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New York Times, Thursday, December 25, 2014

Author:
Xan Vongsathorn
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
95/15/20098/2/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2000412
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.65420
Xan Vongsathorn

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 42 Missing: {FJQ} This is puzzle # 8 for Mr. Vongsathorn. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Xan Vongsathorn notes:
Because the anagramming makes this more challenging than a typical rebus puzzle, I decided to help solvers out by placing the rebus ... read more

Because the anagramming makes this more challenging than a typical rebus puzzle, I decided to help solvers out by placing the rebus squares symmetrically. That turned out to be pretty constraining for both the theme answers and the resulting grid.

I spend a lot of time on grid design, and it's worth noting that this grid is definitely an odd one, even for a rebus puzzle. I tried some of the more obvious designs and ended up rejecting them on the basis of fill, before settling on those odd crosses in the center. For instance, the most obvious tweak to the current design is to replace that left cross ...

. * .
* * *
. * .

with this instead:

. * .
* . .
. . *

(where * = black square, . = white square)

This is a much more efficient use of black squares which increases interlock substantially without altering the layout of the words. But it came at the cost of boring or lousy fill and I wasn't willing to pay the high price. That's a judgment call. Better interlock makes a puzzle more fun to solve, and so does better fill.

Jeff Chen notes:
I really enjoyed this solve. I don't think rebuses as a genre are completely trite or tired yet — there is a reason that Will ... read more

I really enjoyed this solve. I don't think rebuses as a genre are completely trite or tired yet — there is a reason that Will spaces out his rebus puzzles these days though. So I do think that it's important to push the boundaries a bit. I like what Xan has done here, using MIXED (NUT)S as a rationale for six rebus squares, each one containing a unique permutation of the letters N, U, and T. Sputnik

Some of those sequences are easy to work in. There's a ton of phrases incorporating *TUN*, for example. But UTN? TNU? NTU? Those are much more difficult. I really liked the assortment of strong phrases Xan picked out, from DOW(NTU)RN to SP(UTN)IK to OU(TNUM)BER to WE(TNU)RSE.

I felt slightly uncomfortable at the [Milk maid?] clue for WETNURSE, BTW. I'm not sure why that is. At first glance perhaps it seems like it could be a fun bit of wordplay around a common phrase? But it didn't sit quite right with me, perhaps feeling a bit too off-color for the NYT.

I'm impressed with Xan's gridwork. Aside from the start, where I never know if I should love or hate YEGG, and the awkward ETCHA, I appreciated that I kept on going and going without hitching over gluey bits. All the cleanliness, with even GO VIRAL, ARCHWAY, TAP WATER, DEVIL RAY, etc. worked in = admirable job.

I might have even given it the POW if it hadn't been for the aforementioned items, plus one aspect I usually care nothing about: the number of black squares. That in itself is meaningless to me, but there are two issues in the way Xan lays out his grid: 1.) the choked off feeling from subsection to subsection, and 2.) the visual impact of all those chunks of black. Those two central crosses do a number on the feng shui of the grid.

But overall, I appreciate the fact that Xan pushes the rebus genre a little here with a well-executed grid which gave me a very pleasurable solve. And that [Break down in tears?] clue was gold. I didn't understand it even after filling in RIP UP, but I loved that headslap moment of realizing that "tears" meant "rips," not "salty discharge."

