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New York Times, Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Author: Greg Poulos
Editor: Will Shortz
Greg Poulos
TotalDebutCollabs
111/7/20170
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0010000
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1.62000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 41 Missing: {QX} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Poulos NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Greg Poulos notes: This puzzle came about as the result of a minor philosophical crisis. I'd read a blog post where the author was complaining ... more
Greg Poulos notes:

This puzzle came about as the result of a minor philosophical crisis.

I'd read a blog post where the author was complaining about a puzzle that he felt "lacked fresh fill." This complaint surprised me because I'd personally found the puzzle in question to be quite lively.

It got me wondering: what do we talk about when we talk about "fresh fill"? What separates perfectly OK workhorse words from gnarly crosswordese? Can clever cluing turn a stale word fresh? And when does a word go from "fresh" to faddish, twee, or just plain annoying?

I soon began to doubt everything I knew about cruciverbalism, and indeed, language itself.

At around the same time, I read on Language Log (a blog run by an international supergroup of academic linguists) that the American Dialect Society had recently announced "DUMPSTER FIRE" as their 2016 Word of the Year. It struck me that if there were one word everyone could agree on as "fresh," surely it'd be the ADS Word of the Year.

So I made a puzzle based on that idea.

My initial plan was to seed the past several years' winners anywhere I could fit them into a grid. But when I looked at the WotY list, I realized the word lengths might allow for symmetric placement. Luckily, I was able to pull it off.

I'm super-duper thrilled for this to be my debut puzzle in the Times. Thanks to my friends and family (especially Cliff, Nick, and the Daves Madden and Sheppard) for their support and feedback. Thanks also to Mr. Shortz for actually accepting this thing, and editing the clues to be better and more consistent overall.

My only regret is that UHF is no longer clued as [1989 "Weird Al" film set at a low-budget TV station].

Jeff Chen notes: Second debut in two days! Greg lists out some fun WORDs OF THE YEAR, as decided by the American Dialect Society. So apt for us ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Second debut in two days! Greg lists out some fun WORDs OF THE YEAR, as decided by the American Dialect Society. So apt for us cruciverbalists! PLUTOED was my favorite — such a colorful way of saying "demoted." The MILLENNIUM BUG, of course, was huge back in 2000, and what a snazzy phrase back then. Not sure it's held up, but it did get a great clue — [Rollover problem] had to be some SUV issue, right? Not when it's a problem rolling over from 1999 to 2000!

Made me curious as to what other words of the year were. What a shame CHINGLISH didn't make it in this puzzle, nor did MISUNDERESTIMATE. (You could write an entire week's worth of puzzles using Bushisms …)

That gets to the heart of why I'm not super keen on list puzzles. With so many entries possible, why not SHOCK AND AWE or CLOUD COMPUTING or LETS ROLL or any of the other great phrases? I would have liked more tightness, perhaps the full set from 2016, or if all of them were related, i.e., all Bushisms.

Amazing how much Bush-speak is on the list! That entire WMD thing was questionable at best, but it's hard to beat Bush for sheer comedic and wordplay value.

I appreciated Greg's efforts to work some bonuses into the fill. Not an easy task, what with three long answers, two mid-length ones, and two shorties taking up so much real estate. PIANO WIRE and KING MINOS, GAY BAR, my beloved Ken GRIFFEY, Jr. = great stuff.

Prices to pay. RSTU ought to automatically necessitate a puzzle redo — it's barely a step above [Any four random letters]. A ROPE, AND LO, INO, REG, OEUF … oof, indeed. Fewer themers and/or fewer bonuses would have been a welcome trade-off for more smoothness.

But overall, I had forgotten about the WORD OF THE YEAR, and it was fun to get some throwbacks to interesting times in history, what with WMDs and all. Reminds me of the ancient Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times.

ADDED NOTE: Ben Zimmer, linguist and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, pointed out that the official ADS WotY selections are much more limited than I had thought. (That's what I get for speed-reading through Wikipedia!) Interesting to note that there's just a single word / phrase they choose each year. My favorite was 2005's "truthiness" — not a Bushism per se, but related!

