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New York Times, Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Author:
Peter A. Collins
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1105/2/200610/16/201912
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612253714106
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.565313
Peter A. Collins

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {QW} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 102 for Mr. Collins. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Peter A. Collins notes:
Puzzle ideas can pop up in the strangest places. This idea for one puzzle was generated a little less than a year ago while doing the ... read more

Puzzle ideas can pop up in the strangest places. This idea for one puzzle was generated a little less than a year ago while doing the January 25, 2017 Los Angeles Times puzzle by my friend and sometimes co-constructor Bruce Haight. The first two themed answers I got in Bruce's puzzle were LIVE A LITTLE and MEET IN THE MIDDLE. For some reason the VEAL inside LIVE A LITTLE jumped out at me, so I thought to myself, "I see where you're going, Bruce!". I figured there would be various meats (like VEAL) hidden inside longer phrases, with MEET IN THE MIDDLE as the revealer.

As it turned out, Bruce's theme was entirely different. It consisted of five phrases that ended in the five fingers on one's hand: LITTLE, INDEX, MIDDLE, RING, and THUMB. So I took what I thought was Bruce's concept and turned it into this puzzle.

My original submission didn't have circles or shaded squares, but I guess on a Tuesday they're probably necessary.

Jeff Chen notes:
MEAT IN THE MIDDLE really ought to be a thing. A restaurant chain specializing in turduckens? A couple of good finds, BEEF in ... read more

MEAT IN THE MIDDLE really ought to be a thing. A restaurant chain specializing in turduckens?

A couple of good finds, BEEF in the middle of STROBE EFFECT particularly strong. Always neat to see longer words with rare(ish) letters smack dab in the middle of snazzy phrases. VEAL inside LIVE A LIE was good too.

I wasn't as hot on LAMB inside CLAMBAKE as 1.) it's not as interesting to me to have a word hidden completely inside a single word (across two words feels more fun), and 2.) isn't CLAM another type of meat? Sort of? The other, other white meat? Felt a little odd to have the double meatiness.

And HAM is easier to find within phrases like FIFTH AMENDMENT, LAUGH A MINUTE, ALPHA MALE, etc. Three-letter hidden words don't catch my attention as much since they're easier to uncover.

I loved ANTI TANK and ZOOT SUIT! Great bonuses. Typically I'd be worried about them laid out in the across direction since that could muddy up theme vs. fill. But since there aren't any shaded letters in these guys, it's fine.

Other goodies in SPRAY CAN, SKORTS, and SPACE X. Excellent bonuses for all the vegetarian solvers out there!

Not as smooth as I'd like in an early-week puzzle, though. I hitched early on with ARPEL, but thank goodness all the crossings were easy. I'm okay to learn a new brand name. Not as okay to run into OTB, SDS (I think it's a fine entry, but many newer solvers might not be familiar with Students for a Democratic Society), IT OFF, SNO, ITE, SKED. Two or three of these and a puzzle loses its feeling of elegance and craftsmanship.

It's hard to say what might have helped. Maybe not stacking NORTH AMERICA and LIVE A LIE? Putting LIVE A LIE in row 3 and NORTH AMERICA in row 5 might have spaced things out better.

Overall, a solid hidden-word theme using a fun reVEALer, but I would have liked some rework to improve smoothness, even if it meant reducing some of the snazziness.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0109 ( 24,899 )

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Across
1
Perennial campaign issue : JOBS
5
Airplane wing feature : SLAT
9
Cool, giant sun : SSTAR
14
Taken by mouth : ORAL
15
Sweat spot : PORE
16
Remote control button : PAUSE
17
Grinder : HERO
18
Totally focused : RAPT
19
Brooding worry : ANGST
20
Big part of the New World : NORTHAMERICA
23
It's pitched with a pitchfork : HAY
24
Present oneself falsely : LIVEALIE
28
Greek island in the Aegean Sea : IOS
31
Common supply for a party : ICE
33
One cause for an R rating : SEX
34
Wagering venue, briefly : OTB
35
Like some missiles : ANTITANK
38
Onetime Volvo competitor : SAAB
39
Compromise ... or a phonetic hint to this puzzle's shaded squares : MEETINTHEMIDDLE
43
Bad temper : BILE
44
Flashy 1940s men's attire : ZOOTSUIT
45
Lead-in to bred or behaved : ILL
46
Channel for "Conan" : TBS
49
___-Caps (theater candy) : SNO
50
Faux ___ : PAS
51
Seaside cookout : CLAMBAKE
54
Fast-food chain with a goateed spokesman : KFC
56
Flashing light phenomenon : STROBEEFFECT
61
Ridiculous : INANE
64
Pink : ROSY
65
Humdinger : LULU
66
Arms and legs : LIMBS
67
"The Complete Works of William Shakespeare," e.g. : TOME
68
10-Down resident : ARAB
69
On the nose : EXACT
70
What's happening and when, informally : SKED
71
Recorded message prompt : TONE
Down
1
Donald ___ Trump : JOHN
2
___ Blizzard (Dairy Queen offering) : OREO
3
Roseanne of "Roseanne" : BARR
4
Animal that hangs upside down in trees : SLOTH
5
Graffiti artist's tool : SPRAYCAN
6
Rich soil : LOAM
7
Big name in beauty products : ARPEL
8
Game craze of the late 1980s and '90s : TETRIS
9
Falcon rocket launcher : SPACEX
10
Yemen's capital : SANAA
11
Pull : TUG
12
Nativity scene figure : ASS
13
Emeritus: Abbr. : RET
21
Country to which Frederick Douglass was a U.S. ambassador : HAITI
22
Natalie Cole's "___ Got Love on My Mind" : IVE
25
Pack, as a car for travel : LOADUP
26
Napoli's nation : ITALIA
27
Field where Jackie Robinson played : EBBETS
28
Like the meter in sonnets : IAMBIC
29
Ed of "Modern Family" : ONEILL
30
Popular Belgian beer, for short : STELLA
32
Fictional tree creature : ENT
36
Carmel finish? : ITE
37
Letters on an AM dial : KHZ
38
1960s radical grp. : SDS
40
Canon model : EOS
41
Tinkered (with) : MONKEYED
42
"Knock ___!" : ITOFF
46
Intradermal diagnostic, for short : TBTEST
47
Many a lounge : BAR
48
Some tennis wear : SKORTS
52
"___ Live" (daytime news program) : MSNBC
53
Kindle material : EBOOK
55
B equivalent : CFLAT
57
Salinger dedicatee : ESME
58
Tip of France? : EURO
59
Family : CLAN
60
Idiot box : TUBE
61
___-de-France : ILE
62
Put the kibosh on : NIX
63
Operator's org.? : AMA

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

Found bugs or have suggestions?