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New York Times, Saturday, February 7, 2015

Author:
Byron Walden
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
9511/23/200110/19/201914
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1101292637
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58321
Byron Walden

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 64, Blocks: 23 Missing: {FQX} Average word length: 6.31 This is puzzle # 73 for Mr. Walden. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Byron Walden notes:
Constructors have a risque term for the torture one does to the quality of the entries in a puzzle in order to put a lot of high-point ... read more

Constructors have a risque term for the torture one does to the quality of the entries in a puzzle in order to put a lot of high-point Scrabble letters like X, J, Q and Z into some portion of the grid. With this puzzle, I'm tempted to repurpose the term for what starting with those letters in a nice airy corner can do to the constructor when s/he has to make the rest of the puzzle come together.

This one, of course, started in the southeast with DESIARNAZJR — and the clue, one of my favorite ever — and trying to build enough space around the ZJ to hide it for a while, to maximize the punch of getting the answer. (I half-wanted it to run without the ? for the same reason, but it's hard to quibble with it as he just turned 62.)

Queen Wilhelmina

Once I got the stack in the southwest to come together, I had just enough hope that I could actually get it to work. I even had a different completed grid, with PASTA POT/PAVANES in place of WEAKSPOT/WAVERED, but I liked what I managed to get out of this one better. The LONDON AREA/ENGINEMEN combo, neither great, afforded lots of possibilities for the NW and NE but unfortunately getting the corners to work at the same time was the tricky part. After many, many different tries I stumbled onto PHINDICATOR as an option. I liked it so much as an entry, I pretty much vowed to make it work.

Lots of near misses until RUCHED came to mind — finally all those episodes of "Say Yes to the Dress" paid off! Then I got the NE to fall and tied everything back up at HOBBS. I had hoped to make that HOBBY since there were a lot of names in the area already, but I could live with it.

I never really knew much about Queen WILHELMINA before reading a bit for cluing her. She's a heroine who's been a bit undersung, at least in the U.S., so I'm happy to give her a cruciverbal shoutout.

Jeff Chen notes:
A 64-word themeless is so difficult to pull together that the constructor must often rely on neutral or boringish entries. Not today. ... read more

A 64-word themeless is so difficult to pull together that the constructor must often rely on neutral or boringish entries. Not today. Impressive grid and even more impressive cluing.

Elder Ball and progeny

I figured Byron would have to rely heavily on the common letters (RSTLN E), so figuring out DESI ARNAZ JR took me forever. Seeing a NAZ?? ending made me go back and erase several times. And testing out a J and an R at the end – NAZJR, what a bizarre string! – just couldn't be right. I was mixed as to whether DESI ARNAZ JR is crossworthy in his own right, but that curious run of ending letters plus the brilliant clue, [Ball boy?] (Lucille Ball's boy), makes me give him a thumbs-up.

Speaking of cluing, Byron's clues hit the Saturday sweet spot for me. Personally, I have a tough time with "deep dictionary" clues, where the constructor/editor pulls out definition number 45 in an attempt to stump the solver. I don't find that very satisfying, working like a dog and then ultimately having to go to the dictionary to understand what I just solved. Byron tends to use seemingly innocent clues with a devilish bent, giving me a fist-pumping elation when I get them. Here are my favorites:

  • [Good for rushes, say] could have been TRASHY, given the rushes I – er, you – get from reading a romance novel. But it's good for the growth of rush plants too.
  • [Preserves, in the end] made me think of KEEPS IN, as with an edit one is waffling about. What a great a-ha when I realized that this referred more to the Egyptian way of preserving things.
  • [Banquet offering] cleverly hides the capital B in the Banquet line of TV dinners. So much for my first guess, SALAD BAR.

Notice how each one of these avoids the giveaway question mark. Brilliant.

And even the part I liked the least, the NW with its RUCHED and GRIPPE, felt at least fair to me. Plus, it reminded me of a good discussion Jim and I had about whether AGUE was a "good" or a "bad" entry. Jim's point was that even though it's not in the language today (my doctor wife corroborates this), it has literary value. Granted, Jim is a big Dickens fan, but still, I enjoyed being reminded that some entries I dislike are ones that others will love.

