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New York Times, Thursday, February 25, 2016

Author:
Joel Fagliano
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
6510/22/20096/16/20196
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
16911910325
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64351
Joel Fagliano

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 43 Missing: {JQ} This is puzzle # 45 for Mr. Fagliano. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes:
Even after finishing, it took me a while to figure out why CRASH SITES described the theme answers. And then I felt old. I of course ... read more

Even after finishing, it took me a while to figure out why CRASH SITES described the theme answers. And then I felt old. I of course know AMAZON since it's huge, and YAHOO started out of Stanford just a few years after I graduated, but POLITICO, VULTURE, and GAWKER were only vaguely familiar to me. Made it awfully tough to grok the theme! They all seem to be relatively popular websites … perhaps for very different demographics than me.

Dunno why I thought MR ROPER was so funny as a kid. Dude was creepy!

It's been fun to see Joel's experimentation with low word-count puzzles. He's made some really nice 74-word Monday puzzles, and even excelled at a Monday 72-worder, which is extremely tough to execute on with color and smoothness. Today's goes way into the depths — a 66-word themed puzzle is virtually unheard of!

My first impression was that there were a ton of black squares eating away at the grid, choking off the puzzle flow. Additionally, having experimented a lot with giant black pyramids like the ones on the sides of the puzzle, I've found that these formations make the filling process much, much easier, so the fact that this is a 66-worder doesn't impress me as much as if it had been done without those pyramids.

And smoothness … it's unusual to see much of any crossword glue in a Joel puzzle, so running into REMAP, TGI, SAXE, IS AN, IT A and the curious ZOOL(ogy?) and POGOED (is this really in usage?) felt far out of Joel's norm. I did like how the grid allowed such goodness as the MR ROPER / WAY ABOVE / AUNTIE EM stack, but overall, I don't know that those positives outweighed the smoothness issues. After a certain level of crossword glue gets smeared across the page, my enjoyment level falls off pretty fast.

So, a theme that probably plays better to younger or hipper solvers, with interesting experimentation in low word-count that didn't totally hit the mark for me. Still, there's something to be said for trying new things to push the boundaries.

1
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F
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H
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N
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0225 ( 24,215 )
Across
1
Squelch : STIFLE
7
Landlord on "Three's Company" : MRROPER
14
Jumped up and down, perhaps : POGOED
15
Towering over : WAYABOVE
16
One of the rooms in Clue : LOUNGE
17
Neighbor of Miss Gulch : AUNTIEEM
18
South American monkey's handhold? : AMAZONVINE
20
Mount that's a poker term when read backward : ETNA
21
Urge : YEN
22
Give ___ whirl : ITA
23
Verizon FiOS, e.g., for short : ISP
24
[Insert your least favorite congressman here]? : YAHOOPOLITICO
31
Second-class person, informally? : SOPH
32
"Quit your excuses" : NOBUTS
33
"___ con Dios" (Spanish farewell) : VAYA
35
Affectation : AIRS
36
"Junk" : HEROIN
38
Veterinarian's branch of sci. : ZOOL
40
Bird watcher upon spotting the rare California condor? : VULTUREGAWKER
43
Bobs and buns : DOS
44
___ Fridays : TGI
45
Friend of Fidel : CHE
47
Types : ILKS
49
Focal points of many F.A.A. investigations ... or a description of 18-, 24- and 40-Across? : CRASHSITES
53
Figure in Matisse's "Le Bateau" : SAILBOAT
55
Soften : EASEUP
56
Boston specialty : CREAMPIE
57
Out of service? : EXARMY
58
Landlocked European : SERBIAN
59
"America's diner is always open" sloganeer : DENNYS
Down
1
Spread out : SPLAY
2
Pennsylvania senator Pat : TOOMEY
3
Cactus flower eaters : IGUANAS
4
Epitome of cool, with "the" : FONZ
5
Small construction company : LEGO
6
___ Prairie, Minn. : EDEN
7
View from Hilo : MAUNALOA
8
Baseball Hall-of-Famer Sandberg : RYNE
9
Word that can precede or follow pack : RAT
10
2015 award for "Hamilton" : OBIE
11
Aristotle work that began literary theory : POETICS
12
"Yeah, but still ..." : EVENSO
13
Update, cartographer-style : REMAP
15
Serve : WAITON
19
A-lister : VIP
25
Shack : HOVEL
26
Style with illusory motion : OPART
27
"Silly goose!" : OHYOU
28
One of the Balearic Islands : IBIZA
29
Best-selling author of legal thrillers : TUROW
30
"No worries" : ITSOK
34
J.F.K. conveyance : AIRTRAIN
36
More burly : HUSKIER
37
Render invalid : NEGATE
39
Stand taken by one making a speech : LECTERN
40
1958 hit with the lyric "Your love has given me wings" : VOLARE
41
Grunts : GIS
42
Watery, as eyes : RHEUMY
43
Checkers, e.g. : DISCS
46
They're given for Best Upset and Best Play : ESPYS
48
Sidewalk section, e.g. : SLAB
49
Setting of a top 10 Barry Manilow hit : COPA
50
Be mindful of : HEED
51
___-Altenburg (old German duchy) : SAXE
52
"This ___ outrage!" : ISAN
54
Ratio involving height and weight, for short : BMI

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle.

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