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New York Times, Sunday, October 6, 2019

Author:
Howard Barkin and Victor Barocas
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
97/23/201410/6/20191
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2202111
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64100
Howard Barkin
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
132/9/201110/6/20198
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
7012300
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.62032
Victor Barocas

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 73 Missing: {JQZ} This is puzzle # 9 for Mr. Barkin. This is puzzle # 13 for Mr. Barocas. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Shortz notes:
Howard Barkin is a software quality-assurance specialist — and an ace crossword solver — from Hillsborough, N.J. He won the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in 2016 and is ... read more

Howard Barkin is a software quality-assurance specialist — and an ace crossword solver — from Hillsborough, N.J. He won the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in 2016 and is a perennial top-10 finisher.

Victor Barocas, who also competes, is a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota. The men became acquainted through the tournament when their last names appeared alphabetically adjacent in the results. The idea for this puzzle was Howard's. They worked back and forth by email to make it.

Constructor notes:
VICTOR: I powered up the Wayback Machine to share some of the failed themers that Howard and I discussed. EE CUMMINGS (EEC) and DH LAWRENCE (DHL) both had nice initialisms, but we ... read more

VICTOR: I powered up the Wayback Machine to share some of the failed themers that Howard and I discussed. EE CUMMINGS (EEC) and DH LAWRENCE (DHL) both had nice initialisms, but we dismissed them so all of the entries would go by name-initial-name, not initial-initial-name.

I am of the perfect age to remember RICHARD DEAN ANDERSON as MacGyver and reading RDA's on labels, but, alas, a 19-letter name doesn't leave enough room to put the initials next to it, even if one can make a defibrillator out of two candlesticks and some microphone wire. Same problem for PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY.

MARK PAUL GOSSELAAR's 17 letters would have fit nicely with a block and a triplet next door, but we didn't have a good name to put opposite him, so no go, and we decided to skip all name-name-name types, which also ruled out JUNE CARTER CASH (not clear that everyone would know Jewish Community Centers well enough anyway, so also goodbye to JOHN C CALHOUN). DAVID O SELZNICK and JAMES A GARFIELD almost made it onto the list, and HARRY S TRUMAN might have been there had HUNTER S THOMPSON not beaten him to the HST punch.

So, after all that, we ended up with the set in the puzzle. I very much enjoyed working with Howard, and I hope that people enjoyed solving it as much as we enjoyed making it.

HOWARD: In short, I originally told Victor of a theme idea that I had based on initials that sadly never came to fruition (not even close, actually). Victor resurrected the idea and ran with it, coming up with a nice list of candidates. He developed a lot of solid fill and did some of the general heavy lifting on this puzzle. Co-constructing is fairly new for me, so this was a great experience -

I highly recommend it, Jeff ;).

Jeff Chen notes:
Initialisms, well-known(ish) trigrams mirroring famous people's initials. Some interesting finds – with as much ARTHUR C CLARKE as I've read, I've never thought about his monogram ... read more

Initialisms, well-known(ish) trigrams mirroring famous people's initials. Some interesting finds – with as much ARTHUR C CLARKE as I've read, I've never thought about his monogram matching the Atlantic Coast Conference.

I appreciated how Howard and Victor kept perfectly consistent, always choosing people who are known by their First, Middle Initial, and Last names. Jim and I did have a conversation about STEPHEN A DOUGLAS, which both of us hitched on, knowing him more without the middle initial. Some Googling shows that the A is fine, though.

This is a case where less might have been more. Putting ACC next to ARTHUR C CLARKE = smashing the theme over my head with a hammer. It also emphasized the initialism-nature of the puzzle, which is a bad thing, given that initialisms are generally overdone and boring. It would have been much more playful to integrate the trigrams into the clues, i.e. [Sci-fi author who's a member of the ACC?]

This would have allowed for more bonuses in the fill, as well as super smooth overall product. I did like what Howard and Victor achieved – some great bonuses in AP PHYSICS, A ROSE IS A ROSE, ITS GREEK TO ME, REACTION TIME, SILENT SPRING, along with an average amount of crossword glue.

But just think what these two solid constructors could have done without the constraint of the six trigrams fixed into place. Having maybe four more great bonuses and maybe six less of BSA GRO GRP OBES RUHR STKS could have done so much towards delivering an even snazzier and smoother solving experience.

