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New York Times, Monday, October 2, 2017

Author: Trenton Charlson
Editor: Will Shortz
Trenton Charlson
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
24/26/201710/2/20170
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0101000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.79000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Charlson. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Trenton Charlson notes: This idea for this theme arose from thinking about Schrödinger puzzles, and wondering if I could potentially create one ... more
Trenton Charlson notes:

This idea for this theme arose from thinking about Schrödinger puzzles, and wondering if I could potentially create one so that entries that contain more than one distinct stand-alone letter, for example, VITAMIN which can be followed by A, B, C, D, E, or K, intersect another such entry. Ideally, the shared possible letters for each pair of theme entries would be some combination of A, B, C and D, so that the revealer MULTIPLE CHOICE could be used. This didn't end up panning out, but it did lead me, through a somewhat stream-of-consciousness manner of contemplating crossword themes, to come up with the one you see here.

The first version of this puzzle had the theme entries VITAMINS, MUSICAL NOTES, CHEMICAL SYMBOLS, GREEK LETTERS, and ALPHABET, and was rejected on the basis that ALPHABET was too obvious, and GREEK LETTERS was inconsistent. It was tough to find a new set of symmetrical theme entries, but I'm pleased with the current set, particularly as in each case, the category contains other members besides the ones that are composed of a single letter, and the letters are the members of the category themselves rather than being abbreviations, unlike something such as L M S for SHIRT SIZES.

I spent a decent amount of time trying to remove the black square between TILE and GREEK and its symmetrical partner to allow for two pairs of long parallel downs, but I didn't like the compromises on the fill, so I decided to stick to 78 words. Given that this ended up as a Monday (I had expected it to be a Tuesday) and the importance of smooth fill for Monday puzzles, I stand by this decision, and though there aren't a ton of bonuses here, I'm fond of SHOT TO HELL and some of the mid-length fill like US NEWS and HANSEL (he's so hot right now).

I don't have a lot to say as far as the clues go, but a few of mine I'm glad to see survive the edit are 49-Across, 9-Down, 31-Down and 56-Down. Though I'm not sure it will be particularly applicable to this puzzle, I like the inside nod in the clue that Will and Joel came up with for AHA.

In any case it's great to be back, and I hope (fingers crossed!) that my puzzle will be a pleasant start to everyone's week!

Jeff Chen notes: Tough concept to fully explain. The best I could come up with: think of a Venn diagram, 'letters of the alphabet' in one circle, and ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Tough concept to fully explain. The best I could come up with: think of a Venn diagram, "letters of the alphabet" in one circle, and "some other set" in another. Got it? The intersection is today's theme. A B C D F are LETTER GRADES, A B O are BLOOD TYPES, etc.

I liked that Trenton used all crossworthy phrases for his theme. It would be too easy to resort to dictionary-sounding entries like NOTES OF A MUSICAL SCALE, which wouldn't be acceptable as fill in a normal crossword. Cool finds too — MOVIE RATINGS is something I'd be happy to uncover in a themeless.

(CHEMICAL SYMBOLS isn't something I'd preferentially use as fill, but I can imagine other constructors thinking it's great.)

I also liked the execution. There isn't a ton of snazzy bonus fill, just SHOT TO HELL and FROST NIXON, but at least there's a little. More importantly for a Monday grid, the short fill is super smooth. HESS isn't going to be on the tips of everyone's tongues, but it is a major energy corporation, and all the crosses are easy enough.

As Trenton mentioned, it would have been great to get another pair of long downs somewhere — taking out the black square between ALONSO and BALI or between HANSEL and MEATS might have been easier than what he tried. These seem doable without compromising short fill quality, but I'd have to do some serious testing to be sure of that. (It'd mean moving some black squares around to find snappy entries that cross three or four fixed theme answers.)

I would have been more drawn to the concept if it had been easier to explain. "Letters of the alphabet that are contained within another set, although not quite the full set, i.e., AB is missing from BLOOD TYPES" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. But I enjoyed the novelty of the idea, something rare for a Monday puzzle. I like it when a puzzle forces me to think.

1
F
2
I
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4
H
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F
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L
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A
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A
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C
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A
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C
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A
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M
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B
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C
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B
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A
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A
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1002 ( 24,800 )
Across Down
1. Salmon or sole : FISH
5. Somersault : FLIP
9. Rough on the eyes or ears : HARSH
14. "Fancy seeing you here!" : OHHI
15. Ages and ages : EONS
16. The same : ALIKE
17. Chicken pen : COOP
18. A B C D E F G : MUSICNOTES
20. Fitting : APT
21. Merriment : FUN
22. Longtime Time magazine rival, briefly : USNEWS
23. A B C D F : LETTERGRADES
27. Opposite of 'neath : OER
28. Slippery 1-Across : EEL
29. Hay storage areas : LOFTS
33. Plan that's "hatched" : SCHEME
36. Campbell's container : CAN
38. Narrow inlet : RIA
39. B C F H I K N O P S U V W Y : CHEMICALSYMBOLS
43. Have a bug, maybe : AIL
44. French affirmative : OUI
45. Stops : CEASES
46. Bundles of hay : BALES
49. Strands in a cell? : DNA
51. Not the main choice: Abbr. : ALT
52. G R X : MOVIERATINGS
57. Taj Mahal material : MARBLE
60. "My Country, ___ of Thee" : TIS
61. Glass of "This American Life" : IRA
62. A B O : BLOODTYPES
65. Jump in an ice rink : AXEL
66. Cottage or cabin : ABODE
67. ___ of Sandwich : EARL
68. Gardening tools : HOES
69. Lecherous figure of myth : SATYR
70. Eye affliction : STYE
71. Paul who sang "Eso Beso" : ANKA
1. Centrally located : FOCAL
2. "Fingers crossed!" : IHOPE
3. Utterly ruined, informally : SHOTTOHELL
4. Cool : HIP
5. Longest and strongest bone in the human body : FEMUR
6. Take it easy : LOUNGE
7. Drop-___ (surprise visitors) : INS
8. It comes between chi and omega : PSI
9. Fairy tale character who leaves a trail of bread crumbs in the forest : HANSEL
10. King of Naples in "The Tempest" : ALONSO
11. Bar mitzvah or communion : RITE
12. Distort, as data : SKEW
13. Gas company famous for its toy trucks : HESS
19. Cow's chew : CUD
21. Physicist Enrico : FERMI
24. Swarm (with) : TEEM
25. Lie back : RECLINE
26. "Sad to say ..." : ALAS
30. Play and film about a 1977 series of interviews with a former president : FROSTNIXON
31. One of a hundred in Scrabble : TILE
32. Impudence : SASS
33. Sign of healing : SCAB
34. ___ Pet (1980s fad item) : CHIA
35. Prefix with conscious or freak : ECO
37. Big Apple inits. : NYC
40. Car with the slogan "Truth in engineering" : AUDI
41. Butcher's offerings : MEATS
42. East Indies tourist destination : BALI
47. Exemplify : EMBODY
48. Electrician's alloy : SOLDER
50. Major highway : ARTERY
53. One who's back from war, informally : VET
54. Bridal path : AISLE
55. "It's all ___ to me" : GREEK
56. Spicy dance or dip : SALSA
57. Some Wharton degs. : MBAS
58. Jessica of "Sin City" : ALBA
59. Yam or turnip : ROOT
63. Affirmative : YES
64. Reassuring touch : PAT
65. Cry upon getting a tough crossword clue : AHA

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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