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New York Times, Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Author:
Daniel Larsen
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
12/14/20170
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0010000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64000
Daniel Larsen

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 40 Missing: {JXZ} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Larsen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Daniel Larsen notes:
I've been into crosswords for a few years. Before that, I was into word squares. At some point, my father wrote a simple crossword ... read more

I've been into crosswords for a few years. Before that, I was into word squares. At some point, my father wrote a simple crossword making program that let you enter words. I decided to add some more features.

For my 12th birthday, I asked for a better word list (the original one was just the Unix word list). I got what I asked for. Meanwhile, the program kept improving until the only hard part (if you were okay with doing some trial and error) became making sure that there was a minimal amount of crosswordese and obscure words, which my older sister and father helped with. (They also wrote most of the clues.)

I tried to submit a puzzle a week for a while. This was the eighth puzzle I submitted. Originally, I came up with the idea to have words with R's and L's turning into W's. When I told my father what I was doing, he told me that that was essentially how Elmer Fudd talked.

I got a list of common words with r and l in them and spent many evenings working before I had my theme answers. I originally had only QUACKOFDAWN, WHISKEYMOVE, WOWEDMOUTHS, SWATMACHINE, and ELMERFUDD in the middle. However, a center 9 puts a huge constraint on the grid and, although I tried very hard, the fill was simply terrible.

At some point, it occurred to me that adding a symmetrical theme partner to Elmer Fudd might make the construction easier! My best 9-letter word was TWEEHOUSE. Unfortunately, my original self-constraint was to have all the theme answers change their spelling beyond a simple letter substitution. Still, I hoped the theme answers were humorous enough to make people overlook this flaw. I didn't like that the middle section was a cut-off 3x3 section, but I couldn't find a different way to do it.

As for the fill, Will and Joel were unhappy with it in a few places. They made some much-needed improvements until it became the puzzle that is here today.

I'm thrilled to be making my debut in the New York Times!

Jeff Chen notes:
Debut! Daniel breaks the record for youngest NYT constructor. What was I doing at age 13? Oh yes, still watching ELMER FUDD. I ... read more

Debut! Daniel breaks the record for youngest NYT constructor. What was I doing at age 13? Oh yes, still watching ELMER FUDD.

I spent hundreds of hours following the exploits of that wascally wabbit, so this puzzle brought me back. I particularly liked QUACK OF DAWN (from "crack of dawn"), as it hinted at Daffy Duck, another one of Fudd's usual targets. And SWAT MACHINE (from "slot machine") hinted at Wile E. Coyote's crazy contraptions! How cool would it have been if every themer related to Looney Tunes.

Using six themers is no joke, especially for a debut. Such a high theme density will almost always require some dabs of crossword glue to hold everything together. So I appreciated that I noticed very little as I solved. ON OR here, WYE there, some minor ERE, ATO, INS, but that was it. Nice craftsmanship to produce a smooth result.

And the big NE / SW corners! These roughly 6x4 chunks are so tough to fill with interesting and smooth material. I enjoyed that NE, what with MARINE and ESPRIT de corps, with just INS and an outdated SUPRA. The SW was even nicer, with so many evocative answers like SAMSON, SQUASH, AUSSIE, and MANTRA. Well done.

Not many extras in this puzzle; not a surprise because of the high theme density. But I liked AW GO ON, which looks so amusingly like AW, GOON. Seems like that should be a Looney Tunes title.

Love me some Harry Potter, so yay for the OWL clue, referencing Ordinary Wizarding Level exams.

Can't wait to see what my daughter's patronus is, BTW.

This lisp-ish concept has gotten somewhat overdone, and not many of the themers made me laugh. But I liked ELMER FUDD as a revealer, and I thought Dan did a great job executing his gridwork. If only there had been something extra, like all the themers chosen and clued to Looney Tunes, this might have been POW! material for this Road Runner junkie.

