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New York Times, Saturday, December 8, 2018

Author:
Trenton Charlson and David Steinberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
174/26/201711/23/20191
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
11022551
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.77012
Trenton Charlson
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
976/16/201110/30/201918
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
76691132242
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.645173
David Steinberg

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 34 Missing: {FJQVWZ} This is puzzle # 9 for Mr. Charlson. This is puzzle # 89 for Mr. Steinberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
TRENTON: To be honest, I was surprised at how long it took David to get in touch with me after my debut puzzle came out online (about ... read more

TRENTON: To be honest, I was surprised at how long it took David to get in touch with me after my debut puzzle came out online (about fifteen minutes). So, naturally, when David mentioned the idea of collaborating on a themeless, I was quick to jump on board. I started with everyone's favorite font, COMIC SANS, and once I had the stack of 9s built, I noticed the enticing possibility of fitting OONA CHAPLIN and PG THIRTEEN underneath! I made a potential grid skeleton and sent off what I had to David, and unsurprisingly, what he sent back was full of fun stuff — I especially like the lower-right, with lively fill like THANKS OBAMA and DETOX DIET.

After a little more back-and-forth and some polishing, our grid was complete. Next came the clues — which were an absolute blast to write together! (In all seriousness, we might have had a bit too much fun.) It was a nice bonus that most of them ended up making the cut. Some of my favorites of our clues are those for 14-Across, 60-Across, 61-Across, 3-Down, 33-Down, and 49-Down.

I was initially a bit nervous to co-construct with a seasoned pro, but I needn't have worried. Collaborating with David was a fantastic experience — I'd say it was all CHILL and no PILL. On that groan-worthy note, over to you, David!

DAVID: Always a pleasure to work with Trenton! When he sent me an upper left/center packed with five long seed entries plus ultra-smooth short fill, I knew finding a similarly smooth and lively lower right would be a challenge. Once I had THANKS OBAMA and DETOX DIET in place, though, I knew I was in business. As Trenton mentioned, the highlight of the process was the cluing. There was definitely as much laughter as there was clue-writing!

Jeff Chen notes:
Something so pleasing about this grid design. I couldn't put my finger on it during my solve, but I think it's a simple factor: most ... read more

Something so pleasing about this grid design. I couldn't put my finger on it during my solve, but I think it's a simple factor: most of the long slots are oriented horizontally. There's a reason why most crosswords feature their longest answers in the across direction – it's so much easier to read left to right, compared to up to down.

Easier said than done! Themelesses usually have an equal(ish) number of long entries across vs. down, because the "four corners" approach makes construction so much easier. I like what Trenton and David have done, stacking a long answer in each of rows 1-5. Makes for such a pleasing presentation.

I wondered though if that meant they'd had to make some compromises in their long slot selection. OONA CHAPLIN isn't a star in real life as much as she is in crosswords, and THANKS OBAMA is … what? Ah, a sarcastic meme blaming Obama for all ills. Feels a bit dated now that we have others to blame. Ahem.

PG THIRTEEN is another potentially polarizing one. I did enjoy the game of first putting in PGT and then erasing it, thinking that it was impossible for anything to start with that sequence. I've come to like these only-in-crosswords entries less and less, but I can see the appeal.

Favorite clue: [Really clicks with a partner, say?]. TAP DANCES are full of clicking, ha!

Least favorite: [Honey] for DOLL. Do people call their partner DOLL these days? If I called my wife "Doll," there would be ... repercussions.

A lot of strong feature entries, CHILL PILL, DETOX DIET, PEACE SIGN, HUSH PUPPY, TAP DANCES my favorites. And SKIP ASS! Er, SKI PASS. But given the super-high standard I hold these two to, I didn't feel this one was quite POW! material.

Jim Horne notes:

This is a terrific puzzle. Thanks, Obama!

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 1208 ( 25,232 )
Across
1
Informal font : COMICSANS
10
Rock climber's challenge : CRAG
14
Out and about? : OPENLYGAY
15
Break : LULL
16
Symbol created in 1958 as the logo for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament : PEACESIGN
17
Ermine predator : SABLE
18
It follows directions : ERN
19
Talisa Maegyr's portrayer on "Game of Thrones" : OONACHAPLIN
21
It's a long story : SAGA
23
Like "Wonder Woman" : PGTHIRTEEN
24
They're no good : ILLS
26
Doctors Without Borders, e.g., briefly : NGO
27
Open courts : ATRIA
29
Really clicks with a partner, say? : TAPDANCES
35
Film villain with one eye : HAL
36
Access to the slopes : SKIPASS
38
Plot device? : HOE
39
Deep-fried ball of cornmeal : HUSHPUPPY
41
Goody two-shoes : SAINT
43
John, overseas : IAN
44
Honey : DOLL
45
"You decide" : SURPRISEME
51
High in the Andes? : ALTO
54
Sarcastic political meme that started in 2009 : THANKSOBAMA
56
Vietnam's Dien Bien ___ : PHU
57
Some "Lord of the Rings" characters : RUNES
58
Cleansing ritual : DETOXDIET
60
Female name that's the name of a female assistant backward : IRIS
61
Forger's mark? : ARTDEALER
62
Trashes : PANS
63
Color achieved during tempering : STEELBLUE
Down
1
Gets along : COPES
2
Word with light or rock : OPERA
3
2004 movie featuring a clique called the Plastics : MEANGIRLS
4
Business end? : INC
5
Last Ptolemaic ruler, informally : CLEO
6
Post masters? : SYSOPS
7
Subject of gerontology : AGING
8
Plague : NAGAT
9
Match (up) : SYNCH
10
Only three-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame : CLAPTON
11
Second-oldest national currency : RUBLE
12
Half of a 1980s sitcom duo : ALLIE
13
John in space : GLENN
17
Sea with no land boundaries : SARGASSO
20
Female deer : HINDS
22
"Moonlight" actor : ALI
25
2016 WNBA champs, informally : LASPARKS
27
"That hits the spot!" : AHH
28
Greek letter that once symbolized life and resurrection : TAU
29
Pro ___ : TIP
30
Skype or FaceTime, e.g. : APP
31
Info in many a help wanted ad : PAY
32
Metaphorical prescription : CHILLPILL
33
Long division? : EON
34
Go down : SET
37
Mila of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" : KUNIS
40
Cool air? : HIPNESS
42
___ plancha (pan-fried) : ALA
44
Out of fashion : DEMODE
45
High-traffic commercial area : STRIP
46
Bridge officer on the original Enterprise : UHURA
47
Arrested : RANIN
48
Pops : SODAS
49
He said "I learned to be a movie critic by reading Mad magazine" : EBERT
50
Dull and flat : MATTE
52
2012 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, informally : THEEU
53
Weird : OUTRE
55
"Double" or "triple" move : AXEL
59
Touch : DAB

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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