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New York Times, Thursday, December 7, 2017

Author:
Dan Schoenholz
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
235/5/201012/7/20170
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10244300
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1.64220
Dan Schoenholz

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 Vengsarkar ... read more

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 ... read more

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
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
Down
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.

Found bugs or have suggestions?