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New York Times, Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Author:
Zachary Spitz
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
511/18/20152/21/20182
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0012101
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.63200
Zachary Spitz

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 35 Missing: {QZ} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Spitz. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Zachary Spitz notes:
Hi everyone! I'm a first year at UChicago, where a surprisingly high number of my friends do the crossword. Maybe it's a thing ... read more

Hi everyone!

I'm a first year at UChicago, where a surprisingly high number of my friends do the crossword. Maybe it's a thing here. Still figuring it out.

I blame my mom for my crossword habit. She still knows more words than me, but not for long!

Anyway, I like puns. That's probably the only explanation for this puzzle. If I remember correctly, I came up with the theme while thinking about why the scarecrow won an award. (He was outstanding in his field!) Turns out there are a lot of synonyms for "outstanding" that can be pun-ified. Some other possible theme entries I had considered using include a striking LABOR UNION, an exceptional ASTERISK, and a noteworthy LEGAL PAD.

I'm glad Will and Joel kept my clues for 49-Across (not applicable to my parents, thankfully) and 11-Down (has Dwight Schrute ever been in a puzzle?). I really like their new clue for 58-Across.

Back to puns: David AXELROD recently founded the Institute of Politics here, and he has a podcast called "The Axe Files" (har har har).

I'm excited to be published and I hope you'll see me around some more in the future!

Jeff Chen notes:
I used to worry when I saw a new name on a byline — sometimes that meant we'd get a pretty rough grid. Even if the theme was ... read more

I used to worry when I saw a new name on a byline — sometimes that meant we'd get a pretty rough grid. Even if the theme was fantastic, I find it difficult to fully applaud a crossword if the surrounding fill is too rocky.

City center of LOD

Thankfully, things seem to be changing, and Zach's debut is right along these lines. It's not an earth-shattering grid — a 76-worder without much long fill — but wow, was it smooth. Where it really shined was in the NE and SW areas, both larger than average chunks of white space. Sure, some people object to HST and OTOE in the upper right (they're seen much, much more in crosswords than in real life), but I don't mind them. To work in that X and J so smoothly — without much crossword glue at all — is really nice work.

Similar results in the SW. R AND D will rankle some, as it's never seen as anything but R&D in real life, but I don't mind it much. And love the shout-out to TARO cake, which is delicious when freshly made.

The theme is "exclamations of delight wackily interpreted," i.e. "It's breathtaking!" for ASTHMA ATTACK. I've seen the first three often enough in this usage that they didn't feel very interesting, but the fourth — "It's remarkable!" for DRY ERASE BOARD piqued my interest. It unfortunately feels like an outlier, since it does something very different by twisting "remarkable" into "re-markable," but to me it's far and away the most delightful. I wish Zach had built the entire theme around this idea, going "full punny" on us. Bring it on!

TYE and LOD are tough entries to fill in, but they were given fair crossings … so that I didn't need to re-mark them as I solved.

(rimshot)

Very nice grid execution. And for those of us "The Office" fans out there, how awesome was that clue for JOB TITLE? Dwight K. Schrute, Assistant to the Regional Manager. Not Assistant Regional Manager, mind you.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 1118 ( 24,116 )

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Across
1
"___ you in?" : ARE
4
Blemishes : WARTS
9
Indian chief : RAJAH
14
Actor McKellen : IAN
15
Pacific greeting : ALOHA
16
Nerve cell conductors : AXONS
17
One getting the boot? : SKI
18
Scorpion's defense : TOXIN
19
___ card : DEBIT
20
It's striking! : LIGHTNINGBOLT
23
Salinger heroine : ESME
24
Scream made while jumping, maybe : EEK
25
Augment : ENRICH
28
Quick-witted : SHARP
30
Go (for) : OPT
32
Plains Indian : OTOE
33
It's unbelievable! : BALDFACEDLIE
37
U.K. lawmakers : MPS
40
45-Down suburb : LOD
41
Half of a dance : CHA
42
When the credits roll : END
43
It's breathtaking! : ASTHMAATTACK
47
___ cake (Chinese New Year delicacy) : TARO
48
Actor Sheridan : TYE
49
What helicopter parents do : HOVER
53
Hilarious person : STITCH
55
Math term usually followed by a subscript number : LOG
58
Item often "eaten" by a tree in "Peanuts" : KITE
59
It's remarkable! : DRYERASEBOARD
62
Used as a plate : ATEON
64
Ex of the Donald : IVANA
65
Heel : CAD
66
Testing division, for short : RANDD
67
Kitchen counter? : TIMER
68
Addison's "___ to Creation" : ODE
69
Rwandan president Paul Kagame's ethnicity : TUTSI
70
Sailor's "Stop!" : AVAST
71
Exasperated comment from a feminist : MEN
Down
1
A 747 has two of them : AISLES
2
Debonair : RAKISH
3
Nazi cipher machine broken by the Allies : ENIGMA
4
Joule/second : WATT
5
By themselves : ALONE
6
Hart of "Chicago" : ROXIE
7
Call to mind : THINKOF
8
Was a ratfink : SANG
9
Dangerous gas : RADON
10
Former Obama adviser David : AXELROD
11
Assistant to the regional manager, for one : JOBTITLE
12
Young Darth Vader's nickname : ANI
13
D.D.E.'s predecessor : HST
21
Basil or bugbane : HERB
22
"You ___!" : BETCHA
26
Close-up magician's prop : COIN
27
Listen to : HEED
29
Something read at a carnival : PALM
31
Covenant : PACT
34
Can't stomach : LOATHE
35
When the Battle of Normandy started : DDAY
36
A head : EACH
37
Yoga supplies : MATS
38
Measurer of college readiness, for short : PSAT
39
Like criticism made in no uncertain terms : STRIDENT
44
Dragsters : HOTRODS
45
City served by the airport in 40-Across : TELAVIV
46
Gorilla who was famously taught sign language : KOKO
50
Paramount's parent : VIACOM
51
Charles Schwab rival : ETRADE
52
Get visibly embarrassed : REDDEN
54
Pop star Lauper : CYNDI
56
2003 Golden Globe-winning film set in Afghanistan : OSAMA
57
They help make you you : GENES
60
"Lovely ___, meter maid" (Beatles lyric) : RITA
61
Milhouse's best friend, on TV : BART
62
"Not what you see, but what you make others see," per Degas : ART
63
Certain cross : TAU

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle.

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