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New York Times, Saturday, October 20, 2018

Author:
Ben Gross and James Somers
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
110/20/20181
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0000001
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.56000
Ben Gross
TotalDebutCollabs
110/20/20181
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0000001
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.56000
James Somers

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 26 Missing: {JQV} Spans: 1 This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Gross. This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Somers. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
We decided to build the puzzle when Ben realized that the phrase 'Netflix and chill' was 15 letters. It felt a little risqué, ... read more

We decided to build the puzzle when Ben realized that the phrase "Netflix and chill" was 15 letters. It felt a little risqué, so we were delighted when the puzzle was ultimately accepted. Our initial construction effort, however, got off to a bad start: Ben had misconfigured our construction software such that it only offered single-word fill — no phrases!

We eventually figured out how to use computers properly, and when we were able to pair BUTT DIALED with FLIP PHONES, we knew we were onto something. We struggled a bit with the north-center — we're not particularly proud of the AREEL/AREI intersection — but we hammered away until we had something we were happy with.

Cluing the puzzle was especially fun. We each took a copy of the completed grid and, working alone, wrote up a full set clues. Then we compared clues for each entry in a series of TETE A TETES. Our cluing was helped by a simple shell script James wrote, called `cross`, which let us see all the past NYT clues for any entry we were considering (basically a worse version of this site!).

On to the next one!

Jeff Chen notes:
Debut! I like the boldness of debuting with not just a themeless, but a low-word-count one. Will gets a lot of themed submissions (for ... read more

Debut! I like the boldness of debuting with not just a themeless, but a low-word-count one. Will gets a lot of themed submissions (for Mon-Thurs, plus Sun), but he gets a FLOOD of themelesses for just two slots a week. When newer constructors come to me, wanting to start their construction careers with a themeless, I do everything I can to persuade them to do a themed instead. Not only are they much easier to construct, but there's the basic principle of supply and demand at work here.

Most newer constructors do 70- or 72-word grids, because 66-word grids are maybe five times harder to fill with color and cleanliness. Perhaps it's more like 10x.

I liked a lot of what Ben and James did today. NETFLIX AND CHILL is something relatively new to this aged-feeling 46-year old, but it's undoubtedly something the kids say these days. I was more in tune with that interesting NW corner, replete with STILL LIFE, ANTOINETTE, RENT A COP, INTIFADA, PTOLEMY – the CLASSICS!

Not a fan of ILLE, AREEL, or ARE I, but those were worth it for me, to get so much greatness up there.

It's too bad that there was more APLAN, LAC, and the rough crossing of HOTH / TORTES (HATH / TARTES could easily feel correct if you're not a Star Wars fanboy). I felt like if the puzzle had been kept to ILLE, AREEL, ARE I, it could have garnered POW! consideration. As it was, just a touch too much inelegance overall.

Sometimes I wonder if my threshold of "how much crossword glue is too much" is too strict. There's a ton of great fill in this one – BUTT DIALED, BITE-SIZED, AHOY THERE, and my beloved FLIP PHONE I only gave up two years ago. Some would argue that half a dozen dabs of crossword glue were a good trade-off for so much sizzle. And I think there's some validity to that line of reasoning.

1
C
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F
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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 1020 ( 25,183 )
Across
1
Gang member associated with the color blue : CRIP
5
Powerful ray : MANTA
10
Sorority letters : PSIS
14
Advanced : LENT
15
Spinning : AREEL
16
"I'm so sorry" : OHNO
17
Marie who married at 14 : ANTOINETTE
19
Bean town? : LIMA
20
Painting of a bouquet, e.g. : STILLLIFE
21
Israeli P.M. between Netanyahu and Sharon : BARAK
22
With assurance : SAFELY
23
Make deep cuts in : LACERATE
25
Caesarean section? : ICAME
26
Easy-to-eat, in a way : BITESIZED
27
Wyoming town that's home to the Buffalo Bill Museum : CODY
28
Relatives of tails : TUXEDOS
29
Steamy place : SPA
30
Rapping : RATATAT
31
Switzerland's ___ de Neuchâtel : LAC
34
Something a lawyer might make : PARTNER
35
Something that's "free" (although that's debatable) : WILL
36
They're hard to beat : GREATODDS
39
Can't not : HASTO
40
Head case, so to speak : NEUROTIC
41
Rich cakes : TORTES
42
Man with ___ : APLAN
43
Ship-to-ship communication : AHOYTHERE
45
Courts : WOOS
46
Dead ringers? : FLIPPHONES
47
Best Picture before "12 Years a Slave" : ARGO
48
Contradict : BELIE
49
Olympic racer : LUGE
50
Texter's valediction : TTYL
51
Does nothing : IDLES
52
Spy : SPOT
Down
1
Makeup of a high school reading list : CLASSICS
2
Mall authority figure : RENTACOP
3
Palestinian uprising : INTIFADA
4
Astronomer with a geocentric model of the universe : PTOLEMY
5
Macho : MANLY
6
"Whose woods these ___ ...": Frost : AREI
7
Modern invitation to hook up : NETFLIXANDCHILL
8
Chats : TETEATETES
9
A bitter pull to swallow? : ALE
10
Guiding light : POLARIS
11
Full-bodied red : SHIRAZ
12
Joint tenant? : INMATE
13
Gouged : SOAKED
18
Latin pronoun : ILLE
21
Stupefy : BESOT
24
Moth repellent : CEDAR
26
Ended a phone call? : BUTTDIALED
28
King of Cups, e.g. : TAROT
30
Sing about? : RATON
31
"Hey!" : LISTENUP
32
Hannah Montana, for one : ALTEREGO
33
Narrowly spaced : CLOSESET
34
Protection from harmful rays : PARASOL
35
"Eight Elvises" and "Sixteen Jackies" : WARHOLS
36
Really annoy : GNAWAT
37
Bit of news : REPORT
38
Panegyric : EULOGY
39
Ice planet in "The Empire Strikes Back" : HOTH
41
Pecks, in a way : TYPES
44
Role for a young Ron Howard : OPIE
46
Spy grp. : FBI

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?