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New York Times, Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Author:
David Alfred Bywaters
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
312/13/20162/19/20190
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1020000
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1.63000
David Alfred Bywaters

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JZ} Spans: 2 This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Bywaters. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Alfred Bywaters notes:
I'm delighted to have a puzzle in the Times, as would have been my great-grandmother, Maria Thusnelda Steichmann Kuraner, an early ... read more

I'm delighted to have a puzzle in the Times, as would have been my great-grandmother, Maria Thusnelda Steichmann Kuraner, an early crossword connoisseur, shown above. (She took a better picture than I do.)

I've enjoyed comparing my submitted version with Will Shortz's finished product. Of my 76 clues, 36 (47%) were changed, almost always (I confess) for the better. I've tried to assign a reason for each change, failing only in one case ("per unit" for "apiece").

  • Ten clues were made less obscure.
  • Eight were improved in style ("prefix," for example, became "lead-in," and "retailer" "seller").
  • Four were made less stupid—that is, some attempt at cleverness on my part was tactfully removed.
  • Three were made more accurate (apparently, the coati's range is not restricted to South America).
  • One was better spelled (there's no "e" in "chocolaty").
  • And nine were made more interesting, of which my favorite is 6 Down: RAID "Unwelcome cry at the front door." I wish I'd thought of that.
Jeff Chen notes:
Debut! Kooky interpretations of legal-sounding phrases made for an entertaining solve. My wife and I are hooked on 'The Grinder,' ... read more

Debut! Kooky interpretations of legal-sounding phrases made for an entertaining solve. My wife and I are hooked on "The Grinder," where Rob Lowe plays a TV lawyer-turned-pseudo-real-one, so I really liked this theme. THREE PIECE SUITS read as lawsuits involving too-easy jigsaw puzzles made me laugh. Same with BOXER BRIEFS as legal briefs about pugilists.

The only one that I hesitated on was DENTAL RETAINERS. I liked the wordplay using the dual meaning of the word "retainer," but don't most kids call their mouthwear just a retainer? The phrase felt manufactured to fit into the theme.

Debuts often suffer in their short fill, as smoothing out a grid is a skill that can take a while to get down pat. But David does amazingly well, really just an ENE here, some ERNS there. WINEY did seem a bit iffy, but it does have dictionary support.

There were a few mid-length entries that felt inelegant to me, though. SCORERS … I guess I could see Kevin Durant or Steph Curry called a SCORER. An INBOARD motor … I was so sure it was ONBOARD. But INBOARD does also have clear dictionary support. GO FETCH … not just FETCH? After consideration, I think these three are all probably fine, but I wouldn't go out of my way to use them in another crossword.

What I would go out of my way for are WHEEDLED and VARMINTS, excellent choices for long bonus fill. Both are such vivid, interesting words. Both make me think of Looney Tunes characters, and for me, that's a great thing. (Not as much for my poor wife.)

Very enjoyable early-week puzzle; looking forward to more from David. I'm sure his great-grandmother is beaming with pride up there somewhere.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 1213 ( 24,507 )
Across
1
"What a relief!" : PHEW
5
Pleasant scent : AROMA
10
Gaelic language : ERSE
14
Per unit : EACH
15
Home on an estate : MANOR
16
Fail to persevere : QUIT
17
Legal actions provoked by oversimple jigsaw puzzles? : THREEPIECESUITS
20
Lead-in to kraut or braten : SAUER
21
"Well, obviously!" : DUH
22
Like some French sauces : WINEY
23
Ad word suggesting a lack of undesirable moisture : DRI
25
Object of early Christian condemnation : PAGAN
27
Mother-of-pearl source : ABALONE
31
Like a short play : ONEACT
35
Law documents concerning pugilists? : BOXERBRIEFS
38
Tavern : BAR
39
Daring : BOLD
40
See 51-Across : ONRYE
41
Smoke an e-cigarette : VAPE
42
Paris-to-Berlin dir. : ENE
43
Court precedents involving games of hoops? : BASKETCASES
45
Affirmative to a commanding officer : YESSIR
47
Touchdown pass catchers, e.g. : SCORERS
48
Does a tech job : CODES
51
With 40-Across, common deli sandwich : HAM
52
Numbskull : IDIOT
55
Animal with an opposable thumb : APE
57
Trace of color : TINGE
61
Attorneys' fees paid with gold fillings? : DENTALRETAINERS
64
Departed : LEFT
65
Company that buried 700,000+ unsold video games in 1983 : ATARI
66
Journey : TRIP
67
Love god : EROS
68
Tatter : SHRED
69
Conglomerate originally named Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo : SONY
Down
1
Parrots and ferrets : PETS
2
Response to a joke : HAHA
3
Neutral shade : ECRU
4
Coaxed : WHEEDLED
5
Rock-and-roll need : AMP
6
Unwelcome cry at the front door : RAID
7
Best : ONEUP
8
Chocolaty hot beverage : MOCHA
9
Exist : ARE
10
Like most carousel animals : EQUINE
11
Destroy : RUIN
12
Internet destination : SITE
13
Online crafts seller : ETSY
18
What "oopsy" signals : ERROR
19
Graceful birds : SWANS
24
Like some boat motor types : INBOARD
26
Command to a dog after a ball is thrown : GOFETCH
27
Monk's home : ABBEY
28
Frontiersman Daniel : BOONE
29
Wheel connectors : AXLES
30
Shore birds : ERNS
32
Humiliate : ABASE
33
Pickled flower bud : CAPER
34
Lock of hair : TRESS
36
Annoy : IRK
37
Places for contacts : EYES
41
Troublesome critters : VARMINTS
43
Flora and fauna : BIOTA
44
South American animal also known as a "hog-nosed coon" : COATI
46
Big name in lawn care : SCOTTS
49
Google ___ : EARTH
50
Primitive weapon : SPEAR
52
Not working : IDLE
53
Bambi, e.g. : DEER
54
What a help desk provides : INFO
56
Ser : Spanish :: ___ : French : ETRE
58
Fiddling emperor : NERO
59
Smile : GRIN
60
Get a look at : ESPY
62
___ Cruces, N.M. : LAS
63
Help : AID

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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