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New York Times, Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Author:
Byron Walden
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
9311/23/20012/20/201914
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1101292617
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1.59321
Byron Walden

This puzzle:

Rows: 16, Columns: 15 Words: 75, Blocks: 42 Missing: {FQXZ} This is puzzle # 93 for Mr. Walden. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Byron Walden notes:
This puzzle has a pretty unusual set of theme entries: two 12's, two 13's and two 14's. The sensible thing would be to blow it up to a ... read more

This puzzle has a pretty unusual set of theme entries: two 12's, two 13's and two 14's. The sensible thing would be to blow it up to a Sunday size, but the theme felt thin for that, and the next best entry I could think of was BUTLER AND O'HARA. So after much fiddling, I managed to make it work without too many cheater squares. The revealer EDU was completely serendipitous.

Jeff Chen notes:
I hit EDU early on in my solve — seemed like an odd place for a revealer (pointing to the fact that the starts of the themers ... read more

I hit EDU early on in my solve — seemed like an odd place for a revealer (pointing to the fact that the starts of the themers are names of schools). Gave the game away even before it began.

But wait! This is a Walden. He comes up with some of the most creative ideas in the crossworld. What if … THE ENDS OF THE THEMERS ALSO HAD SOMETHING IN COMMON! There was bound to be a SECOND revealer down at the bottom!

Took me a while to figure out, but here it is: OIL.

Do you see it?

I'll give you a moment.

WESSON is a cooking OIL. When you JOSH, you might be using an OILy tone. BEANS are cooked in OIL. English DUCHESSes often make their money from OIL.

Et voila! Or should I say, et v-OIL-a!

I almost had you, didn't I?

I enjoyed this theme, but the implementation less so. No doubt, stacking long themers — like BROWN AND SERVE and DUKE AND DUCHESS right atop each other — is a construction feat. And there weren't nearly as many compromises as I would have guessed. Just INDS / TUES / RES in that top stack is great work.

But all the machinations to get everything to stack, plus working around six themers, took up so much real estate that there was no room for a well-placed revealer. For a theme like this, you need a revealer, or you risk too many solvers not figuring it out. Saying the a-ha before the puzzle even starts saps away all the fun.

And DRAKE AND JOSH didn't do anything for me – old Nick show that lasted for only four seasons? Why not eliminate it, sticking to five themers, laid out in a more traditional way, with EDU down at the bottom? Or better yet, some sort of SCHOOL revealer. How about running four themers vertically, and finish it off with a flourish using HIGH SCHOOL (get it, the schools would literally be high in the puzzle?) as a revealer?

I did like the "tightness" — amazing that Byron found so many "(school) AND X" phrases. And I appreciate efforts to break out of traditions, as they tend to become ruts. They don't always work, but creative layouts like this do help spur on the evolution of crosswords.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0220 ( 25,306 )

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Across
1
"Not so!" : ITSALIE
8
Modifier for "film" or "pinot" : NOIR
12
*Instructions for premade dinner rolls : BROWNANDSERVE
14
*Noble couple : DUKEANDDUCHESS
15
With 4-Down, each year : PER
16
Election day in the U.S.: Abbr. : TUES
17
Workplaces for scrub nurses, for short : ORS
18
Wrestling combos : TAGTEAMS
21
Come through in the ___ : CLUTCH
24
Completely mistaken : ALLWET
25
With 38-Across, hex that's hard to shake : BAD
26
Cotton gin inventor Whitney : ELI
27
Have the wheel : STEER
28
Holier-___-thou : THAN
30
Partiality : BIAS
31
*Latin American side dish that combines two food staples : RICEANDBEANS
34
*Title pair in a 2004-07 Nickelodeon sitcom : DRAKEANDJOSH
37
Practically an eternity : EONS
38
See 25-Across : MOJO
39
Set aside for later : TABLE
43
Bath tissue layer : PLY
44
Earth Day's mo. : APR
45
Word of caution : CAVEAT
46
Items scattered on bridal paths : PETALS
48
Almond-flavored liqueur : AMARETTO
50
Cool, in dated slang : HEP
51
Ancient kingdom in modern-day Jordan : EDOM
52
Sn, to chemists : TIN
53
*Eponymous founders of a Massachusetts-based firearms manufacturer : SMITHANDWESSON
58
*Duo of magicians who are the longest-running headliners in Las Vegas history : PENNANDTELLER
59
Bit of pond scum : ALGA
60
Mark ___, longtime game show partner of Bill Todman : GOODSON
Down
1
Rankle : IRK
2
Sock tip : TOE
3
Try to hit, as a fly : SWATAT
4
See 15-Across : ANNUM
5
Fills a cargo hold : LADES
6
Unaffiliated voters: Abbr. : INDS
7
URL ending associated with the beginnings of the answers to the six starred clues : EDU
8
P.M. who inspired a 1960s jacket : NEHRU
9
Trilogy of tragedies by Aeschylus : ORESTEIA
10
I.C.U. drippers : IVS
11
Hi-___ monitor : RES
12
Enter to steal from : BURGLE
13
Upbraid : SCOLD
14
Gave out hands : DEALT
15
School support grps. : PTAS
19
Shakes one's booty : TWERKS
20
Unnervingly strange : EERIE
21
Positive kind of attitude : CANDO
22
Extended family : CLAN
23
Sound of contemptuous disapproval : HISS
25
Hootenanny instrument : BANJO
28
Barbershop quartet voice : TENOR
29
Pilgrimage to Mecca : HADJ
30
"Act like you're supposed to!" : BEHAVE
32
Sleeps in a tent, say : CAMPS
33
Rigel or Spica, by spectral type : BSTAR
34
Johnny of 2005's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" : DEPP
35
Part to play : ROLE
36
"Can I get you ___?" : ANYTHING
40
Casino patron : BETTOR
41
Language of 15-Across 4-Down : LATIN
42
School founded by Henry VI : ETON
44
___ male : ALPHA
45
Caravan animals : CAMELS
47
Insurance giant based in Hartford : AETNA
48
Supplement : ADDTO
49
Cut the lawn : MOWED
51
Prefix meaning "within" : ENDO
53
Employer of a masseur : SPA
54
Brooks with Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards : MEL
55
"Brokeback Mountain" director Lee : ANG
56
___-pitch softball : SLO
57
One of 100 in D.C.: Abbr. : SEN

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle.

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