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New York Times, Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Author: Peter A. Collins
Editor: Will Shortz
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Peter A. Collins

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQ} This is puzzle # 94 for Mr. Collins. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Peter A. Collins notes: Into which category does the theme of this one fall? There is no wordplay in the usual crossword sense — it's the ... more
Peter A. Collins notes:

Into which category does the theme of this one fall? There is no wordplay in the usual crossword sense — it's the location of the themed entries that gives them relevance. Is there a name for this kind of puzzle?

The theme has quite a lot of three-letter answers (25), which was necessitated, to a large extent, by HORIZON and its neighboring black squares in the center of the grid (forming a visual "horizon," I hope). Will and Joel asked me to rework the grid to try to lower the three-letter word count, which I did. However, in the end they thought the fill in this original version was significantly superior — enough to counterbalance the short-answer overload.

When first constructing the puzzle, I tried to include additional themed material — CLOUD and SHARK in the top and bottom rows where BRAWL and RATTY are — but that's when the fill really started to groan.

I'm happy to debut NO CUTS today. I don't know about you, but the phrase always immediately transports me back to waiting in the lunch line at my junior high. Ahh, I can practically feel the wedgies and the noogies ...

And, honestly, I didn't intend for poor Amelia EARHART to end up nose down in the SEA. In fact, it didn't dawn on me until well after I'd finished constructing the puzzle. Yikes! But I decided to leave her there. What? Too soon? At least she took a HIPSTER down with her.

Jeff Chen notes: Neat idea, the HORIZON separating the SKY from the SEA. I really liked the picture of the FLOCK OF BIRDS up above and the SCHOOL OF ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Neat idea, the HORIZON separating the SKY from the SEA. I really liked the picture of the FLOCK OF BIRDS up above and the SCHOOL OF FISH down below. It all comes together with an artistic flair, almost like it's a painting.

EARHART, before taking to the SKY

Usually, a puzzle needs more theme density than just the aforementioned, so I enjoyed seeing CORAL down below. But if only Pete had kept CLOUD instead of PLANE to complete the picturesque scene! It felt odd to have a PLANE streaking through as the only man-made entry.

It also felt a bid strange to have an EAGLET and an EEL randomly in the puzzle. Some people enjoy "bonus theme material," but I find it inelegant to have small entries that are sort of related to the theme.

It's often tough to fill a grid cleanly and with color when you're working with short theme answers. So it was a nice surprise to get NETFLIX, MOSAIC, and a bunch of goodies in the big corners: AVARICE, WILDCAT, HIPSTER, TRACHEA, EARHART. Working with those big 7x4 corners is rarely easy, so Pete's execution impressed me in that regard. I don't care for H TEST, OKEY (how else can you clue this one?), and LA VIE, but I think those are reasonable prices to pay.

I didn't care as much for MACH TWO. It's usually written as "Mach 2," so to see the T W O was weird. And MACH TWO itself isn't nearly as important as MACH 1 to me. Breaking the speed of sound is major! Going twice the speed of sound seems kind of arbitrary.

There was some crossword glue I didn't care for — TOILER feels made-up, ORONO gets overused relative to its real-life importance due to the crossword-friendly vowel-consonant alternation, SSR is outdated, etc. But that's not uncommon when working with so many short answers like PLANE and SKY and HORIZON fixed into place.

Very cool idea, with some compromises here and there.

JimH notes: I like MACH TWO because that's the speed of the Concorde I took from Heathrow to JFK. (That's not even a humble-brag; it's just a brag.)
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0202 ( 24,192 )
Across Down
1. Something seen in the 6-Across : PLANE
6. Blue expanse : SKY
9. Melee : BRAWL
14. Chick of jazz : COREA
15. Whom Uncle Sam wants, on an old poster : YOU
16. "___ en Rose" (song classic) : LAVIE
17. Genius's head? : SOFTG
18. Yule quaff : NOG
19. Gems with kaleidoscopic colors : OPALS
20. Group found above the 37-Across : FLOCKOFBIRDS
23. Field worker, e.g. : TOILER
26. Old atlas inits. : SSR
27. Things spotted in a casino : DICE
28. Paul ___, 1993 World Series M.V.P. : MOLITOR
30. Prop for the Tin Man : OILCAN
32. ___ Mix : CHEX
33. Dealer buster : NARC
36. Politburo refusals : NYETS
37. Line dividing 6- and 70-Across : HORIZON
39. Thermonuclear experiment of the '50s : HTEST
43. Dutch cheese : EDAM
44. "Didn't you get the ___?" : MEMO
48. Poker declaration : IRAISE
50. Muslim holy month : RAMADAN
52. Go separate ways : PART
53. Mani-pedi spot : SPA
56. "Hey, wait your turn in line!" : NOCUTS
57. Group found below the 37-Across : SCHOOLOFFISH
60. Express appreciation for : THANK
61. Zilch : NIL
62. Request forgiveness for : ATONE
66. Strangely coincidental, say : EERIE
67. Hip-hop's Dr. ___ : DRE
68. "If ___ a Carpenter" : IWERE
69. Dog-eared : RATTY
70. Blue expanse : SEA
71. Something seen in the 70-Across : CORAL
1. Windows runners : PCS
2. Bathroom, in Bath : LOO
3. Bark : ARF
4. Big name in on-demand media : NETFLIX
5. Bald baby? : EAGLET
6. Coordinate : SYNC
7. Nutcases : KOOKS
8. Cheap 1980s car imports : YUGOS
9. Lump : BLOB
10. At a clip : RAPIDLY
11. One of the seven deadly sins : AVARICE
12. University of Kentucky athlete : WILDCAT
13. Alleviates : LESSENS
21. Maine university town : ORONO
22. 1960s Angela Davis do, informally : FRO
23. Channel for cinephiles : TMC
24. "How delightful!" : OOH
25. ___ de France : ILE
29. Like a 1913 Liberty Head nickel : RARE
31. Quaint lodging : INN
34. Expunge : RID
35. Peter or Ivan : CZAR
37. Brooklyn ___, N.Y.: Abbr. : HTS
38. Saudi neighbor : OMANI
39. Trendy urbanite : HIPSTER
40. Windpipe : TRACHEA
41. Aviation's Amelia : EARHART
42. "Oh, shut up!" : SITONIT
44. Supersonic speed : MACHTWO
45. Follower of indiana., ohio. or colorado. : EDU
46. Wrestling need : MAT
47. Clip-___ (some sunglasses) : ONS
49. Immigrant's course, for short : ESL
51. Subway artwork, maybe : MOSAIC
54. Skin cream brand : PONDS
55. Blazing : AFIRE
58. "___-doke!" : OKEY
59. Bother for Bowser : FLEA
63. Anthem contraction : OER
64. 2nd Amendment advocate : NRA
65. Slippery swimmer : EEL

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle.

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