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New York Times, Saturday, December 19, 2015

Author: Damon Gulczynski
Editor: Will Shortz
Damon J. Gulczynski
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
3111/8/20042/1/20180
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1440778
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64320

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 33 Missing: {JQ} This is puzzle # 11 for Mr. Gulczynski. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Damon J. Gulczynski notes: This is not the first themeless puzzle I've had accepted, but it is the first one I began working on that was accepted. It ... more
Damon J. Gulczynski notes:

This is not the first themeless puzzle I've had accepted, but it is the first one I began working on that was accepted. It started out as a completely different puzzle, but when I got to the final section (the southwest) I couldn't quite get it to work, and I got frustrated and set it aside. When I came back to it several months (and puzzles) later, I liked the part that didn't quite work — the EXWIFE/GAYICON/OZZFEST stack — better than anything else in the puzzle, so I started there, tore everything else down, and essentially made an entirely new puzzle.

My favorite answer in the grid is WIFFLEBALL, because I've never before seen it in a crossword puzzle and because I spent much of my adolescence playing Wiffle Ball Home Run Derby. (I always called I was Ken Griffey Jr., if you were wondering.)

My second favorite answer is BELLYLAUGH, because for years I've stared at Jenny McCarthy's book "Belly Laughs" on my bookshelf. I've never read it (I think it's my wife's … or it could be one of those random books that just ends up on your bookshelf somehow), so at least I got some use out of it in some way.

If I was making this puzzle today I probably wouldn't settle for INSTR, REPOT, OREN, MERLINS, and ARBORED all in the same puzzle (and all lumped so closely together). But I'm not making it today, so there's nothing I can do but have some General Tso's chicken, watch a CFL game, and call it night.

Jeff Chen notes: I often find that themelesses heavy on 7-letter entries are not very colorful — I find that a very few people (Tim Croce is a ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

I often find that themelesses heavy on 7-letter entries are not very colorful — I find that a very few people (Tim Croce is a good example) can really pack a grid with great 7-letter entries — but I like Damon's work today. It's usually too easy to slip into using neutral entries like ARBORED and DISEASE (and NABBERS, I see you), so I was pleasantly surprised to get a ton of great OZZFEST, SKYWAYS, TELL-ALL, COLUMBO, even "MERLIN'S Beard!" Nice save on that last one — usually a pluralized name is much worse when there's only one famous instance, but MERLIN'S Beard is in the Harry Potter world and reasonably inferable.

MERLIN'S Beard!

Weaving in a few long entries helped too. Entries like BELLY LAUGH, WIFFLE BALL, ARENA ROCK, and YOU GO GIRL! spiced things up. Even the usually neutralish LEGAL PAD becomes an asset when given such a great clue: [It contains rules for writing]. ("Rules" refer to the ruled lines.)

Working in the long answers creates an interesting layout. The grid has nice flow, everything well-connected, but each of the six mini-sections can still be filled one at a time (more or less). It's a great balance between high solving flow and ease of filling for the constructor.

That lower left corner is so beautiful, with EX-WIFE, XYZ, GAY ICON, and WIFFLE BALL — that's GOLDEN! The EAZY E / OZZFEST crossing might cause grumbling, but I don't have any sympathy there. Ozzy Osbourne (over 10M Google hits) is famous enough that OZZFEST ought to be solvable even if EAZY E is a mystery. Plus, EAZY-E is pretty darn famous himself — a whopping 8M Google hits!

I wasn't so much of a fan of the south section, with the pile-up of the awkward NABBERS, the tough OREN Ishii, General TSOS. I appreciate Damon's sentiment. What can you do given the delay on publishing themelesses is (sometimes well) over a year, and the bar for themelesses is rising so quickly?

All in all, though, quite a colorful puzzle.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 1219 ( 24,147 )
Across Down
1. Gulf of Guinea metropolis : ACCRA
6. Realizes : NETS
10. Nonsense in a recording studio : SCAT
14. Email option : YAHOO
15. First name of the "father of extreme sports" : EVEL
16. 1969 Alan Arkin comedy/drama : POPI
17. Comedian Nick with a self-titled Comedy Central show : KROLL
18. ___ 18 (title setting of a 1961 novel) : MILA
19. Traffic problem : CLOG
20. Opportune : RIPE
21. Hearty har har : BELLYLAUGH
23. Delivery people, for short : OBS
24. Etiologist's study : DISEASE
25. Measured up to : MET
26. Encouragement often given with a snap : YOUGOGIRL
28. Digs : GIBES
30. Influential industrial family : DUPONTS
31. Grasslands : LLANOS
33. Regulus's constellation : LEO
34. Foreign pronoun that sounds like a fish : ILS
35. Like some opportunities : GOLDEN
38. Fab Four, early on : MOPTOPS
42. Rapper who publicly feuded with Dr. Dre : EAZYE
43. Queen's domain : ARENAROCK
45. End of a kindergarten run : XYZ
46. Tree-lined : ARBORED
48. Any I, e.g.: Abbr. : HWY
49. Game named for a synonym of "strikeout" : WIFFLEBALL
51. Artery-cleaning aid : PLOW
52. Java Freeze maker : ICEE
53. Treat for one's dogs? : PEDI
54. Santa ___ University : CLARA
55. Conductor Lukas : FOSS
56. ___ Ishii, Lucy Liu's "Kill Bill" character : OREN
57. Rare Belmont winner : FILLY
58. Vertigo diagnosers, briefly : ENTS
59. Chinese menu possessive : TSOS
60. Clues : LEADS
1. "Brother" player of old TV and film : AYKROYD
2. Image on the back of a Canadian quarter : CARIBOU
3. Minces : CHOPSUP
4. Assumed thing : ROLE
5. Alternative to 14-Across : AOL
6. Moby Dick, to Ahab : NEMESIS
7. Closer to base? : EVILER
8. Source of sordid details : TELLALL
9. Leaves rolling in the aisles : SLAYS
10. Pound sign? : SPCA
11. Disheveled TV lieutenant : COLUMBO
12. Peaks : APOGEES
13. Ballet attire : TIGHTS
21. It's about six feet long on the Statue of Liberty : BIGTOE
22. It contains rules for writing : LEGALPAD
24. Something the ink has dried on : DONEDEAL
27. "By ___!" : GOLLY
29. Music producer: Abbr. : INSTR
32. Company with a long track record? : LIONEL
35. Cher or Madonna : GAYICON
36. Tour often featuring Black Sabbath : OZZFEST
37. Ones making collars : NABBERS
38. "___ beard!" (cry in Harry Potter books) : MERLINS
39. "Me likey!" : OOHLALA
40. Popular tech magazine : PCWORLD
41. Some airport connections : SKYWAYS
42. Split personality? : EXWIFE
44. Truck drivers' competition : ROADEO
47. Make an annual change? : REPOT
50. Cop (to) : FESS
51. French dip? : PLIE
54. Edmonton Eskimos' org. : CFL

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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