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New York Times, Thursday, November 30, 2017

Author: Trenton Charlson
Editor: Will Shortz
Trenton Charlson
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
44/26/20172/23/20180
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0101110
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.87010

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

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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 ... more
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 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. ... more
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.

*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.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1130 ( 24,859 )
Across Down
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
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.

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