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New York Times, Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Author:
Andrew Kingsley
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
134/29/20161/7/20192
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0113053
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1.55010
Andrew Kingsley

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 40 Missing: {FJQXZ} Grid has mirror symmetry. This is puzzle # 9 for Mr. Kingsley. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Andrew Kingsley notes:
This puzzle is one in a string of themed puzzles I created this summer while directing a STEM summer camp—don't tell the ... read more

This puzzle is one in a string of themed puzzles I created this summer while directing a STEM summer camp—don't tell the campers. Having primarily constructed themeless puzzles thus far, and with the Friday/Saturday competition growing ever fiercer, I figured I'd give themes a shot. With themelesses, there's always this nagging insecurity — how could my fill be snazzier? How can I pack in one more entry? But with themed puzzles, I've enjoyed the pleasant finiteness to the four of five entries that undergird the grid. May there be more to come. Shout out to John Lieb for helping me tinker with this puzzle to find its sweet spot.

Jeff Chen notes:
CANDY CANEs! My three-year-old just got a CANDY CANE from Santa. Something so sweet about how big her eyes got. Not as sweet when ... read more

CANDY CANEs! My three-year-old just got a CANDY CANE from Santa. Something so sweet about how big her eyes got.

Not as sweet when she crunched it up in two bites and promptly asked if she could eat her brother's.

Andrew made pretty CANDY CANE designs, the top two spot-on. (The bottom two are stubby, aren't they?) I also liked that he chose candies where the last five letters are words on their own, making for legit grid entries.

I would have loved if he could have found some where the last five letters made an unrelated word, but I'm not sure if that's possible. (If only CKERS or KYWAY were a word …) It was fun to see ROCK and HEADS in the top two CANDY CANES, but they're so closely related to (POP) ROCKS and (AIR) HEADS.

I was impressed by Andrew's execution in the NW. It's so tough to work around curving entries, as they "triple-check" certain squares (they have to work with an across, down, and diagonal answer). To work in OIL LAMP, PEDICAB, LICHEN so smoothly, with no crossword glue necessary! Made me think this would be the POW!

And the NE corner was almost as good. Not sure what IRON LAW was, but it seemed self-explanatory. Along with some Kurt COBAIN, along with just an ESOS / EWS = above average execution.

But those two bottom corners. They're much bigger than the top two, and the level of difficulty shows. There's an OCA and an ORTO in the SW, and the LEU in the SE. Those aren't terrible, but OCA and LEU are on the rougher side of crossword glue. Still, as a whole, it's not terrible given how big those corners are, and how they have to integrate the CANDY CANEs.

Oh, but ANSA. Oh, oh, oh. (Reverse of HO HO HO.) Grinchy for novice solvers!

All in all, too much that can potentially turn off newer solvers.

Nice idea, such pretty visuals, but perhaps too much to pull off in an early-week grid. Maybe choosing seven-letter candies in the bottom two corners (with shorter crooks) would have been better, allowing for a smoother end product.

1
S
2
O
3
P
4
S
5
W
6
E
7
E
8
T
9
R
10
I
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G
12
P
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13
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14
T
O
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T
H
15
H
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A
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A
L
D
O
17
E
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N
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18
E
S
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L
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H
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C
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B
A
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B
A
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C
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D
D
L
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E
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A
M
A
S
S
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D
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M
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A
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A
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B
32
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33
A
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36
C
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37
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38
S
39
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40
A
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41
R
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42
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A
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L
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C
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B
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B
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B
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M
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D
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1219 ( 24,878 )
Across
1. Soak (up) : SOP
4. With 14-Across, weakness for sugar : SWEET
9. Fix, as a race : RIG
12. It's on the waterfront : PIER
14. See 4-Across : TOOTH
15. Juno's Greek counterpart : HERA
16. Designer Gucci : ALDO
17. With 25-Down, 2012 British Open winner : ERNIE
18. Those, in Spain : ESOS
19. What a rolling stone is unlikely to gather : LICHEN
21. Kurt of Nirvana : COBAIN
23. Retro : BACKIN
24. Baby : CODDLE
26. Pile up : AMASS
27. A little thick : DIM
30. Same old, same old : USUAL
31. Police dept. alert : APB
32. Sharper : SAVVIER
35. Cries of disgust : EWS
36. Christmas tree decoration ... or a hint to what the circled letters form : CANDYCANE
38. Gets underway : STARTS
41. I'm not buying it! : RENTAL
45. "___ take arms against a sea of troubles": Hamlet : ORTO
46. Something squirreled away? : ACORN
50. Like black sheep : RARE
51. Tree with smooth bark : BIRCH
53. Long-handled tool : HOE
54. Language group that gave us "banjo" and "gumbo" : BANTU
55. ___-chic (hippie-inspired fashion) : BOHO
56. "But of course!" : AHA
57. Popular footwear from Down Under : UGGS
58. "That would stink" : HOPENOT
60. "Gilmore Girls" protagonist : LORELAI
63. Shield : PROTECT
64. Part of a shore dinner : MUSSELS
65. Dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot : SOS
66. "Yahoo!" : YAY
67. Put an end to something? : SIT
68. Blue Stater, for short : DEM
Down
1. Baden-Baden, for one : SPA
2. "Moby-Dick" light source : OILLAMP
3. Human-powered taxi : PEDICAB
4. Vermeer and Rembrandt contemporary : STEEN
5. Tattered : WORN
6. Forever and a day : EON
7. Suffix with diet : ETIC
8. 2000s teen drama set in Newport Beach : THEOC
9. What's left : RESIDUE
10. Absolutist's rule : IRONLAW
11. Number for a surgeon? : GAS
13. Tends to, as a cradle : ROCKS
15. Flip call : HEADS
20. Show disdain for, in a way : HISSAT
22. Recurring action role for Matt Damon : BOURNE
23. Sound heard from a herd : BAA
25. See 17-Across : ELS
27. Netflix item : DVD
28. "The Holly and the ___" (Christmas song) : IVY
29. Hearing aid? : MIC
33. Archaeological handle : ANSA
34. Make, as dough : EARN
36. Stitch with a hook : CROCHET
37. Fills with fury : ENRAGES
38. Loud lament : SOB
39. New York City bridge, informally, with "the" : TRIBORO
40. Fate who cuts the thread of life : ATROPOS
42. 2010 Disney film that set a record for the most expensive animated movie ever made : TANGLED
43. Gallery sign : ARTSALE
44. Romanian currency : LEU
47. Given to talk : CHATTY
48. "Would you look at that!" : OOH
49. Worlds : REALMS
52. Potful for Winnie-the-Pooh : HONEY
54. Succumb to pressure? : BURST
58. Some office printers, for short : HPS
59. South American tuber : OCA
61. Arles assent : OUI
62. Suffix with real or social : ISM

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

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