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New York Times, Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Author:
Brandon Koppy
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
111/21/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0001000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.60000
Brandon Koppy

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JXZ} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Koppy. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Brandon Koppy notes:
I'm very excited for my NYT debut. I was an Economics major at the University of Chicago and now spend my days at an ad agency in ... read more

I'm very excited for my NYT debut. I was an Economics major at the University of Chicago and now spend my days at an ad agency in Austin, TX. I've been solving the Times crossword off and on since college, but with increased vigor since becoming a dad earlier this year. My new schedule comes with a good deal more at-home hours, and I've filled some of that newfound surplus trying out crossword construction.

I had been toying with this theme idea for a while, keeping a running list of potential theme answers on my phone. I liked the idea of cluing the flipped form instead, because, in addition to the solving curveball, it allows you to showcase both versions without having to dedicate double the grid real estate. This allowed me to include nine examples of themed wordplay (plus a revealer) rather than just three or four.

The most challenging part was achieving the interlock in all four quadrants, given a relatively short list of options in my theme bank. MANCAVE and PACKRAT each span two other theme entries which put some strain on the fill in those sections. But those were two of my favorites, so I went for the higher theme density, and I think the final version worked out well.

Oddly, the example that first gave me the idea (JACKBLACK/BLACKJACK) didn't make the final version. I had it in the northwest but was having trouble filling the surrounding area satisfactorily. Other near misses for various reasons include KINGFISHER, ARMSTRONG, and SHOWBOAT.

Jeff Chen notes:
Debut! A constructor friend of mine, Jeb Bennett, came to me with this idea a while back. I wasn't fond of it because his themers ... read more

Debut! A constructor friend of mine, Jeb Bennett, came to me with this idea a while back. I wasn't fond of it because his themers didn't change meaning that drastically when the words were flipped, but there were one or two that were neat. In that vein, I liked Brandon's TRADE FAIR (FAIR TRADE), since FAIR drastically switches meanings.

I also liked OVERPASS (PASSOVER). The individual words don't change their sense, but what a difference does the order make. I've been to a Passover Seder, but never one on an OVERPASS. It is true that Passover got its name from the spirit of the Lord passing over marked homes, but the juxtaposition of Passover on an OVERPASS amused me anyway.

HOUSECAT to ... people call a brothel a "cathouse"? I like the meaning change of "cat," but talk about icky!

Strong revealer in FLIP FLOPS. I think most mid-week solvers would have figured it out on their own, but probably better to be safe than sorry, risking confusion or even irritation.

A little too ambitious of a grid, I think. It is true that with mid-week puzzles, you can get away with more esoteric or oddball stuff than for early-week puzzles because entries like ANTIFA or OGEE aren't going to stump (some) solvers. Even the KISLEV / DURST won't baffle (okay, maybe). But when you also have to also resort to a load of crossword glue: EFF, ESTO, IATE, OTT, SRA, STA … and SIEG?

Part of the issue is the theme density. Crossing pairs of themers in each corner makes for an incredibly hard job of filling. I would have been fine with fewer themers, but if you decide to go big, I think it would have been better to stick to the max of 78 words.

I'd rather have broken up AGREES TO and APPLE PAY to clean things up. While I do like APPLE PAY, AGREES TO isn't more than neutral. And some older solvers might even consider APPLE PAY to be a liability (it's an electronic payment system on iPhones).

I liked that Brandon came up with some strong FLIP-FLOPS, but it would have been nice to get another round of grid rework.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 1121 ( 25,215 )
Across
1
Emanuel of Democratic politics : RAHM
5
Titles for attys. : ESQS
9
Alternative to a float : SHAKE
14
Curved molding : OGEE
15
Dogs that take YOU for a walk? : FEET
16
Dealer's query : YOUIN
17
*Principle of international economic pacts : TRADEFAIR
19
Fred ___, lead vocalist for Limp Bizkit : DURST
20
Setting for the first panel of Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights" : EDEN
21
Victory, in German : SIEG
23
Most arias : SOLI
24
Old Chrysler : LEBARON
26
Tailor, at times : ALTERER
28
Big Ten sch. : OSU
29
Tube travelers? : OVA
30
*Neanderthal : MANCAVE
31
Six-time N.L. home run leader in the 1930s and '40s : OTT
32
Indie singer ___ Case : NEKO
34
Bus stop: Abbr. : STA
35
Applesauce eponym : MOTT
37
Water hazards : REEFS
39
Cuisine with tom yum soup : THAI
43
Nile biter : ASP
45
Executes : DOES
47
Choose : OPT
48
*Noted Vegas entertainers of the 1960s : PACKRAT
52
Deli offering : RYE
53
British pols : MPS
54
Like some dogs in dog parks : ONLEASH
55
In very few words : TERSELY
57
Mom-and-pop grps. : PTAS
58
Spotted : SEEN
60
"No food needed for me" : IATE
61
Island north of Australia : TIMOR
63
Questionable political moves suggested by the answers to the nine starred clues : FLIPFLOPS
66
Run ___ of : AFOUL
67
This: Sp. : ESTO
68
Tit for tat? : SWAP
69
St. ___ (Caribbean getaway) : BARTS
70
Title : DEED
71
Novelist Seton : ANYA
Down
1
Nonsense : ROT
2
Goes along with : AGREESTO
3
*Half of a 1990s cartoon duo : HEADBUTT
4
Euripides tragedy : MEDEA
5
Scrabble 4-pointer : EFF
6
Source of a venomous underwater bite : SEASNAKE
7
Role for Helen Mirren, informally : QEII
8
Watch via HBO Now, e.g. : STREAM
9
Barrett of Pink Floyd : SYD
10
*Informal term for a brothel : HOUSECAT
11
Night lights? : AURORA
12
Ninth month of the Hebrew calendar : KISLEV
13
Full : ENTIRE
18
Company that's the subject of "The Smartest Guys in the Room" : ENRON
22
*Mr. Peanut accessory : GLASSEYE
24
Machine with a treadle : LOOM
25
*Spring festival : OVERPASS
27
Stock for Wile E. Coyote : TNT
33
A heart symbol, meaning "love," was its first graphical entry, for short : OED
36
*Bloopers, typically : TAKESOUT
38
Popular battle royale video game : FORTNITE
40
*Residence in a row : HOMETOWN
41
Digital wallet choice : APPLEPAY
42
Lilliputian, to a little 'un : ITSY
44
Spanish Mrs. : SRA
46
Sans-___ : SERIF
48
Can opener : POPTAB
49
Modern protest group : ANTIFA
50
Hubbub : CLAMOR
51
Special interest group? : THEFED
56
Guacamole go-with : SALSA
59
Alternatively : ELSE
62
"Treasure Island" monogram : RLS
64
"___ Save America" (popular downloadable political show) : POD
65
Place to treat yourself : SPA

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle.

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