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New York Times, Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Author:
Peter A. Collins
Editor:
Will Shortz
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1.565313
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 location of ... read more

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 ... read more

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.

Jim Horne 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 )

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Students & seniors
Across
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
Down
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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