It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker. Please consider supporting our site by purchasing an account.

New York Times, Friday, October 23, 2015

Author: Evan Birnholz
Editor: Will Shortz
Evan Birnholz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
810/3/201310/23/20150
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0001124
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.69100

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 28 Missing: {VX} Spans: 2 Scrabble average: 1.88 This is puzzle # 8 for Mr. Birnholz. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

Support XWord Info

Donation Amount

XWord Info is only possible when people like you choose to support it through donations.

Donate to get access to XWord Info for a year.

Benefits vary by donation level. Thank you!

Evan Birnholz notes: I'm a fan of themeless grids that make use of the staircase pattern in the middle, with multiple five-letter words crossing one ... more
Evan Birnholz notes:

I'm a fan of themeless grids that make use of the staircase pattern in the middle, with multiple five-letter words crossing one another. It's a good feeling when every one of those words in the middle comes out cleanly and, as a side benefit, this grid pattern often helps me keep the three-letter word count low.

My original submission looked like this, with the changed letters highlighted. At 53-Across, Keyser SOZE is the villain from "The Usual Suspects." At 11-Across, there's the former NBA guard Craig EHLO, a Cavaliers' fan favorite who guarded Michael Jordan when he hit "The Shot" in 1989 — maybe not the most well-known name if you're not a hardcore NBA fan like I am. They fit PELS in at 14-Down in the final puzzle; the fan in me approves.

So, Will and Joel changed 15 letters changed from the original submission, but I'm especially glad they agreed to leave F-BOMB untouched. I know Will once nixed that word from a previous puzzle, and it would have been a very, very easy change in this grid to A-BOMB. Hey, F-BOMB has been in the NYT itself, so I guess it's fair game.

Jeff Chen notes: JUICY puzzle from one of the young guns. We see his Devil Cross vibe in some great entries like COW TIPPING, STEP BACK, FANTASY ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

JUICY puzzle from one of the young guns. We see his Devil Cross vibe in some great entries like COW TIPPING, STEP BACK, FANTASY FOOTBALL, and finally … the NYT xw debut of F-BOMB! I'm glad to see Will finally give it the nod.

Talk about SWEET SPOTS!

At 72-words, this puzzle is at the very limit of what's allowable for a themeless. I'm often wary of 72-worders, because all the black squares make it difficult to incorporate as much long material as I like to see. Roughly 12 long slots (8+ letters) is my bare minimum when I construct a themeless, and I much prefer something along the lines of 16-18. It's tough to convert every single long slot into something great, so I like a little wiggle room if I need an entry that's more neutral than colorful.

Evan only has 12 slots for long material today, so I bit my fingernails as I solved — not converting even one or two long slots into something good is a huge loss, percentage-wise. I should know better, as Evan has serious themeless chops. Okay, TRANSOMS is just neutral to me, and GROUPONS have become passé given all the daily deal sites now, but HAAGEN DAZS. MEET HEAD ON. DOORKNOB with a nice clue. Talk about SWEET SPOTS! Toss in SUZY Q crossing BARQS and that's pretty good.

With a good but not outstanding number of assets though, I want to see extremely few liabilities in the puzzle. A LAW is unsavable as a partial. SMEE is borderline (except to Peter Pan fans!), and LA RAMS … this one seems so outdated to me, but the clue about Merlin Olsen does a reasonable job of attempting to rescue.

I actually like PELS a lot, as it's modern and gettable with the crosses (the NBA's Pelicans). PRYCE crossing NICO would usually be a no-no, but the clue for PRYCE [… whose name sounds like it's worth something] helps a ton. Thumbs up for solver-oriented cluing today, which helps to rescue some of the liabilities.

