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New York Times, Monday, January 8, 2018

Author: Sam Ezersky
Editor: Will Shortz
Sam Ezersky
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
197/28/20121/8/20186
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
01131274
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.75100

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 38 Missing: {QX} This is puzzle # 19 for Mr. Ezersky. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Sam Ezersky notes: Yep, that's my byline above a Monday puzzle. *Rubs eyes* Is this real life? The theme I came up with was friendly enough for ... more
Sam Ezersky notes:

Yep, that's my byline above a Monday puzzle. *Rubs eyes* Is this real life?

The theme I came up with was friendly enough for beginner solvers?

There's nothing too crazy in the fill?

The clues are ... easy?!

I started where most constructors don't, and shouldn't: telling myself that I really needed to make a Monday puzzle with no ideas for it whatsoever. I decided to poke around XWord Info for past themes I enjoyed, and came across this Lynn Lempel gem, which contained eight phrases that all rhymed despite having different spellings. I thought the idea was so clever and wondered if I could vary it somehow but still introduce a novel concept.

I figured the long "A" sound was worth pursuing and noticed that MILO O'SHEA and ANCHORS AWEIGH stacked nicely together in a grid. From there, I refined the long "A" answers to have the "short-short-short long" cadence of the two above: CHINESE BUFFET, SO NOT OKAY, etc. But I still wasn't satisfied yet.

That's when CAFE AU LAIT emerged from the cobwebs to make a grand entrance: AU LAIT double-rhymed with both OKAY and O'SHEA, their associated phrases followed the same rhythm, and they were all spelled differently. What an "aha" moment that was! With OBEY and OJ proving viable as well, I realized that this was the grid I had to make.

As far as fill goes, I obsessively focused on keeping proper nouns to a minimum, unless they were truly zippy and worth knowing (TY COBB, ST. CLAIR). After watching my friends develop from novices into regular solvers, I now know that normally fine answers such as LETO and TULL may be tough early in the week.

Hope you enjoyed! Have you signed up for the ACPT yet?

Jeff Chen notes: Rhymers, OKAY / OJ / OBEY / OSHEA / AU LAIT at the ends of themers. Bonus points for ending an entry with a J. That ...FOJ string ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Rhymers, OKAY / OJ / OBEY / OSHEA / AU LAIT at the ends of themers. Bonus points for ending an entry with a J. That ...FOJ string looks so neatly bizarre! AU LAIT was an interesting one too, tougher to uncover than the others. I was expecting an O' somewhere (Cafe O'Lait = Irish coffee?).

Rhyming words have been mined for many crosswords, so it's important to go above and beyond with some extra layer. Here, I like Sam's tightness, nearly covering the solution space of O-?AY rhymers. The only other ones I could think of were OIL OF OLAY (oil of au lait?) and ANITA O'DAY. Something elegant about using a complete(ish) set.

CAFÉ AU LAIT is a great entry in its own right. MILO O'SHEA is definitely crossworthy, although he might be on the cusp of what an educated solver (especially a newer one) ought to know.

GLASS OF OJ … I hesitated at first, as the phrase didn't feel solid enough for my taste. But it's something I've said at diners, so I'm not sure why it didn't strike me as strongly as CAFÉ AU LAIT.

I had the same reaction to IS THAT OKAY. It doesn't feel like something I'd strive to work into a crossword. YOU WILL OBEY left me with the same feeling. Maybe I haven't been to enough hypnosis acts?

Audacious layout. I said DEAR GOD to myself when I turned up ETES and ESS within seconds of starting the grid — neither is friendly to beginning solvers. Thankfully, OTHELLO and TEA CADDY felt worthy of those prices.

KLATCH might be a toughie for newer solvers, as might be MALA fide. And the crossing of URBANA / AVEDA could be a trap that takes away a solver's feeling of accomplishment … if they guessed URBINA or URBENA I would be sympathetic. All in all, I would have preferred a grid layout that didn't push the Monday boundaries so much. Breaking up the four corners more would have been my preference.

Overall though, I appreciated that Sam gave us something a little more than a standard rhyming theme.

ADDED NOTE: Glad I read Sam's commentary! I didn't realize the short-short-short-long pattern of syllables! That's a neat extra layer. Wish there had been some revealer in the grid to point it out.

