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New York Times, Friday, December 28, 2018

Author:
David Steinberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
966/16/20118/18/201918
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
76681132242
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.645173
David Steinberg

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 29 Missing: {JQXZ} Spans: 6, (2 triple stacks) This is puzzle # 90 for Mr. Steinberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Steinberg notes:
This puzzle started as just a top stack that I'd fallen in love with! The seed was GOING BACK TO CALI, though ALFA ROMEO SPIDER was ... read more

This puzzle started as just a top stack that I'd fallen in love with! The seed was GOING BACK TO CALI, though ALFA ROMEO SPIDER was high on my list as well. I initially wasn't making much headway in the bottom, so I set the puzzle aside for a while. Eventually I picked it back up again and tried MATRYOSHKA DOLLS in the bottom slot . . . suddenly, everything started working! Constructing can be a lot like solving.

Jeff Chen notes:
Day 5 of WTF? Week at XWI! I love having the chance to tell people What I'm Thankful For. So neat that the first and last across ... read more

Day 5 of WTF? Week at XWI! I love having the chance to tell people What I'm Thankful For.

So neat that the first and last across answers had a little more for the solver, even after you figured them out. LEADER OF THE PACK? Of course, it should be the first answer in the grid!

And that baffling clue for 59-Across: [Things that contain 59-Across that contain 59-Across that …]. I went searching for where 59-Across was … only to find that it was the entry for which I was solving! What a neat way to self-reference a clue. Mind … BLOWN!

There's something so delightful about starting a puzzle in this way and then capping it off in a similar way. It's not quite a mini-theme, but I loved it.

I also appreciated how David wove a couple of snazzy long entries through his triple-stacks. Can't wait for the 2020 TOKYO GAMES, and to have the juicy EYE POPPERS run through the bottom stack is eye-popping.

Most of all, there was a clue that stood out. My kids like a shiny new toy and I bet they'd LOVE it if it happened to be a PUP. Themelesses have such potential for clever cluing, and the use of this innocuous little three-letter word was excellent.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 1228 ( 25,252 )

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Across
1
Dominant figure : LEADEROFTHEPACK
16
High-end Italian sports car : ALFAROMEOSPIDER
17
1997 Notorious B.I.G. hit whose title lyric precedes "strictly for the weather" : GOINGBACKTOCALI
18
Queen who styled herself as Isis, familiarly : CLEO
19
___ Lopez opening (chess tactic) : RUY
20
Some superhero attire : CAPES
21
Yankees All-Star pitcher Severino : LUIS
22
Chris of "The Good Wife" : NOTH
24
Four-thirds of a dram: Abbr. : TSP
25
"___ time!" : ITS
26
Brother-to-be : PLEDGE
29
Cosmetics company whose letters appear in left-to-right order in "cosmetics company" : COTY
30
Electron particle emission : BETARAY
32
Relative of cashmere : ANGORA
34
Money replaced by euros : LIRE
35
Thrash : MAUL
36
Prepare for a bomb, say : GODEEP
38
Euphoria : ECSTASY
42
Court plea, briefly : NOLO
43
County east of Devon : DORSET
45
"If u ask me ..." : IMO
46
America's busiest airport after ATL and LAX : ORD
47
___ América (soccer tournament) : COPA
48
Rose : GREW
49
Screw up : MISDO
51
New toy? : PUP
53
Legislative body of Russia : DUMA
54
"Gil Blas" author : ALAINRENELESAGE
58
Everywhere : ALLOVERCREATION
59
Things that contain 59-Across that contain 59-Across that ... : MATRYOSHKADOLLS
Down
1
Online gamer's problem : LAG
2
Orate : ELOCUTE
3
"100 Years ... 100 Movies," e.g. : AFILIST
4
Many employees of the Lego company : DANES
5
So : ERGO
6
Seriously shortchange : ROB
7
___ Little, "The Wire" character : OMAR
8
Prolific : FECUND
9
Event of 1964 and 2020 : TOKYOGAMES
10
It's two hours behind Pacific: Abbr. : HST
11
Memorable time : EPOCH
12
12 points, typographically : PICA
13
Many a battery charger : ADAPTOR
14
Instrument whose name comes from the Latin for "heavenly" : CELESTA
15
Hard to eat quietly, in adspeak : KRISPY
21
___ Dems (U.K. political party, informally) : LIB
23
Highish bridge holding : TENACE
26
"Je vous en ___" (French for "You're welcome") : PRIE
27
City on the Mexican border : LAREDO
28
Things that amaze : EYEPOPPERS
29
Noted arms manufacturer : COLT
31
Designer Gucci : ALDO
33
Indicator of a coming storm : GUST
36
Friend of Tarzan : GORILLA
37
Tar : OLDSALT
39
Communication means since 1911 : AIRMAIL
40
Hobbit corrupted by the Ring : SMEAGOL
41
"That HURTS!" : YOW
42
Refusal with a contraction : NOMAAM
44
Lewdness : RAUNCH
47
Host Bert of old game shows : CONVY
48
Vim : GUSTO
50
Gucci competitor : DIOR
52
Corner office, maybe : PERK
53
Out of juice : DEAD
55
Car that went defunct in 1936 : REO
56
Place to count sheep : LEA
57
Pair of nines? : ENS

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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