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New York Times, Friday, December 22, 2017

Author:
Sam Trabucco
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2110/29/20157/20/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
3102357
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.68150
Sam Trabucco

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 64, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JQXZ} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 8 for Mr. Trabucco. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Sam Trabucco notes:
I wanted to make a low-word count grid, so I decided on a big stagger-stack design in the middle and tested out seed entries for a ... read more

I wanted to make a low-word count grid, so I decided on a big stagger-stack design in the middle and tested out seed entries for a while. Eventually I hit on STRESS EATER; its ultra-friendly letters in combination with how fun a term it is (and, in this case, its autobiographical nature) made me excited to try it on the bottom. Once I shifted the black squares around, the rest of the center fell quickly. It was important to me that the non-central parts of the puzzle not just feel like afterthoughts, which is why I left long slots running through it, grid-spanners on the top and bottom, and additional stacks in the upper-left and bottom-right.

Overall, I'm quite happy with how the grid turned out (just HAVE A as a problem in the middle and a few blips elsewhere which all felt worth it to me). My original grid had OBAN / OLD rather than EBAN / ELD, and though it's not necessarily a change I agree with, it's okay. I am a bit bummed to get scooped on ESCAPE ROOM by just a few weeks (not for "debut points" or whatever — I just worry about a repetitive feeling for solvers). But that's okay too — the presence of GIRL CODE renders me unable to dislike the puzzle.

I'll be flying home to visit my family for Christmas when this comes out — I hope that any families for whom solving crosswords together is part of their holiday tradition enjoy it!

Jeff Chen notes:
Sam had me at THE LEGION OF DOOM. Even if you don't know this one, what an incredibly catchy name! So catchy that the Seahawks ... read more

Sam had me at THE LEGION OF DOOM. Even if you don't know this one, what an incredibly catchy name! So catchy that the Seahawks nicknamed their Super Bowl defense "The Legion of Boom." That would also make a great feature entry in a themeless!

And it didn't stop there. Love the audacity of such a huge swath of white space in the middle of the puzzle. Stair-stacking five long entries atop each other is such a tough task. Often, an arrangement like this results in a ton of crossword glue and/or subpar long entries, but not today. AIRLINE FOOD is the butt of many jokes. GALLIVANTED is so entertaining to say. TECH SCHOOL felt slightly off at first (I was thinking "vocational school), but indeed, it's an accepted term. And a FISH STORY running through it all? Yes, please!

Now, HAVE A isn't great, and TALLAHASSEE is on the dry side, but what a great save on TALLAHASSEE — made me wonder what other cities have three sets of double letters.

Along with NERF ROCKET and SNAKE EYES, Sam hit my wavelength right on. It's an incredible amount of snazzy material to pack into a low-word-count (64) grid.

I didn't know what the GIRL CODE was. An equivalent to the "guy code"? The clue confused me even more, "sisterhood" making me think it was about nuns? It's tough to use this type of misdirection on an entry that might not be that well-known. (I'm told there was an MTV series called GIRL CODE?)

There was some ARIE, AGFA (no longer in business), DEBTEE kind of stuff I didn't care for, but the overwhelming amount of great material crushed those uglies down (with THE LEGION OF DOOM's death ray). Such a fun solving experience.

1
G
2
U
3
I
4
T
5
A
6
R
7
A
8
M
9
P
10
E
11
B
12
A
13
N
14
E
S
C
A
P
E
R
O
O
15
M
16
L
O
C
O
17
T
H
E
L
E
G
I
O
N
O
18
F
D
O
O
M
19
F
A
M
E
20
S
E
R
G
E
I
21
H
U
E
22
I
P
A
S
23
S
24
S
25
H
O
P
S
26
T
E
N
27
T
28
E
29
C
30
H
31
S
32
C
H
O
O
L
S
33
T
A
L
L
A
H
A
S
S
E
E
34
G
A
L
L
I
V
A
N
T
E
D
35
A
I
R
L
I
N
E
F
O
O
D
36
S
T
R
E
S
S
E
A
T
E
R
37
F
38
D
39
A
40
W
A
L
D
O
41
Y
42
P
R
E
S
43
A
B
C
44
U
45
H
46
O
47
K
48
A
49
Y
50
R
E
B
S
51
R
O
O
52
M
T
O
N
E
G
O
53
T
I
A
T
E
54
D
I
D
O
55
N
E
R
F
R
O
C
K
E
T
56
S
L
E
W
57
S
N
A
K
E
E
Y
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S
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1222 ( 24,881 )
Across
1
Piece of equipment at a rock concert : GUITARAMP
10
Abba who was born "Aubrey" : EBAN
14
Commitment you sometimes can't get out of? : ESCAPEROOM
16
Bats : LOCO
17
DC Comics supervillain group : THELEGIONOFDOOM
19
Celebrity : FAME
20
Composer Rachmaninoff : SERGEI
21
Coloration : HUE
22
"No bid" : IPASS
24
Bazaar makeup : SHOPS
26
Beauty mark? : TEN
27
Engineer training centers : TECHSCHOOLS
33
Major U.S. city with three pairs of double letters in its name : TALLAHASSEE
34
Went from place to place : GALLIVANTED
35
Plane fare : AIRLINEFOOD
36
One who copes by excessive snacking : STRESSEATER
37
Many cos. seek its approval : FDA
40
Children's character who wears red-and-white stripes : WALDO
41
W.W. I battle site : YPRES
43
"Black-ish" network : ABC
44
"Sure, I guess" : UHOKAY
50
Lee side? : REBS
51
What opening offers often leave : ROOMTONEGOTIATE
54
Founder of Carthage, in myth : DIDO
55
Spongy toy going up in popularity? : NERFROCKET
56
Big bunch : SLEW
57
Low throw : SNAKEEYES
Down
1
Work out : GETFIT
2
Common magnet feature : USHAPE
3
Unemotional sort, in slang : ICEMAN
4
H. P. Lovecraft output : TALES
5
"Great" one in Africa : APE
6
Rules, for short : REGS
7
Grammy-winning artist India.___ : ARIE
8
Make fast, in a way : MOOR
9
Game with a 40-millimeter ball, informally : PONG
10
Days of yore, in days of yore : ELD
11
Cried dramatically : BOOHOOED
12
Not many : ACOUPLE
13
Easily cleaned, in adspeak : NOMESS
15
Homer's beer supplier : MOE
18
You can hardly believe it : FISHSTORY
23
Stops, as an engine : STALLSOUT
25
Totally cheated : HOSED
28
Merchant Samuel who lent his name to a historic island : ELLIS
29
"I Fall to Pieces" singer : CLINE
30
Words with cow or ball : HAVEA
31
Screw over : SHAFT
32
Something ported at a portage : CANOE
33
Like many a purchase weighed at a deli : TARED
34
Guidelines observed in sisterhood : GIRLCODE
35
Bubbling, say : ATABOIL
36
Grasslands : SWARDS
37
Way out : FREAKY
38
Creditor, in financial jargon : DEBTEE
39
They may be liquid : ASSETS
42
What's always found in quotes? : PRICE
45
Term of endearment : HON
46
Easy things to dial on a rotary phone : ONES
47
"Ol' Man River" composer Jerome : KERN
48
Letters on old film boxes : AGFA
49
Duchess of ___ : YORK
52
Do some diamond cutting? : MOW
53
Corn site : TOE

Answer summary: 12 unique to this puzzle.

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