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New York Times, Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Author:
Ned White
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
251/16/20109/11/20191
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1206259
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58020
Ned White

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FJQVZ} This is puzzle # 18 for Mr. White. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ned White notes:
Somewhere along the line, PRAIRIE OYS got into me head as a funny phrase that might work in a puzzle, but I had two concerns: first, ... read more

Somewhere along the line, PRAIRIE OYS got into me head as a funny phrase that might work in a puzzle, but I had two concerns: first, would it be funny to editors and solvers (funny to me isn't funny to everyone)? And what was the glue — the revealer — that would justify omitting TER at the ends of familiar phrases? Soon enough, LETTER DROP (read as three words) became the obvious solution. (BTW, I had prairie oysters for lunch once, back in the early 1970s in Montana at an A&W that sold them as "Blazing Bull Nuggets." Wow! Tasty and spicy!) GIMME SHEL also struck me as funny, though the base phrase — the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" — is anything but.

I was committed to making a six-theme puzzle, knowing full well that the theme answers (if going across) would all be separated by a single row, and there would be extra pressure on the non-theme fill — with 25- and 27-Down cutting through three theme entries. So I moved things around until everything seemed to work pretty well. And a tip o' the hat to OSAKA for just existing — and anchoring the most challenging section of the grid.

Off-topic note: some of you know that, like several other constructors, my entire career has been as a full-time writer (television, plays, novels). If you're curious, please visit my website — nedwhitebooks.com — and have a look. Thanks!

Jeff Chen notes:
LETTER DROP parsed into LET TER DROP. PORTRAIT PAIN made me chuckle-cringe, imagining a model developing a cramp, and the painter ... read more

LETTER DROP parsed into LET TER DROP. PORTRAIT PAIN made me chuckle-cringe, imagining a model developing a cramp, and the painter pleading for him/her to hold the pose just a few more minutes. (I have a weird phobia of being asked to sit for a portrait, in a fixed position for a long period of time. There's probably a term for it — fixaphobia?)

I had a good laugh at PRAIRIE OYS, people in wagon trains kvetching about the rough rides. I didn't know what a PRAIRIE OYSTER was, though, which took away from the amusement. Apparently, it's a hangover "cure" consisting of raw egg, Worcestershire, hot sauce, salt, and pepper.

I'd rather have the hangover.

LETTER DROP does have dictionary support, but is the term used these days? Hard for me to say since I rarely go to the post office. I think I've seen slots before, but I always thought they were "mail drops."

No long bonuses in the grid, but CHIMERA, ERNESTO, POISONS, and PLODDED are all pretty good. I especially liked CHIMERA, as it has so many interesting definitions: the Greek fire-breathing monster, a wished-for thing impossible to achieve, and a biological organism with a mixture of genetic tissues. Great word.

Some crossword glue holding everything together. But considering there are six themers, to keep it to the minor evils of LAN (local area network), UPSY (can only clue it one way), HST, TSP, DES, and AM SO isn't bad at all. PREXY isn't something I've ever heard in real life, but it does have dictionary support. Perhaps it's a term used more by a different generation?

None of the themers made me out-and-out laugh, so I might have liked fewer examples. That would have allowed for more sizzling bonus fill like CHIMERA worked in for good measure, plus fewer short, gluey bits.

ADDED NOTE: Reader Deb Gordon points out that PRAIRIE OYSTERS are also slang for ... ahem ... bull testicles. OYS indeed!

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0208 ( 24,564 )
Across
1
Bottom topper? : TALC
5
"Oh, ___!" : SNAP
9
Terminal info : ETAS
13
[Oh, well] : SIGH
14
Attempts : STABS
15
Tirade : RANT
16
*Great Plains plaints? : PRAIRIEOYS
18
Late hours, in ads : NITE
19
"Better safe than sorry" and others : MAXIMS
20
Café lightener : LECHE
21
Did home work? : UMPED
24
*"Get Silverstein on the phone now!" : GIMMESHEL
26
Caterpillar's Illinois home : PEORIA
28
As per schedule : ONTIME
29
*Command like "Let me be direct: Get lost!"? : STRAIGHTSHOO
33
Chin-wag : YAK
34
City destroyed by Godzilla : OSAKA
35
"You're oversharing!" : TMI
38
*Cramps from posing too long? : PORTRAITPAIN
42
California wine valley : SONOMA
45
Supreme Court action : RULING
46
*Teach Dick and Jane's dog new tricks? : TRAINSPOT
50
"I kid you not!" : NOLIE
51
Martini & ___ : ROSSI
52
Like refrigerators, at times : RAIDED
54
"Are not!" rejoinder : AMSO
55
Opening at the post office ... or, when read as three words, a hint to the answers to the starred clues : LETTERDROP
59
Withdraw slowly : WEAN
60
Leaps on the ice : AXELS
61
Commercial lead-in to pass : EURO
62
___-chef : SOUS
63
Where Kellogg's is "K" : NYSE
64
Visa concern : DEBT
Down
1
1/48 of a cup: Abbr. : TSP
2
Part of many carrier names : AIR
3
New York hub for Delta, briefly : LGA
4
Fire-breathing monster of myth : CHIMERA
5
Shrek creator William : STEIG
6
Watts of "The Impossible" : NAOMI
7
Bottomless pit : ABYSM
8
Often-overlooked email parts, briefly : PSS
9
Auto designer Maserati : ERNESTO
10
Meditative exercises : TAICHI
11
"La Marseillaise," for France : ANTHEM
12
TV's "Remington ___" : STEELE
14
Eighty-___ (toss) : SIX
17
Pie chart lines : RADII
20
Longtime host who wrote "Leading With My Chin" : LENO
21
"___-daisy!" : UPSY
22
Like thinking about thinking : META
23
Bill fatteners : PORK
25
Material for a warm sweater : MOHAIR
27
Ancient markets : AGORAS
30
F.D.R.'s last veep : HST
31
La Brea goo : TAR
32
Reggae grew from it : SKA
35
Meaty lobster part : TAIL
36
iPad ___ : MINI
37
"Picnic" Pulitzer winner William : INGE
38
Bottles marked with a skull and crossbones : POISONS
39
Former Dodge : OMNI
40
Stereo component : TUNER
41
Trudged : PLODDED
42
Attachments to juice boxes : STRAWS
43
Call from Juliet : OROMEO
44
Bahamian capital : NASSAU
47
College honcho : PREXY
48
Hall's partner in pop : OATES
49
Dr. or Mr. : TITLE
53
Some, along the Somme : DES
55
Office PC connection : LAN
56
Paris's ___ de Rivoli : RUE
57
Heavenly object : ORB
58
Collection of bets : POT

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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