It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker. Please consider supporting our site by purchasing an account.
This web browser is not supported. Use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge for best results.

New York Times, Friday, October 23, 2015

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

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
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 ... read more

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 ... read more

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
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
Down
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?