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New York Times, Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Author:
Brian Thomas
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
611/21/20173/7/20191
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0320100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.74010
Brian Thomas

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQX} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Thomas. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Brian Thomas notes:
Hello everyone, I'm a trivia writer and host from Spokane, WA who is very excited to have my first puzzle published in the New York ... read more

Hello everyone, I'm a trivia writer and host from Spokane, WA who is very excited to have my first puzzle published in the New York Times! I've solved crosswords off and on throughout my life, but about a year ago learned that anyone can make a crossword, and was off to the races.

This one came about while playing with CHECKERED FLAG for another puzzle – CZECHERED FLAG and FINNISH LINE popped right out, and I just had to create some matching entries. I also really enjoy solving puzzles where the theme clues tell a story, and hope that solvers think it's a fun component of the theme.

I went through a few failed attempts at filling the grid – having the 13-letter long entries stuck at the ends was a pain to deal with. Even so, in this one, the northwest corner still needed some cleanup from Will and Joel, who pointed out that I??I really constrains the grid. Lesson learned for next time. I was happy to see a couple of clues that made it through editing: [Switch positions] for FLIP FLOP is probably my favorite in the grid, and as the dad of the coolest one-year-old on the planet, [Like many a new parent] is right on the money for SLEEPY.

Finally, this puzzle runs on my mom's birthday. I imagine it's not that common for people to get birthday wishes in the New York Times, so Happy Birthday Mom!

Jeff Chen notes:
Country puns! In a … car race? Huh. Sure, there are international motor races, right? Yeah, why not! I have a tough time ... read more

Country puns! In a … car race? Huh. Sure, there are international motor races, right? Yeah, why not!

I have a tough time figuring out "rules" for puns. I think the most important one is that they generate big laughs. Or groans. I liked FINNISH LINE the best, a simple twist on "finish line." Something about CZECHERED FLAG made me smile, too. Maybe groan a little as well. Pretty sure that's good!

It did feel all a little inconsistent, though. RUSSIAN, FINNISH, CZECH are all descriptors of those country's natives. "Polish" would fit that set better than POLE, yeah?

And POLE, RUSSIAN, FINNISH are separate words, but CZECH gets transmogrified into CZECHERED. Huh. Again, one out of four being the odd one out felt … well, odd.

A ton of great bonuses, great to see in a debut. Especially important for today's puzzle, as I can imagine that there might be some solvers out there who neither race fans nor punsters. Love FLIP FLOP, SCRUNCHIE, RASTAFARI. Even a couple of colorful shorties in CONTRA, TUDOR, OZONE.

And love it when a rare letter gets worked in as smoothly as the Z in the south. HAZY / ZANY even with a nice SLEEPY, without any crossword glue? Yes please!

But IIII? No sir! The IVES / SMEE crossing for an early-week puzzle? Yikes! And I finished with my first error in ages on a Tuesday, what with the odd MONTE clue. Three-card MONTE, yes. Just MONTE clued without "Three-card"? Plain old mea.! (TAR seemed fine for [Tarnish], and TONTE looked equally as odd as MONTE. Maybe I've seen too many ECARTEs and ONEOCATS in my day…)

Overall, the grid was pretty good on second glance. But it just takes one or two glaring blips to leave a bad taste.

The geometer in me loved, loved, loved the clue for PIP. How the frak could there be a [Circle on a cube]? Cubes are flat-planed, with straight lines, not circles or arcs ... ah, a PIP on a die. Brilliant!

Overall, I enjoyed the story Brian told. The puns didn't all work for me, and the lack of consistency bugged me, but there was enough entertainment to keep me largely amused.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1121 ( 24,850 )

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Across
1
Wound on a dueler : STAB
5
Tarnish : MAR
8
Dwells (on) : HARPS
13
Victor who wrote "Les Misérables" : HUGO
14
"Here, boy!" : COME
15
Benefit : AVAIL
16
Tennis score just before winning a game : ADIN
17
"This round's ___" : ONME
18
Like many a smoker's voice : RASPY
19
"The race has just begun, and it looks like the car from Warsaw will ___!" : POLEINTOFIRST
22
Religious recluse : EREMITE
23
Basic readings for a hospital patient : VITALS
26
Lungful : AIR
27
Hook's henchman : SMEE
29
In good health : FIT
30
"Listen! You can hear the thundering roar as the car from Moscow goes ___!" : RUSSIANPAST
34
Letters on a wanted poster : AKA
35
Supermarket IDs : UPCS
36
Something kept in reserve? : OIL
37
Worry : FRET
38
Negative conjunction : NOR
39
"We're getting close to the end as the car from Helsinki leads the way to the ___!" : FINNISHLINE
43
Animal whose name sounds like a Greek letter : GNU
44
Andy's partner in old comedy : AMOS
45
Luau accessory : LEI
46
Wife in Oaxaca : SENORA
48
Kind of fishing or diving : DEEPSEA
52
"Wow! The car from Prague ekes out the victory by a nose and takes the ___!" : CZECHEREDFLAG
55
World Golf Hall-of-Famer Lorena : OCHOA
57
"On the double!" : ASAP
58
It "keeps the cold out better than a cloak," per Longfellow : LOVE
59
Nuisances : PAINS
60
Bonkers : ZANY
61
Eclipse, to some : OMEN
62
Message to one's followers : TWEET
63
Hearty laugh : YUK
64
Online comment : POST
Down
1
Diamond, e.g. : SHAPE
2
Old royal house : TUDOR
3
Limber : AGILE
4
Factor in diagnosing osteoporosis : BONEMASS
5
Hustler's game : MONTE
6
Cartridge contents : AMMO
7
Shallow water obstacle : REEF
8
Tubman of the Underground Railroad : HARRIET
9
Sailor's "Stop!" : AVAST
10
Person with dreads : RASTAFARI
11
Circle on a cube : PIP
12
Foxy : SLY
14
Sandinista's foe : CONTRA
20
Rare grandfather clock numeral : IIII
21
Currier's partner in lithography : IVES
24
Compare : LIKEN
25
Word in many university names : STATE
27
"Wheel of Fortune" turns : SPINS
28
Timbuktu's land : MALI
30
Steps up? : RUNGS
31
Barely ahead : UPONE
32
Ponytail holder : SCRUNCHIE
33
Off-limits activity : NONO
37
Switch positions : FLIPFLOP
39
Where China is : FAREAST
40
Desktop computer that runs Safari : IMAC
41
Like many a new parent : SLEEPY
42
Obey : HEED
47
Absorber of UV rays : OZONE
48
Quaffed : DRANK
49
Instant replay effect : SLOMO
50
Sites for Christmas lights : EAVES
51
James Bond, e.g. : AGENT
53
Imprecise, as a memory : HAZY
54
Son of Rebekah : ESAU
55
Make a decision : OPT
56
Crow's cry : CAW

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle.

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