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New York Times, Monday, February 12, 2018

Author: Michael Black
Editor: Will Shortz
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57/14/20102/12/20180
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0113000
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1.73012
Michael Black
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {Q} Scrabble average: 1.89 This is puzzle # 5 for Mr. Black. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Michael Black notes: Well, it's been a while, but it's good to be back. This is my fifth puzzle — my last one ran a little over four years ago, ... more
Michael Black notes:

Well, it's been a while, but it's good to be back. This is my fifth puzzle — my last one ran a little over four years ago, my first one ran in 2010. At this rate, I'll have joined the exclusive "Ten Club" in 2026.

A lot has happened since my last publication — I became a father, I made my way on air as a news anchor and sports announcer, and I met Will Shortz.

Being that I have more on my plate nowadays, I don't submit as often as I once did, but if a good idea crosses my mind, I will try to put it to paper.

This idea just sort of popped into my head one day. I thought it was worth trying it out, but admittedly, I had trouble figuring out theme answers for VISA and DISCOVER. Maybe ELVIS ANDRUS for VISA? Maybe if this were a crossword in Baseball Digest.

Truth is, the suggestion box under the Google search bar is what really helped me with these two. I began typing "ELVIS A" to see what would come up and did the same for "DISCO VER." The results I found seemed like legit answers, and Will apparently agreed.

A couple of cool things I realized recently with this puzzle: by total coincidence, the TEX in VORTEX crosses into RITTER, which is neat. Also by total coincidence, PAPI is at 34-Down, and Big Papi's number was 34 (my favorite jersey number).

Oh, and I'm sure there will be nitpickers out there who will find fault in my lack of MASTERCARD, but that just wasn't gonna happen. As the commercial says, that's for everything else.

Jeff Chen notes: Now, these are the kinds of 'hidden word' finds I like! It seems a little miraculous that something as long as DISCOVER could span ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Now, these are the kinds of "hidden word" finds I like! It seems a little miraculous that something as long as DISCOVER could span two words of a normal phrase. AMEX is shorter and thus easier to work with, but that X ratchets up the difficulty. And even VISA's VI or VIS is no joke. Three great discoveries made for a great theme, CARDHOLDER a perfect revealer. Delightful!

Made me wonder what other possible themers were out there. VIS A VIS is the obvious one, but that doesn't hold a candle to the awesome ELVIS AND ME. There's NOVI SAD, the Serbian city, but that seems hardly crossworthy — not novice friendly, in any case.

And such a wealth of rare letters in the fill, (mostly) worked in so smoothly! Two Js, three Xs, two Zs, that's way more than a usual puzzle contains. ITEN was a price to pay for the two Zs in OZZY, but I was okay with that trade-off.

The only hesitation I had before giving this the POW! … two crossings that I worried might trip up newer solvers:

  • INI / SAW II. Not a great way to start the puzzle, especially cluing INI as a person with a hit from over 20 years ago. But what else could that be? VNI would be an unlikely name, and SAW VI … please, somebody make the franchise stop!
  • OJAY / CADY. I think educated solvers ought to at least have heard of Elizabeth CADY Stanton, but I could understand if someone couldn't remember the spelling. OJAI / CADI? Not nearly as correct-looking to my eye, but there is a city named OJAI, so I'd be sympathetic to that error, chalking it up to Mike's fault, not the solver's.

So the J in AJAX is the one rare letter that I didn't think was worth it, leading to a tough crossing that might trip up newer solvers.

But overall, I loved the theme DISCOVERies (I did wonder about MASTERCARD to get the full set, but what are you gonna do?) and 95% of the grid execution.

