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New York Times, Friday, November 11, 2016

Author:
Damon Gulczynski
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
3811/8/20047/1/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
15608810
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.65330
Damon J. Gulczynski

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 32 Missing: {Q} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 18 for Mr. Gulczynski. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Damon J. Gulczynski notes:
About a year and a half ago, I was listening to a podcast and somebody said THAT'S A BIG IF. I was on my computer at the time, so I ... read more

About a year and a half ago, I was listening to a podcast and somebody said THAT'S A BIG IF. I was on my computer at the time, so I looked to see if that term had ever been used in a crossword puzzle before, and when the results came back negative, I decide to make it the seed answer in a themeless puzzle. Because… why not?

Looking back over this grid with fresh eyes, I'm mostly pleased with it. I think I pretty much nailed the long answers. It's got some glue I don't particularly care for (notably SRS and ELEM – if I made this puzzle today, I probably wouldn't let these two stand). But I think (hope) the trade-off is worth it.

The clues for this one are a mixed bag for me. Quite frequently when Will changes my clues, I feel they get better — and there are some examples of this in this puzzle (e.g., the clue for BOOM MICS) — but there are also some for which it is not the case. My least favorite clue is "Hook remover, perhaps" for NOSE JOB, because it evokes the term "hook-nosed," and although the dictionary informs me there is nothing inherently derogatory about this term, it feels kind of slur-y to me. Using "hook" to describe somebody's nose is just not something I like or would ever do. (My clue was "Profile alterer" if you were wondering.)

I also had a great clue for LA RAM, but I came up with it too late: "Noted NFL returner of 2016". Get it? Not bad, huh?

For more on this puzzle and other tangentially related topics, feel free to visit my blog: scrabbledamon.blogspot.com.

Jeff Chen notes:
A ton of great stuff packed in! Big, interconnected skeletons can be tough to work with, but Damon did well. WELL SHUT MY MOUTH to ... read more

A ton of great stuff packed in! Big, interconnected skeletons can be tough to work with, but Damon did well. WELL SHUT MY MOUTH to JESSE JAMES to CHEESE PIZZA to THAT'S A BIG IF to JUST DESERTS (yes, that's the correct spelling!) to SCAM ARTIST to YOU LOOK FAMILIAR — that's seven long answers locked together, each one of them strong to fantastic. THAT'S A BIG IF was my favorite, so it was great to see it smack dab in the middle.

And there was more, a nice surprise given that interconnected skeletons can quickly become inflexible. NOSE JOBS, FOG LAMPS, KARAOKE SO SUE ME, HOT TUBS, even the bizarre-looking BOOMMICS (BOOM MIKES?). And being a kid of the late 20th century, getting NEW COKE crossing MCRIB was really fun. All these great entries spread throughout the puzzle made it feel like the grid was jam-packed with goodies.

Interconnected skeletons are notoriously difficult to keep smooth, since so much of the puzzle has to be built around various long answers locked into place. I think Damon did a nice job keeping the crossword glue to just minor stuff. EVILEST is the most evil to me — I once choked down EVILER into order to get a puzzle to work, and still feel ill about it — and ACE TEN feels a little arbitrary, but some ELEM SRS OZS (abbrs.), ARA (esoteric name), OSH (partial) aren't bad at all.

Some solvers balk at ENO, but I think he's perfectly fine. I don't buy the argument that ENO should be avoided, since he appears much more in crosswords than in real life — my feeling is that if you're crossworthy, you're crossworthy.

And for years, LARAM (such a beautiful vowel consonant alternation!) was frowned upon, because the Rams had moved to St. Louis. They're back, baby! (I just changed my scores on the XWord Info Word List to reflect this.)

Even though there's a little more crossword glue than I like to see in a themeless, there was so much great material that I usually would have given this one the POW! But there's one coming up that I liked even better.