1
D
2
O
3
T
4
E
5
G
6
O
7
A
8
D
9
E
10
L
11
K
12
S
13
E
T
E
S
14
H
O
R
S
E
15
M
A
L
A
16
A
H
A
S
17
I
S
T
H
A
18
T
O
K
A
Y
19
R
E
C
20
U
H
O
H
21
N
Y
J
E
T
S
22
G
L
A
23
S
S
O
F
O
24
J
25
C
I
R
C
A
26
O
L
D
W
E
S
T
27
I
28
D
O
29
S
H
H
30
D
O
D
O
31
F
L
U
B
32
S
33
Y
O
34
U
35
W
36
I
L
L
O
B
E
37
Y
38
P
R
I
C
Y
39
L
E
40
T
41
O
42
R
43
A
44
S
45
B
I
B
46
S
47
T
48
C
L
A
I
R
49
A
V
E
50
D
A
51
M
52
I
L
O
O
S
H
E
A
53
S
I
L
E
N
54
T
55
P
E
R
M
56
F
I
N
57
C
A
F
E
A
U
58
L
A
I
T
59
Z
I
N
G
60
A
R
I
D
61
L
O
D
G
E
62
A
N
T
E
63
L
Y
E
S
64
L
U
S
H
65
C
E
O
S
© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0108 ( 24,898 )
Across Down
1. Pour love (on) : DOTE
5. Prod : GOAD
9. Antlered Yellowstone denizens : ELKS
13. "Vous ___ ici" (French for "You are here") : ETES
14. Derby entry : HORSE
15. ___ fide (in bad faith) : MALA
16. Cries of discovery : AHAS
17. "Would you mind?" : ISTHATOKAY
19. Letter accompanying a college application, informally : REC
20. "This can't be good" : UHOH
21. N.F.L. team for which Joe Namath was a QB : NYJETS
22. Informal breakfast beverage order : GLASSOFOJ
25. Approximately, datewise : CIRCA
26. Cowboy movie setting : OLDWEST
27. "Yes," at the altar : IDO
29. "Quiet!" : SHH
30. "Dumb" bird : DODO
31. Botches : FLUBS
33. Hypnotist's command : YOUWILLOBEY
38. Expensive : PRICY
39. Actor Jared of "Suicide Squad" : LETO
42. College dorm overseers, for short : RAS
45. Neckwear for a lobster eater : BIB
46. Michigan/Ontario border river : STCLAIR
49. Skin care brand : AVEDA
51. "Ulysses" star, 1967 : MILOOSHEA
53. Like the first "d" in "Wednesday" : SILENT
55. Salon job : PERM
56. Potentially alarming sight for an ocean bather : FIN
57. Cappuccino relative : CAFEAULAIT
59. Pizazz : ZING
60. Desertlike : ARID
61. Skiers' shelter : LODGE
62. Poker table payment : ANTE
63. Strong cleansers : LYES
64. Like the Amazon rain forest : LUSH
65. Company heads, in brief : CEOS
1. "Holy Toledo!" : DEARGOD
2. Board game named after a Shakespeare play : OTHELLO
3. Container for oolong or chai : TEACADDY
4. Figure on Superman's chest : ESS
5. Stop being strict : GOSOFT
6. Branch of dentistry, informally : ORTHO
7. Fireplace residue : ASH
8. College person with a "list" : DEAN
9. Smiley face or frowny face : EMOJI
10. Los Angeles hoopsters : LAKERS
11. Coffee get-together : KLATCH
12. Prepares for a doctor's throat examination : SAYSAH
14. Chipper greetings : HIHOS
18. Holder of baseball's highest career batting average (.366) : TYCOBB
20. Manipulate : USE
23. In one fell ___ : SWOOP
24. ___ Stein, Green Party candidate for president in 2012 and 2016 : JILL
28. Twosome : DUO
31. Take to the skies : FLY
32. Opposite of buys : SELLS
34. University of Illinois city : URBANA
35. Nintendo Switch predecessor : WII
36. Cold War weapon inits. : ICBM
37. "Sure, whatever" : YEAHFINE
40. Connect with : TIEINTO
41. Sunset shades : ORANGES
42. Scamp : RASCAL
43. Where birds of a feather flock together : AVIARY
44. Many a Snapchat pic : SELFIE
46. Santa's vehicle : SLEIGH
47. Rich cake : TORTE
48. Alternative to "net" or "org" : COM
50. Monopoly cards : DEEDS
52. Tablets that run Safari : IPADS
54. Rock's Jethro ___ : TULL
58. "Skip to My ___" : LOU
59. Onetime teen heartthrob Efron : ZAC

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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