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New York Times, Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Author:
Brian Thomas
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
311/21/20178/28/20180
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0120000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.72010
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 )
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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