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New York Times, Friday, November 29, 2019

Author:
Sam Buchbinder
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
58/19/201411/29/20190
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1.59020
Sam Buchbinder

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 28 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 5 for Mr. Buchbinder. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Sam Buchbinder notes:
I'm thrilled to have my first Themeless puzzle published in the New York Times - especially the day after Thanksgiving when hopefully ... read more

I'm thrilled to have my first Themeless puzzle published in the New York Times - especially the day after Thanksgiving when hopefully this can serve as a nice post-Thanksgiving food coma family solve.

Anyways, a few notes on the puzzle: First, northwest corner down stack was definitely the basis for the puzzle. One day I heard myself saying the phrase, "I'M THE WORST" (which I say fairly often…), and decided that it would be a really nice way to start off a puzzle. MORE TO COME… and PR AGENCIES were great debut entries to follow.

The rest of the puzzle ended up going through a lot of changes, at the (very very fair) request of the NYT editing team, since the SW corner was most definitely not up to par with the rest of the puzzle. Aside from having less other than stellar entries, I originally had GOOGLE DUO (an app I use a lot), and Will and the team were worried that it might not stand the test of time. So, I went through quite a few revisions before getting to what you see today. In the NE corner, I also originally had AGED CHEESE/REC LEAGUES where today you see BRAKE CABLE/LOVE POTION.

Some other favorites are SMELL TEST and I NEED A LIFT.

In terms of clues, sadly, many of my original ones did not make the cut: PR AGENCIES [Places to go for a spin?], CAPITAL I [Character embedded in the CIA?] and WON BIG [Cleared the table?]

Of the clues that made it through, my favorite is for BIGAMY [Twice-committed crime?].

Anyways, hope you enjoy!

Jeff Chen notes:
The most experienced themeless constructors often eschew 72- and 70-word grids, since they present little challenge to build. Place ... read more

The most experienced themeless constructors often eschew 72- and 70-word grids, since they present little challenge to build. Place long answers in each of the four corners, make sure you can stitch them neatly together, and you're done!

(It's not that easy, but it doesn't require nearly the iteration and care of a 68-worder.)

I wish more (most) themeless constructors would stay at the 70-word level since it's such a sweet spot. It allows for a lot of colorful fill without requiring many trade-offs. LOVE POTION, SMELL TEST, OPERA COATS, PR AGENCIES, I NEED A LIFT and more, for the NOMINAL FEE of an ETE? Yes, please!

It is hard to stand out in the 70-word space, though. All it takes is a few minor dings. ETE is one, STYE can annoy some solvers (both in real life and in crosswords), LATEN is a bit of an odd duck.

Then you have to take into consideration the overall vibe. As much as I enjoyed the self-deprecation of IM THE WORST, a couple of entries gave me pause when taken in total. I don't love being reminded of TERRORISTS these days, and with a GAT crossing a LEGMAN crossing BIGAMY, it's a bit unpleasant. I'd much rather have unicorns, mermaids, and princesses in my daily diversion.

(My 5-year old daughter seems to have affected my world view.)

Overall, a well-executed puzzle that might have garnered some POW! buzz with a bit of massaging. I wouldn't fault others with different personal preferences for picking it as a standout.

1
I
2
M
3
P
4
S
5
O
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W
7
N
8
E
9
R
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T
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O
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S
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S
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M
O
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B
R
A
K
E
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C
A
B
L
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T
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L
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P
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H
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M
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B
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W
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B
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G
U
N
N
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E
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D
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I
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T
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O
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W
E
N
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R
O
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S
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E
D
S
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V
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E
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S
M
E
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L
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M
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C
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G
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L
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O
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B
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I
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G
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A
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C
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O
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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 1129 ( 25,588 )
Across
1
Scapegraces : IMPS
5
One making a pet's vet appointment : OWNER
10
Throw : TOSS
14
Cuddly-looking lemur in the "Madagascar" movies : MORT
15
Wire part of a bicycle : BRAKECABLE
17
Something to hold while waiting : TRAY
18
Fantasy concoction : LOVEPOTION
19
Domination : HEGEMONY
21
17+ : RRATED
22
It begins in juin : ETE
23
Official language of Belize: Abbr. : ENG
24
Book jacket part, in brief : BIO
25
Raked in the chips : WONBIG
27
Pressed hard on the gas : GUNNEDIT
32
Go down : OCCUR
33
Soloed : WENTALONE
34
Upset : ROIL
35
Drops : SHEDS
36
Sudden shift : VEER
37
Rough assessment of accuracy : SMELLTEST
39
Cheapskate : MISER
40
Art tiles : TESSERAE
41
Lacks the ability for : CANTDO
42
One might be loaded in a getaway car : GAT
43
Record : LOG
44
Implement with a blade : OAR
45
Twice-committed crime? : BIGAMY
49
It's found at the start of this clue : CAPITALI
51
Loose garments of velvet or brocade : OPERACOATS
53
L.A.'s ___ College of Art and Design : OTIS
54
Small price to pay : NOMINALFEE
55
Split : LEFT
56
Mount in Greek mythology : OSSA
57
Time for a growth spurt : TEENS
58
Positive response to an invitation : LETS
Down
1
"Ugh, totally my fault!" : IMTHEWORST
2
"Stay tuned" : MORETOCOME
3
Employers of spin doctors : PRAGENCIES
4
Concern for an ophthalmologist : STYE
5
Ellipsoidal : OBLONG
6
[Bzzt!] : WRONG
7
Blue shade : NAVY
8
Squeeze (out) : EKE
9
Not originals : REPRINTS
10
"G'bye" : TATA
11
Piece of sad news : OBIT
12
Plant of the genus Prunus : SLOE
13
Overjoy : SEND
16
Alternative to Dos Equis : CORONA
20
Predecessor of Rabin as prime minister : MEIR
24
Kind of cake : BUNDT
26
Organization that Jordan was once part of : BULLS
27
"The 12 Days of Christmas" sextet : GEESE
28
Hall-of-Fame N.B.A. player Hayes : ELVIN
29
Nails : DOESTOATEE
30
"My car's out of commission" : INEEDALIFT
31
Targets for SEAL Team Six : TERRORISTS
33
Food product that's good even if it's cracked : WHEAT
35
Alley scavenger : STRAYCAT
38
On-scene reporter, in journalist lingo : LEGMAN
39
Trio in a Christmas carol : MAGI
41
Thickets : COPSES
43
Grow nearer to bedtime : LATEN
45
Popular singer born Paul David Hewson : BONO
46
Market announcements, for short : IPOS
47
Treasure chest contents : GEMS
48
"Vissi d'arte," in "Tosca" : ARIA
49
___ noir : CAFE
50
Ring : TOLL
52
Cry at a ring : OLE

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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