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New York Times, Monday, December 12, 2016

Author:
Mark McClain
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
28/17/201612/12/20160
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0101000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.57010
Mark McClain

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 40 Missing: {JQZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. McClain. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Mark McClain notes:
Modern language study was my favorite academic pursuit in high school and college (though I ended up majoring in economics). I learned ... read more

Modern language study was my favorite academic pursuit in high school and college (though I ended up majoring in economics). I learned Spanish and French as a student, basic German when I was stationed in Heidelberg in the military, and even a bit of tourist Italian. When I started constructing crosswords, I made sure that the 100 or so most common words of several languages were in my word list (to the occasional dismay of some editors). I've used language gimmicks in several puzzles (recently-used answer/clue: TRE – "It's overdue in Italia"). I even did a novelty puzzle in which every single entry (or its clue) was in a language other than English or involved something outside the U.S.

This puzzle has six languages from five different language groups (all Eurasian), with Hindi and Urdu being forms of Hindustani differentiated only by their alphabets and regional/specialty vocabulary. A total of 13 answers are involved with the theme, which makes it undoubtedly the most theme-intensive puzzle I've done. This made for a challenging incidental fill, which was improved a bit with some prodding from Will. I suspect most solvers will figure out the theme early on, but since there's no clue which languages go where, there's still some puzzling to do.

Jeff Chen notes:
Six literal foreign LANGUAGE BARRIERs today, a black square breaking up HIN/DU, UR/DU, etc. It's a ton of theme material to work with, ... read more

Six literal foreign LANGUAGE BARRIERs today, a black square breaking up HIN/DU, UR/DU, etc. It's a ton of theme material to work with, and it was fun to see so many different languages. I especially liked the longer ones — POL/ISH and GER/MAN, since it's really easy to work in short chunks such as TH and AI.

Not a surprise that Mark went up to the max of 78 words, given the high theme density. He uses his black squares pretty well to separate his themers, but it does make for a fairly fractured grid. There's a big chunk of puzzle in the upper right, another one in the lower right, and a diagonal running from the NW to SE, with the three sections barely connected. This type of layout makes constructing much easier, since you can tackle each chunk one at a time, but it made for a pretty choppy solve for me.

Also a ton of tough vocabulary and names. I don't think there was anything unfair, but I wonder if TOPOL, LILLE, and MASUR might turn off some newer solvers.

Throw in some crossword glue of DO A, HUIT, I LAY, YELLO (only one way to clue it), RIAA, and it didn't feel as elegant as I like a Monday puzzle to be.

I did enjoy the bonuses of MERCUTIO and GIFT SHOP, though. Tough to work in long bonus entries with so much already going on, so that was appreciated.

It would have been really cool to employ very long languages, using more colorful entries — aMANDA / RINgtone, lifeSPAN / ISHmael, gentleBEN / GALIleo, etc. — but I did like seeing so many languages from around the globe worked in.

Now to figure out how to make AZERBAIJANI work with this theme ...

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 1212 ( 24,506 )
Across
1
Lower part of the leg : SHIN
5
"Mon ___!" (French cry) : DIEU
9
Noted rocker/humanitarian : BONO
13
Homeland of 9-Across : EIRE
14
Omega's opposite, alphabetically : ALPHA
16
Stratford-upon-___ : AVON
17
Ones taking captain's orders : CREW
18
Maestro Kurt ___ : MASUR
19
Responsibility : DUTY
20
Coffee break hour : TENAM
22
Knight time? : YORE
23
Visa alternative : AMEX
24
Folk singer Pete : SEEGER
26
Frenzied : MANIC
28
Brother of Donald Trump Jr. : ERIC
30
"The Star-Spangled Banner," e.g. : ANTHEM
34
High/low card : ACE
37
Egypt's capital : CAIRO
40
Two-door auto : COUPE
41
Communication problem ... illustrated literally by the black squares before 5-, 19-, 26-, 54-, 65- and 73-Across : LANGUAGEBARRIER
44
"Have a taste!" : TRYIT
45
Biscuit with English tea : SCONE
46
Item in a golfer's bag : TEE
47
Norway's patron saint : OLAFII
49
Landing approximations, for short : ETAS
51
Chaim who played Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof" : TOPOL
54
Formal-sounding commitment : ISHALL
58
Works of Keats : ODES
61
Sluggers' stats : RBIS
63
Great Lakes natives : ERIES
64
Friends and neighbors : KITH
65
Wasn't up to par : AILED
67
Slightest bit : IOTA
68
Late attorney general Janet : RENO
69
Mello ___ (soft drink) : YELLO
70
Dart (around) : FLIT
71
"Make it snappy!" : ASAP
72
Actress Ward : SELA
73
Cookie holders : TINS
Down
1
Religious offshoots : SECTS
2
Successful job applicant : HIREE
3
"Me, Myself & ___" (Jim Carrey movie) : IRENE
4
Music genre for 36-Down : NEWAGE
5
Reservoir creator : DAM
6
"Now ___ me down to sleep" : ILAY
7
English racing venue : EPSOM
8
"Star Trek" officer with an earpiece : UHURA
9
Troublemaker : BADACTOR
10
It goes down a fallopian tube : OVUM
11
A sixteenth is a short one : NOTE
12
Black gemstone : ONYX
15
Bull-riding venue : ARENA
21
Friend of Romeo : MERCUTIO
25
Lobbying org. that fights music piracy : RIAA
27
Augment : INCREASE
29
"Smokes" : CIGS
31
Eight, in France : HUIT
32
Weapon in fencing : EPEE
33
A ___ pittance : MERE
34
Choir voice : ALTO
35
Sagan who hosted "Cosmos" : CARL
36
One-named singer from County Donegal : ENYA
38
___ center (place for a Ping-Pong table) : REC
39
Orchestra reed : OBOE
42
Moneymaking part of a museum : GIFTSHOP
43
2016 #1 album by Rihanna : ANTI
48
"___ the Lord my soul to keep" : IPRAY
50
Short ___ (quick work) : SHRIFT
52
Theater awards : OBIES
53
City NNE of Paris : LILLE
55
Garlicky mayo : AIOLI
56
Admit at the door : LETIN
57
Exams for future J.D.s : LSATS
58
Vegetable that becomes gooey when cooked : OKRA
59
Conks out : DIES
60
Sicilian volcano : ETNA
62
Go along with a bear market : SELL
66
___ good deed : DOA

Answer summary:

Found bugs or have suggestions?