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New York Times, Monday, January 8, 2018

Author:
Sam Ezersky
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
347/28/20125/31/20199
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
311335117
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.71210
Sam Ezersky

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 ... read more

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 ... read more

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
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
Down
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.

Found bugs or have suggestions?