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FULL-BODY CAST

New York Times, Sunday, December 10, 2017

Author:
Erik Agard and Laura Braunstein
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
4311/6/20128/10/201920
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
94566391
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.62160
Erik Agard
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
212/10/20173/21/20181
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1001000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.82100
Laura Braunstein

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 136, Blocks: 88 Missing: {FQ} This is puzzle # 12 for Mr. Agard. This is the debut puzzle for Ms. Braunstein. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
LAURA: I've been solving crosswords all my life, it seems — my grandfather, who was an immigrant, would solve puzzles to practice English, and he used to ask for my help when I was a ... read more

LAURA: I've been solving crosswords all my life, it seems — my grandfather, who was an immigrant, would solve puzzles to practice English, and he used to ask for my help when I was a kid. I've only been constructing for about a year. I'm a librarian at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, and Andrew Kingsley (an NYT constructor), who recently graduated, used to work on his grids in the reference room. We would chat about puzzles, and one day I decided that if puzzles were things that people made, I could make them too.

I've been so fortunate to have friends and mentors who have supported me through the process of learning to construct. Recently, one of my favorite speculative fiction authors, Charlie Jane Anders, tweeted that a definition of success that makes her happy is "getting to be associated with people I admire, who keep surprising me." That is also my definition of success in crosswords. Last winter when I started trying to make puzzles, I never imagined that within a year my first NYT byline would be shared with Erik Agard, whom I admire so much as a constructor and a person.

Erik and I had been looking for ideas for co-constructing, and one day he emailed with this idea about names of body parts hidden in phrases, and thus ensued a 67-message email chain where the idea evolved, first to something with book titles, then to a meta idea, then finally to where it ended up with actor names. Some entries rejected from our final list included JIM [BACK]US, RED [BUTT]ONS, the non-specific M[ORGAN] FREEMAN, and someone with the awesome name of JACK [NOSE]WORTHY, who had a bit part in "Event Horizon."

ERIK: Laura is a true umptuple threat: solver (finished top-100 at Lollapuzzoola in her tournament debut), constructor (wrote a great puzzle for this year's Boswords tournament), blogger (her reviews at Crossword Fiend and Rex Parker usually get a laugh out of me), community pillar (consistently an outspoken advocate for women and other underrepresented groups in crossword construction)... and she's a kickass librarian and probably some other stuff I don't even know about. She's one of those people who can take your one pretty good idea and turn it into three great ideas; it was as much a pleasure to write this puzzle with her as it is a privilege to share her first NYT byline.

Jeff Chen notes:
Great theme around actors, BIT PARTS hinting at 'rebusized body parts.' I never noticed this property about DENZEL WA(SHIN)GTON and DON C(HEAD)LE, even though they're some of my favorite ... read more

Great theme around actors, BIT PARTS hinting at "rebusized body parts." I never noticed this property about DENZEL WA(SHIN)GTON and DON C(HEAD)LE, even though they're some of my favorite actors. And what an apt title, FULL-BODY CAST!

I've become very picky about rebuses over the years. They used to be so novel; even rebusizing IN or ER was ground-breaking. These days, it takes a lot for me to consider a rebus worth solving:

  1. Great rationale as to why letters are squished into one square.
  2. Colorful theme answers containing those rebus squares — not just in the across direction, but down too!
  3. Variety in the rebus squares (or some other way of avoiding a repetitive feel).

I think Erik and Laura did all three very well. Where many constructors fall down is the second part of criterion #2. For example, it's not so interesting to have SHIN worked into PU(SH IN), but shorter down entries do make the grid much easier to construct. Thankfully, PU(SH IN) was more the exception than the rule today, as the down entries containing the body parts were so snazzy.

I mean, T(HE AD)VOCATE! I H(EAR) YOU! HE(LI P)ORTS! And my favorite, ROOKI(E YE)AR! Check out how much real estate those long down "themers" take up. That presents all sorts of gridding challenges, reducing flexibility a ton.

Now, the puzzle wasn't perfect. Considering the high strain put on the grid by all those long across AND down themers, it wasn't a surprise to get a good amount of crossword glue. Most of it was ignorable, but one thing that stood out for me was the abundance of partials — A WALK, T AIME, I ATE. Better to spread out your crossword glue — having so many of a single type makes them more noticeable.

But overall, such an entertaining theme, well executed with just a few issues here and there. Plus, a ton of bonus fill, including some stuff you don't usually see in the NYT: NARUTO and PORK ADOBO. I like that kind of diversity. It might not play well to mass audiences, but I like it when constructors (and editors!) take chances like this.

