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New York Times, Saturday, December 1, 2018

Author:
Ryan McCarty
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
86/17/201712/1/20181
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0000116
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1.58000
Ryan McCarty

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 16 Words: 71, Blocks: 36 Missing: {QVWZ} This is puzzle # 8 for Mr. McCarty. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ryan McCarty notes:
This was my first attempt at a 15x16 grid — I wanted to try an open middle design with stacked 14s, which I quickly found was much more ... read more

This was my first attempt at a 15x16 grid — I wanted to try an open middle design with stacked 14s, which I quickly found was much more difficult than the stacked 11s and 12s that I'd been more used to working with. BOTOX INJECTION was the seed entry and is the obvious highlight of the puzzle, along with its cutesy "head shot" clue that pairs with the clue for SOCCER STARS. BROGRAMMER is a term I'd seen out in the wild and found interesting, though I'm not entirely convinced it'll stand the test of time. Otherwise, the grid is pretty conservative compared to my typical puzzles, though not without some tricky clues.

Jeff Chen notes:
As with most all of Ryan's puzzles, I thought there was some amazing gridwork. He's an up-and-comer in a space that few constructors dip into ... read more

As with most all of Ryan's puzzles, I thought there was some amazing gridwork. He's an up-and-comer in a space that few constructors dip into — the ultra-low-word-count grid. It's so darn hard to fill a grid like this one with color and cleanliness, yet Ryan worked in BOTOX INJECTION, FITNESS CENTERS, with INK BLOT TEST, SOCCER STARS (head shots, ha!) and BATMOBILE running through them. Lovely!

And I love STICKY RICE (usually with condensed milk and mango), and AIRPORT BAR. That last one made me laugh with its clue, "craft" beer referring to aircraft. Didn't totally work, since there aren't any actual crafts in an AIRPORT BAR, but who's counting.

Impeccable gridsmanship, nary a gluey bit to be found. That's an amazing accomplishment for this level of construction difficulty.

Although ... I've been thinking more and more about why Patrick Berry is so highly revered by so many people. A big part of it is that he's so careful to stay away from entries that might seem TOO fresh, potentially alienating large swaths of solvers.

Doing and analyzing Ryan's themelesses has opened my eyes to a point I hadn't considered before. In one of his previous puzzles, I heard many gripes about DANK MEMES, seeming to severely sour some people's perspective on what I thought was a pretty darn good puzzle. It baffled me that a single entry could have such an overwhelming effect. It's at least gettable, so you can ignore it if you don't like it, yeah?

Judging a puzzle by its worst entry doesn't seem fair to me, but I can see how a lone entry might alienate some solvers. Maybe it makes you feel dumb, or out of the loop, or like the puzzle is trying too hard. Like Ryan, I wondered about BROGRAMMER in that vein.

Now, I think the term is amusing, having first heard it on "Silicon Valley." (It refers to dudes bro-ing their way in tech start-ups heavily dominated by 20-something men.) It also seems gettable, a mash-up of BRO and PROGRAMMER.

But I think these days, I'd personally try to avoid it. Such a tough call — would you rather go extremely memorable for some solvers, while alienating others? Or try to aim for the middle, risking losing your color?

Not sure what the right answer is. Tell me if you figure it out!

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 1201 ( 25,225 )
Across
1. Counts : TALLIESUP
10. Los ___, West Coast home of Netflix : GATOS
15. Carnival transport : OCEANLINER
17. "Drive happy" sloganeer : ALAMO
18. Bed in many a Thai dish : STICKYRICE
19. High as a kite : BAKED
20. One may make Us money : CELEB
21. Fabergé egg collector : TSAR
23. Genesis name : SEGA
24. Org. with the "Give Kids a Smile" initiative : ADA
25. Like many matches : LIT
28. "___ Sylphides" (ballet) : LES
30. Super ___ : PAC
31. Roman who wrote "Whatever advice you give, be brief" : HORACE
34. Ibizan inn : POSADA
36. Head shot : BOTOXINJECTION
38. Activity involving a leader and a follower : PARTNERDANCING
39. Elliptical settings : FITNESSCENTERS
40. Get tangled up : ENMESH
41. They're used at the border : EDGERS
42. Derby head : LOO
43. Add : TOT
45. Some E.R. cases : ODS
46. Not lie, say : SIT
49. Frappe Chiller offerer : TCBY
51. Brand name that spells something not nice backward : TUMS
54. Sentiment on 14 de febrero : TEAMO
56. Started back : SHIED
58. Fratty Silicon Valley techie, stereotypically : BROGRAMMER
61. Quiet : ALLAY
62. Fitting place to order craft beer? : AIRPORTBAR
63. Name on a planter : DEERE
64. Doesn't do anything rash : STAYSSANE
Down
1. "E lucevan le stelle" source : TOSCA
2. Quit stalling : ACTED
3. Girl saved by Don Juan : LEILA
4. Get ready to play, with "up" : LACE
5. Reason to ask "What do you see?" : INKBLOTTEST
6. England's Isle of ___ : ELY
7. Its East African equivalent is "bwana" : SIR
8. Building block : UNIT
9. Muscle shirt wearer's pride : PECS
10. Gift that's not always welcome : GAB
11. Lead-in to unfortunate news : ALAS
12. Go out of one's way : TAKEPAINS
13. Lowest pack member : OMEGADOG
14. Tab holder, e.g. : SODACAN
16. Very, informally : REAL
22. Was in a sorry state? : REPENTED
26. Golfer's approach, often : IRONSHOT
27. Annual spring chore, for many : TAXES
29. People with great head shots? : SOCCERSTARS
31. Subject of the 2009 biography "Stormy Weather" : HORNE
32. Sorceress exiled on Aeaea : CIRCE
33. Cut out : ENDED
35. Budges : STIRS
36. Vehicle with wing-shaped tail fins : BATMOBILE
37. ___ Fett, "Star Wars" bounty hunter : JANGO
38. Game with royal marriages : PINOCHLE
39. Was blue : FELTSAD
44. "Oom" producer : TUBA
46. Option for 38-Across : SAMBA
47. Words after a verbal slip : IMEAN
48. Yankees manager after Showalter : TORRE
50. Auto specification : YEAR
52. Parts of some neuro exams : MRIS
53. Class : SORT
55. Crew at a big accident : EMTS
57. Make blue, say : DYE
59. Mean in school, for short : GPA
60. Rob ___ : ROY

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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