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New York Times, Thursday, November 19, 2015

Author:
Andrew Zhou
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1711/11/20101/5/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
3021533
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.62241
Andrew Zhou

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQVXZ} This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. Zhou. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Andrew Zhou notes:
This puzzle was submitted in two versions — the version here, and one in which you got the full name of the theme entry. I ... read more

This puzzle was submitted in two versions — the version here, and one in which you got the full name of the theme entry. I really preferred the more tricksy version here, so I'm happy Will did as well. Some may grouse that the type of auto isn't consistent (that is, I have makes and models freely mixed). Unfortunately, it was either that or a puzzle without enough theme density for my taste. REO was originally part of it, but Joel and Will asked for all the cars to be modern; OLDS, as a short form, didn't cut it either.

A concern in construction was that the solver had to have enough left in the grid so that you could figure out what the full phrase was, and GTO was particularly problematic — almost anything ending in "-ING TO" for the first word like COMING TO could conceivably stand alone as a slangy version of that word (e.g. "Comin'" or "Lyin'"). I wanted to find an entry in which, even as a standalone, it was clear you needed to tack on GTO.

The big shock for me in previewing this was that roughly 75% of my clues remain more or less intact, 22A and 5D being my favorites.

A playful, though perhaps dark element in this puzzle, is that AUTO, by becoming "automobile," is rendered no longer automatic. Machines can complete our thoughts for us, before we even know what that thought is. So if you don't know entries like "HELP ME RHONDA," you can type in "HELP ME R," and the search engine autocomplete will do its thing, unlike in earlier times, when you might never have found out, unless you asked someone, or browsed your local record store...

Jeff Chen notes:
I loved this concept, AUTOCOMPLETE interpreted as AUTO-COMPLETE. Just delightful to scratch my head, knowing that SOLAR PLEXUS had to ... read more

I loved this concept, AUTOCOMPLETE interpreted as AUTO-COMPLETE. Just delightful to scratch my head, knowing that SOLAR PLEXUS had to fit in somehow but unsure how to accomplish that. Great finds in KATHIE LEE GIF(FORD), SOLAR P(LEXUS), HELP ME R(HONDA), ANNO DO(MINI).

Cutting edge TOPIARY

I unfortunately didn't care for STRING T(RIO), as it 1.) wasn't a general car make like the others (Kia is the make, Rio is the model — what, no SLOVA(KIA)?) and 2.) I grew up playing cello in STRING QUARTETS. I can't remember ever playing in STRING TRIO — classically, it's so often two violins, a viola, and a cello. STRING TRIO is a valid thing, but to me it's just not nearly as strong as the others.

BELON(G TO) was also weaker in my eyes, as I felt like that entry didn't match the snazziness of SOLAR P(LEXUS) and the others. And as Andrew mentioned, the mix of makes and models felt inelegant.

That said, I still loved this idea and most of the execution. It would be so cool if electronic solvers had the LEXUS automatically filled in upon entering the SOLARP string!

Pretty darn good execution, too. I liked getting FAN CLUBS, SPONGE BOB, and especially TOPIARY. [Clip art?] might be one of my favorite clues of the year. Nice to BEEF UP the puzzle with a dash of long stuff.

Some will grumble about the ENIAC / NOYES and HOLI / ILE crossings. The ENIAC was an important part of computing history, and NOYES is a famous author, so that one feels perfectly fine to me. Having a lot of Indian friends, I'm very familiar with Diwali, but HOLI is tough. I had to concentrate on that one square, wondering what the Marquises were. Thankfully, only ILE looked reasonable, so in the end, I thought it was fair, too.

A few minor hiccups in choice of themers for me, but a huge thumbs up to such a cool idea, well-executed.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 1119 ( 24,117 )

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Across
1
Lead on : TEMPT
6
Sigmatism : LISP
10
Sibs ... or Sigs, maybe : BROS
14
In ___ diagnosis : UTERO
15
Forum disclaimer : IMHO
16
Not exactly old money : EURO
17
Like some learning curves : STEEP
18
Cartoon character created by a marine biologist : SPONGEBOB
20
*TV celebrity who has owned both a clothing line and a wine brand : KATHIELEEGIFFORD
22
What may give an artistic bias? : EASEL
23
___ star : GUEST
27
*Nerve center in the abdomen that's strongly affected by a punch : SOLARPLEXUS
30
*1965 #1 Beach Boys hit : HELPMERHONDA
32
Friendliness : AMITY
33
Language akin to Tahitian : MAORI
35
Place with a lot of monitors, for short : ICU
36
Studies : DENS
37
*Have membership in : BELONGTO
38
Arctic drifter : FLOE
39
It uses the 16-Across: Abbr. : IRE
40
Moved about sinuously : EELED
41
Altarpiece figure : SAINT
42
*Classical ensemble : STRINGTRIO
44
*In the year of our Lord : ANNODOMINI
45
Pair on a ketch : MASTS
46
1946 creation originally intended to calculate ballistics tables : ENIAC
48
Search engine feature ... or what you literally need to do to answer the six starred clues : AUTOCOMPLETE
54
Kill, as time : WHILEAWAY
57
Interpose : PUTIN
58
Hindu festival of colors : HOLI
59
Simple : MERE
60
Critic who wrote "Behind the Phantom's Mask" : EBERT
61
Well-funded grp.? : OPEC
62
Some blockers : ENDS
63
Jerks : ASSES
Down
1
Boar's head feature : TUSK
2
Kett of old comics : ETTA
3
Satisfy : MEET
4
Warms up : PREHEATS
5
Clip art? : TOPIARY
6
Fine thread : LISLE
7
Push : IMPEL
8
One going on foot? : SHOE
9
Beer ___ : PONG
10
Strengthen : BEEFUP
11
Hitch : RUB
12
Prize at las Olimpiadas : ORO
13
Show utter despair, in a way : SOB
19
2003 Lopez/Affleck flop : GIGLI
21
Pickup artist's skill, for short? : ESP
24
___ Barzini, "The Godfather" don : EMILIO
25
Back up : SECOND
26
Following, as one's word : TRUETO
27
Christian Grey's specialty in "Fifty Shades of Grey" : SADISM
28
Mario Puzo sequel : OMERTA
29
Passenger ships : LINERS
30
Bit of attire at an initiation ceremony : HOOD
31
Directional ending : ERN
33
Endure a temperature of 110°, say : MELT
34
It's sold by the yard : ALE
37
Seek change? : BEG
38
Zine distributors, perhaps : FANCLUBS
40
Go after : ENSUE
41
Crunchy vegetable : SNAPPEA
43
Like some instructions that are important to read : ITALIC
44
Object : AIM
46
Environmentally friendly greeting : ECARD
47
Alfred who wrote "The Highwayman" : NOYES
49
Gentle : TAME
50
Actor Clive of Cinemax's "The Knick" : OWEN
51
Are, in Amiens : ETES
52
Exhaust : TIRE
53
Mastoiditis specialists, for short : ENTS
54
"___, me?" : WHO
55
30-minute flight, e.g. : HOP
56
Any one of the Marquises : ILE

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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