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New York Times, Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Author:
Kevan Choset
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
279/30/200312/29/20163
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22105701
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.53520
Kevan Choset

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FJQXZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 25 for Mr. Choset. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Kevan Choset notes:
This puzzle falls into the genre of 'common phrase that can be interpreted in a wordplay-y way.' I'm a big fan of pop culture, and ... read more

This puzzle falls into the genre of "common phrase that can be interpreted in a wordplay-y way." I'm a big fan of pop culture, and like finding ways to make pop culture-themed puzzles that pay homage, but don't actually require knowing a lot of pop culture trivia. (I generally find that Will doesn't like publishing puzzles that require too much knowledge of a specific area of pop culture, as opposed to being more wordplay-y and accessible to all.)

I loved the Lord of the Rings films and I struck upon the phrase MIDDLE EARTH as something that I think is well-enough known (or figure-out-able at least) and lends itself to wordplay. I initially tried to find phrases where EARTH was in the exact middle, but I couldn't find enough that worked, so settled on the more general meaning of the word "middle" (after all, Malcolm was not actually in the dead center). It was important to me to use all feasible divisions of the word EARTH, though I couldn't find an E-ART-H breakdown. I debated whether I HEART HUCKABEES was valid, since the movie title was often written with a graphic of a heart instead of the word "Heart," but I found lots of references with the title spelled out.

I had some trouble in the upper right, getting two good 9-letter words to intersect the two theme entries there and to intersect the somewhat-constrained ISAACS. Note 36-Across. This is my first time including that in a puzzle.

Will Shortz notes:
When editing this puzzle, I noticed that the grid had ISAACS at 30A crossing ISAK at 28D, which really wasn't good, as they're ... read more

When editing this puzzle, I noticed that the grid had ISAACS at 30A crossing ISAK at 28D, which really wasn't good, as they're basically the same name. Fortunately, IS OK bailed me out in the latter spot, and it has the advantage of never having appeared in a Times crossword before.

Jeff Chen notes:
As an unabashed dorknerd, I couldn't help but smile when I came across MIDDLE EARTH as today's revealer (fair warning: I would love to ... read more

As an unabashed dorknerd, I couldn't help but smile when I came across MIDDLE EARTH as today's revealer (fair warning: I would love to see HELMS DEEP or BAG END or ELVISH METAL in a puzzle, but I realize I'm in a Hobbitish minority). Each of the four theme phrases contains EARTH spread across two words, and each of them is a snappy answer in itself. People may not know I HEART HUCKABEES but I really enjoyed that quirky movie.

Interesting point today for me was how knowing something about the constructor helped enhance my solve. Kevan is in entertainment law and often posts awesome pictures of him hanging out with big-time celebs on his Facebook feed. So I can imagine how I HEART HUCKABEES, LICENSEES and IN REM gave him no pause. I learned IN REM through crosswords, but I have to think it's part of Kevan's everyday lingo.

With this type of puzzle, there's a certain elegance to splitting the word EARTH either always the same way or always a different way. Today Kevan splits his entries EAR/TH twice, EART/H once, and E/ARTH once. During my solve, I had a sensation in the back of my head that something was a little odd, and I think this inconsistency was the reason. But overall, the theme phrases are strong enough, LINEAR THINKING being my favorite, that I didn't mind too much. Having such theme density often makes fill very difficult, but except for the IS OK / TWO A / SO TO region (which spans three theme entries), it holds together pretty well. Good work given the tough constraints.

Generally I'm in favor of adding long fill, as it spices up the puzzle. Kevan utilizes what is typically a very difficult arrangement, two pairs of nine-letter words (DOOHICKEY/LICENSEES and THRACIANS/PEANUT OIL) crossing not just one but two themers, and the SE corner shines as a result. THRACIANS will be tough for some, but I think it's a great answer steeped in ancient history and all the crosses are fair (thanks, terrible new Star Wars movies for making me cringe every time I hear ANI). Incorporating these two nine-letter answers without compromising the surrounding fill results in Elvish beauty.

Hey, I warned you.

The NE corner... I do appreciate ID TAG in there, but the triplet of DLI/OID/OCT felt inelegant, especially since the plural ISAACS resides in that region as well. As always, constructors are faced with difficult trade-offs.

Any puzzle with MIDDLE EARTH sitting on top of SHE-RA is going to get my nerd on. Entertaining solve.

