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New York Times, Monday, February 4, 2019

Author:
Ali Gascoigne
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
12/4/20190
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0100000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.49000
Ali Gascoigne

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 40 Missing: {JQXZ} Spans: 1 This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Gascoigne. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ali Gascoigne notes:
It's a huge hono(u)r to be making my NYT debut. To think that people will be solving my puzzle makes me quite giddy. I was born in ... read more

It's a huge hono(u)r to be making my NYT debut. To think that people will be solving my puzzle makes me quite giddy.

I was born in Yorkshire, England and live in London. I'm a marketer by day, cryptic puzzle constructor by night. My puzzles appear under the pseudonym Gila in The Independent and I've contributed thematic puzzles for the Inquisitor and Enigmatic Variations series.

I started solving – and became obsessed with – US puzzles in early 2018. They're every bit as good as cryptics; often more so in terms of gridwork skills. Having happily spent hours creating grids for puzzles themed on, among other things, Homer Simpson and Seinfeld mirroring UK politics, I couldn't resist the urge to have a go. This was the second puzzle I sent, and the first reply I got from Will.

It's admittedly a simple idea, but the team liked the theme entries and bonus fill. UK puzzles generally stick to the dictionaries, so having access to a broader wordlist of slang, proper nouns, etc. was fun, and is one of the main attractions of US puzzles.

8 months on, I'm mostly pleased with the grid as an early offering from someone with limited experience of solving or constructing US puzzles. Casting a more critical eye post-publication, I think I'd prefer a neater lower stack to avoid ÁVILA and, moreover, NRA, which I've come to see can be (understandably) divisive. More happily, I've spotted – and only now, I promise – that the first 3 down entries could be seen as a subliminal message for the editors!

Clue-wise, it's a challenge moving out of cryptic mode, even when pitching at Monday level. Some clues (e.g. referencing ‘noodle dishes' for BRAINFOODS) were duly edited, and others neatened/improved. I'm hoping I can eventually get my hands on some later-week grids and let loose a bit more!

Thanks for having me and I hope you enjoy.

Jeff Chen notes:
INFO in OUT IN FORCE? What a clever find. Great themer choices in general – TIN FOIL HAT, YOU'RE IN FOR IT NOW, BRAIN FOODS are ... read more

INFO in OUT IN FORCE? What a clever find. Great themer choices in general – TIN FOIL HAT, YOU'RE IN FOR IT NOW, BRAIN FOODS are all so snazzy.

I like Ali's clean execution on this simple theme type. I'm always impressed when a debut flows so smoothly, hardly a hitch to be experienced. Newer solvers might carp about ÁVILA, but the crosses are fair. Beautiful place, too, apparently.

Considering the solid craftsmanship, I'd love to see Ali push the boundaries a little next time. I'd much rather have simple themes paired with grids that err on the side of clean (vs. colorful) — makes for a better newb solving experience. But even with five themers, both are possible.

Maybe try taking out a black square between INN and PINUP. Perhaps even the one between ULNA and KNAVE. There isn't much pizzazz in the fill besides SKI BUM and P DIDDY, so a couple of long slots could have jazzed up the joint a ton.

Overall though, a fine debut. Not an exciting theme type anymore, what with the same word repeated over and over, but excellent themers + smooth fill = a puzzle I'd happily give to out as a starter.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0204 ( 25,290 )
Across
1
Two of a kind : PAIR
5
Buildings near barns : SILOS
10
Stinging insect : WASP
14
Bone alongside the radius : ULNA
15
Jack in a deck of cards : KNAVE
16
Camera setting for amateur photographers : AUTO
17
Paranoiac's headgear : TINFOILHAT
19
Walked (on) : TROD
20
Up, in baseball : ATBAT
21
Straps for an equestrian : REINS
22
Soak (up) : SOP
25
Present en masse : OUTINFORCE
28
Pen pal's plea : WRITEME
30
Like a Monday crossword, typically : EASY
31
Actress Chlumsky of "Veep" : ANNA
32
Part of the eye : IRIS
33
In the past : AGO
36
"This means trouble, my friend" : YOUREINFORITNOW
41
Motor oil product : STP
42
Hero fighter pilots : ACES
43
Partner of "go seek" : HIDE
44
Celebrity : STAR
45
Keeps under surveillance : SPIESON
48
Blueberries and fatty fish, nutritionists say : BRAINFOODS
51
Visitors from outer space, for short : ETS
52
Without toppings : PLAIN
53
Walled city WNW of Madrid : AVILA
55
Watermelon waste : RIND
56
Dirt ... or what 17-, 25-, 36- and 48-Across all have? : INSIDEINFO
61
Gives a tattoo to : INKS
62
___ and true : TRIED
63
Not spicy : MILD
64
Soup to go with sushi : MISO
65
Delicious : TASTY
66
Potato, informally : SPUD
Down
1
"___ 'er there!" : PUT
2
"The Greatest" boxer : ALI
3
Lodging for the night : INN
4
Tennis great Nadal, to fans : RAFA
5
One who's always looking for a lift? : SKIBUM
6
What a worker who oversleeps will be : INLATE
7
Christine of "The Blacklist" : LAHTI
8
Eggs in a lab : OVA
9
Cry between "ready" and "go!" : SET
10
Diluted, as a drink : WATERY
11
___ Goldfinger (Bond villain) : AURIC
12
Something skipped across a pond : STONE
13
Racing vehicles for Anakin Skywalker : PODS
18
Nebraska native tribe : OTOE
21
Martini & ___ (brand of sparkling wine) : ROSSI
22
Rocks from side to side : SWAYS
23
"To be, ___ to be" : ORNOT
24
Photo of Marilyn Monroe, once : PINUP
26
Last emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty : NERO
27
Not foul, as a baseball hit : FAIR
29
Toxic part of cigarettes : TAR
32
Uncertainties : IFS
33
Licoricelike flavoring : ANISE
34
Title character who never arrives in a Beckett play : GODOT
35
Jesse of the Berlin Olympics : OWENS
37
"___ good in the neighborhood" (restaurant slogan) : EATIN
38
Volunteer's words : ICAN
39
Spongy toy material : NERF
40
First word of every "Friends" episode title : THE
44
Declared : SAIDSO
45
The first "S" in U.S.S.R. : SOVIET
46
Onetime alias of Sean Combs : PDIDDY
47
___ of Wight : ISLE
48
Thin Russian pancakes : BLINI
49
Places in order of preference : RANKS
50
Desert stop for camels : OASIS
52
___ and proper : PRIM
54
Prepares to shoot : AIMS
56
Cousin in the Addams family : ITT
57
Arms-loving grp. : NRA
58
Little bite : NIP
59
Bug mostly seen in winter : FLU
60
Peculiar : ODD

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle.

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