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New York Times, Friday, November 15, 2019

Author:
Debbie Ellerin
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
43/9/201511/15/20190
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1.57000
Debbie Ellerin

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 32 Missing: {QZ} This is puzzle # 4 for Ms. Ellerin. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Debbie Ellerin notes:
This puzzle began with IS THAT A THING and LEONARD COHEN. I like trying to find phrases that I've heard in real life, such as I CANT ... read more

This puzzle began with IS THAT A THING and LEONARD COHEN. I like trying to find phrases that I've heard in real life, such as I CANT EVEN, and incorporating them into themeless puzzles. The phrase IS THAT A THING is what I often say to myself while constructing a puzzle. Also, I am a huge fan of the late, great LEONARD COHEN and have been trying to work him into a grid for a while, so I'm happy to debut this entry.

A few entries, like LISLE, GANESH, and GANTRY (as clued) are tough, but the crosses seem reasonable, so I think they're fair for a Friday. As always, I hope that the good outweighs the bad, and it's enjoyable to solve.

Thanks to Will Shortz and team for publishing this, especially on the weekend of my birthday — a nice birthday present!

Jeff Chen notes:
IS THAT A THING? — ooh, what a fantastic entry! I use that notion so often in my critiques (attention Byron Walden!); why ... read more

IS THAT A THING? — ooh, what a fantastic entry! I use that notion so often in my critiques (attention Byron Walden!); why haven't I ever added it to our list? If someone had given me a list of potential seed entries to build a themeless around, it would have jumped right out.

DATA SCIENTIST is also a snappy entry, although on a list of potential seed entries, I'd have passed over it in favor of phrases like I CAN'T EVEN and SUSHI BAR. I do like that it has the potential for clever cluing, which I CAN'T EVEN doesn't have. The quotation marks around "miner" in the clue gave away the game, unfortunately.

Tough way to open up a themeless, with EL CHAPO headlining. No doubt he has a colorful name, but yikes, the violence still ongoing to the Sinaloa Cartel … not something I want to be reminded of in my day's travel to LALA LAND, escaping the ills of the world. I wouldn't have thought twice about it, except for it being the 1-Across entry and the echo in DONS.

It's usually a good idea to avoid giant corners like the SW and NE. Roughly 5x6 area? All right, break it up! Amp up the difficulty even more with long entries like LEONARD COHEN and I CAN'T EVEN, and you're begging for tough and/or gloopy fill. In the NE, OBEAH, LISLE, LATEN make for an undesirable trio. Any one of them is probably fine, but all three lined up makes for an unsatisfying effect. Not worth the strong entries in CREWCUT, RATHOLE, SCROLL and ARABIA.

Solid craftsmanship from Debbie, along with some fantastic marquee entries. Next time, avoiding such big corners, along with one or two more long feature entries, and I predict she enters POW! territory.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 1115 ( 25,574 )

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Across
1
Former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel : ELCHAPO
8
Move smoothly up or down : SCROLL
14
State of obliviousness : LALALAND
16
Home of the Nefud and Rub' al Khali deserts : ARABIA
17
World capital designated a Unesco World Heritage Site due to its modernist architecture : BRASILIA
18
Revile : DETEST
19
Puts together : ADDS
20
Ronnie who was a 10-time N.F.L. Pro Bowler : LOTT
22
Thrash, with "on" : WHALE
23
Singer of "I'm Your Man" and "Hallelujah" : LEONARDCOHEN
26
Rather racy, say : RATEDR
29
Headquarters of LG Electronics : SEOUL
30
Be : EXIST
31
"No words" : ICANTEVEN
35
Indication of another name : NEE
36
Foul moods : SNITS
37
Indication of another name : AKA
38
Things that may be settled : OLDSCORES
41
Practical jokes : JAPES
43
Serenade, maybe : CROON
44
Hindu god of beginnings : GANESH
45
"What do you think ... real or not?" : ISTHATATHING
49
Hurts : MAIMS
50
Grammy winner for "My Heart Will Go On" : DION
51
Ida for whom a massage therapy is named : ROLF
55
Pranksome : IMPISH
57
Where to order nigiri or maki : SUSHIBAR
59
"Haven't the foggiest" : NOIDEA
60
Soul mate : TRUELOVE
61
Overhead structure for a crane or railroad signals : GANTRY
62
Most nimble : SPRYEST
Down
1
Island to which one is able to return? : ELBA
2
Cook's supply : LARD
3
Not au naturel : CLAD
4
Major inconveniences : HASSLES
5
Mahershala of "Green Book" : ALI
6
Tan's opposite : PALLOR
7
It may bring you to tears : ONION
8
Blue : SAD
9
Not quite a buzz, but almost : CREWCUT
10
Squalid place : RATHOLE
11
Cousin of voodoo : OBEAH
12
Durable stocking fabric : LISLE
13
Grow toward evening : LATEN
15
Modern-day "miner" : DATASCIENTIST
21
Dog biscuits and such : TREATS
24
Wash. Nationals games are played in it : EDT
25
Family heads : DONS
26
City near Virginia City : RENO
27
Feat with double and triple versions : AXEL
28
50-50, say : TIED
31
Encroachment : INROAD
32
Use a Juul, say : VAPE
33
Barely gets, with "out" : EKES
34
Who wrote "Parsley / Is gharsley" : NASH
36
Stain on Santa : SOOT
39
German chancellor between Brandt and Kohl : SCHMIDT
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Less refined : CRASSER
41
Mo. whose birthstone is garnet : JAN
42
In a rage : ANGRILY
44
Gets excited : GINSUP
45
Online back-and-forth, informally : IMING
46
Cookie topped with toasted coconut, caramel and chocolate : SAMOA
47
Basket always worth two points : TIPIN
48
Word after office or off : HOURS
52
Wind in a pit : OBOE
53
Loos : LAVS
54
Stew : FRET
56
Stable staple : HAY
58
___ Excellency (title for an ambassador) : HER

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle.

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