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New York Times, Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Author: Herre Schouwerwou
Editor: Will Shortz
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Herre Schouwerwou
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 35 Missing: {QWX} This is puzzle # 7 for Mr. Schouwerwou. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Herre Schouwerwou notes: DISCLAIMER: No animals were harmed in the making of this puzzle. I don't recall the exact inspiration for this puzzle, but ... more
Herre Schouwerwou notes:

DISCLAIMER: No animals were harmed in the making of this puzzle.

I don't recall the exact inspiration for this puzzle, but I was probably hungry and noticed an animal split between two entries in another crossword. To limit the theme choices, I decided to use only animals in the current Barnum's box (according to Wikipedia) which were five letters or longer.

The other decision was where to place the revealer. I'm not a fan of center placement, and that would mean changing the grid to 14 or 16 squares wide or just having ANIMAL CRACKER which wasn't great. You can't eat just one! So I went with the "cracked" revealer that fortunately echoed the theme.

Will liked the concept but asked to remove some iffy fill and to replace HIPPO which was the only shortened entry. Of two revised submissions, the one that had the longest split entries was chosen over the one that had VEGANS crossing ANIMAL. Kudos to Will and Joel for the double "parked" clues for 49- and 50-Across.

Hope this satisfies your crossword snacking pleasure!

Jeff Chen notes: ANIMAL CRACKERS all broken up at the bottom of the box … 'cracked,' you might even say! Clever interpretation of CRACKERS, ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

ANIMAL CRACKERS all broken up at the bottom of the box … "cracked," you might even say! Clever interpretation of CRACKERS, meaning that some black squares crack, or divide, an ANIMAL in two (see below, highlighted).

Even better was that Herre stuck to long-ish animals typically seen in boxes of ANIMAL CRACKERS! Would have been easy to pick short animals like HEN or FROG or ELK, but that would have felt odd. Speaking of odd, not sure why it's unappetizing to eat a hen-shaped cracker vs. a ZEBRA or an ELEPHANT. I call fowl! Er, foul.

Well, it's not that difficult to split up semi-long words so that half ends an entry, and the other half starts another. Even a long guy like GORILLA gives multiple possibilities for *GOR and ILLA*. The latter not so much, but still, with I'll ask, ill-advised, ill at ease, etc., that's a good amount of flexibility.

BUT! Even with that flexibility, it's no joke to work around five pairs of themers. PHANT* doesn't give many possibilities, and when you must obey crossword symmetry, things can get hairy. I thought Herre did extremely well in the top half of the grid, working in some beautiful OH COME ON, NO GO AREA, I HOPE NOT bonus fill — all without crossword glue! Some might complain about LON Chaney, but he was a famous actor. Fine by me.

The bottom half didn't come out as nice, what with AMO, RCMP, AJOKE, LSTS, SYS — that's almost too much for one puzzle, and certainly too much for half of a puzzle. It's a much more difficult section to fill since CRACKERS is fixed into place, whereas the top had much more flexibility (MCGREGOR could have been dozens of other things). Along with the fact that Herre had to spend many of his black squares in the middle of the puzzle, sometimes you just have to accept that there will be compromises like this.

Herre could have gone down to just four pairs of themers, but only three animals would have felt light. Although the SE wasn't very elegant, I think it was a reasonable trade-off to get the higher theme density.

Given how well the theme was obscured, my solving experience played out like a pretty smooth themeless, and then the a-ha at the end was delightful — so much so, that I was able to overlook the gluey SE. Such a fun experience overall!

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1101 ( 24,830 )
Across Down
1. Chaney of horror movies : LON
4. Low-quality paper : RAG
7. Winner of the four tennis majors and Olympic 8-Down : AGASSI
13. "Heaven forbid!" : IHOPENOT
16. Like lava or magma : MOLTEN
17. Ewan who played Obi-Wan Kenobi : MCGREGOR
18. "Let me find out" : ILLASK
19. Rode the ump, say : BOOED
20. Abbr. on a sign at a town line : ESTD
22. Mushroom part : CAP
23. Mall aid : MAP
24. Cabbage with crinkly leaves : SAVOY
26. Hurricane relief org. : FEMA
27. Japan's national fruit : PERSIMMON
29. Excited, with "up" : KEYED
30. Weeder's tool : HOE
31. Depilatory brand : NAIR
32. "I'm c-c-cold!" : BRR
33. Out of it : INADAZE
35. Kenneth who played the title role in 1989's "Henry V" : BRANAGH
39. I : ONE
40. Salon job : COIF
41. Houston of Texas : SAM
42. Engraved pillar : STELE
45. Ghostly figures : PHANTASMS
47. Southern side : PONE
48. Wearing a scowl : POUTY
49. Cars are "parked" in it : JAM
50. Cars are parked in it : LOT
51. Place to hole up : LAIR
52. Part of 52-Down : ROYAL
54. With 56-Across, lunchbox snacks ... or a hint to the black squares before 18-, 29-, 35- and 45-Across? : ANIMAL
56. See 54-Across : CRACKERS
59. Bollywood soundtrack instruments : SITARS
60. Persistently emphasize : HAMMERAT
61. The early 20th century, for vaudeville : HEYDAY
62. Unexpectedly come (by) : POP
63. GPS part: Abbr. : SYS
1. Place for a nest : LIMB
2. "You've got to be kidding!" : OHCOMEON
3. Forbidden zone : NOGOAREA
4. English horn, e.g. : REED
5. Lee who directed "Life of Pi" : ANG
6. Melted marshmallows, e.g. : GOO
7. Friendly relations : AMITY
8. See 7-Across : GOLD
9. The whole enchilada : ALL
10. Actress Dash of "Clueless" : STACEY
11. Bagel choice : SESAME
12. Rubber stamp go-with : INKPAD
14. Scrubs up, say : PREPS
15. Noah of "The Daily Show" : TREVOR
21. You might give him the business : SON
24. Pollutant that's a portmanteau : SMAZE
25. Lady friend, in Lille : AMIE
26. Bit of office greenery : FERN
27. Letter in an honor society's name : PHI
28. Utterly absurd : INANE
29. Food giant that merged with Heinz in 2015 : KRAFT
32. Sea, colloquially : BRINY
34. Bob who lost to Bill : DOLE
35. Connection between banks? : BOAT
36. Lode analysts : ASSAYERS
37. Emission from radioactive decay : GAMMARAY
38. Letters before Beagle or Bounty : HMS
40. One of about 400,000 in the United States : CHURCH
42. Water park sound : SPLASH
43. Canadian $2 coin, informally : TOONIE
44. Person or thing : ENTITY
45. Polynesian finger food : POI
46. "That's ___, son" (Foghorn Leghorn catchphrase) : AJOKE
48. ___-walsy : PALSY
51. Logan of CBS News : LARA
52. North-of-the-border force: Abbr. : RCMP
53. D-Day vessels: Abbr. : LSTS
55. "Spy vs. Spy" magazine : MAD
57. Grammy category since 1988 : RAP
58. First in a Latin 101 trio : AMO

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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