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New York Times, Monday, December 10, 2018

Author:
Alex Eylar
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
311/16/201712/10/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0100101
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.59000
Alex Eylar

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {QVXZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. Eylar. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Alex Eylar notes:
57-Across seems like a good enough segue as any, so here's an old anti-joke about jungles. It's high noon in the Amazon jungle, and ... read more

57-Across seems like a good enough segue as any, so here's an old anti-joke about jungles.

It's high noon in the Amazon jungle, and the heat is inescapable — a sweltering, thick soup of hot air all around. The monkeys lay still on their perches, fanning themselves with palm fronds, lazily napping because it's all they have the effort to do. The jaguars search the high tree branches for a cool breeze, looking for any reprieve from the crushing humidity and suffocating heat. The alligators sit submerged in the river with just their nostrils above the surface, unwilling to let any other parts of their bodies touch the hot air. The capybaras roam the jungle floor, hunting out shady glens but finding no escape from the humidity. The jungle is, for once, quiet — the chirps, the roars, and the howls have all been silenced by the overpowering heat.

On the shore of the river, one hippo turns to another and says, "You know, I just can't get it through my head that it's Thursday."

Jeff Chen notes:
I love the creativity in this theme. As a writer, I hear THE PLOT THICKENS all the time, yet I've never thought about it as a plot of ... read more

I love the creativity in this theme. As a writer, I hear THE PLOT THICKENS all the time, yet I've never thought about it as a plot of land literally thickening – from bare DIRT to some GRASS to a BUSH to a full JUNGLE. I wasn't able to figure out what was going on until I hit the revealer, and even then, I had to think about it. I enjoy when a Monday puzzle makes me work a little.

I did wonder if it was a "proper" order of growth. I'm not enough of a botanist to know if all the themers coexist in one region? BUSH made me think of African or Australia climates, whereas JUNGLE felt different.

Some research shows that there are indeed areas where all four are found. So my initial reaction was likely due to my cultural bias (read: being a dumb American).

I would have loved some smoothing in the gridwork. Monday ought to be super-newb-friendly, and I have doubts about RIATA, MTIDA, UANDI. I'd expect an educated solver to know what a lasso or a lariat is, Mount Olympus, and perhaps I LUV U too. But any of these toughies in the grid might trigger that "I have to know trivia to do crosswords?!" reaction we want to avoid.

Moving the black square above UANDI could have helped – the U?N?? pattern doesn't have nearly as much flexibility as ?U?N?? (TURNER, PUNNED, LUGNUT, GUNNER, etc.)

Overall though, I appreciated the originality of the theme, as well as the great bonuses in CARPOOLER and WENT ROGUE.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 1210 ( 25,234 )
Across
1
Shoestrings : LACES
6
Cook in oil : FRY
9
Brewing giant originally based in Milwaukee : PABST
14
Roofing alternative to shingles : SLATE
15
Whopper (but not the Burger King kind) : LIE
16
Hawaiian greeting : ALOHA
17
Extremely inexpensive : DIRTCHEAP
19
Things sometimes hidden behind paintings : SAFES
20
Extinguish, as a fire : PUTOUT
21
Cost of a bank transaction that's not with one's own bank : ATMFEE
22
Confucian philosophy : TAO
24
Bottom-up, as a political movement : GRASSROOTS
26
Runs away to marry : ELOPES
29
Like some winter highways : ICY
30
Perfect test grade : APLUS
31
New Testament trio : MAGI
33
Pop a fly? : SWAT
37
"Now things are getting interesting" ... or a hint to the first words of 17-, 24-, 45- and 57-Across : THEPLOTTHICKENS
40
Gilbert of "Roseanne" and "The Conners" : SARA
41
Knots : TIES
42
Ship of 1492 : PINTA
43
High degree : PHD
44
Bub : BUSTER
45
Amateurish : BUSHLEAGUE
51
GPS lines: Abbr. : RDS
52
Going from gig to gig : ONTOUR
53
Texas city seen in many westerns : LAREDO
56
Hatred : ODIUM
57
Bars that kids go to? : JUNGLEGYM
60
Get a feeling : SENSE
61
Iraq War danger, in brief : IED
62
One of the Hawaiian Islands : KAUAI
63
Parts of a forest : TREES
64
"Here's something interesting," in brief : FYI
65
Got some Z's : SLEPT
Down
1
Timothy Leary's drug : LSD
2
"The Greatest" in the ring : ALI
3
One who doesn't travel to work alone : CARPOOLER
4
"___, Brute!" : ETTU
5
Religious offshoot : SECT
6
___-de-lis : FLEUR
7
Cowboy's rope : RIATA
8
Informal affirmative : YEP
9
Danish or cream puff : PASTRY
10
Avis competitor : ALAMO
11
Highly successful, in theaterspeak : BOFFO
12
One of 500 in a ream : SHEET
13
Zaps with a police gun : TASES
18
Harleys, in slang : HOGS
21
PC character set : ASCII
22
Milk dispensers : TEATS
23
Leader of the pack : ALPHA
25
Sounds of resignation : SIGHS
27
Stage after larva : PUPA
28
Bilingualism subj. : ESL
31
Sacred peak in Greek myth: Abbr. : MTIDA
32
Had one's fill : ATE
33
Equipment often transported on a car's roof : SKIS
34
Was a maverick : WENTROGUE
35
Chipped in at a poker game : ANTED
36
Old Russian royals : TSARS
38
None of the above : OTHER
39
Computer's "brain," for short : CPU
43
Clouds of smoke : PLUMES
44
What the Titanic had a disastrous encounter with : BERG
45
Give a lift : BOOST
46
Beneath : UNDER
47
"Goosebumps" writer R. L. ___ : STINE
48
One of four purchased for a Monopoly property : HOUSE
49
Sticky : GLUEY
50
We, on a candy heart : UANDI
54
Fraternal group : ELKS
55
"You're on!" : DEAL
57
Alternative to Skippy or Peter Pan : JIF
58
Big mouth : YAP
59
Cambridge sch. for budding engineers : MIT

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle.

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