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New York Times, Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Author:
Will Treece
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
22/11/201511/10/20150
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0011000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.66001
Will Treece

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQXZ} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Treece. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Treece notes:
This crossword taught me the term 'sensational spelling' — as in Froot Loops, Cheez Whiz, and the bands referenced in the six ... read more

This crossword taught me the term "sensational spelling" — as in Froot Loops, Cheez Whiz, and the bands referenced in the six theme entries. Artists that didn't make it: CORN, FISH, SALT AND PEPPER, THE MONKEYS, TIMBERLAND, IN SYNCH, and OUTCAST. I'm pleased with the musical diversity in the final draft, which features everything from classic rock to heavy metal to contemporary hip hop.

What was that, cat?

I originally clued the theme entries not by albums, but by imagining the de-sensationalized spelling as a band, e.g. "Cat that signs and sings?" for DEAF LEOPARD. It was a decent impulse, but the puzzle coheres better after Will Shortz's editing, which instead imagines an overzealous copy editor. He also found a common element in the bands: they all had a number ONE album. It's a testament to his editing skills that he can make a theme work in ways that the constructor never imagined.

Notes from a novice constructor: six theme entries constrained this grid's possibilities, and though I was happy to focus on theme and fill, my next challenge is to write a puzzle with some high-scoring Scrabble letters. I was happy to slot in DARFUR, which I believe is my only non-theme debut word. I was a little sad to lose "How bros shouldn't zap" as my clue for TASE, but the meme reference was probably too internet-based in a puzzle already driven by pop culture.

I'm delighted to be published in the Times! I took up crossword construction for fun this summer — an adolescent viewing of the documentary Wordplay lay dormant in my psyche until then. Currently, I'm getting my Master's in Teaching (high school history), and spend most of my time writing lesson plans rather than crosswords. Honestly, I'm no expert solver; I often google on Tuesdays, and I sympathize with the strugglers rather than the speed-solvers.

Having my first NYT submission published makes me feel like a yokel invited to the king's palace, but the crossword community does a good job of making you feel welcome. Thanks to the Westport Library Crossword Puzzle Tournament for test-driving this puzzle last weekend!

Jeff Chen notes:
A really nice debut puzzle. Most people would stick to four — or even three — theme answers in their first go-around. But ... read more

A really nice debut puzzle. Most people would stick to four — or even three — theme answers in their first go-around. But Will goes big with six! Laudable.

What a ludicrous way to spell Ludicrous!

And what an amusing theme. I laughed, picturing a junior editor starting out on the job, overzealously throwing around red ink. For all my grumbling about pop songs and hip bands, none of which I know, here's a case where I really welcomed them! It's doubtful that even the most clueless editor would correct THE BEATLES, but I can easily see the person smugly changing LINKIN PARK and deeming the LUDACRIS spelling as truly LUDICROUS.

Smart layout, intersecting two pairs of themers and using black squares to create a lot of space and separation between themers. Doesn't allow for a lot of jazzy fill, but that's okay for me, since the themers were mostly vivid.

A rough patch here and there, but that's to be expected in a six-themer, especially where there's a lot of overlap. And really, only the CWT / TO ERR / EDUC north area stuck out to me. No surprise that it came in one of the two areas with most themer overlap – where four white spaces sit between THE BEETLES and LUDICROUS. I might have tried moving the black square at the end of ITERATE up to the R of RODEO in order to reduce the overlap. Hard to say if that would have caused problems in the center of the puzzle, though.

My wife tells this joke she thinks is hilarious:

Q: What did the fish say when it swam into a wall?
A: Dam.

So DAMS, clued as [Challenges for salmon] made me smile.

And fun repurposing of "Grape Nuts" cereal, a WINO being a [Grape nut?] of sorts. I also enjoyed the homonym play on [Dehli order?] for SARI, a clothing item common in India.

ADDED NOTE: there was a last-minute change to the grid, and apparently the old version was printed by mistake in the NYT hardcopy. It affects only the western section of the puzzle (TOO BAD became TAIWAN, etc.). SARI for the confusion.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0211 ( 23,836 )
Across
1
Chuck of "Meet the Press" : TODD
5
Suffragist Carrie Chapman ___ : CATT
9
Philanthropist's focus : CAUSE
14
Word with gray or Bay : AREA
15
"You just blew my mind!" : WHOA
16
Pains : HURTS
17
Tenn. neighbor : NCAR
18
*"Rubber Soul" group, to an overzealous copy editor? : THEBEETLES
20
Politician's misstep : GAFFE
22
Western arena attraction : RODEO
23
*"Chicken-n-Beer" rapper, to an overzealous copy editor? : LUDICROUS
26
Pet name in Britain : LUV
29
Go over again : ITERATE
31
Singing Dion : CELINE
33
Chinese "way" : TAO
34
Army doc : MEDIC
37
Smooths, in a way : SANDS
38
They move around a lot at a square dance : HIPS
40
Caged talker : MACAW
42
Duncan or Banquo : SCOT
43
Flooded : AWASH
45
Overhauled : REDID
47
Chart position reached by all the albums seen in the starred clues in this puzzle : ONE
48
Hauled (away) : CARTED
50
Made operational : ENABLED
52
Moreover : AND
53
*"Evolution" group, to an overzealous copy editor? : BOYSTOMEN
56
Impressive display : ARRAY
57
Too sentimental : SAPPY
60
*"Dr. Feelgood" band, to an overzealous copy editor? : MOTLEYCREW
65
Delhi order? : SARI
66
Let by : ALLOW
67
Cry in "The Farmer in the Dell" : HIHO
68
Sting operation : TRAP
69
Count in a duel : PACES
70
Zap, in a way : TASE
71
"The ___ the limit!" : SKYS
Down
1
Kool-Aid alternative : TANG
2
Sea carnivore : ORCA
3
*"Hysteria" group, to an overzealous copy editor? : DEAFLEOPARD
4
Region next to Chad : DARFUR
5
100 lbs. : CWT
6
Sound at a spa : AHH
7
It is human, per a saying : TOERR
8
Verboten : TABOO
9
Assortment on a party platter : CHEESES
10
Lead-in to correct : AUTO
11
Site address : URL
12
Sault ___ Marie : STE
13
Suffix with lion or steward : ESS
19
P.T.A. interest: Abbr. : EDUC
21
Gouda cousin : EDAM
24
Part of an agenda : ITEM
25
Fragrant evergreen : CEDAR
26
*"Meteora" band, to an overzealous copy editor? : LINCOLNPARK
27
Ruined : UNDONE
28
"By the power ___ in me ..." : VESTED
29
Ivy League city : ITHACA
30
Land north of the Philippines : TAIWAN
32
What Vegas doesn't have? : LAS
35
Much of the Arctic : ICE
36
Student in a uniform : CADET
39
Former barrier breaker : SST
41
Grape nut? : WINO
44
Book before James : HEBREWS
46
Challenges for salmon : DAMS
49
Traditional fishing boat : DORY
51
Wild things : BEASTS
54
Competitor for the Jules Verne Trophy : YACHT
55
Half of the United Arab Republic : SYRIA
56
Lotion additive : ALOE
58
Supplicate : PRAY
59
Puppy sounds : YIPS
60
Common almanac feature : MAP
61
Rio "hello" : OLA
62
"Sister Wives" network : TLC
63
Canadian interjections : EHS
64
Tribulation : WOE

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle.

Found bugs or have suggestions?