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New York Times, Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Author: Benjamin Kramer
Editor: Will Shortz
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112/13/20170
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1.66010
Benjamin Kramer

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 35 Missing: {JQ} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Kramer. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Benjamin Kramer notes: I'm a pediatric ophthalmologist in Charlotte, NC. I started making crosswords while procrastinating writing the annual family ... more
Benjamin Kramer notes:

I'm a pediatric ophthalmologist in Charlotte, NC. I started making crosswords while procrastinating writing the annual family Christmas letter. My toddlers' exploits were fascinating, no doubt, but a holiday-themed crossword was more fun to conceive and share. I've been hooked ever since. I put NYT publication on the bucket list and was flummoxed when my second submission was accepted.

As for this puzzle, I saw HATCH hidden in WHAT CHILD IS THIS during Christmas puzzle-making and tried to uncover a few more hidden entrances. That effort fizzled, but a different definition of "entrance" proved fruitful. FRENCH ANTILLES seemed like a winner, and I was lucky to find some other decent entries. The fill was crummy in the SW with the HIDDEN ENTRANCE revealer, so I switched to the current incarnation. Given the awkward themer lengths, low word count, and open corners, I'm mostly happy with how things turned out.

I gleaned some lessons through Will's editing. First, if you start your debut puzzle with a chemical weapon, it's best not to pun about it ("Tool to spread the mustard!"). Also, crosswordese (LIA/III) is preferable to an impolite entry (44-Across: ??AZ). Thanks to the editorial staff for the acceptance and polishing.

I learned much of the construction craft by reading critiques on the crossword blogs, where mid-week puzzles are often savaged, so I harbor a masochistic curiosity in them today.

I doubt I'll end up as the Minnie Minoso of crossword-making, but hopefully, this won't be my last effort. Many thanks to my parents for their test solves and to my wife Julie for sacrificing the Holiday missive.

Jeff Chen notes: Three good finds, ENCHANT, RIVET, and DELIGHT spanning across phrases. Tough to discover such long words inside colorful themers! ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Three good finds, ENCHANT, RIVET, and DELIGHT spanning across phrases. Tough to discover such long words inside colorful themers! FRENCH ANTILLES was particularly DELIGHTful, almost as if the crossword gods had planted that, just waiting for it to be unearthed.

Oddly, SIDE LIGHTING was the least DELIGHTful to me, as the term felt a bit stilted (at least compared to how snappy DRIVE THROUGH is). It does appear to be a real thing in photography, though. MADE LIGHT OF would have hit me more strongly.

I must admit, I didn't totally grok the theme. MAKE AN ENTRANCE (ah, that's why Ben didn't use MADE LIGHT OF!) relates to these "captivate" synonyms … how? Isn't making an entrance more being flashy, showy? Huh.

I would have liked a stronger connection, something that better explained "hidden words meaning captivate." Not sure what that would be, though. Perhaps a fourth themer, without a revealer, leaving the solver to make the connection?

Tough to hide BEGUILE or ENTHRALL within colorful phrases though …

Such strong gridwork for a debut — now THAT I found DELIGHTful! Entries of length 12-14 are so awkward, forcing bad spacing in a 15x15 puzzle. Note how squished together the four themers had to be. But Ben hardly blinked, even working TATER TOT though three themers.

And few constructors would tackle big corners like the NW / SE. A 7x4 chunk of white will almost always require some crossword glue or a bunch of blah entries, especially when one side of it is fixed in place by a themer (FRENCH ANTILLES). There is OTIC in the NW, but to work in GAS BOMB (which I *think* is a real thing?) and BARNARD is good stuff.

Opposite corner turned out well, too. TOE POKE wasn't familiar to me, but it makes sense, and I've certainly seen enough kid soccer games to know what it was. Along with GO KAPUT and zero dabs of crossword glue, it's strong work.

Wish the revealer had a bigger impact; a sharper a-ha moment. The grid execution was strong enough, with three great long-words-hidden-within-themers, that it could have been a POW! contender if it had.

ADDED NOTE: Moron here. Not an ENTRANCE as in a way in, but ENTRANCE as in "captivate." D'oh! I even thought about it for a few hours and still didn't make the connection until I read Ben's note. Glad I did! A bit too clever for me, apparently.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1213 ( 24,872 )

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Students & seniors
Across Down
1. Certain chemical weapon : GASBOMB
8. Mars produces billions of them each week : MANDMS
14. The Red Baron, for one : AVIATOR
15. Like income from municipal bonds, usually : TAXFREE
16. Iron compound found in steel : FERRITE
17. Wrinkle, e.g. : AGELINE
18. Island group near Dominica : FRENCHANTILLES
20. Europe's largest active volcano : ETNA
21. Stop working : DIE
22. Turf : SOD
23. Truth ___ : SERUM
26. Org. concerned with reactions : NRC
28. One with a beard : GOAT
31. Option at many a fast-food restaurant : DRIVETHROUGH
34. ___ Fáil (Irish coronation stone) : LIA
37. Reddit Q&A session, briefly : AMA
38. Old Swedish coins : ORE
39. Child's Christmas wish : TOY
40. Producer of horizontal shadows : SIDELIGHTING
44. Rodrigo ___ de Vivar (El Cid) : DIAZ
45. Exclaim : CRY
46. Dance with a percussive effect : STOMP
49. "Family Guy" daughter : MEG
51. Nabokov novel : ADA
53. Optima and Sedona : KIAS
55. Arrive with fanfare ... or what the shaded squares do? : MAKEANENTRANCE
59. Not strict : LENIENT
60. Unconventional soccer kick : TOEPOKE
61. Does half of a mountaineering expedition : ASCENDS
62. Poured out : EFFUSED
63. Attack from a hiding place : WAYLAY
64. Wooers : SUITORS
1. TV debater's worry : GAFFE
2. Turns away : AVERTS
3. Crumbly cheese similar to feta : SIRENE
4. Women's college affiliated with Columbia : BARNARD
5. Suffix with psych- : OTIC
6. ___-eaten : MOTH
7. "Cabbage" : BREAD
8. Storied gift bearers : MAGI
9. Ice skaters' jumps : AXELS
10. Image on the middle of a Super Bowl field : NFLLOGO
11. Dehydrated : DRIEDOUT
12. Clothing store department : MENS
13. "You get me?" : SEE
15. Food item sometimes called a "spud puppy" : TATERTOT
19. Square after four : NINE
24. Territory north of Afghanistan, in Risk : URAL
25. Copy : MIMIC
27. Captain America portrayer Evans : CHRIS
29. Past : AGO
30. Biblical possessive : THY
32. Drifters : VAGRANTS
33. $2 for Mediterranean Avenue, in Monopoly : RENT
34. Drug taken in tabs : LSD
35. Jr.'s junior : III
36. Insistence : ADAMANCY
41. Book after Lamentations : EZEKIEL
42. Literary alter ego : HYDE
43. Stop working : GOKAPUT
47. Minnie who played in Major League Baseball in five different decades : MINOSO
48. Winning player in Super Bowl I : PACKER
50. Davis of "Thelma & Louise" : GEENA
52. Preliminary payments : ANTES
54. Gardener's bagful : SEEDS
55. ___ Verde National Park : MESA
56. Boy who owns Buzz Lightyear and Woody : ANDY
57. Food sold in blocks : TOFU
58. Mortgage adjustment, for short : REFI
59. Case study? : LAW

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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