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New York Times, Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Author: Zachary Spitz
Editor: Will Shortz
Zachary Spitz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
411/18/20158/31/20171
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0011101
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.63100

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 ... more
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 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 ... more
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 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 )
Across Down
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
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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