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New York Times, Thursday, December 7, 2017

Author: Dan Schoenholz
Editor: Will Shortz
Dan Schoenholz
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235/5/201012/7/20170
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1.64220

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {Q} This is puzzle # 23 for Mr. Schoenholz. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: The answers to the five starred clues have a very unusual property in common. What is it? And can you think of a familiar two-word exclamation, of five and three letters, respectively, that shares that property?
Dan Schoenholz notes: Themes based on words that sound like letters have been done fairly often: a great example is this Sunday puzzle by Ashish ... more
Dan Schoenholz notes:

Themes based on words that sound like letters have been done fairly often: a great example is this Sunday puzzle by Ashish Vengsarkar (May 21, 2006). The variation I came up with was to find two-word phrases where one word sounded like a letter, and the other word either began or ended with that letter. The theme answers in the first version of the puzzle were JOHNJAY, CARIBBEANSEA, BUSYBEE, BREAKFASTTEA and SNAPPEA. Will Shortz thought the idea was interesting, but wanted all the theme answers to be consistent.

In my next version, all five theme answers began with the letter in the phrase: they included JOHNJAY, CARIBBEANSEA, BUSYBEE, TAIWANESETEA, and UPTOYOU. Will liked this version better, but felt that TAIWANESETEA was too obscure. In version 3, I incorporated TEXASTEA and CHINASEA. I was worried that the theme square count would be too low, given how short all the theme answers had become, but Will was apparently unconcerned and accepted the puzzle.

Other than that, I'll note that this is the first time that KSTATE has ever appeared in a New York Times crossword. Glad to be able to give a shout-out to the alma mater of my high-school classmate Doug Rogge, whom I reconnected with at a reunion not long before constructing this puzzle, and who still lives in the vicinity of Manhattan, Kansas. Go, Wildcats!

Jeff Chen notes: Neat finds, multi-word phrases where the last word sounds like a letter, and the first word starts with that letter. JOHN JAY, BUSY ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Neat finds, multi-word phrases where the last word sounds like a letter, and the first word starts with that letter. JOHN JAY, BUSY BEE, etc. I liked CHINA SEA and UP TO YOU best since those were tricksy. At first, I wondered, shouldn't it be something like SULU SEA? D'oh! Silly Jeff.

Interesting approach, using the notepad to make a (very small) contest out of this. (GOLLY GEE is what Will and Dan were getting at.) It didn't really work for me since there wasn't any prize involved, only sort of a "hey, challenge yourself and see if you come up with the right answer!"

(That doesn't work with my three-year-old, BTW.)

I'd much rather have gone full meta-contest. Send in your answer! Win a prize if you get it right! It works very well for Matt Gaffney's weekly contest (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!), for the WSJ Friday meta-contest, for Will's weekly NPR Puzzler, for so many things. Why not the NYT crossword?

I've chatted with Will and Joel about their decision to not go down this road, and I respect their thinking — it can be very frustrating for solvers if you can't get the answer right away. Solver dissatisfaction! Angry emails! I get that. The solver is priority #1.

But it feels like the NYT is missing out on something great. Something stickily addictive. ARE YOU LISTENING, NYT BIZ DEV PEOPLE? STICKY = MO MONEY!

And if they decided to not go down the contest route, I'd rather have seen GOLLY GEE incorporated somewhere in the grid, with the theme left up to the solver to grok. Much more standard NYT-ish. This notepad approach is sort of miry, trying to make up its mind what it is.

I did enjoy thinking of what other phrases might fit. Came up with PRINCESS AND THE PEA (okay, no initial THE is a cheat), CAN I SEE? You wonder why those weren't included. Hey, YOU WONDER WHY!

Pretty good execution on the grid. I enjoyed the bonuses of KSTATE (hugely recognizable moniker in college bball), LOSS LEADERS, TRIPLE AXELS.

Not a fan of the ADUEL, NEAPS / ENJOIN kind of stuff. The last two are tough — are they worth it to get AM TUNER, GUNSHOT, TANGENT in that toughish to fill corner? For me, not so much, but I can see how others might say yes.

Overall, I enjoyed the theme idea. Wish the halfway nature of the "contest" had been thought through better.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1207 ( 24,866 )
Across Down
1. 1, for 45° : TANGENT
8. Spotlight hog : HAM
11. Circuit : LAP
14. Radio component : AMTUNER
15. 1961 Literature Nobelist Andric : IVO
16. Words of homage : ODE
17. *First Supreme Court chief justice : JOHNJAY
18. Bungles : GOOFSUP
20. Conciliatory offering : SOP
21. *It's west of Okinawa : CHINASEA
22. Johnny who sang on the duet "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late" : MATHIS
25. Beverage that contains taurine : REDBULL
26. Part of a stage : APRON
27. Bluejacket : TAR
28. Draft choice : ALE
29. Still competing : INIT
30. Show ___ : BIZ
31. The Wildcats of the Big 12 Conference, informally : KSTATE
34. Bank statement abbr. : DEP
35. *Sort with a full schedule : BUSYBEE
37. Essen article : DER
38. Respectful greeting : SALAAM
40. ___ gun (sci-fi weapon) : ION
41. Paraphernalia : GEAR
42. Cougar prey : ELK
43. Medication-regulating org. : FDA
44. "I've seen ___" : WORSE
45. Visa problem : LATEFEE
47. Obeyed an order at the dentist's : RINSED
48. *Oil, jocularly : TEXASTEA
49. Neighbor of Ky. : IND
50. Generally : OVERALL
51. *"I don't care either way" : UPTOYOU
55. Baseball great Hodges : GIL
56. Sign of summer : LEO
57. Kitchen tools : PEELERS
58. Numbskull : ASS
59. "Yikes!" : EEK
60. Reachable : INRANGE
1. ___ Express (train from Delhi to Agra) : TAJ
2. Latin lover's word : AMO
3. Kind of root in math : NTH
4. Crime show sound effect : GUNSHOT
5. Legally prohibit : ENJOIN
6. Occurrences during half-moons : NEAPS
7. Test : TRY
8. Word before calling or learning : HIGHER
9. Circumvent : AVOID
10. Hypothetical settlement : MOONBASE
11. Big bargains, maybe : LOSSLEADERS
12. Challenge to ___ : ADUEL
13. Hip-hop's Salt-N-___ : PEPA
19. Crack in the crust : FAULT
21. Surprisingly, it just might work : CRAZYIDEA
22. Octet in "The 12 Days of Christmas" : MAIDS
23. Breathing problem : APNEA
24. Jumps rarely attempted in women's figure skating : TRIPLEAXELS
27. Christmas song contraction : TIS
30. Depress, with "out" : BUM
31. Knowledge : KEN
32. Rib : TEASE
33. Made a faux pas : ERRED
35. Common fund-raiser : BAKESALE
36. Diva's accessory : BOA
39. Place where one is encouraged to swear? : ALTAR
41. Ski slope sight : GONDOLA
43. "How ya holdin' up?" : FEELOK
44. Perpetual period in Narnia in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" : WINTER
45. San Francisco's ___ Stadium : LEVIS
46. N.J. city on the Hudson : FTLEE
47. Grow red, say : RIPEN
48. ___ party : TOGA
51. Longtime news inits. : UPI
52. Currency adopted after the Meiji Restoration : YEN
53. ___ chart : ORG
54. Exploit : USE

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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