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REPORT CARD

New York Times, Sunday, November 17, 2019

Author:
Randolph Ross
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1135/12/199111/17/20190
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50103171824
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1.486002
Randolph Ross

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 134, Blocks: 74 Missing: {XZ} This is puzzle # 113 for Mr. Ross. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Shortz notes:
Randolph Ross, of New York City, is a retired principal for high schools in Queens, Great Neck and Plainview, N.Y. Crosswords helped him get one of his jobs. He says his final interview ... read more

Randolph Ross, of New York City, is a retired principal for high schools in Queens, Great Neck and Plainview, N.Y. Crosswords helped him get one of his jobs. He says his final interview with the Great Neck Board of Education was devoted mainly to crossword constructing rather than how to run a school. Having had one of his puzzles published in The Times shortly before "was good timing and made for a happy interview."

This is Randy's 50th Sunday crossword for the paper and his 113th Times puzzle overall.

Randolph Ross notes:
This is a milestone puzzle for me — my 50th Sunday NY Times crossword. I thought I'd reflect on this avocation that has given me so much pleasure and has allowed me to meet so many ... read more

This is a milestone puzzle for me — my 50th Sunday NY Times crossword. I thought I'd reflect on this avocation that has given me so much pleasure and has allowed me to meet so many smart and creative people that I may not have met otherwise. Crossword constructing has been a super icebreaker when I meet people for the first time, and having cruciverbalist on my resume has helped me at job interviews more than once. I'm not surprised anymore that in spite of a 50-year career in education doing important things for children for families, people want to talk more about how crosswords are made than how children learn or how we can fix our schools.

I love both the art and craft of puzzle construction. My creative juices flow when thinking of a theme that is hopefully clever, usually punny, and internally consistent. Today's puzzle, for example, of course came from my experience as an educator. Finding appropriate adjectives linked to letter grades is a common task for those of us who have been graders of student work. Using those adjectives in phrases makes for potentially fun wordplay resulting in a set of "Report Card" theme entries.

The craft of fitting those long entries into a grid is my favorite part of constructing. Working within the parameters of symmetry, under 140 words, and fresh entries are like solving a puzzle of another kind. That part of crossword construction has changed over the years with the advances of technology and the liberalization of what is an acceptable entry. My first Sunday Times puzzles about thirty years ago had to be done on graph paper, with hardcover dictionaries and a ton of trial and error. I still get joy out of finishing a tough corner or coming up with a new entry to solve a seemingly impossible crossing. It's hard to explain how when you're stuck and you put a puzzle construction down for a while, how often the solution occurs to you after some sleep or for no apparent reason at all.

The most challenging part of puzzling for me is coming up with good, original clues. I am in awe of my editors and fellow constructors who have that knack and play with words so effortlessly. I especially have admired fellow cruciverbalists like Bob Klahn, Merl Reagle, Rich Silvestri, Mike Shenk , Will Shortz, and so many others who create so much original wordplay for solvers to enjoy. I try to be as eclectic as possible with my word choices. Crosswords appeal across demographic groups. I believe creating and clueing them with one group in mind, whether they are older folks like me or younger solvers who have quite different vocabularies and interests, makes some unhappy but minimizes some opportunities to learn from each other's generational knowledge base.

What fun it is to have this crossword puzzle hobby. I hope everyone enjoys today's puzzle... and to those who like to critique — go to it! But remember, crossword puzzles are entertainment, not to be taken that seriously, just a diversion from the real problems we all face living in a sometimes unfair and irrational world.

Jeff Chen notes:
REPORT CARD THEME: GREAT Excellent concept. PARKING FINE imagined as 'Parking: fine' makes me wish I thought of this notion. THEMERS: GOOD SCARBOROUGH: FAIR is another ... read more

REPORT CARD

THEME: GREAT

Excellent concept. PARKING FINE imagined as "Parking: fine" makes me wish I thought of this notion.

THEMERS: GOOD

SCARBOROUGH: FAIR is another solid example, as is BATTING: AVERAGE. Not all of them worked, though. MOTHER: SUPERIOR isn't consistent, as it ought to be "mothering" to match the overall structure. BUCK PASSING is a questionable base phrase, as is TASTE GREAT.

GRID: NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

Randy and I had a useful exchange after his last low word-count experiment. There's nothing wrong with wanting to keep yourself challenged. After 100+ puzzles, the risk of getting bored is high.

There is something wrong about producing a grid like this, though, featuring pile-ups of ON UP / ONE AS, NOT US / ARTES, AGITA, BIERS, SIDER, THORO, and so on.

The center of the grid is the biggest offender, and that could be addressed by using more black squares to separate the themers. There is something to be said for adding JOCUND and INROADS into your grid, but their spice is not worth the moribund price. Any time you leave so much real estate open between three themers, gloop is bound to happen. It was so unpleasant to wade through.

Such a shame. New ideas are precious in crosswords. I'm officially begging Will Shortz to crack down harder on these low-word-count stunts. A couple rounds of theme and grid revision, and this could have garnered POW! consideration.