1
G
2
R
3
A
4
B
5
L
6
E
7
E
8
A
9
S
10
Y
11
A
12
C
13
E
14
S
15
R
U
L
E
O
N
16
M
O
N
O
T
O
N
E
17
I
C
H
I
N
G
18
B
R
O
U
H
A
H
A
19
P
H
I
N
D
I
20
C
A
T
O
R
21
L
A
G
22
P
E
R
S
O
N
A
L
A
D
23
G
E
N
L
24
E
D
T
25
N
E
W
M
E
26
T
O
S
C
A
27
L
A
M
E
S
28
B
R
A
C
E
S
29
W
30
A
31
V
E
R
E
D
32
B
O
I
L
E
R
S
33
E
L
E
V
E
N
34
H
O
B
B
S
35
A
T
R
I
A
36
D
I
T
K
A
37
P
38
I
39
M
40
K
A
Y
S
41
W
I
L
H
E
L
42
M
I
N
A
43
S
I
M
44
D
E
S
I
A
R
N
A
Z
J
R
45
P
R
I
46
C
E
C
U
T
47
R
A
Z
Z
E
S
48
O
I
L
L
E
A
S
E
49
E
M
D
A
S
H
50
T
V
D
I
N
N
E
R
51
Y
E
A
S
T
Y
© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0207 ( 23,832 )
Across
1
Ameche's "Moon Over Miami" co-star, 1941 : GRABLE
7
Hit radio comedy about a bridge-playing couple : EASYACES
15
Decide, as a motion : RULEON
16
Lacking inflection : MONOTONE
17
Source of the quote "Change is certain" : ICHING
18
Hurly-burly : BROUHAHA
19
Red cabbage juice, in chemistry class : PHINDICATOR
21
Trail : LAG
22
Where "Desperately Seeking Susan" appears in the film of that name : PERSONALAD
23
Lee label, for short : GENL
24
The U.S. Open is played on it: Abbr. : EDT
25
Moniker after a lifestyle change : NEWME
26
Cavaradossi's lover : TOSCA
27
Disco fabrics : LAMES
28
Steels : BRACES
29
Wasn't consistent : WAVERED
32
Providers of housewarmings? : BOILERS
33
Ace high? : ELEVEN
34
Roy ___, title character in "The Natural" : HOBBS
35
Well-lit spaces : ATRIA
36
Super Bowl XX-winning coach : DITKA
37
Title "Mr." in a Milne play : PIM
40
Some jewelry stores, informally : KAYS
41
Queen who rallied the Dutch resistance in W.W. II : WILHELMINA
43
___ card : SIM
44
Ball boy? : DESIARNAZJR
45
Attempt to spur demand : PRICECUT
47
Rides : RAZZES
48
License to drill : OILLEASE
49
Part of a suspended sentence? : EMDASH
50
Banquet offering : TVDINNER
51
Like some rolls : YEASTY
Down
1
Producer of a cough and shivers : GRIPPE
2
Decoratively pleated and gathered, as some bridal gowns : RUCHED
3
Soloist on the "Green Hornet" theme : ALHIRT
4
Gatherings for hippies : BEINS
5
Wimbledon is played in it : LONDONAREA
6
Some Navy specialists : ENGINEMEN
7
Preserves, in the end : EMBALMS
8
Arterial tree components : AORTAE
9
Hair holder : SNOOD
10
___ Grace : YOUR
11
N.C.A.A. division?: Abbr. : ATH
12
Come together : COALESCE
13
Beautifier : ENHANCER
14
Reclaimed material used in jewelry : SEAGLASS
20
Cried harshly : CAWED
23
Resolutions, e.g. : GOALS
26
Madiba, for Nelson Mandela : TRIBALNAME
27
___ Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers : LEVIS
28
Former senator and presidential candidate who once dated Debra Winger : BOBKERREY
29
Foible : WEAKSPOT
30
The planet in the sci-fi classic "Forbidden Planet" : ALTAIRIV
31
Like American cheese : VERYMILD
32
1980s P.M. nicknamed "The Old Crocodile" : BOTHA
34
Avery product for note-takers : HILITER
36
What old things fall into : DISUSE
37
Holders of pieces of eight? : PIZZAS
38
Humorously : INJEST
39
Good for rushes, say : MARSHY
41
"___ Do It!" (Rosie the Riveter motto) : WECAN
42
MX-5 maker : MAZDA
44
"It Ain't All About the Cookin'" memoirist : DEEN
46
First noncanonical psalm in the Bible : CLI

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?