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New York Times, Monday, October 29, 2018

Author:
Peter Gordon
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1109/5/198910/29/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
839221411619
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
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B
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C
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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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