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New York Times, Thursday, November 30, 2017

Author:
Trenton Charlson
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
154/26/20179/7/20191
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
11022531
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.79012
Trenton Charlson

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FQ} Scrabble average: 2.15 This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. Charlson. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Trenton Charlson notes:
The core concept behind today's puzzle has been seen before, as in these gems by Ashish Vengsarkar and Patrick Merrell, but I wondered ... read more

The core concept behind today's puzzle has been seen before, as in these gems by Ashish Vengsarkar and Patrick Merrell, but I wondered if there was a new spin I could put on the idea. Perhaps, I thought, the squares themselves, rather than a letter sequence, could replace the word they represent.

Still, this was just a thought—I couldn't believe my luck when I discovered not only that DESTROYER, CRUISER, SUBMARINE, and CARRIER could all be incorporated into lively, non-nautical-related entries, but also that along with BATTLESHIP as a revealer, these entries could be arranged symmetrically when their respective boat names were replaced with the number of squares corresponding to the boat's length in Battleship! I briefly considered placing a HIT rebus in each of these squares but decided on X's to represent hits instead, figuring that I could only push my luck so far (and it doesn't hurt that I have a soft spot for the high-value Scrabble letters).

In designing and filling the grid, I started with the upper region, deploying my black squares to best accommodate the seven X's. Again, to my surprise, I got far better fill here than I expected— I'd like to give a shout-out to Pope JOHN X for his much-needed assistance. Interestingly enough, the bottom right was the toughest section to fill cleanly, despite the lack of X's. Overall, though, I think this turned out pretty well, and am glad I could incorporate some long bonus fill in JUKEBOX HERO and LOOSE CANNON, and some nice mid-length fill in LIKE SO and ROOMBA.

I was pleased to see that my favorite clue of mine, "Early form of airmail?" for CARRIER PIGEON, made the cut, and I like the opacity of Will and Joel's clue "Grinder" for SUBMARINE SANDWICH. Given its proximity to 17-Across, I thought it might be fun to clue BOOR as "Barbarian," but that didn't end up making it into the final version.

Finally, a note on circles. Although I wonder if the circled squares might give away the game a bit too easily for some, if they allow a mind-bending theme like this one to become accessible to more solvers, then I think they're a good thing. On that note, I hope everyone enjoys the puzzle!

Jeff Chen notes:
BATTLESHIP! What a nice throwback to my days doing GAMES magazine puzzles. Oh, right, there was a BATTLESHIP board game before that. ... read more

BATTLESHIP! What a nice throwback to my days doing GAMES magazine puzzles. Oh, right, there was a BATTLESHIP board game before that.

*snooty puzzle-connoisseur snort*

Neat idea, Trenton using Xs in a rebus-esque manner to represent ships being HIT in the game. I couldn't remember all the names of the actual board game ships (or their lengths), so it was fun to get a memory jog. The carrier is five spaces long, as in XXXXX PIGEON. I didn't remember that there was a cruiser in the game, but the infamous PT XXX (come on, just admit the shame if you bought one) helped me remember that it was three slots long.

I had the toughest time with CONAN THE XX. But what fun to guess at it! CONAN THE … frigate? The junk? The garbage scow?

Someone make that last movie, already!

We fixed up the answers (below) in case you're still not getting it. Jim did the initial fixup to XXX sandwich. He put in "sub," which sounds more natural to me, but it's apparently the full "submarine."

That points to a thematic problem. It's easy enough to figure out (carrier) PIGEON. But even that one, it felt a bit arbitrary to have exactly five Xs to represent "carrier." Yes, I know that if you look up the board game rules, it's clear that the carrier is five spaces long. But who remembers that?

*ducking from howlers sent by rabid "Battleship" fans*

Other GAMES Magazine enthusiasts might have also gotten confused by the lengths. BATTLESHIP puzzles only have lengths 1, 2, 3, and 4, by gum! And what board game designer in their right mind would make TWO DIFFERENT ships (the cruisier and the submarine) the same length (3)? THE OUTRAGE!

I enjoyed so many Xs worked cleanly into the grid. Weaving JUKEBOX HERO through one = awesome! I was sure there'd be all sorts of gloppy crossword glue up at the top, what with six (!!!) terminal Xs to work around. But what nice clean results.

Clever idea, novel approach to a rebus. If my memories of the ship names and their lengths had been stronger, this would have been an easy POW! choice, what with such solid execution.