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EAR
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EYE
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LIP
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B
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D
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1210 ( 24,869 )
Across
1
Take ___ on the wild side : AWALK
6
Cartoonist Silverstein : SHEL
10
Before you can say Jack Robinson : INNOTIME
18
Academy Award-winning Marisa : TOMEI
19
Hip-hop's ___ Kweli : TALIB
21
Crisis connections : HOTLINES
22
Boo-boos : OWIES
23
Brings up : EVOKES
25
"Batman" actress, 1967-68 : EARTHAKITT
26
A-list topper : MEGASTAR
28
Nine-time Pro Bowler John : ELWAY
30
Curriculum ___ : VITAE
31
"Traffic" actor, 2000 : DONCHEADLE
32
Winter Olympics event : SLALOM
34
___-de-France : ILE
35
Sat ___ (GPS, to a Brit) : NAV
36
"Super Mario Bros." actor, 1993 : JOHNLEGUIZAMO
40
Comic book onomatopoeia : ZAP
43
Irish form of Mary : MOIRA
46
Figure on a foam finger : ONE
47
___ contendere : NOLO
48
School that lent its name to a collar : ETON
50
Like many laundromats : COINOP
52
Seat of Penobscot County : BANGOR
54
"Bride of Frankenstein" actress, 1935 : ELSALANCHESTER
56
Traditional Filipino dish marinated in vinegar and soy sauce : PORKADOBO
59
Turn up : ATBAT
60
Bring into harmony : ATTUNE
63
Yves's evening : SOIR
64
Like many write-in candidates: Abbr. : IND
65
"Training Day" actor, 2001 : DENZELWASHINGTON
71
Old C.I.A. foe : KGB
72
Where people get off : STOP
74
Growing art form? : BONSAI
75
"A ___ From St. Nicholas" : VISIT
77
Roadside establishment much seen in the Southwest : TACOSTAND
80
"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" actress, 2000 : MICHELLEYEOH
85
Connive : SCHEME
86
Shaman, e.g. : HEALER
87
When tripled, a "Seinfeld" catchphrase : YADA
88
Eastern European capital : KIEV
89
Simple top : TEE
91
Cell exchanges : TEXTS
93
Deteriorate : ROT
94
"Crash" actor, 2004 : RYANPHILLIPPE
97
Scottish form of John : IAN
99
Operate : USE
101
Deliverance person : SAVIOR
102
"Frost/Nixon" actor, 2008 : OLIVERPLATT
106
Kidney-related : RENAL
109
Dame modifier : NOTRE
110
Bear claws and such : PASTRIES
112
What eight actors took on for this puzzle? : BITPARTS
115
Written deeply : ETCHED
117
"Mea ___" : CULPA
118
Daughter of Oedipus : ANTIGONE
119
Kama ___ : SUTRA
120
Hermione's Patronus, in the Harry Potter books : OTTER
121
Lure in Vegas : NEONSIGN
122
Leader wearing the Great Imperial Crown : TSAR
123
10 cc's and others : DOSES
Down
1
Thing whose size is measured in picometers : ATOM
2
Floored : WOWED
3
Pal : AMIGO
4
Country singer Womack : LEEANN
5
What might show participants going neck and neck? : KISSCAM
6
Cop : STEAL
7
Le ___ (French port) : HAVRE
8
"Mr. Blue Sky" band, for short : ELO
9
This way : LIKESO
10
"Gotcha" : IHEARYOU
11
Word implied on Opposite Day : NOT
12
Ultimate degree : NTH
13
Name of five Norwegian kings : OLAV
14
Word with torch or bar : TIKI
15
Ab ___ (from the beginning) : INITIO
16
Genre for Black Sabbath : METAL
17
Lauder of cosmetics : ESTEE
20
Hotel attendant : BELLHOP
24
Proust protagonist : SWANN
27
L.G.B.T. magazine since 1967 : THEADVOCATE
29
State as fact : ALLEGE
33
Mosque tower : MINARET
36
Primatologist Goodall : JANE
37
Crash, with "out" : ZONK
38
Pond growth : ALGA
39
Emotional states : MOODS
40
N, seen from the side : ZEE
41
Where I-20, I-65 and I-85 all meet : ATLANTA
42
Some advanced researchers, for short : POSTDOCS
44
Particle named by Faraday : ION
45
Most caloric : RICHEST
49
Catch : NAB
51
Face-to-face challenges : ORALS
52
Pot holder : BONG
53
1947, for Jackie Robinson : ROOKIEYEAR
55
Stripling : LAD
56
Depress : PUSHIN
57
Ruckus : BIGTODO
58
Sphere : ORB
61
J.F.K.'s former ___ Terminal : TWA
62
"Je ___" (French words of affection) : TAIME
64
Suffix with novel or Nobel : IST
66
Standout hoopsters : NBAMVPS
67
City planners' designation : ZONE
68
Undoing : END
69
Leaves a lot on the table? : OVERTIPS
70
Nothing : NIL
73
Chocolate-coated snack stick : POCKY
76
Like some winks : SLY
78
Branch of Islam : SHIA
79
Any of the Ninja Turtles : TEEN
81
"Must've been something ___" : IATE
82
The Browns, on a scoreboard : CLE
83
Bad spell : HEX
84
See 102-Down : HAT
86
Vertical landing spots : HELIPORTS
89
Program saver : TIVO
90
Like SEALs : ELITE
92
Cured and dried fish : SALTCOD
94
Have as a tenant : RENTTO
95
"Dear Evan ___," Best Musical of 2017 : HANSEN
96
Like florists' flowers that are already in vases : PRECUT
98
Best-selling Japanese manga series : NARUTO
99
___ Outfitters (retailer) : URBAN
100
Where Javert drowned in "Les Misérables" : SEINE
102
With 84-Down, bit of black attire : OPERA
103
Real-time tool for meteorologists : LIVERADAR
104
Isn't level : TILTS
105
Where one might raise a flap about a reservation? : TEPEE
107
So quiet you can hear ___ drop : APIN
108
Isn't up to date : LAGS
111
Early 2000s outbreak, for short : SARS
113
Old résident at Versailles : ROI
114
"Star Trek" spinoff, to fans : TNG
116
Elevs. : HTS

Answer summary: 13 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?