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New York Times, Monday, October 31, 2016

Author:
Peter A. Collins
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1105/2/200610/16/201912
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
612253714106
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.565313
Peter A. Collins

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQVZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 97 for Mr. Collins. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Peter A. Collins notes:
Happy Halloween! If you were hoping for a spooky puzzle today, I'm sorry. As is often the case, this theme idea came to me while I ... read more

Happy Halloween! If you were hoping for a spooky puzzle today, I'm sorry.

As is often the case, this theme idea came to me while I was driving my car. I've been known to absent-mindedly shoot past an exit or two while my brain is running through theme ideas and my fingers are tapping out word lengths on the steering wheel.

The day this puzzle had its start, I happened to hear Marvin Gaye's MERCY MERCY ME on the radio. I immediately started to think of other song titles that fit the X X Y word pattern. The next one I hit on was (I'm ashamed to say) the Vanilla Ice "classic" ICE ICE BABY. At that moment, a theme was born.

My apologies to those solvers for whom pop music is terra incognita (I'm looking at you, Aunt Annie). I suppose picking up on the theme will help a bit in filling in the squares, even if you're unfamiliar with the song titles.

Songs that didn't make the cut include the Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love" (due to the inclusion of BYE BYE BLACKBIRD), and Van Morrison's "Real Real Gone". In my opinion, Van Morrison walks on water, but "Real Real Gone" seemed even more obscure than the (I'm sure to some) obscure WILD WILD LIFE — which "Real Real Gone" could've replaced from a lengthwise standpoint. I think I had another possibility or two, but I can't recall what they were now. Can anybody think of others? There's a fun party game for you when you've finished bobbing for apples.

For a follow-up puzzle, how about three-word song titles, like "Fun Fun Fun" and "More More More"? I think I'll leave that to someone else.

One last thought: if this doesn't get "Puzzle of the Week" and 5 stars across the board, the election was obviously rigged.

As Vanilla Ice would say: Word to your mother …

Jeff Chen notes:
Song titles of three words, the first and second words identical. As a pop music idiot, I really appreciated that Pete stuck to fairly ... read more

Song titles of three words, the first and second words identical. As a pop music idiot, I really appreciated that Pete stuck to fairly well-known songs. I might even be able to sing them. Okay, maybe hum them. And if I was forced to go to a karaoke bar I could probably throw in a "mercy" here and there, in MERCY MERCY ME.

I wondered how hard it would be to find examples fitting this pattern. Turns out, pretty hard! I didn't spend a lot of time looking, but Pete seems to have unearthed a pretty tight set of popular songs that stick to this idea. Very nice.

Even though he has to work around five long themers, Pete still makes the extra effort to put in some long bonus entries. None of them jumped out at me (MENS CLUBS isn't as vivid as "old boys' club"), but FRENETIC and SITCOM are fun, and EXCISING is an interesting word.

I felt like the grid got too strained, though. I wouldn't give this one to a relative newbie, as it might elicit a "I have to know what ELOI, AWN, and STERE are in order to do crosswords?!" reaction. I explain to people that you don't actually have to know these things, since you can just ignore them and rely on the crossing answers. But although that's a logical argument, I find that these types of entries don't go over too well, and certainly don't engender a feeling of wanting to do more crosswords.

For a Monday puzzle, I would have liked a different trade-off in snazzy long fill vs. sparkliness. I do like it when constructors go the extra mile to work in several pieces of long fill, but entries like ABANDONED don't feel worth the price of AS I, EIN, ANO, etc. plus the aforementioned.

In the end though, I found the five themers to be a tight-ish, entertaining set.

