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New York Times, Friday, October 11, 2019

Author:
Andy Kravis
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1711/3/201310/11/201911
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4123223
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1.64050
Andy Kravis

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FJQXZ} This is puzzle # 17 for Mr. Kravis. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Andy Kravis notes:
I'm so proud to once again be involved in a project called Queer Qrosswords, which is a collection of top-notch crosswords made by ... read more

I'm so proud to once again be involved in a project called Queer Qrosswords, which is a collection of top-notch crosswords made by folks in the LGBTQ+ community. To purchase the puzzles in the newest Queer Qrosswords anthology (subtitled 2 Queer 2 Qurious), all you have to do is donate $10 or more to a LGBTQ+ charity and email Queer Qrosswords the receipt, and they'll email you a copy of the puzzles.

Now on to this puzzle, which was inspired by Andrew Ries in many ways. For one, around this time last year, Andrew held a contest to have a guest themeless puzzle published as part of his weekly crossword subscription; this puzzle was my entry into that contest, and Andrew gave me a lot of great feedback.

For another, I was initially inspired to tackle this grid design after solving Andrew's STAGGER SESSIONS, a self-published collection of themeless crosswords that all had this similar pattern of stagger-stacked central entries (that is, long entries offset from each other usually by one square, so that they loosely resemble stairs). What I love about this particular grid design is that it allows you to start with three fresh marquee entries, and then you still have a ton of flexibility when building outward from the center of the grid. I started this one with WHO ASKED YOU, and I liked the way the WH- of WHISKEY RING looked underneath it. From there, it was off to the races.

I'm very happy with how this puzzle turned out. Some of my original clues were way too out there, but I'm glad a few of the weirder ones stuck around, like the clues for ROLEPLAY and EWE. And major props to Will for the great EROTIC ART clue!

Jeff Chen notes:
Beautiful feature entry in WHO ASKED YOU, a phrase I used to employ frequently. These days, I simply nod a lot and give people a deep ... read more

Beautiful feature entry in WHO ASKED YOU, a phrase I used to employ frequently. These days, I simply nod a lot and give people a deep look when they offer unsolicited advice. Makes them go away much quicker.

Fantastic combination, WHO ASKED YOU, WHISKEY RING, and TAINTED LOVE. I didn't know the middle one, but what a colorful term. Thankfully, it's two recognizable words, so even if you're a history boor like me, it shouldn't interfere with a successful solve.

And EROTIC ART running through those? Andy, so edgy today! Did anyone else get a Georgia O'Keeffe vibe? No? Well, WHO ASKED YOU?

Oh, I did? Wise guy.

At first, I wondered if EMILY POST, PREWAR, and WHISKEY RING gave the puzzle a dated feel, potentially alienating the younger crowd. I've been working with a younger constructor who asked me the other day, "What the heck does ‘turnabout is fair play' mean?"

Wow, did I feel old.

But it's important to remember that the NYT has a wide and varied solving base, with older folks being a huge market segment. I doubt any of them would remember WHISKEY RING from personal experience, but EMILY POST, sure. With EMILY POST and DWAYNE Johnson representing ends of the spectrum, Andy did well in giving something for everyone.

I'd bet $20 on EMILY POST in a cage match vs. the Rock. She'd etiquette him to death.

A fantastic clue for GUIDE DOG – appropriating "lab assistant" is brilliant.

Well-crafted stair stack themeless; not much gloop holding together this 68-worder. A tad too many entries that didn't resonate with me, though – as with EMMYLOU vs. EMILY POST, BIG GUY and MOO COW did a lot more for me than MULETA and ENCINO. That's a potential danger of "something for everyone," especially when names are involved.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 1011 ( 25,539 )
Across
1
Presenters' presenters, informally : MCS
4
San Fernando Valley community : ENCINO
10
Come together : GEL
13
Locale of the Campo de' Fiori : ROMA
15
Kidspeak animal mentioned in the first line of "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" : MOOCOW
16
Thurman of "Kill Bill" : UMA
17
Sight in front of the Lincoln Memorial : POOL
18
"Let's do it!" : IMGAME
19
Small handful : IMP
20
Parvenues with a certain je ne sais quoi : ITGIRLS
22
Color the old-fashioned way : HANDDYE
24
Appellation akin to "tiger," "sport" or "champ" : BIGGUY
25
Concludes neatly : ENDSWELL
26
Queen ___ (nickname in pop music) : BEY
27
Persian defense org.? : SPCA
29
Bustles : ADOS
30
Response to the peanut gallery : WHOASKEDYOU
34
1870s tax evasion scandal : WHISKEYRING
35
1982 Soft Cell hit that spent 43 weeks on the Billboard charts : TAINTEDLOVE
36
What often follows thunder and lightning : BOLT
37
Version before a stable release : BETA
38
"The ___ of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice": M.L.K. : ARC
41
Not be oneself, but rather be one's elf? : ROLEPLAY
45
"The nerve!" : INEVER
47
In keeping with tradition : ASUSUAL
48
Bliss : ECSTASY
49
Sugar substitute : HON
50
Matador's cape : MULETA
52
Give someone a hand : CLAP
53
Coy comeback : MOI
54
Like apartment buildings with fireplaces and hardwood floors, typically : PREWAR
55
Otter's lair : HOLT
56
Amazon worker : ANT
57
Most balanced : SANEST
58
Old gaming inits. : NES
Down
1
Coca-Cola offering from 1974 to 2001 : MRPIBB
2
Something a kindergartner doesn't want to get : COOTIE
3
Like Beijing : SMOGGY
4
Who once wrote "Nothing is less important than which fork you use" : EMILYPOST
5
Jules et Jim, e.g. : NOMS
6
Minor player : COG
7
Billionaire who lent his name to a stadium on New York's Randalls Island : ICAHN
8
Movable type? : NOMAD
9
Buck in the jukebox : OWENS
10
Lab assistant, maybe? : GUIDEDOG
11
Harris who sang with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt : EMMYLOU
12
Sites for some mics : LAPELS
14
Longtime Sacha Baron Cohen character : ALIG
21
Enter quickly : RUSHIN
23
___ Johnson a.k.a. The Rock : DWAYNE
25
Tiptoed past, say : EASEDBY
28
What mud can do : CAKE
30
Certain laundry load : WHITES
31
___ Reese, soldier in "The Terminator" : KYLE
32
Works during a painter's blue period? : EROTICART
33
Furniture that's often backless : DIVANS
34
Place for a TV and books : WALLUNIT
35
"We can't joke about this yet?" : TOOSOON
36
Member of a holy trinity : BRAHMA
38
Toyota sedan since 1994 : AVALON
39
___ value : RESALE
40
Catacombs : CRYPTS
42
Parts of soap dispensers : PUMPS
43
1944 Gene Tierney classic : LAURA
44
Wrench handle? : ALLEN
46
Prepare a plate, in a way : ETCH
48
Things in airport windows, for short : ETAS
51
Queen of she-baa? : EWE

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?