1
Y
2
A
3
M
4
D
5
O
6
T
7
B
8
T
9
W
10
B
11
O
12
P
13
E
M
O
14
E
P
A
15
O
R
E
16
G
A
N
O
17
G
O
T
18
E
V
E
N
19
O
U
TNU
M
B
E
R
20
G
UNT
O
T
I
N
G
21
T
E
R
S
E
S
T
22
A
L
P
23
S
U
D
S
24
E
25
H
26
S
27
R
I
28
P
U
P
29
E
30
A
31
R
32
T
33
H
34
T
A
P
35
W
A
T
E
R
36
M
O
R
E
37
C
H
UTN
E
Y
38
N
R
39
A
40
P
E
TUN
I
A
41
H
A
I
R
42
E
N
43
G
E
N
D
E
R
44
A
S
K
E
45
D
46
M
A
Y
O
R
47
A
D
D
48
O
49
V
A
L
50
V
O
51
L
52
A
53
R
54
C
55
H
W
A
Y
56
M
I
X
E
57
D
58
NUT
59
S
60
T
A
R
A
NTU
L
A
61
O
R
I
G
A
M
I
62
O
V
E
R
R
U
N
63
M
A
D
64
Z
E
N
65
Z
E
D
66
N
E
S
67
A
L
E
68
E
G
G
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1225 ( 23,788 )
Across
1
Cassava lookalike : YAM
4
Point : DOT
7
Bit of texting shorthand : BTW
10
Charlie Parker genre : BOP
13
Like a style with eyeliner and long bangs : EMO
14
Org. concerned with 34-Across : EPA
15
Sprinkle at a pizzeria : OREGANO
17
Settled a score : GOTEVEN
19
Be bigger than, in a way : OUTNUMBER
20
Packing : GUNTOTING
21
Most to the point : TERSEST
22
Backdrop for Chamonix : ALP
23
Brewskis : SUDS
24
Sounds of indifference : EHS
27
Break down in tears? : RIPUP
29
Soil : EARTH
34
Drink that's a freebie : TAPWATER
36
"Keep it coming!" : MORE
37
Samosa topping : CHUTNEY
38
20-Across grp. : NRA
40
Flowery girl's name : PETUNIA
41
Tiny victory margin : HAIR
42
Give rise to : ENGENDER
44
Sought consent from : ASKED
46
Joe Quimby on "The Simpsons," e.g. : MAYOR
47
Kick in : ADD
48
Track figure : OVAL
50
Stereo knob: Abbr. : VOL
52
Keystone site : ARCHWAY
56
Party snack ... or a hint to six squares in this puzzle : MIXEDNUTS
60
Hairy menace : TARANTULA
61
Artwork from a folder : ORIGAMI
62
Pest-ridden, say : OVERRUN
63
Raging : MAD
64
___ state : ZEN
65
What an English organization lacks? : ZED
66
Duck Hunt console, for short : NES
67
It may be blonde : ALE
68
Poacher's need : EGG
Down
1
One doing safe work? : YEGG
2
Come (to) : AMOUNT
3
Sporting lead-in to cross : MOTO
4
Aquarium giant : DEVILRAY
5
Like some mining and barbecues : OPENPIT
6
Zest : TANG
7
Start, as a computer : BOOTUP
8
Leveled : TRUED
9
Milk maid? : WETNURSE
10
Dish : BABE
11
___ column : ONES
12
After-dinner serving : PORT
16
Baseball execs : GMS
18
Info for an airport greeter : ETA
23
Like an out-of-body experience : SURREAL
24
___ Sketch : ETCHA
25
Rib-ticklers : HAHAS
26
Startling newsmaker of 10/4/1957 : SPUTNIK
28
Calf's place, maybe : PEN
30
"Agreed!" : AMEN
31
Feature of Rome's Pantheon : ROTUNDA
32
Presided over, as a case : TRIED
33
Presided over, as a case : HEARD
35
"As you ___" : WERE
39
At all : ANY
40
Blonde's secret : PEROXIDE
43
Really take off, in a way : GOVIRAL
45
Economic slump : DOWNTURN
46
Ancient pyramid builders : MAYANS
49
Merit : VALUE
51
Calf's place : LEG
52
The whole spectrum : ATOZ
53
Four-star : RAVE
54
Props on the street : CRED
55
Laugh sound : HAR
56
Home to "The Persistence of Memory," informally : MOMA
57
Leave stumbling : DAZE
58
Apple pie seasoning : NUTMEG
59
Be a prima donna, e.g. : SING

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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