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New York Times, Saturday, October 11, 2014

Author:
Evans Clinchy
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
210/11/20143/4/20160
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0000011
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1.64000
Evans Clinchy

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 30 Missing: {JQX} Spans: 1 This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Clinchy. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Evans Clinchy notes:
I'm particularly proud of this themeless puzzle as it features the seed entry of one of my favorite pro athletes, KEVIN DURANT of the ... read more

I'm particularly proud of this themeless puzzle as it features the seed entry of one of my favorite pro athletes, KEVIN DURANT of the Oklahoma City Thunder. I'd love to say I knew exactly how big Durant's star would become when I originally conceived this puzzle, but that's not the case. I got lucky. When I first constructed this themeless back in late 2012, Durant was just a 24-year-old kid with a dream (and, OK, three NBA scoring titles). I had no idea he'd become a league MVP, nor did I anticipate that 15-Across, BREAKING BAD, was gearing up for an amazing final season that would place it among the best TV shows of all time. Again, fortuitously timed for this puzzle. Thank you, Vince Gilligan.

I was pleased with my construction of this grid, featuring the stacked 11s in the corners and the 15-letter GREASE THE WHEELS through the middle. The fill actually came together with relative ease — I finished off the bottom half first in a rather contained fashion, allowing for a great deal of freedom in the top half. I was basically able to include two seed entries, which made me giddy to no end.

As for my cluing, it can still use some work, to be sure. I give Will all the credit for sprucing mine up (and thereby elevating the difficulty to Saturday level). And hey, at least he kept my "Manhattan architect?" clue for BARTENDER.

Jeff Chen notes:
Debut! Always impressive to see a debut in a themeless grid, as the competition for themeless slots is fierce. I like what Evans did ... read more

Debut! Always impressive to see a debut in a themeless grid, as the competition for themeless slots is fierce. I like what Evans did today, connecting two sides of the grid with GREASE THE WHEELS, appropriately enough. Often that connectivity requires a compromise, reducing the number of long (8+ letter) slots, but we get 15 of them today. All sorts of potential.

That SE quadrant was both fantastic and bittersweet. Seeing KEVIN DURANT brings me painful memories of our beloved Sonics being ripped away, but he's such a crazy good player, plus he manages to keep his humility and even donates to charity. For this NBA addict this entry was a gimme, but I can imagine that a lot of folks are going to have trouble, especially crossing ADP. I personally know that company well, as they're a major player in payroll handling, but it's not something I would expect many to know.

Kevin Durant

It brings up some questions interesting to me. Yes, Durant gets millions of Google hits, but is he 1.) fair game for crosswords and/or 2.) desirable as a debut entry? I generally shy away from entries that either a solver either knows or doesn't — those in the latter camp often leave with a feeling of dissatisfaction. Even if all the crosses are perfectly fair and the solver learns something, KEVIN DURANT might be only as relevant to their life as the latest rapper or the boy band of the week. So I think any MVP is fair game, but I personally favor entries like the colorful FROG MARCH when it comes to a debut. Much more likely to appeal to a bigger number of market segments.

All the connectivity throughout the grid brings great flow, no section cordoned off from the rest. That does bring trade-offs though, as connecting the quadrants in so many different ways brings the little glue entries like SOC, SER, AT ME right in those transition regions. Generally I sense inelegance when there's roughly more than five glue entries in a themeless, so when you're going to need some TRAVE, LII, SGTS stuff as well, it can be a tough call as to how much interconnectivity is optimal.

All in all, a nice debut with quite a few strong entries and clues. BARTENDER is a good entry in itself, and using a clue like [Manhattan architect?] really makes it sing.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1011 ( 23,713 )
Across
1
Quite cheaply : ATWHOLESALE
12
Green piece : SOD
15
Guinness record-setter for "highest-rated TV series" (scoring 99 out of 100 on Metacritic.com) : BREAKINGBAD
16
Org. with a radon hotline : EPA
17
Ones in praise of angels? : BABYSITTERS
18
Burmese greeting : MEW
19
Times in classifieds : EVES
20
Looking up to : ESTEEMING
22
Tom Petty's "___ So Bad" : YER
23
Game of pure chance : WAR
25
Group of very small stars? : DLIST
26
Third party label: Abbr. : SOC
27
Green piece? : ECO
29
Aid for collecting some samples : SWAB
31
It's shown in much storm reportage : AFTERMATH
35
Biblical land in what is now Yemen : SHEBA
36
Get rid of jerks? : GREASETHEWHEELS
38
Mess (around) : HORSE
39
Ripens : MATURATES
40
Tourist city on the Yamuna : AGRA
41
Common scale topper : TEN
42
Spanish 101 verb : SER
43
Country that includes the islands of Gozo and Comino : MALTA
45
Bit of censure : TSK
46
Laotian money : KIP
49
Manhattan architect? : BARTENDER
52
Spread of book and film : TARA
53
N.L. West team, on scoreboards : ARI
54
Far from scarce : ADIMEADOZEN
57
Place for a monitor, for short : ICU
58
2014 N.B.A. M.V.P. : KEVINDURANT
59
Omega, in physics : OHM
60
Millions of people swipe them : SMARTPHONES
Down
1
Austen's "Northanger ___" : ABBEY
2
Architectural crossbeam : TRAVE
3
100,000,000 maxwells : WEBER
4
Makes bale? : HAYS
5
Clears : OKS
6
Year before the emperor Trajan was born : LII
7
Key key? : ENTER
8
They may be in a mess: Abbr. : SGTS
9
Help complete a job : ABET
10
City in old westerns : LAREDO
11
Villager station wagon, e.g. : EDSEL
12
Like some chocolate : SEMISWEET
13
Restaurant availability : OPENTABLE
14
Bud, slangily : DAWG
21
Catch badly? : MISHEAR
23
Having gone south : WORSE
24
Cartoon supplier : ACME
26
It's relatively lacking in iodine : SEASALT
27
"Benson" actor Phillips : ETHAN
28
Baker with a trumpet : CHET
30
Deep end? : BASS
31
Eastern leader : AGHA
32
Force to walk with the arms pinned behind : FROGMARCH
33
Turtle locale, maybe : TERRARIUM
34
"Look ___!" : ATME
35
Animated hero of 2001 : SHREK
37
Big chicken : WUSS
41
One after another? : TANDEM
44
Some desk materials : TEAKS
45
16th-century council site : TRENT
46
Best Director of 1947 and 1954 : KAZAN
47
Memorable hurricane of 2011 : IRENE
48
Gauchos, e.g. : PANTS
49
"Soap" actor Jimmy : BAIO
50
Many an exploding star : DIVA
51
Eastern leader : EMIR
52
Ring combatant : TORO
55
Big payroll service co. : ADP
56
"Of course!" : DUH

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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