1
S
2
A
3
W
4
I
5
I
6
E
7
C
8
H
9
O
10
V
11
A
12
N
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S
14
P
L
A
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T
15
D
A
M
P
16
O
B
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17
E
L
V
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18
A
N
D
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19
R
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W
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O
J
A
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T
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24
S
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D
25
A
K
A
26
M
A
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27
O
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X
28
A
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C
A
M
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X
30
I
31
C
32
O
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S
34
P
35
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N
Y
36
D
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Y
A
D
37
T
A
Z
38
P
A
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E
39
D
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40
G
E
T
Z
41
U
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W
A
X
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C
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Y
44
D
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C
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E
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T
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G
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A
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D
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J
A
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B
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A
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A
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L
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U
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F
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P
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F
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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0212 ( 24,933 )
Across Down
1. Horror sequel of 2005 : SAWII
6. Reverberation : ECHO
10. Movers' vehicles : VANS
14. Sow, as seeds : PLANT
15. Clammy : DAMP
16. Theater award : OBIE
17. Best-selling autobiography by Priscilla Presley : ELVISANDME
19. Be the best, in slang : RULE
20. Michelle of the L.P.G.A. : WIE
21. Any singer of the 1973 #1 hit "Love Train" : OJAY
22. Actor John of "Problem Child" : RITTER
24. Neil who sang "Laughter in the Rain" : SEDAKA
26. Antiriot spray : MACE
27. State capital ESE of Guadalajara : OAXACAMEXICO
33. Like a porcupine : SPINY
36. Woods nymph : DRYAD
37. Cartoon "devil," informally : TAZ
38. Window part : PANE
39. Sanders in the Pro Football Hall of Fame : DEION
40. Jazzman Stan : GETZ
41. Onetime competitor of the WB : UPN
42. Machine near the end of a car wash : WAXER
43. ___ Island (amusement park site) : CONEY
44. Many a 1970s remix : DISCOVERSION
47. Rock's Clapton or Burdon : ERIC
48. Dressed for a classic fraternity party : TOGAED
52. Fixes, as a photocopier : UNJAMS
55. Front's opposite : BACK
57. Sch. in Charlottesville : UVA
58. Dove calls : COOS
59. One with credit ... or a literal hint to 17-, 27- and 44-Across : CARDHOLDER
62. Queue : LINE
63. What separates Nevada from Colorado : UTAH
64. Barely visible, as a star : FAINT
65. Rarely getting rain : ARID
66. Hang in the balance : PEND
67. ___ the bill (pays for something) : FOOTS
1. Shoots out : SPEWS
2. "Kate & ___" of 1980s TV : ALLIE
3. Signaled with the hand : WAVED
4. Singer Kamoze with the 1994 hit "Here Comes the Hotstepper" : INI
5. "There, there" : ITSOKAY
6. Author Ferber : EDNA
7. Suffragist Elizabeth ___ Stanton : CADY
8. "Lemme think ..." : HMM
9. 1990s "Saturday Night Live" character with a cape : OPERAMAN
10. Whirlpool : VORTEX
11. Touch : ABUT
12. Stream near the Great Pyramids : NILE
13. Crystal ball user : SEER
18. Cleanser brand with a name from mythology : AJAX
23. Like some sprains and tea : ICED
25. Primo : AONE
26. City hall V.I.P.s : MAYORS
28. High muckety-muck on Madison Avenue : ADEXEC
29. Town ___ (colonial figure) : CRIER
30. Major Calif.-to-Fla. route : ITEN
31. Oscar-winning actress Blanchett : CATE
32. Rocker Osbourne : OZZY
33. Tater : SPUD
34. Big ___ (longtime Red Sox nickname) : PAPI
35. B&Bs : INNS
39. Tennis tournament since 1900 : DAVISCUP
40. Percussion in a Buddhist temple : GONG
42. Wriggler on a fishhook : WORM
43. "Iron Chef" competition : COOKOFF
45. Brought to a halt : CEASED
46. Poison ivy symptom : ITCH
49. Sound part of a broadcast : AUDIO
50. Happening : EVENT
51. Pub game : DARTS
52. Home of the N.C.A.A.'s Bruins : UCLA
53. Pinot ___ : NOIR
54. Folk singer Mitchell : JONI
55. Muffin material : BRAN
56. What Ritalin helps treat, for short : ADHD
60. Had a bite : ATE
61. "7 Faces of Dr. ___" (1964 film) : LAO

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

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