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New York Times, Thursday, March 30, 2017

Author: Lewis Rothlein
Editor: Will Shortz
Lewis E. Rothlein
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26/11/20153/30/20170
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1.57000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 35 Missing: {JQVWX} This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Rothlein. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Lewis E. Rothlein notes: I hope that this puzzle brings a hearty aha to many solvers in the process of figuring out how six legitimate-looking answers ... more
Lewis E. Rothlein notes:

I hope that this puzzle brings a hearty aha to many solvers in the process of figuring out how six legitimate-looking answers could be clued so wrongly. I was able to spread things out in two ways. One, having the MIC start two words, end two words, and be in the middle of two. And second, having three horizontal and three vertical theme answers. Also, they are scattered haphazardly to make finding them more challenging. I was pleased to have the reveal actually drop.

After I submitted the puzzle but before I heard back about it, another puzzle on an independent site showed up with the same reveal, and my heart sank. But it turns out that the theme was played differently in that puzzle, so only the reveals turned out to be alike.

Will and Joel had me revise some bad- and dull-fill areas, resulting in a punchier solve. I submitted several clues for most of the answers, and they did an artful job of mixing easier with more difficult while keeping the puzzle in the Thursday level of difficulty. They improved my wording on some and put in some of their own clues when mine were too cutesy or dull. I love their clue for GAIT.

To the solvers out there, may there be many post-puzzle-performance MIC DROP moments for you ahead!

Jeff Chen notes: Solvers must drop the trigram MIC from words so the entry makes sense with the clue. I particularly enjoyed BALSAMIC to BALSA, and ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Solvers must drop the trigram MIC from words so the entry makes sense with the clue. I particularly enjoyed BALSAMIC to BALSA, and FORMICA to FORA.

I was all ready to grouse about the random placements of the themers (highlighted them below); how that goes against crossword symmetry. But I softened after reading Lewis's note. I still prefer adhering to crossword symmetry, but I appreciate Lewis's line of thinking. I did have some nice surprises during my solve in that way.

Lewis worked in some nice fill into those big corners. EL GRECO and CD PLAYER framing the bottom left were particularly snazzy, especially with a great clue for the latter. [Turner of music] is usually TINA or IKE, yeah? This time it's a literal turn-er of CDs. Fantastic!

A couple of tough entries and crossings — I had to think for a while if I considered them all "fair," i.e. most educated solvers could (or should) figure out the right letters. MBABANE was unfamiliar to me, but not knowing your world capitals = shame on me. One could argue that people shouldn't have to know what a NENE is, but again, world capitals should be a part of every NYT solver's repertoire. (MANAMA, Bahrain was in last year's ACPT final puzzle!)

ZABAR'S crossing ZENER ... good engineers can identify a ZENER diode, but ZENER cards do feel esoteric for the general population. ZABAR'S may be a big deal in upscale restaurants, but this crossing leans over to the unfair-ish side to me, especially to non-New Yorkers.

Some unsavory gluey bits in ECCE, YEE, OBLA, IMA (I wondered about KO'ED … but is KO'D better? KAYOED looks even stranger). But overall, not so bad given the tough construction requiring big open corners, along with a themeless-esque word count of 70. It had a bit of a themeless feel to it, which I liked.

I would have liked more examples of MIC taken out of the middle of words — FOR(MIC)A is more interesting to me than POLE(MIC), for instance — and even better would be some examples using snazzy phrases instead of regular words. But Lewis did discover some good words that have this MIC DROP property.

1
M
2
R
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O
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T
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L
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A
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P
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 24,614
Across Down
1. Hosp. procedure : MRI
4. Not esto or eso : OTRO
8. Frances Moore ___, author of the best-selling "Diet for a Small Planet" : LAPPE
13. HUD secretary Carson : BEN
14. Milling byproduct : BRAN
15. *Onetime White House nickname : MICRON
16. High-pH : ALKALINE
18. Support : UPHOLD
19. *What may keep a model's weight down? : BALSAMIC
20. "Hear me out ..." : LISTEN
21. Somewhat : ABIT
22. Caught : SNARED
24. Music genre that spawned a fashion style : EMO
25. Rarest state bird : NENE
26. Walked (on) : TROD
27. Shamble, e.g. : GAIT
28. "The Disrobing of Christ" painter, 1579 : ELGRECO
31. Most-nominated woman ever in the Grammys : BEYONCE
33. What it takes decades to grow : OLD
34. Poetic "indeed" : EEN
35. Watches every penny : SCRIMPS
39. It comes at the end of a sentence : FREEDOM
43. Not getting up until after 10? : KOED
44. Something that's long and steep? : LIMO
46. Pop singer Halliwell : GERI
47. "Baby ___ Want You" (1971 hit by Bread) : IMA
48. Famed deli seen in Woody Allen's "Manhattan" : ZABARS
50. Visiting the nation's capital, for short : INDC
51. *Anthem writer : MICKEY
53. Brought in : IMPORTED
55. It's usually in the 80s or 90s : OCTANE
56. Start of a kids' taunt : LIARLIAR
57. More substantial, as a paycheck : FATTER
58. "___ homo" : ECCE
59. Traffic caution : SLO
60. Elevator stop : FLOOR
61. Florida pro team : RAYS
62. About 5 mL : TSP
1. Capital of Swaziland : MBABANE
2. Put a new tag on : RELABEL
3. Vague notion : INKLING
4. Start of a Beatles title : OBLA
5. Adorns : TRIMS
6. Unexpectedly met : RANINTO
7. "It's just getting out of ___ and getting into another" (John Lennon on death) : ONECAR
8. Fatty acid, for one : LIPID
9. German cries : ACHS
10. Ever-changing : PROTEAN
11. *Word after North or South : POLEMIC
12. One may close a book : ENDNOTE
15. Rocky Mountain forager : MULEDEER
17. Something that may be found in a belt : ASTEROID
23. Way overcharge, say : ROB
27. 2014 psychological thriller based on a Gillian Flynn novel : GONEGIRL
29. Wood resistant to splitting : ELM
30. Turner of music : CDPLAYER
32. "___-haw!" : YEE
35. Take from the top : SKIMOFF
36. *Shade of black : COMICAL
37. Give one's opinion on, say : REACTTO
38. Bro or sis : SIB
39. *Discussion venues : FORMICA
40. One with a job to fill? : DENTIST
41. Trials : ORDEALS
42. Dramatic ending to a performance ... or a hint to answering the six starred clues : MICDROP
45. Padded envelope : MAILER
48. ___ cards (tools used in ESP testing) : ZENER
49. Airheaded : SPACY
52. The Green Hornet's masked driver : KATO
54. Metal containers : ORES

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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