1
M
2
A
3
M
4
B
5
A
6
J
7
A
8
M
9
S
10
A
11
L
12
B
13
A
14
I
B
S
E
N
15
O
D
I
E
16
B
O
O
R
17
C
O
N
A
N
18
T
H
E
X
X
19
Z
O
O
M
20
K
E
A
N
U
21
S
U
S
H
I
22
L
23
B
24
J
25
X
X
X
X
26
X
27
P
I
G
E
O
N
28
I
R
U
29
L
E
30
B
R
A
31
C
O
G
32
L
I
K
E
S
33
O
34
R
O
O
M
35
B
A
36
T
E
E
N
37
P
38
T
X
X
X
39
A
N
40
N
41
E
42
B
A
43
S
T
E
S
44
Y
45
A
W
N
E
D
46
E
47
E
O
48
P
I
N
49
C
L
O
W
N
50
X
X
X
51
S
A
N
D
52
W
53
I
54
C
H
55
N
S
A
56
H
O
H
U
M
57
I
N
U
I
58
T
59
U
T
E
S
60
B
61
A
T
T
L
E
S
62
H
63
I
64
P
65
M
I
R
A
66
A
N
T
E
67
V
O
I
C
E
68
E
C
O
N
69
T
T
Y
L
70
E
S
T
E
R
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1130 ( 24,859 )
Across
1
Venomous African snake : MAMBA
6
Quandaries : JAMS
10
Duchess of ___ (Goya subject) : ALBA
14
"Ghosts" playwright : IBSEN
15
Cartoon dog : ODIE
16
Trollish sort : BOOR
17
1984 Schwarzenegger sequel : CONANTHEDESTROYER
19
Go fast : ZOOM
20
Reeves of "The Matrix" : KEANU
21
Kind of bar : SUSHI
22
___ Ranch (onetime "Texas White House") : LBJ
25
Early form of airmail? : CARRIERPIGEON
28
"Yay, me!" : IRULE
30
It's measured in cups : BRA
31
Minor but essential part : COG
32
"In this way" : LIKESO
34
Round floor cleaner : ROOMBA
36
Many a bar mitzvah attendee : TEEN
37
Chrysler model discontinued in 2010 : PTCRUISER
39
Mother of the Virgin Mary : ANNE
42
Butters up? : BASTES
44
Opened one's mouth but didn't speak? : YAWNED
46
Fair-hiring inits. : EEO
48
Campaign freebie : PIN
49
Scary figure in Stephen King's "It" : CLOWN
50
Grinder : SUBMARINESANDWICH
55
Org. whose symbol is an eagle atop a key : NSA
56
Run-of-the-mill : HOHUM
57
Language from which "kayak" comes : INUIT
59
Pac-12 team : UTES
60
It's four units long in a popular board game (with the game's other pieces hinted at by the circled letters) : BATTLESHIP
65
Red giant in the constellation Cetus : MIRA
66
A penny is a small one : ANTE
67
Express : VOICE
68
Future C.P.A.'s study : ECON
69
"Gotta go," in textspeak : TTYL
70
Fragrant compound : ESTER
Down
1
Word after hot or open : MIC
2
Blood letters : ABO
3
___ Explorer (browser) : MSN
4
Schnozz : BEAK
5
Wings : ANNEXES
6
Pope before Leo VI : JOHNX
7
For two : ADEUX
8
Potpourri : MIX
9
Congress : SEX
10
Bella of 1970s politics : ABZUG
11
Unpredictable sort : LOOSECANNON
12
"Oh, cry me a river!" : BOOHOO
13
Giving heat? : ARMING
18
Duty : TAX
21
Neighbor of India and China in Risk : SIAM
22
Cheerful tune : LILT
23
Cocktail party spread : BRIE
24
Foreigner song with the lyric "With that one guitar / He'll come alive" : JUKEBOXHERO
26
Gaming debut of 2001 : XBOX
27
Agent : PROXY
29
Actress Headey : LENA
33
Join voluntarily : OPTIN
34
Just what the doctor ordered, for short? : RXS
35
Turn on the waterworks : BAWL
38
Watch over : TEND
40
Google heading : NEWS
41
Novelist Ferber : EDNA
43
Filter target : SPAM
45
Pull off : ACHIEVE
46
Unearth : EXHUME
47
Pet store category : EXOTIC
51
Lazy ___ : SUSAN
52
Good at repartee : WITTY
53
Big name in microprocessors : INTEL
54
___-de-sac : CUL
58
Chinese menu possessive : TSOS
60
Take some swings : BAT
61
Army ___ : ANT
62
Success in the game 60-Across ... or a hint to interpreting the circled squares : HIT
63
Winter coat : ICE
64
Each : PER

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?