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New York Times, Monday, February 13, 2017

Author:
Brent Sverdloff and Michael Blake
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
12/13/20171
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0100000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61000
Brent Sverdloff
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
141/28/20086/13/201910
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0831200
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64003
Michael Blake

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 38 Missing: {QXZ} Spans: 1 This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Sverdloff. This is puzzle # 13 for Mr. Blake. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
BRENT: In the ten years I've been submitting to the NYT, the rejections always included constructive criticism. Comments like 'the ... read more

BRENT: In the ten years I've been submitting to the NYT, the rejections always included constructive criticism. Comments like "the theme isn't robust enough" gave way to "we accepted a very similar puzzle weeks ago!" I felt like Thomas Edison experimenting with the light bulb. Acceptance did arrive in 2014, but this puzzle is seeing the light of day only now.

Let me back up a bit. In a used bookstore in 2006, I discovered Crossworld, Marc Romano's book about the Stamford puzzle tournament. It hooked me, as I'd been a word nerd my whole life—a linguistics major, archivist, paleographer, Spanish instructor, and memory coach. In 2006, I was living in Boston. The tourney was coming up, and I began counting the days. There, I made friends with stellar constructors and wound up giving Brendan Emmett Quigley a ride back to Beantown. His energy was infectious.

My initial efforts were pretty cringeworthy, but essential. I enjoyed some early successes, with my first puzzle appearing in 2008 in the New York Sun and in 2011 in a Penguin Anthology of literary-themed crosswords. Huge shoutouts to Peter Gordon and Ben Tausig, respectively, for their support.

The NYT remained the Holy Grail. I submitted solo and with Michael Blake, whom I'd met through Monday NYT puzzle queen Andrea Carla Michaels. We submitted this puzzle in February 2014 and got the "crossword — yes!" email from Will in April.

As I was solving an NYT puzzle in August by David Steinberg and Bernice Gordon, the answers looked eerily familiar. It was the same theme as ours! We wrote to Will, who apologized for the duplication and promised to run ours in a couple of years "so it fades from solvers' memories." He is a man of his word, and here we are today.

MICHAEL: We can hardly begrudge that Will accepted the Bernice/David collaboration with a similar theme and ran it immediately, as that carried a delightful new cruciverbal record: the biggest age difference between co-constructors. We're happy that our puzzle, accepted slightly earlier, still got published 3 years later.

Jeff Chen notes:
Debut! Brent and Michael bring us a vowel progression theme with the HxLL pattern. I love the term HULLABALLOO, an all-too-familiar ... read more

Debut! Brent and Michael bring us a vowel progression theme with the HxLL pattern. I love the term HULLABALLOO, an all-too-familiar description of a house with a 6-mo. old and a toddler who can now reach just about anything.

I've heard some folks say they're dead tired of vowel progressions, and I do think they are going by the wayside. But that's just the natural course of any standard theme type. Constructors have to figure out ways of doing an overdone theme type better, more elegantly, a little differently for it to stand out. A shame that this one is so similar to the one Brent and Michael pointed out.

ACME told me that vowel progressions are like poetry — I liked that sentiment. The sound of HALL to HELLO to HILL to HOLLY to HULLA ... some might holla that it's hella pretty.

(Don't worry, the poetry police just revoked my license.)

Five super-long themers are no easy feat. The overlap between HALL OF FAME and HELLO HOW ARE YOU causes all sorts of problems, for example. Check out where GOT TO sits — there are so many down answers that need to run through that section, and that causes strain. Inelegant to get OF ART at the very top, and that NIMES / AMATO crossing is a killer. Toss in REMOW, and that's butting up against my threshold for crossword glue for an entire puzzle.

Considering HELLO HOW ARE YOU is just so-so in my eyes, I'd rather have seen something shorter, like HELLO THERE! matched with HOLLY BOUGH or the like.

Nice bonuses in ALL FEMALE and RULE OF LAW; hard to accomplish within such a theme-dense puzzle. A few years ago, I spent some time in the Gambia with an NGO, and I came back with all sorts of ideas how to help. One of my former econ profs suggested that what he'd do would be to find ways of strengthening RULE OF LAW, for, without it, any other effort will be close to meaningless. Fingers crossed for a smooth transition of power in the Gambia.

1
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L
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C
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M
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B
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0213 ( 24,569 )
Across
1
Name of five Norwegian kings : OLAV
5
Words after work or museum : OFART
10
Former Iranian leader : SHAH
14
How Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic : SOLO
15
French department capital known in Roman times as Nemausus : NIMES
16
___ Nostra (crime group) : COSA
17
Rock and roll has one in Cleveland : HALLOFFAME
19
Pro's opposite : ANTI
20
Org. that monitors gun sales : ATF
21
Reached : GOTTO
22
Shop employee : CLERK
23
Words of greeting : HELLOHOWAREYOU
26
Chandon's partner in Champagne : MOET
27
Blossom-to-be : BUD
28
October birthstone : OPAL
30
Play, as a guitar : STRUM
33
Dem.'s counterpart : REP
36
1980s cop show that TV Guide once ranked as the greatest TV drama of all time : HILLSTREETBLUES
40
Dollar bill : ONE
41
Robber : THIEF
42
Singer Fitzgerald : ELLA
43
Battery for a TV remote : AAA
44
Window unit : PANE
46
James Earl Jones or Tommy Lee Jones : HOLLYWOODACTOR
53
Zones : AREAS
54
String quartet instrument : VIOLA
55
An evergreen : FIR
57
Gentlemen : SIRS
58
Ruckus : HULLABALOO
60
Made off with : TOOK
61
Freezing rain : SLEET
62
Mexico's ___ California : BAJA
63
One-named New Age singer : ENYA
64
Succinctly put : TERSE
65
What the Ugly Duckling became : SWAN
Down
1
Worker protection org. : OSHA
2
Reluctant (to) : LOATH
3
Like the band Josie and the Pussycats : ALLFEMALE
4
Stereo control: Abbr. : VOL
5
Walking : ONFOOT
6
Saks ___ Avenue : FIFTH
7
Former Italian P.M. whose name means "beloved" : AMATO
8
Cut again, as grass : REMOW
9
China's Mao ___-tung : TSE
10
Reduced, with "back" : SCALED
11
Beehive product : HONEY
12
Houston player : ASTRO
13
Poem like "The swallow flies up / Into a blue evening sky, / Summer's small herald" : HAIKU
18
Devour with the eyes : OGLE
22
Cookie morsel : CRUMB
24
Laze : LOLL
25
Share a border with : ABUT
28
"Well, what have we here!" : OHO
29
Brooch : PIN
30
___ Lanka : SRI
31
Item in a golfer's pocket : TEE
32
B-ball official : REF
33
Alternative to arbitrary governance : RULEOFLAW
34
Wriggly fish : EEL
35
Smokey Bear ad, e.g., for short : PSA
37
Doesn't leave : STAYS
38
Deice : THAW
39
Gave for a while : LENT
43
State that the Arctic Circle passes through : ALASKA
44
Aesthetic taste : PALATE
45
"Call me ___!" "O.K., you're ...!" : ACAB
46
Proverbial waste maker : HASTE
47
Heavenly hunter : ORION
48
"Bad, bad" Brown of song : LEROY
49
Small egg : OVULE
50
Houston player, once : OILER
51
Metes (out) : DOLES
52
Spanish wine region, with "La" : RIOJA
56
Horse whose coat is sprinkled with white hairs : ROAN
58
F.D.R.'s successor : HST
59
"Six-pack" muscles : ABS

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?