1
N
2
E
3
W
4
T
5
A
6
F
7
L
8
A
9
C
10
T
11
Y
12
K
13
E
14
O
V
E
R
15
R
O
A
C
H
16
H
O
A
X
17
S
I
L
O
18
A
G
R
E
E
19
Y
U
R
I
20
E
L
L
I
21
E
22
L
A
T
E
23
L
A
S
24
J
E
S
S
E
25
J
A
M
E
S
26
M
O
O
T
27
O
S
H
28
G
U
M
29
N
E
30
W
C
O
K
E
31
B
T
U
32
S
33
S
P
34
F
35
P
A
R
K
E
D
36
T
H
37
A
T
S
A
38
B
I
G
I
F
39
A
40
L
M
O
N
D
41
B
O
Z
42
B
A
43
S
44
H
45
C
O
Y
O
T
E
46
S
47
O
Z
48
S
49
M
O
O
50
D
A
M
S
51
S
C
52
A
M
A
R
53
T
I
S
T
54
E
N
O
55
E
L
E
M
56
S
A
L
U
T
57
L
O
U
58
D
59
R
E
G
I
60
S
61
L
I
E
U
62
C
U
T
E
63
T
R
I
C
K
64
I
A
M
B
65
O
T
H
O
66
S
A
S
S
Y
67
A
R
E
S
© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 1111 ( 24,475 )
Across
1
Amphibian once associated with bad spirits : NEWT
5
Big coverage provider : AFLAC
10
Nipper : TYKE
14
No longer stuck on : OVER
15
___ Motel : ROACH
16
Crop circles, e.g. : HOAX
17
Part of many a rural skyline : SILO
18
Line up : AGREE
19
Former Soviet leader Andropov : YURI
20
Singer Goulding : ELLIE
22
Bad way to run : LATE
23
Start of some Southwest city names : LAS
24
Film title role for Tyrone Power and Brad Pitt : JESSEJAMES
26
Theoretical : MOOT
27
___Kosh B'Gosh : OSH
28
Wrigley's field : GUM
29
Noted bomb in a longtime war : NEWCOKE
31
Energy qtys. : BTUS
33
Block letters? : SPF
35
Staying put : PARKED
36
Skeptical rejoinder : THATSABIGIF
39
Vegan milk source : ALMOND
41
"Sketches by ___" (1830s work) : BOZ
42
Criticize in no uncertain terms : BASH
45
Ranchers' enemies : COYOTES
47
Dispensary measures: Abbr. : OZS
49
___-cow : MOO
50
Civil engineering projects : DAMS
51
One might take you in : SCAMARTIST
54
Producer for Bowie and the Talking Heads : ENO
55
___ sch. : ELEM
56
French toast : SALUT
57
Like Hawaiian shirts : LOUD
59
Denver's ___ University : REGIS
61
Place : LIEU
62
Warranting a heart on Instagram, say : CUTE
63
Bridge unit : TRICK
64
Trochee's counterpart : IAMB
65
Emperor after Galba : OTHO
66
Flip : SASSY
67
Father of Harmonia : ARES
Down
1
Hook remover, perhaps : NOSEJOB
2
Most baleful : EVILEST
3
"Huh, how about that!" : WELLSHUTMYMOUTH
4
French crowd? : TROIS
5
Only three-letter constellation other than Leo : ARA
6
Driver's visual aids in bad weather : FOGLAMPS
7
West Coast N.F.L.'er : LARAM
8
Certain blackjack : ACETEN
9
Basic order at Domino's : CHEESEPIZZA
10
"Go ___ ways to a nunnery": Hamlet : THY
11
Statement akin to "Have we met?" : YOULOOKFAMILIAR
12
Bar activity : KARAOKE
13
Was : EXISTED
21
Headlines, for short? : EEG
25
Comeuppance : JUSTDESERTS
26
Fast-food debut of 1981 : MCRIB
30
Turn tail? : WAG
32
Drives off : SHOOS
34
Hunky-dory : FAB
37
Sugar lover : ANT
38
Extended interview components : BOOMMICS
39
Big name in auto parts : ACDELCO
40
Give for a while : LOANOUT
43
"I messed up ... what of it?!" : SOSUEME
44
Jet settings : HOTTUBS
46
White of the eye : SCLERA
48
Yearbook div. : SRS
52
Backing : AEGIS
53
Actress Shire : TALIA
58
"___ gratias" : DEO
60
Blue hue : SKY

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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