochet : CAROM
46. "Get it?" : SEE
47. Email button that moves a message to one's inbox : NOTSPAM
49. "On the double!" : STAT
52. Villain : BADGUY
55. Fat, to François : GRAS
57. Radio station call letters that ask a question? : WHO
58. ___ State (Rhode Island nickname) : OCEAN
59. Hunt for treasure, in a way : BEACHCOMB
61. Revolution : ORBIT
62. Chocolate source : CACAOTREE
63. Old newspaper photo sections, informally : ROTOS
64. Crustacean in Creole cuisine : CRAWDADDY
Down
1. Drift : STRAY
2. 1980s skiing champ Phil : MAHRE
3. Question of responsibility : AMITOBLAME
4. Heinie : CAN
5. Bauhaus figure : KLEE
6. "Dancers at the Bar" painter : DEGAS
7. City north of Lisbon : OPORTO
8. Captain in "Apocalypse Now" : WILLARD
9. Homer's neighbor : NED
10. Traditional January events : WHITESALES
11. Play (around) : HORSE
12. Actor Leon of "The Postman Always Rings Twice" : AMES
13. "Girls" creator/star Dunham : LENA
14. Sized up : EYED
21. Defensive retort : IDONOT
23. When repeated, a Northwest city : WALLA
25. Modernists, briefly : NEOS
27. Attendance inventories : HEADCOUNTS
29. Staple feature of Groucho Marx's "You Bet Your Life" : SECRETWORD
30. Spittoon sound : PTUI
31. Dandies : FOPS
32. Heavyweight champ Riddick : BOWE
33. Over : ANEW
34. Accord : TREATY
36. Completely, in modern slang : TOTES
38. White wine cocktails : KIRS
41. Popular BBC car series : TOPGEAR
45. Hand-held percussion instrument : MARACA
47. Mystery writer Marsh : NGAIO
48. Colorful talker : MACAW
50. "Arabian Nights" prince : AHMED
51. Actor Maguire : TOBEY
52. Yahoo : BOOR
53. Prefix with phobia : ACRO
54. Economic concern : DEBT
56. No longer barefoot : SHOD
59. Include discreetly, in a way : BCC
60. 'L' overseer : CTA

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

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