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New York Times, Thursday, December 25, 2014

Author: Xan Vongsathorn
Editor: Will Shortz
Xan Vongsathorn
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
85/15/200912/25/20140
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2000312
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.65310

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 ... more
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 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 ... more
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 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 Down
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
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, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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