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New York Times, Monday, October 29, 2018

Author:
Peter Gordon
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1149/5/19897/2/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
841241411619
ScrabRebusCirclePangramPre‑WS
1.5891611
Peter Gordon

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 16 Words: 81, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQVW} This is puzzle # 110 for Mr. Gordon. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Peter Gordon notes:

How cool would it be if this puzzle won an Orca Award?

Jeff Chen notes:
I often fail in trying to explain what 'tightness' means when applied to crossword themes. Today's puzzle illustrates the concept so much more ... read more

I often fail in trying to explain what "tightness" means when applied to crossword themes. Today's puzzle illustrates the concept so much more clearly than I ever could – can you think of any other phrase in the form of (black and white animal) + (one other word) = in-the-language-phrase? Not me. That makes this theme superbly tight.

I could barely think of another black-and-white animal. There is the orca – Peter's note refers to the great Sam Donaldson's annual crossword awards, which unfortunately don't quite have the cachet of the Oscars.

Not yet, at least!

What other animals? Maybe … husky (the dog)? Dalmatian?

You might have wondered why Peter went to 16 columns, instead of the usual 15. He could have made ZEBRA CROSSINGS singular, which would have also made the themers more consistent (so that every themer was singular), right?

Well, yes and no.

Here's the LONG ANSWER why:

ZEBRA CROSSING in the singular would have forced all the themers to be squished into rows 4 6 8 10 12. With long themers, that sort of compression is rarely easy to fill around.

Wait … why is that?

Couldn't he have kept PUFFIN BOOKS in row 3?

Yes. But a-ha! What happens to SKUNK CABBAGE then?

With the normal 15 columns, there must be three black squares at the end of SKUNK CABBAGE. That, in combination with the black squares at the end of ZEBRA CROSSING, would force a huge number of black squares at the sides of the puzzle. It'd be horribly unsightly at best, and at worst, it would net a request for complete redo.

Here's the SHORT ANSWER why:

Because reasons.

The 16-column crossword is surprisingly difficult to execute on. Even if you go up past the usual maximum of 78 words, which Peter did (81), you usually end up with (at least) a pair of big corners that becomes hand-wringingly difficult to fill smoothly. That SW, with NEATH OSTER ESSEN, is gonna be unwelcoming for some newbs.

Throw in ELOI, an answer that baffled this sci-fi geek when he first started crosswords, and KOD – I think it's legit as KO'D (knocked out) – in the opposite corner, and it's not a puzzle I'd give to a newer solver.

Overall though, I was pleased by the opportunity to explain "tightness" much better than I usually do. Such a tidy theme set.

Jim Horne notes:
Peter Gordon is a long-time puzzle maker and crossword editor. Serious solvers love his challenging Fireball Crosswords, available by ... read more

Peter Gordon is a long-time puzzle maker and crossword editor. Serious solvers love his challenging Fireball Crosswords, available by subscription. How hard are they? "If you have to ask, too hard for you."

I particularly enjoy his Fireball Newsflash Crosswords, with their amazingly timely content. They must, indeed, be constructed in a flash.

1
G
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A
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B
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C
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D
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Z
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P
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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 1029 ( 25,192 )
Across
1
Snatch : GRAB
5
Mil. schools : ACADS
10
Irritably impatient : TESTY
15
Actress Dunham who wrote "Not That Kind of Girl" : LENA
16
What a designated driver should be : SOBER
17
Where "I dos" are exchanged : ALTAR
18
Leave out : OMIT
19
Children's publisher whose name includes a black-and-white animal : PUFFINBOOKS
21
Home of Pago Pago : SAMOA
23
Moo goo ___ pan : GAI
24
Wonderland girl : ALICE
25
Foul-smelling swamp plant whose name includes a black-and-white animal : SKUNKCABBAGE
28
Sent to the canvas, in brief : KOD
30
What "I do" means : YES
31
Tavern : BAR
32
On, as a horse : ASTRIDE
34
Some small batteries : AAS
35
Volcanic residue : ASH
37
Samberg of "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" : ANDY
38
Areas for pedestrians whose name includes a black-and-white animal : ZEBRACROSSINGS
43
Hoedown seat : BALE
44
Schumer of "I Feel Pretty" : AMY
45
Relative of dynamite : TNT
46
Small sugar serving : ONELUMP
49
Bread for a Reuben sandwich : RYE
50
Deg. from Wharton : MBA
53
Sharpshooter's asset : AIM
54
Restaurant chain whose name includes a black-and-white animal : PANDAEXPRESS
58
Opposite of o'er : NEATH
60
Sick : ILL
61
Line at an airport : TAXIS
62
Men's fancy duds whose name includes a black-and-white animal : PENGUINSUIT
65
Wait : BIDE
66
Brand of blenders : OSTER
67
High points : ACMES
68
High cards : ACES
69
German steel city : ESSEN
70
Sheriff's group : POSSE
71
Flip, as a coin : TOSS
Down
1
Shiny photo : GLOSSY
2
New version of an old film : REMAKE
3
Strong dislike : ANIMUS
4
Relay race handoff : BATON
5
Nile biter : ASP
6
Mountain lion : COUGAR
7
Britcom of the 1990s, informally : ABFAB
8
E.M.T. procedure with electric paddles, for short : DEFIB
9
___ Lanka : SRI
10
iPad, e.g. : TABLET
11
Elite race in "The Time Machine" : ELOI
12
Item hung on Christmas Eve : STOCKING
13
Accept a bet : TAKEODDS
14
100 in a century: Abbr. : YRS
20
Repeatedly scolds : NAGS
22
"Allahu ___" (Muslim cry) : AKBAR
26
Spanish house : CASA
27
Sounds at spas : AAHS
29
Susan of "L.A. Law" : DEY
33
Deliver a diatribe : RANT
34
Whom Cain slew in Genesis : ABEL
35
Triceps locale : ARM
36
Sushi sauce : SOY
38
Buffoonery : ZANINESS
39
Listings on the periodic table : ELEMENTS
40
___ Crunch (cereal) : CAPN
41
River of the underworld : STYX
42
Ham-handed : INEPT
43
Drag queen's wrap : BOA
47
Economic improvement : UPTURN
48
When doubled, a dolphinfish : MAHI
49
Depends (on) : RELIES
50
Where Guadalajara is : MEXICO
51
Where less-played tunes can be found on old records : BSIDES
52
Levy, as taxes : ASSESS
55
Dance club that might have a rotating mirrored ball : DISCO
56
Homecoming attendees, for short : ALUMS
57
Morocco's capital : RABAT
59
James who wrote "A Death in the Family" : AGEE
62
Poet who wrote "Once upon a midnight dreary ..." : POE
63
Midday snooze : NAP
64
Mao ___-tung : TSE

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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