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New York Times, Saturday, October 7, 2017

Author: Byron Walden
Editor: Will Shortz
Byron Walden
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8511/23/200110/7/201711
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801192577
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1.58321

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 31 Missing: {JKQVZ} This is puzzle # 85 for Mr. Walden. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Byron Walden notes: This one started out with HELLSCAPE. After I got a stack I liked in the NW (no 3's, yay!) I toyed with using FIRE ESCAPE (opposite ... more
Byron Walden notes:

This one started out with HELLSCAPE. After I got a stack I liked in the NW (no 3's, yay!) I toyed with using FIRE ESCAPE (opposite GARAGE SALE singular) as an asymmetric minithemer, but I just couldn't make it work. But some failed attempt made me see that DRAMA might be a good ending in that slot. Rounding the corner at I WANT IT ALL was the hardest part. Thinking about I WANT CANDY for that slot helped inspire the clue for PINATA. Between that clue and CONDOM, I wouldn't say this puzzle razes the mansion of the breakfast test, but it does jump on the furniture quite a bit.

If you haven't noticed, I have a fondness for the non-question mark misdirection clues like [Dish transmitters]. They've got to pretty precise to avoid the punctuated caveat, so it's gratifying to be able to come up with several of them in one puzzle. But as much as I appreciate the diabolical nature of the [Early '60s] misdirect in the KENNEDY, I mean, LINCOLN ERA clue, that one wasn't mine. That one needs more than a ?-- it needs a horror movie audience yelling "Watch out! It's a TRAP!" Hope you all enjoyed the ride.

Jeff Chen notes: Low 66 word-count offering from Byron, a toughie to fill, especially in those giant NW / SE corners. It's tricky enough to get both ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Low 66 word-count offering from Byron, a toughie to fill, especially in those giant NW / SE corners. It's tricky enough to get both color and cleanliness in a triple-stack of long entries, but it's so much harder in a quad-stack. I thought the NW came out particularly well, HELLSCAPE / AXIOMATIC / IDA LUPINO / GARAGE SALES pretty darn good. EX DA felt arbitrary — what's next, EX TSA or EX ESQ? — but no other crossword glue required.

I didn't like the SE as much. If you're going to need REPORTAGE to make it work, I'd prefer to stick a black square maybe at the T of REPORTAGE, and squeeze more snazz out of the remaining three long slots. ADULATION is a fine entry, as is BEE SEASON, but they're not nearly as snappy as PSYCHODRAMA to me.

Going up to 68 words could have helped the puzzle in another way, by increasing flexibility to get rid of a couple of iffy mid-length answers. OSTERIA … hmm. It is in the dictionary, and it probably will be apparent to foodies or European travelers. ON THE UP … double hmm. Maybe that's more common to Brits, but this is the New York Times, not the London Times, by gum!

A constructor's tip: see that black plus sign in the middle of the grid? Makes it so much easier to construct a low word-count puzzle like this. There's something about the way the plus sign breaks up the middle that allows constructors to breathe more easily. It's kind of like how cheater squares help along the perimeter of a puzzle, but the visual effect isn't as noticeable as a pair of cheaters, at least to me. Trick of the trade.

Great clue for EPEEIST — not a touch-phobic person, but a swordsperson who loses points per enemy touch. Love the innocent-seeming misdirect; no telltale question mark needed.

And hand up for the KENNEDY ERA trap. Beautiful!

Overall, a pretty good low(ish) word count puzzle. A couple of great feature entries, very little crossword glue, and mostly fine fill otherwise. Would have been interesting to see if Byron could have caught by POW! by revising it into a 68-worder.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1007 ( 24,805 )
Across Down
1. Dystopian backdrop : HELLSCAPE
10. Icy : GELID
15. Self-evident : AXIOMATIC
16. Give takes : OPINE
17. Director/co-star of "The Bigamist," 1953 : IDALUPINO
18. Second-oldest national park in North America : BANFF
19. Pre-moving day events : GARAGESALES
21. Snarler : CUR
22. Knock off : STOP
23. Weapon swung by a gaucho : BOLA
24. Unslurred speech? : PCLANGUAGE
30. Form a 44-Across : ALLY
31. Song on the soundtracks of "Lilo & Stitch" and "Surf's Up" : ALOHAOE
32. Hungers : YEARNS
34. Champagne grapes : PINOTS
35. Line of clothing : INSEAM
37. Princess Fiona, for one : OGRESS
39. Basic Italian bistro : OSTERIA
40. Corvine calls : CAWS
41. 1989 Queen hit : IWANTITALL
43. Baby's cut : OWIE
44. Entente : PACT
45. ___ Britton, mistress of Warren Harding who had a sensational 1927 tell-all book : NAN
46. Form of therapy in which patients act out events from their past : PSYCHODRAMA
53. Rapper with the 1992 3x platinum debut album "The Chronic" : DRDRE
55. 2005 film starring Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche : BEESEASON
56. Literally, "singing place" : ODEON
57. Offering to an idol : ADULATION
58. Windows forerunner : MSDOS
59. News pieces : REPORTAGE
1. "Caveat: Realism, Reagan and Foreign Policy" memoirist : HAIG
2. Rudy Giuliani or Chris Christie, for short : EXDA
3. Fabulous speaker? : LIAR
4. 1970 hit with a spelled-out title : LOLA
5. Self-satisfied : SMUG
6. Hurricane-prone area, maybe : CAPE
7. Up for debate : ATISSUE
8. Candy ass? : PINATA
9. Green field? : ECOLOGY
10. A host : GOBS
11. Org. concerned with 9-Down : EPA
12. The early '60s, in U.S. politics : LINCOLNERA
13. Rigged for cruising : INFULLSAIL
14. Bear, somewhat : DEFRAY
20. One who tries to avoid being touched : EPEEIST
23. Combo with strainers and jiggers : BARSET
24. Insubstantial fare : PAP
25. They go to all the best spots : CLIOAWARDS
26. Going on and on : LONGWINDED
27. Mounted : AHORSE
28. ___ the Great, detective of children's stories : NATE
29. Dish transmitters : GOSSIPS
33. Prefix with thesis : ANTI
36. ___ du pays (homesickness: Fr.) : MAL
38. Stabilizer in suspensions : SWAYBAR
39. Improving, in Britspeak : ONTHEUP
40. Item in a health class demonstration : CONDOM
42. Consent : ACCEDE
46. Stock holders : PENS
47. 2017 Tony-winning play about 1990s diplomacy : OSLO
48. Letter opener : DEAR
49. Heavy-metal band with the hit albums "Out of the Cellar" and "Infestation" : RATT
50. The East : ASIA
51. Keyboard instrument : MOOG
52. Grandmother of Jesus : ANNE
54. Down Under critter : ROO

Answer summary: 14 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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