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New York Times, Monday, November 3, 2014

Author: Janet R. Bender
Editor: Will Shortz
Janet R. Bender
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
3111/30/199211/3/20140
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
1151111002
ScrabRebusCirclePangrampre-WS
1.590082

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FJQX} This is puzzle # 31 for Ms. Bender. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Shortz notes: Janet Bender, of Somerset, Pa., is one of the old guard of crossword constructors, starting at the Times during the end of the ... more
Will Shortz notes: Janet Bender, of Somerset, Pa., is one of the old guard of crossword constructors, starting at the Times during the end of the Maleska era (1992), and, if memory serves, appearing in Games magazine before that. I assume she constructs without computer assistance, because her submissions come with hand-printed grids. Until relatively recently, our correspondence was done entirely by U.S. mail; I don't think she had an email address. Her puzzles have a quiet, unflashy solidness that's comforting, especially on a Monday.
Jeff Chen notes: Initialisms kick off the week, theme phrases starting with CC. Such a shame that Zhouqin 'C.C.' Burnikel wasn't somehow involved! ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Initialisms kick off the week, theme phrases starting with CC. Such a shame that Zhouqin "C.C." Burnikel wasn't somehow involved! (One of my first LA Times puzzles was a similar CC theme, directly inspired by C.C.)

Many novice solvers like simpler themes, and initialisms can serve that purpose well. I find that these types of themes land most solidly when 1.) the theme phrases are all colorful, 2.) there's some selectivity or completeness to the themers, and 3.) an extra element gives the solver an additional layer of complexity. Back when this type of theme appeared on the scene, none of these criteria would have been important (to me, at least), but crosswords rapidly evolve.

Cletus from The Simpsons

On the first criteria, I like COLBY COLLEGE and COLOR COPYING quite a lot. Neither is sizzling hot, but they do the trick. I hadn't heard of COUNTRY COUSIN, so that's hard for me to judge. Sounds fun, anyway, and anything that gives me a laugh by thinking about Cletus from The Simpsons is good in my book. COMPASS COURSE (93K Google hits)… isn't it a COMPASS HEADING (257K Google hits)? That's what I'm used to, at least.

The second criteria: it might have felt tighter to me if the initials were something harder like JV, or if a specific subset of all the CCs out there had been selected. CC is a pretty easy set of initials to work with. Many ways to uncover potential candidates, but a "C* C*" search over at onelook.com turns up quite a bit (even with the "Common words and phrases" option). My favorite might be CREDIT CRUNCH, given my personal interest in corporate finance, but I bet something like a COVER CHARGE might be more universal.

Finally, some je ne sais quoi element could have helped. Four CCs, stat! Hmm — that doesn't quite work. Maybe a little three-letter entry like CCS (as in email CCs:) could have tied it all together? Other ways might have been packing the grid with six or even eight crossing CC answers. Many possibilities, anyway.

I really like some of the extras in YOINKS! and DON'T ASK. That, along with TY COBB and OH YEAH = Janet taking great advantage of her shorter pieces of fill. Many constructors focus all their efforts on entries of 8+ letters, and let their sixes and sevens slide. Not Janet! Well done there, excellent bonus material to help beef up the solve.

ADDED NOTE: often times, I'm a doofus (dare I say, a COUNTRY COUSIN?). Perhaps more often than "often," actually. A few people, including Will, have pointed out that the theme is actually CO* CO*, which definitely helps with theme tightness. There aren't nearly as many options when it comes to that letter pattern. I'm curious to see how many people actually recognized this CO* CO* pattern vs. those on a COLLISION COURSE with my blunderous assumption — I've heard from people on both sides of the coin! Sorry C.C. — I'm pulling you from my Notes and pinch-hitting (the Oakland A's outfielder) COCO Crisp to bat for you.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1103 ( 23,736 )
Across Down
1. Ancient Briton : PICT
5. Bulgarian or Croat : SLAV
9. Writing surface for chalk : SLATE
14. One ___ (vitamin brand) : ADAY
15. Something a surfer catches : WAVE
16. Was sick : AILED
17. Next-to-last chemical element alphabetically, before zirconium : ZINC
18. Iowa State's city : AMES
19. Raises, as young : REARS
20. Ship heading : COMPASSCOURSE
23. The Bible's Queen of ___ : SHEBA
25. Still, in poetry : EEN
26. ___ Blanc, the so-called "Man of 1,000 Voices" : MEL
27. Liberal arts school in Waterville, Me. : COLBYCOLLEGE
32. Everyone : ALL
33. 7 Up or Pepsi : SODA
34. Reads quickly : SKIMS
38. Unwelcome look : LEER
40. Prevent : DEBAR
43. Insect in a summer swarm : GNAT
44. Did sum work? : ADDED
46. Cookie sometimes dunked in milk : OREO
48. Genetic info carrier : DNA
49. Service at Staples or FedEx Office : COLORCOPYING
53. ___ Jima : IWO
56. To the ___ degree : NTH
57. Ancient Roman robes : TOGAS
58. Person in overalls sucking a piece of straw, stereotypically : COUNTRYCOUSIN
63. Ancient 71-Across land in modern-day Turkey : IONIA
64. Pieces with 90-degree bends : ELLS
65. Taxis : CABS
68. Long guitar parts : NECKS
69. Assistant : AIDE
70. It may be slapped after a joke : KNEE
71. Like Zeus and Hera : GREEK
72. Did some weeding : HOED
73. Meat-and-vegetables dish : STEW
1. La ___, Bolivia : PAZ
2. Dictator Amin : IDI
3. No longer on the air : CANCELLED
4. Baseball great known as "The Georgia Peach" : TYCOBB
5. Exchange : SWAP
6. Tibetan priest : LAMA
7. Birds, scientifically speaking : AVES
8. Bowl or boat : VESSEL
9. Polynesian wraps : SARONGS
10. In ___ of (as a replacement for) : LIEU
11. Frighten : ALARM
12. Like one-word answers : TERSE
13. '50s Ford failure : EDSEL
21. Baseball great Willie : MAYS
22. Major component of the euro symbol : CEE
23. Milan's La ___ opera house : SCALA
24. Sank, as a putt : HOLED
28. How some packages arrive, for short : COD
29. Praiseful poem : ODE
30. Process leading up to childbirth : LABOR
31. Heart diagnostic, in brief : EKG
35. Highly offended : INDIGNANT
36. Food from heaven : MANNA
37. Male-only parties : STAGS
39. Tape machine button abbr. : REC
41. ___ de Triomphe : ARC
42. 1920s car that had its inventor's initials : REO
45. Exasperated response to "How was your day?" : DONTASK
47. Makes a choice : OPTS
50. 8 1/2" x 11" page size: Abbr. : LTR
51. "Definitely!" : OHYEAH
52. Bygone cry of high spirits : YOICKS
53. Cake topper : ICING
54. Beau with roses, say : WOOER
55. 1/16 of a pound : OUNCE
59. Brand with a swoosh : NIKE
60. Muse of history : CLIO
61. Ye ___ Antique Shoppe : OLDE
62. Secondhand : USED
66. Hive dweller : BEE
67. Do needlework : SEW

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle.

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