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New York Times, Friday, February 2, 2018

Author:
Randolph Ross
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1115/12/19912/28/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
49103161824
ScrabRebusCirclePangramPre‑WS
1.486002
Randolph Ross

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 26 Missing: {QZ} This is puzzle # 106 for Mr. Ross. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Randolph Ross notes:
Haven't had a themeless for a while, used to do a lot of them. This one was seeded with WITCH HUNT and BLAME GAME, two entries that ... read more

Haven't had a themeless for a while, used to do a lot of them.

This one was seeded with WITCH HUNT and BLAME GAME, two entries that have unfortunately become part of our political discourse. Some Russians were in the mix — NICHOLAS I and STALINIST to add to the Russian investigation mix.

I was happy to include CATS EYES and DOG SPAS, another pair of cousins. SEXCAPADE is a rare entry, as is ENEWS... I bet we get some comment on another E word. BUD SELIG and PETER ROGET are a couple of nice full name answers, as well.

I wish I could have gotten rid of HGT, my least favorite entry.

Jeff Chen notes:
Snazzy 1-A, WITCH HUNT. Kind of a mini-theme with BLAME GAME! I wish both of these had gotten more clever clues — BLAME GAME ... read more

Snazzy 1-A, WITCH HUNT. Kind of a mini-theme with BLAME GAME! I wish both of these had gotten more clever clues — BLAME GAME especially could have gotten some "finger-pointing" misdirection — but some entries are strong enough in their own right to stand out.

SEXCAPADE looks like another potential seed entry. Feels a bit dated, though.

Get it, dated? As in "went out with"?

(crickets)

Anyhoo, maybe SEXCAPADE stands the test of time? But it doesn't feel fresh to me these days.

I tried to figure out what Randy might have prioritized in the NE corner. Certainly not POSSESSES, a neutral entry that's a constructor's crutch what with all those Es and Ss. ANTI LABOR? Maybe? Hopefully not STALINIST. Yikes. Not sure why this is any better than NAZI PARTY or something, given how many people lost their lives to STALINIST policies.

This is a perfect example of a grid that would have benefitted from a higher word count. At 68, it's right around the threshold at which most constructors (not named Patrick Berry) struggle. I'll leave it to the reader to count up the gluey bits (abbrs, esoteric names, partials, arbitrary number-letters, etc.). It's way over my threshold of what makes for an elegant puzzle.

One that might surprise you is ENEWS ... It's perfectly fine! Some solvers roll their eyes at various E- addition entries, like ECASH, ETAIL, etc. But I think if it's in general use, it's A-okay. And E! News is a pretty popular show.

For traditional themelesses (ones that feature four triple-stacked entries, one in each corner), I much prefer a 70 or 72-word layout, which makes a grid so much easier to fill with color and cleanliness. I'm pretty sure black squares at the S of GUAVAS and first S of SEESAW would have helped a ton, for example.

1
W
2
I
3
T
4
C
5
H
6
H
7
U
8
N
9
T
10
A
11
G
12
A
13
S
14
P
15
E
M
E
R
G
E
N
C
Y
16
R
U
N
T
O
17
E
S
T
A
T
E
C
A
R
18
T
A
T
A
S
19
D
E
R
N
20
D
A
R
E
21
D
E
V
I
L
S
22
S
T
A
N
23
C
E
S
24
A
M
A
L
I
E
25
I
E
D
26
A
27
R
T
I
S
A
N
S
28
S
29
T
30
E
E
L
31
J
I
V
E
S
32
B
I
S
33
E
R
A
S
34
B
O
D
E
D
35
B
O
S
E
36
X
E
R
37
F
A
K
E
R
38
H
U
R
T
S
39
C
A
T
40
S
E
Y
E
S
41
G
O
D
42
A
D
H
E
R
E
43
D
O
G
S
44
P
45
A
46
S
47
P
E
T
E
R
R
48
O
49
G
E
T
50
E
L
S
E
51
A
D
O
S
E
52
N
I
C
H
53
O
L
A
S
I
54
D
O
N
A
T
55
E
L
C
A
P
I
T
A
N
56
E
N
E
W
S
57
B
L
A
M
E
G
A
M
E
© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0202 ( 24,923 )
Across
1
Biased investigation : WITCHHUNT
10
Showing shock : AGASP
15
Hospital sign : EMERGENCY
16
Total : RUNTO
17
What the British call a station wagon : ESTATECAR
18
Parting words : TATAS
19
Laura of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" : DERN
20
Hot dogs : DAREDEVILS
22
Positions : STANCES
24
Charlotte ___, capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands : AMALIE
25
Iraq War danger, for short : IED
26
Sellers at a craft show : ARTISANS
28
Symbol of strength : STEEL
31
Taunts : JIVES
32
Twice, musically : BIS
33
Some baseball stats : ERAS
34
Foreshadowed : BODED
35
Well-known speaker : BOSE
36
Boomer baby : XER
37
Charlatan : FAKER
38
Smarts : HURTS
39
Some marbles : CATSEYES
41
Word on all U.S. coins : GOD
42
Show allegiance : ADHERE
43
Upscale kennels : DOGSPAS
47
Author much used by other authors : PETERROGET
50
Word after who, what or anything : ELSE
51
Get ___ of reality : ADOSE
52
Mid-19th-century czar : NICHOLASI
54
Robert who played filmdom's Mr. Chips : DONAT
55
Yosemite attraction : ELCAPITAN
56
Long-running pop culture show : ENEWS
57
Pointing of fingers : BLAMEGAME
Down
1
Policy details, metaphorically : WEEDS
2
"No more for me, thank you" : IMSET
3
Prefix with fluoride : TETRA
4
Narrow openings : CRANNIES
5
6 ft., maybe : HGT
6
Followed : HEEDED
7
Last of the Mohicans : UNCAS
8
Member of the C.S.A. : NCAR
9
Part of a 17-Across : TYRE
10
Sister of Apollo : ARTEMIS
11
Sources of jam, jelly and juice : GUAVAS
12
Union-busting, say : ANTILABOR
13
Like the 1930s Soviet Union : STALINIST
14
Has : POSSESSES
21
Stale : DATED
23
Disney collectible : CEL
26
Right hands : AIDES
27
KOA customer : RVER
28
Portmanteau for lovers : SEXCAPADE
29
Trampled : TREADEDON
30
Brown family member : EARTHTONE
31
Complete embarrassment : JOKE
34
Pharmacy brand : BAYER
35
Commissioner inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017 : BUDSELIG
37
Uncovers, with "out" : FERRETS
38
Monopolize : HOG
40
Vacillate : SEESAW
41
Police commissioner Gordon's turf : GOTHAM
43
Bing Crosby's record label : DECCA
44
Montana motto word : PLATA
45
Silk center of India : ASSAM
46
Subject for Raoul Dufy and Henri Matisse : SEINE
48
Spoiler of a perfect report card : ONEB
49
Breathing aid : GILL
53
Unseal, in poetry : OPE

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?