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New York Times, Friday, October 19, 2018

Author:
Trenton Charlson
Editor:
Will Shortz
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104/26/20171/9/20191
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1.81011
Trenton Charlson

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 27 Missing: none – this is a pangram. This is puzzle # 8 for Mr. Charlson. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Trenton Charlson notes:
I started this puzzle with X-RAY SPEX, and once I built out the upper-left corner, I noticed BBQ JOINT might work well in the ... read more

I started this puzzle with X-RAY SPEX, and once I built out the upper-left corner, I noticed BBQ JOINT might work well in the symmetrical location. From there, it was a matter of finding a layout which would cleanly connect the two sections, and then filling the remaining two corners.

Like with my last Friday puzzle, there are some aspects of this one that don't quite resonate with me now. For instance, I doubt I'd choose to intersect OREO THIN and EASY TEN in the lower-right corner, along with some tough proper nouns nearby, if I were making this today. The upper-left also feels strangely heavy on technology-related vocabulary for a puzzle I made (trust me). However, with regard to the upper-right, I remember not being thrilled with ONE-A or NYY but going with them because I thought that the six and seven-letter words in that corner seemed particularly lively and well worth the compromises, and I still stand by that decision.

One cool thing about themeless construction is that the constraints that have already been placed on the grid sometimes bring to mind lively entries that I most likely would not have considered otherwise. SNOWY OWLS was my favorite option for 32-Down, and is perhaps my favorite entry of the whole puzzle. They're such majestic creatures. I'd be glad to encounter one in real life— unlike the SCANTRON, which I wouldn't mind never encountering again now that I've graduated, but I think it makes for a fun crossword entry anyways.

I'm pleased to see that my favorite clues of mine— those for 1-Across, 13-Down, 14-Down, 25-Down and 36-Across— made the cut. I just competed in my first Scrabble tournament, so it's nice that my clue for STAR survived as well.

Finally, it might be of interest to some that I originally constructed this with SCANTRON at 1-Across, but flipped the Acrosses and Downs upon completing the grid as, for some reason, the layout of black squares looked strange to me, and I also preferred the top row of SIX-PACK and BOO HISS. I'm not entirely sure I'd do the same thing today. The longest entries in the puzzle are Downs, which is a bit unorthodox— but then again, so am I, so I guess I'm down with it. Happy solving!

Jeff Chen notes:
I felt like Trenton made this puzzle specifically for me. There's so much of the goodness you'd usually expect in a themeless; ... read more

I felt like Trenton made this puzzle specifically for me. There's so much of the goodness you'd usually expect in a themeless; colorful long answers like BBQ JOINT, XRAY SPEX, I/O DEVICE, BODY SURFS. I was confused at first by SNOW YOWLS – headslap moment when I realized it was SNOWY OWLS. Fun with parsing!

Additionally, he used his mid-length slots so delightfully. No BOO, HISS! here! ON VACAY, SIX PACK, EASY TEN (I'm fascinated by people who say they have a "system" for roulette), LOGROLL, even TWEEZES. Seven-letter slots are often dead weight in a themeless. Not today. Best use of 7s I've seen in quite a while.

Now, there are some entries that I'm sure will resonate less strongly with others than with me. I'm a LotR junkie, so SMEAGOL came easily. I'd expect most people to have at least heard of Gollum, but SMEAGOL — his name before he becomes Gollum? Not so much. And I'll sympathize with those who haven't heard of SMEAGOL, who will undoubtedly be lost by what will be a too-clever clue for them (he had the One Ring for a while).

FRAT BRO is another one. At least it's inferable – two recognizable words. But if you haven't heard of the term (I hadn't until I saw it in a younger constructor's crossword), it probably won't do much for you.

The crossings of POPO / NEYO and DANAE / ASHANTI? Not a problem for me, since my wife uses the term PO-PO all the time, and I'm a huge fan of Greek myth. Again though, I'd sympathize if you grumpily got either of those crossings wrong. Yeah, I hear your cries that they're unfair, and I might even agree.

Themelesses with edgy entries tailored to certain demographics can be dangerous, repelling certain swaths of solvers. I realize that I'm solidly in Trenton's camp today and that there might be some (many?) outside of it. But I thought the entry selection and craftsmanship was excellent, resonating strongly with this particular solver.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 1019 ( 25,182 )
Across
1. Objective worked toward during crunch time? : SIXPACK
8. "Get off the stage!" : BOOHISS
15. 43-Across that shares its name with part of a flower : COROLLA
16. Catching rays for days, say : ONVACAY
17. Need for a certain outlet : ADAPTOR
18. Outlet's opposite : DEADEND
19. Singer with the 2012 hit "Let Me Love You" : NEYO
20. "Later, alligator!" : SEEYA
22. Successful hacker's declaration : IMIN
23. Tubes : TVS
24. Agrees to compromise : BENDS
25. Chihuahua, for one : STATE
26. Seriously muscular : RIPPED
28. Hagatna is its capital : GUAM
30. Big Apple team, on scoreboards : NYY
31. Deep blue : OCEAN
32. Word on some Emmy awards : SERIES
34. Cutting-edge, as an electronic product : NEXTGEN
36. Alpha male, perhaps? : FRATBRO
40. Some Girl Scout cookies : SAMOAS
42. Any of three sisters of old Hollywood : GABOR
43. See 15-Across : CAR
46. The worst of times : LOWS
47. ___ wrench : TORQUE
48. Taps, as a keg : OPENS
50. Cliff notes? : YODEL
52. 4x platinum album of 2001 : JLO
53. Eric of "Munich" : BANA
54. Hitherto : SOFAR
55. Pound, e.g. : POET
56. Suffered humiliation : ATECROW
58. Early tool : NEOLITH
60. Participate in quid pro quo : LOGROLL
61. Region of Ghana known for gold and cocoa : ASHANTI
62. Plucks : TWEEZES
63. Roll of 4 and 6, in craps : EASYTEN
Down
1. Teacher's timesaver for grading tests : SCANTRON
2. PC modem or drive : IODEVICE
3. Novelty item in vintage comic book ads : XRAYSPEX
4. Law enforcers, in slang : POPO
5. Start of some rock genre names : ALT
6. One side of a store sign : CLOSED
7. Real first name of writer Isak Dinesen : KAREN
8. Rides the waves without a board : BODYSURFS
9. Prime draft pick : ONEA
10. Tiny tube travelers : OVA
11. Lost all patience : HADIT
12. Profession in a Eugene O'Neill title : ICEMAN
13. "___ and happiness are an impossible combination": Mark Twain : SANITY
14. Where Nemo was found in "Finding Nemo" : SYDNEY
21. Nip in the end : EDGE
24. A.F.C. North team : BENGALS
25. Notable ring bearer : SMEAGOL
27. A.F.C. East team, informally : PATS
29. Intangible quality : AIR
32. Official birds of Quebec : SNOWYOWLS
33. Center of a Scrabble board : STAR
35. Kind of phase for some teens : EMO
37. Place to get ribs or pulled pork : BBQJOINT
38. Literally, "little wheel" : ROULETTE
39. Low-cal version of a classic cookie : OREOTHIN
41. From : ASOF
43. Deep blue : COBALT
44. Director of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "This Is 40" : APATOW
45. Fail to follow suit : RENEGE
47. Missionaries of Charity founder : TERESA
49. Button material : NACRE
51. Mother of Perseus : DANAE
54. Only : SOLE
55. Recorder button : PLAY
57. "Frasier" role : ROZ
59. Post's Honey ___! : OHS

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?