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New York Times, Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Author:
Jerry Miccolis and Jeff Chen
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
37/17/201611/14/20171
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2010000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.60000
Jerry Miccolis
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
987/5/20105/16/201959
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2578172498
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.636212
Jeff Chen

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 41 Missing: {JQXY} This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. Miccolis. This is puzzle # 76 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
You can thank Eddie, my grand-nephew, for this puzzle. As a precocious 5-year-old, he would ask Uncle Jerry for periodic 'challenges.' ... read more

You can thank Eddie, my grand-nephew, for this puzzle. As a precocious 5-year-old, he would ask Uncle Jerry for periodic "challenges." These were often math and science related, but were sometimes pure word puzzles (his favorite type? – crossword puzzles, bless his heart). One of the challenges I gave him used the gimmick behind this puzzle's theme, but in narrative form. He solved it in no time flat and then challenged me to incorporate it into a crossword. I promised him I'd try.

My first attempt was conditionally accepted by Will, if I could freshen up some of the fill. After my several failed attempts at that, Will suggested that I get some help from a collaborator. Jeff had helped me with my very first puzzle the year prior and graciously declined any co-authorship credit back then. I saw this as an opportunity to both reconnect with Jeff and proudly share a byline. His remedial work on this was, unsurprisingly, masterful, and we received prompt acceptance. Thank you, once again, Jeff!

This is my last crossword, at least for quite a while. After an unexpected run of beginner's luck, during which four of my first eight submissions were accepted (three by the NYT), I promptly went 0-for-my-next-9. I suspect I may have shot my load. More importantly though, after having lots of fun with this for a good 18 months, I felt it was time to focus on another of my post-retirement bucket list items: writing a book. I've been hard at work drafting, and hope to publish next year, a "competition documentary" memoir about senior softball. Who knows, it may even include a baseball-themed crossword or two that were casualties of that 0-for-9 streak – I'll get them in print one way or another!

In any event, I hope you enjoy solving this one.

Jeff Chen notes:
Jerry got in touch with me after several submissions and resubmission to Will and Joel on this idea. I was lukewarm on the ... read more

Jerry got in touch with me after several submissions and resubmission to Will and Joel on this idea. I was lukewarm on the triply-doubled letters concept, as I had seen it once or twice before, but Jerry hooked me onto the project with the magic words: "Will thinks it might just be too hard to fill a grid like this with high quality."

I'm so darn predictable!

Jerry's original grids definitely had too much crossword glue for my taste, but more importantly, there weren't enough themers for my taste (four, plus TRIPLE DOUBLE), and some of them didn't hit my ear well. HEEL LOOPS I wasn't familiar with, but that did appear to be a real thing. WOOD DEER was the one that threw me. It took a lot of Googling to find enough examples of famous WOOD DEER carvings to be able to shrug it off as passable.

Even then, I felt like the puzzle needed more meatiness. A quick Python script helped uncover a few more, including one that I wish we could have incorporated: QUEEN NOOR. Ah well.

Putting the grid together took roughly eight hours over two sessions. I kept on ending up unhappy with some little corner, some piece of long fill, or both. For a while, I wondered if Will was right — even more so now that I had added two more themers to the original set.

I've had some luck with stacking themers for high-density puzzles, so I experimented with that. When I hit upon the arrangement you see, everything seemed to test out well. Plus, three themers in the top and three themers in the bottom makes for a double of triples … or TRIPLE DOUBLE!

(Sort of. More or less. If you squint a little.)

The rest of the grid was just a matter of trying out a few hundred possibilities in each corner. Not so bad.

I'm still not 100% sold on WOOD DEER, but if you aren't either, the other themers will hopefully help you forget it!

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1114 ( 24,843 )

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Across
1
No longer a minor : GROWN
6
Teenager's woe : ACNE
10
"___ and the Real Girl" (Ryan Gosling film) : LARS
14
Video game lover of Princess Peach : MARIO
15
"Darn it!" : DRAT
16
Affirm : AVOW
17
*Sugar craving : SWEETTOOTH
19
Whom Dory and Marlin found, in film : NEMO
20
Niihau neckwear : LEI
21
*Carved figurine popular around Christmas : WOODDEER
23
*What never goes unpunished, it's said : GOODDEED
27
Enroll : SIGNON
28
Iraq War concerns, for short : WMDS
29
O. J.'s alma mater : USC
31
Son of Aphrodite : EROS
32
Bit that might have the heading "About Me" : BIO
33
Knight's title : SIR
35
Boat in "Jaws" : ORCA
37
With 39-Across, impressive basketball feat ... or a feature shared by the answers to the six starred clues : TRIPLE
39
See 37-Across : DOUBLE
42
Kindle competitor : NOOK
43
Half of a colon : DOT
44
First word of the Lord's Prayer : OUR
46
Website subscriber's creation: Abbr. : ACCT
48
Common place for a sports injury, for short : ACL
50
Fantasy beast : OGRE
51
___ fibrillation (abnormal heart rhythm) : ATRIAL
53
*Wheelchair foot strap : HEELLOOP
56
*Pet cage feature : FEEDDOOR
58
Emceed, e.g. : LED
59
Running behind : LATE
60
*Figurehead? : BOOKKEEPER
65
P ___ psychology (unhelpful spelling clarification) : ASIN
66
Princess created by L. Frank Baum : OZMA
67
Garlic unit : CLOVE
68
Small change : CENT
69
Witnessed : SEEN
70
Far from fuzzy, for short : HIDEF
Down
1
Baseball execs : GMS
2
Kind of food or footage : RAW
3
Mined find : ORE
4
Brandishes : WIELDS
5
"O.K., understood" : NOTED
6
Kerfuffle : ADO
7
Sights at malls on Black Friday : CROWDS
8
Post-W.W. II alliance : NATO
9
Cultural value system : ETHOS
10
Russia's seizure of Crimea, e.g. : LANDGRAB
11
Big name in skin care : AVEENO
12
Ladies' men : ROMEOS
13
Like some enemies or testimonies : SWORN
18
Scenario before extra innings : TIE
22
Like a jigsaw puzzle : DIECUT
23
Prez with the same initials as an N.Y.C. landmark : GWB
24
Leave out : OMIT
25
Stench : ODOR
26
"I've found it!" : EUREKA
30
Baby : CODDLE
33
Expense item for a political campaign : SPOTAD
34
U.N. agcy. headquartered in Geneva : ILO
36
Aussie hopper : ROO
38
Episode : INCIDENT
40
Snapchat's ghost, e.g. : LOGO
41
Coin of many countries : EURO
45
What people know about you, informally : REP
46
Order to relax : ATEASE
47
Dimwit : CRETIN
49
Google's web browser : CHROME
50
Yale, affectionately : OLDELI
51
"Ask about it at work" sloganeer, once : AFLAC
52
University of New Mexico team : LOBOS
54
Big game : ELK
55
Little sucker : LEECH
57
Seep : OOZE
61
Manhattan's home: Abbr. : KAN
62
Seed case : POD
63
Anticipatory time : EVE
64
One crying foul? : REF

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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