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New York Times, Saturday, November 18, 2017

Author:
Sam Trabucco
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2410/29/20153/1/20200
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
4102368
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.66151
Sam Trabucco

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 28 Missing: {FJKQXZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 7 for Mr. Trabucco. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Sam Trabucco notes:
One day at work I realized that GOTTA CATCH EM ALL was a 15, and that was that. I needed to build a grid around it. Pokemon is a ... read more

One day at work I realized that GOTTA CATCH EM ALL was a 15, and that was that. I needed to build a grid around it. Pokemon is a beloved part of my childhood*, and including it prominently in a crossword feels like marrying my biggest hobby from back then with my biggest hobby from today. I wish the clue could've been a bit tougher / more interesting (it feels like most people below a certain age will be able to fill it in without crosses), but that's the tricky part of including proper nouns with bifurcated familiarity.

*I may or may not have bought White 2 during college.

I also wanted to clue CHASE UTLEY to It's Always Sunny but I guess that's a bit abstruse now that he's not even on the Phillies. Also, he's upholding my now-two-puzzle streak of including a 10-letter baseball player in the NE of a themeless — watch out for JOSE ALTUVÉ or WILLIE MAYS next time.

Not much else to say about this one — hope even non-Pokemon fans enjoyed!

Jeff Chen notes:
Aside from colorfulness and smoothness, you know what makes a themeless stand out in my eyes? It makes me feel smart. I'm not ashamed ... read more

Aside from colorfulness and smoothness, you know what makes a themeless stand out in my eyes? It makes me feel smart. I'm not ashamed to say I like having my ego stroked every once in a while, and when a Saturday puzzle tosses me a perfect alley-oop so I can reverse windmill jam for a SportsCenter highlight? That's what I'm talking about!

Okay, maybe plunking in GOTTA CATCH EM ALL without any crossing letters, or OTTER PUP off just the P in PAO isn't *quite* the equivalent of a spectacular dunk. But it felt like it.

(I can touch the rim, honest! Okay, on a 9-foot hoop. Fine.)

Overall, there were so many entries on my wavelength — classic TABULA RASA, MS DEGREE (of which I have two, neither of which I'm using now, huh), BETA TESTER with its brilliant non-question marked clue about a "bug catcher" (code bugs, that is), EATS CROW (which I often do, considering how many typos and errors readers point out!) … great stuff all around!

See that black square between HARE and BILES? I appreciated that Sam left it in. So many constructors would have taken it out to create triple-stacks in the NE / SW (instead of the doubles Sam has). Usually, I applaud those sorts of efforts to work extra sizzle into a grid. But with the central GOTTA CATCH EM ALL spanning the grid, I think Sam made the right decision.

Curious, huh? GOTTA CATCH EM ALL constrains the NE / SW to a surprising degree. Probably doesn't look like much — who cares about a little ALL fixed into place, you might ask? By itself, that is no big deal; easy to build a triple-stack around. But that's not the only constraint the corner faces. Look at how much flexibility you lose with that long BYGONE DAYS, and even the SHANDY ARM BAR arm-barring the stack from above. I'm all in favor of Sam's decision here.

A couple of blips here and there; RETAG is iffy, and EL ROPO feels esoteric. But such great craftsmanship overall.

A Saturday constructor's job is to create a tough challenge that the solver can ultimately struggle through to achieve a meaty, satisfying completion. I say YEAH DUDE! to Sam for this one.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1118 ( 24,847 )
Across
1
Youngster in a stream : OTTERPUP
9
Put the kibosh on : SCOTCH
15
"You can't be serious!" : PUHLEASE
16
Response to a riot : HAHAHA
17
Modern money-saving transportation choice : UBERPOOL
18
Restraint technique in mixed martial arts : ARMBAR
19
Setting for several "Survivor" seasons : SAMOA
20
Furnish : LEND
22
"What's the ___?" : USE
23
Like slapstick comics, often : PIED
26
People might profit from it : ADSALE
28
Ehud Barak abandoned it in 2011 : LABORPARTY
32
Paint crudely : DAUB
34
Partner of 27-Down : EVE
35
Smidgens : MITES
36
Series opener : PARTI
37
Pokémon slogan : GOTTACATCHEMALL
40
Noted corporate raider of the 1980s : ICAHN
41
With 10-Down, The Devil and Death : TAROT
42
Date : SEE
43
"I'm off!" : TATA
44
Yore : BYGONEDAYS
46
Something found on a hound : DEWLAP
48
Depreciation factor : WEAR
49
Shags, e.g. : DOS
50
"Hope ___ to mortals / And most believe her": Housman : LIES
52
Roughly 18 inches : CUBIT
56
Possibility : OPTION
58
"Sure thing, bro!" : YEAHDUDE
61
Flower child fashion : TIEDYE
62
Postgrad goal, maybe : MSDEGREE
63
Cremona treasures, familiarly : STRADS
64
Match book? : SCOREPAD
Down
1
Overture, e.g. : OPUS
2
Big blow for a musician? : TUBA
3
The antagonists : THEM
4
Cheap cigar, slangily : ELROPO
5
One with a wrench in his plans? : REPAIRMAN
6
Kung ___ chicken : PAO
7
Tour grp. : USO
8
Eponym of a federal college grant : PELL
9
Beer-and-lemonade beverage : SHANDY
10
See 41-Across : CARDS
11
Eponym of an electrical law : OHM
12
Absence of preconceived notions : TABULARASA
13
Dodgers second baseman who won four consecutive Silver Slugger Awards beginning in 2006 : CHASEUTLEY
14
Storied loser in an upset : HARE
21
Is forced to backpedal, say : EATSCROW
24
"The Last Emperor," e.g. : EPIC
25
Boolean or string, in programming : DATATYPE
27
Partner of 34-Across : ADAM
28
On the up and up : LEGIT
29
The hardest part when making guacamole? : AVOCADOPIT
30
Bug catcher, often : BETATESTER
31
ID anew, as on Facebook : RETAG
33
Gymnastics superstar at the 2016 Olympics : BILES
36
One with whom your relationship is working out, briefly? : PETEACHER
38
Icebreaker? : THAW
39
Perfect : HONE
44
Presidential middle name : BAINES
45
Peon : DRUDGE
47
Price of R&B : LLOYD
49
Pac-Man features : DOTS
51
Sylvia of jazz : SYMS
53
Reason for saying "Pardon me" : BURP
54
Unpatentable thing : IDEA
55
Put out, with "off" : TEED
57
Home of Northwest Nazarene Univ. : IDA
59
Key used to make an exit : ESC
60
Trouble : ADO

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?

See NYT Crosswords for info.