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Q
© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 1117 ( 25,576 )
Across
1
Lack of this results in baldness : TREAD
6
Alcohol : SPIRITS
13
Scenes from action movies : CHASES
19
Old foundation : CORSET
21
1994 Jean-Claude Van Damme sci-fi thriller : TIMECOP
22
Get back : RECOUP
23
Parenting: A+ : MOTHERSUPERIOR
25
Night demons : INCUBI
26
Maintain : KEEPUP
27
Number of people in an office? : DENTIST
29
"Step ___!" : ONIT
30
Bye word : ADIEU
33
Nervous stress : AGITA
34
Chip-on-one's-shoulder outlooks, in slang : TUDES
35
Taming wild horses: D- : BREAKINGBAD
40
Reflex messengers : NEURONS
42
Heavy metal : LEAD
43
Some kitchen appliances : GES
44
Wildlife conservationist's device : DARTGUN
47
Union station? : ALTAR
49
Valet skills: B+ : PARKINGFINE
54
You can dig it : ORE
55
Spain and England in the 16th century : SEAPOWERS
57
Like a sure bet : NORISK
58
Watch chains : FOBS
59
Do an old printing house job : SETTYPE
60
Skills, in Sevilla : ARTES
61
Heart : MIDST
62
Hosting a morning news show: C+ : SCARBOROUGHFAIR
67
Photo finish : MATTE
70
First draft picks : ONEAS
71
It makes stealing pay off : LATETAG
75
"See you later!" : CIAO
76
Cheerful : JOCUND
78
Norman Lear series star : BEAARTHUR
80
Spots : ADS
81
Stuffing tip jars: D : BUCKPASSING
83
Chip away at : ERODE
84
Bottom line figure : NETCOST
86
Alternative to a Maxwell : REO
87
Indy winner Luyendyk : ARIE
88
Hot stuff : EROTICA
91
Employee efficiency: D+ : WORKINGPOOR
95
Sorcerer : MAGUS
97
Much, informally : LOTSA
99
Supply-___ (economic theorist) : SIDER
100
Growing room : ACRE
101
Do a P.R. makeover on : REBRAND
103
16501-16511 : ERIEPA
107
Put on hold : SHELVE
109
Baseball skill: C : BATTINGAVERAGE
113
Protect, as freshness : SEALIN
114
What to do once you've made your bed, per a saying : LIEINIT
115
Skirts : EVADES
116
Nueva York, e.g. : ESTADO
117
Afterword : ENDNOTE
118
Bibliographical abbr. : ETSEQ
Down
1
Channel on which to see some b&w films : TCM
2
Fleece : ROOK
3
Noted Deco designer : ERTE
4
1975 Wimbledon champ : ASHE
5
New Age author Chopra : DEEPAK
6
Apt name for a cook? : STU
7
Lulu : PIP
8
Used Gchat, e.g. : IMED
9
Went back through a passage : REREAD
10
Hockey infraction : ICING
11
"Yer darn ___!" : TOOTIN
12
Clear soda : SPRITE
13
Lit ___ : CRIT
14
Farm setter : HEN
15
Story : ACCOUNT
16
Stereo quality: B : SOUNDSGOOD
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Blake who wrote "Memories of You" : EUBIE
18
Roast rotators : SPITS
20
Fantasy author Canavan, author of the "Black Magician" trilogy : TRUDI
24
Whirl : SPIN
28
Producers of the most Mideast oil : SAUDIS
31
Actress Samantha : EGGAR
32
Rides since 2011 : UBERS
34
Burned rubber : TORE
35
Designer Bill : BLASS
36
U. S. Grant adversary : RELEE
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Trouble terribly : EATAT
38
Learns to live with : ADAPTSTO
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Set a price of : ASK
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Malodorous : RANK
45
Metro areas, informally : URBS
46
Sticks together? : NEST
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Luxury car pioneer Henry : ROYCE
49
One may exert pressure : PEER
50
Significant advances : INROADS
51
The other guys : NOTUS
52
Diver Louganis : GREG
53
Porgy and bass : FISH
56
F.D.R. program : WPA
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Dangerous structure : FIRETRAP
60
Combat zone : ARENA
61
Anglican headwear : MITRE
63
Strong brew : BOCK
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"Movin' ___" : ONUP
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Call attention to, as a potential problem : FLAG
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Small power source : AAA
67
Classic shoe name : MCAN
68
Starting job in Washington, say : AIDE
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Fashion sense: A : TASTEGREAT
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Lead-in to fare : THORO
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Part of a TV transmission : AUDIO
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___ Garson, Oscar winner for "Mrs. Miniver" : GREER
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Solomonlike : JUST
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One-eighth part : OCTILE
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Funeral stands : BIERS
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Mushroom that might be served in ramen : ENOKI
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Uncivil greetings : BOOS
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Sign of a smash hit : SRO
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___ de Vil, Disney villain : CRUELLA
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Patch (together) : COBBLE
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Way to get to Harlem, per Duke Ellington : ATRAIN
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Desire a piece of the action : WANTIN
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Conception : IDEA
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Chutzpah : NERVE
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Mourn : GRIEVE
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Snooker shot : MASSE
96
Flu symptoms : ACHES
98
Full : SATED
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Clinton's attorney general for all eight years : RENO
102
Rat Pack nickname : DINO
104
Quod ___ faciendum : ERAT
105
Stationer's stock : PADS
106
"Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" writer : AGEE
108
Kid-___ (TV for tots) : VID
110
Tiny criticism : NIT
111
Pioneer cellphone co. : GTE
112
Fancy-looking name appendage : ESQ

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?