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New York Times, Monday, December 11, 2017

Author:
Brian Thomas
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
711/21/20178/31/20191
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0320101
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.73010
Brian Thomas

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQX} This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Thomas. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Brian Thomas notes:
This puzzle was my first accepted puzzle in the NYT, so it holds a soft spot in my heart. It was one of the first puzzles that I ever ... read more

This puzzle was my first accepted puzzle in the NYT, so it holds a soft spot in my heart. It was one of the first puzzles that I ever created, and looking back, I'm still pretty happy with the fill. I tried to open up the northeast and southwest corners by dumping the black square after YALE and before FIRS, but couldn't find any decent options for the long spot at 28-Down. The southwest caused the most trouble during the fill, which is why DIFFUSE is there instead of the snazzier 7-letter answers in the other corners.

Clue-wise, pumped to see ODA get a clue other than [Harem room]. I also have fond memories of watching reruns of "Let's Make a Deal" at my grandparents' house when I was a kid. And, the game show inspired a nifty little probability brain teaser called the Monty Hall problem (try it out if you haven't heard of it!).

Jeff Chen notes:
HEADPHONES telling us that each theme answer contains a type of phone. Really, trust me kids, there was such a thing as a ROTARY ... read more

HEADPHONES telling us that each theme answer contains a type of phone. Really, trust me kids, there was such a thing as a ROTARY phone, which you had to stick a finger into and rotate the plastic dial around, let it slowly spring back, and repeat this six or nine times. And if you got a single digit wrong, you had to restart. Did I mention the receiver was corded to the base? And that there was a receiver?

No way my kids will believe any of that.

Excellent themer choices, ROTARY CLUB, CELL BLOCK, MOBILE PHONE, SMART ALECK all colorful. The only one I hitched on was PAY FREEZE, which felt slightly off. But I couldn't quite figure out what sounded more natural for a wage freeze. Ah, wage freeze!

Especially important to choose strong themers when the theme type is one that's largely gone by the wayside. ("Words that can precede X" aren't being accepted by many editors these days.) A letdown for me when I got to HEADPHONES, but thankfully, Brian did a good job with the bonuses. BOOLEAN might draw some stink-eyed stares from math haters, but haters gonna hate. ANASAZI was nice, too, as was LAB COAT.

Pretty smooth grid, too. Welcoming for Monday newbies. Impressive that Brian kept the grid to just a bit of ODA / SEE NO, given that he used six themers, no mean feat. It's easy to see why ODA reared its ugly head, given how sandwiched that middle is (in between MOBILE HOME and SMART ALECK). But Brian laid out his themers well — stacking two themers (ROTARY CLUB right above CELL BLOCK) often (counterintuitively) helps makes things easier.

Strong execution helped keep my attention, but a theme type that's passé usually leaves me feeling let down, no matter how good the gridwork.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1211 ( 24,870 )

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Across
1
Georgetown athlete : HOYA
5
Path left behind by a mower : SWATH
10
Item on a Native American moccasin : BEAD
14
Genesis garden : EDEN
15
Sign after Virgo : LIBRA
16
First word in a fairy tale : ONCE
17
Service organization with a wheel logo : ROTARYCLUB
19
10:1 or 3:2 at a racetrack : ODDS
20
Get up : ARISE
21
Prison unit : CELLBLOCK
23
Where Siberia is : ASIA
25
Connecticut Ivy : YALE
26
Wowed : AMAZED
29
Bird of prey's claw : TALON
33
Domicile with wheels : MOBILEHOME
38
Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were ___" : NONE
39
No room at the ___ : INN
40
Praising : LAUDING
42
London's Old ___ : VIC
43
Something a strawberry has on the outside : SEED
45
Wiseass : SMARTALECK
47
Neighbor of Jordan : SYRIA
49
Cleans, as a chalkboard : ERASES
50
Christmas trees : FIRS
53
Place where a mother might sing "Rock-a-Bye Baby" : CRIB
54
Action taken by a company in distress : PAYFREEZE
58
Breadth : SCOPE
62
Hawaiian feast : LUAU
63
They bring music to one's ears ... or a hint to 17-, 21-, 33-, 45- and 54-Across : HEADPHONES
65
Big vases : URNS
66
Rage : ANGER
67
Surmounting : ATOP
68
"Let's ___ a Deal" : MAKE
69
Always telling people what to do : BOSSY
70
Broadway award : TONY
Down
1
Zeus' wife : HERA
2
Smell : ODOR
3
Dubious sighting in the Himalayas : YETI
4
Prehistoric Southwest culture : ANASAZI
5
Crafty : SLY
6
Pagan religious practice : WICCA
7
Qualified : ABLE
8
Yours ___ (letter sign-off) : TRULY
9
"Se ___ español" : HABLA
10
Kind of logic in which all values are either true or false : BOOLEAN
11
Prefix with -plasm : ENDO
12
"Back in Black" rock band : ACDC
13
Place for a laptop other than a lap : DESK
18
Flip, as a property : RESELL
22
Diner sandwich, for short : BLT
24
Notions : IDEAS
26
Not quite right : AMISS
27
$$$ : MONEY
28
Li'l ___ of the funnies : ABNER
30
Amours : LOVES
31
In reserve : ONICE
32
Long, narrow parts of bottles : NECKS
34
Good engine sound : HUM
35
___ Mae (Whoopi's role in "Ghost") : ODA
36
Onetime Russian space station : MIR
37
Opposite of exit : ENTER
41
Obtrusively bright and showy : GARISH
44
Not concentrated, as light : DIFFUSE
46
Researcher's wear : LABCOAT
48
Televise : AIR
51
Program for addicts : REHAB
52
"___ evil ..." : SEENO
53
Gives up, as territory : CEDES
54
Juicy fruit with a pit : PLUM
55
Mystique : AURA
56
Tug sharply : YANK
57
Veers the other way : ZAGS
59
Word after lock or glom : ONTO
60
Unpaid intern, jocularly : PEON
61
Catch sight of : ESPY
64
Not mind one's own business : PRY

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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