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New York Times, Friday, October 9, 2015

Author:
David Steinberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
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1.645173
David Steinberg

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 34 Missing: {FJQVWX} This is puzzle # 44 for Mr. Steinberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Steinberg notes:
I constructed this puzzle in March 2014, during my junior year of high school. Wait a second, what's high school? Oh yeah, that's so ... read more

I constructed this puzzle in March 2014, during my junior year of high school. Wait a second, what's high school? Oh yeah, that's so last year! Now that Stanford has started up, everything else has faded into a blur. Even though I've only had a week of classes, I can see that college is going to be much more time- and homework-intensive than high school was. I'm not sure how all my crossword activities are going to fit in with college, but I'll definitely make time to submit puzzles every once in a while!

My seed entries for this puzzle were PLAYBOY MANSION and TOPLESS DANCERS, which seems kind of weird now that there are girls living in close proximity . . . oh well, YOLO! I still think that symmetrical pair is pretty awesome, even though I'm obviously much more mature now that I'm in college ;).

And I was especially thrilled to be able to incorporate two of my nine-letter seed entries, AIR HOCKEY and GENIUS BAR, in the neighboring stacks. Speaking of AIR HOCKEY, my dorm doesn't have it for some reason, which is really frustrating! We have ping-pong and pool tables, but I personally prefer air hockey to both of these. Well, I guess I'll have to appeal to dorm gov at some point — alas, the struggle of being a college student!

Anyway, my other favorite entries were HIPHOP, METH LABS, HELLION, OOH-LA-LA, and BITCOIN. I wasn't thrilled with LASER PEN (which doesn't sound as good to my ear as LASER POINTER), EDH, or RATA (mainly because of its position as the first across entry), but these three entries seemed like smallish tradeoffs, and I was certainly satisfied enough to proceed to the cluing.

Well, not quite! Before I clue a puzzle, I always check to make sure there aren't any dupes, which is a nerve-wracking process. My heart sunk when I noticed BAR at 35-Across, which was much too similar to GENIUS BAR. Fortunately, I noticed that the letter at 35-Across/29-Down could also be an S. SAR is kinda meh, but at least I was able to spice up the OSAMA clue!

Well, that's about all I have to say. Time to get back to tearing it up at frat parties . . . er, I mean getting ahead on my computer science and math assignments due next week! In any case, happy solving!

Jeff Chen notes:
Very nice construction from the recent Stanford matriculate. I very much appreciate his quest to stay further and further away from ... read more

Very nice construction from the recent Stanford matriculate. I very much appreciate his quest to stay further and further away from gluey bits while not compromising on featuring colorful fill. I liked the modern feel to this one, featuring BITCOIN, Apple's GENIUS BAR (which I've been extremely impressed with when my wife has needed consultation), and METH LABS. That last one is pretty edgy, but it does relate directly to the very popular "Breaking Bad." Man oh man, that series was way too much for me, never able to go to sleep after watching an episode.

A GENIUS BAR in NYC

On a related note, TOPLESS DANCERS and PLAYBOY MANSION form a quasi-mini-theme of "making some NYT solvers uncomfortable." I'm personally fine with both of them, especially PLAYBOY MANSION, which (for better or for worse) is a cultural touchstone, but TOPLESS DANCERS sort of tips it over the line for me. I like getting a bit of edge in my crosswords, but this one feels like it steps outside the NYT's core focus. I suppose a little shock value can be healthy.

With just 12 entries of 8+ letters, it's important to nail each and every one of them. (Sure, the seven-letter entries like HELLION and BITCOIN can add color, but it's not easy to do.) I liked a lot of the fresher material like AIR HOCKEY and LABOR POOL, but ONION ROLL and ORANGEADE feel a bit stale to me. And a LASER PEN … is that better than or different from a LASER POINTER? Even after researching it, I couldn't say definitively. So definitely agree with David.

Nice and clean short fill. EDH sticks out as the only gluey blight in my eyes, but then again, it's cool to have something that's represented by the curious letter "ð". SAR is apparently the "Sons of the American Revolution" — pretty minor though.

A bit too overtly raunchy for my taste, but I'm sure it will appeal more to David's teenage demographic.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 1009 ( 24,076 )
Across
1
Pro accompanier? : RATA
5
Automaker that originally sold sewing machines : OPEL
9
League of nations : BLOC
13
Add some sparkle to : ADORN
15
Star protector : BODYGUARD
17
"Hands off!" : LETGO
18
Apple tech station : GENIUSBAR
19
Bunny habitat : PLAYBOYMANSION
21
Holy terror : HELLION
22
It leads to a logical conclusion : ERGO
24
Old English letter : EDH
25
High-tech pointer : LASERPEN
29
Chooses a course : OPTS
32
Pro counterpart : LAYMAN
34
Blade in a lock : OAR
35
Patriotic org. founded in 1889 : SAR
36
Partnership : CAHOOTS
37
Uplifting feet? : ODE
38
___ broche (skewered) : ALA
39
Boards on a ship : PLANKS
40
Ran across the border : BLED
41
Workplaces where speed is the first order of business? : METHLABS
43
Spray source : UZI
45
Bubbly source : ASTI
46
Parrot or ape : IMITATE
50
Ones working near the poles? : TOPLESSDANCERS
55
Table game in a rec room : AIRHOCKEY
56
Insinuated : GOTAT
57
Piquant deli order : ONIONROLL
58
"___ when?" : SINCE
59
Spring : LEAP
60
Risk territory west of Siberia : URAL
61
"Big ___" (comic strip) : NATE
Down
1
"Lord of the Flies" chief : RALPH
2
Singer of the 2012 Bond film theme : ADELE
3
Smash to bits : TOTAL
4
Holders of diamonds? : ARGYLES
5
Delivery specialist : OBGYN
6
46-Down, for one : POEM
7
Buchanan of mystery : EDNA
8
"___ Eyes" (1975 #2 hit) : LYIN
9
Comparatively ornamented : BUSIER
10
Potential employees : LABORPOOL
11
Fruit-flavored refreshment : ORANGEADE
12
Burnable medium, briefly : CDR
14
Like some shady contracts, from an auditor's standpoint : NOBID
16
Grissom aboard Apollo 1 : GUS
20
"Lux-x-xurious!" : OOHLALA
23
How some legal rights are made : ONRED
25
Where Interpol is headquartered : LYONS
26
Out of control : AMOK
27
Citrus fruit from Japan : SATSUMA
28
U.S. Navy O-1: Abbr. : ENS
29
Former cave dweller, informally : OSAMA
30
It was divided after W.W. II : PALESTINE
31
Mediterranean bistro : TRATTORIA
33
Starbuck's order giver : AHAB
36
U.S. Army E-4: Abbr. : CPL
40
Modern transaction unit : BITCOIN
42
Subject of XXL magazine : HIPHOP
44
Sharp knocks : ZINGS
46
Tennyson composition : IDYLL
47
Hartford-based Fortune 100 company : AETNA
48
Plot for development : TRACT
49
Accented perfume bottle name : ESTEE
51
Former N.B.A. coach Kruger : LON
52
Linen shade : ECRU
53
Candy bar with a crown logo : SKOR
54
Ward in pictures : SELA
55
Tech company that was the subject of a 1997 Time cover : AOL

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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