1
C
2
O
3
W
4
T
5
I
6
P
7
P
8
I
9
N
10
G
11
I
12
H
13
O
14
P
15
A
M
E
N
C
O
R
N
E
R
16
M
A
G
E
17
F
A
N
T
A
S
Y
F
O
O
18
T
B
A
L
L
19
E
N
D
20
N
I
C
O
21
U
S
A
G
E
S
22
K
N
E
E
23
S
P
A
C
E
24
R
25
A
26
D
I
O
S
27
D
O
O
R
K
N
28
O
29
B
30
O
P
A
R
T
31
J
E
A
N
S
32
D
N
A
33
L
A
N
K
34
T
U
R
K
S
35
B
A
R
R
36
O
R
C
37
F
R
I
E
S
38
S
U
Z
Y
Q
39
S
T
E
40
P
B
A
C
K
41
W
U
S
S
E
S
42
C
R
O
N
Y
43
S
E
N
T
44
L
45
A
R
A
M
S
46
S
K
I
D
47
D
48
I
49
P
50
P
L
A
Y
B
O
51
Y
M
A
G
A
52
Z
I
N
E
53
G
A
Z
E
54
M
E
E
T
H
E
A
D
O
N
55
A
W
E
D
56
S
W
E
E
T
S
P
O
T
S
© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 1023 ( 24,090 )
Across Down
1. Rural activity in an urban legend : COWTIPPING
11. Acronym in casual dining : IHOP
15. Place for vocal supporters : AMENCORNER
16. Wizard : MAGE
17. Team-building exercise? : FANTASYFOOTBALL
19. Certain pick in 17-Across : END
20. One-named singer who was a muse for Andy Warhol : NICO
21. Lexicographers' concerns : USAGES
22. Cap site : KNEE
23. "The breath of art," per Frank Lloyd Wright : SPACE
24. Acts like a ham? : RADIOS
27. Turning point? : DOORKNOB
30. Looking at it a long time might make your head hurt : OPART
31. "Democracy in fashion," per Giorgio Armani : JEANS
32. Scientific discovery of 1869 : DNA
33. Skinny : LANK
34. One party in the Crimean War : TURKS
35. 2008 Libertarian candidate for president : BARR
36. "The Two Towers" creature : ORC
37. McDonald's order with about 340 calories : FRIES
38. Alternative to a Ding Dong : SUZYQ
39. "Make room!" : STEPBACK
41. Babies : WUSSES
42. Favor-seeking sort : CRONY
43. Posted : SENT
44. Hall-of-Famer Merlin Olsen and others, informally : LARAMS
46. ___ marks : SKID
47. Super Bowl party bowl : DIP
50. Source of a controversial 1976 Jimmy Carter interview : PLAYBOYMAGAZINE
53. Peer : GAZE
54. Hit directly : MEETHEADON
55. Agape, say : AWED
56. Perfect places for hitting things : SWEETSPOTS
1. Internet ___ : CAFE
2. Something found on the toe of a boot? : OMAN
3. Meander : WEND
4. Boom maker : TNT
5. "That's impossible for me" : ICANNOT
6. Flowers also known as tussie-mussies : POSIES
7. Actor Jonathan, whose name sounds like it's worth something : PRYCE
8. Skinny : INFO
9. Opposite of paleo- : NEO
10. Some modern deals : GROUPONS
11. "It's me again" : IMBACK
12. "Made like no other" brand : HAAGENDAZS
13. Make goo-goo eyes at : OGLE
14. New Orleans N.B.A. team, informally : PELS
18. Opponents of the Reds, once : TSARS
22. Captain of TV and film : KIRK
23. Gets into hot water? : SOAKS
24. Chocolate candies in the shape of truncated cones : ROLOS
25. Not together : APART
26. Twerking, e.g. : DANCECRAZE
27. McDreamy's first name on "Grey's Anatomy" : DEREK
28. How a Reuben is made : ONRYE
29. Dad's rival : BARQS
31. Like some details : JUICY
34. Architectural crosspieces : TRANSOMS
35. Complete dud : BUST
37. Impolite thing to drop : FBOMB
38. Splits, e.g. : SUNDAES
40. Hoped beyond hope : PRAYED
41. Datum on a birth announcement : WEIGHT
43. Fish resembling a stingray : SKATE
44. Sports org. with the Vare Trophy : LPGA
45. ___ unto oneself : ALAW
46. "Man who stabbed, so to speak, without offence," in a 1911 novel : SMEE
47. Singer with the 4x platinum album "No Angel" : DIDO
48. Playing past regulation, informally : INOT
49. They may be felt on a desk : PENS
51. Material for Voldemort's wand : YEW
52. What lightning bolts do : ZAP

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle.

Found bugs or have suggestions?

|