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New York Times, Friday, December 8, 2017

Author:
Paolo Pasco
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
147/17/20155/25/20193
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1300055
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.62011
Paolo Pasco

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 31 Missing: none – this is a pangram. This is puzzle # 11 for Mr. Pasco. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Paolo Pasco notes:
It started with NINJA STARS, which someone mentioned in a TV show I was watching (either 'Parks and Rec' or 'The Office,' I don't ... read more

It started with NINJA STARS, which someone mentioned in a TV show I was watching (either "Parks and Rec" or "The Office," I don't remember which one). I thought it would be a cool entry to put in the bottom row of a themeless; it has a lot of common letters, but there's that cool J that prevents it from joining the boring, un-Scrabbly likes of PEERESSES and STRESS TESTS.

I found a good 50A/54A/56A stack, and worked counterclockwise from there. The high-Scrabble-value-letter pileup around the bottom middle was kind of an accident — when I was putting in all the Z's and Q's, it was under the impression that I wouldn't be able to fill the rest of the grid with those letters in place, but it would be cool if I could. Luckily, a nice fill came together.

I don't really have anything else to say, except that I like this grid design — it has a lot of flexibility between corners, so you can really inject your personality into the grid (I like the puzzle nerd vibe of ESCAPE ROOMS and PUZZLE BOX; very on brand for me).

This is all to say that when it looks like I'm watching TV, I'm actually doing valuable crossword research.

(P.S. Big ups as usual to Will/Joel/Sam for really making the clues sparkle. 27D is lovely, especially for such a frequently-used answer)

Jeff Chen notes:
Loved that little QUAALUDE / PUZZLE BOX section! Something so awesome about all those rare letters worked in so smoothly. And ... read more

Loved that little QUAALUDE / PUZZLE BOX section! Something so awesome about all those rare letters worked in so smoothly.

And PUZZLE BOX and ESCAPE ROOM in the same grid? Squee! A puzzler's dream.

Paolo did well with his long slots, converting so many of them into snazzy material. I hitched slightly on NINJA STARS — "throwing stars," yeah? — but AP CREDIT. BARREL RACE! JEAN SHORTS! DERNIER CRI, even some great mid-length stuff in QUE PASA, BAT CAVE! Paolo sure knows how to pack in a ton of entertainment.

I'm a Queen fan, but I wasn't sure what RADIO GAGA was, nor did I recognize it. Fun title, though.

SUBTWEET fell into the same category. I think I'm just not in that target demographic. Entries like this are tough — I bet some tweeps will go (radio?) ga-ga over this entry, but it didn't do anything for me. Except make me feel old.

Some crossword glue, in OTT, GOVT / CORP, AMT, KEL (come on, someone named KEL become truly crossworthy already!). Not too bad, but considering this is a 72-word puzzle (the max allowed for a themeless), I would have liked that AMT to be closer to two. There are always trade-offs with any grid construction, but I think it's very doable to make 72-word grids snazzy AND ultra-smooth.

A lot to love here. Approaching POW!-level work, but not quite at my personal threshold.

1
S
2
C
3
A
4
T
5
J
6
E
7
A
8
N
9
S
10
H
11
O
12
R
13
T
14
S
15
P
O
P
O
16
E
S
C
A
P
E
R
O
O
M
17
F
A
C
T
18
D
E
R
N
I
E
R
C
R
I
19
S
T
R
A
20
T
I
21
E
A
R
L
22
K
E
L
23
E
L
O
24
W
A
N
E
25
T
I
N
E
26
R
27
A
D
I
O
28
G
A
G
A
29
C
H
E
T
30
I
M
I
N
L
O
V
E
31
D
A
E
32
B
A
T
C
A
V
E
33
B
I
T
E
34
S
35
A
36
T
37
O
T
T
38
Q
U
A
A
L
U
D
E
39
M
40
A
M
E
41
P
U
Z
Z
L
E
B
O
X
42
C
O
L
E
43
B
A
E
Z
44
A
M
T
45
A
N
G
46
C
O
R
P
47
K
N
E
W
48
I
49
T
50
B
A
R
51
R
E
L
R
A
52
C
E
53
N
E
K
O
54
I
M
E
A
N
T
O
S
A
Y
55
T
E
E
N
56
N
I
N
J
A
S
T
A
R
S
57
S
T
A
Y
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1208 ( 24,867 )

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Across
1
"Get outta here!" : SCAT
5
Casual cutoffs : JEANSHORTS
15
Law force, slangily : POPO
16
Breakout entertainment? : ESCAPEROOM
17
Truth we hold to be self-evident? : FACT
18
Latest thing : DERNIERCRI
19
Some low clouds : STRATI
21
Tupper of Tupperware fame : EARL
22
Orange-soda-loving character of 1990s Nickelodeon : KEL
23
Big '70s-'80s band inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017 : ELO
24
Start to go out : WANE
25
Point in a kitchen : TINE
26
Queen hit with the lyric "So don't become some background noise" : RADIOGAGA
29
Baker in a studio : CHET
30
Comment from the smitten : IMINLOVE
31
Kim ___-jung, recipient of the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize : DAE
32
Subterranean hideout in comics : BATCAVE
33
Tries to nip : BITESAT
37
Sportsman whose #4 was retired : OTT
38
Powerful sedative : QUAALUDE
39
"We Need a Little Christmas" musical : MAME
41
Frustrating thing to open : PUZZLEBOX
42
___ slaw : COLE
43
Female singer inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017 : BAEZ
44
Withdrawal fig. : AMT
45
Director Lee : ANG
46
News ___ (media giant) : CORP
47
"I was right!" : KNEWIT
50
Rodeo event : BARRELRACE
53
Indie singer ___ Case : NEKO
54
"That is ..." : IMEANTOSAY
55
Many a Generation Z member, now : TEEN
56
Throwable weapons used by assassins : NINJASTARS
57
Time at a hotel : STAY
Down
1
15, 30 and 50 are common ones, in brief : SPFS
2
Layer : COAT
3
Reward for an accelerated course, in brief : APCREDIT
4
Line on a 1040 : TOTALINCOME
5
___ knight : JEDI
6
San Jose-to-San Antonio dir. : ESE
7
Figure that can describe a lot : ACREAGE
8
Refrain syllables : NANANA
9
What may be on the horizon? : SPIRE
10
Cad : HEEL
11
Alexander ___, pioneer and early head of New York's subway system : ORR
12
Mile-high player : ROCKIE
13
Sign of availability : TORENT
14
"You're about to be photographed!" : SMILE
20
"That ship has sailed" : TOOLATE
24
Aspect of hydrodynamics : WAVE
25
Weather : THEELEMENTS
26
Tease : RIB
27
Drs.' order? : AMA
28
C-Span focus: Abbr. : GOVT
29
Language banned under Franco's dictatorship : CATALAN
31
Cameron of Hollywood : DIAZ
33
Telephone, informally : BUZZ
34
Social media post that refers to another user without directly mentioning that person : SUBTWEET
35
Trouble : ADO
36
Ranch moniker : TEX
38
"What say, José?" : QUEPASA
39
Friendly French term of address : MONAMI
40
Nelson ___, author of "The Man With the Golden Arm" : ALGREN
41
Mimic : PARROT
42
Kind of fever : CABIN
43
Parts of a Frankenstein costume : BOLTS
46
W.W.E. star John : CENA
47
See 52-Down : KEYS
48
Store with a three-syllable name in four letters : IKEA
49
High-class : TONY
51
Literally, "rule" : RAJ
52
With 47-Down, some frequently misplaced items : CAR

Answer summary: 10 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later.

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