JimH notes: We have no idea who the little guy over Mr. Poulos's shoulder is. Jeff thinks it might be one of Philip Pullman's dæmons. There's a new book in that series.
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1107 ( 24,836 )
Across Down
1. Facing difficulty : INAJAM
7. Crow : BRAG
11. London's ___ Gardens : KEW
14. "Hasta ___" : MANANA
15. Prime rating org. : USDA
16. Belief, informally : ISM
17. Contributing (to) : ADDING
18. Neither raise nor fold, in poker : STAY
19. Homer's next-door neighbor on "The Simpsons" : NED
20. Rollover problem? [1997] : MILLENNIUMBUG
23. ___ Paulo, Brazil : SAO
24. Something a driver may "hang" : UIE
25. Jazz pianist Jamal : AHMAD
28. Spectacular disaster [2016] : DUMPSTERFIRE
32. H&R Block staffers : CPAS
34. Start of the season? : TIS
35. Vardalos of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" : NIA
36. Rescue from insolvency [2008] : BAILOUT
39. Demoted [2006] : PLUTOED
42. Wife of Juan Perón : EVA
43. Agency issuance, in brief : REG
45. Get rid of : TOSS
46. Gender-neutral pronoun [2015] : SINGULARTHEY
51. John B, in a Beach Boys hit : SLOOP
52. Particle physics suffix : INO
53. When doubled, a Gabor sister : ZSA
56. Annual American Dialect Society award given to seven answers in this puzzle : WORDOFTHEYEAR
61. Sacha Baron Cohen's "Da ___ G Show" : ALI
63. Egg: Fr. : OEUF
64. Verdi opera based on a Shakespeare play : OTELLO
65. Cent or capita preceder : PER
66. One chain by one furlong : ACRE
67. "Now wait just one second!" : HOLDUP
68. "The Fall of the House of Usher" writer : POE
69. Pink : ROSY
70. Airing after midnight, say : ONLATE
1. Muslim worship leaders : IMAMS
2. Foreign exchange student in "American Pie" : NADIA
3. "___, the angel of the Lord came upon them": Luke : ANDLO
4. Corner square in Monopoly : JAIL
5. Either of two wives of Henry VIII : ANNE
6. ___ opus : MAGNUM
7. Like Tokyo's Shinjuku Station, according to Guinness : BUSIEST
8. Q-V connection : RSTU
9. Actor Driver of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" : ADAM
10. New York's Stonewall Inn, e.g. : GAYBAR
11. Cretan who had the Labyrinth built : KINGMINOS
12. WNW's opposite : ESE
13. Iraq War worry, for short [2002] : WMD
21. Puppy's bite : NIP
22. Channels 14 and up, for short : UHF
26. April fools' sign? : ARIES
27. Inoperative : DEAD
28. Lentil dish at an Indian restaurant : DAL
29. G.I. tour grp. : USO
30. Money left on the table? : TIP
31. Subj. for U.S. citizens-to-be : ESL
32. Petty objection : CAVIL
33. Part of a musical instrument made from spring steel : PIANOWIRE
36. Porgy's partner : BESS
37. https://www.whitehouse.gov, e.g. : URL
38. Serving from a trolley : TEA
40. Western native : UTE
41. Play (with) : TOY
44. Baseball's Ken Jr. or Sr. : GRIFFEY
47. When repeated, baby's utterance : GOO
48. Furor : UPROAR
49. Explosive in a stick : TNT
50. Santa's laugh : HOHOHO
53. Video game princess : ZELDA
54. "Skoal!" alternative : SALUT
55. Soap-on-___ : AROPE
57. Chrysler Building's style, briefly : DECO
58. Not just mine : OURS
59. Kind of collar : ETON
60. Holler : YELL
61. Snapchat or Dropbox [2010] : APP
62. One of 13 popes : LEO

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle.

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