1
A
2
I
3
D
4
S
5
P
6
L
7
U
8
S
9
I
10
T
11
E
12
M
13
S
14
R
O
U
E
15
R
A
P
T
16
N
A
S
A
L
17
T
W
E
E
18
H
O
U
S
E
19
S
U
P
R
A
20
S
A
L
S
A
21
R
E
A
22
M
23
G
R
I
T
24
S
25
W
A
T
M
A
26
C
H
I
N
E
27
O
28
A
29
K
30
L
E
Y
31
R
U
T
T
E
D
32
W
H
I
S
K
E
33
Y
34
M
35
O
V
E
36
L
A
N
D
37
E
O
E
38
B
39
A
40
R
41
S
42
W
43
O
W
E
D
44
M
45
O
U
T
H
S
46
S
47
A
48
M
49
S
O
N
50
A
W
G
O
O
N
51
Q
U
A
C
K
O
52
F
53
D
54
A
W
N
55
U
S
N
A
56
R
E
A
D
57
E
58
M
59
C
60
E
61
E
62
A
S
T
R
63
A
64
E
L
M
65
E
R
F
U
D
D
66
S
I
R
E
N
67
L
A
I
R
68
A
B
I
G
69
H
E
A
D
Y
70
S
I
N
E
71
S
A
T
E
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0214 ( 24,570 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1
Helps : AIDS
5
___-size model : PLUS
9
Things : ITEMS
14
Licentious man : ROUE
15
Paying close attention : RAPT
16
___ congestion (cold symptom) : NASAL
17
Small, cute residence? : TWEEHOUSE
19
Bygone Toyota sports car : SUPRA
20
Music with conga drums : SALSA
21
500 sheets of paper : REAM
23
Moral toughness : GRIT
24
Device for killing mosquitoes? : SWATMACHINE
27
Annie who was nicknamed "Little Sure Shot" : OAKLEY
31
Like a well-worn dirt road : RUTTED
32
Pouring into a shot glass, e.g.? : WHISKEYMOVE
36
Come to earth : LAND
37
Fair-hiring inits. : EOE
38
Stars and ___ (Confederate flag) : BARS
42
Relatives of slack jaws? : WOWEDMOUTHS
46
Delilah was his undoing : SAMSON
50
"Stop joshin' me!" : AWGOON
51
What wakes everyone up in the morning at the duck pond? : QUACKOFDAWN
55
Sch. for future admirals : USNA
56
Like books and tea leaves : READ
57
Host at a roast : EMCEE
62
"Ad ___ per aspera" (Kansas' motto) : ASTRA
64
Archenemy of Bugs Bunny ... who might say things like 17-, 24-, 32-, 42- and 51-Across : ELMERFUDD
66
Wail of an ambulance : SIREN
67
Den : LAIR
68
Not ___ deal : ABIG
69
Having an exhilarating effect : HEADY
70
Trig function : SINE
71
Leave completely filled : SATE
Down
1
Counterpart of sciences : ARTS
2
Des Moines's home : IOWA
3
Fight at 20 paces, say : DUEL
4
Lays eyes on : SEES
5
Expert : PRO
6
Advice-giving "Dr." of radio : LAURA
7
Surprise victory : UPSET
8
Sauna feature : STEAM
9
Shoo-___ (overwhelming favorites) : INS
10
Instructed : TAUGHT
11
___ de corps : ESPRIT
12
Jarhead : MARINE
13
On the schedule : SLATED
18
Goalie Dominik with 16 seasons in the N.H.L. : HASEK
22
Man's nickname that's just wonderful? : MARV
25
Letter before zee : WYE
26
Signal from offstage : CUE
27
___ exams (tests at the end of a student's fifth year at Hogwarts) : OWL
28
"Eureka!" : AHA
29
Family relations : KIN
30
"Acid" : LSD
33
Wood for archery bows : YEW
34
One of the Stooges : MOE
35
U.K. lexicon : OED
38
Software problem : BUG
39
From ___ Z : ATO
40
Letter before sigma : RHO
41
Fig. on an application : SSN
42
Stir-fry vessel : WOK
43
___ about (approximately) : ONOR
44
Gaping opening : MAW
45
Proprietor : OWNER
46
Racket sport : SQUASH
47
Sydneysider, for one : AUSSIE
48
Words said over and over : MANTRA
49
Chicken : SCARED
52
Believes : FEELS
53
___ Lama : DALAI
54
PC network overseer : ADMIN
58
Degs. for creative types : MFAS
59
Country with which the U.S. re-established diplomatic relations in 2015 : CUBA
60
Toolbar heading : EDIT
61
Narrow advantage : EDGE
63
"___ last words?" : ANY
65
Before, to poets : ERE

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle.

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