1
A
2
H
3
O
4
R
5
A
6
B
7
A
8
S
9
I
10
C
11
D
12
L
13
I
14
R
A
T
E
R
15
E
T
H
N
O
16
O
I
D
17
C
L
E
A
R
18
T
H
E
A
I
R
19
O
C
T
20
O
A
R
21
M
A
I
22
O
23
S
H
E
A
24
L
I
25
N
26
E
A
R
T
27
H
28
I
N
K
I
N
G
29
C
N
N
30
I
S
A
A
C
S
31
S
32
T
33
P
A
T
34
S
35
O
T
O
36
K
E
37
V
38
I
H
E
A
R
39
T
H
U
C
K
40
A
41
B
E
E
S
42
B
R
A
43
W
I
T
H
44
S
A
Y
S
O
45
A
N
46
C
47
H
O
R
48
C
T
R
49
A
C
U
T
E
A
R
50
T
51
H
R
I
T
52
I
53
S
54
S
I
T
A
R
55
U
A
E
56
N
U
57
T
58
S
A
O
59
M
60
I
61
D
D
L
E
62
E
63
A
R
T
H
64
A
N
I
65
E
R
R
O
L
66
S
H
E
R
A
67
Y
S
L
68
S
E
E
R
S
69
A
I
M
A
T
© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1022 ( 23,359 )
Across
1
Now, in Acapulco : AHORA
6
Like a college course labeled "101" : BASIC
11
551, once : DLI
14
One using Yelp or TripAdvisor, perhaps : RATER
15
Prefix with biology : ETHNO
16
Suffix with planet or fact : OID
17
Overcome an unpleasant misunderstanding : CLEARTHEAIR
19
Fall mo. : OCT
20
Bit of crew equipment : OAR
21
___ tai : MAI
22
Actor Milo : OSHEA
24
Left-brain activity : LINEARTHINKING
29
"Anderson Cooper 360°" channel : CNN
30
Asimov and Newton : ISAACS
31
March honoree, for short : STPAT
34
"And ___ bed" : SOTO
36
"The Wonder Years" teen, for short : KEV
38
2004 film featuring Dustin Hoffman : IHEARTHUCKABEES
42
Half a bikini : BRA
43
Accompanying : WITH
44
Final approval : SAYSO
45
Anderson Cooper, e.g. : ANCHOR
48
Midpoint: Abbr. : CTR
49
Reason to see a rheumatologist : ACUTEARTHRITIS
54
Instrument played by George Harrison : SITAR
55
Gulf state: Abbr. : UAE
56
Loony : NUT
58
___ Paulo, Brazil : SAO
59
"The Lord of the Rings" setting ... or a feature of 17-, 24-, 38- and 49-Across? : MIDDLEEARTH
64
Young Darth Vader, to friends : ANI
65
Filmmaker Morris : ERROL
66
He-Man's sister : SHERA
67
Initials of fashion : YSL
68
Oracles : SEERS
69
Point toward : AIMAT
Down
1
Instruction to play with the bow : ARCO
2
Special-request flight meal option : HALAL
3
Cheri formerly of "S.N.L." : OTERI
4
"The Crying Game" actor Stephen : REA
5
Sheet music abbr. : ARR
6
Joy formerly of "The View" : BEHAR
7
Failed in a big way : ATEIT
8
"___ Na Na" : SHA
9
Common pasta suffix : INI
10
Mexican beer : CORONA
11
Thingamajig : DOOHICKEY
12
Royalty payers, say : LICENSEES
13
Collar attachment : IDTAG
18
Certain Fed : TMAN
23
Reggae precursor : SKA
25
Org. with Lions, Tigers and Bears : NCAA
26
___'acte : ENTR
27
Thumb a ride : HITCH
28
Escapes injury : ISOK
31
Fam. member : SIB
32
Allies of the Trojans in the "Iliad" : THRACIANS
33
What pad Thai is often cooked in : PEANUTOIL
34
Bake, as eggs : SHIRR
35
Not closeted : OUT
37
Letters on brandy : VSO
39
Old draft category for civilian workers : TWOA
40
Italian wine area : ASTI
41
Cartoon boy who can be described by an anagram of his name : BART
46
It runs the 'L' : CTA
47
Mercury counterpart : HERMES
48
Native Canadian : CREE
49
Test, as ore : ASSAY
50
Mary or Elizabeth : TUDOR
51
Cough drop brand : HALLS
52
Like some legal proceedings : INREM
53
Kama ___ : SUTRA
57
Word said while pointing : THAT
60
Dander : IRE
61
Dr. ___ : DRE
62
Spanish 57-Down : ESA
63
Tuna type : AHI

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?