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New York Times, Friday, February 10, 2017

Author:
Kyle Mahowald
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
183/22/20042/10/20171
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2303262
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.60111
Kyle Mahowald

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 36 Missing: {QXZ} This is puzzle # 18 for Mr. Mahowald. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Kyle Mahowald notes:
When I first made this puzzle (many months ago), I tried to get MENA out of the grid. Then I heard about a movie called 'Mena' ... read more

When I first made this puzzle (many months ago), I tried to get MENA out of the grid. Then I heard about a movie called "Mena" starring Tom Cruise and coming out in January 2017. So I left it in there and figured I'd ask Will and Joel to run the puzzle after the movie came out, and I'd be the hippest, most current MENA-cluer in all the land. But now it turns out that the movie isn't coming out until September. And also it won't even be called "Mena." It will instead be called "American Made." Score another one for "Actress Suvari." There's a lesson here somewhere about....something.

The original grid I submitted, unfortunately, had a dupe (EAR/DOGEAR), which I didn't notice until I saw that Will and Joel edited the final grid. The dupe's removal caused CAIRO to become the obscure-ish BOITO and ARI to become the prefix-y OVI. Talking to constructors and solvers, I've noticed that dupes and near dupes are an area where there's a good deal of aesthetic disagreement. I'm personally not so bothered by something like EAR/DOGEAR, where the two entries could be clued totally differently. But I know that sort of dupe can be fingers-on-a-chalkboard-level annoying to some solvers.

Looking back at the grid, I didn't intend for the long answers to all feel like they came from the same cultural universe, but they sort of do: one could imagine a DATA SCIENTIST playing MINECRAFT while watching TREVOR NOAH before going to see a JESSE EISENBERG movie. I prefer the opposite: that the long answers in themeless puzzles come from diverse walks of life. But I wound up liking this particular grid the best and how these answers all fit together. Hope you enjoyed the solve!

Jeff Chen notes:
DATA SCIENTIST as the 'sexiest job of the 21st century' = a great entry and clue combination. Sometimes I get overly excited about a ... read more

DATA SCIENTIST as the "sexiest job of the 21st century" = a great entry and clue combination. Sometimes I get overly excited about a phrase I might seed a crossword with, and I might even finish out the grid before realizing that it can't take a very good clue. "Uncanny valley" was one like this — neat phrase, bizarre idea, but how are you going to clue it? DATA SCIENTIST, with its fantastic clue, makes for the type of seed I love.

Strong gridwork. Kyle does use a 72-word grid — the max allowed for a themeless — which often comes with fewer long slots than I like. But Kyle employed some very long entries, JESSE EISENBERG, DATA SCIENTIST, ILL DRINK TO THAT!, which helped the puzzle feel meaty.

Nice work converting some of the mid-length slots into assets too, TRUST ME and JOE COOL in particular. Even BEDREST and TOUPEES are fun. Most every long or medium slot is used wisely, except for DIAPERED. (Given my toddler and baby, maybe I'm too deep into the literal crap to appreciate that one.)

I did wonder about featuring two long proper names — it can be rough on a solver if you don't know who the person is, giving you at best a "meh" when you finally get the answer. But JESSE EISENBERG has had multiple starring roles, and TREVOR NOAH hosts "The Daily Show," so I think they're way beyond the threshold of crossworthiness. Still, I had so much more fun solving DATA SCIENTIST than JESSE EISENBERG.

Great work on short fill; a sign of skilled craftsmanship. I did hitch at BOITO and LENI. BOITO is famous in opera and thus (I think) crossworthy, but thank goodness Kyle ensured all the crossings were fair. LENI … perhaps if this had been a title character? It stuck out as the lone iffy-feeling entry. (Some might cringe at JAMA, but given that my wife is a doctor ...)

If you're going to go to 72 words, you have to make your grid virtually flawless. Kyle executed well.

1
F
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L
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A
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P
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J
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A
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M
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A
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S
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W
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A
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B
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M
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M
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D
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D
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J
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B
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0210 ( 24,566 )

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Across
1
Epiglottis, for one : FLAP
5
Doc's subscription : JAMA
9
Navy enlistee, informally : SWAB
13
Seducer of Josef in Kafka's "The Trial" : LENI
14
C.D.C. concern : ECOLI
16
Like some plugs : MALE
17
Let out : EMIT
18
"You know so-and-so, too? How about that!" : SMALLWORLD
20
Tony's cousin : EMMY
21
___ for life : SET
22
One involved in job cuts? : LOGGER
23
Alternatives to plugs : TOUPEES
25
D.C.'s ___ Memorial, site next to West Potomac Park : FDR
26
Assent for 61-Across : AYE
27
Discounted : ONSALE
28
Medieval entertainer : BARD
29
Does some hosting, briefly : MCS
30
Stat for David Ortiz : RBI
31
Egg: Prefix : OVI
32
Lamb, e.g. : MEAT
33
"Sexiest job of the 21st century," per Harvard Business Review : DATASCIENTIST
37
Wee : TINY
38
Graze, for example : EAT
39
Blood : KIN
40
Far out : RAD
41
Reverse : UNDO
42
Concerns for sociologists : TRENDS
46
Chin-___ : UPS
47
"NewsHour" airer : PBS
48
"Peanuts" alter ego : JOECOOL
49
Leave the country? : SECEDE
51
One might be made with a handshake : BET
52
Europe's Gulf of ___ : RIGA
53
Comedian with the 2016 memoir "Born a Crime" : TREVORNOAH
55
Mideast's Gulf of ___ : ADEN
56
Actress Suvari : MENA
57
Planning to, informally : GONNA
58
Coup : FEAT
59
Sistine Chapel depiction : EDEN
60
Enemy of ISIS, with "the" : WEST
61
Ones whose assent is 26-Across : TARS
Down
1
Seek refuge at : FLEETO
2
Co-star of "Some Like It Hot" : LEMMON
3
Ill feeling : ANIMUS
4
Bout of feeling sorry for oneself : PITYPARTY
5
Oscar-nominated actor who has written several humor pieces for The New Yorker : JESSEEISENBERG
6
Tops : ACMES
7
Certain barrier to entry : MOAT
8
Completely : ALL
9
It's hardly a breath of fresh air : SMOG
10
Practice for combat : WARGAMES
11
Waiter outside a seafood restaurant, maybe : ALLEYCAT
12
Doctor's prescription : BEDREST
15
"You said it!" : ILLDRINKTOTHAT
19
"You said it!" : WORD
24
Historic isle in the Tyrrhenian Sea : ELBA
25
Top go-to : FAVE
28
Librettist for Verdi's "Otello" and "Falstaff" : BOITO
32
After Tetris, the second-best-selling video game of all time : MINECRAFT
33
Tended to, as a baby : DIAPERED
34
Director's cry that's said with a pause : ANDSCENE
35
Boors : CADS
36
Run low on juice : TIRE
37
"I'm telling you the truth" : TRUSTME
41
Beehive, for one : UPDO
43
"Beats me" : NOIDEA
44
Fold, in a way : DOGEAR
45
Skews : SLANTS
48
Wardrobe item for which Obama claimed he was "unfairly maligned" : JEANS
50
Actress ___ Rachel Wood : EVAN
51
Radius, but not diameter : BONE
54
Present : NOW

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

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