In general, I advise newer constructors to avoid initialism themes, because editors seem to be slowing down their acceptance of these, given their overexposure. However, even the most done-to-death theme types still might be feasible, if not exciting, if they contain a clever twist, some wordplay, something to help raise them out of the muck.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 1006 ( 25,534 )
Across
1
What helicopter rotors do : WHIR
5
"___ to Psyche" : ODE
8
Bartók and Lugosi : BELAS
13
Seven Sisters school that went coed in 1969 : VASSAR
19
Famous feature of the Florence Cathedral : DOME
20
Romulus, exempli gratia : REX
21
It goes up with alcohol consumption : REACTIONTIME
23
Cereal mascot since 1933 : SNAP
24
N.Y.C.-based dance troupe : ABT
25
↑ Memoirist : ALICEBTOKLAS
26
Psalm 63 opening : OGOD
28
Unable to choose : TORN
30
Blood drive worker : NURSE
31
On the way : SENT
32
Many : ALOTOF
34
Tactless : RUDE
36
Marsh flora : REEDS
38
Rapper Lil ___ X : NAS
39
↓ Journalist and author : HUNTERSTHOMPSON
42
Maui setting: Abbr. : HST
44
Downwind : ALEE
45
Mimic : APER
46
Quarry, e.g. : PIT
47
Raise one's spirits : TOAST
49
Weighed on : BURDENED
51
Gangster's gun : GAT
52
Large print source : BEARPAW
54
Org. for the Demon Deacons and Blue Devils : ACC
55
↑ Sci-fi author : ARTHURCCLARKE
58
Observance on Yom Kippur or during Ramadan : FAST
61
H.S. class for future engineers, say : APPHYSICS
62
Spoke with a forked tongue : LIED
63
Guides of a sort : GURUS
64
"From where I sit," briefly : IMO
65
Increases : UPS
66
Word appearing on only one current U.S. coin (the nickel) : CENTS
67
Bit : ATOM
68
Yonder : OVERTHERE
72
Medium on display at Brickworld : LEGO
73
↓ Famed rights advocate : SUSANBANTHONY
75
Agcy. that supports entrepreneurs : SBA
77
Many a middle schooler : PRETEEN
78
Sounds during a strep test : AHS
79
1976 hit whose title is sung just before the line "Take it easy" : SLOWRIDE
84
Buenos ___ : AIRES
85
Sis's sib : BRO
86
Isn't in the black : OWES
87
Information on a game box : AGES
88
The so-called "winter blues," for short : SAD
89
↑ Noted politician and orator : STEPHENADOUGLAS
93
"Honor"-able org. : BSA
95
Gush : SPURT
97
Largest cell in the human body : OVUM
98
Got by : MADEDO
99
Yeats's homeland : EIRE
101
Brings up : REARS
103
Award for Best Moment, e.g. : ESPY
105
The "1" of 10-1, say : LOSS
106
↓ American composer and lyricist : GEORGEMCOHAN
109
Canyon maker : GMC
111
Kissers : LIPS
113
"I can't understand this at all" : ITSGREEKTOME
114
Half of a blackjack : ACE
115
Hideout : LAIR
116
Star of the "Taken" film series : NEESON
117
Wind ___ : SHEAR
118
"Erie Canal" mule : SAL
119
Certain IDs : SSNS
Down
1
MS. units : WDS
2
Site of the first Ironman race (1978) : HONOLULU
3
Words accompanying "Uh-oh!" : IMAGONER
4
Moved, as in a greenhouse : REPOTTED
5
___ pro nobis : ORA
6
Factor affecting a bond's rating : DEBT
7
Took by threat : EXTORTED
8
Actor on Time's list of the 100 most important people of the 20th century : BRANDO
9
California's ___ River : EEL
10
Reclined : LAIN
11
Hex'd : ACCURST
12
Playing on both sides : STEREO
13
"I ___" (sticker message) : VOTED
14
"I'll take that as ___" : ANO
15
Parts of a portfolio: Abbr. : STKS
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Iconic environmental book : SILENTSPRING
17
Maker of the classic Radarange : AMANA
18
Concludes one's case : RESTS
22
"Ghosts" playwright : IBSEN
27
Forest mother : DOE
29
River through Dortmund : RUHR
32
Model of vengeful obsession : AHAB
33
Part of a Swiss bank account : FRANC
35
One good at reading emotions : EMPATH
37
Boating hazard : SHOAL
40
Something a house might be built on : SPEC
41
Epigrammatic : PITHY
43
Brand in the dessert aisle : SARALEE
47
Clue collectors, for short : TECS
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Grow a fondness for : TAKETO
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Grub : EATS
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Assoc. : GRP
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Includes surreptitiously : BCCS
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Melds : WEDS
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Left on board : APORT
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High percentage of criminals? : USURY
57
No longer green, say : RIPE
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Popular sans-serif typeface : FUTURA
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Truism based on a line by Gertrude Stein : AROSEISAROSE
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Major source of coffee beans : SUMATRA
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Mass-produced response? : AMEN
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Inspiration for a horror movie? : GASP
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Nobelist Pavlov : IVAN
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Hammer feature : CLAW
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U.K. honours : OBES
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Choreographer Twyla : THARP
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Trio often heard in December : HOHOHO
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Northern borders? : ENS
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Can't do without : NEEDS
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Runners support it : SLED
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Place of security : BOSOM
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What causes a will-o'-the-wisp : SWAMPGAS
80
Ann and Andy, notably : RAGDOLLS
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The King of Latin Pop : IGLESIAS
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Popular sports news website : DEADSPIN
83
ExxonMobil abroad : ESSO
85
Promise : BETROTH
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Heavy responsibility : ONUS
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Comment following an unrepentant admission : SUEME
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Symbolic socioeconomic divider : TRACKS
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Less bumpy : EVENER
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Suffix with sex or text : UAL
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Get the show on the road : BEGIN
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Número de Maravillas del Mundo Antiguo : SIETE
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Get one's hair just right : PREEN
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Bits of work : ERGS
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Something a cobbler may hold : SHOE
104
"It's fun to stay at the ___" (1978 hit lyric) : YMCA
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Miracle-___ : GRO
108
Org. for docs : AMA
110
Bit of animation : CEL
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About one-quarter of a high school: Abbr. : SRS

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle, 6 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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