1
D
2
U
3
R
4
H
5
A
6
M
7
D
8
E
9
F
10
M
11
A
12
S
13
S
14
A
S
I
A
G
O
15
A
I
R
16
E
M
I
T
17
R
E
D
R
E
D
18
W
I
N
E
19
N
I
C
E
20
T
R
E
E
21
E
A
R
22
N
23
E
S
T
E
R
24
M
25
E
R
C
Y
26
M
E
R
C
Y
M
E
27
B
28
B
29
S
30
A
N
O
31
E
T
A
L
32
A
R
E
33
A
S
34
A
S
I
35
U
36
S
37
E
38
D
39
B
Y
E
B
Y
40
E
41
B
L
A
C
42
K
B
I
R
D
43
A
N
N
A
44
X
I
I
45
O
S
A
M
A
46
N
47
A
C
L
48
E
49
S
P
50
M
A
Y
51
W
52
I
53
L
D
W
I
L
54
D
L
I
F
55
E
56
O
D
E
O
N
S
57
R
O
T
58
B
59
L
60
A
61
H
62
N
E
O
N
63
I
64
C
E
I
C
65
E
B
A
B
Y
66
K
A
N
E
67
N
A
G
68
O
P
E
N
E
D
69
S
L
E
D
70
G
P
S
71
M
I
D
D
L
E
© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 1031 ( 24,464 )
Across
1
Twin city of Raleigh : DURHAM
7
Dictionary offering: Abbr. : DEF
10
The "m" of e = mc2 : MASS
14
Italian cheese : ASIAGO
15
Tire filler : AIR
16
Give off : EMIT
17
1988 #1 hit for UB40 : REDREDWINE
19
"___ going!" : NICE
20
Oak or elm : TREE
21
Big feature on a donkey : EAR
22
Empty ___ (parent whose children have all moved away) : NESTER
24
1971 hit for Marvin Gaye subtitled "The Ecology" : MERCYMERCYME
27
Toy gun pellets : BBS
30
Year: Sp. : ANO
31
List-ending abbr. : ETAL
32
Regions : AREAS
34
"___ Lay Dying" : ASI
35
Like some textbooks : USED
39
1920s standard with the lyric "Sugar's sweet, so is she" : BYEBYEBLACKBIRD
43
Woman in "The King and I" : ANNA
44
12, on a grandfather clock : XII
45
___ bin Laden, 2011 Navy SEALs target : OSAMA
46
Salt, chemically : NACL
48
Psychic power, informally : ESP
50
June preceder : MAY
51
1986 hit for Talking Heads : WILDWILDLIFE
56
Classical music halls : ODEONS
57
Decay : ROT
58
Yawn-inducing : BLAH
62
Gas in commercial signs : NEON
63
1990 hit that samples the bass line from Queen/Bowie's "Under Pressure" : ICEICEBABY
66
1941 film "citizen" : KANE
67
Complain, complain, complain : NAG
68
Laid down the first card : OPENED
69
Toboggan, e.g. : SLED
70
Route displayer on a dashboard, for short : GPS
71
Word with finger or America : MIDDLE
Down
1
Something thrown at a bull's-eye : DART
2
Pusher's customer : USER
3
Carnival attraction : RIDE
4
___ pants (baggy wear) : HAREM
5
See 6-Down : AGE
6
With 5-Down, present time : MODERN
7
Grocery section with milk and yogurt : DAIRY
8
German "a" : EIN
9
Crazily fast : FRENETIC
10
"Old boys' network" meeting places : MENSCLUBS
11
Friendliness : AMITY
12
Cry to an attack dog : SICEM
13
One cubic meter : STERE
18
City between Dallas and Austin : WACO
23
A pitching ace has a low one, in brief : ERA
25
Like a Monday crossword puzzle, relatively speaking : EASY
26
Western plateau : MESA
27
See 34-Down : BABA
28
___ Mawr College : BRYN
29
Observed : SEEN
33
Left behind : ABANDONED
34
With 27-Down, foe of the Forty Thieves : ALI
36
Setting for "The King and I" : SIAM
37
Funny Bombeck : ERMA
38
June 6, 1944 : DDAY
40
Removing surgically : EXCISING
41
New York City mayor de Blasio : BILL
42
Head: Ger. : KOPF
47
Barley beard : AWN
48
"The Time Machine" race : ELOI
49
"30 Rock" or "3rd Rock From the Sun" : SITCOM
51
Policy experts : WONKS
52
Perfect : IDEAL
53
Sierra ___ (African country) : LEONE
54
Bottom-of-the-bottle stuff : DREGS
55
Flowed back : EBBED
59
Word that fills both blanks in "This ___ is your ___" : LAND
60
Brother of Cain : ABEL
61
Jekyll's alter ego : HYDE
64
Item of apparel often worn backward : CAP
65
Commercial lead-in to Pen : EPI

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?

See NYT Crosswords for info.